Koh Lipe, a small island in the Andaman Sea, is a little gem 60 km off the coast inside the Tarutao National Marine Park. Koh Lipe has become the southern anchor of the busy north-south Andaman tourist route and getting there these days couldn’t be easier with boats arriving from all up and down the coast including Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Krabi and Trang. Koh Lipe is also the jumping off point to Langkawi and Malaysia.

At its largest the island is only 2 km long and 1 km wide. With 2 main beaches each with their own distinct character, there is something for everyone. The busy one, Pattaya beach has a wide beach stretched in a long crescent of fine white sand. In the evening it transforms as restaurants and bars set out chairs and bamboo mats on the sand and lit by candle lit, reggae tunes drift down the beach.

On the other side of the island is Sunrise Beach with views of several small nearby islands and a cool onshore breeze most of the year. Sunrise Beach is the opposite of Pattaya beach, with just a few resorts and bars, it is very laid back. It also has a very large coral reef with the best snorkelling on the island directly from the beach.

There are no cars on the island, and thankfully few motorbikes so people get around by walking. The whole island can be explored on foot in a couple of hours. Pooh’s Bar in the middle of the island is run by the charismatic Pooh and is almost an institution on the island. Famous for its live music in the evenings it draws a large crowd.

Karma Bar at the north end of Sunrise Beach is well known on the back packer scene with its mellow music and great location. At the other end of Sunrise beach is Castaway Resort. Castaway Resort has stunning sea and island views which viewed from its raised candle lit deck has to be the ultimate in chilled out dining and drinking.

Tarutao National Marine Park has some of the best dive sites in all of Thailand. Within easy boat reach of Koh Lipe are hundreds of coral reefs with an amazing variety of huge hard and soft corals. The corals and seas around Koh Lipe are full of marine life, offering everything from turtles to huge rays. Even if you aren’t a diver you can enjoy the marine world drifting along the edges of coral reefs with a mask and snorkel. Compared to other dive and snorkel areas there is so much to see and no competition to see it.

Koh Lipe still has a lot of cheap backpackers accommodation, with places like Varin offering simple bamboo huts close to the beach. At the top end is Sita Beach with a swimming pool and Castaway Resort with its 2 story breezy bungalows which was described by the Lonely Planet as ‘the most chic on Lipe’.

Tips for Travellers:

* If you are travelling from Hat Yai, be in Pak Bara before 11 am to catch the speed boat.
* If you are travelling from Langkawi the boat journey is shorter and there is a small efficient immigration on Koh Lipe.
* There are no ATM’s on the island so make sure you bring enough cash for your stay, and then double it as you’ll end up deciding to stay longer!
* Varin 2 on Sunrise beach has the newest and cheapest bamboo bungalow huts.
* Castaway resorts has the chicest accommodation. See photos of Castaway resorts at www.flickr.com/photos/castawayresorts/
* For great hotels on nearby Koh Samui and in other Thai cities, visit Hotels Combined.

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