Mr Hudson on Koh Lipe, Thailand’s secret island paradise

Mr Hudson on Koh Lipe, Thailand’s secret island paradise

Casey Siemasko

With glassy turquoise water, powdery white sand, and peaceful palm-fringed beaches, one visit to the island of Koh Lipe is all it takes to fall hopelessly in love with Thailand.

Thailand’s southernmost island, Koh Lipe has managed to remain a hidden gem, successfully avoiding the notorious overdevelopment and full moon parties prevalent on other renowned Thai islands. As a result, you won’t find sprawling resorts, trendy discotheques or cookie-cutter designer stores on Koh Lipe. However, you will discover understated luxury, friendly locals, world-class snorkelling and picture-perfect beaches—or, as we like to think of it, pure paradise.

Koh Lipe is part of a group of islands that comprise the Tarutao National Marine Park; the nine islands surrounding Koh Lipe (which constitute the Adang Archipelago) are all uninhabited. This unique location makes it easy to feel utterly secluded, especially while wandering Koh Lipe’s idyllic sandy slivers. Head beneath the aquamarine sea and encounter a kaleidoscope of colours, full of brilliant coral, tropical fish, and breath-taking underwater landscapes.

Sweet dreams

Koh Lipe might be one of Thailand’s best-kept secrets, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to sacrifice on style while you’re there. Idyllic Concept Resort is one of the island’s most sophisticated choices. Hidden away on a corner of Sunrise Beach, the resort offers both utter seclusion and easy access to restaurants and bars. Splurge on one of the contemporary beach bungalows, which feature modern design and unparalleled views of the gentle, lapping waves. Another fantastic choice on Sunrise Beach is Ten Moons Lipe Resort. With only 15 bungalows, all of which feature sea views. The private setting and first-class service promise an excellent base for your escape to paradise.

On Pattaya Beach, the best accommodation option is easily the Mali Resort. Here you’ll find romantic Balinese-style villas, excellent snorkelling just offshore, and mouth-watering cuisine and cocktails.

The perfect day on Koh Lipe

With such spectacular marine life, it’s hardly any surprise that snorkelling and scuba diving are two of the primary attractions on the island. You don’t have to go far to discover fantastic coral and fish. Grab a mask and snorkel and wade straight into the calm water right off the shore, where you can then gently float and observe the underwater world for as long as your heart desires. Alternatively, hire a local fisherman to take you on a traditional Thai long boat to one of the surrounding islands and coral reefs.

Sunset Beach | Photo: Dan Moore

Sunset Beach | Photo: Dan Moore

For scuba divers, there are numerous dive shops across the island that can bring you on a large variety of thrilling dives. Turtles, coral cat sharks, soft coral reefs, seahorses, and clown fish darting in and out of the anemone are a few of the star attractions. For the best visibility, plan your dive vacation between October and May.

Aside from diving, there’s not a whole lot to do on Koh Lipe. But of course, that’s part of the island’s undeniable charm. Most travellers opt to while away the day on one of Koh Lipe’s sleepy beaches: Pattaya, Sunrise or Sunset. Pattaya tends to have the most action of the three beaches, as it’s where the longboats shuttle people to and from the floating dock just offshore. Sunset is the epitome of serene seclusion, with hidden coves and a few fantastic boutique accommodation options. Our preference is Sunrise Beach, where a small number of laid-back beach bars offer the perfect spot to sip on a happy hour cocktail with your toes between the silky sand. Here you can stay in a bungalow just feet from the water and enjoy the beach’s legendary sunrises from the comfort of your bed.

Should you tire of swinging in your hammock or cooling off with dips in the idyllic water, try renting a kayak. There are heaps of concealed coves that beckon for exploration all around the island. Or, for a more rigorous adventure, hire a longboat to take you to the nearby island of Koh Adang. This island and National Park is a haven for lush nature and wildlife. The Chadoe Cliff is perhaps the island’s most renowned attraction. Conquer the cliff’s steep trails and you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Koh Lipe, along with nearby Koh Rawi and Koh Tarutao

When the sun sets behind the sea, head out to the beach to enjoy freshly caught fish and seafood. Most restaurants will set up plastic chairs and tables on the sand so you can enjoy your meal underneath the stars. The setting might be simple, but the food is sensational. You can’t go wrong with the jumbo prawns marinated in garlic and grilled right in front of you. Top it off with homemade coconut ice cream from one of the many local vendors.

Getting to and around Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is small in size, and it’s easy to walk from end to end in under a half hour. Due to this, there are few vehicles on the island, though moto-taxis are available to shuttle you to your destination in just a few moments if necessary. Walking Street is, as it sounds, the island’s main street. The paved road is the quickest way from Sunrise to Pattaya and lined with small restaurants, shops, and bars. Walking Street can be stifling hot during the day, but in the early evening, the path is a pleasant place to amble while stopping for a traditional Thai tea in one of the many quaint coffee shops.

Most ferries and speedboats depart from Pak Bara; this is the only way to arrive at Koh Lipe year round. During high season, it is possible to take a boat from the nearby islands of Langkawi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.

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