Koh Lipe Thailand

Ko Lipe Island

Koh Lipe in Thailand is one of the most beautiful islands at the Tarutao Marine Park and is currently one of the most sought-after places for island lovers.

This small island sits at the Southernmost part of the marine park, and the name Koh Lipe (pronounced Lee Pay) comes from the local sea gipsy name, which means Paper Island.

Koh Lipe Thailand

Koh Lipe is also known as the Maldives of Thailand, as the waters here are amazingly crystal clear while the unspoiled beaches are donned with pure white sand.

The paradise is also known by many other spellings, such as Koh Lipeh, Ko Lipey, Ko Leepay and Ko Lipe, but the most common one would be Koh Lipe.

Beach at Koh Lipe
This shot was taken in May 2010, off-season on the island.

History of Koh Lipe

For many years, this paradise island was initially settled by a band of sea gipsies from Malaysia, known as the 'Chao Lei' people.

The island was once a secret little backpacker haven with the only budget-styled beach chalets, while backpackers would bring wares to sell on the walking street and around the island. Some of the backpackers would even camp out on the beaches back then.

Only 4-5 years ago, in 2005, some businessmen saw the opportunity and started investing here, opening up larger-styled resorts and businesses. 

Koh Lipeh Thailand
 Koh Lipe in January 2010, peak season and almost the same angle as above.

Depending on the type of island lover you are, you should check the seasons carefully before visiting this beautiful island. During the peak season, Ko Lipe is filled with people from all walks of life worldwide.

Resorts and Chalets are mostly fully booked while every business is fully operational. Families, backpackers and even couples are seen during this season, while the offseason caters to more budget travellers or those who did not know about the seasons.

Expect some rain while most of the businesses here are shut. The bonus is that you have almost the entire island to yourself, and isn't that a dream come true?

Ko Lipe Pattaya Beach
Beach mats lined up along Pattaya Beach.
Beaches at Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is divided into four main beaches, which are;
1. Pattaya Beach
2. Sunrise Beach
3. Sunset Beach
4. Karma Beach

Pattaya Beach is the main beach where most hotels and resorts are located. This is where you will find the crowds during peak season.

You will find upscale lodgings, boutique resorts and fancy resorts in Sunrise Beach. This place caters to those wanting a bit of everything.

Sunset Beach caters more to backpackers and divers, so if you are looking for some peace and quiet, this is one of the places. But this beach can get crowded during peak season during sunset hours.

Karma Beach is part of the Mountain Resort, which sits on the northernmost part of the island facing the beautiful Koh Adang. This is usually for the guests of Mountain Resort and is entirely private. 

Ko Lipe Beach Picture
Sunrise Beach, where cheaper lodging is found.

Families are usually booked at Pattaya Beach and Mountain Resort, as the larger resorts are located here. Couples, scuba divers and backpackers tend to favour Sunrise and Sunset Beach.

Depending on your likes and taste, I found all the beaches wonderful with white sands and turquoise-blue waters.

I prefer a middle-range resort or chalet. There are only 2 resorts for luxury travellers: 4-5 stars in Koh Lipe, the Sita Beach Resort and Bundhaya Resort.

Andaman Sea Photo
 View of the Andaman Sea from Pattaya Beach.

Island transportation is one of the very few from the resorts.

The beauty of Koh Lipe is that the island is so small there are no vehicles there. Only motorbikes with side carriages are used mainly by the locals or resorts to ferry goods and luggage.

Some resorts will sometimes ferry the guests to the boat, which can be a 10-minute walk. Walking is common here, as a walk from Pattaya Beach to Sunset Beach would take 20-30 minutes. 

Bundhaya Resort Koh Lipe
 View of Pattaya Beach from Bundhaya Resort.

Koh Lipe Walking Street
Lipe Walking Street, village entrance.

Koh Lipe Walking Street

Besides the beautiful views and scenery, the main attraction is Koh Lipe Walking Street, located at Pattaya Beach, which stretches the island inwards. Here, you get all the restaurants, shops, and massage centres.

The walking street comes alive at night with food, music, shopping and partying. No actual proper bars or clubs, but you get the local island-style settings. Stretching about one kilometre long, there are countless places to spend your evenings.

A concrete path was recently created but took the charm away, so the locals decided to fill the entire walkway with sand from the beach.

Watch out for the locals with motorbikes that move up and down here; they have a good variety of food available here too.

From local Thai seafood to Chinese, Indian and Western cuisines, you can find almost anything popular throughout the street and various parts of the island.

Breakfast at Koh Lipe.

When you walk around the island, you will see lots of signs and advertisements plastered on trees showing you where each and every of the various dive shops, resorts or restaurants are located. With this, it is hard to get lost in Koh Lipe.

As mentioned, walking around the island will only take less than two hours to explore the entire place.

When I recently visited in June 2010, I stayed at the Bundhaya Resort under the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) invitation and found Koh Lipe absolutely stunning. My inaugural trip was in 2008 to make a scuba diving trip.

