Travel Guide: Koh Lipe, Thailand
It’s quite amazing to learn that very few travelers have heard about Koh Lipe.
The island’s general obscurity might be due to its geography – Koh Lipe is located out on the Andaman Sea together with Koh Adang and Koh Rawi. It is actually closer to the Malaysian island of Langkawi than it is to mainland Thailand with the nearest port-of-call being Pak Bara, Satun.
We went to Koh Lipe as part of a family vacation before my sister moved to the United States and this time I was a follower instead of the trip planner. We spent four days on the island where we partook in the three “S” of sand, seafood and swimming pool!
Here’s a rough guide to gorgeous Koh Lipe.
Weather and Climate
Like most Thai islands, Koh Lipe experiences the wet season from May to October and the dry season from November to April. The ferry from Langkawi only operates from October to June because the peak rainy season brings rough waters.
We visited in February so we came after the super-peak holiday months of December and January. It was generally hot throughout the day with scant clouds barely hiding the sun’s rays. There was a crowd but the beaches were not packed to the rafters and there were tables available for walk-in at restaurants during dinner time.
Getting There – From Langkawi
Getting to Koh Lipe was quite the challenge and required multiple modes of transportation. We flew in to Langkawi International Airport from Kuala Lumpur and took a cab to Telaga Harbor. I purchased our discounted ferry tickets online at Telaga Terminal and proceeded to “check-in” at the registration counter.
Telaga Terminal has a little cafe with an overpriced menu and a good amount of chairs in an outdoor setting for travelers waiting for the ferry. Once our 2:30 p.m. ferry arrived, everyone had to drag their own luggage and pass through immigration before handing over their bags and passports to the boat crew.
The ride was an uneventful 90 minutes and the excitement only began when the ferry anchored a mile away from shore. We saw the colorful tail boats speeding towards the ferry and each passenger and their luggage were quickly ushered to the beach.
Now comes the fun part – the immigration checkpoint is by far the chillest passport-stamping experience ever. The head officer, or like what my mom call “The Sheriff of Koh Lipe” complete with fishing hat, will sort out each passport by nationality and started shouting at the top of his lungs each passengers’ name.
When our turn came, we had to walk along a sand-filled lane to the wooden immigration counter to get our visas approved. Finally, we had to pay a mandatory THB 200 (THB 100 for children) national park entrance fee per person and we’re free to go!
Koh Lipe is mainly divided into three stretches – Pattaya Beach where the immigration checkpoint was, Sunrise Beach on the east side of island and Sunset Beach facing nearby Koh Adang. Most of the resorts are concentrated on Pattaya and Sunrise while Sunset Beach caters for a more intimate setting.
These beaches are accessible through a series of interconnected streets criss-crossing villages and inns. There are no cars and trucks on the island so the only way to get around is on two wheels via motorbikes or tuk-tuks at a cost of THB 50 for one way.
Koh Lipe’s main street is the unimaginatively named “Walking Street,” a thoroughfare of restaurants, bars, food stalls and shops which acts as the island’s main artery. We mostly had our meals here once we got sick of hotel food and I even bought matching t-shirts for everyone because that’s what family vacations are for!
What To Do
We actually did not have anything planned for other than making full use of our time on the island so we mainly alternate between the beach and the swimming pool. Our little one had no qualms about happily spending his whole day at the pool which was conveniently outside our hotel room.
We usually head out to the beach right after breakfast for a dip in the sea – the water was surprisingly cooler than the warm reaches of Langkawi. The soft white sand was easy on our feet and there wasn’t too big of a crowd to make us feel suffocated.
While I accompanied my son building a sand castle, the rest either went snorkeling or just laid around on deck chairs by the pool. We pretty much repeated the same stuff later in the evening since afternoon was too hot (the sky was cloudless!) to do anything much other than taking a solid nap.
On our last evening in Koh Lipe, my wife and me decided to go abit romantic by catching the sunset at Sunset Beach. So we hopped on a tuk-tuk and got there within five minutes. We got dropped off the roadside and had to walk down a hill for another five minutes to the beach.
Sunset Beach is devoid of any hotels or resorts, just a bunch of stalls selling snacks and beverages. We got ourselves a pair of ice-cold coconuts and hung out on the mats laid out by the trader. By then, the crowd was already picking up and the whole beach was quite full around half an hour before the sun went down.
The panorama was gorgeous – Sunset Beach was facing Koh Adang, a nearby island with an imposing hill while the sun slowly descended upon the horizon. The sunset was truly dramatic as the bright blue sky got interrupted by the orange hues of the sun and both slowly were sucked away as the sun finally vanished from our sights.
Where To Eat
Other than hotel room, most of our foraging happened along Walking Street and the wide choices of cuisine available was a treat to our tummies. The price is fair for the amount of food served and most importantly, everything was delicious.
Halal Thai Food – Khonlay Thaifood Restaurant
There’s no point saving the best for last when you’re on holiday! Our first dinner in Koh Lipe is a Southern Thai seafood fiesta at Khonlay Restaurant. We ate to our heart’s desire, consuming a garlic-fried grouper, steamed prawns, deep-fried squid, tom yam, stir-fried morning glory and finished it off with a full plate of mango sticky rice.
Mediterranean Food – The Box
We went full Mediterranean on our second night at The Box, a boutique resort with a restaurant and lounge bar. We ordered a few Tapas from the menu followed by a huge plate of seafood paella for sharing. Every dish used the freshest of ingredients, especially the paella where the mussels, shrimps and squids were all sweetly succulent.
Western Fare – Elephant Coffee House and Bar
Elephant is one place for travelers seeking a bit of Western comfort. This chic cafe has a sexy selection like Apple Crumble French Toast, Australian Beef Jack Burger and a whole bunch of tropical fruit smoothies. A day out under the sun necessitated us to carbo-load on burgers, pizza and milkshakes!
Where To Stay
Our stay at Akira Beach Resort did not start on a right note.
My mom booked three rooms a few months back on a prior trip to Koh Lipe and specifically requested the rooms to be connecting, or at close by to each other. When the reception said the request could not be accommodated and the rooms given were in different blocks, tempers flared.
I wouldn’t describe the earful the service staff got from my mom but at the end of the day, we checked-in to our rooms which were all in the same block.
Other than this mishap, our stay at Akira Beach Resort was smooth.
Our huge room was all furnished in wood and it opened out to the pool. This configuration was the reason we mainly stayed in since the little one was in his “leave me in the swimming pool for a whole day and I’ll be fine” phase. So, it was either playing in this pool or the infinity pool fronting the beach.
The food is tasty as far as hotel standards goes and the staff were thoughtful enough to accommodate our special request of having no meats in our Tom Jued soup for the little one. The buffet breakfast was also a solid outing of Thai and Western cuisine with a very busy egg station.
Koh Lipe was a much more relaxing affair than our previous island escapes like all-out snorkeling in Perhentian and cliff-diving in Boracay and I am actually glad for it. Although it was quite a hassle to reach the island’s pristine shores, everyone really enjoyed their four days stay without any particular itinerary or must-go places to visit.
Sometimes all we need on our travels is to do nothing.