Last Update: February 2022
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Thailand is the most popular country for travelers in South East Asia. The agreeable climate, price levels, delicious food and ample attractions prove to be an irresistible combination.
The list of highlights is endless and unless time is not an issue, you’ll have a hard time deciding which destinations in Thailand to cover. Most visitors start in Bangkok, which is a highlight in itself. Then, you can either head South for some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, or North for mountains and rain-forests.
This article explains why Krabi in the South should be on your must-visit list.
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Krabi is the name of a Thai province in the South, as well as the province capital and also of the river that flows through it. The province includes some of the most sought after tourist destinations in Thailand, as well as a few hidden gems.
Picture massive limestone 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.
And then of course there’s Krabi Town, the rather small, but nonetheless busy provincial capital.
Reasons to visit/skip Krabi
4 Reasons to visit Krabi
The beach is definitely reason number 1. Or should I say beaches, since there plenty of gorgeous beaches to choose from. I’ve included a short description of the best beaches here;
The natural beauty in this part of Thailand is unrivalled. I think I already mentioned the turquoise sea and with sand beaches against a backdrop of limestone rock formations. Wait till you see the lush mountainous interior and the Krabi river delta;
Ao Nang is famous for its enjoyable nightlife. Not as wild as Patong, Pattaya or Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, but that is actually the charm of it. Lively, fun and relatively safe with the raunchiness turned down a notch or two is how I can best describe it;
As if the gorgeous mainland beaches aren’t enough, Krabi serves as a main jump-off point for some of the world’s most beautiful Islands. Think Phi Phi Islands, Koh Lanta, Koh Jum and many more.
2 Reasons to skip Krabi
If you can’t handle high temperatures well, think twice before booking your flight. Sure, you want sunshine for your beach holiday, but don’t underestimate the Thai heat. It’s hot here 24/7 and at times the humidity can make it very unpleasant.
As a major holiday beach destination it is unavoidable that the area receives a lot of visitors. During the peak season (Dec-Jan) the crowds in particularly Ao Nang can be overwhelming. Other parts are more successful in dispersing the crowds, but to find tranquility can prove to be challenging;
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.
Visible from almost every angle of the town’s river front are the two massive limestone rocks that go by the name Khao Khanab Nam. 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.
A better idea might be to combine the cave trip with a visit to Ko Klang, a car free, Thai Muslim community Island across the river from 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.
Markets play an important role in the daily Thai life and Krabi Town has several markets that are worth a visit. Amidst locals doing their grocery shopping, tourists roam the markets in search of souvenirs, trinkets and Thai snacks.
Talad Maharaj at Maharaj road, soi 7 is probably the most authentic market (and most popular). Fresh produce and the place to be for an 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, they all make this Chiang Mai Night Markt lookalike into an entertaining place.
The surroundings of Krabi are great for exploring. The cheapest way to get around is probably by rental motorbike, 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 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.
4 Islands tour
This is an iconic tour. A traditional longtail boat takes 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 the main 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 here 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.
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.
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.
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.
Had Yao (Long Beach)
Had Yao, to the South East of 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 beaches here, 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.
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.
Tub 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.
Don’t forget travel insurance just because you think it’s boring. Remember, you’re a million miles away from professional health care. Any injuries or ailments will result in costly medical transport to Bangkok, payable upfront if you lack proper insurance.
The right travel insurance covers your medical care abroad and evacuation/repatriation. Also include adventurous activities like scuba diving and hiking.
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Accommodation in Krabi is abundant and varied with the largest concentration of hotels and guesthouses in Krabi Town and Ao Nang. Because of fierce competition these are probably also the locations where the best deals can be found. Like the Hula Hula Resort, perfectly situated with the beaches of Ao Nang and Ao Nopparat just a short walk away. Only $24 per night and free cancellation.
