Koh Lipe Thailand: 9 Things to Do to Make the Most of Paradise
Most of the Thai islands, particularly along the Andaman Sea, are incredibly well-trodden. We’ve all heard the tales of Koh Phi Phi’s wild backpacker parties and drooled over Phuket’s five-star luxury resorts. But somehow Koh Lipe has managed to steer clear of all that limelight. Though it’s still relatively popular, it’s holding strong to its more subdued vibes. A lot of this has to do with the fact that it’s simply harder to get to. As the southernmost Thai island in the Andaman Sea, its closer to Malaysia than most others. In fact, we arrived via direct ferry from Langkawi, the Malaysian island that’s about 1.5 hours away. And as soon as we approached those translucent baby blue waters, we immediately embraced our new life as castaways.
So it will come as no surprise that your priority on Koh Lipe should really be just to chill the f*ck out. I mean, it is a remote island after all. But given my high energy levels and natural affinity for adventure, I also found loads of fun and (mostly) active things to do on the island. I spent over a week on Koh Lipe, which meant I was able to sprinkle plenty of adventure into my lazy days. Here are nine things you don’t want to miss on Koh Lipe to truly make the most out of your time in Paradise.
So, first things first, Koh Lipe is tiny. You can easily walk the island from top to bottom in about 20 minutes. Which is great because it means you can explore and get under the skin of each and every pocket of the island with ease. Not to mention save yourself some baht on transport. And because Koh Lipe is so small, you only need to navigate your way around three main beaches: Pattaya Beach, Sunset Beach and Sunrise Beach. Each comes with its own vibe, so you’ll have to choose your favourite. Pattaya is the main hub, where the ferries arrive, and where you enter via Walking Street - the island’s main strip. Sunrise Beach is quieter, though it’s lined with the island’s most popular resorts. It’s also where to go for most of Koh Lipe’s sporty activities. Last but certainly not least, Sunset Beach is the smallest and, yup - you guessed it - the best place the watch the sunset. With its rugged landscape and fewer crowds, it quickly became my personal favourite.
Koh Lipe: Things to Do
1) Go snorkelling on Sunrise beach: Koh Lipe offers up some of the best snorkelling in Thailand. Unlike some of the more popular Thai islands, where sadly a lot of the coral has been destroyed by mass tourism, Koh Lipe’s marine life is still alive and kicking. All you’ve got to do is pick up some gear from one of the many dive shops along Walking Street and head straight to the waters off Sunrise Beach. Just a few metres from shore you’ll spot all sorts of marine life, because Koh Lipe sits in the heart of Tarutao National Marine Park. Just be careful of the currents, as depending on the season and tide as they can be incredibly strong. I was so shaken about that I had to cut my snorkelling short due to vomiting from the nausea!
2) Go kayaking on Sunrise beach: Kayaking is another great way to get active on Koh Lipe. Not to mention the best way to see the island’s beautiful jewel-toned waters. You can hire a kayak from any of resorts along the Sunrise Beach and pay by the hour. They will cost you around 150 bhat (£3.5) per hour and once you’re all set up, you’re left free to roam around the nearby islands. Just prepare to give your arms a serious workout, especially if the currents are strong. And don’t head out too far if you’re a novice. We foolishly did, and spent over an hour desperately trying to get back to shore.
3) Watch the sun set on Sunset Beach: Seriously don’t miss it. Go every night if you can. Like I said, it’s the quietest beach on the island (with the exception of a few cute pups), so you can find yourself an isolated spot on the sand to perch yourself for the evening to watch the sky come to life. The colours turn every few minutes - and when they finally start to shimmer against the water, you will be left in awe.
4) Explore Walking Street: If you’re craving a bit of civilisation, head to Koh Lipe’s Walking Street. You won’t miss it, as you’ll likely pass through as soon as you arrive. You’ll find countless shops, pancake stands, juice bars, classic bars and more. The masses come out when the sun starts to set and the weather cools down so that’s your best opportunity to mingle. But consider visiting midday if you want to enjoy some quiet souvenir shopping - and take a break from that beating sun.
5) Get a Thai massage. Or a Thai facial. Or a mani- pedi. Or all of the above: Koh Lipe is all about relaxing, so why not go the extra mile and enjoy a few relaxing beauty treatments too? I tried practically every sort of treatment during my stay on the island, from the eight-part Thai facial (which put me right to sleep) to a traditional Thai massage that bent me in ways I didn’t think were possible. I always like to find a spot that becomes my “local” during the course of my stay, so I can get to know the therapists and learn a bit more about what’s involved in each treatment. Find your favourite and keep going back for more.
6) Be a Trash Hero: Running since 2013, Trash Hero is a worldwide charity that organises volunteers to pick up rubbish and keep the world’s most beautiful places clean. On Koh Lipe, there’s a weekly rubbish clean-up every Monday morning and anyone on the island can get involved. So if you haven’t partied too hard the night before, and really want to do your part to keep the island in pristine condition, then become a trash hero during your visit. You can also purchase a Trash Hero water bottle and refill for free at any of the designated Trash Hero water stations across the island. This helps reduce the purchase of single-use plastic bottles that get carelessly discarded around the island.
7) Hike Koh Adang: For some epic views of Koh Lipe itself, hike to the top of Koh Adang, a nearby island that’s easy to get to by either long-tail boat - or if you’re feeling really energetic - by kayak. The hike’s not too rough (you can get to the top in about an hour) and the views of Koh Lipe and the stunning waters that surround the island will make it worth your while. Plus, you can always cool off with a quick swim when you get back to shore.
8) Spend a chilled afternoon at the Castaway Resort: Or, make like us, and spend five afternoons there. Or better yet, book yourself a few nights stay at this brilliant island resort. After just one visit, this beautiful Koh Lipe resort became our go-to spot on the island. It’s got great vibes, even better service and to-die-for food. You’ve got to try the ginger cashew chicken. And with three levels, the resort has seating for whatever your mood: tables along the sand where you can practically dip your toes in the water, cushioned chaise longues to fall asleep on and a little library nook where you can set up your laptop and work whilst you sip on a delicious coconut latte. That’s right. A coconut latte. Plus, the owner just so happens to be a former DJ so the tropical tunes are pretty damn epic. So much so that I designed an entire Spotify playlist just from the songs I discovered whilst hanging around Castaway. And if you still want to get your exercise in, the resort also runs twice daily yoga sessions, at 9am and 4.30pm.
9) Go searching for bioluminescence: I think this is one of Earth’s most beautiful creations. Seeing these first-hand is like watching the stars glide below your feet. If you’ve never experienced phytoplankton, then go on a hunt for their sparkles along Koh Lipe’s sands. If you walk along the shore after dark, they’re pretty easy to spot because there’s practically no light pollution on the island. Your best bet is Sunset Beach, but we managed to spot some along the shores of Sunrise Beach too. Just don’t get nipped by the hermit crabs who also like to make an appearance after dark. Though I think they only make the experience that much more magical.
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