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Ko Lipe

Once a serene tropical paradise, Ko Lipe is now a poster child for untamed development on Thailand's islands. Blessed with two beautiful wide white-sand beaches separated by jungle-covered hills and close to protected coral reefs, the centre of Ko Lipe has been transformed into an ever-expanding maze of hotels, restaurants, cafes, travel agencies and shops. The biggest losers have been the 700-strong community of chow lair (sea gypsies, also spelt chao leh), whose ancestors were gifted Lipe as a home by King Rama V in 1909, but who sold it in the 1970s.

Despite all the development, there is still an awful lot to love about Lipe: those gorgeous, salt-white sand crescents for a start, sensational dive sites, a jungle interior, chilled-out reggae bars, a contagiously friendly vibe and a good few inhabitants keen to minimise their environmental impact. Just don't expect to have it to yourself.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Ko Lipe.