Ko Phi Phi has a large and growing variety of places to stay. Since it was struck by the Asian tsunami of December 2004, Ko Phi Phi has been redeveloped at a relentless pace, which is showing no sign of slowing 10 years on.
One noticeable movement on Phi Phi during 2014 was in the budget sector, with more hostel accommodation being added and possibly usurping the bamboo hut as the cheapest room of choice for backpackers. We also noticed a growing number of resorts adding two-level hotel-style buildings to their premises to either complement or replace their bungalow offerings. Room styles are thus looking decidedly less beachy as resorts find ways to squeeze more baht out of their precious property space.
The Ao Lo Dalam beach area, which had been reduced to rubble in the 2004 tsunami, is being built up again. Hotel developers stayed away from this beach for many years, but by 2014 they were starting to creep back, most notably with Charlie Beach Resort reclaiming its old beachfront position. This long-running resort that had partnered up with PP Princess Resort and retreated inland post-tsunami has now erected several bamboo huts (850 baht a night) on the area where it had been washed away in the waves a decade ago.
A flurry of construction is underway along Lo Dalam’s entire length and up into the headland at its northern end, so we expect that by 2015-16 all traces of the tsunami’s sweep of the area will be built over.
Before we list our top picks for the island, we should note that unless money is no object and you can check into one of the island’s top luxury resorts, the choices here are generally mediocre compared to similar priced offerings elsewhere in Thailand. As well, with the cheapest options found in Ao Lo Dalam and Tonsai village in the vicinity of Phi Phi’s noisiest bars, money savings often mean compromising a peaceful night’s sleep if you’re not here to party.
Phi Phi is busy year round. Research ahead of time to find which beach will suit you best. Booking ahead for your first night at least is highly recommended, especially in the high season months of November through April. Many places will have someone meet you at the pier to help carry your luggage, too, and it will save you from having to tromp around in the heat while being tailed by accommodation touts. All the prices listed below are low-season rates, so consider them your starting point.
For backpackers on a budget, the cheapest deals are found at the hostels, most of which are in Tonsai village. A typical Phi Phi hostel set-up is in a shophouse with bunk beds in an air-con room, shared bathrooms and free WiFi. Three of the better ones we found in Tonsai village are Blue Diamond Dorm, Ploy Dorm Room and PP Centerpoint Hostel, all of which start at 300 baht a night. The best hostel for beach access is the new Chao Koh Dorm Room (350 baht), which is found on Tonsai beach a short walk away from the pier. If you’re keen on a bamboo hut, and don’t mind a sweaty walk, some cheap places have been built up in the hill just beyond Lo Dalam beach. Phutawan Bamboo Resort (400 baht) has rustic but tidy huts in a pretty garden and jungle setting.
If you’re looking for a real getaway spot without a five-star price level, we urge you to hop on a longtail, get thee to Pak Nam beach, and check in immediately to Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort. It’s the perfect mix of a gorgeous remote setting, thoughtful design and welcoming service – all for reasonable rates starting at 1,500 baht a night. Our next favourite out-of-the-way choice is Tohko Beach Resort, which sits all by its lonesome on a beach of the same name. The bungalows here are nothing special, but it’s friendly and the setting is divine. Both of these spots have electricity in night-time hours only.
Within reach of Tonsai village but also with an isolated feel is Viking Nature Resort, a sprawling collection of large and quirky bungalows clinging to the jungly hillside (rates from 1,200 baht). While the service could be better here, its location, which extends across two small, virtually private beaches, is superb.
On one of Phi Phi’s prettiest stretches of sand, Long beach, sits Paradise Pearl Bungalows, which we reckon have the most beautiful Thai style room designs in all of Phi Phi. Its mix of large beachfront bungalows to smaller hotel-style rooms tucked away at the back (from 1,800 baht) will appeal to both families needing space and couples on a tighter budget. The Paradise Resort next door, long known as a friendly place, was undergoing a big refurbishment during our 2014 visit, so we place it in the “one to watch” category (rooms from 1,300 baht).
For those willing to spend a bit more for a pool, one of the best for your baht is Phi Phi Viewpoint Resort, which also offers fantastic views from its hillside perch overlooking Lo Dalam bay (rooms from 1,200 baht). J.J. Residence hotel in Tonsai village lacks a view, but it has decent-sized, clean rooms and a pool set in a walled garden area (from 1,600 baht). The most backpacker-friendly place with a pool is Tropical Garden, with attractive wooden bungalows and rooms for as little as 400 baht a night (though do check when booking if the pool is open – it was out of service last time we visited).
Among the many places to stay in and around Tonsai village, Chunut House remains a standout for its rock-garden setting, creatively designed bungalows and friendly vibe. Having converted all its rooms to air-con, prices have nudged upwards (from 1,500 baht) but it still offers reasonable value by Phi Phi standards.
For those who want a more plush, resort-style place to stay but a central location, both P.P. Casita (from 2,000 baht) and P.P. Palm Tree Resort (from 3,100 baht) in Tonsai village fit the bill. Both of these offer air-con rooms, swimming pools and efficient service with Casita geared more towards couples — children under 10 are not allowed — and the Palm Tree more family oriented.
Phi Phi Villa Resort over on Tonsai beach is another good midrange choice – nothing fancy here but it’s clean and well run, with a sea-view pool and a new gym and spa. Rooms from 2,500 baht a night.
Among the luxury resorts, Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa is hard to top, with its secluded location on Lo Bakao beach and top-notch facilities (good deals in low-season from 3,959 baht). It’s one of those dream tropical wedding and honeymoon spots that people the world over will happily max out their credit cards for to enjoy their brief moments of bliss in the sun. Just lovely.
A bit further north is another luxury enclave, Laem Thong beach, which is home to the always-appealing Holiday Inn Phi Phi Island resort (from 3,500 baht, try to book into the quieter new wing) and Phi Phi’s priciest escape: the Zeavola Hotel, which is worth every baht if you can afford to stay in one of its understated, uber-elegant villas (from 9,000 baht).
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
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