Dec 09 2011
For a number of reasons, southwest Thailand’s tiny Ko Lipe attracts increasingly growing numbers of tourists each year. It’s home to some outstanding snorkelling and diving, a relaxed yet lively atmosphere, and some picturesque national park islands are just a short long-tail boat ride away. Lipe’s number one draw, however, is still its renowned white-sand beaches and clear Andaman Sea waters.
Lipe may quickly be reaching the point of over development — some would argue it’s already there — yet there’s still no denying the beauty of its three main beaches. Now the question is, which is right for you?
Lipe’s first resorts were built along Pattaya Beach on the island’s south coast, and for good reason. Aside from it having the island’s finest white sand, Pattaya Beach also sees calmer surf due to rocky peninsulas protected it from the monsoon winds in either direction. Not surprisingly, as Lipe grew more popular Pattaya Beach became rather crowded, and today every inch of it is occupied by some kind of resort, restaurant, bar, or diving centre. The surrounding waters can feel like a parking lot for long-tails.
Even so, Pattaya Beach is still Lipe’s premier stretch of sand, and its large crowds are not altogether a bad thing. If you’re looking for a fun atmosphere where meeting other travellers is as easy as sun-bathing, then Pattaya Beach is for you. For budget bungalows smack in the middle of Pattaya Beach check out Seaside Resort, Cafe Lipe, or Greenview Resort, and for something more comfy Blue Tribes Garden Resort is a good bet, located at the beach’s somewhat quieter eastern end.
Walking Street and its formidable array of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and travel companies connects Pattaya Beach to Sunrise Beach, Lipe’s longest. Facing directly east, Sunrise Beach — you guessed it — is a good place to watch the sunrise, and despite an influx of resorts in recent years it still has a distinctly low-key vibe, especially at night. Sunrise Beach faces the high season monsoon tides head on, so from November to April it’s generally windier and the waters choppier here than at Pattaya.
If you don’t mind the wind and waves, Sunrise offers a roomy stretch of sand that doesn’t get nearly as crowded as Pattaya, so it’s a very good choice if you’re looking for a quiet place to read and relax. For cheap accommodation on Sunrise Beach, Lipe Beach Resort on the northern end is arguably the island’s best budget resort. Further south Gipsy Bungalows is another good choice for backpackers, and Castaway Beach Resort is undoubtedly Lipe’s number one mid-range spot. Three of Lipe’s best high end resorts are clustered around Sunrise’s southern end — Serendipity Resort is an especially unique one — so if you’re on a honeymoon you might want to end up here.
A 10-minute walk from either Pattaya or Sunrise will bring you to little Sunset Beach on Lipe’s northwest coast. There’s only one place to stay on Sunset — Porn Resort — and although they’re not filming steamy movies here (at least not that I saw), Sunset Beach is known for attracting a skinny dipper or two.
With a couple of chilled out bars that are good for kicking back with a beer, Sunset has a markedly reggae-hipster vibe. About a five-minute walk to the west of Sunset Beach you’ll find tiny Bila Beach, home to isolated Bila Beach Bar, which is a laidback, beach-bum style joint perfect for letting your worries fade off into the Jack Johnson tunes.
All of Lipe’s beaches have a lot to offer, so it comes down to a matter of preference. For a lively nightlife scene, head to Pattaya. For a quiet and relaxed experience, look to the Sunrise. And for something altogether different, Sunset and Bila beckon. In any case, enjoy!
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