Maya Bay Beach in Thailand is open!! After three years of being shut down due to over-tourism this famous destination has finally reopened to visitors. The day we arrived on Koh Phi Phi Don we were immediately stressed about our boat tour to Maya Bay the next morning. Hopefully, after reading this guide about our experience you won’t have the same feeling! Below we cover everything from how to get to Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, longtail boat tour tips, and more info to make your trip easier.
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Finding a Longtail Boat to Maya Bay Thailand
There are many different companies and tour groups that make the trip to Maya Bay beach and Koh Phi Phi Leh. However, in our opinion, the best way to experience it is to hire a private longtail boat!
In the Tonsai harbor where the ferries arrive from Phuket, there are dozens of traditional Thai longtail boats lining the water. It won’t be long before you hear drivers asking if you need a ride to Maya Bay!
From what we saw there are a few different tours being offered. One that goes to Maya Bay and Koh Phi Phi Leh, another that circles the main island of Koh Phi Phi Don, and a third trip to Bamboo Island. All tours run about 3-4 hours or you can combine them into a full day of exploring.
Really when hiring a boat you can set whatever route and timeframe you want. There are set popular spots and beaches but also the drivers are willing to go where you like.
We will talk more about the price soon in this Maya Bay Thailand guide. Just make sure to have the exact cost of your custom tour set before leaving.
Travel Tip: When making your way to the Phi Phi islands book a speed boat to save time! We always use 12Go when traveling in Thailand to compare the different companies and times!
Confused by the Phi Phi Islands?
Understanding this can be a bit confusing as there are actually 6 Phi Phi Islands! Just know that the only inhabited one is Koh Phi Phi Don where all the hotels are located and Maya Bay boat tours jump off from.
- Koh Phi Phi Don: Where you will stay and base your trip to the other islands from.
- Koh Phi Phi Leh: Nearby island and home to the famous Maya Bay beach and National Park.
The Movie “The Beach”
Maya Bay’s claim to fame is an interesting one and something you may not know! The movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DeCaprio was released in 2000 and played a huge role in making Koh Phi Phi Leh famous. It was filmed on Maya Bay beach which adds a fun wrinkle to the already scenic area.
Oh, and you better believe that Phi Phi Islands has hyped it up! There are showings under the stars, it’s played at the bars, and souvenir shops have also got into the popular movie. It’s easy to see that this movie was the big driver for tourism to the islands.
If you are taking the tour from Koh Phi Phi to Maya Bay it’s definitely fun to watch the movie around the time of your visit!
→ 25 Helpful Things to Know Before Visiting the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand
Early Morning Adventure to Maya Bay Beach
We headed down to the water bright and early at 8am in search of a longtail boat. As we were walking around the night before many drivers wanted us to pre-book a tour with them. We quickly realized it wasn’t necessary as there were still not many travelers on Koh Phi Phi in March 2022 due to the pandemic.
Years ago we traveled to Koh Phi Phi and it seemed like every driver had their own price that you were able to negotiate. This time it was much different as they all had a laminated printout with the tour and set cost. While some may still try to bargain with you about the price, don’t go too crazy haggling. This is easily one of THE BEST experiences in Thailand to spend money on.
Maya Bay Thailand Tip: One important thing to know is that you do have to tell the driver you want to get off and explore the National Park. This is the only way to actually step foot on Maya Bay beach!
Getting Our Maya Bay Longtail Boat
Even early in the morning, it was pretty easy to find a boat driver on the main walking street. We stopped and talked to the first guy we saw about the tour and liked that he wasn’t as pushy as the other drivers had been the day before.
After some conversation, we decided on a route that included circling Koh Phi Phi Leh with stops at Monkey Beach and Long Beach. We added on these two popular stops because they only took an extra hour and we knew they were both can’t miss places!
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
Preparing For Your Maya Baya Thailand Tour
- Pack water and snacks for your trip. We grabbed some fresh fruit from one of the stands near the port.
- The longtail boats have a small ladder and you have to be strong enough to pull yourself up when getting out of the water.
- There is some shade on the boat but still make sure to bring a hat, sunblock, and extra cover.
- Check the tides! Luckily we had spoken with someone the day before that said the best time to go would be around 8am. The tides are dramatic on the islands and can impact what the beaches look like.
