Phuket or Phi Phi island viewpoint with a pink flower

Is Phuket or Phi Phi Island Better? Where to stay in Thailand

Phuket or Phi Phi? Which island destination should you choose for your holiday in Thailand? Both lie in the Andaman Sea and offer lovely beaches and buzzing nightlife with a range of activities and accommodation options. But they are different and which is better depends on what you are looking for.

Koh Phi Phi is a stunning tropical island with breathtaking scenery, dramatic limestone cliffs and stunning white sandy beaches and Phuket is a lively, exciting and popular destination that offers lovely beaches and more cultural experiences and facilities than the smaller Koh Phi Phi. Phuket is a much larger island, more built up, and famous for its beach resorts, nightclubs, and girly bars.

I’ve visited both islands as a solo traveller in Thailand and I think you can choose either Phuket or Phi Phi for an enjoyable holiday. But if you’re tossing up between the two, this article is for you to look more deeply at the similarities and differences and help you decide whether to base yourself on Phuket or Phi Phi Island.  

Gorgeous views over Koh Phi Phi from the viewpoint
Phuket vs Phi Phi? Gorgeous views over Koh Phi Phi from the viewpoint

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Is Phi Phi or Phuket better?

Choose Phuket for a beach resort vacation and Koh Phi Phi for a relaxing holiday in breathtaking natural surroundings. 

If you’re wondering if Phuket or Phi Phi is better, it may help to work out your priorities and decide what kind of holiday you’re looking for.

Both Phuket and Phi Phi Island are the perfect addition to a Bangkok itinerary for a relaxing stay at the beach.

Koh Phi Phi is a collection of 6 small islands, all uninhabited except for Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest of the archipelago.

Known for its exceptional natural beauty, Koh Phi Phi is a favourite destination for backpackers who love swimming, snorkelling, and partying and upmarket travellers who stay at luxury resorts on more secluded parts of the island.

Koh Phi Phi Don is quite small and built up with hotels and restaurants catering for large numbers of tourists and day trippers.

Phuket, on the other hand, is a much larger island with a suburban feel. One of the most popular areas, Patong Beach is very built up and famous for its energetic nightclub scene. Patong has a wider selection of hotels and resorts, and prices can be cheaper than Koh Phi Phi.

Both Phi Phi and Phuket are often overcrowded with tourists in the high season. Patong and Kata are the busiest areas of Phuket but the island is large enough that you can escape from the crowds at places like Mai Khao, Ao Yon and Panwa.

 Phi Phi is a more chilled-out island to relax surrounded by stunning scenery but if the weather is bad there’s not much to do. Phuket offers more cultural experiences with a fascinating Old Town, beautiful temples such as Wat Chalong, the Jui Tui Shrine, the Big Buddha, markets, fantastic street food, and a Muay Thai Kickboxing ring.

Now let’s look more closely at the pros and cons.

Patong Beach Phuket Thailand
Patong Beach Phuket Thailand

Phi Phi vs Phuket Pros & Cons

Phuket ProsPhuket Cons
Phuket has beautiful Beaches & lovely island sceneryPhuket Island is very built up and has a suburban feel.
Lively nightlife with bars and nightclubs & an LGBTQI sceneBangla Road has lots of girly bars & clubs & is less safe at night
A lively & exciting island destinationPatong is overrated & seedy at night
Public transport networkLarger island and less walkable
International Airport & a hospitalOver touristed
Shopping malls, markets & night marketsOverrun with Russian tourists and ex-pats
Good selection of hotels, resorts & guesthousesPatong Beach area is very built up and packed with tourists
Good jumping-off point for day trips & island boat tripsTourist traps & scams
Great selection of restaurants, street food & marketsTaxi mafia
Temples, museums, and a historical Old Town 
Good for snorkelling, diving & water sports 
Popular Beaches have lifeguards and flags for safe swimming 
Koh Phi Phi ProsKoh Phi Phi Cons  
Good for snorkelling & divingAccess is by ferry
Stunning scenery & gorgeous beachesAccommodation is more expensive than other places in Thailand
WalkableOver touristed
Gorgeous islands & beaches to explore in the Phi Phi Island archipelagoPopular spots like Maya Bay get very crowded
Good for snorkelling, diving & water sportsNot much to do on a rainy day
Good jumping-off point for day trips & island boat tripsNo roads and transport is by boat or on foot.
Popular for beach parties & nightlifeBoats and ferries take up most of the main beach
Stunning scenery and viewpointsNo Temples, museums and historical sites
Hiking trails across the islandFewer conveniences & facilities
Good for snorkeling & diving
Koh Phi Phi can be visited on a day trip from Phuket 
Views over Koh Phi Phi with and colourful fruit
View over Koh Phi Phi Don, built up with hotels

