Maya Bay in Thailand’s Phi Phi islands might look familiar to you. It’s consistently voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and why not? A crescent of perfect white sand with clear turquoise waters surrounded by 100m high surreal sheer limestone cliff faces draped in emerald makes Maya Bay truly spectacular.

The Phi Phi islands are a small collection of islands 40km south-east of Phuket. The main island is Phi Phi Don -— a very busy, touristy, party-happy island. Maya Bay, however, is located on Phi Phi Lee, a 2km long uninhabited island.

The waters around these six limestone islands are part of Hat Nopparat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park which contains incredible coral and sea life. The islands are knowns for the mountains that drop abruptly into the sea, white beaches, and abundant caves and the area is a popular scuba destination.

Where else might you have seen it? Well, it was the centerpiece for one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s more unsuccessful films, The Beach. Let’s just say this, the actual beach is far better than the movie.

How to get there

The nearest airports to the Phi Phi islands are Krabi, Trang, and Phuket -— each have direct boat connections to the Phi Phi islands. There are no hotels on Phi Phi Lee, but you can stay on Phi Phi Don, Phuket, or Krabi.

You’ll need to get a tour boat to take you to Maya Bay. The long boats tend to be a more relaxing experience than the more popular speedboats.

What to consider

  • Take a traditional long boat tour of the islands; it’s less crowded and more laid back.
  • Most of the day tours visit the bay mid-day. If you want a bit more privacy, go in the very early morning or late afternoon.
  • If you’re on a tour of the waters after dark, the bioluminescent plankton come alive. It’s magical.
  • It’s no longer legal to freedom camp Maya Bay beach at night, but a few tours have access to the waters and some offer an overnight option. It’s a bit more pricey at 100USD, though.
  • The rainy season runs from May to December and the hot season from January to April. Pick your poison.
  • These islands have been overcome with tourists in the more recent years and as such the coral reefs have suffered; do your part to keep them healthy by not stepping on them and wearing reef-safe sunscreen.
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