It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to island hopping in Thailand. Between the cheap and delicious cuisine, the smiling locals and the picture-perfect scenery, there’s a reason why Thailand has long been a coveted destination for travelers of all budgets and styles.
We did a fair bit of island hopping during our three weeks in Thailand. And we absolutely loved each destination we visited for different reasons. Railay had epic rock climbing. Khao Sok National Park allowed us a one-of-a-kind ethical elephant encounter. Koh Samui was all about the beautiful beaches and late-night parties. But all that said and done, there’s no doubt in our minds which island was the most beautiful: Koh Lipe.
The southernmost island in Thailand, Koh Lipe has managed to stay a bit of a hidden gem (though we’ve heard it’s changing a little more and more each year.) So far there are no full moon parties, no trendy clubs, no sprawling all-inclusive resorts… Instead, what you’ll find is understated luxury, world-class snorkeling, and paradisiacal beaches. Basically, it’s pure magic.
One of the reasons why Koh Lipe so fantastic is because it’s part of a group of islands that comprise the Tarutao National Marine Park. What’s more, the islands that surround Koh Lipe are all uninhabited. So below the glassy turquoise water, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of bright coral and tropical fish. Above the sea, the island’s idyllic sandy slivers are quiet and secluded.
We’ve heard Koh Lipe called “The Maldives of Thailand.” While we haven’t been to the Maldives yet, we feel it’s a fitting expression for this piece of paradise. Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip to Koh Lipe:
Koh Lipe Travel Tips
Arriving At Koh Lipe
November to May is the high season on Koh Lipe. During this time, there are numerous boats from various nearby islands that will drop you off at a platform in front of Pattaya Beach. Langkawi (Malaysia), Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai, Pak Bara and Koh Kradang are the most popular boats to Koh Lipe.
If you’re traveling during low season, from what we can tell, Pak Bara is the only point of departure for going to Koh Lipe.
We purchased Fly, Ride, and Ferry tickets through Nok Air to get from Koh Lipe to Chiang Mai in one day. While it might not have been the most economical, it was super easy and stress-free. Not to mention, we were able to cover a ton of ground quite quickly.
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Getting Around The Island
There are three main beaches on Koh Lipe: Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach and Pattaya Beach. Our favorite was Sunrise Beach, not only for the brilliant colors that swept across the sky each morning but also because of its perfect balance between laid-back beach bars and restaurants with quiet sandy stretches.
It’s easy to walk everywhere on the island. Alternatively, traditional Thai long boats will drop you off at different spots along the island for 50 THB. Motorbike taxis with sidecars will shuttle you to various points on land.
What To Do On Koh Lipe
Our favorite days on Koh Lipe were spent doing a whole lot of nothing. Walking along the white sandy beaches, swimming in the aquamarine water and sipping on happy hour cocktails while watching the sunset were our activities of choice. We also got a lot of Thai massages because, well, it’s Thailand.
If you’re a diver, you won’t want to miss the chance to explore the abundant marine life. We did a standard snorkel tour, and it was full of scenes that could have been straight out of Finding Nemo.
After the sun sets, head out to the beach to enjoy freshly caught fish and seafood. There are lots of small restaurants that set up plastic chairs and tables on the sand so you can enjoy your meal underneath the stars. We recommend the jumbo prawns marinated in garlic and grilled right in front of you, washed down with a local beer.
Some fun, laid-back beach bars which make for great spots to meet fellow travelers. Sea La Vie was our favorite hang out spot and conveniently located just a few steps from Castaway Resort on Sunrise Beach. You can’t miss it—they’ve got a pretty sweet treehouse where you can lounge on pillows and watch the waves gently lapping on the shore.
Where To Stay
We highly recommend basing your vacation to Koh Lipe on Sunrise Beach. We first read this advice on Getting Stamped’s fantastic post: The Ultimate Koh Lipe Travel Guide. Obviously, we’re so happy we did. While Pattaya Beach and Sunset Beach are nice, we fell in love with Sunrise and couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else.
We opted for a beachfront bungalow with Castaway Resort. The accommodation itself was a bit rustic, but the views were second to none. Castaway Resort also has one of the best dive shops on the island, along with a funky restaurant with delicious cuisine.
For something a bit more sophisticated, try Idyllic Concept Resort. Hidden away in a corner of Sunrise Beach, the hotel feels totally secluded while remaining easily accessible.
When we think of our “happy place”, Koh Lipe will always be the first image that comes to mind. We highly recommend checking out this gorgeous Thai island while it’s still such a hidden gem. We know Koh Lipe will be top on our list once again next time we visit Thailand.
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