Phi Phi vs Phuket: Which is cheaper

Winner: Phuket for resorts and Phi Phi for Hostels

If you’re looking for mid-range accommodation (like me) you’ll find that Koh Phi Phi is quite expensive compared to Phuket. I found a comfortable 3-star hotel in Patong Phuket for a reasonable price about a 15-minute walk from the beach.

I was there in January during the high season and found that Phi Phi Island was overpriced and there wasn’t a lot of choice in my price range. Hotels on Koh Phi Phi were amongst the most expensive on my Thailand trip and I found a wider selection of cheaper accommodation options in Phuket.

But Koh Phi Phi has a busy backpacker scene. If you’re looking for hostel accommodation Ko Phi Phi has more choices than the beachside suburbs of Phuket.

Phuket’s more popular spots tend to be quite expensive. Beach resorts and hotels near the beach at Patong and Kata are some of the more expensive places to stay on the island

If you’re on a budget, Phuket’s Old Town has some good options for cheaper accommodation but it’s not near the beach. You’ll have to travel by public transport, taxi, tuk-tuk, or scooter to get around the island.

Parasailing at sunset at Patong Beach Phuket
Parasailing at sunset at Patong Beach Phuket

TIP: For more stunning destinations in the Andaman Sea, Ao Nang or Railay Beach are just a ferry ride away from Phuket and Phi Phi.

Phi Phi or Phuket for Culture & Ambience

Winner: Phuket

Neither Koh Phi Phi nor Phuket offers a completely authentic experience of Thai culture. Both are resort islands heavily geared towards the tourist trade and catering to the tastes of Western tourists but there’s more in the way of authentic Thai culture to be found in Phuket than Phi Phi.

Phuket has a fascinating Old Town, many impressive temples, and a stunning Big Buddha statue that sits high on a hill just outside Phuket town offering panoramic views over the island.

Koh Phi Phi, on the other hand, is small and built-up, full of restaurants, hotels and bars that cater to Westerners. The island feels overcrowded and there’s not much in the way of authentic Thai culture beyond long-tail boats and a few restaurants selling local food next to Burger King and McDonald’s fast food restaurants.

The sound from noisy bars and beach parties carries across Koh Phi Phi at night so book your accommodation away from central Tonsai Beach if you’re looking for a quieter place to stay. Consider Long Beach or more expensive resorts in Ban Laem Tong instead.

Boats occupy the main beach area at Tonsai on Koh Phi Phi and it’s not ideal for swimming. But on the other side of the island, beautiful Loh Dalum Beach is perfect for swimming, kayaking, and relaxing.

TIP: If you enjoy Thai Culture, you’re sure to love the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai in Central Thailand

Colourful kayaks on the beaches of beautiful Phi Phi island in Thailand
Colourful kayaks on Loh Dalum Beach, Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Phuket or Phi Phi – Best Things to do

Winner: Phuket

You can choose either Phi Phi or Phuket and find lots of things to do. Activities on both islands are centred around the beaches, water sports, and boat trips. Both are a good jumping-off point for island visits and day trips.

Phi Phi is a more chilled-out place to relax surrounded by stunning scenery but if the weather is bad there’s not much to do.  But you can enjoy a Thai Massage, a pedicure, or a manicure on a rainy day.

TIP: Avoid the crowds and visit Pileh Lagoon and Maya Bay at sunrise.

