Guide to Koh Lipe: Hidden Gem of Thailand
So, first of all, Koh Lipe is absolutely amazing. If you’re a beach person or just wants to see the best sights in Southeast Asia, we’d definitely recommend this one. Here’s an extensive travel guide to Koh Lipe.
For a bit of a background, Koh Lipe is an island in southern Thailand. It is also known as “Paper Island”, “Maldives of Thailand” or one of the remaining secrets of Thailand.
- When to visit Koh Lipe
- How to get to Koh Lipe
- Where to exchange money
- How to get around Koh Lipe
- What to see in Koh Lipe
- Best things to do in Koh Lipe
- Where to eat
- Where to stay in Koh Lipe
- Budget and expenses
- What to read next:
When to visit Koh Lipe
The best time to visit Koh Lipe is during the high season, which runs from November to April. The weather is generally sunny, with few rains. During the low season, from May to October, you’re more likely to experience more rains. On the upside, rates are visibly lower during this time and crowds are few.
A fellow backpacker vouches about going here in October, which is a little in-between period. The weather is okay and you can have the beaches for yourself. (Then again, the weather is a fickle thing, so I urge you to proceed at your own risk.)
How to get to Koh Lipe
If you’re going during low season, the only way to reach Koh Lipe is through Pak Bara (accessible from Bangkok). During high season, you can get to Koh Lipe from other islands in Thailand (such as Koh Lanta, Pak Bara, Phi Phi, Trang) via ferry or speedboat or its neighboring country Malaysia.
From Bangkok, Thailand
You have 2 options: go via land (bus/train) or air travel.
Bus or train ride takes 12-15 hours. Flights are of course relatively faster, and airline companies AirAsia and Nok Air offers Fly n’ Ferry packages, which include flight from Bangkok to Hat Yai, shuttle to Pak Bara pier and then ferry/speedboat to Koh Lipe.
From Langkawi, Malaysia
During high season (November to May), it is possible to cross to Koh Lipe from Langkawi, Malaysia. From the airport in Langkawi, take a taxi (or Grab) to Kuah Jetty port (about RM25/P310/$6.25). Ferries to Langkawi have schedules twice daily (9AM and 2PM). It’s advisable to be in the port 1.5 hours before departure time.
This was our route since we were staying in Kuala Lumpur.
We booked via Tropical Charters. Once at the office of Tropical Charters, you will be given arrival and departure cards to fill up and a boarding pass for the ferry. You also need to hand over your passport. About 30 minutes before departure, all passengers will be led to the immigration and onboard the ferry.
Travel time from Langkawi to Koh Lipe is 1.5 hour. Ticket is RM110 (P1370, $30) per way. You will be arriving in Pattaya Beach, where you have to give your arrival card and get your passport stamped at the immigration.
Take note that the time in Langkawi is advanced by an hour compared to Koh Lipe, so adjust your watch accordingly.
From our experience, when the staff at Tropical Charters saw that we are Philippine passport holders, we were asked to check with the immigration office first. There, we were asked some basic questions and we handed over our passports. After a few minutes, it was given back to us (no additional stamp since we were not exiting Langkawi yet), and we were told that we can proceed in buying tickets.
I’m not sure what this is about; the rest of the tourists didn’t seem to have any problems. Previously, I was advised that getting to the port 90 minutes before departure is excessive, and it must be true for most tourists. But for good measure, in case there is an issue with your passport, you might want to follow this precaution.
Where to exchange money
If you’re coming from Langkawi, you can exchange your money to baht in the airport (Maybank) or Kuah Jetty. You can also wait until arrival in Koh Lipe, where there are money changers in the island especially in Walking Street.
Immediately after arrival, you will be asked to pay for environmental fee either in ringgit or baht.
How to get around Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is a small island, and you can get around by foot. In fact, you go from end to end in just 30 minutes.
After arrival, especially if you’re not familiar with where you accommodation is located, it’s best to hire a taxi service (50 baht per person). What we did is we tried to look for our hostel on our own since we knew that it is walking distance from Pattaya Beach. We got lost and locals weren’t able to help; our hostel also wasn’t listed in the tourist maps. We spent a solid hour lugging our backpacks, and while we’d gotten a glimpse of the whole stretch of Sunrise Beach, it wasn’t fun at all. The taxis know every commercial establishment in the area and will get you there in no time.
What to see in Koh Lipe
In Koh Lipe, here are the places you should know about:
Walking Street is a long road that connects Pattaya Beach and Sunrise Beach. It has shops, restaurants and bars, money changers and travel agencies — basically everything that you need while on the island.
