Plan your own Day trip from Phuket to Phi Phi

Are you trying to plan a day trip to Phi Phi Island from Phuket and confused about all the options? Well, our southern Thailand expert, Rich has you covered. Read on for his tips for planning a trip from Phuket to Phi Phi island.

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Phi Phi has been on the tip of every traveler’s tongue since the turn of the millennium, when Alex Garland’s book, The Beach, was adapted into a blockbuster movie. Most visitors’ wish-lists of places to visit include a stop at “the beach.” And with good reason. Maya Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but Phi Phi has much more to offer than just ticking off one box on an itinerary. If you are holidaying in Phuket, Phi Phi is reachable as a day trip, but with so many options for visiting, how do you decide which operator to book your trip with?

Firstly, let’s deal with the geography and clear up any confusion. Phi Phi is not one island. It’s a group of islands—the Phi Phi archipelago—with the main two islands being Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley.

The Phi Phi Archipelago

There is no “Koh Phi Phi” (“koh” is the Thai word for “island”), although that phrase is commonly used to refer to Koh Phi Phi Don, as this is the island with the hotels, resorts, and bars.

The Thai word “ley” means “empty”—Koh Phi Phi Ley has no buildings on it, save a ranger station.

Loh Samah Bay, Phi Phi Islands

There are a total of six islands in the Phi Phi Islands group, with Bida Nok, Bida Nai, Koh Yung, and Bamboo Island being the others.

Bamboo Island, Phi Phi, Thailand

This group of islands is part of Hat Nopparat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park within Krabi province, and lies about forty kilometers southeast of Phuket – halfway between Phuket and Koh Lanta.

The Phi Phi Islands are a year-round destination, but there are times of the year that will help ensure your Phi Phi experience is everything you dreamed it would be.

November – May: The west coast of Thailand’s high season and best weather are between November and May each year. At this time of the year, the wind blows off-shore, flattening out the Andaman Sea’s waves and swells, affording a smooth passage for the ferries and speedboats bound for the Phi Phi Islands. There is very little rainfall during this time of year too, so you are pretty much guaranteed great sea conditions, blue skies and bright sunshine.

The downside of visiting during peak season will be the crowds. But that’s a minor inconvenience – flat, clear seas and bright sunshine will be your reward during this period.

One thing to be careful of if visiting during the quieter months is whether or not the famous Maya Bay – the home of The Beach – is open to tourists.

Amazing Maya Bay on Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Amazing Maya Bay on Phi Phi Islands in low season, Thailand

In recent years, the national park authorities have been restricting access to Maya Bay for a few months during low season to allow the corals and the beach to have a rest from the negative effects of mass tourism. If access to the beach is restricted, you will still be able to see ‘the beach’, but you will not be allowed onto the sand—you can admire it from your boat from inside the bay area.

Maya Bay is closed to visitors from 1st August until 31 September each year

June – October: During the low season, the weather can also be beautiful during the daytime, with the wind and rain arriving in the late afternoon. If you check your weather apps, you may notice they predict thunder storms every day. There will not be thunder storms every day – the apps are overly cautious. The best way to check the weather at this time of the year is to ask the locals what they think the forecast will be for the next few days. 

In terms of the weather during the low season, it can get windy at times, meaning bigger waves and a bumpier ride across the Andaman Sea.

If you suffer from seasickness, high season is the best time to visit Phi Phi. The journey is across the open sea, which can be rough in low season.

A seasickness tablet may help, but these tablets take time and need to be taken an hour or two before the boat leaves to be most effective. If you think you need one, pop to your nearest pharmacy the evening before, and then take the tablet when you wake up. For those who get seasick easily, the faster speedboat option may be worth considering in high season when the seas are flat.   

One option for visiting Phi Phi for a day from Phuket is the D.I.Y option; book yourself a return ticket on one of the large public ferries.

The advantage with this option is that you will have more freedom to explore. The downside will be if you want to hire a longtail to visit Monkey Beach, for example, you will need to negotiate with the driver yourself. 

Phi Phi Cruiser is one of the ferry companies to check out. You can simply buy a return ticket, but make sure the arrival point on Phi Phi Don is Ton Sai Pier, rather than the quieter Laemtong Beach Pier to the north of Phi Phi Don.

The pier at Laemtong serves the Zeavola Resort in the north of the island, and the main part of the island will be inaccessible unless you hire a longtail boat.