Cruising From Koh Phi Phi to Maya Bay
If you didn’t know by now, the most exciting way to explore the Phi Phi Islands is by a traditional Thai longtail boat! Once everything was settled we got into our massive wooden boat and saw other travelers start to make their way down to the beach.
With the tides also in mind, early in the morning is the ideal time to start the tour. Not only will you avoid a good part of the afternoon heat, but between 9-10 is when most of the large tours head out… And unsurprisingly they all go to the same places!
Taking off from Koh Phi Phi Don, we watched as three other longtail boats raced past us towards Koh Phi Phi Leh. It felt like something out of Jurassic Park as the enormous cliffs extended into the air from the ocean. The trip to Koh Phi Leh took about 25 minutes but went super fast as we checked out the scenery.
Arriving at Koh Phi Phi Leh
The first monumental thing we saw before Maya Bay was the “Viking Cave.” This small opening under the limestone cliffs gets its name from the ancient paintings inside. Our driver casually informed us that people used to live in this cave!
The second stop was the stunning Pi Leh Lagoon. Pulling into the small bay between the towering cliffs can only be described as magical! Sharing it with only a few other boats, we got to drop anchor and swam around in the early morning sun. The water literally sparkles as translucent blue water lights up the lagoon.
We had done this same tour in 2016 and the lagoon was so crowded that we could barely get in! Back then the boat just cruised to the entrance and showed us the area but we didn’t even get off. This is another benefit of hiring your own boat and going first thing in the morning!
Getting to Maya Bay Thailand
Okay, we finally made it to Maya Bay in Thailand! One thing to know is that it’s part of a National Park and to enter it cost 400 baht ($12 USD) each at the time of our visit. Make sure you have cash on hand if you want to go in.
Also, you should know you are not allowed to swim at Maya Bay beach. That’s right! If you jump in you’ll be quickly be chased down by the staff and asked to get out. This (along with no boats being allowed into Maya Bay) is part of the effort to rejuvenate the marine life in the area after years of over-tourism.
Entering the National Park
Our driver dropped us at the park entrance and said he would be waiting for us in one hour. When we got off the boat the person running the show made us take a photo of the boat’s name.
That’s because they park in a different area altogether and are called over on a megaphone when you’re ready to leave. From there it’s only a 5 minute walk through the forest and out onto Maya Bay beach.
The Beautiful Maya Bay Beach
Yes, Maya Bay in Thailand is touristy. And yes, Maya Bay can be crowded… But WOW is it beautiful! It’s the kind of place that you almost can’t believe is real. It’s iconic Thailand mixed with a piece of nature you’ve only seen in your wildest dreams! Even though we couldn’t swim, it was still incredible to take in this epic scenery.
At around 9:30am the beach wasn’t too crowded. Honestly, we wish we arrived about half an hour earlier but any sooner than that and the beach would have been covered in shade. We took plenty of photos, walked the beach, and admired the area. About half an hour later it seemed like the big tour boats pulled in and people filled the beach.
We were happy to have our small time of enjoying it without the crowds and continued on our way. In total, we spent 45 minutes in the National Park before continuing on with our tour. It’s important to know that this is also the only place where you’ll have access to a bathroom during the trip!
Snorkeling at Maya Bay Thailand
Jumping back on our longtail boat we cruised around to the other side of the island. Here we got a different view of Maya Bay from afar and could see the beach with an even bigger crowd than when we left.
It was then when we remembered it’s not just travelers going from Koh Phi Phi to Maya Bay Thailand, but large speed boats also run from Phuket and Krabi to here daily.
→ Book a Day Trip From Phuket: Maya Bay, Phi Phi & Bamboo Islands with Lunch
→ Book a Day Trip From Krabi to Phi Phi Islands Speedboat Tour
Whatever the case, we were only one of a handful of longtail boats that parked here with this view. It was now time for some snorkeling! We jumped in and were surprised by how many tropical fish were in the water. This was also a great point in the morning to eat the fruit that we packed and enjoy the ocean.
Monkey Beach & Long Beach
For the end of our tour, we hit Monkey Beach and Long Beach on the way back to Koh Phi Phi Don. At this time we hadn’t committed to going on another boat ride in the morning. Otherwise, we probably would have saved these stops for the next day.
