Published on 05/09/2018.
Krabi, Thailand’s harbour of jungle-covered islands and idyllic beaches, can be whatever you want it to be. Limestone rock juts dramatically from turquoise seas, and the distant whirr of outboard motors on traditional Thai long-tail boats is the only sound that dares interrupt the gentle lap of waves on pristine white sand.
Of course, this is Thailand, so you’ll find the sizzle and heat of the area’s famous night-markets here too, where the scent of herbs and spices mingles with the shouts of food vendors and the two-stroke buzz of tuktuks. Krabi is a land of contrasts. Two weeks here and you’ll never want to leave.
One of the best ways to experience Krabi is to plan an island-hopping trip. There are roughly 150 islands within the province, and the largest are well-served by regular boat trips and ferries from Krabi Town and Ao Nang, so you’ll find your way to the most popular islands easily.
By travelling in short bursts, you’ll immerse yourself in the individual character and quirks that each small island has to offer. From sunrise yoga to moonlit cocktails, you’ll get the chance to try something new everywhere you go, and find new ways to fall in love with Krabi every day.
The beaches on Koh Lanta are so beautiful they almost have a surreal quality – as though the thousands of green-and-blue photos of Krabi on Instagram have come to life. The landscape is much more than just a backdrop, with dense rainforest that you can explore on foot, though relaxing is a way of life here. Sip coconut water on a hammock in front of your beach hut, or head to the sea for snorkelling and diving.
If you love nature, Koh Ngai is full of jungle wildlife and natural terrain that will excite your sense of adventure. The main attraction of the many pristine beaches here is the sea – shallow and warm, and the colour of liquid sky. This clarity makes it the perfect location for snorkelling with Krabi’s native tropical fish, and exploring the deeper water where soft corals waft and larger fish cruise the limestone-strewn seabed.
Unspoiled paradises really do exist – Koh Poda is proof. Worth the slightly longer journey from the mainland by speedboat, this island is home to some of the most tranquil beaches in Thailand. Bring a snorkel and enjoy the clear waters, or pack a towel and spend the day in uninterrupted peace on the last stop of your island-hopping tour off the coast of Krabi.
The famous islands of Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh are where you’ll experience beachside glamour and laid-back nightlife. Like nearby Phuket, here you can relax on a luxury beach bed, sip a cocktail while you watch the sunset. You can also get up close with local wildlife on Monkey Beach and take a boat trip to see the wall paintings of Viking Cave.
Krabi’s history is long – people have lived, explored and worshipped in this part of the world since prehistoric times. Sacred religious sites, ancient jungles, peaceful beaches and bustling towns co-exist side-by-side on the mainland, offering a unique glimpse of Thailand past and present.
The craggy limestone cliffs and caves of the Railay peninsula welcome climbers from all over the world. You'll often read about 'Railay Beach', but there are actually two parts – a section of beach on the west side of the narrow peninsula (best at sunset) and a separate stretch on the eastern side (prettiest at sunrise). There's more accommodation on the western side, but both are pleasantly quiet.
Railay is usually only accessed by boat, so you’ll notice the peace and quiet as soon as you arrive. There are no cars or mopeds here. Just sea, sand, sport climbers, sun worshippers and a few beachside bars selling bottled beers and cocktails.
The buzz and party atmosphere of Ao Nang is the experience of a lifetime, but if late night dancing isn’t your idea of fun, there’s plenty more to see here. This vibrant tourist centre has some of the region’s best restaurants, not to mention hidden beaches perfect for sunrise yoga and sunset relaxation.
Nothing beats the taste of freshly made pad thai with a bottle of something cold under streetlights. Take your pick of Krabi Town’s hundreds of night market stalls, then stroll down Walking Street. Here you’ll find clothes, accessories and local art and crafts. The highlight really is the food, though – if you're looking for the authentic flavours that Thailand is most famous for, you'll find them here. Expect everything from superb catfish curries to Chinese-influenced stir fries, as well as fresh seafood, simply barbecued.
Once you’ve tried the local cuisine, you might want to learn how to create it for yourself. Thai cookery classes are very popular here on the mainland (as well as on some of Krabi’s larger islands, like Koh Lanta). Learn how to cook and serve traditional Thai dishes from expert chefs in some of Thailand’s most beautiful locations.
A short walk from Railay East is Phra Nang Beach. Dominated by the mouth of Princess Cave, here you’ll find panoramic views of nearby islands and tranquil seas to cool off in. Explore the overhanging limestone cliffs up close and personally by taking a long-tail trip, or rent a kayak and paddle the short distance around Railay’s headland.
Krabi attracts its share of tourists, but the province is also a great place to experience traditional Thai culture. On Koh Klang, a little island just a 10-minute boat ride from Krabi Town, you can visit an indigenous population that has maintained a traditional way of life based around fishing and textile production.
Underground caves, lush rainforest and low waterfalls for bathing in – Than Bok Khorani National Park is a place that’s important to locals, and respected by tour guides and tourists alike. The water here is thought to have rejuvenating qualities, but if you don’t feel like swimming, take a kayak or boat ride through the limestone caves to see ancient wall art and rock formations left by visitors long ago.
Named after Khao Phanom Bencha mountain, this national park is your chance to visit a real rainforest in Thailand. Indigenous plants and flowers flourish here, and on a guided walk you’ll spot lar gibbons, hornbills and mouse deer. Tours to the park’s waterfalls and Khao Pheung cave are popular, and, for a real adventure, you can reach the summit of the mountain on a multi-day trek.