Maya Bay is in every sense a tropical paradise. This stunningly beautiful beach cove which is sheltered by towering 100 metre high limestone cliffs of Koh Phi Phi Ley is one of Thailand's most priceless national treasures and is located about 1.5 hours by boat from Krabi province. While there are six islands within the group known as Koh Phi Phi, it is Phi Phi Don (which is the largest) and Phi Phi Ley that are the most visited by tourists.
Phi Phi Ley Island actually contains two shallow bays which are surrounded by a ring of steep limestone cliffs, and they are named Maya and Loh Samah. However, it was Maya with it's clear aqua blue waters, a 20 metre wide pristine beach with powder white sand, that was chosen as the backdrop for the British/Hollywood movie 'The Beach'. This movie which was filmed here back in 2000 starred Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo Di Caprio.
Maya Bay and Phi Phi Islands are part of the Phi Phi archipelago which is situated within the Andaman Sea and are part of Thailand's Krabi province. Due to the unique natural beauty of this site including it's coral reefs, and diverse marine life the the area is now part of Thailand's Phi Phi National Park.
Due to both the rich marine life and the weak currents within the bay, this whole area has become a popular dive site. Apart from the beautiful coral reefs there are a number of species of marine life to see under the water including, Snapper, Clown fish, Banner fish, Cuttle fish, Octopus, Moray Eels, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Barracuda, and Hawksbill and Green Turtles.
the larger Phi Phi Don has been well developed to receive tourists, and
includes restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts, Phi Phi Ley has been
basically left alone as far as infrastructure is concerned.
Prior to 2007 there were no facilities here, but recently toilets, a snack bar and souvenir shop and camping grounds were added to accommodate the hordes of day-trippers who arrive here each day. Indeed, it is common to see 50 speedboats, plus longboats and Ferries parked within the bay, while up to 400 guests walk along the beach. This congestion tends to occur between 10 Am and 4 PM.
However, due to the vast increase in visitors to Maya Bay since the release of the movie a decade ago the beach has apparently suffered damage. While most of the damage is said to have been caused by the film crews who altered the look of the beach by landscaping and clearing vegetation I am sure that the large volume of visitors who arrive at the beach each day must also be having an impact.
Despite this, the area has become a popular location for tourists who come here to swim, sight-see, snorkel and sun bake within this protected cove. However, for those visitors who are not content to stay on the beach you can take a walking trail across to Samah Bay which is only a short five minute walk.
This island also contains the unique limestone site known as Viking Cave (see picture below) which contains a number of wall paintings depicting four tall ships. While little is known about the people who painted these ships they are said to be over a thousand years old. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej visited this cave back in 1972 and named it Tham Phaya Nak which is said to be after a great serpent of Buddhist legend called Naga. Today though the cave is home to a colony of birds called Swiftlets, and their eggs are a popular Chinese delicacy.
The only way to travel to Maya Bay in southern Thailand is by boat, departing either from Krabi or Phuket. Costs range from between 500 to 1000 Thai baht per person depending upon the type of boat (i.e. speedboat or Ferry). When I visited in January 2014 I caught a Ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi Don first which took about 1.5 hours.
The best way to travel to Krabi is by plane or bus. A number of airlines
including Bangkok Air, Thai Airways, and Air Asia have daily flights
betwen Bangkok and Krabi International Airport with flight time being about 1.2 hours. Daily
bus services to Krabi depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal on a regular
basis and the journey takes approximately 13 hours.