Monkey Beach was interesting, but not the one we expected! Our driver actually took us to a small enclave and the real one was a bit further. We only knew this because we had been to the larger one years before.
Still, ending our day at the gorgeous Long Beach more than made up for it! There is a small beach bar where you can grab some cold drinks and lunch or spend your time under a tree relaxing in the shade.
Where to Stay on Phi Phi Island
Before traveling to Phi Phi Island and booking your hotel, make sure to double-check where on the island it’s located. If it is not in the main walking area of Tonsai Village verify they offer transportation! Many have complimentary boat transfers included.
Long Beach – Phi Phi The Beach Resort (Luxury) or Paradise Resort Phi Phi (Budget) – This was hands down our favorite beach on the island! The area is away from the party zone but you can still get to all the action with a quick longtail boat ride or hike.
Tonsai Village Hostel – Voyagers Hostel – Great option if you want a cheap place to crash while in the party area of the island. Steps from the popular beach bars and island nightlife.
Tonsai Village Budget – P2 Wood Loft – Set in the center of the main port town, the rooms are clean, modern, and have great wifi if you are working remotely. You can spend time on the rooftop hammocks or co-working desk as well.
Loh Ba Beach Luxury – SAii Phi Phi Island Village – Large resort offering high-end accommodations on the beach. This is a quieter side of the island. Yet with multiple restaurants, a pool, and fitness center you really never need to leave!
Laem Tong Bay – Zeavola Resort – Located on the quiet northern tip of the island, this is are far as you can get from the nightlife and craze of Phi Phi. Offers a luxury setting for travelers who are really looking to slow down and disconnect.
Have any questions on Maya Bay Thailand or want to share your own experiences on this tour? Feel free to comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Thailand Travel Planning
Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we found flights from Bangkok to Phuket for $12 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Transportation: While traveling through Thailand 12Go is where we find all our ferries, trains, buses, and transfers! You can find everything from island hopping speed boats to the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over Phuket! You can find everything from a James Bond island luxury sunset cruise, to Phuket Old Town 15-taster food adventure, and 5-hour island tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Helpful Thailand Articles
Phuket: 22 Things to Do – Old Town Food Guide – 6 Sunset Spots – Rawai – Elephant Sanctuary – Promthep Cape Sunset – Sunday Night Market – Phuket Old Town – Big Buddha – Renting a Motorbike
Phuket Beaches: 15 Best Beaches – Nai Harn & Yanui – Kata Beach – Kata Noi – Nui Beach
Koh Phi Phi: 3 Viewpoint Hike – Monkey Beach
Koh Lanta: 10 Things to Do – 8 Best Beaches – One Day Motorbike
Railey Beach: 12 Things to Do – 3 Epic Beaches – Krabi to Koh Phangan
Gulf of Thailand: Koh Phangan 10 Things to Know – Bottle Beach Koh Phangan – Koh Tao 12 Things to Know – Freedom Beach Koh Tao – Koh Samui
More: Planning Thailand Trip – Koh Lipe – Chiang Mai
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Thank you very much! Very useful information. I’m going to Phi Phi islands today, and I’m thinking of hiring a private longtail boat.
You’re welcome! Definitely hire a longtail boat. Such a fun way to see the islands (-:
Hello Brigitte, I read on some sites and tripadvisor that Longtail boats won’t take you to the maya bay national park access, they sail next to the bay and if you want to go to the national park you need to go swimming by yourself.
Did you need a special negotiation to the boat take you to the park entrance?
And how about the time, is the national park open after a certain time? Am I able to get in to the park at 7am, for example?
Hi! Yes, you need to tell the driver that you want to stop at the National Park so they plan for the time. We didn’t have any problem when asking and there were many long tail boats dropping off travelers. I think you just need to clarify before.
Some travelers choose not to go because they don’t want to pay the entry fee for the National Park and are happy to just see it from the water. I am not certain about the opening hours of the National Park so you will want to confirm with your driver but I believe it opens early. Hope you have a great visit! 🙂
And how much the tour for 5 people, we stay en Ko phi phi, thr day 16 on December
Hi Lorna! There is a photo of the different prices! The rates are set for two people but it won’t be a problem to take your group of 5. You will just have to negotiate directly with the boat driver when you arrive on the island. Have a fun trip!