A Trio standing at the waters edge of Maya Bay.

Chances are, when you think of Maya Bay in Thailand, crystal-clear water, limestone cliffs, and soft white sand come to mind. But this picture-perfect beach is one of the most famous locations in South East Asia because of the movie/the book “The Beach.” And with popularity come mass crowds, environmental concerns, and questions about sustainable tourism. So, is Maya Bay worth visiting?

Actor Leonardo Dicaprio and author Alex Garland have inspired thousands of people to travel to Thailand and discover the beauty of “the beach”.

I visited Maya Bay in May 2022, after a four-year closure period to help restore the ecosystem. And although there were strict rules in place, like no swimming, it was a stunning piece of paradise. 

This guide will help you decide if Maya Bay is worth visiting. I will be taking a deeper dive into Thailand’s push to create sustainable tourism, how the restoration project has been going, how you can visit the beach, the opening periods, the rules, and more.

Is Maya Bay Worth visiting?

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Is Maya Bay open in 2024? 

Wooden sign on the beach saying welcome to Maya Bay.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation announced that Maya Bay will be open to tourists between 23rd October 2023 and 30th July 2024. 

After this date, the bay will be closed for a two-month period to observe and analyse the damage from the season. 

The updated National Parks Plan includes this measure to protect the revived marine ecosystem.

After this recovery period, Maya Bay will reopen to tourists roughly around the same date as before. 

Why did Maya Bay close? 

Maya Bay became one of the most famous beaches in South East Asia, seeing over 5,000 tourists a day. 

And as you can imagine, 5,000 tourists a day over an 18-year span is going to cause a lot of damage.  

The Thai government decided to shut down Maya Bay in 2018 as overtourism had completely destroyed the environment. 

The National Park remained closed for four years to try to revive the reef and welcome back marine life. Since the closure, Maya Bay’s waters have recovered, and now there are resident reef sharks!

After this four-year closure, Maya Bay welcomed back tourists for a trial period of six months before closing again and accessing the damage. 

It has now been over two years since the re-opening and with the new rules and the area being closely monitored by the Department of National Parks, Maya Bay’s sustainable tourism is on the rise. 

Maya Bay from viewing platform with grass plants in the foreground then sand, torquoise waters and limestone cliffs with moss growing on them.

Is Maya Bay a national park? 

Maya Bay is not a national park, but it is part of the Hat Noppharat Thara – Phi Phi National Park. 

The National Park covers six islands: Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh (where Maya Bay is found), Koh Mai Pai, Koh Yung, Koh Lana, and Bamboo Island. 

That is why you need to pay 400 THB (£8.50) to visit this once-hidden cove. Most tours will have this price included in the ticket, but if you are hiring a private longboat you will need to pay this cost when you dock. 

Is Maya Bay open for swimming?

After the initial opening in January 2022, new rules were put in place to try and protect Maya Bay’s marine life. 

Therefore, after careful consideration, the Department of National Parks banned swimming in Maya Bay. 

You can still go into the water and paddle, with knee height being the limit. 

They do have park rangers on the beach to stop anything further. 

Girl standing in the shallow waters of Maya Bay with Limestone cliffs in front of her.

Maya Bay, Thailand, rules and regulations

In order to help restore Maya Bay to the beach it once was, please follow these rules when visiting: 

  • You can no longer swim in Maya Bay. Please do not go higher than knee deep. 
  • Please wear reef-safe sunscreen.
  • No collecting of seashells or creatures is permitted.

In an effort to limit the number of visitors, tour companies have a cap on how many customers they can bring.

The Department of National Parks in Thailand has capped the number of visitors to 300 per hour. This still seems like a lot, but prior to the closure, Maya Bay was seeing over 5000 people a day. 

To ensure the safety of the bay’s ecosystem, other measures have been implemented, such as a boardwalk designed to stop further sand erosion, boats docking at a specific pier away from the bay to help the coral thrive, and building a new tourist infrastructure. 

What is sustainable tourism?

In brief, sustainable tourism is about travelling in a way that protects the planet and the people on it. When travelling sustainably, you consider the environmental and social impacts it has. 

Travelling sustainably is a lot easier than people think. If you support local businesses, minimise your waste, respect the cultures you travel through, and leave no trace, then you are halfway there! 

My lovely friend and mentor, Bucketlist Bri, has a great article on 9 ways to travel more sustainably. I highly recommend you give it a read.

How to get to Maya Bay

As Maya Bay is a tourist hotspot, there are different locations you can start your journey from. Personally, I think the best option is to stay on Koh Phi Phi Island and travel from there

How to get to Maya Bay from Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Don is located 40 minutes from the island of Phi Phi Leh (which is where Maya Bay is). 

The most popular way to get to Maya Bay from Koh Phi Phi is on an organised tour. 

These tours take you to Maya Bay and other coves around Phi Phi Leh island. 

If you want to see the beach with fewer people, then I suggest getting some friends together and hiring a private long-tail boat for the day. 

This is super easy to do, but it will cost more. Go down to the harbour and start negotiating with some boat drivers about a rate to go early and other spots you want to see. 

If you fancy having Maya Bay to yourself and sleeping under the stars, you might want to look into Maya Bay Tours. This trip gets you on the beach for sunset and sunrise after all the tourists have gone home. 

Girl sitting at the front of a longtail boat  surrounded by limestone cliffs and green lagoon water.

How to get to Maya Bay from Phuket

The easiest way to get to Maya Bay from Phuket is to book an organised day tour

The distance between Phuket and Maya Bay is roughly an hour and a half by speedboat. 

These tours will also include other spots around Koh Phi Phi. 

If you would rather not go with a tour company, you can get a ferry from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Don and then hire a boat when you arrive on the island to take you to Maya Bay. 

