Koh Lipe - The sailing hiatus
After spending nearly 3 months on Koh Lipe, Thailand, we are now planning our departure and preparing for the massive undertaking of hauling out the Swizzle in preparation for our next LONG voyage.
Our time here has been much more than expected and though we've met a few setbacks since our arrival, we have taken them in stride. The diving, the food, the beaches and views are all exactly what we had hoped for. Even for a tiny little island, there is a lot to do and see. Believe it or not, even in 3 months we haven't seen everything yet.
So a little about this quaint island, Koh Lipe:
Pattaya Beach, probably the most popular of the many beaches, is situated on the southern side of the island, where the Swizzle has been moored since our arrival. This side of the island offers shelter and protection from the North-Northwest wind and swell (which is normal for this time of year) and makes for a picturesque place to chill at one of the many beach bars and watch the sunset. If looking from the ocean to land, situated right in the middle of Pattaya Beach is the main "street" of the island, "Walking Street" as it's so (un)cleverly named. This blue road connects one side of the island to the other and is only a short 1 kilometer (.65 miles) long. Here you can find just about ANYTHING the island has too offer. Bars, resturants, shops, massage parlors, and lots of street food vendors. Probably the most famous is Mr. Coconut Doughnut guy, singng his culinary creations every day for hours on end... and yes, he sings "coconut doughnut ten baht, ten baht"
On the North side of the island is Sunset & Sunrise beach. Both very nice, not as hustle-and-bustle as Pattaya but these also take the most weather due to wind direction and swell generally come from the North/Northwest (seasonal) Both beaches offer some pretty killer snorkeling as well as diving, but seeing that they're both high traffic areas with ferry boats and longtail boats, it's recommended to swim with some sort of marker buoy so they can see you.
So what to do in Koh Lipe you ask? Well... I'll make it easy and map it out for you :)
Koh Lipe is a fantastic place for diving, and there are many reputable companies on the island to choose from. Since Koh Lipe is located in the middle of the Tarutao Marine National Park, there are a variety of dive sites to explore. You can participate in fun dives or take your Open Water Certification at one of the local dive stores. We're biased since we worked there, but Forra diving has some of the nicer boats, good equipment and best staff on island. Not only do they do diving but they have a slew of bungalows around the island.
If you are looking for a TRULY unique experience, you should book a liveaboard in Thailand (Forra does as well, the only one in Koh Lipe). You'll sleep aboard a boat and dive up to four times a day. Sign us up!
If you've seen the movie "The Beach," you probably remember the scene where Leo and his lover are in the ocean at night and the water glows with blue, sparkling lights. This is bioluminescent plankton, and as unreal as it may seem, it's not just a Hollywood special effect! That's right - you can actually see this magical phenomenon with your own eyes!
We were able to witness the bio on many of our trips back to the boat at night.
Do it yourself: You don't have to join a tour to see the bioluminescent plankton! If you'd rather save some money, go to the beach at night, away from the fluorescent lights of the beach restaurants, and look for the sparkling blue dots that wash up on the sand. They'll look like little glowing pearls in the sand.
Day trip to Koh Adang
Leave Koh Lipe for a day and take a longtail boat to Koh Adang, the large island north of Koh Lipe.
The boat taxi stand is at the north end of Sunrise Beach, where longtail boat drivers will be waiting for you. The one-way fare is 100 baht ($3.20 USD) per person. Just tell the driver when you want to be picked up from Koh Adang.
Once you arrive on Koh Adang, you should visit the visitor center and pay the entrance fee of 200 baht per person as it is a national park.
There are some great things to do on Koh Adang:
Relaxing on the beach of Koh Adang
Koh Adang is really nice because it is so open and much less busy than Koh Lipe. You can go to the beach and be the only one in sight. We rented snorkeling equipment on Koh Lipe (50 baht per person for a day) and swam around the coral near the shore.
Note: Be careful when snorkeling at low tide as you will be extremely close to the seabed and could come into contact with the reef.
Hike to the viewpoint Koh Lipe
Another popular excursion on Koh Adang is the hike to the viewpoint on Chado Cliff, which overlooks Koh Lipe. There is a simple map at the visitor center that says the hike takes 45 minutes one way. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes as it is quite steep up the mountain. There are ropes to hold onto in some places, so do not do this hike in flip flops.
There are 3 viewpoints on the Chado Cliff hike. Viewpoint #1 is only about 10 minutes away and offers a good view, but you can only see half of Koh Lipe because part of the mountain is in the way. Viewpoint #2 offers a much better view and is only another 15 minute hike uphill.
However, the best view is from viewpoint #3, which is only 10 minutes further away. Once you see the blue ropes, you are almost there. It only took us 35 minutes to get from the ranger station to lookout #3 (with tennis shoes)
Hike to Pirate Waterfall
If you have plenty of time on Koh Adang, you can take a hike to Pirate Waterfall. The walk from the ranger station to the Pirate Waterfall takes about 90 minutes (3 km) and looks very nice in photos, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time on the island. Be sure to get directions from the visitor center, as we heard the trail can be quite complicated.
