When you’ve visited Thailand’s most popular islands, you may be ready for something a little bit different – somewhere that many backpackers haven’t been, done it and drank the souvenir bucket! Traveller, Laura Ball checks out one of Thailand’s less crowded islands and discovers a real slice of paradise in Koh Lipe…
By Laura Ball
Koh Lipe is a tiny island located off Thailand’s west coast, close to the Malaysian border. While it’s popular with those coming from or going to Malaysia (there’s a direct ferry available from Langkawi to Lipe), most visitors to Thailand don’t venture this far south, leaving Lipe blissfully uncrowded and uncommercialised compared to islands like Phuket and Samui.
As Lipe has no pier or jetty, longtail boats will pick you up from the ferry and drop you at one of the island’s three main beaches. Most people end up staying on Pattaya, on the south coast. This wide arc of pure white sand is home to the majority of the island’s accommodation, from plush resorts to budget bungalows. The main road runs from this beach, so if you want to be near all the cafes, restaurants and shops, Pattaya is the place to be.
While all the island’s beaches are pretty amazing, Sunrise beach is definitely the most stunning. Powder-soft white sand stretches up the eastern side of the island and curves around onto the northern edge, lapped by turquoise waters. Traditional longtail boats dot the shoreline, and from your towel you’ve got views across to tiny rocky islands, and, to the north, neighbouring Koh Adang. It’s the kind of beach you see in holiday brochures for Thailand, but never seem to find in the more crowded resorts.
Crystal clear waters of Koh Lipe’s beautiful beaches
A 15-minute walk from the main street leads you through a cluster of locals’ huts to laid-back Sunset beach. The quietest of the three beaches, Sunset has only a handful of beachside bungalows, along with a few bars to sip an ice-cold Chang in while you enjoy an amazing sunset.
Although Lipe is much less developed than other islands, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied. The main street running from Pattaya is lined with cafes and restaurants serving cheap and tasty Thai fare, as well as Western favourites such as pizza and pasta. There are also numerous street stalls turning out the ubiquitous fruit shakes and banana pancakes. Clothes shops sell all your beachwear essentials, from sarongs and maxi dresses to boardies and Havaianas.
Beauty salons can get you bikini-ready with body scrubs, pedicures and waxing, and, if choosing which stretch of sand to lie on or whether you should have a Green or Red curry for dinner is leaving you a tad stressed, there are plenty of places to unwind with a massage.
In terms of nightlife, if it’s hardcore partying you’re after, Koh Lipe’s probably not the place for you. Things are much more laid back here – instead of UV paint and raving ’til dawn, the beach bars here play chill out music, while travellers lounge on big, comfy cushions, sipping cocktails by candlelight.
Located in the Koh Tarutao National Marine Park, Lipe is the perfect place to enjoy some snorkelling or diving. At Sunrise and Sunset beaches, there is great snorkelling right off the beach, but to really appreciate the Marine Park, head out on one of the boat trips that leave from Pattaya. For around 500 baht you get to visit several different snorkelling spots, as well as stopping on some of the nearby islands to explore pristine beaches, lush forests and hidden waterfalls. Another option is to head out with the sea gypsies in one of their longtail boats. These locals know the waters like the back of their hands and can help you sort out a tailor-made itinerary.
Divers won’t be disappointed either. There are a number of different operators on Lipe who can arrange trips for people at all levels, whether beginner or advanced.
Ferries leave from various destinations daily, so what are you waiting for? Escape the crowds, head off the tourist trail and enjoy a real slice of paradise.
Koh Lipe: The Facts
- High season is from November to May. During the Christmas & New Year periods places fill up fast, so make sure you book ahead.
- In the high season you can catch direct ferries to Koh Lipe from Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Langkawi, Pak Barra, Koh Ngai, Koh Muk and Koh Laoliang.
- In low season ferries only leave from Pak Barra.