Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Jeremy
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My search for the perfect Thai paradise has thrown me in every possible direction of the country.
From Chiang Mai in the North to Ko Tao in the East, all the way to Ko Lipe on the border with Malaysia in the South West.
After spending over a month in the country, I can safely say, I have found my paradise in Koh Lipe, and I am not wanting to leave.
Koh Lipe is Paradise – It is as Simple as That
The stereotypical thought of paradise for most is white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and epic sunsets.
Although Chiang Mai in the North does not fit any of these criteria, being an inland destination, it is most certainly my favorite spot in the country.
However, being in Thailand, I was on a quest to find the ideal paradise, and the listed qualities are an absolute must.
After one month of traveling the country, Ko Lipe hits all of them perfectly.
White Sandy Beaches
The island of Ko Lipe is tiny. So tiny that the best way to get around is on foot.
In fact, the island does not have any cars, a very limited supply of motorbikes, two paved “roads”, and no port.
To get in, a long tail has to pick you up from the ferry and bring you to shore.
There are only three notable beaches and a few more small ones on the island which are aptly named Sunrise, Sunset, and Pattaya beaches.
True to form, Pattaya beach is where all the action is and is located right off one of the two “major” paved roads on the island. Many restaurants, resorts, and souvenir shops line the road and offer reasonable options for visitors.
The main attraction to Pattaya beach, making it my favorite of all on the island, is the long white sand beach which takes about 10 minutes to cross on foot.
Perfect, snow white powder covers the beach, and with longtails sprinkled across the edge make a picture perfect vista.
Crystal Clear Water
If the long white sandy beaches are not enough to grab anyone's attention, the water certainly will. All of the beaches are filled with beautiful, crystal clear water with great visibility.
For me, good water is some that you can see bottom while neck deep right off the shore.
Even with the tide kicking up sand, that kind of visibility is wonderful and hard to find.
Even better is that Koh Lipe is surrounded by many other islands of various size: two larger, dozens smaller.
The best way to see these is on a day snorkel trip that hits several of the spots for surface and aquatic exploration.
A short distance away by long tail opens up beautiful emerald colored waters with massive coral reefs spotting the bottom of the sea, all visible while standing on a long tail.
It is likely that hundreds of thousands of photos exist of the beautiful sea around Koh Lipe, but my camera has now collected a few hundred more in the process because there can never be too many copies of such beauty.
A good sunset is always the best way to end a day in paradise, and Koh Lipe has not disappointed.
While my chase for the elusive and spectacular sunsets of Flickr photos has come up a bit short so far, the sunsets on Ko Lipe are quite brilliant either way.
Watching them while sitting in a hammock in front of my bungalow on a quiet private beach doesn't hurt either.
Over Development Looms
I was a bit disheartened when I first arrived on Koh Lipe, as one of the first set of people I spoke with were leaving the island in disappointment.
Disappointed it was not the majestic paradise that guidebooks describe it as.
Somehow two tiny roads of shops and many long-tails on a beach is enough to ruin the idea of paradise for some. Unfortunately, in most circumstances, any more isolation past what Koh Lipe provides would come at one trade-off: price.
There are many other, less developed, islands nearby that are worth a visit such as Koh Kradang, Koh Mook, etc.
The trade-off, as always, is accommodation cost, as the limited options charge increasingly high fees as a trade-off to stay in business. There are basic rooms with no amenities what-so-ever, and cheap rooms that are conventional privates seemed to be much more expensive here than other islands.
But for the paradise that Koh Lipe is, with its abundance of long tail boats and small commercialization, I am in love and look forward to returning again one day soon.
As for future visitors to this paradise, the seeds of overdevelopment are being planted. If you would like to visit, my recommendation would be to do it soon, as Koh Lipe is poised to be a greater tourist attraction than it already is in the near future.
Looking for things to do in Thailand? Check out the Phi Phi Islands, the Koh Lanta Hammock House, why we skipped the Full Moon Party, and gorgeous Koh Samui beach options!
About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.
11 thoughts on “While You’ll Fall in Love With the Thai Island of Koh Lipe”
Hi, Jeremy. Love your writing and your outlook.
We are going to Thailand for a month in January, and we’re trying to choose a location. (We like to settle in to just one place for 1-3 months and really get to know it.) Chiang Mai sounds like the place for us. Is it still your favorite place in Thailand? Have you been back recently?
Unfortunately I haven’t been back to Thailand since my visit in 2010/2011, but it is high on my list to return to. Chiang Mai would still be on my list of places to stay for an extended period of time if I had the opportunity though, because I really enjoyed the city and region. It is worth noting that it has a huge expat community now (for obvious reasons) and that is off-putting to a lot of visitors these days it seems. Also there is a pretty bad smog period, I believe in early February (would need to be confirmed) so it may be worth looking before you commit to it!
Love this post! never got the chance to visit Koh Lipe but I went to Ko Jum and Koh Yao Noi. Both of which were paradise for me. It’s a great feeling finding somewhere like that!
Nice! I hear Koh Chang is really nice and still unspoiled! I hope you are enjoying it. If you can’t make it to Koh Lipe, try Koh Phi Phi on the West side near Phuket. We liked it a lot even if it is busy.
We finally made it to Thailand, checking out Khao San for now then heading to Koh Chang tomorrow. After reading about Koh Lipe, we’ll have to check it out when we head south. Lipe sounds perfect for us although I don’t know if I can convince Jess to take that hike. Take care!
Definitely do! I think Phuket, Krabi or Samui are your best bets if you want beaches without leaving Thailand. The question is which one is cheaper of a flight and has what you want to see.
Ha, thanks Jeremy, yes, I had just read the comment before and had the name “Scott” in my head. That’s what teaching middle schoolers does to your brain I guess.
Yea, I figured we didn’t have that many options for being on a tight schedule. I’ll look into Samui though. Thanks!
You could also fly to Krabi and spend a few days on Railay Beach
@Dee – Yea you have to walk to get around Lipe. No cars, and only a few motorbikes. The main street actually shuts down after 6pm to become a walking street only. I about flipped when I got there (ferry was late and arrived at 6pm), luckily I talked my bungalow owners to meet me down the street.
@Gina/Joel – I think you’re confused. Scott is with Dee over at Dream A Little Dream :-P. Spending only two days in the islands is going to be difficult. I know for a fact that you can fly from Chiang Mai to Phuket or Chiang Mai to Samui. I’m not 100% if the one to Phuket is direct, but I flew Chiang Mai to Samui directly with Bangkok Airways for around $200 without layover. Unfortunately all the islands I would give on highest regard are a ferry ride away from anywhere with an airport (Lipe, Ko Tao, etc). You could maybe see about getting a flight to Langkawi in Malaysia, which is also nice. But I do not think they have direct flights from Chiang Mai. If you want to save time from flying, Chiang Mai to Samui is your best bet.
Hi Scott, I will be traveling to Thailand in April and after spending 7 days in Chiang Mai we wanted to hit up an island for 2 days or so before flying back to Bangkok for 2 days and then flying home. Do you have any recommendations for an island that we could fly to from Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok? Or round-trip from Bangkok if we had to? The island above looks awesome, but sounds a little hard to get to for a 2 day trip. Thanks for your help!
Looks beautiful! Scott and I looked at hitting up this island but we were traveling with my parents at the time when in the area. It didn’t sound like the best destination to go to when my Dad has a bad foot.