Is Krabi a town, a province, a region or just a name that identifies one of the most alluring tourism destinations in Thailand? It’s actually all of these descriptions – and more. To those who know Krabi, and even those who don’t, there’s a certain magic in its name, an embedded sense of something special that years of adulation – and constantly returning visitors – have delivered. Indeed, there’s no hyperbole in saying Krabi is everything most foreigners imagine Thailand to be, but have difficulty finding in Phuket, Pattaya and larger, more densely populated coastal locations.
Story by Paul Myers
Krabi, on the south-west coast of the Thai/Malay peninsula, is known for its stunning beaches, adorned by sheer limestone cliffs that rise majestically to form perfect backdrops. Most visitors to Krabi arrive by air (there are international flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong) as well as frequent domestic services from Bangkok and other major centres. Once there, three broad destination choices await: in Krabi town itself, along the nearby coastline or on one of Krabi’s myriad of some 200 islands, some of which have accommodation of various levels.
Krabi town is a scenic provincial capital of only 30,000 permanent inhabitants. It boasts funky bars, a huge array of restaurants, market shopping and a laid-back ambience against a backdrop of mangrove-lined rivers, longtail boats, jagged karsts and the Andaman Sea. There are some excellent religious edifices in and near the town and a wonderful riverside walk and park. Krabi is the set-off point to well-known and not-so-well-known islands, such as Koh Lanta, the large island in the south of Krabi province, the Phi Phi islands, which also can be easily accessed from Phuket, and Koh Pu/Koh Jum where there are numerous resorts and accommodation options. A wealthy province due to the palm oil, rubber and tourism industries, considerable investments have been made in recent years in infrastructure, including a new marina, riverside park and a cultural walk on Chao Fah Road with 28 bas reliefs depicting aspects of the area’s notably long history.
Excavations have unearthed human remains, tools, jewellery and cave paintings dating back at least 5000 years, making Krabi province among the oldest human settlements in what is now Thailand. Thousands of ancient rock art paintings can be viewed in Tham Phi Hua To and other caves in the province’s northern reaches.
There are many islands worth visiting, exploring and staying overnight. The large island of Koh Pu/Koh Jum, just 25km south of Krabi town, can be easily accessed by boat and is perfect for short and long stays. Here you’ll find long sandy beaches perfect for swimming and snorkeling, three towns and accommodation ranging from beach shacks and bungalows to mid-range resorts.
Koh Lanta, once the domain of backpapers, has become a popular tourist hotspot within easy reach of Krabi. Comprising several islands, it boasts beautiful white sand beaches in dramatic settings, and many iconic Thai seaside promotional photographs have been shot there. Koh Lanta Yai at the northern tip of the islands is a popular stepping off point to explore the region. There are numerous accommodation options on its western shoreline.
The twin islands of Koh Rok can be visited on a day-trip to enjoy the wonderful beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving. An admission fee applies. Nearby Koh Rok Nai boasts an excellent diving area.
Koh Poda, just six kilometres from the mainland, is one of a group of four islands that can be reached by long-tail boat in just 30 minutes. Almost entirely circled by a soft white sand beach and covered with pine and palm trees, it is an archetypical tropical island with a coral reef just 20 metres off the beach.
Koh Ha is a complex of five limestone islands near Koh Lanta, and only an hour’s boat journey. One of the most attractive islands in the area, the group is popular for diving, snorkeling, sunbathing and soaking up the tropical atmosphere.
Where & Things to See
Wat Kaew Korawaram is a large temple on a hill overlooking Krabi town. It dates back to 1887 when 200 families settled at Baan Paknam or Estuary Village as Krabi was then known. The original ordination centre is now a contemporary art museum, which makes a visit doubly worthwhile. The temple white walls and dark blue-tiled roof are different colours to most other Buddhist temples in Thailand. Standing 100 metres tall, the stunning Khao Khanab Nam Mountains are a famous Krabi landmark. They serve as a virtual gateway to Krabi town, with the river running between the two limestone cliffs. A spiritual cave with stalagmites and stalagtites inside the mountain can be explored. The caves are famous for large numbers of human skeletons that have been discovered inside.
