Kayaking in Koh Phi Phi: A Comprehensive Guide

by Kshaunish Jaini

Koh Phi Phi is the quintessential Thai paradise. Calm turquoise waters gently kissing the dazzling white coastline, fantastic resorts and a beach party scene that never goes to sleep. It’s the place to let your hair down and give into the decadence of beach massages with on-demand cocktails. Sun soaked days followed by booze-soaked nights, illuminated by fire dancers and an almost inexhaustible array of venues for unhindered revelry.

But when the sunbathing and the hangovers start to push past your limits of acceptable hedonism, just take a moment to look out into the horizon and appreciate just how beautiful the world is. Beach life in Koh Phi Phi is centered on a narrow ribbon of two parallel strips of white sand. These two beaches lie within the embrace of towering limestone crags which frame the surrounding landscape, beautifully textured with patches of white and green. Breathtakingly flawless!

You should also read about ferries to Phi Phi or how to get here from Phuket or Krabi depending on your travel plans.

Koh Phi Phi Island Thailand

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How to Kayak around Koh Phi Phi's Archipelago

There are two islands in Koh Phi Phi – Koh Phi Phi Don, the tourist hotspot and Koh Phi Phi Lay, the smaller island and that falls within the domain of a protected marine sanctuary. Most beaches of both these islands are accessible on a Kayak, however, definitely don’t attempt to cover both islands in a day. Grab a map, a life jacket and snorkeling gear, all of which come with any kayak rental on either Tonsai Beach or from Loh Dalam Bay. They can be rented by the hour for

Make sure you agree on a good price before setting off. Go Prepared

Koh Phi Phi islands map

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Kayaking Itinerary – Two routes, two days

You will need two full days to explore both islands comfortably. The first route takes you along the highlights of Western Koh Phi Phi Lay, and the second route takes you to the famous Maya beach on Koh Phi Phi Don and to the eastern bays of Koh Phi Phi Lay. If you only have one day to spare, make sure you visit Maya Bay on Route 2.

The Sea Gypsy Village Route 

Route 1: Tonsai -> Long Beach > Sea Gypsy Village > Laem Tong Beach > Loh Lana Bay > Loh Dalam Bay Tonsai to Long Beach
Try to set off from Tonsai Beach before 7 AM, just before the beaches start to wake up and fishing boats return from their night shift. Set off due south-east towards Long Beach, which could be your first stop. Snorkelling The eastern face of the island is edged with beautiful bays, ideal for snorkelling. There are plenty of beaches, some of which are filled with tourists staying in one of the nearby beach resorts. Pick a quiet beach and take a quick break. Both Toko and Rantee bay are teeming with shallow reefs and shoals of underwater wildlife. Sea Gypsy Village A village inhabited by the Moken tribe, known to be endowed with almost superhuman diving skills. Tin-roof dwellings lend a slum-like aesthetic, surrounded by bars and a luxury resort. Worth a stopover for an interesting glimpse of the lives of sea nomads of Southeast Asia.

Sea gypsy village Thailand

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Just further up from the Sea Gypsy Village is Laem Tong beach, the northernmost beach in Phi Phi. Perfect place for a lunch break before heading back around the island. Sunset at Nui Bay As the day peaks into higher temperatures, take it easy and row along the island to the nearby Loh Lana Bay. Spend a couple of hours on the beach, and aim to set off for your next and final destination in just before sunset. The westward Nui Bay is the perfect place to observe the sunset and capture a postcard shot of the Koh Phi Phi at dusk. Don’t leave Nui Bay too late, because it’s best to get to Loh Dalam Bay before it gets dark.

Kayaking in Koh Phi Phi in the sunset

The Maya Bay Route 

Route 2: Tonsai Beach > Maya Bay > Wang Long Bay > Monkey Beach > Loh Dalam Bay Tonsai Beach to Maya Bay
Most postcard shots of Phi Phi are taken in Maya Bay, which is located in a marine national park and was the focal location in the Alex Garland’s famous backpacking film, “The Beach”. It's best to reach Maya Bay by 11 AM, before throngs of motorboats crowd the beach out. Plan to spend most of the day on Maya Beach and explore the island, which has so far been successful in dodging resort development. Sheltered by high limestone cliffs, the bay is marvelously calm and easily one of the highlights of Koh Phi Phi. There are a few incredible dive sites in the bay and spectacular snorkelling just off “the beach”.

Koh Phi Phi Ley in the distance on a kayaking stop

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Caves, Monkeys and Phi Phi Head next to the caves of Wang Long Bay, back to Koh Phi Phi Don. Again, try to stay clear of the strong cliffside waves, and venture deep only if you are a confident swimmer. From here, the final destination is Monkey Beach, named after the primates that have colonized the island and seem to subsist almost entirely off the food tourists bring to the beach. The friendly monkeys will happily climb onto your legs and shoulders and wait patiently for you to feed them.

Monkey in Koh Phi Phi

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From here on, head back to Loh Dalam bay, whenever you feel like. The restaurants and bars on the beach are the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the sunset in the few fleeting minutes of quiet, before the sound of the waves get drowned under the wave of party-music about to hit Koh Phi Phi.

Have you been Kayaking in Thailand? Here is some more information before you plan your trip:

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