Maya Bay: The BEST Way to Experience “The Beach”

Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.
– Richard of The Beach movie

Every month, thousands of determined tourist groups land in Thailand’s famous Phi Phi islands for their dose of the legendary “The Beach”! Yes, the very beach that was made famous by “The Beach” movie of 2000 – after all, it was the highlight of the movie!

Where exactly is “The Beach”?

Phi Phi islands is a group of five islands in the Andaman sea. The only populated island is the biggest island – Koh Phi Phi Don. However, “The Beach” is Maya bay of the uninhabited Koh Pi Phi Leh. Actually, the island is not completely uninhabited – the lucky island warden gets to live there.

Our Obsession with “The Beach” (the movie and Maya Bay – both)

The only downer is, everyone’s got the same idea.

 – Richard of The Beach movie

A few years back, my best friend and I also decided to visit “The Beach”. However, there was ONE problem that was glaring at our faces. We saw many people’s vacation pictures and to our dismay, Maya Bay appeared to be disgustingly full in all the pictures.  We also read on many blog websites where people had complained that the bay was full of longtail boats bringing tourists in large numbers from the nearby Krabi, Phuket and Ko Phi Phi Don. In most of the pictures, the beach was not visible at all because it had too many people on it!

Just like the movie, we also wanted to run around on empty Maya Bay, swim close to the fishes and with the planktons at night, sleep under the glittering stars, wake up in the morning on an empty beach and run around again!

Nevertheless, we were not ready to give up. We hunted for a few days but we finally found the perfect solution! We found that only ONE way where we could do all of above, have the island to ourselves AND watch the sunset and sunrise too! How?

Well, there’s only one tour operator has the permit to take people to this island before and after the tourist hours. They don’t take 25 people, which is perfect! The tour starts after lunch and ends next day after breakfast. So overall – it’s 25 (or less) people on a beautiful island with no one else! Read to find out more about this.

The Adventure Begins:

On our visit to Phi Phi Island, we were short of time because we decided to spend only 2 days on this island. Out of the two days, one half of our second day was spent scuba diving. We ended up paying for only one night for our room because we dropped our luggage early for our Maya Bay tour.

We boarded our tour boats that had ONLY 10 other people from different countries – so in total we were 12 people on that island plus the crew. Speaking of the crew – there were only 5 people and they managed the show well. Over a fruit platter on the deck, our tour guide – Kai broke the ice and got everyone to socialize. After all, we were all going to spend a day together.

The Viking Cave near Maya Bay

The Viking Cave near Maya Bay

We cruised around in blue waters, stopped near the Viking cave for a few photos and stopped the boat in the middle of nowhere. Here we had an option to do kayaking and snorkeling – or both.

Viking Cave up close

Viking Cave up close

Magical Snorkeling and my mermaid moment:

This is the spot where I had the best snorkeling experience!

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As I went underwater, hundreds of fishes swam around my head – almost kissing my face. I could see three different schools of fish all floating in different directions.  Time stood still as I looked around under water sinking in the beauty. In that moment, I was a mermaid and it was better than what I had seen in any movie! I did not have an underwater camera so I tried to make a mental video to remember for life.

After a bit of snorkeling and kayaking, it was time to go back to the boat. Because of the tide, the boat couldn’t enter Maya Bay so we had to take a different and more dangerous route to enter Ko Phi Phi Ley. From the boat we had to climb on a rope ladder to the slippery cliffs. Getting on the ladder was not easy because the waves were strong, but it got simpler after that. We walked around the island for a few minutes and finally reached our destination.

Welcome to Maya Bay – “The Beach”

We were finally on Maya Bay! The sensory delight that greeted us took our breath away.

Empty Maya Bay: Rosh and I couldn't believe our luck!

Empty Maya Bay: Rosh and I couldn’t believe our luck!

  • The sight of this Paradise beach
  • The sound of waves and birds
  • The touch of the soft sand on our feet
  • The smell of the sea and the trees
  • A taste of salt on our lips from the sea air

Our five senses thanked us for waking them up!

It felt incredible and wrong at the same time that we were the ONLY ones of this island and privileged few to enjoy it just to ourselves!

Maya Bay

Look how pretty Maya Bay looks when it’s empty!

Anyway, my friend and I walked around the island for a while. The island is tiny and had a lot of greenery. People who visit usually are so enchanted by the beach that they don’t end up exploring the forest area.

Maya Bay Forest2

The Forest area in Phi Phi Leh

After an aimless walk and a small island exploration, we headed back to the beach and found our perfect spot in a cove to enjoy the sunset with Chang beer.

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We met the rest of the group at the designated time to enjoy the delicious barbecue and a Thai bucket.  We all sat around in circle, spent the entire evening exchanging travel stories, playing silly drinking games and eating delicious food. By the way – all the food and one bucket was included in the cost of this tour.

Drinking Games at night on Maya Bay

Drinking Games at night on Maya Bay

Swimming with the Plankton at Maya Bay

Somewhere around the midnight, Kai announced that it was time for a night swim! We jumped into the water to swim with hundreds of tiny star-like bio luminescent phytoplankton. Commonly known as plankton, they sparkled like a starry sky as we moved through the dark water and they glow only if you move around in the water.

Time to sleep under the stars on Maya Bay

Post our swim, we went back to our boat that was moored 30-50 meters off the beach. We chose our sleeping spots on the deck of our big boat under the stars. Sleep came to us easily since we were all extremely tired from our action packed day.

Good Morning Maya Bay – Empty Beach! (And the customary jump shot)

The boat crew woke us up early morning to make the most of our last few hours. We walked around and noticed that the first set of private tour boats had started arriving. In that instant we felt extremely lucky since now knew how it felt to experience “The Beach” the best way.

Kai announced that it was time for a jump shot. The funny part – there were 10 different cameras and he made at least 5 photos from each so we all ended up jumping 50 times! Was it worth it? Well, see the picture and decide for yourself!

Customary Jump Shot on Empty Maya Bay

Customary Jump Shot on Empty Maya Bay

The Name of the Tour: Maya Bay Sleep Aboard

Price: THB 3000

Was it worth it? Well if you look at the money, you save on one room night and all the meals for 24 hours as well as one rum or vodka bucket PLUS if you count the money you would have spent on an island tour + snorkeling + kayaking + night swim, this is definitely a win!

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I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…  

– Richard of The Beach Movie

We found our paradise moment on Maya Bay. Where was yours?

You might also like:

Bangkok in One Day

Koh Phangan – Beyond the Full Moon Party

Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang of Krabi

Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan

 

Maya Bay: The BEST way to experience "The Beach". We had the island to ourselves from sunset to sunrise! by DrifterPlanet.com

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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