With Phi Phi Cruiser, you will be picked up from your hotel in Phuket at around 8:00am and transferred to Rassada pier, near Phuket Town. The journey across to Phi Phi Don will take around two hours, then you will have four hours on the island to explore, before the return ferry leaves Phi Phi at 3:00pm. 

There are also VIP and Deluxe options with Phi Phi Cruiser. With these options you can stay on board and be taken around Phi Phi Ley and Maya Bay, with snorkeling opportunities along the way. Snorkeling equipment use is included in these packages.

The larger, public ferries are the best option if you are traveling with kids. The boats are spacious and comfortable, and you can walk around to stretch your legs, or grab a coffee and snacks from one of the kiosks and relax out on the deck in the sun. 

Another option would be to join a speedboat crossing to Koh Phi Phi Don from Rassada Pier. Bundhaya Speedboat is one of the companies offering this service.

Departure time from Phuket is 8:30am, and you should arrive in Phi Phi by 9:30am. You will then have until 1:30pm to explore the island before heading back to the pier for the return crossing.

Be aware that upon arrival at Ton Sai Pier, you will have to pay a small charge of 20 baht per person to enter Koh Phi Phi Don.

If you want to take a tour from Phuket, then as mentioned already, the big public ferries offer VIP and Deluxe tickets, which incorporate a snorkeling tour around Phi Phi Ley and Maya Bay.

There are also speedboat-tour companies that include the crossings, lunch, soft drinks, and the use of life jackets, masks, snorkels, and fins.

These organized tours usually include a stop at:

  • Monkey Beach – time to walk, swim or meet the monkeys
  • a snorkeling spot or two, depending on the ocean conditions, the snorkeling spots will usually be Viking Cave or Pileh Lagoon.
  • include a buffet-style lunch on the island of Phi Phi Don.
  • After a delicious lunch, you will have around an hour to explore Ton Sai before heading back to the speedboat to take in a couple more sights before returning to Phuket. 

Snorkeling Spots on organised cruises

Edible birds’ nests are cultivated inside Viking Cave, and you will not be permitted to enter the cave itself, but you will be in the water, snorkeling just below the cave’s entrance with the colorful tropical fish.

Viking Cave is one of the snorkelling spots many Phi Phi Island tours

Pileh Lagoon is a hundred meters or farther along the coast of Phi Phi Ley. This area has some protection from the waves and is a beautiful and tranquil spot to snorkel. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles munching on the coral below. 

You may stop at another beach for snorkeling and swimming in the crystal-clear water before completing the journey back to Phuket.

Back at Rassada Pier, the tour company will have vehicles waiting to take you back to your hotel. 

Backpackers and independent travelers may prefer the options that include the chance to explore Phi Phi Don on their own volition. Buying a return ticket on a public ferry is the cheapest option and will give you around four hours to explore. After paying the 20-baht Phi Phi admission charge at the pier, you will be free to wander before getting back to the pier in time for your return journey to Phuket. So, what is there to do in Ton Sai?

Monkey Beach

One popular place to check out is Monkey Beach. This is a very small white-sand beach under the limestone cliffs of Ton Sai, but you are not here for the powdery-soft sand. The big draw here is the monkeys. If you are not that keen on monkeys, you can watch them from the comfort of the boat. If you go to shore to see them, keep your belongings secure. These macaques are not shy! 

Monkey Beach Phi Phi
Monkey Beach Phi Phi

When you are short on time on Phi Phi, the best way to get out to see them is via a longtail boat private charter. There are plenty of longtail drivers hanging around at the pier, especially when a ferry is due to arrive.

Top tip: Your best bet is to walk off the pier, ignore all the touts vying for your business, and grab a quick coffee or an ice-cold Chang at one of the cafes overlooking the bay. By the time you have finished your coffee, the melee at the pier will have died down, and you can now barter for a longtail in a more civilized fashion.

Maya Bay

If you have bought a ticket-only trip to the Phi Phi Islands and you want to visit The Beach at Maya, then your only option will be a longtail. You may also be able to combine this with a stop at Monkey Beach.

Make sure you explain to the longtail driver that you are returning to Phuket that afternoon, and maybe show him the ticket so he knows when you need to be back at Ton Sai Pier.