There were literally no crowds, empty beaches and stunning scenery every day. It felt almost like paradise, and I have sworn to visit again next year for more diving here.

Koh Lipe Diving Photo
Dive shop signs on a tree.

Scuba Diving at Koh Lipe

There are about 5 to 6 dive centres where you can take your PADI Diving Certificate at Koh Lipe or your advanced diving courses.

There are also about 16 known dive spots around the 4 main islands: Koh Lipe, Koh Adang, Koh Rawi, and Ko Dong.

Apart from this, you can go snorkelling or island hopping to the many beautiful islands around the Tarutao National Park.

You can do so at Ko Rawi and Ko Adang for the camping enthusiast, but you need to get permission from the ranger station at each island. There is also a trek and a waterfall at Ko Adang Island.

Ko Lipe Mountain Resort
Mountain Resort in Koh Lipe.

Budget Acommodation at Koh Lipe
 Some thatched hut units are from as low as US$12 a night.

Koh Lipe Chow Lay Village
A sea gipsy village.

Chow Lay Village in Ko Lipe

While there, I took the time to explore the various Sea Gypsy Villages around Koh Lipe. There are six villages where you can easily walk around, and the local Chow Lays are friendly.

Some locals run small grocery shops from their homes and welcome anyone for business. A Buddhist Temple (Hantalay Temple) is located near the main island power generator.

Buddhism is still practised here, and if you want to witness the morning almsgiving, you can catch the monks at about 7-8am along the Lipe Walking Street. I recommend you observe them. 

Long Tail Boats Thailand
 Longtail boats are parked outside Sunrise Beach.

Varin Guesthouse Koh Lipe
 Some of the cheaper chalets are seen at Varin 2.

Beach at Koh Lipe
 Beautiful white sand beach at Sunrise Beach.

Castaway Resort in Koh Lipe
Castaway Resort in Ko Lipe with Unique double story chalets.

Koh Lipe Sunrise Beach
This Sunrise photo was taken at Sunrise Beach.

Low and High Season for Ko Lipe

Currently, the island operates in two seasons, Low Season from May till September and High Season from October till April.

You will find that during the rainy season, about 60% of the island comes to a standstill where prices are slashed to about 50-60% off-peak rates.

Ko Lipe Map
 Map of Koh Lipe showing the resorts and places.

Things to Take Note of Before Visiting Koh Lipe Island
  • There are no ATMs there (Update 22 Sept 2014: There is an ATM available now)
  • There is a 7-11 on the Walking Street. Update 22 Sept 2014
  • There are ATM Machines in Pak Barra jetty or Langkawi jetty
  • Some businesses on Lipe will make Credit Card Advances at a 5%-8% commission
  • Foreign Currency can be changed at most resorts but at terrible rates
  • There is only one Immigration Hut located at the end of Pattaya Beach next to Bundhaya Resort
  • A local Police Station is also available behind the Immigration Office
  • The only way in and out of Koh Lipe is via Ferry or Speedboat
  • There are no taxis or cars on the islands
  • Do not participate in Fishing Trips, as it is illegal
  • There is only one small clinic in the local Chow Lay village called Topoe
  • A helicopter landing area is there for major emergencies
  • Visa on arrival over land or sea is only 14 days for foreigners (unconfirmed)
  • Alternatively, you can do a visa run to Langkawi, Malaysia and back within a day
  • There is a small local church available in the Chow Ley village
  • Ko Lipe Walking Street is 80% closed during the offseason
  • Room/chalet rates start anywhere from US$12 right up to US$250 a night
  • Boat timings are crucial to and from Lipe. Check the low and high season timings
  • From May until November, Koh Lipe can only be reached from the Pak Barra jetty
If you have yet to visit this magnificent island, I recommend doing it soon before it becomes a major tourist attraction. (Update 2017, it has already turned)

Ferry to Koh Lipe Thailand
The speed ferry to Koh Lipe Island.

Getting to Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is also easily accessible as there are various ways from Phuket, Ko Lanta, Pak Barra and Langkawi Island in Malaysia.

I also did an article on how to get here, and you can learn more about how to go to Koh Lipe.

The great thing is that there are no airports, so the only way here is via modern speed boat ferries. Journeys are estimated at about 1-2 hours, depending on which point you choose.

As for my experience, I have visited Koh Lipe during the high season via Langkawi and also during the low season via Pak Barra jetty in Satun, which is in Southern Thailand.

After you arrive at the immigration office for your passport chop and want to take a longtail boat taxi to your resort at the other beaches, they charge a fee of 40-50 Baht per person.

Conclusion

I have a friend who has been visiting this island every year for Christmas and New Year for the last 12 years, and he has seen the changes he feels should not have taken place.

From his point of view, the island was a stunning hidden gem of the Andaman Sea back in the day, and a lot of the natural beauty has been since lost.

Those who enjoy the islands and beaches around Southern Thailand stop at Koh Lipe Thailand, as you can do so from Langkawi Island or from Pak Barra town.
Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.

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