From the mountains to the sea: captivating Krabi

view from Poda Island
Krabi’s dramatic limestone mountains, idyllic islands and gorgeous beaches all combine to make it one of the most attractive destinations in Thailand. The natural charms of the region draw in a diverse range of visitors ranging from retired couples in search of winter sunshine to solo travellers in search of adventure. Relaxing on the wonderful beaches and exploring the stunning islands are great reasons to visit Krabi, but this is also an abundance of history and culture.
Where to stay in Krabi
Krabi appeals to an eclectic range of visitors and the wide range of accommodation reflects this with an array of budget guest houses, family resorts and luxury boutique hotels.
Ao Nang BeachAo Nang
Ao Nang is the most popular resort area in Krabi and home to the broadest range of accommodation and restaurants. Ao Nang may be too developed for some tastes, but there are plenty of advantages to staying here with a scenic location and convenient access to Krabi Town, the offshore islands, and nearby beaches. The sand at Ao Nang beach isn’t as soft or as white as you will find at Railay or the nearby islands, but the scenery is stunning and sunsets here can be spectacular. Relax with a late afternoon beachside massage and then pull up a chair and order a cool drink at the Last Fisherman Bar as you gaze out on the Andaman Sea and watch the sun dipping below the horizon.
Suggested hotels:
Krabi Resort
Krabi Tipa Resort
Pakasai Resort
Pimannburi
Red Ginger Chic Resort (convenient for Nopparat Thara too)
Nopparat Thara
Adjacent to Ao Nang Beach, the long stretch of sand that forms Nopparat Thara Beach has seen more development in recent years but still remains quieter than its near neighbour. Although the beaches themselves are physically separated by a rocky headland, the coast road curves round to link Nopparat Thara with Ao Nang making it easy to travel by tuk-tuk or walk between the two beaches. Nopparat Thara Beach might not win any beauty contests but the long, tree-lined stretch of sand is a pleasant place to stroll and has calm waters for children to enjoy. At weekends, Nopparat Thara has a distinctly Thai atmosphere as local families gather here to picnic beneath the shade of the trees.  
Suggested hotels:
Andamanee Boutique Resort & Spa
Srisuksant Resort
West Railay BeachPhra Nang and Railay
Only accessible by boat, the peninsula at Phra Nang is home to some of Krabi’s finest beaches. Phra Nang Beach is a delightful stretch of white sand with mountain backdrops and views out to the vertiginous limestone karsts dotted around the Andaman Sea. Fishermen and locals still pay their respects at Phra Nang Cave and a pathway close to the cave links Phra Nang with West Railay and East Railay beaches on either side of the headland. The beach at West Railay is more visually appealing than East Railay, but wherever you stay it’s only a short walk between beaches on the peninsula including bohemian Tonsai Beach, a favourite with rock-climbers and budget travellers.  
Suggested hotels:
Railay Princess Resort
Rayavadee
Klong Muang and Tubkaak
For a more exclusive atmosphere, head to the quieter beach areas and luxury hotels of Tubkaak or Klong Muang. There is less to do here in the evenings and the choice of restaurants is limited, but this is where to come if you want to escape the busier tourist areas of Krabi. Tubkaak Beach is ideal for a romantic break with exquisite views over the Andaman Sea to the Hong Islands.  
Suggested hotels:
Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort
Nakamanda Resort & Spa
Phulay Bay a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Tubkaak Resort
Krabi Town
Most visitors staying in Krabi choose to stay close to the beach, but Krabi Town is a good alternative. You will get more for your money here in terms of accommodation and food compared to Ao Nang and the other beach areas of Krabi. If you do want to hit the beach, white songthaews (50 Baht per person) run at regular intervals throughout the day between Krabi Town and Ao Nang and Nopparat Thara. There are some excellent seafood restaurants opposite the river and the amiable small town is easy to navigate on foot.
Suggested hotels:
Dee Andaman Hotel
Maritime Park and Spa Resort
Other Krabi locations
Located within Krabi province are a number of popular tourist islands including Ko Lanta and the Phi Phi islands. These islands are popular for a reason, but if you want to see another side of Krabi away from the tourists, take a look at Ko Klang. The little island across the river from Krabi Town is home to a predominantly Muslim community where visitors can experience traditional southern Thai culture. If you want to stay for a night or two, Islanda Eco Village Resort provides comfortable accommodation. Alternatively, you can arrange day trips from tour offices in Krabi Town or arrange a half-day cycling trip around Ko Klang with Krabi Eco Cycle.
