About Phi Phi Islands
The real name of the national park being Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, Phi Phi Islands National Park is a world famous marine park in Krabi Province south of Thailand, covering an area of about 388 km². The park is known for its beautiful white-sandy beaches, coral reefs, crystal clear waters and limestone karsts, popular among divers and snorkelers.
The national park encompasses two areas of which one is the coastline from Krabi Town to the east side of the province (Hat Noppharat Thara) and the second one Phi Phi Islands (Mu Ko Phi Phi) further south. Apart from the mangrove forests and a few beaches along the coastline, Hat Noppharat Thara side doesn’t encompass any other areas on the mainland.
The nearest tourist destinations are Ko Lanta Islands to the east, Phuket Island to the west, Ao Phang Nga National Park to the northwest.
The islands are covered with mainly iron wood, rubber, shorea. Other trees are chanpha, rattans, banyans and various types of vines. Some of the mangrove trees are red mangroves, samae, white beans and black beans.
The most popular destinations in the park are the islands around Phi Phi and a few beaches along the coast of Krabi.
The park is affected by tropical monsoon weather resulting in two seasons; the rainy season from May to December with highest rainfall in July and the dry/hot season from January to April. The average temperatures range from 17 to 37 C.
The typical outdoor activities are diving, snorkelling, enjoying various white & sandy beaches, rock climbing and kayaking on the sea.
Diving or snorkelling in the crystal waters around the smaller islands is “a must”. In Thailand, perhaps only Surin and Similan Islands have much better alternatives due to their bigger coral reefs and many more diving spots. For the regular visitors Phi Phi Islands are more comfortable for day trips as the smaller islands are not too far from the main island accommodations, while Surin/Similan Islands require long day trips from the mainland. The popular dive sites are Anemone Reef, Koh Haa and King Cruiser Shipwreck. It is easy to arrange a boat tour once arriving to the island, either from the hotels or from agencies on the street. There are also many companies on the island offering beginner diving courses.
Diving and snorkelling wise, the islands can be enjoyed best from around November/December until May when the waters are more clear with less waves.
The nearest two airports are Krabi and Phuket Airports with Krabi being domestic and cheaper, Phuket is an international airport. Another cheaper option is Surat Thani Airport in about a two hours drive further north from Krabi.
The only way to get to the Phi Phi Islands is by ferry from the all nearby major piers in Phuket, Krabi (including Ao Nang), Ko Lanta and Phang-nga. Two major piers used to get to Phi Phi Islands are Rassada Pier in Phuket and Khlong Jilad Pier in Krabi. There are many boat options from most piers, either with regular ferries or with speedboats. There are only a few companies that will stop by at the Laem Tong Pier north of Phi Phi Don. A typical regular ferry trip costs around 400-500 Baht for one way.
The boats will operate less frequently during the rainy seasons with risk of cancellation on the days with bad weather conditions.
It is also possible to do private day-trips from Krabi, Phuket or other destinations for around 6,000 to 8,000 Baht.
Get around in the park
Once on Phi Phi Don island, it is easy to arrange boat trips to the smaller islands for various activities. On Phi Phi Don island itself, getting around in the town is done by foot or by boat to get to other beaches on the far ends of the island.
Getting to/from Phuket
The main pier for trips between Phuket and Phi Phi Islands is Rassada Pier located east from Phuket Town. Ferries take about two hours.
Getting to/from Krabi
The main pier for trips between Krabi and Phi Phi Islands is Khlong Jilad Pier right south of Krabi Town. Ferries take about 1.5 hours.
Getting to/from Ko Lanta
The main pier for trips between Ko Lanta and Phi Phi Islands is Salatan Pier at the north edge of the main island. Ferries take about 1.5 hours.
Getting to/from Bangkok
The best option to get to Phi Phi Island from Bangkok is by flight to Krabi and then take a ferry from Krabi City. It is also possible to take an overnight train to Surat Thani and change to a bus/minivan to Krabi.
Entrance fees & opening times
The entrance fees are 400 Baht for foreign adults and 200 Baht for children. Thai citizens pay 40 Baht for adults and 20 Baht for children. Foreign scuba divers also pay an additional 200 Baht fee for diving.
The park is closed for visitors between 1st June and 31st July every year.
Stay & eat
The only option of staying at the islands is hotels at Phi Phi Don. It is not possible to camp anywhere on the other islands. There are plenty of restaurants in Phi Phi Don.
The 2004 Tsunami that hit South East Asia caused the death of 8,000 people in Thailand. At the time of the tsunami there were about 10,000 people on Phi Phi Islands of which 850 people were found dead and 1,200 people gone missing.
