Photo: Ko Phi Phi back beaches.

Beyond the buckets: Phi Phi's top things to do

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Ko Phi Phi has a well-deserved reputation as a raucous gap-year party island, but those looking for some action beyond late-night bucket-drinking sessions will find plenty to do here.

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The islands and waters surrounding the main island of Phi Phi Don offer some spectacular scenery both above water and in the depths. Yes, the nearby Phi Phi Leh gets crowded with daytrippers but it’s still worth a visit for its towering cliffs and the white sands of Maya Bay. Joining a day trip is cheap but if you want to see the island in a more pristine state, organise your own boat hire and head there in the early morning.

Is Phi Phi island on your bucket list?

Is Phi Phi island on your bucket list? (Sorry.)

Beyond Phi Phi Leh, there are other islands including Bamboo Island to explore, most easily done by hiring a longtail boat for the day. Or, if you just want to do some beach hopping, ask the boatman to take you for a cruise up and down Phi Phi Don’s east coast, which is lined with a string of white-sand beaches far less crowded than the busy Ton Sai and Lo Dalam beaches. Our favourite spots along the east coast are Ao Tohko, Rantee, and Pak Nam beaches, each with at least one resort with restaurants to stop at for a bite to eat. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear.

Sea kayaks offer a paddle-powered way to explore.

Sea kayaks offer a paddle-powered way to explore.

You’ll find decent snorkelling offshore from most beaches, especially Long Beach, or if you’re looking for a more unusual snorkelling trip, check out the “shark watch” early-morning tour with the Adventure Club, where you’ll swim with reef sharks just off Long Beach. Night-time snorkelling tours are also available from several operators, which take you to see nature’s glow sticks: bioluminescent plankton.

Phi Phi has plenty of scuba diving sites, too, including the King Cruiser Wreck and Anemone Reef to the northwest and Ko Bida Nai and Nok to the south, and Malong Bay and Palong Bay off the west coast of Phi Phi Leh. Plenty of people stay on to complete their PADI certification or divemaster courses. All the dive shops are found on Phi Phi Don, some of which we found to have rather smarmy sales techniques that verge on catcalling – but with about a dozen to choose from it’s easy to take some time to shop around to find an operator you feel comfortable with.

On the up and up. Phi Phi's steep cliffs are a rock climber's dream.

On the up and up. Phi Phi’s steep cliffs are a rock climber’s dream.

Kayaking is another top way to explore the island, with Lo Dalam the main launching point for kayak rentals. The hard plastic sit-on-top kayaks, single or double, can be rented by the hour or the day. Most paddlers set off to nearby Monkey Beach to the northwest, about 45 minutes away.

Phi Phi’s steep cliffs offer some excellent rock climbing, and anyone from novices to experienced climbers will find a suitable rock face to test their skills on. Local operators offer courses, or those with their own equipment can easily find out where the best routes are either locally or by checking one of the many rock climbing websites where details and updates are posted by fellow climbers. Most of the climbing action is at Ton Sai Tower at the far west end of Ton Sai beach, which has several bolted routes set up.

Sea, sand, sky and a patch of shade. Island perfection on Lo Moo Dee beach.

Sea, sand, sky and a patch of shade. Island bliss on Lo Moo Dee beach.

For hiking, Phi Phi Don’s interior is criss-crossed with a number of trails that lead from the three viewpoints to all the beaches along the east coast. None of the walks take much more than an hour in one direction, but expect to sweat — a lot — with the high humidity and hills to navigate. For many, just reaching the viewpoint summit is quite enough.

One of the most scenic trails on Phi Phi is the coastal path from Ton Sai beach to Long beach, then over the hill behind Phi Phi The Beach Resort through a coconut plantation to Lo Moo Dee beach. Just steer clear of the wickedly unfriendly owners of the little restaurant shack on Lo Moo Dee, which is an otherwise peaceful, postcard-perfect tropical beach.

Yoga on the beach: a healthier alternative to the sunset cocktail.

Yoga on the beach: a healthier alternative to the sunset cocktail.

If it’s raining or if you just need a break from the beach, you could try a Thai cookery class, which is on offer at a few resorts and also at the long-running Pum Thai Cooking School in Ton Sai village. The well-priced classes range from a simple one-dish course to a full-day package.

Wellness seekers will also find things to do on Phi Phi, which now has Ashtanga yoga classes by Keirita’s Yoga daily at two locations or private sessions by arrangement, some fitness centres and a heap of spa and massage places from simple massage salas along the beach to fancy resort spas.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Phi Phi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Phi Phi.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Phi Phi.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Phi Phi, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Phi Phi? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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