The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Maya Bay in Thailand

After being closed for three years for an extensive rehabilitation program, the famous Maya Bay now welcomes tourists. We have found that the best way to explore the stunningly beautiful bay is to stay at the luxurious neighborhood resorts of SAii Laguna Phuket and SAii Phi Phi Island Village. By Akshita Nahar Jain

Tourism is a double-edged sword that Thailand has struggled with. On the one hand, this stimulates and supports their economy, and on the other, there are the negative effects of over-tourism. Nowhere else than in Maya Bay, the coral bay with pristine white sand beaches and coral reefs surrounded by gigantic limestone cliffs. Made famous as the location of the 2000 film, “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it has been overrun by millions of tourists seeking to experience this piece of paradise. The ecosystem has been severely damaged due to shipping traffic and pollution, destroying nearly 80% of the bay’s coral reefs.

In 2018, the Thai government decided to shut down this popular tourist destination in favor of a massive rehabilitation program. The result is a newly opened Maya Bay that is truly a magical beach getaway and attracts tourists, blacktip sharks and dolphins to its sparkling shores.

Where to stay when visiting Maya Bay in Thailand?

Our journey to Phi Phi Ley Island in the Andaman Sea began in Phuket and was followed by a tropical getaway to SAii Phi Phi Island Village (the closest 5-star resort to famous Maya Bay). It was not until 2022 that Thailand opened its borders to tourists followed by the removal of the Thai Pass in July 2022, allowing tourists to move freely within the country. The result is an influx of activity into the country, particularly from India with direct flights to Phuket from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. As Thailand’s largest island, it might seem like a statutory stopover for its beautiful surrounding islands, but there’s plenty on offer here.

Straight from the airport, we head to SAii Laguna Phuket, nestled between the Andaman Sea on one side and the lagoon on the other. An oasis of tranquility and turquoise waters with equal opportunities for family activities, unique dining experiences and nightlife. It may seem like a juxtaposition, but the scale and design of the property allows the two to co-exist.

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You are greeted by a Balinese-style open-plan lobby that overlooks the maze of swimming pools and Bang Tao beach. Panoramic views allow you to truly take in the beauty of the upscale Laguna Estate. The culinary options at SAii Laguna Phuket are vast, there’s Miss Olive Oyl (with its delicious Italian and Mediterranean dishes), Mr Tomyam (which offers you the fresh catch of the day with a view of the shore) and The Club (an exclusive space facing the lagoon perfect for an aperitif or light bites). With more than 250 rooms and suites (many recently renovated), the resort may seem cacophonous, but the design allows for spacious, luxurious rooms and manicured greenery. It is also conveniently located for local attractions such as the Boat Avenue shopping center and the Laguna Phuket Golf Club, but if you, like us, are here for a shorter stay, escaping the bustling resort town will be a difficult task. .

Then the order of the day was to explore the wonders of Maya Bay and what better way to do that than to stay at SAii’s sister property located in the Straits of Malacca in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a smooth ride from Phuket’s Ao Makarm Grand Marina with a private speedboat that takes you directly to SAii Phi Phi Island Village. The station is an ecosystem in itself, in phase with the demands of nature. Stretching over 800 meters of private beach at Phi Phi Don with 200 individually furnished bungalows that blend beautifully with the rustic surroundings. Inside, the trims are all luxurious and spacious, with each category having private balconies to enjoy palm trees, verdant forests and golden beaches. It’s the seamless transition from luxury to untouched natural beauty that’s the main selling point here.

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Vacationers and honeymooners will enjoy the solitude and seek out excursions such as scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking. It has its own 5-star PADI dive center with a marine discovery center deeply involved in the conservation of local marine life. We learned about the rehabilitation of sharks and clownfish and how the last few years have been a blessing for local flora, fauna and fishing. Daily excursions to Maya Bay and numerous dive sites make it a great place to relax and explore.

Long days in the dazzling blue waters are followed by massages at the Lèn Forest Spa that unwind while taking in views of the hillside jungle. A traditional Thai massage in thatched rooms or an invigorating massage using their oils and products from their MIY aroma lab. Acronym for “mix it yourself”, the service allows you to create your own bathroom amenities. Follow up with a few relaxing cocktails at the pool bar or burn some calories on the tennis courts. From lively cocktails and dinners at the Beach House, traditional dishes at Ruan Thai or even a private dining experience by the beach, there is something to satisfy your appetite. And if you’re looking to explore beyond this dream resort, the local village with its cheap and lively bars is a short walk away. Although it’s almost impossible to believe you’re not on a remote tropical island and there’s a range of tourist activities beyond the property.

If you’re looking to take your island getaway to the next level, they also offer private villas with dedicated staff, a private pool, and panoramic bay views. The reopening of Maya Bay and its proximity to the resort is reason enough to visit. However, we urge you to book early to explore the untouched utopian beauty.

All images: Courtesy of SAii Resorts.

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India

Related: 7 of the best places in Phuket for the perfect vacation

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