Beaches in Koh Lipe
There are 3 main beaches in Koh Lipe: Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach and Pattaya Beach.
Pattaya Beach is the port used by ferries going in and out the island. It’s the busiest beach, though we wouldn’t discount it as a place to stay nearby. There are dedicated swimming spots in Pattaya Beach and has espasol-like white sands.
Sunrise Beach is in our opinion the best beach in Koh Lipe. There are still boats moored here but relatively few. The water is perfect for swimming!
As its name implies, Sunset Beach is the best location to view the sunset. However, the forest surrounding the beach is alive with mosquitoes from about 4PM to 7PM. If swimming here, better arrive early.
Best things to do in Koh Lipe
1. Beach bumming
I know that us Filipinos aren’t used to not doing anything when out traveling (I guess because of limited leave credits at work) and would rather hop from one location to the next (5 provinces in 5 days!), but honestly, have you tried just lying on the sand for a whole afternoon? Get up to buy a smoothie and then dip in the water for several minutes until you’re ready to lie down again. Take a nap, read a book or just look at the beach surroundings. It’s fantastic.
2. Island hopping tours
Koh Lipe offers 2 main island hopping tours: Program A and Program B. Program A explores the nearby 5 islands, and there is more time to chill and snorkel. Program B goes much further and stops at 7 destinations.
There are also additional tours called Sunset Trip and Plankton Trip. Both cover similar locations as the first two; the difference is Sunset Tour offers a barbecue dinner and Plankton Trip includes a night trip to see glowing planktons in a beach.
|Program A||Rate: 550 baht (P850, $17)|
Time: 9:30AM to 4PM
Islands: Jabang, Koh Hin Ngam, Koh Rawi, Koh Adang, Koh yang
|Program B||Rate: 650 baht|
Time: 9:30AM to 4PM
Islands: Koh Hin Sorn, Koh Lugoi, Koh Dong, Koh Pung, Koh Bulu, Koh Hin Ngam, Jabang
|Sunset Trip||Rate: 450 baht|
Time: 2:30PM to 6:30PM
Islands: Jabang, Koh Hin Ngam, Koh Yang, Koh Adang
|Plankton Trip||Rate: 800 baht|
Time: 1:30PM to 8PM
Islands: Jabang, Koh Hin Ngam, Koh Yang, Koh Adang (night swim with planktons)
For the tours, the following are also included: lunch, water bottle, equipment (lifevest, snorkel, fins).
Make sure to bring your ticket for the environmental fee ticket (200 baht), which is collected after arrival in immigration, during the tours. This is valid for one week.
We kept to programs A and B. Program B is the better one, in my opinion, in terms of beaches and snorkeling activity. Program B also includes Koh Dong, which is also known as the Monkey Beach. Here you can swim and observe the monkeys in the island — eating lunch is strictly on the boat, as the monkeys might grab your lunch!
The Plankton Trip seems appealing, but Hali wasn’t keen on it as we’d already seen our fair share of glowing planktons back in the Philippines.
It is also possible to charter a private boat instead of joining a group tour. Boat rental costs 2500 baht for a whole day (P3900, $80), excluding rental for equipment (e.g., lifevest, snorkel) at 50 baht each (P50, $2).
Koh Lipe is also a popular location for divers. According to Wiki, 25% of the world’s tropical fish species can be found here.
If you haven’t got a diving certificate yet, you can get a beginner’s certificate starting at 2500 baht (P3900, $80), for 2 days. There are different courses available for more experienced divers, and diving shops also offer packages that include both diving sessions and accommodation. June to September is considered the green season for diving.
4. Kayaking and trekking
You can rent a kayak for a day and visit the nearby small islands. It can be rented per hour or whole day (300 baht/P460/$10). You can also kayak your way to Koh Adang and then trek to its viewpoint (30 minutes). Make sure to ask about weather or sea conditions beforehand.
5. Get a Thai massage
Most would say that it’s a crime not to treat yourself with a massage in Thailand. Rates start at 300 baht (P460, $10) for an hour.
6. Join a Batik workshop
We found this really cool gallery called Lipe Art Garden, which offers batik-making workshops. For the uninitiated, batik is a form of wax-resist dyeing to fabrics. This process creates elaborate designs, and batik is often used in traditional clothes in Southeast Asia or currently in clothes, sarong or handbags.
Sessions start at 10AM in the morning and cost 1000 baht (P1550, $30).
Where to eat
Before we went to Koh Lipe, I had a list of restaurants suggested by friends and other backpackers. But when we arrived, we found that there are actually a lot of good restaurants in Koh Lipe that I urge you to try and sample what appeals to you best. You’ll get good value even in ordinary eateries outside Walking Street.
