Part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Ko Lipe ticks all the boxes for many people’s idea of a perfect paradise island. But good looks often come with a price and a boom in tourism in recent years combined with some haphazard development has put pressure on this little island’s limited resources. Despite all of this, Ko Lipe is still undeniably pretty and enjoys a beautiful location in the marine park. With no traffic, soft sand, turquoise waters and hammocks swinging gently in the breeze, it’s easy to see why Ko Lipe has become so popular.
Where to stay on Ko Lipe
The increase in tourism in recent years has resulted in more choice for visitors but has also resulted in an increase in prices. The two main beaches of Sunrise Beach and Pattaya Beach all have a range of bungalows and resorts at varying prices. The compact size of the island makes it easy to walk between Pattaya Beach and Sunrise Beach. Accommodation can also be found near Sunset Beach.
Some of the better value places to stay on Ko Lipe are set back from the beaches in and around Walking Street, a narrow road which is lined with shops, restaurants and places to stay. Although staying here means you aren’t beachfront, it’s only a short walk in either direction to reach the sand at Pattaya Beach or Sunrise Beach.
For more seclusion, there is the option to stay on the neighbouring island of Ko Adang. A 10-minute longtail boat ride connects Adang with Lipe. Ko Adang is considerably larger than Lipe, but its protected status means accommodation options are currently limited to National Park tents or bungalows and one resort.
Ideas for where to stay on Ko Lipe
Ananya: Luxury beachfront hotel with prime location on Pattaya Beach
Castaway Resort: Photogenic beachfront bungalows
Lipe Inn: Simple and comfortable rooms in a central, but quiet location on Walking Street
Zodiac See Sun Resort: Classy beach bungalows in one of the best locations on the island
What to see and do on Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe is an island to soak up the sun and sea, but it’s also a good base to do some island-hopping. A typical day trip itinerary from Ko Lipe will include a visit to nearby Ko Hin Ngam and to Ko Rawi for snorkelling and time on the beach. The sea is so clear around these islands that you can see some of the corals and tropical fish without leaving the boat.
Ko Hin Ngam (Island of Beautiful Stones) is home to a famous pebble beach which, according to local legend, is protected by the God of Tarutao. The pebbles are said to be cursed and bad fortune awaits anybody who takes one away from the island.
If you’d like to go diving, contact any of the dive offices on Walking Street who can arrange trips to nearby dive spots including ‘Stonehenge’. Fishing trips can also be arranged with the chance to have your catch of the day freshly barbecued on the boat.
For a do-it-yourself trip, hire a longtail boat taxi (100 Baht each way) from Sunrise Beach for the short ride across to Ko Adang. Relax on the quiet beaches or for something more strenuous, take the trail to the viewpoint on Chado Cliff. It can be slippery in places so it’s advisable to wear trainers or shoes with grip. There are three different viewpoints with the best views across to Ko Lipe from the second and third viewing area.
Food and drink on Ko Lipe
You’re in southern Thailand, so there’s no better way to start the day than with a roti (Thai-style pancake). You’ll find roti shops at locations along Walking Street serving up a variety of sweet or savoury delights. For somewhere with more of a Western feel, Bloom Cafe serves up an excellent breakfast menu and is popular with overseas visitors.
In the evening, you’ll find plenty of chilled-out restaurants and bars to enjoy food and drinks along Pattaya Beach and Sunset Beach. As with many Thai islands, fire-shows are popular on Lipe with Cafe De Lipe on Pattaya Beach as good a place as any to pull up a bean-bag and watch the entertainment. Not surprisingly, food and drinks in the beachfront hotels and restaurants tends to be more expensive, but cheaper local eats can be found in and around the Walking Street area with Papaya Mom restaurant amongst those worth seeking out. On Walking Street, Corner Bar with their motto ‘Same Same But Better’ is a fun spot for evening drinks as is Time to Chill Bar which often has live music.
Best time to visit Ko Lipe
The best time to visit Ko Lipe is from November-April. The Tarutao National Marine Park is closed from mid-May to mid-October.
How to get to Ko Lipe
There is no airport on tiny Ko Lipe with the nearest airport on the mainland located at Hat Yai. Low-cost airlines Nok Air and Air Asia both run flights from Bangkok Don Mueang to Hat Yai which then connect up with minivan/ferry services to Ko Lipe.
The small town of Pak Bara is the most convenient departure pier for boats to Ko Lipe, Ko Bulon and Ko Tarutao. From November-May there are regular boat services from Pak Bara to Ko Lipe and also between other islands such as Ko Lanta. From June until mid-October boat crossings are less frequent and subject to weather conditions. If you’re planning to visit Krabi or the Trang Islands first, onward boat services are available from other islands including Ko Lanta, Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan and Ko Mook.
Depending on what time you leave Pak Bara, some boats to Ko Lipe may stop at either Ko Bulon Leh or Ko Tarutao to drop off and pick-up passengers. During the high season, some Lipe bound speedboats may also make a brief sightseeing stop at the gorgeous island of Ko Khai.
|Ferry Hat Yai - Koh Lipe ฿ 700–1,150 3h 30m – 5h 30m|
|Van Hat Yai - Koh Lipe ฿ 650–750 4h – 5h 30m|
National Park fees
When departing from piers on the mainland heading to Ko Lipe and the Tarutao National Marine Park, you will be asked to pay a fee for the pier (approximately 20 Baht) and a National Park entrance fee (200 Baht for adults). The National Park ticket is valid for 5 days and you should keep it on your person if travelling to other islands in the Tarutao National Marine Park.
Transport on Ko Lipe
There are no cars on Ko Lipe, but there are delivery trucks which can double up as guest transport. Check with your guest-house or hotel to see if they arrange transfers. Motorbikes with sidecars adapted to carry passengers and luggage are also used as taxis on Ko Lipe. These taxis can also be hired on an ad-hoc basis if you need to use them to get you from A to B. If your bags aren’t too heavy, it’s only a few minutes’ walk along the beach from the boat drop-off point on Pattaya Beach to the start of Walking Street.
Onward travel from Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe is located in Satun province which is home to Thailand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark. The unusual rock formations, prehistoric sites and caves can be explored on a guided tour by sea kayak. If that all sounds too much like hard work and you simply want to enjoy more time relaxing on a tropical island, head instead to Ko Bulon Leh or Ko Tarutao.
Ko Tarauto is part of the eponymous Tarutao National Marine Park. Encompassing dozens of islands, most of them uninhabited, the marine park is a haven for wildlife. On Ko Tarutao you may see a variety of animals including dusky langurs, hornbills monitor lizards, and wild pigs. There are no hotels or guest-houses on Ko Tarutao with the only accommodation being in National Park tents or bungalows. While it may lack the striking beauty of other Thai islands, Ko Tarutao is ideal for anybody looking to get away from it all.
Ko Bulon Leh is a good choice if you think Ko Tarutao may be too remote and Ko Lipe is too mainstream for your liking. There are a few low-key resorts to stay and the island still feels like it belongs to the local Chao Ley community which isn’t necessarily the case on Ko Lipe.