If you’re headed to Thailand to spend some time soaking up rays on the sorts of impossibly perfect beaches you find on computer desktop wallpapers and mall calendars, you won’t be disappointed. They are everywhere. In Phuket, backpackers and romance-seeking couples alike are drawn to the promise of perfection in the Phi Phi Islands. Made up of two main islands, Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don, the Phi Phi islands are an idyllic collection of protected parks and limited-growth havens where even the most on-the-beaten-path tourists can find a bit of serenity. Powdered sugar beaches are surrounded by thick green jungles, staggering limestone formations rise out of the sea like gnarled grey giants, and swirling in between it all are waters so vibrant it almost looks like the Adaman Sea is made out of blue raspberry Kool-Aid.

Maya Bay and The Beach

It’s impossible to write about the Phi Phi Islands without mentioning Leonardo DiCaprio and the movie that launched a thousand backpackers. The Beach has become synonymous with the allure of Thailand’s picture-perfect coves, and what place could live up to the hype better than the literal filming location. Reachable only by guided boat tours, the beach at Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Le is every bit the paradise it appears in the movie. Staggering limestone cliffs topped with tufts of jungle guard a lagoon-like bay of neon blue water. Beaches are made of sugar-like sand and vibrant coral reefs packed with confetti-colored fish beckon snorkelers to don a mask and take a closer look.

Join up with Tour East Thailand for a full-day tour that includes snorkeling equipment, a tasty Thai buffet-style lunch, and plenty of time to explore the sands of Maya Bay.

Viking Cave and Bamboo Island

Islands dot the Turquoise sea off Phi Phi Island’

Just beyond Phi Phi Don’s reach, bite-sized Bamboo Island is the ideal place to go if you’re looking to recreate that deserted island feel. With little more than a shady gazebo, and a thick jungle center, this ring of sand is the perfect spot to get away from it all and listen to the waves gently lap against the shore. Reach your slice of paradise on a boat tour with CBS Travel Asia, stopping off to check out the nesting swiftlets at Viking Cave and looking for clambering primates at Monkey Beach along the way.

Set out at Sunrise

If timing is everything, getting out to the Phi Phi islands at dawn should be a bucket list item for any beach-seeking traveler. Fewer crowds, more time at your destination, and once-in-a-lifetime views of some of the country’s best scenery captured at the most opportune time of day. Watch the sun rise and set as you get an early start to beat the crowds headed to Phi Phi beaches in afternoon droves with My Phuket Holiday. Catch the day’s first rays of light on your way out to Maya Bay, stop off for a swim at the beach where Leo discovered paradise, and grab a buffet lunch near Loh Dalam Bay before taking some leisure time to snorkel, swim, or soak up the rays until you head back to check out more things to do in Phuket.

Scuba Dive

Small spotted shark in waters off Phi Phi Island’

Above the water, the Phi Phi islands’ dramatic limestone cliffs provide a stunning backdrop for beachgoers, but below the water, they offer scuba divers unimaginable aquatic landscapes. Explore sea caves and sponge-covered walls, look for sharks cruising the depths, and spot the wild fins of lionfish as they skirt around dramatic rock formations draped in coral. The dive experts at Phuket dash Scuba dot Com (easy to remember!) will happily lead you to the area’s best sites, and offer plenty of instructional courses to get rookie snorkelers to reach greater depths in no time.

What are your favorite beaches in Thailand?