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Our two-week trip to Thailand and the Philippines is off to an excellent start after a relaxing stay on the island of Koh Lanta.
Read More: Thailand’s Best Islands: Koh Lanta
But today, my husband Dave and I are excited to head south to our next beautiful Thai island, Koh Lipe!
Located in Satun province, Koh Lipe is Thailand’s southernmost island and often referred to as “the Maldives of Thailand.” I’ve been fortunate enough to see a dozen or so Thai islands and for my money, Koh Lipe just might be the most beautiful.
Like Koh Lanta, Lipe was originally settled by Sea Gypsies who traveled the islands searching for the best fishing spots. Some remain to this day on the island’s eastern shores.
As Thailand’s tourism industry booms at record levels, Koh Lipe (like Koh Lanta) still feels relatively undiscovered. Perhaps because it’s a little harder to get to than Thailand’s mega-resort areas like Phuket, Krabi and Hua Hin.
It was a tiny blurb in Travel & Leisure magazine a few years ago that originally put Koh Lipe on my radar. But on previous trips to Thailand, I’ve always opted for an island that was easier to reach.
Read More: Heaven on Earth – Ko Phi Phi Thailand
But as we would soon discover, regardless of how long the journey takes, this tiny island is well worth the effort.
How to get to Koh Lipe
There’s no airport on Koh Lipe, so no matter how you get there it involves a boat.
From mid-November to late April you can reach Koh Lipe in a variety of ways. By speedboat and/or ferry from Koh Lanta, Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Hat Yai, Pak Bara, and Langkawi, Malaysia. (Check ferry timetables, schedules, and prices here.)
Langkawi to Koh Lipe
Langkawi, Malaysia is actually the closest at just an hour away. But visitors arriving from Malaysia must clear immigration and customs upon arrival. In the low season months, a speedboat from Pak Bara is the only option.
Ferry versus speed boat
After reading a number of the reviews about the ferry from Koh Lanta versus a speedboat, we chose the Bundhaya Speedboat service for its mostly positive reviews.
Many reviews mentioned either option often takes longer than scheduled due to the number of stops or rough weather. But luckily we have a pretty smooth ride (although I wouldn’t say it was pleasant).
We arrive at Koh Lipe’s floating pier just over 3 hours after departing Koh Lanta.
The pier is just offshore of Pattaya Beach, where our hotel is located and I spot it easily from the pier.
First. we pay the national park fee of 200 baht (about $6 US) at a table on the pier. Then we’re met by a representative from our hotel who ushers us into a longtail boat. From there it’s a short ride right to the beach in front of the hotel.
Not a bad way to arrive!
Where to stay on Koh Lipe
For our 3-night stay, we chose the AKIRA Lipe Resort on Pattaya Beach. Opened in late 2014, the rooms are spacious and modern, the pool is spectacular and the location is absolutely perfect.
We settle into our room, shake off the 3-hour speedboat ride, and head out to explore.
Things to Do on Koh Lipe
The island has 3 main beaches, all with pearly white sand and clear turquoise waters. The busiest and perhaps most beautiful is Pattaya Beach, where many of the hotels (including ours) are located.
Sunrise Beach spans the eastern side of the island from south to north and is less populated by hotels. Sunset Beach has a laid-back vibe and limited accommodation but the population swells each evening as the sun begins its descent and visitors from around the island walk over to enjoy the nightly show.
Koh Lipe boasts a wide variety of activities including island hopping in the nearby Tarutao National Park and countless diving and snorkeling options.
3 Reasons Koh Lipe is the Best Thai Island
It doesn’t take long for me to realize that Koh Lipe is my favorite Thai island of the dozens that I’ve visited over the years.
There are a number of reasons why but here are my top 3:
1 – It’s completely walkable
I love an island holiday that doesn’t involve any transportation decisions. Koh Lipe is a very small island and walking is the easiest way to get around. In fact, walking around the entire island takes only about an hour.
