The Phi Phi Islands are one of the many archipelagos floating around the Andaman Sea, but the one thing that helps this particular destination stand out is its eclecticism. Standing in stark contrast with its pristine beaches, mammoth cliffs and lush forests are bustling piers, beachfront eateries and exquisite walking trails. The island has also developed a reputation of being a party town, with many clubs and bars dotting the city streets. In short, whatever be your idea of an ideal vacation prospect, the island has you covered!
Phi Phi Islands are not the biggest of all Andaman Sea islands, with only the central Koh Phi Phi Don offering lodging facilities. That said, the number of choices from within there is extensive. Each small village and neighborhood brings with it its own unique vibe and appeal, so picking the right place to base yourself at is a significant decision. And that's where we step in. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Phi Phi Islands and what they might have in store for you traveller!
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The Tonsai village, which is the central part of the bigger Tonsai neighborhood, sits atop a small bay and is the busiest of all Phi Phi villages. It is also home to an eponymous pier, which is the major docking station for all the ferries and yachts heading to the island. The bustling pier is just the place to get your vacation started; take a walk down the pier with a beverage or get photographed by the longtails parked in the backdrop of lush mountains and the open sea.
The activities in and around Tonsai die down in the evening after the last of the day's ferries set sail and the area is transformed into a quieter and more intimate locale, perfect for romantic dinners, evening strolls and sunset viewings. As far as your gastronomy goes, the village has one of the highest concentrations of waterfront cafes with Europeans brews and restaurants serving the best of Thai food!
The central pier has put Tonsai on the map as multiple routes (with day round ferry services) offer direct connectivity to the major city of Phuket. The village itself is very walkable and you'll never have to look for any other means of transport. Hotels and resorts are in plenty and among some of the finest that the city has to offer.
Travel a little east from along the Tonsai Beach road and you will begin to notice the slight change in the scenery. Tonsai East, the central village's expansive neighbor, ditches the manmade for the natural and the modern for the austere. You are unlikely to find too many bars and/or cafes in this part of the town, with cozy coffee shops and smaller restaurants running out of wooden huts taking their place. The central street also has a few shops selling souvenirs in the form of local crafts and jewelry.
It is in Tonsai East that you find the trails leading up to the famed Viewpoints. Take in a taste of the coffee served at one of the many coffee shops that surround the larger reservoir of Sa Nam Ban before heading to the stairs. You might want to pace yourself for the flight up the many, many steps; just remember that the sweeping views from the top (of all three designated viewpoints/observation decks) are worth all the extra efforts!
Tonsai East's proximity to the central village solves a lot of the commuting issues that you might face in some other parts of the island. The neighborhood is a short walk from the pier and has plenty of great (more homely) hotel options to choose from.
A little north of Tonsai lies the vibrant neighborhood of Loh Dalum. Named after the long sandy stretch that makes up for most of its shore, Loh Dalum is the most cosmopolitan part of Phi Phi Island. The beach here is lined with casual eateries, trendy bars and clubs with outdoors seating and seaside pools. Many of these establishments stay open till late into wee hours, making Loh Dalum especially popular with travellers who are interested in the island's nightlife.
The soft sand and shallow water also make it an ideal spot for lazy beach days; whether you choose to take a dip during the tides or choose to spend an entire day relaxing under the sun is completely up to you! Such activities as the pirate boat tours and kayaking (available at local service provider shops not too far from the beach) might come off a tad bit touristy, but are still worth checking out.
Loh Dalum lies just north of Tonsai village as mentioned up top and is the go-to choice for younger travellers and the ones looking to best experience the island's nightlife. Hotel and accommodation options serve similar crowds and are largely mordane in their construction and overall vibe.
And if you're looking for a quieter getaway vacation spot, the tranquil Long Beach might just be the place for you. Situated in the eastern part of the island, away from the bustling crowds of the central villages, this is the place with abundant natural charms. And it all starts with the pristine beaches! The eponymous Long Beach is a long stretch of soft sand, which, in the absence of too many man-made structures, appears to blend into the sparkling water seamlessly.
And on days that you're spending away from the sunbeds and the beaches, interest yourself in activities such as snorkelling. You can go explore the underwater ecosystem through guided excursions; the Loh Moo Dee beach and the Shark's Point are among some of the more popular spots for snorkeling.
Service providers also offer regular tours and boat tours on the nearby islands that are part of the larger archipelago. The most frequent destinations are the iconic Maya Bay, known for its picturesque cove surrounded by cliffs and the Viking Caves, a harvesting site for edible bird nests. While in the neighborhood, just be extra careful and respectful of the sensitive ocean ecosystem and coral reefs that authorities are trying hard to restore in the face of increasing tourist flow.
Long Beach is accessible through a pedestrian road running through the forested parts of the island, but you can also have a boat to drive you to the main beach. Hotels in and around Long Beach are more modest, and offer the unique opportunity of having a getaway experience of truest sense.
The northeastern neighborhood of Loh Ba Kao does well to combine all the elements from its predecessors to bring forward a wholesome Phi Phi Island experience. It is centered around a stunning palm tree-laden beach; starting from bars and open-air eateries to outdoor pools, it has all the luxuries of its famed counterparts around Loh Dalum and Tonsai sans the big crowds! Lying at the northern end of the beach is a mangrove forest, a tranquil spot to marvel at the workings of a diverse ecosystem.
Further inland, you will be treated to a few great outdoorsy opportunities. Walking trails lead up to some of the smaller coves on the other shore of the island; in between the forest roads, the 'Golden Gate Bridge' and sweeping views at the end of each trail, there's plenty to be excited about. Also, if you are looking for a more challenging hike, you can always find your way to the Nui Beach. Guarded by mammoth karst formations, the sheltered cove is also home to the synonymous Nui rock - a known snorkelling hotspot.
Loh Ba Kao is a great place to avoid the big touristy crowds without having to miss out on most Phi Phi Island luxuries. The village is home to some of the best beach resorts, making it a great choice for a luxury vacation. Finding your way into the neighborhood from other parts of the island can be a little tricky, so try and find a local guide to help you maneuver the path.
And for the last name on the list, we bring to you the northernmost village on the island: Laem Tong. Home to the archipelago's second busiest pier, Laem Tong is all about boat tours and day-long excursions. Some of the most popular boating tours on offer are the snorkelling destinations including Nui Beach and Bamboo Island. While the former is located in a small cove on the eastern shoreline, the latter lies a little off the coast on the west.
And if you're looking for a longer, more exciting trip, you might want to give Wang Long Beach a try. A stunning cove sheltered by rock formations, the beach is a popular diving spot as well as a known swallow nest harvesting site. Need we say any more?
But that's not to say that the village has nothing to offer of its own. Laem Tong is in fact one of the most popular destinations on the island amongst travellers looking for a relaxing retreat. Spas and wellness centres run out of cottages perched in the lush forest setting in and around the villages offering something different. Even the restaurants and cafes here exude a leisurely vibe, one that remains unmatched anywhere else on the island.
Ferries and boats heading out of Phuket dock at the pier providing Laem Tong with direct access to the major mainland city. A lot of the resorts and hotels in the neighborhood offer spa facilities, but you can also look for one of the aforementioned wellness retreats to experience it at its relaxing best.
That's our complete list of neighbourhoods from Phi Phi Islands traveller. Take your pick and get packing for your next vacation; the jewel of the Andaman Sea awaits!