Lonely Planet Writer

Thailand’s most famous beach is now closed indefinitely

Thailand isn’t short on idyllic beaches but one in particular probably springs to mind. Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi was the setting for The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio and a huge tourist draw in the area. Now it’s set to remain closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from damage caused by the thousands of tourists who visited every day.

It’s almost impossible to find Maya Beach this deserted now. Photo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

The closure was initially announced in February and was expected to last throughout the country’s low season, until 1 October. It was first extended until the beginning of November but now it will be closed indefinitely.

The decision was announced on Tuesday by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. It came after a meeting in which a group of experts agreed that even a six-month closure was insufficient for the island to recover after the heavy influx of tourism.

The bay has become a hotspot for tourism. Image by CaliVita International / CC BY 2.0

They said some progress has already been made with planting trees in the area and planting more than a thousand new corals. However, these delicate new additions need time to grow and stabilise away from daily arrivals of tourists and therefore Maya Bay will remain closed until the ecosystem is deemed to have returned to normal.

The decision will affect some visitors who may already have booked a tour to the famous spot. The bay is one of the main tourist draws on Koh Phi Phi and some local tourism operators have denounced the move. At the height of the season, it was estimated that up to 5000 people could visit every day. When Maya Bay does eventually reopen, a daily cap on visitors may be introduced.