Visiting the Phi Phi Islands was a last-minute tour booking through STA Travel at our hostel. I’m so glad we decided to do this. It was a fun-filled day of island hopping, riding crystal clear waves on a white sandy beach and snorkeling.
The Phi Phi Islands is one of Thailand’s most famous destinations, home of Maya Beach where the film, “The Beach,” with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. This is something you have to visit in person to understand just how beautiful it is.
What to Expect
We booked a VIP ferry ride to the islands. This included transportation to and from our hostel. We were ready and waiting in the lobby at 7:30 a.m. and off to the ferry by 8 a.m.
Our VIP package gave us the opportunity to sit inside the ferry with air con on lush leather chairs or sit on the sun deck to catch some rays. We choose to sit on the sun deck to enjoy the weather, water and spectacular views of the islands. It takes 90 minutes to get to the main Phi Phi Don.
Once the ferry docks at Phi Phi Don, you can see beautiful resorts lining the white sandy beaches. You are escorted onto a speedboat where the island-hopping journey begins.
Wear Sunscreen. We neglected to purchase sunscreen, sat on the sun deck for the entire duration to and from the Phi Phi Islands and got the worst sunburn of our lives. By the time we felt the heat coming off our skin, it was too late, the damage was done.
You want to lower your expectations a bit about island hopping as you will only spend a short period of time doing each activity. Our itinerary included a visit to Monkey Island, a relaxing pit stop at the beach, snorkeling, lunch and then back on the ferry to mainland Phuket.
We pulled up on the side of an island where at least 10 other speedboats gathered. No one announced anything, but we started to notice the other 12 people on our speedboat get up and take photos. I was enjoying looking at the fish in the clear water when my husband said, “LOOK AT THE MONKEYS.” I was a bit taken back because we thought we would be getting off the speedboat to enjoy Monkey Island, we were wrong. We spent a total of 10 minutes peering out of the side of the speedboat to take the best photos we could.
Next Stop, the Beach
As soon as my eyes adjusted to see the monkeys on the side of the island, we were jetting off to the next destination, beach time. Not sure how long the journey was, it couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes or so, as I enjoyed the wind in my hair and fresh air.
We arrived at a beach with about 8 other speedboats. Our designated guide let us know we had 40 minutes to enjoy the beach before we had to get back on the speedboat for our next activity.
Our group had about 12 -15 other passengers, not including us, however, all spoke Thai. We were assigned a designated English speaker to explain and help guide us through the day. He was super friendly, helpful and nice. My husband REALLY enjoyed the royal treatment.
Honestly, although we only had 40 minutes we really enjoyed ourselves. The water was blue as can be and the sand was silky soft under our toes. We got in the water, rode the waves and took in the beautiful backdrop.
This was my favorite part of the whole tour. Before the ferry took off, our guide explained our itinerary and history of the islands. He told us where we would be snorkeling. I informed him that I DON’T know how to swim, is it possible to still snorkel? He smiled and said, “Sure, we will make it work.” I didn’t know what that meant until the speedboat stopped in the middle of the water and he began going over the safety instructions.
He looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” My knees buckled a bit as fear started to creep in. I’m sure you can understand how scary this can be for someone that doesn’t know how to swim. He set up a long float and had one of his crewmen paddle me around.
It was MAGICAL! Fish were all around me. I think I even saw Nemo and Dory hanging out. The coral was
bright, and no photo can ever describe the real thing. At one point I was in the midst of a large school of fish. They must have thought I was one of them because they swam so close to my face I felt their scales and fishtails all over me. There must have been hundreds of tropical fish in my face and all around me.
Our guide actually threw food right in front of me to ensure I would have a great time. I didn’t realize this until my husband told me a few days later. He’s so sweet for letting me believe the fish thought I was one of them for so long.
After snorkeling, we got back on the speedboat and docked on an island with restaurants and resorts. Our lunch was buffet style with noodles, different vegetable dishes, and seafood. It was nice to take a break and have a sit-down meal with an incredible view of the water. After lunch, we had some time to relax before heading back to get on the ferry and then mainland Phuket.
This was such a nice experience and I would definitely recommend visiting the Phi Phi Islands to anyone traveling to Phuket. Trust me, what you see in photos is nothing like experiencing it in person.
I definitely would have done a bit more research into different types of tours. Our package was a full day, but we spent so much time getting to the main island and island hopping that we had very little time to enjoy each destination.
If I could do it differently, this is what I would recommend.
Stay on the Island
Book a stay on one of Phi Phi Islands many resorts. They have accommodations for all budgets. You can’t really enjoy the true beauty and everything that Phi Phi has to offer with a day tour. I would recommend spending at least two nights on the island to soak it all in.
We would have done this but blew our budget on the tour. If we did a bit more research, we could have put that money towards accommodations on the island.
If you are staying on the island, the activities offered are so much better. You can book activities from private beach days, cave exploration, snorkeling, kayaking, and more. We saw a ton of travelers on long tiny boats that booked individual activities. So jealous.
Staying on the island means, you also can enjoy the beaches the proper way.
We spent a little over $200 USD on the tour, which is expensive. I recommend doing your research if you just want a day tour from the mainland to the Phi Phi Islands. Take the time to understand what your package offers, how much time it takes to get to the island and how much time you will be spending doing each activity. Ask specific questions. I would also recommend booking the speedboat tour versus the ferry. The ferry takes 90 minutes+ to and from versus speedboat is only about an hour.
A Definite Must
I would highly recommend the Phi Phi Islands for anyone traveling to Phuket. Honestly, if you are looking for a relaxing time at the beach, book a few nights on one of the resorts. I didn’t’ know this beforehand and if I did, I think our entire Phuket trip would have been spent on Phi Phi. Hey, you live, and you learn.
Interested in seeing our experience, be sure to check out the video below.
Planning a trip to Phuket? Make sure to read Night Markets | What to expect in Phuket Thailand