The island of Koh Lipe is located in the province of Satun, in the southwest corner of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. It sits close to the border of Malaysia, and about 30km off the Thai coast. The island is surrounded by the islands of Koh Adang and Koh Rawi, as well as many uninhabited islands; and is part of the Adang-Rawi Archipelago on the the edge of one of Thailand’s oldest and largest marine parks, the Tarutao National Marine Park.
The island was originally occupied by the Sea Gypsies, also known as the Chao Leh; and they still live on the island. Koh Lipe in their language means Paper Island.
I visited Koh Lipe with two friends in March, during the island’s dry peak season. The weather was a little too hot and humid for me— the sun was scorching with hardly any breeze, and the waves were pretty rough during our visit. Despite that, we spent our days diving, drinking coffee by the sea, eating the plentiful seafood, lazing on the beach (and then escaping to our air-conditioned room when the heat got too overwhelming). We had a wonderful time enjoying and discovering the island.
So here’s a list of things to know about a visit to Koh Lipe— it’s just a few of my observations, some tips and a couple of must-do’s (and must-eat’s). I hope it helps you on your travels!
1. Getting to Koh Lipe
The only way to get to Koh Lipe is by sea. During the high season, daily speedboats and ferries connect Koh Lipe to Pak Bara in Satun, and Langkawi in Malaysia. The ride from both destinations takes about an hour and half. There are also boats connecting islands like Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi, with stops at several smaller islands on the way. During the low season, the only way to get to Koh Lipe is via Pak Bara— the quickest way there is to fly to Hadyai and get a taxi or a minibus to the pier.
From Kuala Lumpur, my friends and I flew on the early morning flight to Langkawi to catch our ferry ride to Koh Lipe. There are two daily trips from the Telaga Harbour Terminal, and we booked our 9.30am ride in advance through their website.
We had to go through immigration at the terminal as it is an international border crossing, and surrendered our passports to the authorities before boarding the boat. Upon arrival at Koh Lipe, we were transferred from the ferry to the longtail boat to get to shore (they handled our luggage for us, and we collected them on the beach). We were then guided to a small immigration counter at Pattaya Beach (where most boats land), and waited in line for about an hour to get our passports stamped and returned to us. We had to do the same on our trip back to Langkawi.
2. Best Time to Go
Thailand has only two seasons; wet and dry. Most tourists prefer visiting Koh Lipe during the dry season from November to May. The weather is best during the super peak season between December to February. March and April are usually the hottest times, so that was why it was so hot during my visit! During these peak months, most of the accommodations increase in price and are usually booked out. The island also caters to the surge of visitors by an increase in boat transfers to and from the island.
If you prefer a holiday without the crowds, the island is open during the other months as well. The rain and storms happen from from May through September— we have tropical monsoons in this part of the world, so the rain can be pretty unpredictable. The temperature on the island doesn’t change much throughout the year though, averaging from about 26 to 28 degrees celsius.
The island of Koh Lipe is filled with resorts, hotels and guesthouses to suit every preference and budget; from beautiful 5-star resorts to backpacker lodges and beach chalets. Most resorts are either located on the beaches of Pattaya Beach, Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach; or along the main shopping and eating stretch running across the island, the Walking Street. During the peak season, most places around Koh Lipe are usually booked out, so reserve in advance.
We stayed in Ricci House, located just next to the start of the Walking Street. It is a mid-range, very affordable and comfortable resort that was walking distance to everywhere we wanted to go to— shopping areas, massage centers, restaurants, bars, and most importantly, the beach and the dive center. Our Superior Double Room is the most basic one in the resort; with double bed, window sofa, small shower area, outdoor balcony, television, air-conditioning and sufficient plug sockets. I was more than satisfied with our stay.
4. Getting Around the Island
Upon arrival at Koh Lipe, we were met by a staff from Ricci House who took us to the resort in a buggy. I noticed that most visitors were also picked up by their respective resorts. For those without initial transport, motorbike taxis (with sidecar) are available at popular drop of points along the beaches and will take you anywhere you want to go on the island. During my visit, prices were fixed at THB50 (US$1.5) per person per way, with an additional THB150 (US$4) for luggage.
The motorbike taxis can also take you for a round island 1-hour trip for THB400 (US$11). If you want a view from the sea or go island-hopping, you can hire one of the many longtail boats along the shore. Bicycles are also available for rent, and if you’re up for it, you can walk to most points on the island as almost everything is connected by concrete roads. Koh Lipe is car-free.
5. Diving, Snorkeling and Sea Tours
One of the reasons for my visit to Koh Lipe was to dive! There are tons of dive centers around the island to choose from; some are located along Walking Street, and some attached to the resorts. Make sure you read reviews online, do your research and visit the dive centers before making your choice.
You can read about my dive experience in Koh Lipe here:- Scuba Diving in Koh Lipe.
