You have read that I live in Krabi, but you might wonder where exactly it is and why would someone live in such an unknown place (that is if you have never been to Thailand).
Well, Krabi is a spectacular province in the South-west of Thailand, boarding the Andaman Sea. Although Krabi doesn’t make headlines as some of the most famous tourist destinations in the country, like Koh Samui, Phuket and Chiang Mai, thousands of visitors come to visit the area all year round, but especially in dry season, from November until April.
Why so? Because Krabi has some of the best beaches and islands in Thailand and many other natural attractions like the karst mountains and peaks jutting out of the turquoise sea, or the mangrove forests, waterfalls and hot springs.
The first time I travelled to Thailand in the early Nineties, I didn’t go to Krabi but, as most European tourists, I only visited Bangkok and Phuket, with a day trip to Phi Phi Islands. My family and I immediately fell in love with Phi Phi, and when the tour guide told us that the islands belonged to Krabi Province, we made up our mind to go exploring Krabi Province, the following time we would be in Thailand. And we did it.
In all truth, Krabi should be on every Thai bucket list because its scenery is unique and the province full of surprises.
After travelling to Krabi for several years, on solo travels or holidays with friends and family, two years ago I decided to move here for good. Since then, I explored the province regularly, visiting the most touristic attractions as well as the less known places.
To help you planning your next trip, here are some of the best things to see and do in Krabi, Thailand.
Ao Nang is the most popular tourist destination in Krabi Province. It’s a laid back village about 20 minute drive from Krabi Town, where you will find plenty of hotels and renting accommodation, restaurants, shops, and the most popular beach in Krabi, Ao Nang beach.
The village is far from being fancy, instead it appeals to visitors that like an informal atmosphere and plenty of facilities, from Starbucks and McDonald’s venues to simple café and local restaurants where you can eat a Pad Thai or Mango and Sticky rice for less than a hundred bath.
At night Ao Nang is lively with cabaret shows, live music and performances, and a few soi (little alleys) where locals and tourists play pool and darts or drink a beer with bar girls. Boogie Bar and Booze are among the most popular bars, while the Slumber Party bar and hostel is the favorite among young travellers and backpackers.
Upscale Italian restaurants like Umberto or Azzurra will make pasta lovers happy, while Kodam Kitchen or Ton Ma Yom offer the best local Thai cuisine. Indian restaurants are everywhere, and Japanese and Chinese venues are doubling by the year, so there’s really something for everybody in this small beach town.
During the day, roasting in the sun and visiting the nearby islands are the visitors’ favorite activities: a boat ride from Ao Nang Beach to Poda and Chicken Islands only takes 20 minutes, and the local long-tail boats are waiting for passengers right in front of the beach.
Snorkelling and diving trips can be booked from travel agencies and diving shops in central Ao Nang. Same for kayaking trips or jungle tours.
The Railay Peninsula
Ao Nang beach is not the only lovely strip of sand along the coast and near Ao Nang Village: Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang are even more beautiful than Ao Nang. However, there are no roads to reach these three destinations and the only way to visit them is by boat.
The closest to Ao Nang is Ton Sai, then there is Railay, and the last one is Phra Nang. These three sisters are the top areas for rock climbing in Krabi, with several climbing schools operating all year 'round.
If you’ve never climbed before, you might want to take lessons, and there is a variety of half day, full day or multi day courses available. Even children can learn the basic techniques, and there are cliffs for every levels, from beginner to advance.
One popular option is Deep Water Solo: after practicing rock climbing, enjoy jumping into the emerald waters from different cliffs.
The limestone cliffs of Krabi are amazing to see from a distance, imagine how stunning they are up close!
Once you are in Railay, and even if rock climbing is not your thing, there is so much to see and do: hiking paths and jungle trails, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking options, and several bars and restaurants for chill out from morning until late at night.
To avoid the crowds, go in the early morning or late afternoon, or, even better, book a hostel or hotel in Railay and spend the night there.
Phra Nang beach is located on the southern Railay peninsula, and you can walk there through an easy and beautiful path from Railay East.
The sea is turquoise and shallow, the sand is soft and white, and the cliffs provide some shade during the day: it’s a kids paradise.
