Last Update: December 2019
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It’s easy to understand why Thailand is one of the most popular countries for travelers in South East Asia. Due to the agreeable climate, price level, delicious food and ample attractions, Thailand has something to offer for everyone. A whopping 41million tourists are expected to have visited the land of smiles in 2019 (source: Thailand ministry of tourism, according to the Bangkok Post). Mind you, that’s more people than the total population of Canada!
The list of highlights seems endless, but with so many other tourists visiting, you know you won’t be alone. After all, they are…, well let’s just say that everyone wants to visit the highlights. Don’t worry about it too much though, the infrastructure around the most visited attractions in Thailand is often well developed. As a result, visiting the highlights remains the best introduction to Thailand.
Unless you’re a full time traveler and time is not an issue you’ll have a hard time deciding which destinations to cover. Most visitors start in Bangkok, which is a highlight in itself. After that, it’s either down South for some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, or up North for mountains and rain-forests. Krabi in the South has the best of both worlds.
Krabi is the name of a Thai province as well as the province capital and also of the river that flows through it. The province has some of the most sought after tourist destinations in Thailand: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Ao Nang, Railay and part of Phang Nga Bay to name a few. Less known, but still popular Islands like Koh Jum, Koh Sri Boya, Koh Yao Noi and Yai are also a part of Krabi province.
Picture massive karst rock hills covered in bright green vegetation on one side and rugged steep drops on the other and you will know what Krabi looks like. Now, think of mangrove lined waterways with crystal clear waters and it’s also Krabi. Next, imagine turquoise colored shoreline with endless white beaches, bordered by green leafy trees and yes, it’s Krabi too. Krabi has it all.
And then of course there’s Krabi Town, the rather small, but nonetheless busy provincial capital.
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How to get to Krabi
Krabi has its own airport with flights coming in from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Australia. Use the Skyscanner website to find the full schedule and ticket prices. Sometimes flying is cheaper than bus or train and the fares from Bangkok to Krabi might surprise you. Of course you’ll miss out on all the nice scenery.
Multiple buses depart from Bangkok to Krabi every day. Don’t buy your ticket at one of the Khaosan road travel agencies though, there have been several reports of scams. Especially combined bus/ferry tickets to Krabi/Koh Phi Phi are known for leaving travelers with invalid ferry tickets at the pier.
For bus/ferry/train schedules and tickets within Thailand, use the transport planning tool below from 12Go.com to book online. Especially during high season and public holidays it makes sense to book ahead to secure your seat(s). Book instantly.
From Krabi airport there are convenient shuttle busses to Krabi Town and Ao Nang. Not exactly cheap, but it beats the THB350 taxis. For onward travel from Krabi by bus also use the 12Go.com planner or catch the white and red songthaews to the Krabi bus terminal North of Krabi town.
the 12go.com planner can also be used for bus/ferry transfers from Krabi to Railay and several Islands, although it’s also possible to reach Railay from Ao Nang. Krabi bus/ferries have regular connections to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Phuket and even Koh Samui.
For smaller Islands the fastest way is by airport taxi to the designated piers and subsequent ferry. If you’re staying in Krabi town, consult any of the travel agencies (or your guesthouse) for mini bus transfers to the particular pier.
In Krabi Town, Ao Nang and Railay all the interesting stuff is within fair walking distance. Alternatively, rent a bicycle if you don’t want to walk all day. Bicycle and motorbike rent is pretty common in Krabi and rentals won’t be difficult to find. Expect around THB100 for a day’s rent per bicycle and THB200 for a motorbike. Tut-tuks are plenty, but I had a hard time negotiating them below regular taxi prices.
Things to see/do in Krabi
Krabi Town Riverside
The riverside along the Pak Nam Krabi certainly makes for an enjoyable stroll. Catch the river breeze and views of the mangroves. There’s even a 600m elevated walkway through the mangroves.
Take a close up look a the two massive limestone rocks that go by the name Khao Khanab Nam, towering 100m high above the river and visible from almost every angle on the Krabi town river front. At the Pak Nam Park pier you can charter a boat for a 5 min boat ride to explore the caves under the rocks. While the caves are interesting enough it’s not really worth the high priced boat ride. Cave admission THB20 p/p.
It might be a better idea to combine the cave trip with a visit to Ko Klang, the car free, Thai Muslim community Island across the river from Krabi Town. Within earshot from hedonistic icons such as Ao Nang and Koh Phi Phi, rural Ko Klang still manages to preserve the traditional Thai Muslim culture. Authentic Southern village life at its best.
