The Phi Phi Islands in Thailand are famous! And for a reason. They’re some of the most beautiful islands in Thailand and are very well known for being the filming location for movies like ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Because they’re so popular, it can be very expensive to get a hotel on one of the Phi Phi Islands and also charter a boat or purchase a ticket with a tour company to take you to all the islands. We really wanted to go but didn’t want to shell out 100’s of dollars. So I did some research and found a way to experience everything they have to offer without having to pay an arm and a leg. The answer? A Phi Phi Islands budget snorkeling day from Phuket!
Where To Stay:
A more affordable alternative to the Phi Phi Islands is Phuket. It’s very close by and you can hop on a ferry to head over to the islands or do a tour. We decided to stay in an area called Patong Beach because we heard it had a lot of great restaurants and beaches. Patong Beach has many affordable and great hotels as well.
We stayed at Park Eden Hotel which was $29/night. We had a room to ourselves with our own bathroom and the hottest water we had the whole time in Thailand. The room also had a king bed which was the biggest bed we had during our 2 weeks in Thailand.
It was located 5 minutes away from an amazing outside market – Malin Market. There were food stalls set up with fresh seafood and other authentic Thai foods. We ate here every day and everything was delicious and super cheap! If you’re headed to Patong, definitely check out this market!
Patong Beach, in general, wasn’t our favorite area to stay. It was super touristy, food and drinks were overpriced for Thailand, and it’s more of a party scene. The beach during the day is very lively. And at night there’s the famous Bangla Road where there are tons of bars, dancing, drinks, and street food every few steps.
It’s similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok (but we liked Bangkok more 😋). It’s also VERY far away from the airport. To get there we had to take a bus to another bus and then walk for 20 minutes. It took us 3 hours in total. The hotel does offer an airport shuttle at 250 baht/person.
TRAVEL TIP: I have heard that Phuket is amazing the more south you go. So if you’re looking for something a little less touristy, I would head down there.
The company we used for our Phi Phi Islands budget snorkeling day was Phuket Sail Tours. They have a couple different tours you can do but we decided to do the Phi Phi Island by Speed Boat Tour. We decided to book it on Valentine’s Day to be #romantic, you know. 😋
It ended up being one of the most amazing days during our entire trip to Thailand (tied with the elephants in Chiang Mai 😉). Here’s a little review of our day:
Phi Phi Islands Budget Snorkeling Day:
They picked us up at our hotel in Patong Beach at 6:10 am. Phuket Sail Tours only include a complimentary pickup/drop off if you’re staying in one of the main hotel areas. They are Patong, Karon, Kata, Kamala, Surin, Bang Tao and Cherng Talay. TRAVEL TIP: Make sure you’re ready and waiting in the lobby by 6:10 am or they WILL leave you.
Once we got to their office they provided a quick breakfast with coffee, told us about our day, introduced us to our tour guide, and then we headed to the boat.
The first stop of the day was the enchanting Pileh Lagoon. This was a gorgeous spot where they anchored the boat and we were able to jump off and swim in the super inviting water. We got lucky and attracted the attention of a hungry little monkey while we were there. Our tour guides threw us some bananas and the monkey came right up to us to get them. SO cool! 😀
Then we headed to Maya Bay. This is the location of the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. It was a fantastic picture perfect location and we got some stunning photos with the beautiful scenery at Lo Sama Bay and the authentic long tail boats.
Seriously, I’m blowing these up and hanging them on a wall in my future tiny house. (PS: Who else is obsessed with tiny houses?! 🙋🏻) We were there for about 30 minutes, taking pictures, checking out the views, and walking around the little island.
Next up was snorkeling! We headed to Koh Phi Phi Le, grabbed our flippers and masks (provided by the tour company) and jumped into the cool water! There were sooo many beautiful tropical fish to gawk at and we had a great time searching for some reef sharks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any but our tour guide tried his hardest to find one for us!
On the way to lunch, we passed by the famous Viking Cave. This cave used to be inhabited by seafarers, fishermen, and pirates. Arg. ⚓️ It’s now preserved for the bird’s nest collection industry. Bird’s nests are made from the saliva of swallows and are an old ingredient used in Chinese medicine and cuisine. It’s believed that they increase longevity, promote beauty, and help with fertility.
Lunch was on Koh Phi Phi Don, one of the main islands. They set up a table for us at a restaurant right on the water and we enjoyed an amazing meal full of soups, salads, curries, and vegetables served family style with the rest of our group. We then had about 20 minutes to wander around the shops and sites on the island.
Next stop was a small beach where we saw the crab-eating macaques (AKA crab-eating monkeys 🐒) We couldn’t go ashore here because the monkeys can be kind of aggressive so we pulled our boat right up to the small island and watched them from below while throwing them bananas.
Our last stop was the spectacular and undeveloped Bamboo Island. Here we were able to snorkel some more and hang out on the gorgeous white sand beach. There was also a private area a short walk away that my fiancé and I snuck off to. We relaxed on the sand and get lost in the most remarkable views we have ever seen.
Another hour boat ride and we were back at the pier by 4:00 pm. We then got back onto our bus and were dropped back off at the hotel in Patong Beach by 5 pm.
This was one of the best days during the entire trip and we feel so fortunate and grateful that we were able to take part in this amazing tour. They literally thought of everything!
We had unlimited water and soft drinks the whole day. We had snacks at all times on the boat which consisted of desserts and fruits. They gave us bamboo blankets for hanging out on the beach and waterproof bags to hide our phones and cameras in so they wouldn’t get wet as we were going on and off the boat.
Phuket Sail Tours also start way earlier than all the rest of the tour groups. They do this to ensure that they avoid all the heavy crowds and we would have an enjoyable day free from the crazy flocks of tourists. And they definitely live up to this promise. Every single time we were leaving a location, a thousand boats would show up. They also don’t overcrowd the boats as I heard some of the other companies do. Our group was small.
One of the best aspects of this tour was our tour guide and the crew. They were absolutely amazing and really made the trip that much better! The tour guide was fun, knowledgeable, and truly wanted us to have the best day possible.
He told us the history of the tragic tsunami that destroyed this area in 2004, he made jokes about the guys who eat bird’s nest soup hoping it will help them in bed, he snorkeled and tried to find reef sharks and Nemo’s for us to see, and he handed me a band-aid when I cut my foot on a coral. A superhero in my book! He cared so much about giving us the best experience we could possibly have.
The whole day cost 3,900 Baht/person which is about $115. Staying on one of the islands for a couple days would have cost more than this and it wouldn’t even include a tour! Staying in Phuket and doing a one-way trip is definitely the way to go if you are on a budget.
If you want to be even more frugal, there are even cheaper tour companies than this one. But honestly, this one is the best! To book, follow the directions on this page. There is a deposit that you must pay beforehand and then the rest is paid in cash when you get there.
What to Wear:
Make sure to wear a bathing suit and a cute cover-up on your Phi Phi Islands budget snorkeling day. The majority of the day you will be in the water snorkeling or at beaches soaking up the sun and views. If you burn easily, you should also consider bringing a shirt or a rash guard to put on over your bathing suit while snorkeling. Funny enough, I got burned on my butt cheeks! Oops. 😂
Shop my Snorkeling Day Style Must-Haves:
Other important things to bring:
- Sandals (that you don’t mind getting wet)
- Bug Spray
And that was our time in Phuket and our super amazing Phi Phi Islands budget snorkeling day. Have you guys ever been on a snorkeling trip? Let me know in the comments!