Home > Travel > Making a return to Thailand to see the world-famous beach, Maya Bay
Making a return to Thailand to see the world-famous beach, Maya Bay

After being shut for three years for a massive rehabilitation program, the famous Maya Bay is now welcoming tourists. We discovered the best way to explore the stunningly beautiful bay is with a stay at the luxe neighbourhood resorts of SAii Laguna Phuket and SAii Phi Phi Island Village.

Tourism is a double-edged sword that Thailand has dealt with. On one level it boosts and sustains their economy, and on the other are the negative effects of over-tourism. Nowhere is this most than in Maya Bay, the coral bay with pristine white beaches and coral reefs surrounded by gigantic limestone cliffs. Made famous as the location of the 2000 film, ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio it was thronged by millions of tourists looking to experience this piece of heaven. The ecosystem was badly damaged due to boat traffic and pollution, destroying almost 80% of the bay’s coral reefs. In 2018, the Thailand government decided to shut down this popular tourist destination in favour of a massive rehabilitation program. The result is a newly opened Maya Bay that’s truly a magical beach escape and is attracting tourists, blacktip sharks and dolphins to its sparkling shores.

Our journey to the island of Phi Phi Ley in the Andaman Sea began in Phuket and was followed by a tropical escape to SAii Phi Phi Island Village (the closest 5-star resort to the famed May Bay). It was only in 2022 that Thailand opened its borders to tourists followed by the removal of the Thai Pass in July 2022, allowing tourists to move freely within the country. The result is an influx of activity in the country, especially from India with direct flights to Phuket from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. As the largest island in Thailand, it might seem like a statutory stopover for its surrounding magnificent islands but there’s plenty on offer here.

Straight from the airport, we head to SAii Laguna Phuket, nestled between the Andaman Sea on one side and the lagoon on the other. An oasis of tranquility and turquoise waters with equal opportunity for family-friendly activities, unique dining experiences and nightlife. It might seem like a juxtaposition but the sheer scale and design of the property allow for the two to co-exist. You are greeted by a Balinese-style open-plan lobby that looks down upon the labyrinth of pools and the Bang Tao beach. The panoramic views allow you to truly take in the beauty of the upscale Laguna resort estate. The culinary options at SAii Laguna Phuket are vast, there is Miss Olive Oyl (with her delicious Italian and Mediterranean fare), Mr Tomyam (that offers you the day’s fresh catch with views of the shore) and The Club (an exclusive lagoon facing area perfect for an aperitif or light bites). With over 250 rooms and suites (many of which have been recently done up), the resort might seem cacophonous but the design allows for designated, luxe spacious rooms and just well-manicured greenery. It’s also conveniently located from local attractions like the Boat Avenue Mall and the Laguna Phuket Golf Club, but if you like us are there for a shorter stay escaping the lively waterfront resort will be a difficult task.

Next on the agenda was to explore the marvels of Maya Bay and what better way to do so than staying at the SAii’s sister property located in the Gulf of Thailand’s Malacca Strait. It’s a smooth ride from Phuket’s Ao Makarm Grand Marina port with a private speed boat that takes you directly to SAii Phi Phi Island Village. The resort is an ecosystem in itself, and one that’s in sync with the requirements of nature. Stretching across 800 metres stretch of private beach in Phi Phi Don with 200 individually set bungalows that blend beautifully with the rustic environment. Inside, the trimmings are all luxe and spacious, with each category having private balconies to enjoy the palm trees, verdant forests and golden beaches. It’s the seamless transition from luxury to the untouched natural beauty that’s the biggest selling point here.

Holiday seekers and honeymooners will find themselves enjoying the solitude and seeking excursions that include scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. It’s got its own 5-star PADI dive centre with a Marine Discovery Centre that’s deeply involved in the conservation of the local marine life. We discovered the rehabilitation of sharks, and clown fish and how the last few years have been a blessing for the local flora, fauna and fishery. Daily excursions to Maya Bay plus plenty of diving sites make it a great place to unwind and explore.

Long days in the dazzlingly blue waters are followed by massages at the Lèn Forest Spa unwinding to views of the hillside jungle. A traditional Thai massage in thatched rooms or an invigorating massage using their oils and products from their signature M.I.Y Aroma Lab. An acronym for “mix it yourself”, the service allows you to create your very own bathroom amenities. Follow it up with some relaxing cocktails at their poolside bar or burn calories on the tennis courts. Lively cocktails and dinner conversation at the Beach House, the traditional fare at Ruan Thai or even a private dining experience by the beach, there’s plenty to satiate your appetite. And if you’re looking to explore beyond this dream escapist resort, the local village with vibrant, budget bars is just a walk away. Although its almost impossible to believe you’re not on a secluded tropical island and that there is a whole gamut of tourist activity beyond the property.

If you’re looking to take your island getaway a notch higher, they also offer private villas with dedicated staff, a private pool and a panoramic view of the bay. The reopening of Maya Bay and its close proximity to the resort is reason enough to visit. Although, we urge you to book soon to explore the untouched utopian beauty.

Discover our range of luxury stays and experiences here

All Images: Courtesy SAii Resorts. 

Making a return to Thailand to see the world-famous beach, Maya Bay

Akshita Nahar Jain

Sr Associate Editor

Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and stylish sitcoms, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.

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