If you have more time, check out: Tiger Cave Temple, Phee Hua Toe Cave, The Emerald Pool
Golf & more
- Phokeethra Country Club
- Pakasai Country Club
- Krabi Driving Range
- Klong Muong Beach
- Phulay Beach
- Ao Nang Beach
- Rai Lay Beach
- Ao Nang Entertainment Centre
- Nopparat Thara Beach
- Krabi Town Markets and Riverside
- Tham Sua Khao Kaew Meditation Center
- Khao Phanom Benja National Park
- Tharn Bokkoranee National Park
Krabi is becoming known as one of Thailand’s best culinary destinations, offering a vast range of cuisines. The town of Ao Nang is best known for seafood and the whitefish trading on aptly named Seafood Street should not be missed.
There are five large eateries in the area, serving baked lobster, steamed fish, mussels and delectable crab curries. The Grotto, part of stylish Rayavadee Resort, is at the southern end of Railay Beach, and is set inside a limestone cave with fine powdery sand as a floor and an opening on to the beach. The Last Fisherman is located at the southern end of Ao Nang Beach. The bar-cum-restaurant is made of recovered materials – thatch, bamboo, driftwood and the like – and offers a chilled-out dining experience where guests can dine with their toes in the sand in the shade of coconut and almond trees.
Where to Stay
Phulay Bay A Ritz Carlton Reserve is a high-end resort of 54 villas on secluded Tub Kaek beach, about 20 minutes by road from the town of Ao Nang. Situated right on the beach in a remote and peaceful area, it is surrounded by rainforest with an unparalleled view of the Andaman Sea and nearby islands.
Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Resort faces the sea at Klong Muang beach, one of the most tranquil settings in Krabi Province. With 276 rooms and 23 suites, the resort is famous for having the largest swimming pool in Thailand.
Tubkaak Krabi Boutique Resort is an award-winning hotel (for environment, design and romance!), situated on a secluded and remote part of the Krabi coast at Tub Kaak Beach. Looking out towards nearby islands, the resort features five room and villa categories in superbly landscaped gardens.
The Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort is located on Klong Muong beach, with landscaped grounds facing the beach. Mangosteen restaurant is one of three in the resort, serving international and Thai cuisine. Two outdoor pools, a fitness centre and spa/massage facilities make this a perfect resort for couples and families.
Situated at the heart of stunning Phra Nang Peninsula on the edge of Krabi Marine National Park, Rayavadee nestles in tropical gardens and coconut groves against a backdrop of sheer cliffs, lush jungle foliage and the clear waters of the Andaman Sea. Recharge your energy in one of the resort’s ample and fully equipped two-storey pavilions and villas and enjoy delicious gourmet cuisine at several venues that offer everything from elegant dining to casual beachside fare.
Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas is a stand-alone resort on Pai Plong Bay, a 350-metre stretch of pristine sand a few minutes by long-tail boat south of Ao Nang. With an 80-metre limestone cliff forming a stunning backdrop, the contemporarily-styled resort offers the only accommodation on Pai Long Bay in a 192-room complex.
Located towards the southern end of Koh Pu/Koh Jum, Koh Jum Beach Villas is rated the pick of accommodation on the island. Each villa has a terrace, dining area and living room, private bathroom and some have a private pool. Local cuisine is served at the property’s restaurant.
Amari Vogue Krabi is one of the great ocean-front resorts in Thailand. Featuring traditional northern Thai Lanna styling, it is located on a remote section of Tub Kaek Bay, 12km north of Ao Nang beach. With only 57 rooms and suites set in huge landscaped grounds, it offers everything anyone would desire on a visit to Krabi – at a price.