If you’re telling me you’ve visited Thailand and you haven’t watched Danny Boyle’s The Beach (2000), well… I wouldn’t believe you! Surely it’s against the law for westerners to take a trip to Thailand without watching the seminal solo-backpacker-on-a-soul-searching-trip-to-Thailand film?! That’s why everyone wants to visit The Beach filming locations in Thailand. Especially the infamous The Beach location, Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Le.
The Beach follows American backpacker Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) on his solo backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. He meets an off-his-head Scotsman who waxes lyrical about a remote, paradise island somewhere off the Thai coast that no one but a select few knows about. Once Richard finds the island, it’s not quite the paradise he expected.
The film isn’t well regarded (holds 20% on Rotten Tomatoes), but us wanderlust-chasers can forgive its shortcomings. Here are all The Beach filming locations in Thailand, including the super-famous “beach from The Beach”, Maya Bay.
Where was The Beach filmed in Thailand?
The Beach Filming Locations in Thailand
1. Khao San Road in Bangkok
The Beach opens on our pal DiCaprio arriving in the Land of Smiles. His narration laments about having amazing adventures and opening himself up to new and wild adventures. Yadda yadda yadda… Standard gap year patter. And where better to daydream about ‘off the beaten path’ adventures than the most Westerner-heavy street in Bangkok: Khao San Road. You know, a street famous for drunk white teenagers drinking colourful alcohols from buckets and pretending to eat scorpions for Instagram.
You don’t fool anyone, DiCaprio! With your basic bitch shell necklace and early noughties spiky hair. You’re just an average tourist like the rest of us! Some of my research claimed that this scene shot on Maharat Road and Prachacheun road in Krabi as stand-ins for Khao San Road. But, I can’t find the existence of these streets in Krabi! Regardless, this The Beach movie location is supposed to be Khao San Road.
2. The Memory at On On Hotel in Phuket Town
DiCaprio heads off to scout out some accommodation whilst staying in Bangkok, which is actually in Phuket Town. Back when The Beach was shot in Thailand, the On On Hotel would have either been a backpackers hostel or low budget guesthouse. DiCaprio’s character would have been charged something like 250THB (£6.04) per night and would have slept on a prison-style bed with a squat toilet.
Maybe because of the film’s success, the hotel has totally rebranded and is now named The Memory at On On Hotel. It’s now a stylish, more upmarket hotel with a staggeringly different decor to how it was 20 years ago as a The Beach filming location. But if you want to feel any essence of DiCaprio’s presence, book room 204. This is the room where his character allegedly stayed. The hotel was used for night shoots over three days.
3. Surin Beach, Phuket
After Richard receives the hand-drawn map, he convinces French couple Étienne and Françoise to go to the secret island with him. Apparently this overland journey cost only 400THB (£9.98). Which seems ridiculously cheap, even 20 years ago.
The new pals travel on a train and then a boat which sails them to the island of Ko Samui, which is, apparently, the largest island near the secret island. There’s a lot of geographical witchcraft happening in this film. Lots of islands and places are apparently near other islands and places in The Beach that they aren’t in real life. Just go with it. The planning and beach hut scenes were actually shot on an entirely different island, Surin Beach in Phuket, not Ko Samui. And the beach huts aren’t there in real life, sorry!
4. Ao Po Pier, Phuket
This isn’t one of the main piers on Phuket, but small-group day trips probably still depart and dock here. The Ao Po Pier on Phuket is where the young travellers climb on their private boat to make their way towards the secret island.
5. Bamboo Island/Ko Mai Phai, Krabi
Because the person sailing the boat they hired wouldn’t take them directly to the secret island, the travellers camp overnight on a nearby (smaller) island before swimming to the secret island the next day. This The Beach film location is Bamboo Island, which is actually very near the real-life beach location of the movie The Beach. Not close enough to swim, though!
6. Haew Su Wat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park
This is where DiCaprio’s Richard and his pals Étienne and Françoise jump from the waterfall. This waterfall is nowhere near Maya Bay where the infamous beach was shot (surprise, surprise) because it’s Haew Su Wat Falls in Khao Yai National Park.
The falls are situated at the end of Thanarat Road in the centre of the park. And I would not try jumping from the waterfall if you happen to visit because the pool at the bottom is no way deep enough.
7. Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh
So, where is the beach?! I’m getting there, lads. You knew this one was coming anyway! It’s one of the most visited shooting locations in the world. The most popular beach in Thailand and one of the most notorious.
The famous beach in the film The Beach was shot in a lagoon on Koh Phi Phi Leh called Maya Bay. The entrance to the lagoon was digitally altered in post-production to appear completely closed. As if the only access was via the jungle behind the beach.
Filming of The Beach caused controversy at the time when the crew tried to level out the terrain of the beach with a tractor (my word) but the 2004 tsunami restored the natural landscape.
And, more recently, the famous beach shut indefinitely due to extensive damage by tourists. You can read more about visiting the beach in Maya Bay after the closure in my blog post here.
Other The Beach Filming Locations
There are many other film locations in The Beach that I either cannot account for or don’t know exactly when they were utilised in the film. Richard, along with Tilda Swinton’s Sal, visits Koh Pha Ngan during the film. This island is home to the notorious monthly Full Moon party blowout, but The Beach definitely didn’t film there. There’s also the jungle on the island, and various other locations unaccounted for.
Here are some other Thailand locations I think were used but I’m not sure for which scenes: a beach in Koh Kaew in Phuket, Laem Promthep in Phuket, Nai Thon Beach in Phuket, Kata Beach in Phuket and potentially Phuket Airport for the internet cafe scenes at the end. Thanks to Chris for these additions!
Hopefully, I’ve answered the question where was the movie The Beach filmed as well as other The Beach filming locations in Thailand! Have you visited any of The Beach filming locations? Let me know in the comments below!