Koh Phi Phi is a tale of two islands. One side is a beautiful and serene setting, with quiet restaurants, art galleries, and old people. The other side features a beach lined with rambunctious clubs, swimming pool parties, and an abundance of drunk street food offerings. In between these two sides, you’ll find a pleasant balance with more low-key bars, dozens of shopping and dining options, and anything else your heart could desire, like massages, hair salons, tattoo parlors, and even a place where you can have fish eat the dead skin off your feet.
I’m not going to lie, Koh Phi Phi is very touristy, but it is also one of my favorite places I have ever been. If you go expecting an authentic Thailand experience, then I’ve got some bad news for you. Koh Phi Phi is a popular destination for all sorts of travelers, from backpackers, to lads on tour, to vacationers to retirees. If you go expecting to have a good time, then you will not be disappointed.
Still jet lagged, we were passed out in our bungalow a little bit past the end of the party beach until midnight. I woke up because the music was shaking our room, despite being told that it would be a good location if we were looking to sleep. The thought of a good night out is like a shot of adrenaline for me, so despite arriving very late to the party, we got two buckets and proceeded to get lit. The string of beachside clubs is amazing if you are looking to party. They are all right next to each other so you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one or two clubs for the night. Nowhere I went required any form of cover either, you just show up and dance and try not to fall in the water.
The fire shows at each club typically entrance viewers until around 10 PM before everyone slowly starts filling up the dance floor.
For those that have seen the fire shows or are looking for something new to start off their night, there is no shortage of other places to pregame. You’re never too far from a bar or a restaurant on this island, so if you’re looking to sit down and mingle without the overwhelming music blaring overhead, you have plenty of options. Another thing you can do is simply buy a bucket of alcohol from the dozens sprinkled all over town and walk around browsing all the shops that the island has. The island is very walkable, and you can get from one side of the island to the other in about 10-15 minutes, so if you don’t like where you’re at, it’s not too much effort to make a change. Some of the popular bars that aren’t also beachside clubs are Stockholm Syndrome, Carlito’s, and Reggae Bar.
All of those have slightly older crowds, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’ve gotten tired of belligerently drunk 19 year old British lads on gap year spilling drinks everywhere. Stockholm Syndrome is loud and probably the craziest club you’ll find that isn’t actually on the beach. Carlitos is on the other side of the island from party beach, but still has fire shows and loud music. Reggae Bar features Muay Thai fights, most of which are tourists taking on one another, but occasionally they’ll feature real Muay Thai fighters.
On party beach, you’ll find a number of different places, but honestly, they’re all pretty much the same. If you don’t like the music at one place, you can just walk over to another one. It’s like a radio station where you can just switch songs whenever you aren’t feeling a particular one. I spent a lot of time at Stones because it is closest to where I was staying. Slinky was also really nice because it was close to a little alleyway where you could get cheap buckets and lots of street food.
Despite its well-deserved reputation as a party island Koh Phi Phi is also extremely laid-back and chill during the day. Everyone lounges on the beach or at a pool nursing their hangovers from the night before. The best part of Koh Phi Phi is that it has everything you really need and more. There’s no shortage of ATMs, banks, convenience stores, pharmacies, and it has a hospital, supermarket, and police station. In terms of non-necessities, it also has tattoo parlors, massage places, and vendors that sell every souvenir known to man.
One of my favorite parts of Koh Phi Phi was the food. I was surprised by how many restaurants I fell in love with while I was here. I loved getting breakfast at Charlie House followed shortly by lunch next door at Grand PP Arcade after a big night out. Ice cream parlors and fruit shake stands are all over the place to help you fight the sweltering heat of the island. I can’t remember all of the restaurants I ate at, but there was not a single one that I didn’t enjoy. Eating seafood fried rice out of a pineapple while sitting beachside during the sunset was one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had. I will admit that the two times I ordered non-Thai dishes, I was somewhat let down, but that’s mostly because I had optimistic expectations. Don’t expect a cheeseburger or a filet mignon to be like the ones you have at home. Stick to curries and pad thais and other traditional Thai fare and your stomach will thank you.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, I wouldn’t stress too much. Most of the hostels are pretty similar. None of the hostels in Koh Phi Phi are particularly worthy of praise. If you’re looking to party, you’ll have a great time. If you’re looking to sleep, good luck. We actually went to stay at Stones on a Saturday night, but after a long day, we agreed to take a quick nap and set an alarm for 10:30 PM. We slept through the alarm and extremely loud music and drunk yelling, which is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever managed to do, honestly. So yes, it is possible to sleep at the party hostels.
The next night, we moved next door to Ibiza just so we could have a pool and a private room with air conditioning. Stones cost about 350 baht per bed in a 4-person air conditioned dorm. Ibiza was 1800 baht for a private room with air conditioning, which was pretty overpriced but we just didn’t feel like scouring the island in the sweltering heat for the best possible price.
You really don’t need to worry about finding a place to stay until you get to the island. Once you get off the ferry, people will be advertising rooms, and you’ll certainly find something in your price range. We got there and got a private “bungalow” with a nice view of the beach for just 700 baht, with air conditioning and wi-fi. You might have noticed that I keep bringing up air conditioning, but trust me, you will find it essential on this island. A fan just won’t do.
Koh Phi Phi is one of my favorite places because it requires no stress, and it seems like everyone is just happy to be on this island. You can wake up every morning without any semblance of a plan and have a fantastic day. It was an amazing change from the fast-paced chaos of Bangkok. Not to mention that it is set on an island that actually looks like a fictional paradise. Watching the sunset from the water will forever be one of favorite memories, just wondering how an island could be this beautiful.
Sure, everyone has their preferences. People will say Koh Lanta is better because it’s quieter, or Koh Phangan has better parties or Koh Tao or Koh Samui and so on, but for me, Koh Phi phi had it all. I couldn’t have asked for a better time here, and ending it with a walk up to the viewpoint over the island was a perfect way to say goodbye to some of the best few days I’ve ever had of traveling.
If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.
3 thoughts on “A Belligerent Paradise Island: Koh Phi Phi Survival Guide”
Awesome Post…!!!! I really like this place after reading your blog you share all the information which I want for my business and you give me good advice for “A Belligerent Paradise Island”. It packs a lot of fun in its small space.Thank you for sharing this post with us.
Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!
[…] be honest, after exploring Thailand’s southern islands and Ha Long Bay, I was expecting more of the same: incredibly beautiful scenery ruined by mobs of […]