Wat Kaew Korawaram
Situated near the center of Krabi Town, perched on top of a small hill is the Wat Kaew Buddhist temple. The white colored temple is not too large, but quite beautiful and peaceful with a naga stairway leading up the last part of the hill. Mural paintings depict the life of Buddha from birth to enlightenment in 7 steps.
This is Thailand where markets have an important role in daily life. While Thai people do their grocery shopping, tourists are roaming the markets for souvenirs, trinkets and Thai snacks. Krabi town has several markets that are worth a visit.
Talad Maharaj at Maharaj road, soi 7 is probably the most authentic (and most popular). Fresh produce and the place to be for authentic Thai breakfast. Market hours are from 4am to 12pm.
Continue your market adventures at the City Market (Talad Sod) just off Maharaj soi 10. Fresh fruits, tropical smoothies and the best Thai curry this side of the Mississippi. It opens at 10am, but things don’t really get going until 4pm. Closing time is around 9pm.
Chao Fah Night Market at the Chao Fah pier. This is a local food market that features some of the most delicious barbecued seafood and meats. The market starts at 5pm when the day starts to cool down and continues until late at night.
“Krabi Walking Street” at Maharaj soi 8. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening the market draws a crowd from as far as Ao Nang. T-shirt and souvenir stands, comfort street food and beer bars all make this Chiang Mai Night Markt lookalike into an entertaining place.
Read: “15 fun things to do in Krabi”. More tips on activities in Krabi.
The surroundings of Krabi are great for exploring. Rented motorbike is probably the cheapest way to go around, although it will be easy enough to charter a tuk-tuk.
A visit to Wat Tham Seua (tiger cave temple) should be high on your list and is a real must-see. Part of the temple is set atop a hill and provides incredible views of the area.
Khao Phanom Bencha National Park is a mere 30km North of Krabi town. This national park with the 1350m high namesake peak has everything to satisfy your nature desires. A jungle trail, Khao Pheung cave and the 11-tiered waterfall Huay Toh. Visit the park on a day trip or stay the night in a tent on the camping grounds.
Just north of Tup Kaek beach is the entrance to Hang Nak Hill. This is the start of a 3.7km trail that will lead you up the hill, past multiple viewpoints and a waterfall. The Dragon Crest Mountain Viewpoint is so exceptional that it will blow the roof off your instagram. Entrance is free, but you have to register with the rangers since they would like to keep track of who is up there.
Krabi 4 Islands
The Iconic Krabi 4 Islands tour. A longtail boat will bring you to Phra Nang Cave Beach (which technically is on a peninsula), Tup Island, Chicken Island and Poda Island. Each of the Islands has its own specific attraction, but sunbathing/swimming/snorkeling is the common denominator of this tour.
You won’t be alone, as this is a popular tour, and so it should be. However, despite the possible crowds the tour nevertheless offers beautiful sights and lot’s of fun. Any of the travel agencies in Krabi Town and Ao Nang is able to offer this tour for around THB500-800 p/p.
Ao Thalane – Kayaking
Ao Thalane to the North of Tup Kaek has a reputation for adventurous sea kayaking. The scenery is spectacular with more limestone canyons and a network of canals through the mangroves. Be careful though, don’t go in without a guide. You could get lost in the maze and at low tide it’s possible to get stuck in the mangroves with your kayak.
You don’t necessarily need an organized tour for the activities mentioned. It’s perfectly possible to do it by yourself, but think about it. While you’re trying to save a buck you’ll be dishing out serious dollars for transport. Renting a longtail boat all by your lonesome is a lot more expensive than sharing it with a group. Likewise, renting a motorbike, buying gasoline and arranging a decent lunch by yourself can add up in the end of the day.
I know, you’re for the beaches. While the Islands around Krabi boast some of the best beaches that Thailand has to offer, don’t be so quick to dismiss the mainland beaches just yet. There are plenty and most of them are also quite the find.
Similar to Ao Nang, Railay is a destination in itself. It’s actually a small peninsula, only accessible by boat and it has four beaches: Tonsai, Railay West, Railay East and Phra Nang. Next to beach bumming and beach night life, rock climbing is the main activity on Railay.
The mother of all Krabi mainland beaches. Honestly, it’s not the best, because some parts can be rather dirty and in high season it’s extremely crowded. However, sunsets are spectacular plus you have the notorious nightlife and shopping at your feet. Ao Nang is also where you’ll find boats to Railay and Tonsai.
Ao Nopparat Thara
Right next to Ao Nang, but without the crowds. In fact, the 3km stretch of beach is quiet and laid back with plenty of shade from casuarina trees. At low tide you can walk from the beach to the small Island of Koh Kao Pak Klong.