Things to do on Koh Phi Phi

  • Swimming and relaxing on the beach
  • Snorkelling & diving
  • Kayaking & other water sports
  • Beach parties
  • Hiking to the stunning viewpoint and around the islands
  • Hire a long-tail boat from the beach in Phi Phi to see Maya Bay’s dramatic scenery with towering limestone cliffs. Unfortunately, May Bay means is very popular and can be very crowded because of its exceptional natural beauty.
  • Thai Massage, manicure, or pedicure
  • Visit beautiful beaches across the island such as Long Beach, Ban Laem Tong, Loh Moo Dee, Nui Beach, or Monkey Beach.
  • Visit quieter Bamboo Island or Phi Phi Leh

Things to do in Phuket

  • Swimming and relaxing on the beach
  • Hire a lounge on the beach for 100 Baht  or put a towel on the sand
  • Snorkelling & diving
  • Kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing & other water sports
  • Visit Phuket Old Town
  • Visit the Big Buddha and enjoy panoramic views over the island
  • Visit the beautiful beaches across the island such as Patong, Kata, Karon Noi, Freedom Beach, and Bang Tao, to name a few.
  • Island boat trip to Kho Phi Phi, James Bond Island Phang Nga Bay, Hong Islands, Similan Islands, Racha Islands,
  • Thai Massage, manicure, or pedicure
  • Muay Thai Kickboxing
  • Shopping Malls & markets
  • Street food market
  • Patong, Bangla Road Walking Street nightlife
  • Phuket elephant sanctuary
  • Sea Turtle conservation tour
  • Aquaria Phuket Aquarium
  • Andamanda Phuket Waterpark
  • Carnival Magic
  • Phuket Kids Club

Phuket vs Phi Phi Accommodation

Winner: Phuket

In the competition, Phuket vs Phi Phi Island, Phuket is a much larger island and offers a much wider selection of hotels and resorts.

Kata Beach is one of the most expensive areas in Phuket and Patong also has some expensive resorts. But away from the beach in Patong, there are some more affordable mid-range hotel options.

Lower Mid-Range: The House Patong. This hotel has comfortable rooms and a great location across the road from a busy evening street food market, near the Muay Thai kickboxing ring, close to Bangla Road nightlife with many options nearby for eating out, and Patong Beach is a 15-minute walk.

Luxury: The Shore at Katathani is an exclusive adults-only resort at Kata Beach that gets exceptional reviews for room comfort, quality, and location. Guests describe this resort as “a paradise on earth” and the perfect choice for a honeymoon.

Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa is a great choice at Merlin Beach in Patong Phuket with luxurious facilities, a great location, and many activities for children.

TIP: If you’re looking for a peaceful atmosphere and a quiet escape perhaps visit Koh Lanta island instead.

Where to Stay on Koh Phi Phi

Tonsai Beach is the centre of the backpacker scene and cheaper accommodation on Phi Phi Island. The most exclusive resorts are in the more remote, quieter locations overlooking the rainforest and sea.

Lower Mid-Range: Chao Ko Phi Phi Resort is right at the centre of the action on Tonsai Beach and gets excellent reviews

Upper Mid-Range: Phi Phi Long Beach Resort has the perfect beach location on a quiet part of the island with easy access to boat tours and water taxis.

Luxury: Zeavolla Resort & Spa overlooks the jungle near gorgeous Laem Tong Beach and offers luxurious private rooms in a sought-after location.

TIP: Avoid touristy Patong in Phuket. Instead enjoy the beautiful beaches at Kata, Karon, Bangtoa, and Surin

Phi Phi vs Phuket: Food

Winner: Phuket

An island in the Andaman Sea, Koh Phi Phi is known for fresh seafood and eating outdoors on the beach. Head to Loh Dalum Beach for a selection of beachfront restaurants, order a cocktail and a seafood meal with the sandy beach between your toes and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Koh Phi Phi is very much a tourist resort and the food is geared towards Western tastes. There are even fast-food chains like MacDonalds and Burger King on Phi Phi Don so you can eat whatever takes your fancy.

If you’re a foodie and you’re wondering whether Phuket or Phi Phi is better, Phuket is where the food scene is with international influences and authentic flavours. Phuket has a wide choice of restaurants and a great selection of street markets.

