The famous beach where Leonardo DiCaprio played a backpacker in the movie, “The Beach”, looks pretty stunning… if you get there early enough to beat the crowds. It’s Koh Phi Phi Leh, and most likely you’ll be coming from Koh Phi Phi Don (if you’re not spending every day sleeping, recovering for Phi Phi’s raging parties). Below, I’ll outline a few tips for Maya Bay to help you plan it out as well as a tour you can pre-book on the cheap.
10 Tips for Maya Bay
1. Take a Long Tail Boat
Take a private long-tail boat instead of a speedboat. If you have a group of people, try to rent out a whole boat for yourself. You’ll save at least half your money, and the more people you get to take the tour, the more you can divide the cost by. We had three people and paid 600 baht each when we booked it on the spot. That was about $18 and took haggling and the bother of asking many people on the beach. I found the same price on Getyourguide (linked here) that you can book ahead if you want to have it pre-arranged and guarantee a good price. If you have a group and can get a boat to yourself, the other benefit is moving at your own pace. You can snorkel longer if you want, play with the monkeys longer, or just sunbathe. If you want to go on a group speedboat tour, then here is a tour for that on Viator.
2. Check on the “tax”
Discuss up front whether or not you’ll have to pay a “tax” when you get to Maya Bay. On the tour we booked on the beach, this is supposedly included in your price; when we arrived without a guide we were forced to pay it. Others we talked to said that it isn’t a real tax, so be sure to ask the man you purchase tickets from. It was 200 baht.
3. Bring snorkel gear
Make sure decent snorkel equipment will be on the boat and ask for the boat driver to bring water with him in the morning because it gets hot once the sun rises. He could also bring food for the monkeys (FYI: signs say don’t feed the monkeys but it’s clearly not followed. I just hope the monkeys are okay during the off-season when no tourists feed them). Also, make sure he brings a water-safe bag for cameras and phones to take up to the beach. Almost all boats offer these nice things! Don’t bring anything other than that! Wearing a swimsuit and sarong is all you need.
4. You only need a half day
Don’t take a full day tour; it would be overkill. You need about 2-3 hours for the whole tour and a half-day would be nice. The boat will take you around to see Viking Cave, perfect snorkeling water, and Monkey beach as well. We spent the most time snorkeling, which I wouldn’t change. Actually, I wish I would have snorkeled longer and seen Maya Bay for less time.
learned that monkeys can swim! This boat is a large group tourist boat. They had more food than us, so the monkeys loved them most, but Evelyn did get one to eat out of her hand.
5. Add time as you go
If you need to ask for more time on the boat, the driver isn’t going to say no to extra pocket money, so just ask to extend and decide on a rate that works for you both. If you book through an agent, of course, the boat driver is just getting paid a percentage of that money. Negotiate for more time as you need it that the agent doesn’t need to know about and then your driver gets more money for himself.
6. Start earlier than you think
Go early in the morning, I’m talking leave your hut at 6 A.M. If you don’t beat the massive crowds, there’s really no point in going. We avoided the wild Ko Phi Phi nightlife the night before our trip to Maya Bay.
7. There’s more than just Maya Bay on most tours
There is nothing on Maya bay in terms of food and drink, so it’s not somewhere to hang out. Honestly, it’s pretty but it’s one of those ‘enjoy the moment and leave’ places like the Taj Mahal.
in the movie, there is another rock photoshopped in to block off the bay
8. See if you have to go in the back way
According to our boat driver, long-tail boats cannot go into the bay from the front side (but others have commented that they DID so maybe our guy lied or it’s changed). He took us around the backside and you have to be a strong swimmer to make it to the island and be up for some bumps and bruises to get to the top. After swimming against the current, and over rocks in shallow water, you’ll have to climb a rope. Then you’ll walk through a park until you see Maya Bay. From the front side, larger tour boats will come through, because unlike the movie, there is no rock closing off the bay- that was digitally added.
below here is what you have to swim to from these boats! scary stuff.
9. Remember your boat to leave
Make sure you know which boat is yours! When it’s time to leave you’ll be looking down from a cliff at 10 long tail boats that look the same. The water is rough, so you don’t want to swim out to the wrong one and have to start over.
10. Book more tours through your driver
If you like your boat driver, try to book other tours directly through him. Save yourself the middleman fee. Remember to tip!
Got a big trip to Thailand, other than my tips for Maya Bay, check out these other articles and resources for your trip.
- Check out my other tips on Thailand here. I spent one month traveling the islands and have been to Bangkok multiple times. Clicking through will give you a list of my Thailand tips!
- I get a lot of emails asking me about a tour to Maya Bay (Ko Phi Phi Leh) from the main bit of Ko Phi Phi Don, and these are the best options: this tour with Viator which includes lunch. If you want something cheap you can do this longtail boat for just $18 on getyourguide.com.
- Getting to Koh Phi Phi by flight: I do all my flight bookings these days on Kiwi. It is the bomb and searches all the budget airlines plus gives you a free flight if you miss a connection!
- Please get travel insurance if you are coming to Thailand. I recommend World Nomads. The hospitals ARE expensive. This post explains what is and isn’t covered on WN.
- You do need a visa as well.
- If you’re planning a big trip, check out my guide to start planning from scratch.
- Traveling SE Asia? Here is a guide to how much money you’ll need.
- An additional 23 tips for traveling SE Asia you should definitely check out.
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