Finally, I made it to the Andaman darling Koh Phi Phi. What an island gem! It took three trips to Thailand to make it happen, but this place was worth the wait. It had everything I wanted in a tropical getaway - sparkling blue water, hidden ocean lagoons, sandy white beaches and hikes with sweeping views. I sandwiched the island between Koh Lipe and Phuket, but it could easily have been visited before or after trips to neighboring Krabi, Koh Lanta or Koh Yao. The central location of Koh Phi Phi made it an ideal destination for almost any island hopping itinerary. I spent three days on Koh Phi Phi's dreamy northern coast where the Zeavola Resort was so kind to host my stay in barefoot luxury at their gorgeous rustic resort.
Fresh coconuts at iconic Maya Bay inside Koh Phi Phi Leh.
The prettiest stretch of beach at the Zeavola Resort.
Sunset dinners at the resort's restaurant - crispy grouper, veggie spring rolls, mango w/sticky rice, Massaman curry and spicy chicken soup w/coconut milk. Who wants to join me?
This lush stretch of the island was a jungle paradise.
Floating off the resort's gorgeous stretch of beach.
Loved the rustic charm of our suite.
Found myself a unicorn in the resort's sparkling pool.
Met this little guy on the hike to Koh Phi Phi's famous viewpoint.
Loved the Zeavola Resort's iconic long boats.
Pla Sarm Ros - fresh, crispy Grouper with sweet and sour chili sauce. My favorite meal in Thailand - so good I ordered it two nights in a row!
It was a tough hike to this viewpoint because of the 90 degree temps and 95% humidity. But what a view!
Jumped off our long boat to soak in these island sparkles.
Thai mango w/sticky rice.
Long boat madness in Maya Bay.
I loved my private outdoor bathroom at the resort.
I lost count of how many passion fruit shakes I bought in Thailand. So good!
The resort's stretch of beach was my perfect paradise.
I think I'd take a trip to Southeast Asia, just for all the fresh passion fruit.
Zeavola Resort was my paradise on Koh Phi Phi. The water seemed to get more turquoise (and sparkly!) as the day progressed.
Tropical views on this quiet stretch of Koh Phi Phi coastline.
Six islands form the Phi Phi archipelago, with Koh Phi Phi Don being the largest and most populated. I arrived in the late afternoon, and was immediately smitten with the laid back vibes of the island's little town. The maze of pedestrian ways were lined with dive shops, juice stalls and beach bars with most streets leading to one of the two bookend beaches. From the pier, I caught a longboat ride up to the northern tip of the island where I'd be spending the next three days on gorgeous Laem Tong Beach, at the Zeavola Resort.
The resort was my rustic little oasis while on Koh Phi Phi. It felt like a true island escape, as the Zeavola's location was only accessible by boat. Sandy pathways connected the villas, spa, restaurants, pool, reception and dive shop to the beach - making the resort a true barefoot experience. I loved it! My Garden Suite was essentially a private jungle villa that mixed modern luxury with rustic charm. I ended every day with an outdoor rain shower surrounded by the island's lush flora and fauna. How cool is that? And it was such a treat to have Laem Tong Beach at my doorstep. It really was the prettiest stretch of sand on Koh Phi Phi, and some of the clearest blue water I'd seen in Thailand.
I hold the environment very dear to my heart, and it was refreshing to stay at a resort with the same core values. At a time when so many of Thailand's islands are overrun with plastic, rubbish and garbage, Zeavola is working to protect the natural beauty that makes the place so special. Resort water is sourced from local wells and a rainwater collection system; natural waste is shredded and mulched, nothing is burned (a major problem throughout Southeast Asia); a reverse osmosis system treats water so it can be reused in the jungle gardens; and Laem Tong Beach is cleaned daily for garbage so that it does not end up in the ocean. And that's just a snippet of the resort's laundry list of sustainable actions that have won them multiple awards in hotel sustainability.
I write this blog post just as Thailand’s National Parks and Wildlife Department announces the temporary closure of Koh Phi Phi Leh's iconic Maya Bay. Made famous by the 2000 film The Beach, the sheltered bay has fallen victim to mass tourism in recent years, suffering the effects of 200+ boats and 4,000+ tourists daily fighting for space in the dreamy lagoon-like bay. Truly, a picture perfect paradise, but one too many people have flocked to see. The effects on the surrounding environment have been catastrophic - coral damage, plastic pollution and battered marine life. I visited Maya Bay last month from Koh Phi Phi Don by private boat, and was shocked by the number of tour boats and tourists. At 10 AM on a Wednesday morning there was a wall of speed boats so dense I could hardly see the bay from the beach. When it re-opens this summer, here's hoping the island's new directives will be enough to rehabilitate the surrounding marine environment: a four--month annual closure, 2,000 tourist cap per day and the ban of boats from the bay itself.
For those planning a trip to Koh Phi Phi, there is still plenty to see and do with with closure of Maya Bay. One of my favorite adventures on Koh Phi Phi Don was a hike from town to the island's famous viewpoint. The trail itself was pretty easy - paved most of the way, and not long at all. Back home in California, I could have been up and down in 90 minutes. But Thailand's 95 degree temps and 90% humidity made the trek a slow, painful challenge. I can't remember the last time I sweated so much (I looked like I had jumped in a swimming pool), and I was stopping to catch my breathe every 10 minutes. It took about an hour to reach the top, but it felt like five hours. Thankfully, the views were beautiful and completely worth the effort. A little hazy in the late afternoon (I wish I'd done the hike in the morning), but still a lovely end to the day.
After the hike I treated myself to a feast at Zeavola's beach restaurant Tacada. At sunset, I feasted on crispy grouper, veggie spring rolls, mango w/sticky rice, Massaman curry and spicy chicken soup w/coconut milk. The grouper was actually my favorite dish in of the trip (fresh, crispy and slightly sweet) - so tasty, in fact, that I ordered it two nights in a row from this restaurant!
My last morning on Koh Phi Phi was bittersweet. It had been an amazing three days, but I felt like I needed more time to experience even more of the island. It's definitely a place I will return to one day. From Laem Tong Beach, I boarded the Zeavola's private speedboat and the kindly staff transported us to Phuket, where I would embark on my next adventure in Thailand.
Thank you to Zeavola Resort for hosting my lovely stay and sponsoring this post. xx
All honest opinions are my own.
Photos by myself and Anh-Thi Nguyen (@leftietraveler on Instagram).