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Island guide: Koh Lipe, the Maldives of Thailand

When you picture a Thai island, you’re probably thinking of somewhere like Koh Lipe. In fact, ask any of the in-the-know locals where’s the most beautiful island they’ve ever been to and the name Koh Lipe would come up almost every time. Don’t be surprised when they talk about the island like how you’d describe the Maldives; white sandy beach, crystal clear turquoise waters, colourful coral reefs — Koh Lipe may sound like a dream, but it’s as real as a paradisiacal island can get for those willing to make the effort to get there. Located in the Andaman Sea, Koh Lipe is the southernmost island in Thailand, 60km from Thai mainland and only 30km from Langkawi, Malaysia. As one of the 51 islands that make up Tarutao National Marine Park and part of the Adang Archipelago, the island offers fantastic marine and reef life for underwater enthusiasts. While you can tie in Koh Lipe in your island hopping itinerary, we’d recommend spending a few days on this untouched tropical paradise to discover its charm before it becomes overcrowded with tourists.

Hero image: Pinterest; Featured image: Idyllic Concept Resort

koh adang
Image credit: Instagram/ @adangislandresort

How to get there

Getting to Koh Lipe is not difficult, but requires extra time and effort compared to mainstream islands that can be accessed via direct flights from international airports — a main reason why it still remains one of the most unspoiled islands in Thailand. To reach the island in one day, you will need to catch a morning flight from Bangkok to Hat Yai International Airport. From there, take a taxi or minibus to Pak Bara pier. The journey takes two hours and this ground transport can be easily arranged from the airport. During the low reason from May to October, there is only one ferry to Koh Lipe which departs daily at 11:30am, and arrives the island at 1pm. The whole journey takes around 5-6 hours, and to save you from the hassles of finding the right transfers between cities and haggling, Nok Air and AirAsia offer an all-inclusive ticket package, which costs just about the same if you were to book everything separately. During high season from November to April, speed boats and ferries connecting Koh Lipe to Koh Lanta, Krabi, Phi Phi and Phuket are also available.

Where to stay

There are three main beaches on Koh Lipe: Pattaya Beach, the busiest of the beaches where Koh Lipe ferries arrive and home to most of the island’s nightlife; Sunrise Beach, a quiet, secluded beach where most luxury resorts are located; and Sunset Beach, a small, aptly named patch of sand perfect for romantic sunsets. While there is no five-star property on Koh Lipe (yet), the island has no lack of high-end accommodation options that can rival top hotels.

Idyllic Concept Resort

Idyllic Concept Resort

Nestled on Koh Lipe’s pristine Sunrise Beach overlooking the azure waters, Idyllic Concept Resort is set amidst a lush tropical backdrop in 16 villas reflecting a sophisticated, contemporary design. Offering a wealth of world-class facilities, the resort’s beachside pool is luxuriously designed with a swanky teak pool bar and built-in jacuzzi. The Cove bistro is an all-day dining venue where the delicious breakfast buffet is served daily, and fresh local catch-of-the-day is readily available throughout the day. The property has 62 rooms to choose from, and we’d recommend staying at i-Beach Front, i-Breeze or i-Sky, as these room types have direct access to the powdery white sand beach, with panoramic views of the Andaman Sea.

Idyllic Concept Resort, Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe, Thailand +6688 227 5389

What to do 

koh adang viewpoint
Koh Adang viewpoint, image credit: instagram/ @adangislandresort

Koh Adang excursion

From the Koh Lipe’s Sunrise and Sunset Beach, you’ll most likely find yourself looking over at Koh Adang, the second largest island in the Tarutao National Marine Park. Best known for its hiking trail leading up to the Chado Cliff, a viewpoint offering breathtaking views of Koh Lipe, Koh Adang is an island paradise perfect for light to moderate hikes. To get to Koh Adang from Koh Lipe, you can either hire a taxi boat (15 minutes) or a kayak (less than an hour), which can be arranged on Sunrise Beach. No matter which option you take, you’ll end up hopping off on the sand of Laem Son on Koh Adang, where you’ll find basic bungalows, a restaurant and a visitor centre.

The hiking trail to Chado Cliff begins a few hundred metres east of the visitor centre past the restaurant. There are three viewpoints on Koh Adang, with the third one affording the best view of Koh Lipe. The 45-minute hike to the third viewpoint is so challenging but involves some ropes, uneven surfaces, and can be slippery and muddy after the rain, so be sure to wear shoes (no flip flops) and bring enough water with you. Viewpoint 1 is only about 10 minutes uphill but you only get to see half of Koh Lipe as the mountain is in the way. As you go further up for another 15 minutes, you’ll see Viewpoint 2 clearly marked on a sign. The view is decent from here, but if you can continue for another 10 minutes, you’ll be rewarded by an unobstructed, picture-postcard vista to Koh Lipe and the smooth blue waters.

koh lipe
Image credit: Idyllic Concept Resort

Explore the Tarutao National Marine Park

Alternatively, you can also hire a private longtail boat for the day to take you around the islands. Private boat tours usually offer two main routes: Jabang, Koh Hin Ngam, Koh Yang, Koh Rawi, and Koh Adang; and Koh Hin Saun, Koh Lok Goi, Koh Dong, and Koh Pung. Both programmes include a lot of beach, snorkelling and hiking time, but we’d recommend the latter as it goes to the farthest islands in the Adang archipelago, which provides better snorkelling opportunities. The corals in the national marine park are well-protected and in superb conditions, with Koh Pung offering the best underwater adventure, where you’ll get to spot giant pufferfish, porcupinefish, clownfish, yellow cornetfish, moray eels swimming nearby the pristine soft coral reefs. Another island worth mentioning is Koh Hin Ngam, a mysterious island made out of beautifully polished dark-greystones of various sizes and shapes, which are formed by the waves hitting the shores year after year. The stones are so smooth that you can enjoy a pleasant walk with bare feet. Whichever route you choose, the prime location of Koh Lipe makes a great starting point to explore the surrounding archipelago.

koh lipe
Image credit: Unsplash/ Milos Prelevic

Diving 

Whether you’re a first-timer or certified diver, Ko Lipe is one of the best scuba diving destinations in Thailand for all experience levels, with several dive companies on the island offering everything from fun, discovery dives to PADI certification. 8 Mile Rock, Talang and Stonehenge are popular dive sites in Koh Lipe, with the latter being the most popular due to its unique topography of soft coral garden and massive granite pinnacles. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to spot an impressive school of yellow snappers, mackerel, tuna, devil fish, seahorse and ghost pipefish. Adang Sea Divers located on Sunrise Beach is highly recommended for its knowledgeable dive masters and specialty diving courses, such as underwater digital photography, underwater naturalist and night diving.