Koh Lipe is a relatively undiscovered paradise, situated in the Andaman sea, 60 km from the Thai mainland and only 30 km from Langkawi, Malaysia. It’s the southernmost Thai island and one of more than fifty that form the Adang archipelago.
The island is covered with lush vegetation, has beautiful quiet sandy beaches that are surrounded by crystal clear, calm turquoise water – the perfect place for snorkeling and diving. And it’s no wonder as Koh Lipe is right on the border of the Tarutao National Marine Park, one of the first National Parks created in Thailand in 1974.
Koh Lipe isn’t as easily accessible as some other popular islands in Thailand, and therefore also not as crowded as Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, for example. Yet it has excellent attractions and to make sure you get the most out of it, here are my tips for the best things to do in Koh Lipe.
Explore the Island by Foot
Koh Kipe is tiny, only 2 km long and 1 km wide, and to walk from one beach to another, it won’t take more than 30 mins, so I would urge you to do it. The main street is called “Walking Street” and the three major beaches: Pattaya, Sunset, and Sunrise. Along the Walking Street, you will find many restaurants, massage parlors, and shops.
Beaches in Koh Lipe
Pattaya Beach is an absolutely stunning large sheltered bay with powdery white sand and good “pools” to swim in. Most of the ferry services arrive here and it provides easy access to the bars and restaurants on the Walking Street. You’ll find lots of places to stay in Koh Lipe in this area.
Sunset Beach is a small bay on the west side of the island, with some rocks, tranquil water, and a few low-key bars and restaurants. There is also a camping area, which gives it a slightly hippy atmosphere and, as the name suggests, it’s the perfect spot from which to watch the sunset.
Sunrise Beach, which extends along the Eastern side of the island, is where you can watch the sunrise if you get up early enough. For me, this is the most beautiful beach in Koh Lipe. There is a pleasant breeze during the whole day and it’s a great spot for snorkeling and water sports. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to rent a motorbike or car to move around Koh Lipe and could easily explore the whole island by foot.
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Take a Boat Trip
While in Koh Lipe, you should not miss the opportunity to do an island-hopping tour by boat. You will visit a few stunning islands with interesting rock formations, see wildlife, including lizards and monkeys, see the extraordinary bioluminescent planktons as you find incredible spots for snorkeling and swimming. If you’re lucky enough, you can even stumble upon your own private beach. Yes, it is still possible in Thailand!
There are four island hopping itineraries from Koh Lipe (Program A, B, Sunset Trip and Plankton Trip) and programs A and B are by far the most popular ones. My favorite was Tour B which turned out to be the highlight of my trip. The islands, beaches, and sea life are spectacular and will leave you in awe!
This Koh Lipe snorkeling tour takes you to the best parts without the hassle of arranging it all yourself.
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Get a Birds-Eye View of the Island
If you like spectacular vistas and want to get some exercise, you can climb the mountain on Koh Adang, the island in front of Koh Lipe, to get a birds-eye view of the “Maldives of Thailand”. The boat ride to Koh Adang takes about 20 mins. From the arrival point, you can easily find the trail that leads up to three viewpoints. Hiking Koh Adang takes between 30 and 40 mins each way, is suitable for everyone, and for the most part, the trail is in shadow.
The vistas from the viewpoints are spectacular, and once you’re here, you will immediately see where Koh Lipe’s nickname comes from. But I’d recommend that you start the hike early in the morning, as it can get very hot later on, and bring plenty of water, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, suitable shoes and, of course, your camera.
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Enjoy a Few Water Activities
With crystal-clear balmy blue water which features 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species, Koh Lipe is undoubtedly one of the best places in Thailand for diving and snorkeling. You snorkel everywhere in Koh Lipe, but close to the two tiny islands on Sunrise beach are some of the best spots, especially at low tide when the water gets very calm, shallow and transparent.
However, be aware that the coral reef is protected, so you have to be careful when snorkeling, especially at low tide. Kayaking is also another perfect activity to do in Koh Lipe, as the water is so calm, and some hotels offer free kayaks and snorkeling masks for its guests.
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Go Dancing at Maya Bar
Koh Lipe’s nightlife is relatively quiet with most of the bars closing around midnight. However, if you want to meet people, listen to good music and dance, Maya Bar, situated right in the center of the Walking Street, is the coolest bar on the island. Maya Bar has two levels, with a dance floor, lounge chairs, lovely decoration, exquisite drinks, and a fantastic atmosphere.
The crowd is diverse and sometimes there is live music. Happy Hour is between 5:00 and 8:00 pm, with most people arriving between 7 and 8 pm. I had a really good time at Maya Bar and for me, there was no better way to finish my day in Koh Lipe
Grab a Drink in one of the Beach Bars and Restaurants
There are some really nice beach bars and restaurants all over Koh Lipe but, for me, the best ones are located on Sunrise Beach. In my opinion, Sea la Vie is the place to go. The ambiance is super cool, with chairs on the sand, and even a swing that looks out over the ocean.
Added to that, the music is good, the crowd friendly, the food and drink reasonably priced and the view amazing. It’s easy to see why, after spending the whole day swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing, grabbing a drink at a bar like this and feeling the ocean breeze on my face made me feel like the happiest person on Earth.
Eat Plenty of Delicious and Fresh Thai Food
Thai cuisine is renowned as one of the best in the world, and when you visit the islands, the food is usually fresher and even better than on the mainland. Koh Lipe isn’t any different and its restaurants do not disappoint.
From the great variety of fruits to incredible combinations to exotic dishes made with curry and coconut milk (my personal favorites), you should absolutely indulge yourself and have plenty of Thai food during your stay in Koh Lipe.
There are good restaurants scattered throughout the island, with most of them located on the “Walking Street”. Some of the dishes to try while in Koh Lipe is the outrageous Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup) served at Nee Papaya and an authentic Thai grilled fish at Papaya Mom.
Koh Lipe Details:
How to Get to Koh Lipe
Departing from Bangkok, you can take a flight to Hat Yai (1½h), then take a minibus to Pak Bara (2h), and finally, catch a ferry to Koh Lipe (1½h). The journey can take up to 6 or 7h, and even longer if you take a bus or a train from Bangkok.
From Langkawi, Malasia, the ferry takes around 1h30min – 2h, arriving at Pattaya Beach, in the middle of the island. It can be a long journey but it’s totally worthwhile though. Koh Lipe is definitely one of the best islands in Thailand and the ideal place for those who love outstanding beaches without the crowds.
Editor’s Note: To save time when moving from one island to the next, you can see the ferry schedules and book ahead of time.
Where to Stay in Koh Lipe
Given that the island is small, surprisingly, there are still loads of options on where to stay. Here are a few recommendations on where to stay.
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