You heard that a trip to Phuket isn’t complete without a Phi Phi Islands Tour. Ko Phi Phi is a group of islands that include Maya Bay, which was made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio.
But is it really a paradise like what the movie made us believe? Overall, it is. The sand is white and powdery like “polvoron,” and the waters are crystal clear you don’t want to leave. 16 years ago, I imagine a much better scene.
Let’s Start with the Cost
Upon arrival at Phuket International Airport (HKT), there are vans that shuttle you from HKT to your hotel in Phuket. The fare is only 180 baht (or around $5), a really good rate especially for budget travelers. Since a taxi or a private car can cost at least 800 baht ($23) per ride, my friends and I opted for the vans. The trip from HKT to our hotel in Patong was about an hour.
Along the way, we stopped by a tour agency. “Tell them which hotel you’re booked in,” our rude driver announced. From what we understood, this was “necessary” so that he would know which passengers to drop off first.
We complied, but when the lady staff at the agency started offering tour packages – she was nice, by the way – I immediately felt trapped. In spite of this, we ended up signing up and paying for two tours – an elephant trek + ATV for our first day, and a Ko Phi Phi tour for the next. Originally, the Phi Phi tour costs 2,000 baht, but we haggled it down to 1,800 baht ($51) per person.
NOTE: You are not required to book any of the packages offered by the agency. There’s A LOT more near Patong offering the same tour. Whatever tour you choose though, ALWAYS HAGGLE.
Speedboat Package vs Big Boat
Just like the other tours, Phi Phi Islands tours are grouped according to “packages.” One package includes 3 islands, and another combines Phi Phi with another island. But whichever package you book, you will be asked to choose between a speedboat or a big boat.
Here are some pros and cons.
SPEEDBOAT: more expensive, faster, less people to travel with, not for pregnant women and children
BIG BOAT: slower, cost less, more people to travel with, chill ride
At the Speedboat
We chose the speedboat option. When it comes to size and seats, watch this video so you’ll know what to expect. In one of the brochures, the speedboat is pictured as having rows of seats. It wasn’t like that.
Our Ko Phi Phi Package
Inclusions include the following:
– Van transfers (two-way)
– Lunch buffet
– Maya Bay
– Viking Cave
– Pileh or Peleh Lagoon
– Monkey Beach
– Ton Sai Bay
– Khai Nok Island
Our package allowed us to stay at Maya Bay for 45 minutes, at Monkey Beach for 30 minutes, and at Khai Nok Island for about an hour. We had lunch at Ton Sai Bay, and also made a side trip to Viking Cave and Pileh Lagoon.
According to our guide, before “The Beach,” Maya Bay is known only to a very few tourists. Today, it’s difficult to take a picture without photobombers. Still, the place is well-maintained. The powdery white sand is top-notch.
This video shows how crowded Maya Bay is.
On a side note, there’s a resort vibe to Maya Bay. There are areas for smoking, there’s a snack bar that sells ridiculously priced sandwiches, and there’s a short trail that leads to the toilets.
Here’s a video.
The next part of the trip is a quick visit to Pileh Lagoon. Since the speedboat has no deck that can accommodate everyone, it was quite difficult to take a photo or record a video. But this is what it looks like.
Phi Phi’s Monkey Beach is just a small beach with monkeys. My friends and I decided to stay in the boat and just watch the other tourists interact with our tailed friends. It turned out to be a good decision. One of our tour-mates was attacked by a monkey.
Here’s a warning. If you have food – or something that looks like food – with you, it’s best to just hand it over to these animals. Otherwise, they can be aggressive and forcefully take the food from you.
Here’s a video of the beach. Can you see the monkeys?
According to our guide, this cave is home to thousands of birds whose nests are made of solidified saliva, which is used to create a prized delicacy especially in Chinese cuisine. Except the workers who harvest these nests, no one is allowed entry into the cave.
Watch the video below to know what to expect.
I don’t remember at which spot we snorkeled. But there was nothing special about this activity – no beautiful corals and no colorful fish. Plus, a few of the gears given to us were sbroken.
Buffet Lunch at Ton Sai Bay
After a 10-minute visit to Viking Cave, we headed to Ton Sai Bay for a lunch buffet. As we got near Ton Sai Bay’s shores, our guide reminded us of the 2004 earthquake which triggered a tsunami that devastated the island.
Lunch was about an hour. “Buffet” was actually limited to a few just-okay dishes. You can’t even go limitless with the fried chicken. There was a lady in charge who gave 2 pieces each person. We kept looking to see if there was a refill, but it only came when the next batch of tourists arrived. To be fair, they served a lot of watermelon.
Khai Nok Island
This is our last stop before we headed back to our hotel. The island’s sand is white and powdery, but seashells can hurt your feet in some parts.
Everything is expensive here. You’ll have to pay 20 baht to relieve yourself in one of the toilets – ridiculous, but that’s how they earn.