Pipe Dreaming Saturday: Koh Lipe and Belize

If you’re like me and you have to look something up on a map before you do anything else, you’ll find that even Ko Lipe’s satellite view on Google looks spectacular. It’s like the head of Goofy surrounded by blindingly white shores and water that reflects every shade of blue.

When you look up actual pictures of Koh Lipe, you’re not disappointed either.

The north end of Sunrise Beach looks toward utterly deserted Koh Adang in the Andaman Sea. Photo courtesy of Next Trip Tourism.
The north end of Sunrise Beach looks toward utterly deserted Koh Adang in the Andaman Sea. Photo courtesy of Next Trip Tourism.

Like a tropical island you might have seen in a stock computer desktop picture or on Google Images when you search “tropical island,” Koh Lipe is for anyone who’s always dreamed of being a castaway- and everything that comes with it. Is that an exaggeration? Not really. It takes a few flights, a ferry ride, and a ride on a tiny wooden dinghy to get to this lilliputian Thai island, smack in the middle of the Andaman Sea. But what awaits you when you get there might just make all that headache worthwhile: pristine beaches, clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs.

Koh Lipe sits in Thailand’s Tarutao National Marine Park, and has reefs containing over 30% of the world’s tropical fish species. Visitors come to dive and snorkel these picturesque waters, and relax on Koh Lipe’s incredible beaches afterwards. The island has three: Sunrise Beach, Pattaya Beach, and Sunset Beach. Each offers placid shallows, pearlescent sand, and breathtaking views of the surrounding island chain, rocky outcroppings, and the ocean itself.

Just because you can only access the island by boat doesn’t mean you have to rough it- stay in comfortable bungalows at the aptly-named, eco-friendly Castaway Resort on Sunrise Beach, and drive along Pattaya Beach for some nightlife.

It’s certainly not expensive to stay on Koh Lipe: Castaway’s bungalows can cost as little as the equivalent of an insane 30 bucks a night during the low season. But to be a castaway, you have to really get lost- and that takes a lot of effort.

The world’s far-flung beach destinations almost always have alternatives in the Caribbean, and Koh Lipe is no exception. If you want to feel like you’ve been dropped on a deserted beach somewhere, without having to deal with the problems that come with it being deserted, hop a flight to Belize.

El Secreto Resort's beach, on Ambergris Caye. Photo courtesy of El Secreto Resort.
El Secreto Resort’s beach, on Ambergris Caye. Photo courtesy of El Secreto Resort.

Widely recognized as the Caribbean’s treehugger, Belize is known for its efforts to conserve the natural environment it occupies. And for good reason- with thick jungles perfect for stargazing, to wide and uncrowded beaches, to the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere (second largest in the world, after Australia’s), Belize has plenty to be conserved. It’s also a 2 hour-or-so flight from the southeast US to a land of canopy tours, hikes to secret waterfalls, and incredible dives on world-renowned reefs.


Stay in a luxurious community of cabañas at Blancaneaux Lodge, tucked away among the forested hills in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Or head to the coast and lounge away in a private villa at El Secreto, in the coral-surrounded artist colony of Ambergris Caye. Basically, Belize is castaway without the cast-“away.”

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