One of the main attractions near Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand (Phi Phi Island) is the famous Maya Beach. It served as the set for the movie The Beach (2000), starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s depicted in the film as a secret paradise where a group of travelers have made their home away from civilization.
The beach itself is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh, a smaller uninhabited island just a 30-40 minute boat ride from Koh Phi Phi Don. The island itself is a national park and requires all visitors to pay an entry fee of 200 Thai baht upon arrival (unless the fee is included in your day tour). I visited this secluded paradise in March of 2014.
I gasped when I first sunk my toes into the fine, silky sand. It felt like powdered sugar between my toes. I spent my allotted hour of time making sand angels and walking the paths that wind through the small rain-forest. The sand from the beach stretched all the way inland along the paths. It only ended when I reached the boardwalk and scenic platform at the end of the trail. The lookout stood in a V-shaped crevasse between two towering cliffs. The view boasted clear, blue-green waters and free-standing, forested limestone formations in Loh Samah Bay.
After enjoying the view and making friends with a cat that lived on the island, I wandered down to the only snack shack on the island. Unsurprisingly, everything was overpriced. I continued with my snacks down to the crowded shore of the beach, which looked out over the reef-filled bay. Two dozen long-tail boats were anchored on the beach. The sashes tied around their tails came in so many colors: yellow, red, green, blue, pink, white and more. I was content just sitting in the sand and appreciating the view. I was thankful to have a couple of new travel friends around to share in the experience. Many visitors were sunbathing or wading into the warm clear waters for a swim.
The colors of the scenery made it the definition of a beach paradise. The vibrant sashes of the long-tail boats fluttered in the breeze with a backdrop of blue-green waters, an abundance of palm trees, and limestone cliffs covered in shrubs. The bright off-white color of the sand provided an aesthetically pleasing contrast to it all. I wish I had had more time on Maya Beach, but the tour that had brought me had a tight itinerary.
Vacationers can reach the beach through one of the many day tours offered on Koh Phi Phi Don, or they can privately rent a long-tail boat. The only way to enjoy the beach without the hordes of tourists is to camp on the island through Maya Bay Sleep Abroad. Their package is all-inclusive (food, sleeping bags, transportation, and even a complimentary bucket of booze). They bring you to the island close to sunset (when all the day-trippers are leaving) and leave the next morning after sunrise when all the day-trippers begin to arrive.
Next time you find yourself in the south of Thailand, I recommend that you make time to visit this gem of a paradise. Tourists or not! Also, bring your camera in a waterproof bag.