 The Banzaan Fresh Market in Patong has a fabulous selection of street food after 5 pm. This street food market is exceptional with a great choice of local food, fresh seafood, Thai dishes, satay skewers, coconut ice cream, local sweets and much more.  

You can even snack on fried scorpions if you’re brave enough. I loved eating here and the local street food is also extremely budget-friendly with a meal costing just a couple of dollars.

Colourful Neon lights at Bangla Road Patong Phuket
Phuket vs Phi Phi? Colourful Neon lights at Patong Beach in Phuket Thailand

Phuket or Phi Phi for Nightlife

Winner: Phi Phi’s nightlife is less seedy

You can choose either Phuket or Koh Phi Phi for a happening nightlife and party scene. Koh Phi Phi is known for backpacker beach parties and Phuket is famous for the lively nightclub scene centred around Bangla Road, Patong.

The bars, nightclubs, and restaurants on Bangla Road kick off after 9 pm when Bangla Road is cordoned off and becomes a walking street and a pedestrian-only zone.

There’s a lively party atmosphere with loud music, bright lights, girly bars and an active LGBTQI scene. But, as a female travelling solo, I found that Patong felt a bit unsafe after dark so take precautions and stay safe if you are out and about alone.

Koh Phi Phi’s beachside bars & nightclubs are concentrated around the Tonsai Beach area. Tonsai East and Dalum Bay on the other side of the island, are quieter areas but the loud music carries and can be heard until the early hours of the morning.  

Choose Koh Phi Phi for Beach Parties and Patong Phuket for nightclubs, and girly and LGBTQI-friendly bars.

Phi Phi or Phuket for the Most Beautiful Beaches

Winner: Koh Phi Phi

Choose either Phi Phi Island or Phuket for gorgeous beaches that are worth visiting. Phuket has some lovely beaches with wide stretches of sand and warm turquoise water ideal for swimming but it’s hard to beat the beaches on Koh Phi Phi, a true tropical paradise.

The movie “The Beach was filmed at Phi Phi Leh and Maya Beach is right up there with the most beautiful beaches in the world.

palm trees and white sand at Patong Beach Phuket Thailand
Phuket or Phi Phi? Palm trees and white sand at Patong Beach Phuket Thailand

Phuket vs Phi Phi: Hiking

Winner:  Koh Phi Phi

Exploring the hiking trails through the jungle to various beaches and viewpoints on Koh Phi Phi is a highly enjoyable experience. Some of the trails are quite strenuous but Koh Phi offers dramatic scenery & stunning lookout points that make the trek worthwhile.

The famous viewpoint on Koh Phi Phi has several superb vantage points and although it’s a steep climb to get there the incredible panoramic views over the islands make the trek worthwhile.

TIP: An extra fee is charged for the third lookout point and the view is very similar.

Choose Koh Phi Phi over Phuket for hiking. Phuket is not really a hiking destination.

Phuket or Phi Phi for Shopping

Winner:  Phuket

Phuket has a selection of shopping malls and local markets across the island that sell fresh food, clothing, and homewares. Head to the markets to shop for souvenirs and unique items.

The evening street food markets are a highlight of visiting Phuket and should not be missed. Eating outdoors is a way of life in Thailand and sampling the local food is a fantastic way to experience Thai culture.  

In comparison, Koh Phi Phi has limited shopping opportunities. Most of the shops are very touristy and prices are higher.

Colourful tropical fruits at the market in Patong Phuket
Colourful tropical fruits at the market in Patong Phuket

Phuket or Phi Phi for Families

Winner: Phuket

In the comparison of Phuket vs Phi Phi, Phuket is the better choice for families with a wider range of activities for children and resorts that cater specifically for family holidays.

Koh Phi Phi has a tropical island vibe better suited to couples looking for a romantic holiday, but families can still enjoy beach-centred and water activities on Phi Phi.

Phuket offers a wider selection of beaches, with adventure activities and water sports like kayaking, parasailing, and jet skiing and has lots of kid-friendly activities like water parks, an aquarium, an elephant sanctuary, sea turtle conservation tours and a kids club.

