Visiting The Beach in 2019: What’s Changed for Thailand’s Maya Bay?

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? |

Earlier this year, it was announced that Maya Bay, arguably Thailand’s most popular beach, was to be closed until September 2018. This was necessary for the island’s ecosystem to recover from the millions of tourist that have visited Maya Bay over the last few years. Then, in early October, Maya Bay closed indefinitely to tourists. So, anyone visiting ‘The Beach’ in 2019 has no idea whether or not Maya Bay will still be closed or open for their trip to Thailand.

I visited Koh Phi Phi Leh, the island where Maya Bay is situated, in November this year. And I’m here to tell all you Leonardo DiCaprio fans that the situation might not be as dire as you think!

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What can you expect?

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? | The Beach filming location in Maya Bay, Thailand | Thai Bay closed indefinitely | What to expect from Maya Bay since the closure |

What is The Beach (2000) and why is it such a big deal?

The Beach is a film directed by Danny Boyle starring Leonardo DiCaprio and featuring Tilda Swinton. It’s based on the popular book by Alex Garland. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Richard, an American solo backpacker travelling to Thailand to have the ‘ultimate’ travellers experience. He becomes intrigued by a deranged Scotsman who gives him a map to paradise, the most beautiful and remote island in Thailand. However, once Leonardo DiCaprio finds the island, it’s not quite the utopia he was lead to believe.

It’s actually a critical flop (currently holds a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). However, Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent Titanic (1997) popularity probably helped The Beach survive at the Box Office. And in the last 20 years, it has become a seminal solo backpacker film. You would not go to Thailand without watching The Beach. Which is probably why the real-life filming location of The Beach, Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, is so popular.

Read next:

The Beach Filming Locations in Thailand

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? |

Before Maya Bay closed in February 2018

Prior to the closure, Maya Bay was flooded with tourists on a daily basis. Boat after boat after boat would dock on The Beach and tourists would snorkel and take thousands of selfies on the sand before getting back on their boat to check out the rest of Koh Phi Phi. It’s a really popular excursion to sail around Koh Phi Phi from Phuket for the day. It’s no wonder that the environment suffered a lot of damage.

But of course, as a filming locations aficionado, there was no way I was travelling to Thailand and not checking out Maya Bay. So, when I heard the closure had been extended to include my holiday, I was really gutted. Of course, saving the ecosystem of Maya Bay was very important, but I still frustrated.

And I had a lot of questions. So… do boats just skip it on their tours? Is Maya Bay still closed when I visit? Can we visit Koh Phi Phi Leh at all? Having never been to Thailand, I had no idea how much the rules would be enforced and what it would be like visiting The Beach in 2019.

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? |

What to expect visiting The Beach in 2019

But I shouldn’t have been so gutted. When booking the Koh Phi Phi Lei excursion (you can definitely still go to the island), I noticed all the tours still had Maya Bay on their tour routesProbably just haven’t reprinted leaflets yet, I thought. But once I was on the tour, the boat actually pulled into Maya Bay. And there were a couple of other boats too, but not tonnes. We could see there was a yellow line in the water surrounding The Beach itself, like a pool divider, so no one was allowed near. But we could still snorkel in the water around The Beach. We just weren’t allowed near it, or to go on The Beach itself.

So what’s different about visiting The Beach in 2019? Not a lot. I don’t have any close-up photographs, but at least they’re all free of people. And I wasn’t too bothered about the fact we couldn’t snorkel in the same vicinity of The Beach as there is another beach in Maya Bay you can swim to. So The Beach might be closed, but technically Maya Bay isn’t.

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? |

But is this a good thing?

It turns out visiting The Beach in 2019 won’t be so different for tourists. And for film fans like me, you can still see The Beach. However, I can’t help but think that this relaxed approach to fixing the damage means The Beach is just going to be closed for much longer. Cigarettes are still thrown into the sea by tour guides and tourists, tourists are still disrupting the fish and coral in Maya Bay by snorkelling.

I’m in two minds. I’m pleased in a purely selfish way that I got to see The Beach from The Beach in real life. I’d been looking forward to visiting The Beach for so long and now I’ve finally done it. But at what cost? I just hope that the Thai authorities are actually doing what is necessary to try to reverse the damage already made by tourists. But this should be a lesson for other places of natural beauty to not let things get so far.