Koh Lipe’s Walking Street
From our hotel, we walk a hundred yards or so down the beach and find ourselves at the entrance to Koh Lipe’s Walking Street. Lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, Walking Street stretches across the middle of the island connecting Pattaya Beach and (almost to) Sunrise Beach.
Walking Street has everything you need from tour operators and massage places to a 7-11 and an ATM. We wander in and out of a few shops before continuing on to explore the beaches.
2- The sunset experience on Koh Lipe
That evening, we get out our trusty island map and make our way over to Sunset Beach. It’s time to end the day in our favorite way…with a spectacular sunset.
The walk takes about 20 minutes and we quickly learn that just because it looks like a road on the map, doesn’t mean it’s actually a road. More often than not it’s a path or a trail or a cut-thru in a local neighborhood.
But eventually, we find Sunset Beach. And even better, we find the 100-baht mojito guy!
Sunset Beach & the Mojito guy
This genius local entrepreneur sets up a folding table each night and mixes delicious mojitos from 5pm – 7pm for only 100 baht (about $2.80 US). He also lays out a dozen or so beach mats complete with seat cushions and small tables for his mojito drinkers to comfortably enjoy the show.
What a fabulous idea on a beach with limited facilities. I hope this guy is making a killing.
Of course, we grab ourselves a couple of mojitos and find our own beach mat to settle in for sunset. It is absolutely worth the wait and mojito sunsets become the nightly routine during our stay on Koh Lipe.
By Day 2 we even find a shortcut that gets us from hotel to mojitos in less than 15 minutes.
3 – Stunning Beaches
The next morning, Dave elects to sleep in a bit. But I decided to take advantage of the less oppressive, cooler morning air to see Sunrise Beach and visit Sunset Beach again in the light of day.
I’ve also seen pictures of a beautiful beach that looks like a curved sandbar reaching out into the sea. I’m determined to find it! From the map, it appears to be at the northern end of Sunrise Beach so that’s where I start.
The Mountain Lipe Resort
I find the beach pretty easily but discover it’s technically part of a private beach area for the swank Mountain Lipe Resort. It’s easy to access on the ground level from Sunrise Beach, but to get the best shots from above I have to wander up into the resort’s breakfast area (so the least I can do is give them a mention here!).
It actually looks like a beautiful resort with bungalows scaling up the side of mountain and incredible views out to the sea and outer islands. Next time we come back I might look into staying at this one.
The Maldives of Thailand
This part of the island must be why they call it the “Maldives of Thailand” because this particular beach definitely gives me a Maldives vibe.
From there, I walk back over to Sunset Beach. I discover that much more of the beach area is accessible now during the morning low tide. I’m able to walk quite a bit further down the beach than we did last night.
Sunset Beach is really stunning with giant granite boulders that remind me a lot of beaches I’ve seen in the Seychelles.
Read More: Say Yes to the Seychelles Islands
By then Dave is up and we meet back at the hotel for breakfast and to decide what to do with the rest of our day.
We consider doing some island-hopping during our stay but ultimately can’t tear ourselves away from the beauty of Koh Lipe itself. We spend that day and the next relaxing by the sea, enjoying a massage (or three) and wandering from one stunning beach to another.
It’s an amazing few days and we both fall in love with Koh Lipe. There’s no doubt we’ll be back. But alas, it’s soon time to move on yet again, this time to the Philippines.
Departing Koh Lipe
Leaving the island, we take a different route back to Bangkok using the airport at Hat Yai.
We again take advantage of Air Asia’s Island Transfer service. This involves a ferry from Lipe to Pak Bara (90 minutes) and then a shuttle to the airport in Hat Yai (another 90 minutes). Again, the experience is pretty seamless and I’d say this route is probably the easiest way to reach Koh Lipe for future trips.
But for now, we’re off for a night of traveling – back to Bangkok, overnight to Manila and then a morning charter flight to the island of Palawan.
Next stop, El Nido!