Situated 10km East of Nopparat Thara, this is a low key beach and for the life of me, I have no idea why. It’s a picture perfect beach near to some of the busiest tourist hubs of Thailand! But ok, don’t ask questions, just enjoy. No shopping and no rowdy nightlife here. Instead, expect modest facilities and tranquility.
Tup Kaek is one of those gorgeous beaches with stunning views that earned Krabi its name as a top beach destination. About 8km North of Klong Muang this beach is quiet, but not remote. There are a few upscale resorts, as well as a few independent bars and restaurants.
Had Yao (Long Beach)
Had Yao, to the South East of Krabi Town is next on our list. There are no major developments here yet, which makes it the perfect getaway for tranquility seeking beach lovers. Contrary to most other Krabi beaches, Had Yao lacks the spectacular karst formations, but makes up for it with pristine mangrove forest and a peek into traditional local life. Two Muslim fishing villages are located at either side of Had Yao.
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Don’t forget travel insurance. One that also covers your medical care abroad and includes evacuations and repatriation. I use World Nomads, because they also cover a wide range of adventure sports and activities including scuba diving. Even your motor bike rental escapades are covered (if you follow the rules). You can buy cover online, even if you’re already in the middle of traveling.
Where to stay in Krabi town
Krabi Town is the jump off point for onward travel to the Islands and therefore not a long term stay destination. Probably, most holiday makers that stay on the Krabi mainland opt for Ao Nang or Railay as both are right on the beach. Krabi Town and its surroundings do have a lot to offer though, so before boarding your ferry to the Islands, why not linger a day or two to explore this unique area.
These are my hotel recommendations:
K.L. Boutique Hotel Krabi:
Budget = from THB500 to THB1000
Not sure why this classifies as a boutique hotel, but I guess it’s not an official classification. Still, K.L. is value for money, spotlessly clean, in the middle of town and with helpful owners and staff. The walls and ceilings are paper thin so expect to hear your neighbors. Nonetheless, we had an excellent 2 days here. Not really suitable for longer stays.
Family Tree Hotel
Mid Range = from THB1000 to THB2500
A few doors down from the hotel described above. I stayed here 1 night before relocating next door for budget reasons. This is what a boutique hotel is in my opinion. It’s also the far better choice, but hey, the room rate is almost triple so to each its own. Family Tree is wonderful, very comfy rooms, beautiful decorations and welcoming staff.
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Where to eat in Krabi Town
If you are in to Thai food like me, Krabi Town is a food heaven! You do know that Thai curries are originally from the South right? Also, with the Andaman sea at Krabi’s doorstep it should come as no surprise that Krabi seafood is fresh and one of the best.
On the other hand, being a major tourist destination, Krabi also adds more cosmopolitan options to its food scene. Many restaurants offering food from around the world call Krabi home so there should be something even for the most fastidious palate.
These are my recommendations:
Uno Restaurant If your pizza craving needs satisfying then Uno can do the job for you. Don’t expect real Italian thin crust with all over fresh ingredients. However, the pizza here is tasty and reasonably priced. Service is friendly and courteous.
Hong Ming Vegetarian Food Maharaj soi 10 proves to be a good street for tasty food. Well, honestly, for me this restaurant was just ok, but my travel companions were really raving about it. Good choice of vegetarian dishes and soy meat, buffet style.
Poo Dam Bar Seafood galore on the river side. More expensive than on the street, but the quality, hygiene and atmosphere more than make up for it. Pick your own seafood and pay per weight.
Gecko Cabane Restaurant Slightly more upscale restaurant, but only slightly, offering Thai and Western dishes. I would describe the ambiance as “Thai bistro” if anything like that would exist. The service is friendly and welcoming. There must be a creative chef in the kitchen, because some of the well known Thai classics are very surprising, with a twist.
BangNara Roti Come to this place for breakfast or snack. Excellent roti canai like it’s straight from Malaysia. Come early as the places closes at 2pm.
Talad City Market is definitely the best place to sample the local Southern food. Inside the market there’s even a “curry alley”! Shoulder to shoulder cauldrons brimming with steaming curries in every color and flavor.
But it’s not just curries, practically every Thai classic is on order here, like Pad Kaprao, Som Tam and Pad Thai. Furthermore, you will find grilled fish and spicy roasted chicken waiting for you to feast on. Also hit this market if you’re into fresh fruits as you will find them here stacked 3 feet high. The market opens at 10am, but things don’t really get going until 4pm. Closing time is around 9pm.
Night Market Thai night markets are always a good source of delicious food. The one at Maharaj soi 8 is also dubbed “Walking Street” and opens only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6pm to 9:30pm. Likewise, the other notable night market at the Chao Fah pier serves scrumptious food as well from 5pm to 10pm.