A GUIDE TO KOH LIPE
When any beach is compared to the Maldives, inarguably one of the world’s most incredible tropical destinations, you know it’s got to be good.
Researching the Thai islands, I came across all the common descriptions- Railay is very relaxed (if you know what I mean), Phi Phi is a backpacker paradise, Koh Tao is the best place to dive, Samui is known for its honeymooners, and the most of the other islands are fairly well trodden.
Save a few islands, there’s not much left to really ‘discover’. Even Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, a pair of large islands near Phuket that have been considered remote to date are starting to become developed.
While there’s no arguing Koh Lipe is developed, there are far fewer crowds than anywhere else in Thailand I visited.
Why is that?
Likely because it’s far south, the furthest of all the Thai islands, placing it closer to mainland Malaysia.
Because of its location, it warrants either a very long ferry ride from Koh Lanta or flight into a smaller airport at Hat Yai, then a ferry ride to the island. This means far fewer people who come to Thailand to see its islands visit Lipe than its counterparts in the Andaman Sea.
Scenery wise, it is a seriously stunning place.
But, after three days in Lipe, I left saddened by the clear impact tourism is having- trash everywhere, traffic back-ups, cheap touristy bars and shops.
And, as beautiful as it is, I found parts of Raily, Krabi and Phi Phi to be equally stunning (and more accessible).
Would I visit Lipe again?
Probably not. It’s expensive to get to (in time and money), and a bit pricier than the other islands I stayed on- likely again, because it is very remote.
Plus, there are so many other islands in Thailand, as well as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam I’d love to visit before committing time to re-visiting places I’ve been.
That said, I’m not advocating against going to Koh Lipe. It’s why I’m writing this guide to Koh Lipe- to help make your trip as easy as possible.
You just have to be willing to accept its downsides, which, for an island in the middle of the sea aren’t a big deal.
A Guide to Koh Lipe: How to Get to Lipe
How to get to Lipe: As mentioned above, most people either fly into an airport in Trang, Hat Yai and then take a shuttle bus and ferry over, or take a ferry from another Thai island, Koh Lanta.
I’d been staying on Lanta for a few days, so ferrying from there made sense. On my way to Lipe, I took a speedboat with Bundhaya, the total journey took three hours.
And, on my way back from Lipe, I took a speedboat with Tigerline which stopped in Lanta for a half hour before making connections further north in Phi Phi, Railay, Ao Nang, Phuket, Yao Yai and Yao Noi.
Part of the reason why we stopped in Lanta was so they could break up the boat- e.g. my next speedboat went directly to Phi Phi, which then continued to Phuket, while a few other boats went to the other islands.
Check ferry schedules before you book accomodation for Lipe- because it is further south, ferries don’t run as often, and shut down for the season sooner than counterparts further north.
A Guide to Koh Lipe: Where to Stay
Koh Lipe is small, there are three beaches to choose from on the island- Sunrise, Sunset and Pattaya.
Pattaya is the main beach ferries come into and has some of the most reasonably priced hotels.
Sunset is, as its name implies, best for views of the sunset and a bit further away from the main town on Lipe- about a 15 minute walk. The terrain on Sunset beach is also more rugged than either of its counterparts.
For myself, and my others, Sunrise beach is the best place to stay. Gorgeous views of sunrise, great for day trips and snorkeling or kayaking, and depending on where you stay, a 5-10 minute walk from town.
I’m unable to recommend somewhere to stay because I didn’t have a great experience at either ‘resort’ I stayed at.
Though, I will say this- if you’re not okay with sleeping in a beach hut (mosquitos flying around, bugs crawling all over walls/furniture, rudimentary plumbing, etc.), consider spending a bit more on your accommodation or visiting another Thai island where your money may stretch a bit further.
A Guide to Koh Lipe: What to Do
Since the island is small, it’s easy to walk it end to end in under a half hour, making it a great place to explore.
Other things to do in Lipe-
Watch the sun rise and set: Without question, the best part of my beach hut was waking up, walking outside and having a front row view to the sun rise. Watching the sun crest over the horizon as longtails bobbed in front of me was incredible. Such a special moment and wonderful way to start the morning.
