I always recommend that my friends spend their precious time instead in Krabi province rather than in more famous neighbor Phuket, which has become overdeveloped and overrun with tourists and girlie bars.
Small, charming, silent at times, nice for a day’s walking tour — Krabi Town is full of old buildings, bars and restaurants, local exotic marketplaces and food stalls at the old Chao Fa pier where you can sample the local Thai & Muslim food. The Krabi motto is “lively town, lovely people”.
Krabi’s simple people are definitely proud of their town and of their warm and generous character. Hop on a longtail boat at Chao Fa pier and visit Khao Kanab Nam, the unique pair of hills facing each other on the opposite banks of the Krabi River, symbols of the town on the mouth of the river, where you will see the local fishing communities; or charter a boatman for a visit to the mangrove forests that line many of the province’s waterways.
From Krabi Town, it is easy to get a songtaew directly to nearby Ao Nang, a hub for SCUBA diving and visiting the local islands.
About Baan Ao Nang
While Krabi Town may be the provincial capital of this province, it’s the beach town of Ao Nang 20 kilometers away that is tourist central in Krabi. With the highest concentration of hotels, resorts, restaurants and shopping, as well as good transport infrastructure inland and offshore, it’s the ideal place to base your Thailand holiday!
There’s a wide range of accommodation available, although prices tend to be comparatively higher than those in the north and Bangkok—but this is true of all the beaches and islands in Thailand.
Despite its rapid development over the recent decade, Ao Nang cannot be considered “spoiled”. This beach town is far from becoming like Phuket or Samui: for one, it is much smaller, with no high-rise buildings, and most of the businesses are still locally owned and run, giving the place a laid back charm.
Because everything is concentrated in a small area around the main beach road, Ao Nang is also very convenient to get around. Most places, including the beach, will be within short walking distance from your hotel.
Ao Nang Beach itself is a pretty, palm-lined stretch of sand, dominated by the large cliffs at its southern tip. You can spend the day here swimming and snorkeling, getting traditional Thai massage, or enjoying a drink in a nearby beach cafe; although most people use Ao Nang as a jumping off point for day trips to the nearby islands and Railay Beach, coming back in the evenings to eat, shop, and enjoy a night out.
After sunset—which is often a spectacular show seen from the beach—the beachfront comes alive as people return from the islands and set off, freshly showered and dressed up for a night out. Shopping, eating and drinking are what is done best here. There’s a large choice of restaurants, particularly for Western food—so much so that the beachfront has earned the nickname “Little Italy”.
Shops sell everything from souvenirs to fake Rolex watches and DVDs (buyer beware!) and bargaining is a must. Massage shops, spas and beauty parlours stay open late, so you can indulge after your hard day island-hopping. Alternatively, you can sit in a roadside bar and people watch, or sip a pina colada under the stars at a beach bar on the sand.
Noppharat Thara beach just 3 kilometers around the corner from Ao Nang, is a long beach yet still rather undeveloped, with only a few resorts and bars. Attractive because of its natural setting, this is where local youngsters and families gather at sunset and at weekends. Savour some local Muslim snacks at the beach stalls, or fill yourself with seafood in the local restaurants at the very end of the beach, near the Noppharat Thara National Park headquarters. At low tide, walk out together with millions of small crabs on the sandy pathways to the small islands near the beach.
If you’re already in Thailand or Malaysia, then AirAsia.com typically has the best airfare to southern Thailand, otherwise for those who still need to arrange flights to Thailand, I recommend searching through Skyscanner for the most competitive deals to Krabi International Airport (KBV) or Phuket (HKT).
Directions from Krabi Town:
From the Krabi Airport – when you exit the baggage claim area, there will be tour operator desks to the right before you exit the terminal. Simply ask for the shuttle to Ao Nang. They typically leave every 20 minutes and cost less than 200 baht per person.
If you spend time in Krabi Town, you will want to seek out or ask for a Songtaew (a covered truck where you sit in the back). They drive through all the main parts of town about every 15 or 20 minutes, and the truck should have “Ao Nang” printed on the front and side. Usually about 60 baht from Krabi Town to Ao Nang. It takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour to Ao Nang depending on traffic.
You will usually be dropped at the beachfront near the boat ticket sales office and you will need to walk on your own to look for accommodation.
Directions from Phuket Airport:
Go outside and get a minibus (van) to the Phuket bus station. Usually 100 baht. You will have to wait for about ten people to pay before the minibus will depart.
You go to the bus station, it will take about 30 minutes to 45 minutes. There is an 11:30 bus to Krabi Town. It’s usually about 60 baht, and takes about 3 hours.
If you are staying in Ao Nang, here are a few recommended stays:
For a cheap guesthouse to book in advance, at least for your first night or so, I highly recommend Aonang Goodwill for their clean rooms, fast wi-fi internet, and excellent staff.
If you want a nicer place, check out Ao Nang Paradise Resort or book with the Ascot Krabi and ask for one of their mountain-facing rooms. OR if you want real luxury I recommend the beautiful Alisea Boutique Hotel or The Cliff Aonang Resort.
Click here for a map of the Aonang area, with points of interest, and many nearby restaurants and bars.
Here are more images of the area:
Other Krabi Region Destinations:
Take a 15 minute long tail boat ride from Krabi Town or Ao Nang to the beautiful, remote peninsula of Railay Beach, my favorite place I’ve found so far in my travels to 30+ countries. Click here to learn more about Railay Beach, Thailand.
Once a backpacker’s best-kept secret, Phi Phi island (a title which invariably refers to the habited Phi Phi Don as opposed to the uninhabited Phi Phi Leh) is one of the most beautiful of the Andaman Sea islands belonging to Thailand. In fact, there are several islands in the archipelago, but only one has any development. Most visitors come for a day trip, while others opt to stay awhile on Phi Phi Don.
