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If you are looking to get some great photos from Thailand, look no further than the spectacular Koh Phi Phi islands. Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh are two of the most beautiful places in a very beautiful country, which tells you just how impressive they are. We recently spent some time on these gorgeous islands, seeking out all the most scenic places and putting together our own personal list of the very best Koh Phi Phi photo spots.
The distinct barbell shape of Koh Phi Phi Don and dramatic limestone karsts of Koh Phi Phi Leh have long been favourite destinations for intrepid travellers to Southeast Asia but it wasn’t until the movie, The Beach, came out in 2000 when their popularity really took off.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and based on the excellent book by Alex Garland, the movie was an especially big hit with backpackers who could so easily relate to the Thai travel scene and the idea of finding a utopian paradise. Even though the book’s fictional island claimed to be in a national park near Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand, the movie itself was filmed on Koh Phi Phi Leh, with incredible Maya Bay starring as the eponymous beach.
Cue the crowds…
However, it is still not possible to spend the night on Koh Phi Phi Leh, so all visitors must base themselves on the larger Koh Phi Phi Don, where most available space is now occupied by hotels, restaurants, bars and travel agencies. There are McDonald’s and Burger King waiting when you come off the dock and the bay itself is filled with tour speedboats and longtail boats for hire. Day trip crowds can make it hard to get from one end of Ton Sai Beach to the other and in high season dueling dance bars produce thumping bass long into the night.
All of that aside, though, the unique natural topography, impressive cliffs and superb beaches all remain wildly picturesque and many of the top Koh Phi Phi photo spots are within walking distance of the main village. And despite the hordes of day trippers, Koh Phi Phi Leh remains one of the most stunning islands in the country and an essential stop on any Thailand itinerary.
Koh Phi Phi Don
While Koh Phi Leh gets most of the attention, Koh Phi Phi Don actually has the majority of the best Koh Phi Phi photo spots. Ranging from quaint and charming vistas to classic island panoramas, here are our suggestions for the top Instagram spots on Koh Phi Phi. And once you’ve gathered all the best photos from these amazing islands, you can make sure you maximize their impact on your feed by picking some of the best Instagram story templates.
1. Ton Sai Pier
I’ll list this one first since it is almost sure to be your first view on Koh Phi Phi Don (other than the bay as you approach). And, no, it isn’t the pier itself that is so photogenic (even if its well-organized In and Out corridors are unparalleled among the generally chaotic Thai piers) but rather the area around it.
Most of the time the pier is surrounded by all manner of speedboat, ferry and longtail, crowded into the bay like swarming ants. And while this can detract from the natural feel of the place, there’s no denying it is a spectacle in itself.
2. Ton Sai Beach
This lovely crescent of soft sand just west of the pier, backed by the rising limestone karsts behind, is a very different place at, say, 7 am before most visitors have really gotten moving and noon, when hordes of day trippers descend on Ton Sai Beach for their allotted “hour on Koh Phi Phi Don”. Very different situations, yet both quite memorable.
3. Koh Phi Phi Village
Say what you will about Koh Phi Phi’s sudden and dramatic loss of innocence over the past 20 years but there’s no denying that the vibrant atmosphere, chaotic signage and diverse restaurant/bar options all combine for a fun, fascinating wander.
4. Loh Dalum Beach
Although none of the easily accessible beaches on Koh Phi Phi Don face the actual sunset, gorgeous Loh Dalum Beach is the most popular choice to relax and wait for the sun to drop behind the karsts (colouring the sky along the way).
There are a few good bars along the beach where you can settle in for a drink or you can just self-cater a big can of Singha (or Chang if you’re watching your coins and have gradually acquired a taste for dish soap) and bide your time waiting for the sun to set.
5. Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 1
The first of the three most famous Koh Phi Phi photo spots, the simply but effectively named Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 1 is about a 10-minute walk straight up the stairs from the centre of Koh Phi Phi village.
It offers nice views of the village, Ton Sai Beach, Loh Dalum Beach and the distant karsts. There is a 30 baht ($1) per person charge to visit this extremely kitschy photo park decorated with a baffling mix of colours, plants and giant fruits and vegetables. You could do worse.
6. Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 2
Covered under the same entrance fee you paid at #1, Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 2 is about 10 minutes farther up the hill and provides correspondingly higher views. You see a few less buildings, get a bit better look at the narrow isthmus connecting the two sides of the island and there are several rock outcroppings that are perfect for that Koh Phi Phi Don selfie or profile pic. There is also a restaurant (with good views, obviously) where you can relax after your exertions.
7. Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3
Our pick as the best Koh Phi Phi photo spot, don’t let the additional 10-15 minutes of uphill walking or additional 20B entrance fee deter you from making it all the way to Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3. Predictably higher than the first two Koh Phi Phi viewpoints, impressive number 3 offers the best photographic angle and least obstructed views.
They sell snacks and drinks (but no alcohol) and there are a few tables with fantastic views, as well as a swing and simply phenomenal views. You can technically get here without passing through viewpoints 1 and 2 (and thus avoiding the first entrance fee) but it involves a long detour along the road that goes all the way up and around the village.
The first time we returned that way expecting an AllTrails shortcut that never materialized (it seems like some of the hotels have tried to cut off access) and the extra distance was enough that when I returned a couple days later I decided it was worth paying the extra 30B for the direct route through all the viewpoints.
Either way, even though we think Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3 is the best one, it is worth checking out all three to decide for yourself.
8. Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 4
Now, while Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3 is definitely a “must-see”, the more recently added Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 4 is much more debatable. It really has nothing in common with the other 3 besides the disappointingly generic name, offering partially obstructed views of Phak Nam Bay.
Maybe it hasn’t always been so overgrown but at this point you need to contort a bit to find a reasonable photo angle and the walk to get there (10-15 min from Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint 3) is mostly in jungle.
However, uninspiring views aside, the hike is still quite nice and there is a good chance you’ll have the viewpoint to yourself. To find it, follow the path to north just before reaching Viewpoint 3, then after about 10 minutes turn right at the fork toward the bay (not the hotel), then climb up the rocks to the right of a rickety old drink shop. This shack was abandoned during our visit but maybe at some point they’ll start up again (and presumably clean up the view a bit).
9. Koh Phi Phi Pond (Reservoir?)
Not exactly expansive or panoramic like so many of the other Koh Phi Phi photo spots on this list, this pretty little reservoir just above the village is often reflectively calm, setting up some beautiful shots with the hills and small bungalows in the background.
10. Andaman Beach
Another spot where I’ve just chosen a name in lieu of an obvious official one, this is the small stretch of nice beach in front of Phi Phi Andaman Legacy Resort and Phi Phi Villa Resort (where we stayed). The views across the bay are outstanding, especially early in the day when the sun is shining off the western hills.
11. Long Beach
Not the most convenient Koh Phi Phi photo spot, Long Beach is a solid 20-minute walk from town along an uninspiring (and occasionally dark) little road. Of course, you can also hire a longtail to take you there for next to nothing or simply choose to stay at one of the impressive resort in the area.
However you choose to get there, though, Long Beach has the best sand on Koh Phi Phi Don and is close enough to Shark Point that you can snorkel to it right from shore.
12. Loh Moo Dee Beach
“Large”, I think was the word Laynni used to describe Loh Moo Dee Beach. Hard to argue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have many other redeeming features, you know, other than being a very nice beach backed by palm trees on a Thai island.
However, it seems our standards started getting quite high about 8-10 photo spots into our explorations and without any big hills, colourful longtails or dramatic offshore islands, Loh Moo Dee Beach only earned a noncommittal shrug from us, especially considering it is the same distance as Long Beach on foot and quite a bit farther by boat.
On the other hand, this is easily the quietest beach on Koh Phi Phi Don that you can access on foot.
13. Monkey Beach
Scenic or just stupid? That’s for you to decide, and it probably depends mainly on how you feel about monkeys. Are they cheekily adorable little creatures that you find fascinating? Are you hoping to make your next profile pic a closeup of you with a longtail macaque on your shoulder eating BBQ chips? If those answers are yes, then make sure Monkey Beach is on your island tour itinerary (lucky break: it is pretty much standard).
On the other hand, if you’ve encountered monkeys in many places around the world and have almost exclusively been tormented by them – stealing food off your table in India, sugar packets out of your hut on Koh Jum, your father-in-law’s glasses off his head in Bali, a fellow traveller’s camera, passport and one flip-flop in Vietnam – you may be a little less enthusiastic about “playing with the monkeys”.
So, yes, as you can probably guess, we were content with a brief drive-by where we took a couple shots of the frenetic beach scene taking place involving chasing, feeding, taunting and scratching, not necessarily in that order, and not always by the person/monkey you’d expect.
Koh Phi Phi Leh
As the main reason most people visit the Koh Phi Phi islands, Koh Phi Phi Leh certainly has some must-see Koh Phi Phi photo spots. There are no overnight stays allowed, though, so all visits are done as day trips. Luckily, pretty much every hotel, resort and travel agency on Koh Phi Phi Don can hook you up with a private or group Phi Phi Leh tour for a variety of prices including a range of additional islands and snorkelling stops.