Phi Phi or Phuket for Couples

Winner: Koh Phi Phi  with Phuket close behind

Koh Phi Phi is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway with stunning scenery, limestone cliffs and picture-perfect beaches. There are fabulous luxury resorts where you can hide away and enjoy candle-lit dinners on the beach and gorgeous sunsets. Head to the quieter north side of the island for a quieter more romantic holiday with fewer backpackers and day trippers.

TIP: If you’re looking for a romantic getaway on Phi Phi Island, avoid Tonsai Beach where the backpackers & day trippers hang out. 

Phuket is also good for couples and has lots to offer with a wide variety of activities and a good choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, including adult-only resorts.

Stunning scenery at the viewpoint on Ko Phi Phi
At the viewpoint on Phi Phi Island

Phi Phi vs Phuket for Budget Travellers

Winner: Phi Phi Island

Budget travellers and backpackers love Phi Phi Island and congregate around Tonsai Beach where the cheaper hostels, bars, nightclubs, and beach parties can be found. 

The lack of authenticity in Phuket makes it less popular with backpackers who prefer other destinations in Thailand. But there are some good options for budget travellers with a selection of cheaper accommodations in Phuket’s Old Town.

Getting Around Phuket or Phi Phi Island

Winner: Phuket

Phi Phi is a small island with no roads and the only way to get there is by boat. The best way to get around the island is to walk, join a tour, or hire a long-tail boat or a water taxi.

Phuket on the other hand, is a transport hub with an International Airport and good roads. This makes the island easy to get to and you may find yourself passing through Phuket to access domestic or international flights.

Phuket Island has a lot of options for getting around from buses, taxis, tours, tuk-tuks, and songthaew and motorbikes. Taxis in Phuket tend to be quite expensive and, although Grab operates in Phuket offering a cheaper alternative transport, the taxi mafia can make using Grab difficult by limiting pickups and drop-offs.

The Phuket Smart bus is one of the best ways to get around the island. It runs from the Old Town to Phuket Airport and stops at the coastal beaches along the way, including Patong Beach. It’s an economical and reliable way to get around the island.

When to visit Phi Phi or Phuket

The best time to visit Phuket or Phi Phi Island is from November to March when the skies are clear with pleasant cool breezes. There’s less rain and humidity at this time of year with warm temperatures averaging from 24°C – 34°C (75°F – 93°F).

The worst time to visit Phuket or Phi Phi for a beach holiday is during the wet season, from June to October when the weather is wet and windy and best avoided. Transport is more difficult with rough seas limiting the operation of ferry services between the islands at this time of the year. 

Phuket has year-round diving and snorkelling with water visibility at its best from November to May.

TIP: The wet season in Thailand is the perfect time for a holiday in Bali. Find out if Thailand or Bail is better for your next trip.

Phi Phi island viewpoint and garden
Phi Phi island viewpoint and garden

Final Thoughts: Is Phuket or Phi Phi Island Better?

So is Phi Phi or Phuket better? In this comparison, Phuket wins. While Phi Phi Island is the most beautiful of the two destinations with stunning scenery and some of the best beaches in the world, Phuket also has lovely beaches and a lively and exciting atmosphere.

It’s easier to access Phuket via the international Airport and Phuket offers a wider variety of accommodations with beach resorts and cheaper hotels in the quaint Old Town. Foodies will love eating out in Phuket and the fabulous outdoor street food market in Patong is a highlight. It was my favourite place to eat travelling solo in Phuket.

While both islands have much to offer, Phuket has more activities and cultural experiences than Phi Phi.

TIP: It’s easy to visit Koh Phi Phi on a day trip from Phuket and this is a very popular way to see the islands if you’re short of time or prefer to base yourself in Phuket.

I enjoyed both islands and would recommend Koh Phi for more upmarket travellers and couples who want to escape to a private resort in a gorgeous tropical island paradise or for backpackers looking for a party. But Phuket is also good for couples looking for a romantic getaway and it’s a better choice for families with more child-friendly resorts and activities.

I enjoyed visiting Phuket and Phi Phi as a solo traveller in Thailand, but both islands were crowded with tourists and more expensive than other places in Thailand.

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