Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Le, was the film set for The Beach, but the sweeping sandy crescent at Ao Lo Dalom (ao means “bay”), on Phi Phi Don, actually has more beach frontage (and more tourist distractions), palm trees, warm blue water, and sheer cliffs form one of the most dramatic backdrops in the island world. You can’t help but give in to a beach state of mind here.
The visibility can be limited, and the coral reefs are not as pristine as some, but nearly a dozen dive centers in Phi Phi Don attest to the presence of reefs (particularly at Hat Yao, near the southeastern end of the Phi Phi Don), walls, caves – and occasional whale sharks – that keep most divers happy. Even dive operators from Phuket and Krabi run trips here. If you prefer to snorkel, the view’s not bad either: The vast lagoons are home to such creatures as sea whips, bannerfish, and the venomous crown-of-thorns starfish.
You can rent kayaks along most of Phi Phi Don’s main beach, but a better bet may be to sign up for a daylong kayaking tour to Phi Phi Le. You’ll get a local’s insight, plenty of snorkeling time, and the chance to paddle with – or swim beside – benign black-tip reef sharks.