What to see and do in Krabiview from Tub Island
The majority of visitors to Krabi are here for the beaches and islands. And with so many to choose from, you are spoilt for choice. It’s straight-forward enough to use the longtail boat taxi service to get to most of the beaches and islands with boat prices clearly displayed at the ticket counters in Ao Nang and Nopparat Thara. Any tour office in Krabi and many hotels can also arrange an island-hopping day trip for you. A typical tour will include Poda Island, Chicken Island, and Tub Island where the sea separates (‘talay waek’ in Thai) either side of the sand. Trips out to the picturesque Hong Islands are also easy to arrange and most island tours will also include the option of snorkelling.
Away from the beaches, make the short trip out of Krabi Town to Wat Tham Seau (Tiger Cave Temple). There are no tigers here these days, but you will see mischievous monkeys lurking around the temple at the base of the mountain. For those fit enough, climbing up the 1,237 steps to the shrine at the summit will reward you with amazing panoramic views of the mountains, estuary and surrounding countryside. It is a test of endurance to get to the top so take bottles of water with you and try to avoid the hottest times of the day.  And please remember that no matter how hot or sweaty you get on the climb up, this is a religious site and not the place for men to take off their shirts or women to wear bikinis.
Krabi Town’s morning market located in between Maharat Soi 7 and 9 is said to be the biggest fresh market of its kind in southern Thailand and is well worth a visit.  And if you’re in town over the weekend, don’t miss the small but colourful Walking Street Market which sets up Friday-Sunday evenings from 5pm-10pm behind the Vogue Department Store.
Tonsai Beach rock climbingFrom Krabi Town, take a scenic boat ride out to the mangrove forests and the twin mountains of Khao Khanap Nam that form a natural gateway to the town. Nature lovers can also visit the mangrove forests and hit the trails at Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. The Fossil Shell Cemetery (Susan Hoi) features on many day tours and although this isn’t the most beautiful part of Krabi, the story behind the formation of Susan Hoi is impressive with the fossils here dating back millions of years.
Cyclists of all abilities are well-catered for in Krabi with a range of scenic routes. Visit Krabi Eco Cycle for more details or contact any tour office in Krabi Town or Ao Nang. Staying with the active theme, rent a sea kayak and explore the bay at Ao Thalane or the splendid Hong Islands. The Emerald Pool (Sa Marakot) and nearby hot springs get mixed reviews from tourists and your enjoyment may well depend on the weather and how many other tourists are there when you arrive.
Krabi Town morning marketFood in Krabi
The morning market in Krabi Town is a fantastic place to have breakfast. Whether it’s a simple roti and coffee or something more substantial, there are plenty of tempting food-stalls and eateries in and around the market. In addition to the bustling morning market, there are two night markets in Krabi Town which are open every evening. One is located close to the river by Chao Fa Pier, but the other market on Maharat Road Soi 10 (not far from the distinctive caveman traffic lights) is the place to go to stock up on fresh fruit and sample some local snacks. Diagonally opposite the black crab sculpture on Uttarakit Road in Krabi Town, there are a cluster of seafood restaurants with river views which are popular with locals. And all around town you will find plenty of options ranging from classic Thai street food to pizza.
In Ao Nang, the row of seafood restaurants at the western end of beach road (towards Nopparat Thara) are worth seeking out. They all offer sea views, but my personal favourite is the well-established Krua Ao Nang which is right at the end of the row. For inexpensive street food, there are a cluster of stalls further up the beach road before the road curves away towards Nopparat Thara. There aren’t many vendors here, but you will find a decent selection of food including rotis, grilled squid, fried chicken and som tam. At the other end of beach road you’ll find McDonald’s and a few other Western standbys, but keep heading north towards the mosque and on the right-hand side there are some authentic local restaurants with no-nonsense bamboo fronts.
Travel and local tips
Average temperatures in Krabi remain consistently warm throughout the year, but the driest period with more prolonged sunshine is usually from late November to mid-April. The wettest months are from May-October although this can still be a good time to visit Krabi with sunshine amidst the tropical showers and lower prices on accommodation. However, seas can be rough during the rainy season when the monsoon winds blow in and boat services to some islands are subject to cancellations.
There are frequent flights between Bangkok and Krabi with domestic airlines including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia and Nok Air. Flight time between Bangkok and Krabi is approximately 80 minutes. Air Asia also offer direct flights between Krabi and Chiang Mai as well as between Krabi and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Krabi airport is located approximately 8 miles away from Krabi Town and 15 miles away from Ao Nang. A shuttle bus runs from the airport to Krabi Town (90 Baht per person) and continues on to Ao Nang (150 Baht per person). Taxis operate on a fixed price from the airport. To Krabi Town is 350 Baht and to Ao Nang is 600 Baht (prices checked December 2016).
 Ao Nang Beach sunsetby Roy Cavanagh www.thaizer.com
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