Phi Phi Island in Krabi has been described as Thailand's 'jewel in the crown' as this magnificent group of six limestone islands (including Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley) are of exceptional beauty, making this area one of southeast Asia's premier holiday destinations. Being located between the popular island of Phuket and the western Strait of the Malacca coast of the mainland, this group of islands are part of the Krabi province. I visited Phi Phi Don in December 2013, which is Thailand's peak holiday season and it was very crowded with foreign tourists.
While these islands form part of the Phi Phi archipelago and are situated within the Andaman Sea 46 kilometres south of Phuket, it is Phi Phi Don (which is the largest) and Phi Phi Ley that are the most visited by tourists and the most famous. These islands are renowned for their unique limestone caves and steep cliffs and white sandy beaches which allow tourists to engage in activities including rock climbing, swimming, snorkeling and sight seeing to name a few.
For example, Phi Phi Ley Island which contains two shallow bays that are surrounded by a ring of steep limestone cliffs are said to be the most stunningly beautiful beach coves in the world. These are named Maya Bay and Loh Samah respectively. Maya Bay (see below) has become world renowned for both it's natural beauty and because it featured as a backdrop in the 2000 Hollywood film called 'The Beach'.
While the larger Phi Phi Don Island has been well developed to receive tourists, and includes, supermarkets, novelty shops, dive shops, pharmacies, restaurants, bars, hotels and beach resorts, in contrast, Phi Phi Ley Island has been basically left alone as far as infrastructure is concerned. Due to the unique natural beauty of Phi Phi Ley, this island including it's surrounding bays and coral reefs form part of Thailand's Phi Phi National Park.
This island also contains the unique limestone site known as Viking Cave (see pictured 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.
However, back in the 1940s the Phi Phi Islands including Phi Phi Don were basically unknown and were initially inhabited by Muslim fisherman. As the population grew on Phi Phi Don coconut plantations were also established to bolster their local economy. Today, Phi Phi Don attracts over 1,000 visitors a day during the peak Christmas season.
While, tourism has become a vital component in the island's economy the population (which is approximately 3,000 as of 2013) has remained predominantly Muslim. Because of this fact, it is important to know that when you are not visiting the beaches, you should adhere to a more modest dress code as not to offend the locals (i.e don't wear bikinis in town).
When traveling to Phi Phi Island, it is only Phi Phi Don that has accommodation available for overnight guests. This is because (apart from the smaller Phi Phi Ley Island), the other islands are really too small to be used for human activities.
Despite the development which has occurred on Phi Phi Don it still manages to have a laid back, coastal town feel to it. Surprisingly, the island doesn't have any roads nor motorised vehicles. Therefore, if you want to get anywhere you will need to walk or ride a bicycle.
Because of this, some of the more secluded locations on Phi Phi Island are only accessible by boat. The island contains a number of breathtakingly beautiful and secluded beaches including Laem Tong Beach (see below), Loh Dalum Beach, Loh Bagao Beach, and Long Beach. Laem Tong Beach is only accessible by longtail boat or speedboat.
Laem Tong Beach is a picturesque location and is located at the northern end of Phi Phi Don. Due to it's seclusion, this is a great beach to visit especially if you just want a quiet place to swim and relax. The water here looks so clean and has a lovely aqua green colour. Looking out from the beach you can also see in the distance both Mosquito and Bamboo islands.
However, if you like to do something more than relaxing on the beach Laem Tong is also said to be a good dive location and has some excellent coral reefs located around 100 metres from the beach. Facilities at this beach are quiet limited but there is a toilet located near the pool at the Holiday Inn Resort, located behind the beach.
The only way to get to Phi Phi Island is by taking a boat from either Phuket of Krabi. 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 between Bangkok and Krabi International Airport with flight time being about 1.2 hours. I last traveled to Koh Phi Phi in January 2014 by Ferry from Krabi. The journey took around 1.5 hours.
Daily bus services to Krabi depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal on a regular basis and the journey takes approximately 13 hours.
From downtown Krabi you can take a Ferry boat (see below) to Phi Phi Island from the Chaofa pier. Boats depart daily with travel time to the island being approximately two and a half hours. Tickets cost around 150 Thai baht per person.