If you would like to stay even closer to the beach, how about Tonsai Bay Resort? This is a real value for money accommodation, that is also right smack on a secluded beach of the Railay peninsula. Only $23 per night and free cancellation.
Krabi Town is the jump-off point for onward travel to the Islands and therefore not really a long term stay destination. The town has 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 for Krabi Town:
OYO 1118 K.L. Boutique Hotel Krabi:
Budget = from $10 to $30
Not sure why this classifies as a boutique hotel, but I guess it’s not an official classification. Still, it’s value for money here. 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
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, with $60 the room rate is triple so not really fair to compare. Family Tree is wonderful, very comfy rooms, beautiful decorations and welcoming staff.
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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 its doorstep it should come as no surprise that seafood here 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.
Krabi Town restaurant recommendations:
Uno Restaurant If your pizza craving needs satisfying then Uno can do the job for you. You can expect thin crust with good ingredients and prices that are far more reasonable than other Italian restaurants here. The four cheese pizza was very tasty and served with a courteous and friendly smile.
BangNara Roti Have your breakfast, snack or lunch here and imagine yourself in an original Malay mamak food stall. Excellent soft and flaky roti canai and beef curry, like it’s straight from Malaysia. Come early as the places closes at 2pm.
Hong Ming Vegetarian Food A bit out of town, but conveniently on the road to the tiger cave temple Wat Tham Suea is where we found this option. Honestly, vegetarian food is not my first choice, but I have to admit that the dishes were ok. My travel companions being die hard vegetarians however, absolutely raved about the food. The restaurant offers a good choice of vegetarian dishes and soy mock meat, buffet style. It’s dirt cheap too, with rice and two toppings for just THB80. Not sure, but I expect they also do vegan.
Poo Dam Bar & Restaurant Seafood galore. They used to be at the river front, but the recent move only affected the wonderful flavors in a positive way. The menu is a bit more expensive than seafood on the street, but the quality, hygiene and atmosphere more than make up for it. Pick your own seafood and pay per weight.
Kanui Cuisine Great Southern Thai style home cooking in a small and unassuming place. The food here is so fresh and original. Try some of the incredibly delicious coco-nutty curries. I still dream of this from time to time.
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.
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.
Talad City Market is definitely the best place to sample the local Southern food. It even has a “curry alley”! Shoulder to shoulder cauldrons brimming with steaming curries in every possible color and flavor. Fresh fruits stacked three feet high, grilled fish and spicy roasted chicken just waiting for you to feast on.
Ao Nang/Ao Nopparat restaurant recommendations
Chomlay Restaurant From the looks of it just another dime a dozen Thai restaurant for Westerners. Looks can be deceiving though. Not the very cheapest, but still cheaper than most along Ao Nopparat beach. The food is outstanding, as is the friendliness and service. Seafood from the wok, great curries and smoothies to die for.
Thanya Kitchen Don’t you just love those small Thai family run eateries that conjure up the best authentic food? However, sometimes they lack a bit of atmosphere, because of the TL-lighting and plastic furniture. Well, you should really try this restaurant in Ao Nang. The food and atmosphere are unmistakably Thai. They serve all the usual suspect dishes that you would find at the street stalls. Only here, you can enjoy them in a clean and cozy environment. Great service with that iconic Thai smile as well.
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 very well surprise you.
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.
Book your bus, ferry or train tickets within Thailand online with the transport planner below. Especially during high season and public holidays it makes sense to book ahead to secure your seat(s). Skip the lines at the bus station and book instantly.
From Krabi airport there are convenient shuttle buses to the Krabi Town bus terminal and Ao Nang. Not exactly cheap, but it beats the THB350 taxis. For onward travel from the Krabi bus terminal catch the white and red songthaews into town.
The above 12go.com transport 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.
Within Krabi Town, Ao Nang and Railay all the interesting stuff is pretty much walkable. Alternatively, rent a bicycle if you don’t want to walk all day. Bicycle and motorbike rent is 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.
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