Where to begin. Thailand is just great all around (the food, the architecture….I could go on), but if you visit just one part of the country – make it the southern end. Thailand has beaches known as some of the best in the world, and just off the coast there are literally HUNDREDS of islands to visit. You can’t go to the “wrong” one. Spend even a day Phi Phi island hopping and you’ll see what I mean.
You’ll want to be up bright and early. Pickup for our tour was between 7-8 am. If you have any problems, you can always ask the hotel staff to make a call for you.
Our driver took us to the tour office at Boat Lagoon Marina, and we listened to a short instructional overview about safety and what was included in the tour. The tour company also provides tablets for motion sickness if needed, and you’ll have the option to rent snorkel gear if you didn’t bring your own.
It’s a short walk to the marina, and we’re off once we all board the speedboat. It can get a little bumpy if the water’s choppy, but it’s at least a 30-40 minute ride out to the first island so get comfortable (or at least try).
This was our first stop. You can see it for yourself below, but the views aren’t ugly. Bamboo Island is mostly beach and forests behind you. It’s small, and it’s not developed. There’s nothing here besides the boats that pull up onto the sand, and maybe a drink stand somewhere. We had about 45 minutes here to swim, lay on the beach, snorkel etc. Less than an hour doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when there are so many islands to see (and you can just hop over to the next one) you’ll really want to make the most of your day. (If you prefer to just lay on a beach and take it easy, you might want to look into an option with less stops.)
After leaving the first island, we rode 10-15 minutes away and stopped in the middle of the ocean over a coral reef. Limestone cliffs all around us, and deep blue-green water underneath us. As soon as you get your gear on, you can just jump off the side of the boat. We had about 45 minutes here for snorkeling, and it was the perfect amount of time. Definitely take a GoPro if you have one! There were lots of smaller colorful fish, and every now and then we got a good photo of some of the larger ones. My favorite was the rainbow-looking fish.
This wasn’t our first time seeing monkeys running around out in the open, but it was by far one of the coolest experiences we had this day. Monkey Beach is literally an island FULL of monkeys. I’m not talking about 5 or 6 of them. There were at least 30+ of them visible when we pulled up to the island. And they weren’t off to themselves, running in and out of the woods. You could see monkeys running the beaches, climbing in people’s laps, drinking out of coke cans (yes you read that right lol)… you name it. Our guide gave us an overview on what to bring and how to act before we got off the boat. Initially, we were very cautious and stuck to watching the monkeys from afar. Some were pretty big, and they can move. They can also get a little aggressive if you have something they want (i.e. don’t bring food, sunglasses or anything shiny). But after 10 minutes or so we found some of the babies to play with. Game over.
Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don is an island you could spend a whole day on, or more. It’s small, but there are hotels, restaurants, and a small strip of tour operators, shops, ice cream etc. If you wanted to stay here longer they have water taxis that can take you back to Phuket, Krabi or another island. However, we just stopped here for lunch (which was included in the tour), and the open-air restaurant we ate at was fantastic. A mix of Western & Thai foods, a huge array of foods was brought out and placed on a lazy susan in the center of our table to eat family style. We ate with a view of the beach and the islands in the background. What more can you ask for. Afterwards we had some time to walk the main strip of shops – which meant coconut ice cream for dessert.
After lunch, we piled back into the speedboat for more island hopping. We originally were planning for more snorkeling, but due to jellyfish we had a slight change of plans. So while our stomachs settled, we did a little bit of sightseeing and rode into Pileh Cove. It’s basically a big cove surrounded by huge limestone cliffs – but they are undercut as they meet the water. Kayaking here would be a great alternative, as the water gets super shallow in places where boats can’t go.
Phi Phi Leh
This famous spot was the filming location for Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie “The Beach”. We hadn’t seen the movie (filmed back when he was still pretty young), but regardless it adds a little bit of intrigue to the place. Maya Bay was definitely the most popular of all the islands we visited. You did get the feeling that it was just ever so slightly more touristy, but still – you’re on an island that’s an hour away from the mainland. You’re not fighting for space, and the views here are worth the stop. We spent about an hour and a half here, so you’ll have time to rest and just relax on the beach at the end of a long day.
Loh Samah Bay
Technically this isn’t another stop. It’s on the other side of the same island, but you should walk through the path to get a look at this. My absolute favorite picture from this trip was taken here. You’ll have to go past the drink hut at Maya Bay, and continue on the path into the “woods”. The path is well carved out though and it’s basically sand the whole way. We went barefoot. You’ll head through an open area with some small bungalows – just follow the signs that point the way. Your welcome.
Once you’re back on the speedboat, sit back and watch the sunset while you head back to shore. As soon as you get there, you’ll hop right into a waiting car and head back to your hotel!
Phuket Tours Direct for Rak Talay Travel
Keep in mind that when you book through a bigger site (as we did), you may actually be taking a tour from a local travel company with a different name. This is totally normal – plenty of large tour providers outsource to smaller companies who actually provide the service. So just be aware if you book with Phuket Tours Direct. They may outsource to other companies as well, but our tour was provided by Rak Talay Travel and everyone was fantastic.
Our drivers were professional & on time, and our guide (and the rest of the speedboat personnel) was funny, personable and more than willing to give tips, answer questions, take pictures etc.
- Hotel pickup & drop-off
- Bottled water
- Fresh fruit served to you almost every time you get off & on the boat (this was the BEST!)
- Lifejackets and snorkel gear (aside from renting flippers if you choose to)
What to Bring:
- Cash (Phi Phi Don shopping)
- Easy clothes to throw on/take off
- Waterproof phone case (the boat ride can get bumpy!)
- GoPro & accessories (you’ll especially want this for in-the-water photos!)
- Selfie stick (perfect for the Monkey Beach if you don’t want to get too up close & personal!)
Hope this was helpful! If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, click here to read our full overview of where to stay, eat and play in Phuket.