The attractions of Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phi Islands
The local name being Mu Ko Phi Phi, it is a small archipelago of six islands located 42 km from the coast of Krabi and about 50 km from Phuket to the west. The islands are; Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Leh, Bia Nok, Bida Nai, Ko Yung and Mai Phai.
The islands became famous followed by the blockbuster movie 'The Beach' starring Leonardo Di Caprio. While the beach scenes of the film were filmed in Maya Bay in Phi Phi Leh, the jungle and jumping from a waterfall scenes were filmed in Khao Yai which is another national park on the mainland northeast of Bangkok.
Phi Phi Don
It is the biggest and the only inhabited island in the archipelago. Because of uncontrolled development, Phi Phi Don Island has turned into a “concrete jungle” but the island still has some decent forest left due to its montane terrain. Two major touristic areas are not part of the national park but resorts can be found all over the island even in protected areas. Resorts are not only built on the flat areas of the island, but also on the mountain slopes. Sadly, there seems to be no stop for further encroachment of the forested areas.
There are no private cars on the island. A few vehicles on the island are used for emergency situations only. There are some concrete and dirt roads between bays and villages but these can only be crossed by foot or bicycle.
Rock climbing among monkeys is possible for beginners and pros at a few spots west end of Tonsai Beach. Tonsai Tower is the main one, a 150 high limestone cliff with an impressive view over the island and the sea. Other two spots are Ao Link near Tonsai Tower and Hin Tak Wall. Climbing gear can be rented from shops nearby, it is also possible to arrange guide and climbing courses.
Phi Phi Don Viewpoint
It has a nice panoramic view over the island and surrounding seas. Unfortunately the trail to this viewpoint passes through a private property and the orners charge tourists 20 Baht for passing through their land. It is possible to walk a very long way around the viewpoint, about 3 km to avoid paying for “private property fee”.
Phi Phi Leh
It is the second largest island in the national park, famous for its coral reefs and Maya Bay where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. Maya Bay is a cove surrounded by around 100 meters steep limestone karsts with crystal clear waters and a nearly 200 meters long white beach. The beach is no doubt one of the best in the world but unfortunately due to its popularity, it is very crowded most of the year. The shallow waters in the bay and some spots around the islands are covered with corals, an ideal place for snorkelling or diving.
Maya beach is closed for tourism as of 1 June 2018 to allow recovery of coral reefs.
Thai name being Tham Phaya Nak, it is a 170 meters long cave located at the bottom of a limestone cliff on the northeast edge of Phi Phi Leh. The cave has some recent wall paintings dated to around 1900 (AD). Since the drawings resemble Scandinavian drakkar, the cave was named “Tham Ruea” (meaning “Boat Cave”) but later renamed to Tham Phaya Nak while the English name remains as “Viking Cave”.
The entrance of the cave is quite steep up a few meters from the sea level. The main chamber is 60 meters deep and 80 meters wide and can be accessed with bamboo ladders.
The ledges inside the cave are being used by edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) for nesting. Unfortunately, despite being a national park, the nests are collected and sold to Chinese market for a very high price.
The eastern one of the two smaller islands north of Ko Phi Phi Don. The island is surrounded by coral reefs in all directions and has a white sandy beach. The island is very crowded in the high seasons.
Located just west of Bamboo Island, it is a smaller island with a few very small beaches and coral reefs.
Haat Nopparat Thara Beach
Also called Ao Nang Beach, it is located on the mainland west of Krabi City along the coast of Ao Nang Town, it is one of the most popular beaches of the province. Despite being part of the national park, the beach is full of hotels, shops and other buildings. Like in the case with many other similar beaches in the region, it is no longer possible for turtles to lay eggs on the beach anymore.
Mu Ko Poda
Also known as Four Islands, it is an archipelago of islands about 5 km off the coast from Railay Beach and 13 km from Krabi. The islands are one of the most popular day-trip destinations from Krabi Town, popular for it’s white sandy beaches and it’s picturesque limestone karst islands. The islands have so many names that it is very confusing when reading names and trying to locate them on various maps. Although the English name of the archipelago is “Four Islands”, it has several other small rock islands. The main islands are Ko Poda, Ko Po Da Nok and Ko Mor/Ko Thap twin islands. The twin islands have a nice and picturesque sand bar appearing in low tides, connecting both islands.
Boats to Ko Poda Islands can easily be arranged from travel agencies or most hotel’s receptions in Krabi and Ao Nang.