Phi Phi Island is commonly pinned on the Thailand backpacker route, known for its phenomenally blue-green waters and small island vibe. After reading some mixed reviews on whether or not Ko Phi Phi is worth the trek, I’ve come to realize that every individual will be looking for something a little different. My best advice, as someone who also depends on feedback while planning a trip, is to consider the pros and cons list being handed to you. What makes or breaks someone else’s stay, may not even be on your radar. Honestly, I had such a great time in Phi Phi - I was shocked to see anything less!
We spent 4 days at Freedom Hostel, roughly a five minute walk from the pier. Keep in mind, there are no bikes or cars on the island, so everything is merely a stones throw to both beach fronts. One being a little more prone to the party scene, the other a little more tame (this is where we posted up). Our hosts were very warm and kind, and kept the space clean and smelling of incense. We even made friends with the hostel pet, Miss Karen! Did you really go to Phi Phi if you didn’t see island cats? The answer is no my friends, Thai people LOVE their cats!
It was obvious upon arrriving that the best part of Ko Phi Phi is the amazing views. Even after an afternoon sun shower, the skies brightened the water to a deep green. Aside from the stunning beach front views, there are a few elevated hikes throughout this cozy island that offer some beautiful scenic landscapes. If you’re looking for a way to get your legs moving after some relaxing time spent on the beach, the 3 Viewpoint Hike will definitely do the trick. There’s a small entrance fee of 30 Baht, but the view is well worth it. From the second viewpoint (only 15-20 minutes), you're able to see both beaches. I use the ‘Maps.me’ app to search for various sights and restaurants when I don’t have wifi, which proved especially useful on this little island. It’s not big, but it’s very easy to get turned around until you spend a few days exploring, as the streets are small and tend to move in every direction.
PG Island Fun
Noticably so, Ko Phi Phi is gaining a bit of a reputation for party goers and resort style vacationers, rather than travellers who are looking for a more authentic cultural experience. Even though the island caters to tourists (as I’m sure it’s economic structure is primarily reliant on tourism), there is still lots to enjoy without diving too far into the party scene. While the beach is stunning enough to relax and enjoy a good book, there are options for some exploration as well! Kayaks are available for rent (roughly $8/person for a few hours) with a few hot spots to check out just off the main beach area.
If you’re looking for a shorter trek, Monkey Beach is about a 15 minute paddle, just along the shoreline. My advice to you; don’t leave anything of value in arms reach when approaching the monkeys. Within seconds of pulling our kayak onto the sand, a baby monkey jumped into our boat, snatching my water bottle! Of course my initial reaction was to reach for the bottle, in an effort to save my water for the day, but this only led to a larger monkey chasing me down the beach through crowds of people. My second piece of advice; monkeys have sharp teeth - if they take something, it’s probably best to let it go. And no, I didn’t get bitten, but a friend I travelled with did!
Another thing to keep in mind while observing these playful little creatures; monkeys are not made for energy drinks, sugary candy, or the road beer you decided to bring out on the boat with you that day. As fascinating as it was to see these little creatures frolicking around on the sand, I was so disappointed in the tourists who thought it would be entertaining to feed wildlife anything that would be harmful to their bodies. It’s so important to remember that we are exploring these places as visitors, and that our behaviour effects the natural order of these beautiful environments and the species that inhabit them.
If a monkey wants to try on your shades then so be it. But let’s not encourage the consumption of toxic chemicals into their tiny fury bodies. No one wants to get the little rascals hooked on refined sugar and alcohol.
Next stop, Nui Beach! This little lagoon is the perfect kayak ride if you’re looking to get some exercise. In order to venture to this little nook from Monkey beach, you’re forced to cross a fairly large body of water - from one shoreline to another. The waters do seem calm closer to the beach, but once you paddle outwards a few hundred feet, the wind and waves can make for a tricky ride! A few kayakers even waited at Nui Beach for the wind to die down in order to get back to the main beach area. But hey, if you’re up for the challenge, it is a stunningly intimate place to cool off for the afternoon. The surrounding rocks offer a cozy lagoon with calm shores, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
The island offers countless food options; trust a fellow vegan - you won’t be disappointed! Most restaurants offer a breakfast of fresh cut tropical fruit with granola and yogurt - simply ask for coconut milk instead! As far as savoury dishes go, Thai curries became a staple for me! A flavourful mix of veggies and tofu and you’re set! I even got my hands on some Chana masala to change up my protein intake.
One of our favourite restaurants/food stalls on the island was a newer addition; OhanaCafe. Primarily vegan, Ohana offers up burgers, cauliflower wings, various smoothies bowls, and more! And because the owner is linked to the Treehouse Bar across the street, they encouraged us to take full advantage of their fun jungle atmosphere! This place is definitely worth a visit. The hospitality was over the top, and the food was delicious!
Frugal vegan traveller hack: You can purchase things like fresh fruit and peanuts from the small stands set up by the locals for much cheaper. You can find them on the quieter streets, further away from the party hotels. Fresh cut mango and pineapple on the beach was a breakfast favourite of mine.
Ko Phi Phi was by far one of my favourite stops in Thailand. It’s small and cozy, and a perfect island getaway. The island offers both a quiet and intimate laid back feel, as well as a party scene for those so inclined. If you’re travelling the Southeast, this little gem is worth the stop! It’s also surrounded by many more beautiful islands, which are easily accessible by ferry!