Is Maya Bay Worth a Visit?

Maya Bay of Koh Phi Phi is by no means a secret destination. In fact it’s been the opposite  of a secret destination since 1999 when Leonard DiCaprio rolled into town to film the blockbuster Danny Boyle film, The Beach.

“The Beach” is based off a book by the same name written by Alex Garland. The book tells the story of a young English man named Richard, who comes to Thailand for a backpacking trip. He first finds himself on Bangkok’s famous Khao San Road and soon Richard happens upon a man staying in the same hostel as him who tells him of a secret beach that is undiscovered. Eager to escape the backpacker douchebaggery he’s encountered, he sets off with two French friends with a hand drawn map, determined to find “the beach”.

is-maya-bay-worth-visit.jpgShortly after the highly anticipated release of The Beach in early 2000, both Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay were booming with tourists who now wanted to travel to the famous and breathtakingly beautiful beach they’d seen in the movie. Every year more and more people flock to the shores of the islands, creating not only an overflow of tourists but also an overflow of Thai natives trying to make a quick buck catering to the tourists who so desperately want to see its shores.

is-maya-bay-worth-visit.jpgThe Phi Phi Islands for a long time had more or less only been discovered by the backpacker sub-culture and few vacationers. Since its discovery many backpackers have sworn off the Phi Phi Islands claiming it’s now too commercialized. Budget hostels are no where to be found, drinks and food are marginal at best and double the price you would pay anywhere else, the beach is overflowing during the day, and music from bars and clubs blare all night long.

maya-bay.jpgThe fame the movie has brought to the islands is quite impressive, but it hasn’t come without a price. Now tourists from all over the world come to Maya Bay usually with a romanticized version of what they saw from The Beach in their head.

is-maya-bay-worth-it.jpgOn a visit to Maya Bay you can expect to see turquoise blue water, white sand beaches, and stunning limestone rocks shooting out from the ocean; but you can also expect to see the bay filled with long-tails and speed boats, the beach littered with trash and crowded with people trying to get the perfect selfie, and coral that is dead or severely damaged from the abundance of visitors.

maya-bay-worth-visit.jpgI’ve been to Phi Phi and Maya Bay twice now, and I had good experiences both times. I went during the off-season. I avoided crowded times and places by paying a Thai local to longtail us around instead of getting a group tour. I saw Phi Phi for what it was, an absolutely beautiful, slightly overdeveloped, expensive place where I could splurge for a few days on accommodation while laying on the beach and relaxing.

is-maya-bay-worth-visit.jpgFor me, Maya Bay and Phi Phi were worth the visit, but I believe you should go into knowing that your not going to find what Leonardo DiCaprio found in the movie. Instead of planning to spend 2 weeks there, plan a couple days. Visit Maya Bay, stay in a bungalow, sip a cocktail from a coconut, relax for a little bit and call it good.

I’ve found that people who can see and experience The Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay for what they really don’t regret making the trip.

Maya Bay, Thailand became popular when the Leronardo DiCaprio blockbuster "The Beach" was filmed there. But has it become so popular it's no longer worth the visit?

What are your thoughts about The Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay?

Have you seen the movie or read the book, The Beach?


  • Thanks for your great advice about avoiding crowds and touristy experiences. I’m glad there’s still some opportunity to enjoy this location, even if it has become a place that’s known for tourism. Your photos are beautiful and I wish I cold be there right now!

    • Thanks, Brooke! It still can be an enjoyable place to visit (it’s incredibly beautiful after all). I also wish I could be there right now 🙂

  • Nicely written! 🙂

  • I would like to visit both places even though they have gotten really popular. However, I would try to find ways to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Like you, I will visit in the shoulder or off season. I have also read that it is possible to visit very early or a bit later during the day. But, of course, it may cost a little bit more.

    • Exactly, Ruth. I know some people swear off super touristy or busy spots. I don’t like to do that because most place are busy and touristy for a reason. I try and research a lot ahead of time and find out when the busiest times are so I can avoiding going then. I’m not sure I could ever rule a place totally out just because it’s crowded.

  • I have neither read the book nor seen the movie. We were in Thailand in October, but decided to skip PhiPhi. I’ve read that it’s overcrowded, which spoils all the experience. Plus the smog from Indonesia hit the area just a few days before we got there. We spent a few fantastic days on Koh Lipe, though. Your idea of going on a private tour instead of a group one might be a good idea to avoid all the crowd (by choosing the right time to go). I love your pictures and the way you presented the beach (and the island).

    • Thank you so much Joanna! I’ve been to most of Thailand’s southern islands, but never to Koh Lipe, in fact I really haven’t heard much about it at all. I’m curious now. I’ll have to browse your site and see if you have any posts regarding it. 🙂

  • It’s so sad all the negative impacts tourism has on a place. I don’t mind when a place gets popular and more developed (I’m not one to shy away from touristy spots and I like having nicer amenities!), but I do mind when tourists behave badly and damage nature and spoil what once was a beautiful place. I wouldn’t mind visiting here, but I don’t have plans to go to back to Thailand in the next couple of years, so I sure by the time I go there, it’ll be even more impacted!

    • I agree with you 100% Anna. I think more people getting to see special and beautiful places is a great thing, but as you said when it damages the place, it’s very upsetting to me. Thanks for hosting the link-up! 🙂