Ko Lipe used to be one of Thailand's most gorgeous hidden treasures. While it's still breathtaking, it's certainly not hidden anymore. With a small community of approximately 700 chow lair or sea gypsies this region is doing its best to maintain the beauty of its culture and beaches. The rapid development has seen additions of concrete cafes and travel agencies. There are still rich, cultural gems to find in Ko Lipe you just have to be willing to wander.
Unfortunately the huge boom in visitors has resulted in water shortages and waste disposal issues. Don't be surprised when you see garbage being burned. This is one of the only options on the island. You can help, however! During your visit many restaurants and bars will refill used plastic, reusable water bottles for free (or at least very little cost). Keep your eyes open for places with white water jugs or standard water dispensers.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Most visitors to Ko Lipe are really looking to see nothing more than a coastline, some white sand between their toes and a fruity drink in their hand. Ko Lipe is perfect for that. Clear, shallow water graces the coasts of the four main beaches on the island. Pattaya Beach is in the south and is also home to one of the island's only nightclubs. Sunrise Beach is on the east coast near the chow lair village. Karma Beach is in the north facing the Adang/Lipe channel, and Sunset Beach is in the west for the best views of - what else - the sunset.
A quick word of warning if you want to dip your toes in the sand, you may want to keep your shoes on. Stonefish have been spotted in the waters here. While it is a slim chance, the stonefish sting is extremely painful and potentially lethal. Best to just keep your toes covered for your dip.
If you are so inclined to pay your respects to the Thai culture, there is a small Buddhist temple in the center of the island.
You may be inclined to take a relaxing fishing trip, but remember fishing is illegal in Ko Lipe. Do not join any trips, and do not buy any locally caught fish.
A very popular, and very legal activity, though, is diving. The reefs around Ko Lipe are mostly intact since the 2004 tsunami. Some of the best reefs in Thailand are easily accessible from Ko Lipe. The 8 Mile Rock is a challenge for even experienced divers given the currents, but the underwater critters and birds that feed here are magnificent.
The Hin Takorn Dukong is a spectacular reef that's home to every color and type of fish you can dream up. When you dive down you're met with granite stones shaped like building blocks that rise up like the spikes of a castle. Here you'll find hard and soft corals, several types of eel, squid, cuttlefish and sailfish.
If you're interested in more than fish, swim down to the Yong Hua Shipwreck. In 1996 this fish-factory ship caught fire and sank. Today, the shipwreck is covered in marine growth and gets visits form schools of fish all day. Watch out for strong currents, but enjoy the fascinating views.
Food and Dining
The majority of your hotels will serve food and drinks both western and Thai. However, if you're more interested in a more cultural experience, there are stand-alone restaurants on the island. Banana Leaf is a charming restaurant and bar. Its food is pretty average, but the drinks are cheap, and every night they play movies on a big projection screen.
The only fine dining restaurant on Ko Lipe is Capriccio. The Italian chef is known for serving local meats with good service for a good price.
For the most part, travelers can easily get around the island by foot. There are a handful of motorcycles around, but none are for rent. There are no cars on Ko Lipe, but long-tail boats will take you anywhere you'd like to go along the coast for a small fee. Small concrete paths link beaches so visitors can beach hop, and if you really need it, there are some motorcycle taxis that will take you around the island.