A nightlife guide to Koh Phi Phi island
Koh Phi Phi is one of the western islands of the Thai south. Peppering the waters of the Andaman Sea, it's actually a set of six separate islands that together form the greater Koh Phi Phi archipelago. However, most all visitors will focus on just one spot: the island of Koh Phi Phi Don. This curious H-shaped piece of land is the largest in the group, and also now one of the most legendary partying come beachside jewels in the entire of Southeast Asia!
It rises up from the deep blue-green hues of the Indian Ocean in a medley of rugged karst cliffs and jungle-dressed mountains. It has two distinct sides: a rocky western half that soars almost vertically from the sea, and a larger eastern side that's lower but still clad in dense forest. Between the two is the heart of the island, and the main town itself; lying on a flat sandbank and sandwiched amidst the bobbing longboats (the only way onto the island) of Ban Ton Sai and the wide bay of Loh Dalum.
It's here that you'll find the wealth of bars and clubs, beach shacks and drinkeries; here that the famed fire shows and al fresco dance parties erupt in the evenings; here that people can be found sipping Chang beers on the shore and watching the sunset while guzzling bucket cocktails. Lively and loud, hedonistic and sleepless, this central town of Koh Phi Phi Don is home to some of the best places to let loose in the Land of Smiles. In this guide we'll take a look at the top haunts and reveal the ins and outs of partying on this beautiful, beautiful isle.
Nightlife or daylife?
Before we get stuck into the nitty gritty of what clubs are the most raucous and wild, and which places draw the biggest crowds, it's worth setting something straight: Kho Phi Phi is pretty much sleepless. Yes, the days don't have the same thumping beach parties as the nights, and things really take off in the small hours, but you can pretty much rest assured that the bars will be buzzing whenever you decide it's high time for a Chang.
Beers or buckets?
Don't worry you won't be made to choose! Koh Phi Phi's bars are well-stocked with both beers and spirits and everything in between. But it's perhaps worth reiterating the warning you'll have no doubt read countless times on other nightlife guides. Namely, one too many bucket has been the downfall of many a backpacker. These things may taste sweet and powerless, but the concoction of whiskey and vodka and energy drink and a whole load of other add-ons really is anything but! Put simply: pace yourself with the buckets, or just be content to avoid them altogether. Chang is tasty, mind.
The top places to party on Phi Phi Island
Virtually all of the places to drink and dance on Phi Phi island are located in the central town of Ton Sai. This is sat on the small stretch of flat land that connects both haunches of the island, and is formed by a crisscrossing grid of dusty lanes and carless streets. Interestingly, the whole spot was heavily damaged during the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, which has led to rebuilding regulations limiting the size of new structures. That's the reason why most places here are just one or two floors high, and why there aren't many rooftop bars or big hotels on the island. There are, however, plenty of places to party, with everything from rough-and-ready rock bars to hippy-themed bamboo shacks on the shore. Check them out…
Apache Beach Bar
Although Apache Beach Bar has officially developed into a restaurant and set of guesthouses, it might be wise to not bed down here on the edge of Loh Dalum Bay – at least if you want to get a wink of sleep! Why? Well, because this conglomeration of bamboo and driftwood shacks, open areas covered in sand, and timber seating dressed in fairy lights and neon twinklers is one of the most hedonistic on the menu. Its parties go on well into the early hours, with the Thai sun often making an appearance over the karst mountains in the distance before the last revellers have retired. Buckets are the most popular tipple, and you can expect all the dangerous fire shows, acrobatic performances and debauchery of a Full Moon Party a la Koh Phangan.
Jordan's Irish Pub
On Koh Phi Phi island the rule rings true: No matter where you are in the world, you're never too far from an Irish bar! Jordan's is the answer in these parts; a two-storey drinking hole painted in dark green (obviously) right in the heart of the town. Drinks can be a little on the pricey side, and the clientele is never going to be local, but there's great scope for meeting and mingling with fellow backpackers (particularly those from the Emerald Isle), and even a chance to scrawl your own message on the graffiti-packed walls.
Carlito's Beach Bar
Carlito's is perhaps the single most popular place to party the night away on the south side of Koh Phi Phi island. Spilling out onto the sands in a medley of plastic tables and chairs from the eastern end of Ton Sai village, it's shrouded by the creeping vines and trees of the jungle. There are beautiful views of the bobbing longboats that crowd the harbour nearby, and more buckets and chilled Chang beers than you can shake a plate of pad Thai noodles at. There are also fire shows to enjoy every night of the week, and even early evening yoga classes – you know, if you fancy starting that party off with a downward dog or two.
Reggae Bar might just be the most famous nightlife spot on all of Phi Phi island. Known from the US to the UK, Australia to New Zealand for its rowdy evenings of Muay Thai boxing, the place erupts with chants and heckles, flying punches and stinging roundhouses in the evening. Pros kick (literally) things off with demonstrations of strength and a few technical sparring sessions. Then you get the main event, when intoxicated travellers are invited to try their hand in the ring against fellow – and usually equally as intoxicated – travellers. The results aren't always pretty, but the approach is undeniably unique. There's also a clutch of huge sports screens inside, if you are desperate to see that game…
Rolling Stoned Bar
With overtones of the hippie Thai north and a welcome infusion of the American alt rock scene, Rolling Stoned Bar blares out live music covers of Springsteen and Alice in Chains and other totems of the genre until the earliest hours of the day. As one of the longest lasting bars in Ton Sai, it’s understandably packed late, and folk will often only begin arriving after midnight, when they prefer a stiff whiskey and a bout of Bob Dylan to the continuous thump of the beachside techno bars.
If you're ready to delve into the bars and bucket-fuelled all-nighters of Koh Phi Phi Don, then be sure to check out our Treasures of Thailand or Western Islands and Jungle itineraries (and respective combos.) Alternatively, if you're already an expert on this partying hub in the Andaman and think you've got any more tips about the nightlife there, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below…