And, in the evening, head to sunset beach for another show.
Here, I bought a fresh coconut from a bar on the beach, and then relaxed in the sand, waiting for the sun to disappear for another night. No need to worry about walking back to town on dark roads when the sun finally sets- chances are you’ll have others to join you on your trip back to town. And, if you’re not up for the walk, there’ll be plenty of tuk tuks vying to take you back.
Unwind with yoga: Kieras Yoga Studio has signs posted all over Lipe, and is located closest to Sunrise beach. Classes are taught by Kiera, herself, and usually offered 2-3x daily.
During my time on Lipe, I joined Kiera for her 8 am Hatha practice, which was lovely. There turned out to only be one other person in my class, so it felt like a private lesson. Kiera also teaches a sunrise flow and 5 pm class meant for more advanced yogis (check the schedule when you visit in case it changes).
Bonus: Kiera’s dogs hang out at her studio. They’re very chill while you practice- usually napping/lazily watching. But afterwards, love a good pet.
Snorkel or rent a kayak: You could really snorkel anywhere on Lipe. Or, you could join a day trip to any of the other islands in Taruato Marine Park.
I’ve heard the waters around all of these islands are teeming with sea life. I chose not to do any activities in Lipe because I’d already done a fair amount of snorkelling and kayaking, and really, just wanted to relax. If you need to rent snorkel equipment, I’ve heard that, like in other parts of Thailand, you can rent it from any of the dive shops on the beach.
Similarly, you could also rent a kayak from any of the places on the beach you see them- the going rate is 200 baht per hour. Besides snorkelling the serene beachfronts, you could also go a bit farther out and loop around some of the islands neighbouring Lipe.
A friend had recommended renting a kayak from Castaway Divers, and then kayaking to Koh Usen and Koh Kra, both a short distance from Sunrise beach. I didn’t get around to checking either out, but sharing the recommendation in case you’re up for the adventure.
Get a massage: In the ultimate relaxation mode, I had two massages in Lipe, one at a beachfront place (JK Blue), and one in town (Sabai Sabai).
Granted they were two different types of massages, the foot massage at Sabai Sabai was much better than the Thai massage at JK Blue.
I understand a beachfront massage isn’t private, but it’s mildly irritating (and not very relaxing) when the therapist talks to others around you almost the entire duration of your massage.
Be a Trash Hero: I’ve already mentioned the trash situation on Lipe- it’s seriously upsetting. I wasn’t in Koh Lipe to join the pick-up, but every Monday morning, anyone on the island can get involved in a coordinated trash collection on Lipe and the surrounding islands. I know it’s not a glamorous way to spend your holiday, but it’s only for a few hours, and helps ensure we’re protecting these beautiful places for years to come.
Chill at a beach side bar: Bayview is great for sunset at Sunset beach, and I enjoyed hanging out on a bean bag chair at Blue Mojito and Sea la Vie on Sunrise beach. Both have shaded areas in case you need a break from the sun’s rays.
Aide from beach bars, which I enjoyed many fresh coconuts at, I don’t have many restaurant recommendations for Lipe.
My resort provided breakfast, which I usually ate late in the day.
Mid-afternoon, I’d have a smoothie as a snack and then eat a larger dinner around 5/6 pm at Elephant Koh Lipe.
If I was hungry later in the evening, I’d get another smoothie, or grab a roti from a street vendor.
If you stroll walking street, you’ll see a number of cafes, restaurants and bars, plus 7-11s, atm’s, grocery stores and plenty of shops.
I didn’t stray from a few meals at Elephant because I LOVED the falafel salad bowl. Middle eastern food is, without question, the number one kind of food I miss in SE Asia, so finding such great falafel and fresh vegetables felt like a total treat. They’re also known for their awesome breakfasts, pizzas, vegetarian eats and burgers, so a bit of something for everything.
All said, I’ll remember Koh Lipe as a beautiful place to visit and somewhere I seriously chilled out while at the start of my SE Asia travels.
It’s also the place that convinced me I need to find a way to make it to the Maldives in the years that come- if I thought Koh Lipe was beautiful, I know the Maldives will blow me away.
Have you ever been to the Maldives or a place like it that stunned you with its natural beauty?
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