If you are dreaming about an exotic island escape, the Phi Phi Islands may be what you are looking for. A fantastic base for your next family-friendly holiday. Picture white-sand beaches, limestone cliffs towering crystal blue water and incredible food. It is better known for its backpacker party vibe, however, let me show you why it is also one of the best family-friendly destinations in Thailand.
If you really want the full Phi Phi Islands, don’t just go for a day trip. Every day, boatloads of tourists arrive and swarm the beaches. They stay for a few hours and then leave, in my opinion, you need more than a few hours here. When everyone leaves, the Islands are quiet so I would choose to spend a few nights here instead.
Arriving in the Phi Phi Islands
There is no airport on the Phi Phi Islands, the closest airports are either Phuket or Krabi. From here you can go directly by taxi/minibus and boat to the Islands. The pier on Koh Phi Phi is called Tonsai pier, it can get very congested as it services ferries, day-trippers, divers and speedboats. Most hotels offer a porter service to get your luggage to the hotels. As you walk along the jetty you’ll see lots of locals line the walk, some are from the hotels just look out for your hotel name on the boards. Others are offering hotels for those without bookings or day trips and excursions.
There are two options for getting here by sea, firstly is the ferry. This is the most popular option, it takes around 90 minutes – 2 hours from Phuket or Krabi and is the cheaper of the two. I would recommend booking at a tourist office, the price is always negotiable, you would be looking at around 350-450 Bhat per person. A few points to bare in mind with the ferry; It can be quite overcrowded and seats are limited. Luggage is piled up at the front of the ferry with everyone else’s, then it’s a free for all at the end as they chuck them off and you hunt down your bags.
The second is the speedboat, this option takes around 45 minutes. Again booking through a tourist office will get you the best price, it will cost around 600-800 Bhat per person. However, the number of passengers is limited; each person is sold a seat so no standing. Your luggage is handled with better care and finally, you dock into the smaller section of the jetty so don’t get herded off.
We have done both options, as a couple, we always went for the cheaper option. However, now with children, we opted for speed and comfort.
Highlights of the Phi Phi Islands
Hire a Longtail Boat
And the driver. They tailor the day to suit you; choose the length of time and then choose the locations you want to stop off. They also offer pre-planned routes with all the main highlights. We have done this twice now, our first trip in 2016 we spent most of our time on Maya bay; where they filmed the beach. This is currently off-limits to tourists now due to over-tourism. On our second trip, we chose to do a 4-hour snorkel based route. We paid 1800 Bhat, this included floats and all the snorkel gear. We stopped at some beautiful swim spots buoyant with fish and then ended at monkey beach.
Again, you will need a longtail boat to reach here. You can do it as part of a boat tour or just get a boat directly there and back. Monkey island is a small patch of sand just at the bottom of one of the limestone cliffs. The highlight is when the monkeys come down from the trees to inspect the visitors. The locals are great at keeping control of them, but they are very curious and will hunt around for the goodies you might be carrying. Roman absolutely loved the monkeys running around especially when they jump into the sea, just be careful of your belongings as they will pickpocket!
Phi Phi View Point
Get a view of the whole island. The viewpoint is elevated to 186m, which isn’t really that high. It’s a brisk 20-minute walk if you are feeling energetic or a leisurely 30-minute walk to the top if you have little legs with you. The journey up isn’t difficult at all so fine for all ages. The path is well-trodden and paved most of the way and there are lots of places to rest; remember to take some water with you!
Where To Stay on Phi Phi Islands
When you get off the pier there are quite a few members of hotel staff offering rooms, I’m assuming they earn a commission from the hotels if they get guests. If you have already booked your hotel on the island then just walk past, and they won’t bother you. When you arrive at Tonsai pier keep an eye out for a person holding a sign with your hotel name, as they will assist you with getting your luggage to the hotel. They do this with basically a massive wheelbarrow, it is a god send as there is no other transport on Phi Phi except boats. If you have booked a hotel on the north side of the island you will need to either arrange with your hotel a transfer or just grab a longtail boat which is super easy.
Phi Phi CoCo Beach Resort
A beautiful beachfront hotel with a private pool that has a children’s pool and swim-up bar. The highlight for me staying at this hotel was the location. Within walking distance from the pier and on the opposite side of the island to the main party area. It was on a great little beach that was pretty much deserted most of the day. I would very highly recommend coming here in the late afternoon when it’s low tide as the tide goes out and leaves loads of little rock pools full of starfish and crabs we headed here every evening to have a wander.
Phi Phi Harbour View Hotel
Again on the same beach, away from the hustle of the main area. for families, they offer free cots/infant beds and have a children’s pool. The Anchor restaurant is onsite, a beachfront restaurant that specialises in international cuisine and serves breakfast, brunch and lunch.
Best time to visit
Koh Phi Phi boasts a tropical climate, it is beautifully hot all year round. There is a rainy season that starts in May and ends in October due to the monsoon season. December to March is the dry season and makes it the ideal time to visit for the guaranteed sun with less rainfall. Temperatures also ideally range between 23°C and 30°C, making this the perfect weather touristy activities.
Food & drink in the Phi Phi Islands
Lots of your typical chain restaurants; burger king and McDonald’s have started taking over the pier area. However, go a little further and you’ll find an abundance of street food stalls and small eateries. I can’t not mention my absolute favourite place to eat in Koh Phi Phi; Papaya. Also known as the cat fridge restaurant. We would go here most nights for dinner as it honestly does the most amazing food. Now I know you’re wondering about the cat fridge part… I can sum it up as plainly as they have resident cats who have their own fridge, its glass-fronted and I’m assuming they climb into it to cool down. It’s right in the dining area and they will sit waiting for someone to open the door for them.