Set up camp
If you really want to relax and enjoy the island atmosphere, you can rent a tent on the beach. There is only one restaurant, so bring your own food and snacks.
And if a tent isn't your style, you can stay in one of the few comfortable bungalows instead.
Visit the Temple
While it’s not necessarily worth going out of your way for, this temple is located in the center of the Koh Lipe and makes a nice little stop if you’re walking from one side of the island to the other.
This tranquil temple is surrounded by jungle and makes a nice escape from the sun and people for a bit. You might see the monks doing their daily chores or hear their chants in the morning or afternoon.
Go Sea Kayaking to a Tiny Island
From the north end of Sunrise Beach, you can see the small rocky island of Koh Kra not too far from shore.
Rent a kayak (about 200 baht per hour) and paddle across turquoise waters to a little secluded beach on the north side of the island for swimming and sunbathing.
While there are many day trips from Koh Lipe that include snorkeling (between 550 baht and 950 baht), you can do it yourself and save a lot of money!
At the southern end of Sunrise Beach, there is a beautiful coral reef that is perfect for snorkeling. There are lots of sea anemones, cute little clown fish, colorful parrot fish, and puffer fish!
Masks and snorkels can be rented at one of the many stores on Walking Street or at Sunrise Beach.
Explore Walking Street
Walking Street is actually impossible to miss on Koh Lipe. Honestly, it's much more developed than we imagined, but it's still worth a walk. This street comes to life at night when the seafood restaurants are bustling and the fresh catch of the day is grilled right next to you.
Most of the restaurants on the main street have fairly high prices for the fresh fish (some of the restaurants we inquired with stated that the fish starts at 500 baht each).
Sunset with cocktails
If you are on Koh Lipe, make it a point to see the sunset every night - it's breathtaking.
We present 2 great places from where you can enjoy the view:
Lipe Cafe, Pattaya Beach
Kioskino, Pattaya Beach
Enjoy the nightlife in Koh Lipe
As soon as the sun reaches the horizon, everyone seems to leave Sunset Beach, go home to shower, and then slowly make their way to Pattaya Beach, where the party is. (And when we say "party," it's pretty tame compared to other islands)
There are plenty of fancy bars on the island like the Maya Bar right on Walking Street or the Art Beach Club right on Pattaya Beach. But if you're looking for a more relaxed bar, head to Reggae Bar for a candlelit night. If you are like me and like a nice bar with a “home” vibe, Hallidej bar (it’s Swedish) is in my list of top favorites. Good people, decent prices and its always nice and clean :)
See a fire show
When the sky gets dark, the fires come out. Pattaya Beach is the ideal place to see a fire show. They may not be as wild and interactive as the shows in Koh Phi Phi, but you can sit back with a cocktail and relax while the performer nearly sears your eyebrows.
How to get to Koh Lipe
Because Koh Lipe is a bit farther from the mainland than some of Thailand's better-known islands, some travelers are put off. But honestly, it's not that hard to get there. We flew from Chiang Mai to Koh Lipe on Air Asia's island transfer. We flew from Chiang Mai to Hat Yai, got a van transfer to the port, and the two-hour ferry to Koh Lipe - all for around $100 USD per person in March.
If you are already on the southern islands, you can easily take a ferry from one island to the next.
Ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Lipe
Ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lipe
Ferry from Phuket to Koh Lipe
Ferry from Krabi to Koh Lipe
Ferry from Langkawi (Malaysia) to Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is so small that you can walk almost everywhere, and there are many "cabs" on the island. These unique vehicles are a bench seat connected to a motorcycle, and they are a great way to get your luggage to your hotel instead of carrying it in the heat.
Plus, they are handy if you want to get to the beach in time for sunset! They usually cost 100 baht ($3.20 USD) to get anywhere on the island.
Lets talk food:
Western food and good coffee: Elephant Coffee House and Bar
This place is signposted all over the island and is one of the more popular places to eat on the island (plus, it's open year-round, while some restaurants close in the off- season). We had breakfast at Elephant Coffee House once, and it was quite good.
The coffee was good, the western options were nice, and the decor was charming. The food was good - nothing special and you pay high island prices - but you really can not complain.
Bonus points for the free water filling station (if you have a Trash Hero water bottle, which you can buy for 200 baht).
Breakfast with amazing atmosphere: Bloom cafe
One of my all time favorite places to sit and write blogs, do video editing and just chill.. You have to order the bloom on toast, its really something special and only 200 baht
Overall best dinner pick: Box
Odd name but these guys do food right. It's a spanish style tapas restaurant with a great selection of large and small plates and a great wine selection. It's definitely not cheap, but if you have a reason to celebrate or just want a dinner away from typical Thai cuisine, this is your place.