Krabi region is a large area on the South Coast of Thailand on the Andaman Sea towards the Malaysian border.
The two main townships there are Krabi Town and Ao Nang beach with both of them offering unique benefits.
When I first went to Krabi, I stayed in Krabi town for some down time while waiting for some friends who were flying down from Bangkok for a weekend away from the city. What had been half a week of relaxation in Krabi town, soon became an action packed, booze fuelled weekend based from Ao Nang beach, exploring many of the beaches and islands available only by boat trip.
With the contrast between these two experiences, I’ve been able to list a few of the best ways to make the most out of your time in Krabi, whether you’re travelling alone, in a group, are a raging binge drinker or even straight edge. Enjoy.
Activities for Everyone
- Tiger Cave Temple. Just outside of Krabi town, this wonderful place is a sight to behold. I’m happy to admit that I’m not really a temple kinda guy and once you’ve seen a few, they all start looking pretty similar. Tiger Cave is different.
While the actual temple in the cave itself is quite standard, the real impressive sight is atop the hill that houses the cave. While I’ve seen quite a few golden Buddhas, I haven’t seen too many that are almost 1,300 incredibly steep steps up a killer mountain that overlooks a series of limestone cliffs with the ocean, river and several inlets all visible at once.
Even as a self proclaimed “not really a temple kinda guy” there’s no other way to put it: This place is totally bitchin.
If you decide to go there, make sure you set aside several hours and take plenty of drinking water. You’ll need to wear sunscreen unless you’re “melanin enhanced”. Make sure to organise a round trip ticket to Tiger Cave because if you try and organise a shuttle or taxi back to town from Tiger Cave, you will get stung an outrageous 300thb.
The most cost effective way to get there is to hire a scooter from Krabi town or Ao Nang beach, which will also give you the luxury of visiting some other places while you’re there.
- Emerald Pool. I do not recommend Emerald Pool, though I have mentioned it because I know it will be on a lot of people’s lists.
It’s a long, expensive minivan ride out to Emerald Pool, or a long and very sunny scooter ride. When you get there, you will be greeted with a 400thb charge if you’re a foreigner or a 20thb charge if you’re Thai.
Depending on the time of year, two things will now happen. It will either be the tourist season and there’s so many people there that all trace of natural beauty will be invisible OR, it will be the low season and half of the place will be shut, though you won’t be told this when paying the entry fee.
I’ve been there on a Tuesday morning, during the middle of the low season when there’s the smallest number of tourists, and I still found it almost impossible to enjoy due to the sheer number of people in the only area where you can swim.
Tragically, what was once a place of immense natural beauty, has now had concrete paths placed right through the middle of delicate stream based ecosystems, all the underwater foliage of Emerald pool gets trodden on and climbed over and they have even made concrete walls to divert the river’s natural path so they could build a ticketing booth.
Even though this is the result of increasing international tourism, I find it impossible to justify paying a 400thb “National Park Fee” to an organisation that desecrates rather than conserves.
- Railay Beach. I haven’t been to Railay during the peak tourist season though I imagine it would be extremely busy. There’s not much other choice however, as Railay is one of the best beaches in the area that doesn’t require going on an organised tour and really is quite beautiful.
I came here with friends, though it is just as cheap to come alone. It will cost about 100thb each way if you’re prepared to wait at the pier for a boat to fill up with about 8 passengers.
If you’re travelling in a small group of around 4 people or so, be wary of being told that they can take you, because if the boat isn’t full you will get charged for a private hire fee of 800thb. For this reason, it’s best to buy tickets from the office rather than doing a cash deal with one of the boat operators.
Take some money with you, because you can spend an entire day at Railay and the food there is reasonably priced. Depending on the time of year you go, you might be able to get food from a floating restaurant.
- 4 Islands Tour. There are many different companies offering these tours with prices varying greatly. If you go during the non-tourist season there are pretty good deals to be found, but make sure that they mention the National Park fee of 400thb and that it’s not an extra surprise on the day. Once again, any Thai locals will only pay about 40thb.
Most tours will take you on a speedboat in a group of about 30 or so people and the tour will generally take you to the other side of Railay beach before taking you to several nearby islands where you will be able to snorkel on the edge of a small fringing reef. The marine life seem to be used to people being there every day and will generally let you get very close. Don’t go to close however, as I did spot a potentially lethal Puffer fish as well as many sharp sea urchins.
The water is not deep so you’ll have to do a sort of unattractive belly flop into the water to avoid landing on a sharp, poisonous and potentially deadly spiky thing of some description.
Finally, the tour will take you to several connected islands so that they don’t need to take you to 4 completely separate islands as the name suggests and then they will take you to the last island for a fairly reasonable lunch.
If you’re travelling with friends, take a look at the bottom section of this article where there is a better alternative to paying for a tour.
- Reggae Bars. You know what I’m talking about, but whatever you do, make sure you only do it inside the bar that sells it to you. They specifically “compensate” local authorities and that’s why you can partake in these areas. Walk outside with it though, and you will more than likely be arrested and spend some time in a locked room or cell.
While the reggae bars in Ao Nang are a good place for live music, lots of drinks and a fun night of partying, I find Krabi town to have a much nicer atmosphere, cheaper drinks and they have a really cool vibe. I suggest spending at least one night checking out Krabi town, even if your main intention is to enjoy the action packed offerings of Ao Nang.
Travelling With Friends
I’m not sure this quite deserves it’s own headline and section, but if you’re travelling in a group, you can pretty much do all of the above things but with a private boat charter instead.
Instead of spending an entire day at Railay, it will cost about 2,500thb for a day long charter of a long boat. I find these to be more enjoyable than the flash, more expensive speedboats as you will get to see more and there will be a breeze whereas the others can become quite stuffy, sitting next to a stranger who didn’t wear deodorant.
You will be able to specify where to go, and ask the driver to take you to several neighbouring beaches.
It would be well worth doing another private charter, opposed to going on a 4 islands tour, because you can explore the same islands at your own pace, being able to spend time with your friends. Make sure to calculate the National Park fee on top of the 2,500thb charter fee.