We booked through Phi Phi Villa Resort and paid just 1,800 baht ($US50) for a 3-4 hour private longtail tour for two people and I think the price would have stayed the same for up to 4. It included stops at all the places listed below, plus Monkey Beach, and some fruit snacks and water. The 400 baht per person national park entrance fee was separate.
You get to pick your time on these private tours so we got an early 7:30 start to avoid the worst of the mid-morning crowds and it seemed to work out really well, falling right into the gap between the small set of sunrise tours and more common 9 am departures. We were also told that late day visits (3-5 pm) can also be relatively quiet.
14. Viking Cave
You can’t physically enter Viking Cave (nor would you want to, by the looks of it) but it is a rather interesting place to visit even on a short drive-by. There are actually a few different caves along the sheer cliffs on this side of the island, a great primer for the more extraordinary Koh Phi Phi photo spots to come.
15. Phi Phi Leh Lagoon
This gorgeous little lagoon is almost entirely enclosed by tall cliffs, which makes it extremely beautiful but a tough place to fully capture in one photo (unless you are thinking you need an extra-long panoramic shot to cover the entire length of a wall).
However, it is definitely an amazing place to visit and you can opt to swim or snorkel here if you choose. We were lucky enough to have the place all to ourselves for a few minutes and opted out of getting wet in the interests of staying ahead of the crowds.
16. Maya Bay
One of the most famous places in Thailand, Maya Bay is certainly worth all the fuss. Simply spectacular, with luminescent water, sheer cliffs and incredible white sand. And, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a baby shark swimming past in just a couple feet of water.
Unfortunately, ever since The Beach came out people have flocked to the area to get a glimpse of one of the most famous beaches in Southeast Asia (possibly the world). Well, needless to say, the combination of huge tourist demand and rather typical Thai regulatory indifference led to Maya Bay eventually becoming literally overrun with daily visitors, changing it from a tropical dream location to crowded mess. Eventually the authorities stepped in, however, putting rules and limits in place, and eventually closing off the entire area to allow it to recover and regenerate.
During this process they discovered that Maya Bay actually served as an important reef shark nursery and now the intention is to continue closing it for several months each year, presumably when the sharks are most in need of privacy and self-reflection (so be sure to check the latest updates before planning your trip).
Meanwhile, they have also placed strict limits on daily visitor numbers, increased the park fee to 400 baht per person ($US12) to fund maintenance and security and banned swimming – wading is allowed but anyone venturing past the depth of their knees quickly leads to frantic whistle-blowing, emphatic arm waving and some seriously unimpressed facial expressions.
None of which, however, was enough to stop the relentless woman determined to capture the perfect new profile pic. A pose which involved lying back submerged to the neck, only the tips of the breasts sticking out of the water, while attempting a sultry expression that came off more like the nervous grimace of a recently concussed ferret.
All visitors to Maya Bay are taken to Lo Samah Bay first and dropped at a floating dock where they must take a photo of the boat name so the attendants can summon the correct boat when they return. Then you walk across the island to Maya Bay Beach (5 minutes), passing a visitor centre with snacks, drinks and washrooms.
Afterward, our boat driver took us around the island to the Maya Bay entrance where we were able to snorkel (far enough out from the beach so as not to disturb the people revelling in the bay from there). If the tide is high like it was when we were there, the best snorkelling areas are in and around the nearby caves.
Bonus Koh Phi Phi Photo Spots
Well, that’s it for the best Koh Phi Phi photo spots we saw ourselves but here are a few more places that we heard about but didn’t actually make it to:
Wang Long Bay
Okay, full disclosure, I have no idea if Wang Long Bay is a particularly scenic or not. But it has a pretty fun name, especially if you’ve never quite managed to shake the kind of juvenile humour that still makes you giggle at words like “wang”.
Bamboo Island (Koh Phai) and Mosquito Island (Koh Yung)
The two most common longtail tour add-ons, these two tiny islands north of Koh Phi Phi Don are apparently wildly scenic and great places to snorkel. Being the complete opposite direction from Koh Phi Phi Leh, however, means you will want to keep an eye on the sea conditions before committing to them.
Koh Phi Phi Photo Spots Map
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
Despite the crowds and bars and longtail traffic jams and the Burger King (I’m going to give McDonald’s a pass because I immensely enjoyed a quarter-pounder there one day), Koh Phi Phi remains one of the most incredibly scenic places in Thailand.
With over a dozen beautiful Koh Phi Phi photo spots to choose from and plenty more to be found among the surrounding islands, Koh Phi Phi is still a wonderful destination. Just don’t expect to have it all to yourself.
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