If you are not a diver, there are plenty of other sea-based tours offered as well. You can find companies all over the island advertising these one-day packages, just decide what you want to do— island-hopping tours, snorkeling tours, sunset cruises, and even tours to see the bio-luminescent glowing plankton. With so many beautiful islands surrounding Koh Lipe, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
6. Food, Food, Food
There is no shortage of food choices on Koh Lipe. The island is filled with restaurants and cafes offering many different types of dining opportunities— from the local Thai cuisine and seafood, to Western, Italian, Indian, vegetarian and plenty of Halal options.
Some of my personal favourites were the Thai food at Sunrise Beach Restaurant, the seafood selections at King Crab Restaurant, the yummy mango sticky rice at Papaya Mom’s, the Thai style pancakes from Madame Yoohoo, the tapas by the beach at Castaway Resort, and especially the most delicious plate of jamon serrano and truffle oil pasta (Los Lobos Penne) at the The Box Restaurant. I also noticed a couple of other popular food places like the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at Progress Restaurant, and the slices of pizza served at Paolo’s Italian Pizza shack.
7. The Beaches
There are three main beaches around Koh Lipe– Pattaya Beach, Sunrise Beach (Hat Chao Ley) and Sunset Beach (Hat Pramong). All these beaches are equally beautiful in their own way, and I had a hard time each day trying to decide which beach I wanted to go to.
Pattaya Beach is Koh Lipe’s longest beach and located on the south side of the island. It is the landing point of almost all the boats arriving at Koh Lipe. The busy beach is dotted by beautiful resorts, thatch-roofed restaurants, bars, massage parlors and quaint cafes; and is the entrance to one end of the Walking Street. There are lots of colorful longtail boats anchored off-shore along the beach.
Sunrise Beach is named as such for its beautiful sunrises. It is located on the east side, with a long narrow strip of white sand. The beach offers stunning views of some of the neighboring islands, and the snorkeling is brilliant. It is also lined with resorts, beach chalets and some backpacker lodges; with plenty of chill-out bars and cafes to while the day away. The indigenous Chao Ley Village is also close-by if you want to get a peek at local life.
Sunset Beach is as its name suggests, the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking here. It is located towards the west of the island along a secluded lagoon, bordered by rocks and forests. This beach is quieter compared to the other two beaches— there are not as many tourists, a little less resorts and loud bars, and a more hippy laid-back atmosphere.
8. Walking Street
If there’s anything that resembles a town center in Koh Lipe, it has got to be the Walking Street. It is a long paved foot-path that stretches from Pattaya Beach towards the center of the island; and is lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, guesthouses, massage parlours, convenience stores, souvenir shops and food stalls. The street is the hub of everything you need in Koh Lipe that doesn’t involve the sea— eating, shopping, relaxing, partying.
The Walking Street officially opens from 6pm to midnight. During this time, the street comes to live with bright lights, tourists wondering around, waiters calling out to the people walking by, and pubs playing their music out loud. Things quieten down during the day; however, you can still hunt for food at several restaurants, chill out at a quiet cafe, get a full body massage, or shop for beachwear and souvenirs.
9. Nightlife and the Parties
The island does not die down when the sun sets. The nightlife at Koh Lipe is pretty diverse— there are plenty of things to do, whether you’re up for a wild night, or a laid back evening. There are lots of cool bars to be found along Walking Street, as well as the beaches of Koh Lipe; some with DJs playing electronic music, some with relaxing lounge music, and some with live bands. I spotted several posters around the island about upcoming parties in some of the bars.
My friends and I opted for something a little less happening— a nice quiet night in front of the screen. Several places in Koh Lipe (Pooh Bar and OMG Sports Bar) hold movie nights almost every day, with signboards up front on what movie will be playing. I enjoyed lying on the comfortable pillows with a cocktail in hand, while watching a movie on the projector screen. There were also nights when I had those cocktails by the beach; with my feet in the sand, and the wind in my hair.
10. Other Random Stuff
Here are couple more quick (and important) information about Koh Lipe:-
Health and Safety
There’s a police station on the island; as well as a hospital on Sunrise Beach with a basic stock of medical supplies. There’s also a small clinic next to Pooh Restaurant at the o-km Lipe sign, in case of emergencies.
Money Exchange and ATM
There are several ATM machines around Koh Lipe; and I noticed that you can change your money at a counter at the Koh Lipe immigration center, and some tour centers. Credit cards are accepted at most big resorts, with a 5% service charge.
Internet and Wifi
I was relieved to find out that wifi was available in a majority of resorts, bars and restaurants; and it actually worked quite well so I was always connected. There are internet cafes along Walking Street too.
Animals on Lipe
I saw many stray animals around Koh Lipe, especially dogs along Walking Street. The locals allow them to roam around freely and lie in front of their shops. If you are scared of dogs and cats, just stay clear of them. They are usually harmless and won’t bother you.
Koh Lipe has been developing at a rapid rate in the last few years; and recently, there have been several issues on rubbish treatment and animal conservation. So let’s help do our share by trying to reduce our rubbish (bring it out of the island if you can), reuse our water bottles, and help protect the underwater life. Every little bit counts.