Maya Bay crowds surprise many people

To get to feel the soft white sand of Maya Bay between your toes, you will need to pay an entrance fee. The entrance to Maya Bay on foot is via Loh Samah Bay in the south of Phi Phi Ley. After paying, there’s a short walk through the rocks and down onto the stunning Maya Bay beach.

Phi Phi Viewpoint

A short hike up to the viewpoint is the order of the day for a stunning panorama over Koh Phi Phi Don’s twin-bay area. From the pier in Ton Sai Bay, you need to walk through the village towards the eastern end of Loh Dalum Beach to pick up the trail to the viewpoint.

Phi-Phi island, Krabi Province, Thailand
Phi-Phi island, Krabi Province

Make sure you stock up on drinking water as you pass by the shops, as the walk up will be hot and sweaty. There is a café at the top for refreshments, and more importantly, a spectacular view down across the twin bays of Ton Sai and Loh Dalum.

Long Beach

Ton Sai Bay can be very busy in the peak season. The narrow alleys, or ‘sois’ in the Thai language, can be packed with people ambling around the shops and restaurants. If you want to find a more peaceful spot on the island, you can make the short walk over to Long Beach.

It’s about a twenty-minute walk along the opposite side of Ton Sai Bay to Monkey Beach.

The walk is pleasant, and Long Beach at the end is worth the trip. This peaceful beach, with its soft sand, is much quieter than the main beaches near Ton Sai. If you have your own mask and snorkel, you can try your luck at spotting some black-tipped reef sharks cruising around the rocks near the far end of the beach.

The sharks are more active at dawn or dusk, but you can still see them during the daytime if you are lucky. These are small, shy sharks, and there is nothing to worry about.

We recommend booking your tour in advance especially in peak season. We like using Get Your Guide because they offer free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure. We have had to use this a couple of times and its been a very simple procedure.

Phi Phi Islands Day-Trip by Speed Catamaran

This day tour see you travel from Chalong Pier near Phuket Town aboard a luxury catamaran.

The boat has comfortable seating and plenty of space on deck which reduces the change of feeling sea sick. Snacks and drinks on board will keep you busy as you make your way to Phi Phi Le for your first stop.

Pileh Lagoon

You will go to Pileh Lagoon by long-tail boat to swim in the emerald lagoon. Next is viking cave and enjoy a fun snorkelling session to view stunning corals

You will have lunch at Phi Phi Don where there will time to explore a little, enjoy some time swimming on the beach before you make your way to the crystal clear water of Maya Bay to enjoy the beach.

You will enjoy dinner on board as offers Stand up paddleboards and clear Kayaks for guests to use.

Find out more about this 8.5 hour tour to Phi Phi Island from Phuket

Maya Bay, Phi Phi & Bamboo Islands with Lunch

This 9 hr tour by speed boat to Phi Phi islands includes pick up from your hotel with coffee and a snack before boarding. You will depart from the Royal Phuket Marina.

Travel 1 hour to your first stop:

  • Bamboo Island for a snorkeling
  • Monkey Beach
  • Phi Phi Holiday Resort for lunch
  • Ko Phi Phi DonVisit, Guided tour, Swimming, Snorkeling (45 minutes)
  • Viking CaveVisit, Guided tour, Sightseeing (10 minutes)
  • Pileh Lagoon Visit, Guided tour, Sightseeing, Swimming, Snorkeling, Marine life viewing (40 minutes)
  • Maya Bay ( 40 minutes)

Use of stand up paddleboards and clear kayaks, bottled water and lunch is included in the tour price.

Find out more about this Phi Phi Island tour with a seaview lunch

Our Final Thoughts…

If you are staying in Phuket for a week, a trip to visit the Phi Phi Islands is a must-do. The Phi Phi islands are stunning and one of the most popular destinations in Thailand. And make sure you get to at least see the spectacular Maya Bay, if not set foot on The Beach itself.

Choose the travel option that best suits your needs:

  • The big public ferry is cheapest but slowest
  • The speedboat options are faster and, in high season, are better for those who get seasick.
  • Do you want to explore by yourself, or would you prefer to have a tour guide show you around?

Enjoy the viewpoint’s panorama, Monkey Beach’s cheeky macaques, the stunning coral reefs and marine life, and the gentle cruise over the Andaman Sea to and from the Phi Phi Islands.

If you are spending a night on Phi Phi then take a look at this tour that will allow you to see a good number of bays and coves in Phi Phi and discover some of the best snorkelling.