One attraction you shouldn’t miss is the Princess Cave where locals worship the goddess of fertility by bringing flowers, offers and…. phallic wooden objects which make this place really unique.
Sunsets are mesmerising in Railay West and Phra Nang beach, and you can enjoy the show each evening with a cold beer and a Thai snack. It’s Thailand at its best!
Krabi Town & the Night Market
A 20 minute drive from Ao Nang lies Krabi Town, the provincial capital.
It’s a laid-back little city that offers cultural experiences and close encounters with Thai people.
Art lovers should visit the Krabi Contemporary Art Museum for exhibits of local and foreign artists.
In Krabi Town you will also find many restaurants, shops and cafes, and a river promenade with a scenic view of Khao Khanab Nam, two limestone mountains that are the landmark of Krabi.
By joining a boat tour nearby the Khao Khanab Nam, you will see some interesting caves with prehistoric remains, the mangrove forest and the Muslim fishermen community that lives in Koh Klang, on the opposite side of the river, in front of Krabi.
Krabi Night Market
Night markets are ubiquitous in Thailand, in small villages and big cities, and Krabi is not different. Thais love to buy food and goods at the market, and they love shopping even more at evening, when the heat of the day is replaced by a gentle breeze and a dropping in the temperature.
Night markets are always busy and lively, colourful and cheap. If you’re looking for authentic Thai street food and souvenirs in Krabi Town, the Krabi Night Market is a must-visit.
The night market, which is also known as Walking Street, is open at weekends from 6 PM until 10 PM. It’s just behind the Vogue Shopping Center where you can buy designer and international clothing brands (don’t expect an Icon Siam though, or you’ll be disappointed! This is just an average department store).
The variety of items you will find at the Night Market is large: from local artefacts and clothing to leather handbags, street food and gardening tools. Visitors love coming to the market to enjoy live music and performances, too.
The best time to visit the market is around sunset: grab some local street food snacks, chat with the friendly vendors, enjoy the live music and street art performances before going for a beer in one of the bars downtown.
The Emerald Pool & Klong Thom Hot Springs
From Krabi you can visit the Emerald Pool and the Klong Thom Hot Springs.
The Emerald Pool consists of several natural pools of fresh water located in the jungle. Only the biggest pool, whose name refers to the turquoise color of the water, is suitable for swimming, while the Blue Pool is great for photos, but you are not allowed to dive in.
The Klong Thom Hot Springs are thermal underground springs with a temperature around 35-42 degrees Celsius. To refresh when it gets too hot, you can jump in the river below.
Some locals believe that the springs contain minerals which are healthy and can heal some disease, but even if there’s no proof of that, Klong Thom is perfect to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Avoid going there at weekends and National Holidays, because the place is very popular with locals and you will likely meet lots of people.
Explore the temples: Wat Tham Seua and Wat Kaew Korawaram
Besides the beach life, Thailand is famous for the thousands of temples that cover the country.
Not far from Krabi Town, Wat Tham Sua (the Tiger Cave Temple) is the most popular among visitors, and for a good reason: it consists of different buildings built into and around a cave in a limestone cliff. It takes its name from a wild tiger that used to live in the area when the first monks came to build the temple.
The most spectacular part of the complex is atop the cliff, but the hike to the very top of the mountain requires good legs and lungs, and some courage, since it takes 1260 steps on very steep staircases to conquer the peak.
From there, there’s an impressive 360 degree panoramic view above Krabi Province: on clear days, you can see as far as Lanta Island.
The Tiger Cave Temple is one of the most popular attractions in the province, so plan your visit early in the morning (as early as sunrise) or in the late afternoon to avoid tourist groups.
Don’t forget to cover your shoulders and legs, since this is a religious site, and be aware of the monkeys who are great thieves of cell phones, hats and food!
Wat Kaew Korawaram
In downtown Krabi, there’s another Buddhist temple that you shouldn’t miss, the Wat Kaew Korawaram, also called the “White Temple” because of the white exterior walls.
The large, white staircase leading to the temple can't be missed if you are walking or driving in downtown Krabi: you'll have to climb it to reach the main building which is perched on a small hill, but don't worry, it's nothing compared to the Tiger Cave Temple long staircase!
