If you are looking for a beautiful, relaxed island then…
Maya Bay is a beautiful little bay with a beach surrounded by limestone hills not far off from Koh Phi Phi Leh. Since the movie ‚The Beach‘ where Leonardo Di Caprio discovers this beautiful, hidden place Maya Bay no longer is a secret anymore and has been swammed by mass tourism in the recent years.
I remember that a while ago I saw a picture of Maya Bay where the entire beach was full of tourists and in fact with all the people you couldn’t even see the sand anymore.
When I was planning my trip to Thailand it was clear to me that I wanted to see Maya Bay myself, to experience this magical place and to take photographs but without the crowds.
The question was how?
When arriving on Koh Phi Phi I went to a travel agency and had a look at the tours they offer. Most start around noon and also visit other islands like Bamboo island, Monkey island and Pileh Lagoon and include food, water and snorkeling. Prices for that tour are around 400 Baht. Not to bad.
Still this tour was going to take place when all the other tours would take place too. There are even boats coming all the way from Phuket to Maya Bay for a day trip so you probably can imagine how busy it gets during the day. Another problem was that when the sun is high up it really is not the best time for taking pictures.
I had to look for an alternative.
I checked when the sun was rising. That is around 6.30-7 am depending on the time of the year.
As ‚golden hour‘ either an hour after sunrise or before sunset is when you can take the best pictures the conclusion was that I had to get up with the sun to go to Maya Bay.
It is possible to charter a private long tail boat for around 1800-2200 Baht. That is usually for a tour of 4 hours taking you to the same places as the big tour companies however you are more flexible and can tell your boat driver where to go first and how long you would like to stay.
I understand that if you are traveling solo and on a budget you might not want to spend 2000 Baht. However I can recommend you to find some other people that would like to join. The tourism agencies usually will say that this tour is only for two people, however in the end we were are a group of four people from the same hostel.
For our tour we payed 2100 Baht, that is 525 Baht per person. So in fact you will almost pay the same as with the big tours.
We met up in the morning at the pier at 6.45 am. As we went out the night before everyone was pretty tired but I told them that it will be worth it.
It took around 30 minutes until we reached Maya Bay and to my relief there were only a handful other long tail boats and the beach was empty.
We walked around a little bit in order to explore Maya Bay before the crowds arrive. When we arrived the sun was still behind the rocks but at around 7.30 am the sun was high enough.
This was clearly the best time to take photos. The light was perfect and the beach still empty besides a few other people. The long tail boats in the crystal clear water against the massive limestone rocks make the perfect setting for a good holiday snap.
Around half an hour later at 8 am it was getting busier and one boat after the others was coming in. It was still nothing compared to the crowds that come in the afternoon but we were happy that we got our shots already and could relax on the beach and go for a swim while others were just starting to take their selfies.
As it was getting more busy we told our driver to take us to the other spots which then also were relatively empty.
So yeah, it is true ‚The early bird catches the worm‘.
Later I also found out that it is possible to book excursions where you can stay the night in Maya Bay and either camp on the beach or sleep on a boat.
So here again is a summary of my tips on how to see Maya Bay without the crowds:
Charter a private long tail boat (1800-2200 Baht for 4 hours), go with a small group so you can split the costs
Go as early as possible. Best time to start the tour is at sunrise
Tell the boat driver to head to Maya Bay first and do the other things afterwards
Best time for photos at Maya Bay: 7.30 am as the sun then shines on the beach
Be quick taking your photos. Do that first and then you can relax when it is getting more busy
Have you visited Maya Bay before? What was your experience?