This will take more organising and might cost you the same amount as a day tour with less reward. 

How to get to Maya Bay from Krabi 

Similar to Phuket, you can either get an organised tour from Krabi to Maya Bay or you can take a ferry to Phi Phi and find an alternative route. 

If your itinerary allows it, I would add Koh Phi Phi to your list of places to visit. This will allow you to make easier arrangements to see Maya Bay and discover other parts of the island. 

What to do at Maya Bay

On Maya Bay Beach itself, there isn’t much to do apart from paddle and enjoy the breathtaking views. 

From the boat pier, you take a 10-minute walk to get to the bay. This is a really pleasant little journey through the jungle. There are public bathrooms and a little food stall along the way. 

The walk is on a wooden boardwalk to protect the island’s restored ecosystem. 

If you are on an organised tour, you will stop at other places on Phi Phi Leh, like Viking Caves and Phi Leh Lagoon. 

Girl siting on the sand in Maya Bay. Limestone cliffs in the background.

How much does it cost to go on Maya Bay?

If you have decided to do an independent trip to Maya Bay, you will need to pay the pierman 400 thb (£8.50).

This entrance fee gets you one hour of time on the famous beach. 

If you go on an organised tour, the National Park fee is usually included in the price. 

The best tours to Maya Bay from Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, and Krabi 

Each tour has a similar outline, with Maya Bay being the main focal point. 

While speedboats are a quicker way of transportation, longtail boats are a more enriching experience for exploring Maya Bay. 

Their gentle pace allows you to soak up the stunning scenery and enjoy the natural sounds of nature. 

Our longtail boat did break down three times, but that is beside the point. 😂 we still managed to get to all the destinations.

Be transported from Koh Phi Phi to Maya Bay in a traditional longtail boat. This is the best kind of tour, as not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but you also get to see Maya Bay and other beautiful snorkelling spots around Phi Phi Leh.

Admire the turquoise waters of Pileh Lagoon, discover Bamboo Island, stop outside the Viking Cave, see the cheeky monkeys at Monkey Beach, swim with bioluminescent plankton, and more.

Book your Longtail boat tour from Koh Phi Phi here

⏳ Between 3 and 7 hours depending on which package. 💰 Between £58 to £170

Experience the beauty of the Phi Phi Islands on a speedboat cruise from Phuket. Along the way, you will discover Maya Bay, get to view the Viking Cave, eat a delicious buffet lunch, take a dip in Pileh Lagoon, snorkel on the heart-shaped Bamboo Island, and more.

Book your speedboat from Phuket here

⏳ 8 hours 💰 £45

Explore Phi Phi and four other islands on this boat tour from Krabi. Visit the famous Maya Bay, along with Monkey Bay, Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave. Snorkel, swim, and relax with a sunset at Tup or Poda Island to top it off.

Where to stay on Koh Phi Phi 

Koh Phi Phi is a small island, but boy does it have charisma! 

This tropical island has longtail boats parked along the water’s edge, stunning hikes overlooking the whole island, a party scene with cheap and tasty cocktails, and, my favourite part, no vehicles. 

Koh Phi Phi Accommodation has something for everyone’s budget. There are hostels, hotels, guesthouses, and bungalows. To help you choose the best experience for you, I have compiled a list of budget-friendly options. 

A great hostel for solo travellers: Dormsin

I stayed here and made some wonderful friends. It is a room of 20 beds, but as they are cubicles, you cannot hear the people around you. 

Cublicle bunk in Dormsin with towel.

A great hostel for partying: Ibiza House Pool Party 

This hostel is party central; they host the biggest pool parties on the island, and by staying there, you get a free ticket to go. 

Good all-round hostel: Voyagers Hostel

This hostel is not a party hostel, but it is a social hostel with common areas to chill and relax, and it is only a 10 minute walk from the main pier. 

Paradise Pearl Bungalows is located a few steps from Long Beach and less than 1 km from Loh Moo Dee Beach. This is the perfect budget-friendly accommodation for couples. 

Phi Phi Villa Resort is a beachfront hotel with affordable rooms overlooking the ocean and their tropical gardens. With breakfast included, this is a great place to stay. 

If you are looking for a stay a little more upmarket, check out Zeavola Barefoot Resort

Nestled within the jungle, this charming resort offers a unique Thai village experience, all while maintaining the indulgence of beachfront luxury.

Jungle Treehouse Zeavola Resort.
Zeavola Resort pc Booking.com

So, is Maya Bay worth visiting? 

Honestly, yes and no. Maya Bay is a beautiful, picture-perfect beach. 

The stunning turquoise waters and the tall limestone cliffs make this bay a Thailand postcard. 

But with fame comes a price, and that price is mass crowds, litter, and a weak ecosystem. 

I do applaud Thailand for giving Maya Bay a four-year restoration period to recover, and the measures they have put in place have healed the beach. 

But 3,000 people a day is still an extremely big strain on one place. 

I visited in 2022, 5 months after the reopening date, and I didn’t feel like it was overcrowded. However, I did go in May, which is out of season. 

The small crowd at Maya Bay beachfront.

I think if you have the time, visit and stay on Koh Phi Phi and do a day trip from there. That way, you can contribute to the local businesses and see the other amazing places this island has to offer, as well as Maya Bay. 

If you do not have time to visit Maya Bay, there are other insanely stunning beaches that are just as good, if not better. 

Final Thoughts 

In summary, Maya Bay is an incredibly stunning beach. The pristine white sand, the crystal-clear water, and the towering limestone cliffs are the images we all conjure up when thinking of exploring Thailand. 

And with the Department of National Parks raising awareness about responsible tourism by creating boardwalks, stopping swimming, and putting money into keeping the famous beach beautiful, it does make you want to visit that little bit more. 

As always, happy exploring!

Explore with Holly

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