Words do little justice to the awesome coastal scenery surrounding the islands and while photographs can capture the essence, those who experience it for themselves will tell you that the real thing is worth a thousand words or pictures. The classic butterfly shape of Phi Phi Don, with its two distinctive back-to-back bays, is one of the world’s most spectacular seascapes.
The 2004 tsunami took its toll on the island and burgeoning tourist development was completely devastated. The recovery has been slow due to the authorities’ reluctance to allow unchecked developemnt too close to the beach, which has actually had a positive effect on the island. Whereas many considered the island to be overrun and spoiled before the tragedy, it now seems to have returned the island more to its natural state. Although there are fewer beds available on the island, those who come as day trippers experience a much more beautiful Phi Phi Don.
Phi Phi Don is a purpose-built holiday center; prior to the development of its tourist infrastructure, there was little happening on the island and without tourism there would indeed be no industry at all. Visitors come here for the very fact that there are no busy roads, no giant supermarkets, no malls or large-scale entertainment centers.
If you seek to stay a few nights, I recommend the deluxe & sea view rooms at Phi Phi View Point Resort for an affordable but very nice stay (with infinity pool overlooking Ton Sai Beach!)
OR if you want to be a little further from the bustle of the nightclubs and the backpackers, there is a more remote beach where I recommend the unique Viking Nature Resort.
If a quiet, lazy beach holiday in tranquil, scenic settings gets you excited, then Phi Phi is definitely the place for you. It offers a mix of expensive, primely-placed hotels and cheaper guesthouses, with a small village of tourist services. However, it is popular and at the height of the season it heaves under the weight of day visitors. Fortunately there are two sweeping beaches/bays, Ton Sai and Lo Dalam, which are 100 meters apart and offer plenty of room for everyone. The rest of the island is mostly steep limestone karst hills.
It’s not all about soaking up the sun or paddling in the sea however, visitors wanting to see something of the surrounding area can take day trips to neighboring islands and mainland destinations such as Phi Phi Ley, Krabi, and Phuket. Alternatively, local companies offer some fantastic diving opportunities in the crystal clear Andaman waters for both beginners and experienced divers.
Phi Phi Ley is a particular treat with its paradise-like beach protected by national park status, which was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster film The Beach.
Phi Phi Don can be reached primarily by regular ferries or private boat charter from Phuket, Ao Nang, and Koh Lanta.
Lanta is situated about 70 kilometers off the south coast of Krabi, on the eastern side of Phangnga Bay. It’s the ideal hideaway for escaping the mass tourism found elsewhere on the Andaman Sea, and although it does get busy in the high season, you can expect your resort to have its own uncrowded beach for the whole family to enjoy.
A significant part of the island is still covered by an unspoiled and untouched rainforest, and is far less developed than Phuket or Ao Nang. If you’re looking for a place for lying on the beach and seldom leaving your resort, with few disturbances, Koh Lanta is it.
On the west side of Koh Lanta, stretching for 25 kilometers, are nine magnificent white powder beaches with crystal clear waters.
The more developed areas of the island can be found in the north, around the beaches ofKlong Dao and Phra Ae. Most of Koh Lanta’s resorts and tourist services can be found near these beaches, although even at the height of peak season, these beaches are never overly crowded.
Heading south, you will find that the beaches become more secluded and some may be completely deserted. There are some basic amenities available for tourists, such as ATMs and tour offices, but Koh Lanta is less developed the nearer you get to the national marine park in the south.
Some resorts have exclusive use of the beaches in their private bays, while the lengthier beaches near the north provide you with a bit more company and choices of restaurants and bars.
The main tourist office of Koh Lanta is found at Baan Saladan, the point of disembarkation for many visitors to the island. Here you’ll find banks, medical services and dive and other shops. The main post office is located in the southeast corner of Koh Lanta, in the beautiful Baan Koh Lanta old town.
Most of the beaches on Koh Lanta have golden sands and are perfect for swimming and diving. The island is a diving and snorkelling lover’s paradise with its rich waters, coral reefs, limestone rock outcroppings, rock reefs, seamounts, pinnacles, undersea caverns, tunnels, and sunken ships. The water temperature around Koh Lanta ranges from about 27° to 31°C.
Koh Lanta is the sort of island you come to relax on and enjoy the natural environment. There are no raucous bars full of go-go girls, no tuk-tuks endlessly hustling for business, and you won’t find souvenir shops or tour guides on every corner. At the height of the season, the most popular resorts might be full, but there is room for everyone here. You’re also not confronted with a bewildering choice of activities to empty your wallet, and can simply relax on the beach, go on a late afternoon walk in the national park or arrange an early morning dive.
With its stunning beaches, unparalleled diving, luxurious resorts and spectacular scenery, Koh Lanta is the perfect getaway, particularly for families and couples.
I can personally recommend Dream Team Beach Resort (especially their nicer beachfront sea view suites!) and neighboring Shell Beach Resort for budget travelers, but IF you want the ULTIMATE in luxury for a romantic getaway, be sure to indulge yourself at Pimalai, the Crown Lanta Resort & Spa, or see The Houben hotel.
Here’s another beautiful video that shows the serenity and beauty of life on the beautiful beaches of Southern Thailand, shot in Phuket and Samui as well:
- Click here for a nice Ao Nang map, with accommodation, nearby restaurants and bars.
- Also be sure to read my full Thailand travel guide for newbies
- There is also further information about next door Railay Beach, my favorite beach I’ve found in the world so far!
- And if you’re interested in a fun week+ retreat in Thailand, I occasionally put on events in Krabi