How would I describe Koh Lipe in one word? Paradise! The tiny Thai island has everything – beautiful beaches, incredible off-the-beach snorkelling, fantastic diving, delicious food and friendly people. What more could you want?!
We planned to spend four days here but it ended up being six. We just love the island life too much! Koh Lipe is renowned for being one of the most expensive Thai islands, (because of its distance from the mainland, electricity and water is so expensive) but we managed to stay pretty much within our daily £25 budget (apart from the diving course).
We caught the ferry from Telaga Harbour in Langkawi, which took two hours and cost about £30. Our return journey to Langkawi cost about £20, I’m not sure why it was cheaper but not complaining! Each time we caught the ferry we had to go through immigration, but it was quick and very straightforward.
Koh Lipe can also be reached by various ferries from Thailand’s mainland and islands, such a Phuket, Koh Lanta, Phi Phi etc.
Accommodation isn’t cheap on the island, but there are cheaper options. For the first four nights, we stayed at Shanti Backpackers in a fourteen bed dorm for about £9 a night. Gate, the owner, was really welcoming and great to talk to – she’d travelled all over Thailand and gave us some good tips. There were only fans in the dorm room so it got a bit warm, but it was bearable. Gate also sold ferry tickets for the cheapest price we could find on the island.
For our extra two nights, Ste and I stayed in a private room in A+ Hostel, complete with air con, a complimentary mini bar and a huge, comfy bed. This was more expensive, about £14 each a night. We did get a cheaper rate than online, by booking in person and negotiating a discount.
Things to do
The main thing for Ste and me was to finish off our PADI Open Water course which we started in Gili Air… which we did!! We chose to go with Ocean Pro Divers because they were a super friendly, small family run business that had a clear passion for protecting marine life. Their dive boat was pretty luxurious and a delicious lunch was included. We went to some amazing dive sites and saw a huge selection of soft and hard corals, rays and more fish than I can name. Richard, our instructor, was great at making us feel relaxed underwater, gave us some really useful tips about equalising our ears and was just generally amazing (thank you Richard!). Unfortunately, my ears started hurting again, but as it later turned out, my initial ear infection hadn’t gone away and my ear drum isn’t in the right place. Hopefully time will heal it.
Sunrise Beach seemed to be the best place to snorkel off the beach – there were loads of corals and a huge variety of fish. In low tide, we swam out to a small island, probably about 500 metres off the beach. We had to keep an eye out for boats and the current got quite strong in some places but it was worth it.
Sunset Beach was a beautiful place to watch the sunset (obviously). We walked around the island from Sunrise Beach which took about an hour, then sat and watched the sunset with a beer.
The island is tiny and there are plenty of little beaches and coves to explore. All the beaches we went to were pretty clean and the coral seemed in pretty good condition all the way around.
Places to eat & be merry
There were so many good eateries so I’ve made a list of my favourite ones:
- Elephant – great place on Walking Street that serves a variety of western-style food in big portions and free drinking water. Their pizzas, breakfasts and salads are incredible. Plus, they don’t serve fish – yay!
- Island Pizza – owned by the same guy as Elephant, this place sells pizza by the slice – £2 for a big slice.
- Castaway – a fancier place on Sunrise Beach with a relaxing atmosphere. The mixed fruit smoothie is out of this world and they have a full page dedicated to vegetarian food in the menu. They have cheap water bottle refills.
- Sunrise Beach Restaurant – a cheaper restaurant on Sunrise Beach but the food is delicious. They can make most dishes vegetarian/vegan and understand dietary requirements well.
- Pee Pee Bakery – a small cafe on Walking Street where we ate good breakfasts a couple of times. They have baked beans!
- Sea La Vie – a bar on Sunrise Beach that has deliciously strong cocktails, a tree house and quirky toilets.
Sustainability on the island
An amazing iniative is Trash Hero, which actually started on the island. One of their schemes is the Trash Hero water bottle refills, to encourage people to reduce plastic bottle waste. Buying a snazzy stainless steel water bottles costs £5/6 and enables free refills in participating bars/restaurants all over the island.
A lot of the restaurants don’t serve plastic straws and a weekly beach clean up takes place all year round.
Koh Lipe was an amazing place to relax, with quiet beaches, good food and beautiful seas – I’d recommend it to anyone. The island is visibly trying to make itself more sustainable and educate tourists about plastic waste – still a long way to go but a great start.
Next stop: Kuala Lumpur.