Johnny's Guide to Koh Phi Phi + Scuba Diving

The legendary Koh Phi Phi, where Leonardo DiCaprio's movie "The Beach" was filmed is one of my favorite islands in Thailand.  However, it's not a digital nomad destination for getting work done.  It's a small island, where in the main town there are no cars, or even bikes and you can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes.

I went because my cousin Jacob was visiting from Los Angeles and wanted to hang out by the beach and do some scuba diving.  Phi Phi is slightly easier to get to from Chiang Mai than Koh Tao and the diving is much better, and surprisingly the food as well.  Keep reading for my guide to the Phi Phi Islands.

koh phi phi guide

How to Get to Phi Phi:

From Bangkok or Chiang Mai you can fly directly to either Phuket or Krabi and take a ferry to the island.  The ferries are really cheap, at less than 500 baht ($15) to the island, and only 250 baht off the island. I think the reason why it's more expensive there is because the ticket includes your taxi transfer to the pier.

Once you're on Phi Phi, everything is within a 20 minute walk.  I took a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket with Airasia.

Where to Stay:

I stayed at a basic place called Kitty Guesthouse near the viewpoint. It was a far walk from the Pier but close to the main beach where you would sunbathe during the day and party at night.  It was a bit of a walk from the restaurants and but since nothing is more than 15 minutes away, it wasn't a big deal.

If you want to stay somewhere more central, I would stay at or near The White 1 or 2. There are also nice resorts on the island if you're looking to stay longer than a few days and want to relax.  I book all of my hotels rooms through Agoda which I recommend.

Where to Eat:

My favorite restaurant was Papaya which is in the center of the town. It's a basic place but the portions were huge, staff was friendly and food was very good. Everything I ate there was delicious and I still can't forget how good the beef fried rice was that I took togo and ate on the ferry ride back to Phuket.  My other favorites were all of the curries, especially the Masaman, their stir fried Morning Glory veggies, and their Indian Lamb Curry although a lot smaller than their Thai curries, was also very good.

Prices on Phi Phi are double that of Chiang Mai, so expect to pay 120 baht ($4) per dish, but the portions are also twice the size.

For Jacob's birthday, we ate at Matt's Joint, which is an all you can eat BBQ that serves Shish Kabobs, Chicken, and Ribs plus a salad bar and even a free cocktail for 349 for girls and 399 for guys. ($12US)

English Breakfast while watching Pacquiao vs. Mayweather on Phi Phi

Things to do:

Aside from laying on the beach or having a mango daiquiri in a bucket at night, you should definitely go up to the view point for sunset. If you want up the path past kitty guesthouse, there is a very nice 25 minute hiking trail that takes you to it.  

When you come back, especially in the dark, (bring a flashlight or your cell phone) make sure you go down the stairs and not through the sign that says Bon Voyage which we accidently took. The only good news about walking through the dark jungle for an hour was I learned how safe Phi Phi is since we didn't get robbed and two, I finally saw how big the island actually is.  Even though I've been there in the past, like 99% of people, we only stay in the town and have no idea there is life outside of the tourist area. 

The next time I go back I will definitely go for a longer trek, and recommend it for anyone who wants to spend half a day outside in nature.  You can also sign up for tour boats which take you to the various bays and islands around  Phi Phi which you have to check out once.

View of Phi Phi during Sunset from the Viewpoint

Scuba Diving on Phi Phi:

You have to do it.  If you've been putting it off, at least do the one day Discover Dive. Phi Phi has clear, warm water, lots of fish, and chances to see Turtles and small friendly sharks.  The diving is more expensive than Koh Tao, so I would still recommend getting certified there if you're going to be on that side of Thailand first, but honestly the price difference is worth it as the service especially with Princess Divers which we went with was very good and the diving was great.

If you'd read 12 Weeks in Thailand and have dreamed about working as a Divemaster, you can actually get your course sponsored for free at Princess and many other dive shops on Phi Phi in exchange for working for them for three months afterwards...which you should do anyways to get experience.  

Video of Scuba Diving with Turtles and Sharks:

The diving itself on Phi Phi is very good, a ton better than the diving in Koh Tao, but not as exceptional as dives off of Koh Lanta. You should also dive the Bida islands which the shops go to from time to time as the fish life there is awesome.

One great thing that Phi Phi has to offer is a local shipwreck which I really enjoyed. You have to watch the video below as it was one of the coolest experiences I've had in a while.

P.S. I filmed both videos with a rented GoPro Hero which we got for 1,000 baht a day ($33US) that came with a underwater pole and red filter.

What diving the wreck on Phi Phi was like:

Working on Phi Phi:

It's funny that a few years ago I would have meant, "getting a job on phi phi" which I guess you can do as a divemaster or as a bar promoter which a lot of 20 something girls do on the island.

But as for digital nomads and those running online businesses, it was pretty hard finding a good workplace.  I tried a coffee shop called Cupachino but the internet was so bad that I gave up after finishing my salad and took my coffee to go.

Luckily, the internet at Kitty Guesthouse was surprisingly fast and reliable, they just didn't have any tables or chairs to comfortably work. Instead, I just hung out at Princess Divers and used the wifi from the clinic across the way. They didn't have any outlets but luckily my Macbook Air is a champ on battery life.

(Travel Tip: Almost every wifi password in Thailand is the same as their phone number)

I edited both videos while on the ferry from Phi Phi to Phuket


Koh Phi Phi is an island that everyone traveling through Thailand should visit for a few days. It's such a small town that it reminds me of a college campus, especially if you are living and working there as a divemaster or intern.  The bar scene isn't as wild as the full moon party on Koh Phangan, but has the similar vibe at night.

It's way too small to be a digital nomad hub, but since it's only a 2 hour ferry ride from Koh Lanta and a short flight from Chiang Mai, it can easily be a place to go party it up, or hang out for a few days while you want to get away.

Listen to the Podcast Episode:

My cousin is this week's guest and we talk about his trip from Chiang Mai to Phuket and Phi Phi and what my family thought when I first decided to give up everything and move to Thailand back in 2008.

Travel Like a Boss Podcast Episode 71
Get the Whole Story:

If you're interested in what life is like working as a divemaster and traveling around Thailand, check out my first book, 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap. It's a must read if you're traveling through Thailand as it'll save you a ton of money and help you prepare for your trip.

Find the book on Amazon or at
Warm Regards,


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Post a Comment

  1. Really great article Johnny! I love the look of this place. It's on the to-do-while-out-in-thailand list!!

  2. Hi Johnny! Thanks for publishing such a great post! I'll be visiting Koh Phi Phi this year and and I'm trying to put some plans together. I would like to learn to scuba dive, and I think I will check out the that you mentioned you dove with. But I'd also like to spend a day snorkelling and checking out some beaches. Right now I am considering as an option; but I'd like to know if you have any recommendations for tour companies on the island. Thanks Johnny! Safe travels!


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