When most people think of Thailand, especially the beach/island areas, they’re picturing Phuket. But we opted to stay on the beaches around Krabi, just across the way, based upon a recommendation from friends that Krabi was a bit less touristy than Phuket. And while I’m sure Phuket is beautiful, I can absolutely say that I loved where we ended up and would recommend Krabi to anyone looking to explore the western islands of Thailand. It is an absolute slice of heaven.
To be clear, Krabi town is not on the beach, so when you’re looking at hotels, check out popular Ao Nang Beach if you’re looking to be in the middle of the action, or Klong Muang Beach just up the way if you’re looking for something a bit quieter. The longtail tours depart from Ao Nang Beach, so if you’re looking to visit places like Railay Beach (keep reading for more on that), be prepared to take a taxi to Ao Nang if you opt to stay elsewhere. It’s easy though, I promise!
ACCOMODATIONS: we chose to divide our time between both Ao Nang and Klong Muang so we could experience both beaches.
- On Ao Nang, we stayed at the Mercure Krabi Deevana. Just a short walk from the beach itself (which to be honest isn’t much of a beach, but it was a great jumping off point for our day trip to Railay), the Mercure had beautiful pools, open air restaurants, and a variety of room types, from poolside suites to standard doubles, starting at just $45/night. It was also situated a short walk from the main road in town, so we had all the conveniences of town within a couple of minutes walk. The main road in town can get quite touristy and loud, so if you’re not in the mood for that, I’d recommend the Mercure as it is much quieter
- On Klong Muang, we stayed at the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort, which has since changed its name to the Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort. While the price was a bit higher than anywhere else we stayed in Thailand, it was absolutely worth it. The resort itself is stunning, and it’s situated right on the beach – not to mention the beach is private and only hotel guests can take advantage of it. And it’s an actual beach, stretching for what feels like miles, unlike the “beach” in Ao Nang. There are also multiple stunning beach-front pools, as well as restaurants and bars on the property. They’ll help arrange transit to the airport and into town if you want to visit the Krabi Night Market, as well. Rooms start at $120/night for garden-view rooms, but I’d recommend looking for an ocean-view room if you can swing the extra cost (it’s worth it!)
ACTIVITIES: there is a LOT to do in this area, all of which revolves around taking advantage of the beautiful island beaches there are to explore in this area! It also rained the entire time we were in the islands (hence why every picture looks cloudy), but we still absolutely loved our time and the pictures don’t do the beauty justice. Even in the rain, this area is stunning.
We did three different day trips that I’d absolutely recommend to anyone looking to explore outside of Krabi:
- Phi Phi Islands Speedboat Tour: we ended up booking this tour through our hotel, but I’d recommend walking into town and reserving from a travel vendor on the street – it’ll be much cheaper as you’ll be able to bargain a bit. The tour included all the key Phi Phi Island sights, like the popular Maya Bay (from the movie “The Beach”), as well as stops on both Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lei, a visit to Monkey Beach, as well as time to snorkel and relax on the beaches
- Cost (from our hotel): $30pp (includes lunch)
- Hotel pick-up at 7am, return around 4pm
- Four Islands Longtail Boat Tour: after learning from our mistake of booking through the hotel, we found a street vendor to reserve our Four Islands tour. This tour was done via longtail boat, which allowed us a totally different experience from the speedboat – and equally entertaining! As with any public (and popular) tour, there will be other people in your boat, and many other people on the islands you’re visiting, but if you can get past that, it’s definitely worth checking out. During this tour, you visit Chicken Island, Poda Island, Tup Island, and Phra Nang Cave Beach, which is situated on the southern end of Railay Beach.
- Cost: $16 per person (including lunch)
- Hotel pick-up at 7am, return around 4pm
- Railay Beach Day Trip: this was one of my favorite places we visited while in Krabi. There are two sides to Railey – the beach side and the marsh side, and it’s an easy walk between the two. You can spend the day swimming, exploring caves, walking around the island – plan to spend several hours here. You wont want to leave
- Cost (from Ao Nang Pier): total cost will be around $10 there and back, but DO NOT buy a return ticket, just one way at a time; there’s no way of ensuring the same longtail brings you back, so only pay for the way there. They’ll try to sell you on the round trip as a scam, so don’t let them sweet talk you. You WILL lose that return trip money, trust me. There’s a stall on the beach in Railay where you’ll buy your return ticket once you’re ready to leave. There are always tons of boats, so you wont have to wait more than maybe 5 minutes
I also very much enjoyed the Krabi Night Market in Krabi town, though note it only operates on Fridays. The hotel arranged a shuttle, $20 per person round-trip, to take us from the hotel into Krabi Town (about a 30-minute drive). It was the perfect place to pick up some final souvenirs (like jade earrings and local thai artwork) and grab a delicious meal.
Note: the first two tours are easily accessible from Phuket as well. Railay is a bit further from Phuket, so while I believe it’s absolutely doable in a day, you may want to consider staying overnight if you go to Railay. There’s also James Bond Island, which may be slightly easier to access from Phuket vs Krabi, but can easily be done in a day trip as well.
FOOD: Thailand has such incredible and affordable food, especially food from markets or street vendors. But if you’re looking to have a bit more “formal” of a meal (I use the quotes because these places are by no means formal, just nicer than a street cart), here were some of our favorite spots:
- On Ao Nang, we had two amazing dinners, one at Bussaba Thai Restaurant off the main road in town, and one at Lae Lay Grill up the hill overlooking town. Bussaba is the more casual option – I’d recommend the Kra Pow (spicy basil rice) and the Pineapple Fried Rice (yes, it comes in a pineapple!). Lae Lay is a bit nicer, you definitely couldn’t show up in a bathing suit, and I’d recommend going earlier so you get a beautiful view of the beach and can catch the sunset
- On Klong Muang, we ate every night at Maya Restaurant, just across the road from the entrance to the resort. Between the three of us and multiple dinners, we tried a good portion of the menu, and absolutely nothing disappointed!
Have you been to Koh Phagnan? Let me know what your favorite activities and places to stay are – I can’t wait to get back and would love to experience something new on the island!