Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful bay that's sheltered by 100-metre high cliffs on three sides. Inside the bay there are several beaches, most are small and some only exist at low tide. The main one is around 200 metres long with silky soft white sand, underwater colourful coral and exotic fish in exceptionally clear water; the whole bay is one big reef.
Maya Bay has become the main tourist attraction of Phi Phi since The Beach was filmed here in 1999. It was always very popular before the film but now people around the world who haven't even heard of Phi Phi have certainly heard of Maya Bay.
The best time to visit Maya Bay is between November and April during the high season when seas are calm and access to the bay is easy. Rough seas from May to October may hinder access but rarely deny entry.
The bad news; as it's so beautiful and so well known many boats are required to ferry all the visitors in and out. On any given day at any time there will be 30 + speedboats and longtail boats on the beach, with large ferry boats carrying hundreds of snorkelers and sightseers moored in deeper water. Beautiful it is, secluded it isn't – thousands of people visit each day. Try to visit early in the morning or after 17:00 and you'll avoid the crowds.
Please note that if you enter the bay on your own there is a National Park entry fee of 400 baht. This cost is included in the price of a tour.
The Beach by Alex Garland is about young travellers who drop out of society and go to live in a hidden lagoon in Southern Thailand.
Fox bought the rights to the book, signed up Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead role and then searched for a location. Maya Bay was perfect. Fox decided that the perfect beach needed some palm trees and less vegetation so they rearranged the beach to fit a Hollywood stereotype.
Beforehand, environmentalists said removing vegetation would increase the risk of sand erosion and that the delicate natural ecosystem may not ever recover. The vegetation was replanted after filming had finished and additional bamboo fences were put in place to support the dunes.
The following year during high tides and a strong storm the dune collapsed, the sand flowed down the beach and killed coral in the sea below. Fox went to great lengths to leave Maya Bay as they found it however the debate still goes on whether the damage was due to the rearranging or not, many say that the replanted vegetation had not yet 'taken'.
Filming commenced in 1999 and 'The Beach' was one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2000. The film is cited by many tourists as the inspiration for their trip to Thailand.
Facilities in Maya Bay
A small shack a little back from the beach sells drinks and snacks.
Further back from the beach are toilets but you'd only want to use them if you're desperate.
There is no food available here; those who camp must bring their own. Fires are not allowed but there is a permanent barbeque stand for cooking.
Activities in Maya Bay
Snorkeling and diving are excellent throughout the bay, large underwater boulders are encrusted with coral and brightly coloured fish are numerous. Visibility is excellent. Many tour companies bring visitors here to snorkel from Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi Don.
Sea kayaking is also popular. Kayaking tour boats come into the bay and moor while letting clients explore.
Tour shops in Phi Phi Don have begun to advertise organised camping on 'The Beach', drinking is usually part of the fun. Currently camping is only permitted on alternate nights.
Getting to Maya Bay
From Phi Phi Don you can rent a longtail for 1,000 baht (US$ 32) for three hours or for 2,000 baht (US$ 64) for a full day, max four people. Speedboats are 3,500 baht (US$ 110) for half day or 6,000 baht (US$ 190) for a full day, maximum six people.
There are also many different kinds of boat tours that take in Maya Bay combined with other sites. Various kinds of boats are used, such as longtails, speedboats and ferry boats. Tours are generally priced at around 500-1,000 baht (US$ 16-32), depending on the type of boat used and the duration of the tour.
From Phuket and Krabi tours depart daily, mainly by speedboat.