That saying, we frequented Lady Thai Pancake Shop in Walking Street for the fruit pancakes (strawberry-banana with chocolate or coconut-raisin with milk); this one has 4 branches but the best for me (in terms of service and quality) is the one in front of Madam Yohoo pancakes.
Sunrise Beach Restaurant along Sunrise Beach is also a good budget-friendly option.
Seafood such as prawns and crabs is abound in Koh Lipe, but expensive. In one restaurant, we paid 400 baht for curry with crabs and were served 2 small crabs swimming in chili leaves. We were so disappointed that instead of ordering another dish, we simply got up and moved to another location. If you want to have a seafood dinner, it is more sulit to just go in a seafood buffet — there is one in Walking Street for 490 baht per person.
Where to stay in Koh Lipe
There are about 30+ accommodations in Koh Lipe. The best ones are, of course, right beside the beaches. For budget travelers, there are also hostels and even camping tents.
We stayed in Lipe Hostel for 4 nights. At first, I was dismayed with the small room (three-fourths is literally taken up by the queen-sized bed) but have grown fond of it. It was cheap and it was evident that the management is giving their best with what they have. The rooms are air-conditioned and there are small things that we appreciate (towels and water bottles, clothesline inside the room, free shower gel and shampoo in the shared restroom, water cooler in the lobby). Everything is clean as well.
Moreover, Lipe Hostel is conveniently located near Sunrise Beach and Walking Street.
We transferred for an overnight stay in Lipe Camping Zone. We had a bungalow with fan. It was okay but won’t recommend it unless there are no other cheaper options available. There are mosquitoes at night and early in the morning, so an insect repellent is a must. The showers weren’t working, nor are the bathroom lights. It’s near Pattaya Beach and Sunset Beach, but a bit of walk from Walking Street and Sunrise Beach. Also, Agoda shows different listings for bungalow and bungalow with bathroom so we availed of the latter (a bit more expensive), but when we got there we found that all bathrooms are shared.
Please note that prices may vary per season.
Recommended stays in Koh Lipe
From resorts with beachfronts to other accommodations with high guest ratings:
- The Noi Guest House and Restaurant | Book here
- Satun Dive Resort | Book here
- Captain Yut’s Bangalows | Book here
- Salisa Resort | Book here
- Bayview Sunset Resort | Book here
Haven’t seen what you’re looking for? You can also search via Agoda. We’re recommending Agoda has the best prices and most options in Southeast Asia.
Budget and expenses
From what I’ve read, the rates in Koh Lipe are higher than in other parts of Thailand, more so during peak season. As it was the holidays during our visit, rates for accommodations are doubled.
We went here in 2017 and we spent about P30000 ($600) for 2 people for 6 days/5 nights — including ferry tickets, accommodation, food and tours (as well as other purchases).
For reference, here is the breakdown of our budget:
- Meal: 300-350 baht for 2 people (P450-550, $10) (including 1 fruit juice or shake)
- Accommodation: 1000 baht per night for 2 people (P1500, $30)
- Tours: see prices above
Again, take note that we went during holiday season and markups were higher. We also booked tickets and accommodations a month before our trip. From mock booking, it seems that some accommodations are twice cheaper in low season. That is, you can find hostel rooms at 600 baht only.
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).
ELENA MAY GARALDE
Hi. I plan on going to koh lipe via langkawi and make my way from there to the rest of thailand. My problem is i’m not sure if i will be allowed 30day or 15day visa free entry. I couldnt see anything from the embassy website. Do you have knowledge on it? Thanks.
Filipinos get 30 days stay via international airport or 15 days via land border crossing with a neighboring country, so it’s 15 days.
Really informative blog, Koh Lipe is guarded by the unspoiled islands of Butong Archipelago. The climate is stable all the year except during the monsoons. I found a ferry service provider Andaman Ferry Service presents excellent service for Ferry to Koh Lipe.
I have been to Thailand many times but only in Bangkok and nearby Cities. I know that some of their beaches are similar in looks with Philippines so I didn’t explore them. Good to see your post about it as if I am already there.
The beaches in the Philippines are definitely one-of-a-kind and it’s hard not to compare! However, every place still offers a different experience particularly with regards to culture, food, activities and sustainable tourism efforts. 🙂
What a lovely destination. I would love to visit the monkey beach and enjoy the seafood there!
Wow! This is an amazing, detailed guide. I’ve always wanted to explore Thailand and love discovering new places to add to my list. The photos are absolutely stunning! Love it.
Amazing guide! Koh Lipe sounds great. Unfortunately, I missed that island during my thailand itinerary.