Visiting The Beach in 2019: What's Changed for Thailand's Maya Bay? |

And that’s everything you need to know about visiting The Beach in 2019 and if Maya Bay is still closed! Have you visited Maya Bay in Thailand when it was open? Or do you plan on visiting The Beach in 2019? Let me know in the comments below! 

Read next:

The Beach Filming Locations in Thailand

12 thoughts on “Visiting The Beach in 2019: What’s Changed for Thailand’s Maya Bay?

  1. Pingback: The Beach Filming Locations in Thailand (+ Map!) | Almost Ginger

  2. Andres says:

    Awesome post. It helped a lot, im planning on going to Thailand the beginning of 2020 and of course my main place to visit is maya bay (loved the movie) but I have been reading a lot about it that might be closed till 2021. Do you know if there’s a way to get there on your own? Kinda like the movie without the swimming though. Hopefully by the time I go it is open again…

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad my post helped. That’s a really great question, I don’t think it’s going to be open in time for your trip, unfortunately, but you never know. If you don’t want to go as part of a boat tour like I did with other people and visit lots of different spots around Phi Phi Lei and Phi Phi Don, you could hire your own private longboat for the day or half a day. You *could* hire it from Phuket if you don’t want to stay on Phi Phi Don, but it might be a long way and I’d definitely check that that’s doable beforehand. I stayed on Phi Phi Don (the larger of the two islands with hotels, etc.) and it was very easy to hire a longboat for the day or half a day, costs around $40-$50 dollars though but you’d get snorkelling gear, fruit, water, etc. but that will differ from longboat to longboat.

      By going via your own private longboat, you could spend as much time as you like in Maya Bay and I think that’s one of the only ways you could do the trip independently. And there is still another little beach just to the left of the main beach, so that’s something.

      Let me know if you need any more help and have an amazing trip to Thailand! 🙂

  3. Joe says:

    Hi,me and my son going to Phi Phi in the end of may 2019 and of course we are planning to go Maya Bay as we’re staying 2 nights in Phi Phi.Hopefully there will be a chance to go even around Maya island but to don’t walk on “The Beach” sand -very bad.Must think that whole trip to Thailand gonna be worth it anyway.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hi Joe! You and your son will definitely be able to go on a boat trip to Maya Bay and snorkel in the sea and swim to another beach and see “The Beach” but you are right – you just can’t walk on it 🙂 definitely will be worth it anyway, have an amazing time!!

  4. Paul marshall says:

    Hi could i ask i am coming to thailand in november are you still aloud to walk in the woodland towards the bay thank you

    • Rebecca says:

      Hello, I’m not 100% sure but I highly doubt it because you’re not even allowed to be in the water surrounding the island, you’re only allowed to look at it from a distance. But of course November is a few months away so they may change the rules before then.

  5. Daniel Van Cuylenburg says:

    We visited the beach in August 2017, so not long before it got closed. We arrived at the rear entrance, so that ment scrambling up the net and walking across the jungle to get to get to the beach. I was very glad we got to do that, as it felt more natural and didn’t harm the coral. We arrived at around 9:30am ish and was very lucky to find so few people there.

    We did a short video:

    Haven now done it, we don’t feel like we need to return and was lucky to experience it with an almost empty beach – as you’ll see in the video 🙂

    • Rebecca says:

      Arriving to the beach via the jungle seems like an awesome way to do it! Just as if you were in the film, great you got to do it before the closure 🙂

  6. Sonja says:

    Thank you for this helpful post, Rebecca! Maya Bay has been on my bucket list for a long time as well because it’s been the main filming location for “The Beach”. So far, I haven’t made it to Thailand though and also was unsure whether I should visit any time soon because of the closure. It’s good to hear that you can still see the beach, even though it’s from a distance. I heard as well though that the Maya Bay was always flooded with tourists and it would have been difficult to get a decent photo there in the past. I think, overtourism really has become a problem in Thailand and I agree with you when you say you have mixed feelings about it. But I think the fact that the Maya Bay has been closed is generally a good sign and a step into the right direction. Hopefully, it can recover from the damage.

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m so pleased it was helpful! 🙂 I definitely still count my trip to Thailand as having “visited” The Beach even if I couldn’t step on the sand. It completely understand it had to be closed to repair the damage to the ecosystems, I just hope they’re doing enough. 🤞

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