Koh Lipe is a small island in the southern part of the Andaman Sea. It is located in Satun province, close to Langkawi Island (Malaysia), about 60 km from the mainland. Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, a large group of over 70 islands, and also part of a small cluster of islands called Butang Islands or Adang archipelago. Koh Lipe is famous for its diving and snorkeling, and for the beautiful beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere.
The quickest route from Bangkok is to fly to Hat Yai, and then travel from there to Pak Barra, which has daily ferries to Koh Lipe, all year round. There is also a daily flight with AirAsia from Chiang Mai to Hat Yai, flight time approximately two hours. From Hat Yai to Pak Barra you must expect a drive of about two hours.
Tarutao National Marine Park’s history dates back to 1939 when a prison was built on Tarutao Island. During World War II, due to lack of supplies, both prisoners and guards were a much feared group of pirates. After the war, the British Navy forces restored law and order and the authorities closed the prison. Villagers from neighboring provinces settled on Tarutao Island to grow rice, fruit, and rubber. In 1972 the area was declared as a National Park, and most settlers left the area. Most Sea Gypsies, the original inhabitants of the waters of the Andaman Sea, moving from beach to beach depending on season and availability of food, have permanently settled, and a small group lives on Koh Lipe.
On Koh Lipe there are 4 major beaches and a few smaller bays: Pattaya, Sunrise, Sunset, and Karma Beach. Private beaches include Sanom, and Bila Beach.
All beaches are linked by paths and it takes about an hour or two to walk the entire island.
The local inhabitants, Chao Ley, primarily earn their living from the sea. Though, the recent boom in tourism has changed this a bit, and so some have opened restaurants serving local food, or organizing boat trips and taxi services.
There are more than 600 bungalows on Koh Lipe, ranging from tents on the beach to the more outstanding with panoramic views.
There are no cars, and only a limited amount of motorcycles. Koh Lipe village has a new school, lots of new shops, and some fantastic local restaurants.
Koh Lipe’s main beach is a large sheltered bay with soft powdery sand, crystal blue water, and good snorkeling directly from the beach. There is a wide range of accommodation on Pattaya Beach, and there are dozens of bars and restaurants on the beach or around the corner in Walking Street. In high season this beach can get quite busy, but the other beaches are only a short 15 minute walk away, so it’s still relatively easy to escape.
Sunrise Beach (Hat Chao Ley)
Sunrise Beach is a long stretch of white sandy beach. It is protected from the monsoon weather in low season, and has a pleasant breeze on most days during the peak season. The school, hospital, and a small Chao Ley village is located here. Accommodation is more spread out than at Pattaya Beach, and there are still a few cheap places around, but several nice places have opened over the last few years too. There are a few small restaurants and shops in Sunrise Beach, and there is between 5 and 15 minutes to Walking Street, and the other beaches.
Sunset Beach (Hat Pramong)
Sunset Beach is a small bay overlooking Butang Islands to the west, making Sunset Beach a great place for watching the sunset. The area around Sunset Beach is the most calm and relaxed on Koh Lipe, with very few places to stay, and all of them have been able to maintain the sense of “old Lipe”. Accommodation ranges from basic huts on the beach to rustic and private bungalows situated in the shady jungle. There are no fancy places to stay in the area, however, there are a few good places to eat, and from this beach there is only a 10 to 15 minutes’ walk to Walking Street and the other beaches.
In addition to the restaurant at your resort, Koh Lipe has plenty of other opportunities for culinary delights, all within a short walking distance.
Many places bring out their Seafood Grill at night, and the supply is endless. Here are a few places with a good reputation that has been around for many years: Mellow Mango, and Monkey BBQ on Pattaya Beach, Hantalay Seafood, and Mama Seafood in Walking Street.
Although almost every restaurant on Koh Lipe serves Thai food, there are a few places that stand out, and have become a favorite of both locals and tourists.
The best Penang and Massaman Curry can be enjoyed at Jack’s Jungle, a cozy family-run place tucked away in the jungle near Sunset Beach. If curries are not your favorite, there is also a wide selection of traditional Thai food. Also, try Jack’s Fried Chicken and Shrimp Tempura! There are only 24 seats, and Jack’s is a popular place.
Nee’s (end of Walking Street) serves Northern Style Street Food: Fried Chicken, Spicy Papaya Salad (Som Tam) and spicy chicken or pork salad (Larb Gai or Larb Moo). A real local favorite!
Raklay Restaurant (Walking Street – 100 meters from Pattaya Beach) serves traditional Thai food at a great price, and the grill is good too!
If you’ve had enough rice for a day, there are several alternatives on Koh Lipe: Spider Monkey (Walking Street – 100 meters from Pattaya Beach) has a large selection of western favorites: Toasties, pizza, salads, pasta, and more. Bundhaya Restaurant (east end of Pattaya Beach) also has a large selection of western items like salads, steaks, pizza, and such.