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The Phi Phi Islands

Posted: Saturday, September 01, 2012
The Phi Phi Islands
  • The Phi Phi Islands
  • The Phi Phi Islands
  • The Phi Phi Islands
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Thanks be to Leonardo DiCaprio for the Phi Phi Islands' surge to the surface of the International Map of Traveler Shangri-Las. After all, the grouping was more or less entirely unknown to the Western world up until 2000, when its second largest island, Ko Phi Phi Ley, served as the setting for DiCaprio's film The Beach. And The Beach the islands are. Breathtaking stretches of white sand leading out to crystalline blue-green waters, served with a side of pristine tropical vegetation and charming long-tail boats make the Phi Phis a stunning ocular exposition on relaxation with an exotic flair.

Located in Thailand, between the island of Phuket and the western Andaman Sea coast of the mainland, The Phi Phi Islands sit about 430 miles from the country's Bangkok capitol, and 30 miles from Phuket. Transportation would typically entail a 1+ hour flight from Bangkok to Phuket, and then a 1- to 3-hour boat ride to Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest island, depending on the vessel's capabilities (i.e., speed boat or ferry).

In December 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit the Phi Phi Islands, and destroyed nearly all of their infrastructure. By 2010, most of the damaged areas had been restored.

Phi Phi Islands Accommodations

Though Ko Phi Phi Ley may be visited by boat on day trips, the only inhabited island of the Phi Phi brotherhood is Ko Phi Phi Don, which houses a spectral selection of accommodations from resort hotels to beach bungalows to simple B&Bs.

For luxury, plan on spending $230+ per night on the upscale, hand-hewn teakwood retreats of Zeavola Resort on the island's northern tip. Choose from suites with hand-painted murals, outdoor rain showers, and either private pools, sunning gardens, or their own designated beachfronts.

Budgetary options also abound, with only slightly less posh spots, such as the Phi Phi Island Hotel Group, offering rates of $70 per night for an air-conditioned bungalow during high season. Of course, shoestringers willing to rough it a bit more in exchange for Thailand's fabled $15-a-night crash pads, have their fair share of options too. Try Phi Phi Uphill Cottage or the Teaw Tass Guesthouse for anywhere from $13 to $39 per night.

Things to Do on the Phi Phi Islands

Floating, boating, and basking in the sun. The Phi Phi Islands' official orders of business. In fact, so committed is Phi Phi Don to a slowed, easy pace of living that the island has never felt the need to install roads--which means no cars and no motorbikes. Instead, explore the island's bounty through walking, climbing, kayaking, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, or SCUBA diving.

Those meandering by water off Phi Phi Don will discover scenic coves on Phi Phi Ley spotlighting an array of underwater life, as well as the larger Viking Cave attraction. Viking Cave, with its ancient color paintings covering the walls, sits right at sea level, and houses a multitude of bird's nests. While visitors gawk at the novelty of it all, locals harvest the nests for their thriving bird's nest soup industry.

To the south of Phi Phi Ley is a collection of rocky atolls called the Bida Islands. They are known for their deep diving reefs, which drop to 105 feet on the western side. Thai marine life, such as whale sharks and manta rays, inhabit these waters seasonally, and are easily spotted if diving at the right time of year.

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