Once inside, check out the wall drawings showing important episodes of the Buddha’s life. Despite being an important temple in Krabi, and housing a monastery, the Wat Kaew is not as popular as the Wat Tham Suea, and you should be able to explore it without massive crowds.
All nature: explore Ao Thalane and the islands
The fishing village of Ao Thalane is not as touristy as other places in and around Krabi Town, and it’s a great idea for a day trip. Once in Ao Thalane, rent a kayak to explore the mangrove forest and canyons and observe the lush jungle and the creatures who inhabit it.
Locals are pretty serious about protecting the environment of Ao Thalane, and knowledgeable about the mangrove eco-system, so you will learn a lot about it during a kayak trip.
A few villas and beach resorts can be found in Ao Thalane, but if you don’t want to sleep there, this is an easy day trip from Krabi and Ao Nang.
Visit the islands
There are 52 islands off the coast of Krabi Province, and plenty of amazing tour opportunities for island hopping, many of them starting from Krabi Town or Ao Nang. The closest islands are ideal for half day tours by long tail boats, while others require a full day tour by speed boat, or a multi-day package.
One of the biggest and most beautiful islands where you should overnight is Koh Lanta Yai, a heaven for beach life, snorkelling and diving. It’s a laid back, relaxing place to spend a week, ideal for families with your children, yoga lovers, digital nomads and anyone who don’t miss the night life.
You’ll see some fantastic sunsets from Koh Lanta’s west coast beaches. Moreover, Lanta is easy to navigate: most of the roads are paved and scooters are affordable.
For a day trip from Ao Nang and Krabi, one of the most impressive islands is Koh Hong, boasting a long white sandy beach, a lagoon and, since recently, a phenomenal view point that can be reached in about 20 minutes, climbing an easy staircase.
Most join and private tours include a picnic lunch on the beach, anyway there is a simple restaurant where you can buy some fried rice, chips and ice-cream. It’s forbidden to sleep in Koh Hong, and the island closes at 5 pm. The boat trips to Koh Hong usually stop in two more islands: Lao Ladin (Paradise Island) and Pakbia.
The 4 island day trip is another tour that can be easily arranged from Ao Nang, Krabi Town and nearby locations.
Hop on a long tail or speed boat and spend your day basking in the sun, swimming, snorkelling or kayaking in the Andaman sea. Poda, Chicken, Tup and Mor islands are very close to each other: at low tide you can even walk on the sandbar connecting the tiny Tup island to Mor, feeling like Moses.
Poda Island is the one with the longest and whitest beach, it’s usually very crowded but if you walk to the southern part of the beach you might find a tranquil corner. It takes only 20 minutes by boat from Ao Nang to Poda and Chicken, and they are both stunning.
Hike the highest peaks
Krabi Province houses several National Parks, one of them is the Khao Phanom Bencha Park that takes its name from Khao Phanom Bencha, the highest mountain in the province.
If you are fit and healthy, you can climb it, but you should hire a guide and plan to overnight, since it takes about 7 hrs to reach the top, and the sun sets early in Thailand.
Another lovely (but challenging) hiking trail is the Dragon Crest (Khao Ngon Nak) which starts nearby Tubkaak Beach, a 15 minute drive from Ao Nang, and takes about 2 hours per way.
Start very early in the morning if you want to ascend slowly and enjoy some time at the top, taking in one of the most epic views in all of Thailand, because the National Park closest at 3 pm: after this time you won't be allowed to enter and climb.
What about my favorite activities as a resident?
As somebody who lives in Krabi all year long, I don’t visit the most touristic islands often, since I have been there many times in the past.
Mostly, I like to spend my free time eating brunch at a beach or panoramic café, enjoying a day at the spa, hopping on a public boat to Railay or taking long walks in Klong Muang or Tubkaak beach.
One thing I never get tired of is watching the phenomenal sunsets that happen so often in Krabi.
If you come to this part of Thailand, drop me a line and I’ll whisper some of my favorite secret places, so that you won’t miss out on all the natural beauties that Krabi has to offer.
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