Touring the Iconic Phi Phi Islands of Thailand

Rarely, in my experience of traveling both abroad and throughout America, do the touristy, adventure tourism locations live up to the hype. Destinations in the US National Parks like Arches, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon are undeniably beautiful, but perpetually overcrowded, which tend to take away from the personal experience. The Phi Phi Islands, though similar in popularity, are some of the most beautiful, and unforgettable scenery that I’ve ever seen. Phi Phi Islands far exceeded my original thoughts of this place that I had previously only seen popularly on Instagram.

The Phi Phi Islands are actually an island chain, made up of 6 islands: Bamboo Island, Ko Phi Phi Don, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Ko Bida Nok, Ko Bida Yai, Mu Ko Phi Phi. And our tour, via speedboat that picked us up, visited three of them. The journey to the Phi Phi Islands, departing from the eastern shores of Phuket, takes about 1 hour. But the hour boat ride isn’t without its own beautiful sights. Countless other towering spires and islands can be viewed panoramically off the port and starboard sides of the boat. But nothing compare to the first glimpses of the Phi Phi Islands as we approached our first stop, Bamboo Island.

Bamboo Island, though not as prominent as the others in the Phi Phi Island chain, has a massive white sand beach and bamboo Forest. We beached the large speedboat that brought us there, and disembarked onto the sandy beach where we all went snorkeling in the crystal-clear, blue water. The view of the surrounding islands that dot the horizon was so rare to what we were used to, that it did not seem real. The small coral reef that lined the beach was home to a shocking amount of beautiful fish. We left the water to wander the forest. Even for a place, solely visited by tourists, this was still a place you could find solitude, as if it was a desolate tropical island. The next island on the tour was to the popular Ko Phi Phi Don where we stopped for a traditional Halal style lunch which was surprisingly good for being held in a big catering area. Ko Phi Phi Don is the stop for backpackers and partiers who want to party the night away, or so we’ve been told. Despite its reputation, its beauty was incomparable with its massive rocky spires that jut out of the ocean’s surface.

The last island on our stop, Ko Phi Phi Leh, was the highlight of the tour to the Phi Phi Islands. Our first stop on this island, was to the infamous Monkey Beach. Due to the tides, we couldn’t make it to the beach, but that didn’t prevent us from getting to view troops of monkeys climbing the steep rocks, hanging out on the beach, or taking shelter within the caves. Afterwards, we headed south, along the rocky edges of the island, to the Viking cave. A cave where relics from the viking era were found, but is now primarily used to collect the asian delicacy known as “Birds Nest.” Which are birds nests that Thai people climb the dangerously steep walls inside the cave to collect, to be sold at market for a hefty price! 

The trip rounded out in the best way possible, first with another snorkel along the rocky shore, where we got to see nearly as many colorful fish as we did when diving. Except this time, it was only in 10ft of water, making the colors pop even more than we ever saw when SCUBA Diving near the Similian Islands. We hopped back in the boat and motored further around the island to a packed floating dock, passing by bays that were straight out of Jurassic Park. We unloaded here to go visit one of the most popular beaches in Thailand, Maya Bay! Made famous by Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie, “The Beach” this popular spot has been renovated to handle the demanding visitations from all the tourism, and is now a beautiful sight. A long, crescent shaped white sand beach that looks out into the Andaman Sea. Rarely shown in the photos of this place, are the thousands of other tourists on the beach behind the cameras, but if you walk far enough down the beach, it’ll be all to yourself.

If you have the opportunity during your trip to Phuket, Thailand, I cannot recommend a Phi Phi Island Tour enough! Yes, it’s tremendously popular on Instagram, and usually that is a sign of a tourist destination that is overly packed and crowded, but this was not the case. Sure, it’s super popular and there are a lot of boats, but trust me, this is worth visiting for yourself!

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