Koh Lipe: 3 Things to Know Before you Go
I’ve had my eye on the remote island of Koh Lipe, Thailand for quite some time now. Called the “Maldives of Thailand,” because of it’s crystal clear turquoise waters, pristine white sands, living coral and ample sea life, it’s as beautiful a beach destination as I’ve ever been to.
It’s not the easiest island to visit though. Located close to the Malaysian border, it’s essentially closed for half the year because of the rough seas that make it dangerous to get to. When it IS open, it’s remoteness necessitates a lengthy combination of flight, car and speedboat to get to.
It’s worth it though. These are the 3 things you should know before you go.
IT’S NOT A SECRET ANY LONGER
A few years back, Koh Lipe was that secret undiscovered Thai island that people whispered about, but had not actually visited.
Well, no longer.
In high season, locals estimate that 3-5,000 people come and go from the island each and every day, with numbers only increasing year by year. That’s a whole lot of people walking around an island that’s just 3.5 by 2.5 kilometres in size.
If this isn't at idyllic scene, I'm not sure what is. 🏝 * Koh Lipe had some of the most gorgeous water I've seen in all of Thailand! I'm truly not surprised it's known as the 'Maldives of Thailand.' 🍹 * * * * * #thailandonly #thailand_allshots #thailand_ig #thailandbeach #kohlipe #beachin #beachvibes #beachvacay #islandia #natureonly
High season on Koh Lipe begins on November 1st, and guarantees cloudless days and gorgeous water, but also higher prices and crowded streets. The main “Walking Street,” where most of the restaurants, cafes, spas, and convenience stores are, was wide enough for 2 motorcycle taxis to barely pass each other at the same time. In high season, Walking Street is so crowded that someone has to be stationed on the road to direct pedestrians so they can pass each other.
If you choose to visit during this time, be sure to book your accommodation far, far in advance, and be prepared for a not quite deserted (and maybe even crowded) island experience.
We visited in low season, at the end of September and during the 1st week of October, and I’d say it rained about 40% of the time. It wasn’t enough to ruin our vacation, and the last 4 days were pretty much perfect, but there were a few days when I thought the rain would never stop. The beaches were still amazing, but parts of Walking Street were flooded pretty much the whole time we were there.
When it rains, it pours…at least in Koh Lipe when our family arrives for vacation. ☔️😅 * At least our little traveler had a blast running through all the puddles on our way to Walking Street! 😁 * * * * * #thailandonly #kohlipe #littletraveler #rainyseason #puddles #thailand #rainraingoaway #toddlerfun #daddyanddaughter
Because we visited in low season though, the beaches were practically empty, it was easy to get seats in most restaurants, motorcycle taxis were abundant and the whole island had an easy, peaceful vibe.
If you do choose to go during low season however…
THE SPEEDBOAT RIDE TO THE ISLAND COULD BE TOTAL HELL
We traveled to Koh Lipe in the last week of September. There were clear skies and calm water at Pak Bara Pier when we left the mainland, but within 15 minutes, we ran into insane rain, wind and super rough seas. The boat was jumping so high off the waves, that Agri basically had to hold Naia’s head in a headlock in order to keep it from bouncing all over the place.
I barely held it together without vomiting, but poor baby threw up about 6 times on the ride over. There were times when I was literally praying to make it to Koh Lipe in 1 piece, (despite not being religious at all) and feeling like the worst parent possible for subjecting Naia to that experience. To call it terrifying is not an exaggeration.
The speedboat ride from Pak Bara Pier to Koh Lipe were probably some of the most terrifying minutes of my life. 🌊💨 * This was at the beginning before it got really bad and we were trying to make it fun for Naia, but the rest of the ride was pure white-knuckle terror holding onto her head and bracing for every hard impact of the boat on the waves. * I felt like the worst parent ever for subjecting her to that and am just so happy we made it there in one piece and had a great week on the beach. 🏖 * * * * * #curiouslittleexplorers #thailand🇹🇭 #thailandonly #kohlipe #parentingfail #speedboat #beachin #littletraveler #bravegirl
If you’re nervous about boat rides, get seasick easily or are traveling with a young child or baby, I would seriously think twice about visiting during low season, or visit as close to high season as possible, like in the last 2 weeks of October.
At the very least, make sure you travel on a completely sunny day with no chance of rain. Because our ride back was so pleasant, it was almost boring.
IT’S NOT THAT CHEAP
Thailand has a reputation for being a budget destination, but I found Koh Lipe to be more expensive than anticipated. Our bungalow at Ten Moons Resort on Sunrise Beach was $120/night in LOW season. Granted, it’s one of the higher end accommodation choices on the island, but there wasn’t much to be found under $50/night. These options usually offered fans, cold water showers, wifi and not much else. There were definitely no $5/night backpacker bungalows available there!
Massages were a minimum of 3oo baht/hour, motorcycle taxi around the island 50 baht/person/ride, and a kilogram of prawns, 1500 baht. Meals are still not expensive by North American standards, but I admit, I was surprised by just how much meals did cost on Koh Lipe.
Crispy calamari, local fish and chips, 🦑Massaman curry with shrimp 🦐and soda water (not pictured) for 1000 baht or $33 @serendipitylipe with tax and tip. * Super fresh and delicious, but def pricey for Thailand. Their view tho… 🙏 * * * * * #thailand🇹🇭 #beachin #serendipitybeach #serendipity #thailandonly #thaifood #eatlocal #eattheworld #kohlipe #lipe #seafoodgalore
That’s not to say there AREN’T cheaper options on Koh Lipe – there are. But you’ll have to search them out a bit, because they’re not obvious and on every corner, like in other parts of Thailand.
Don’t worry though, there are 3 ATMs on the island, so you can replenish your funds whenever required. 😉
Do you have a favourite Thai Island? What makes it great? Share your stories in the comments below. ❤