Situated on Thailand’s Andaman coast, to the south and east of Phuket, Krabi’s breathtaking coastal scenery is some of the best encountered anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Stark limestone outcroppings stand in contrast to cliffs covered with verdant tropical foliage, presenting a rich and varied seascape to ponder while you’re relaxing on a golden sandy beach or taking in the views from a longtail boat as you explore the islands offshore.
Ao Nang Beach is scenic with its sheer cliff backdrop, while Railay Beach is cut off from the mainland by dramatic karsts and must be reached by boat. The incredible Phi Phi islands, as well as lovely Koh Lanta, are all jewels in Krabi’s tourism crown.
The Krabi area has been developed with tourists in mind, but manages to retain its natural splendour which is the draw for most visitors in the first place. Most of the tourist action is found at Ao Nang and Ao Phai Phlong, with hotels and resorts set out along the lovely beachfront
These resorts fill up during the high season and Christmas time in particular. There’s a good choice of restaurants, shops and all the normal tourist amenities here, but Krabi still manages to hold onto its pleasant Thai character.
Krabi’s most spectacular beach is reachable by boat only, as it’s separated from the mainland by a sheer limestone cliff face. Railay Beach is busy during the daytime with rock climbers and day-trippers arriving on longtail boats. It’s a great place to relax on the beach and take in the views, and if you’re staying at one of the resorts here, you’ll have the place to yourself in the evening. More on Railay Beach
A highlight for visitors is the national park comprising the Phi Phi islands, boasting the best scenery in all of Krabi where towering limestone outcrops arise between crescents of white sandy beaches. Diving is particularly good, but there’s limited accommodation and staying here can be pricey.
Krabi Town itself doesn’t have a beach but is located on an estuary with a nice promenade. It provides an interesting contrast to the tourist resort areas. If you spend a little time here you’re sure to enjoy the friendliness of the locals, while the food is cheap yet delicious and colourful markets boast bargains galore. More on Krabi Town.
You can visit a few unusual attractions not far from Krabi Town. The Shell Fossil Cemetery is a collection of strangely-formed shell fossils dating back 75 million years. Wat Tham Suea is a temple set in an overhanging cave under a limestone cliff. It’s an exhausting climb to the top, but panoramic sea views make the effort worthwhile. You’ll also find a number of national parks in the area that are well worth visiting. Taking a boat ride up the estuary among the mangrove swamps is an underrated activity worth considering.
National parks in Krabi area
There are three main parks worth seeking out if you have hired a car or bike, each of them demonstrating the wonderfully unique topography of the area and lush tropical flora. The closest and most accessible is Khao Phanom Bencha, which has some nice waterfalls, hiking trails and a picnic area. More delightful are the glades and grottos of Than Bokkharani Park, among the karst pillars on your way to Phuket, making an ideal stopoff point between the two. There is a further, similarly much-overlooked park at Sa Nang Manora just up the road near Pha Nga Town.
See a full list of attractions in Krabi
Krabi activities and watersports
Krabi offers visitors a wide range of outdoor activities, most involving the beach and sea. This family-friendly area features opportunities for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, rock climbing and exploring the many offshore islands and national parks by boat. For a more comprehensive list, you can have a look at the 1stopKrabi What to do in Krabi section. But here are some of the highlights.
Beach life: relaxing on the beach is what brings most tourists to Krabi, and there are plenty of serene stretches of sand to choose from. The busiest is Ao Nang, a long and picturesque expanse of coastline. The waterfront area is filled with noisy longtail boats, however. If you walk along the beach to the left, you’ll find a quieter area sporting a few resorts and beach loungers for hire. Phra Nang Beach, on the Railay peninsula, is reachable only by boat – a truly beautiful spot that is popular with day-trippers.
Diving and snorkelling: the Andaman Sea lures dive enthusiasts, and the sport is well-catered for with numerous dive shops offering instruction plus single and multi-day dive trips. Reefs are found in abundance and are suitable for diving and snorkelling year-round, with optimum conditions from November to March. You can earn your dive certificate here on a four-day PADI course, or have a relaxing day of snorkelling while on an island tour. Either way, you’ll have the chance to take in the colourful and exotic marine life of the Andaman Sea. There is even a recompression chamber in Krabi Town. More on diving in Krabi.
Biking: is a good way to see a bit more around Ao Nang such as the jungle-covered karst formations that seem to appear from nowhere. An easy 30kms loop takes you through groves of coconut palms and small, traditional villages. Bikes can be hired at most hotels, at many shops in Ao Nang and at other popular tourist areas.
Day tours: are great ways to take in the wide range of local attractions. Ao Nang and Railay Beach are excellent bases, but you can broaden your horizons and visit places like Hong Island, Phi Phi and Phang Nga Bay as well. You’ll get to spend time on pristine beaches and have the chance to do some snorkelling en-route. More on tours of Krabi.
Climbing: brings a lot of visitors here to tackle the unique limestone rock formations and cliff faces. Ton Sai Beach is especially popular, having many marked or bolted routes. In addition, local operators organise trips to Phi Phi and other outlying islands for unusual climbing adventures and spectacular views. Lessons are on offer for beginners. More on Krabi rock climbing.
Eating and drinking: is covered in detail in a separate part of this online guide. The food and drink here make for a good evening’s enjoyment, whether you’re having a drink by the sea as the sun goes down or enjoying some of the delicious local Thai seafood. More on restaurants in Krabi.
Kayaking: around the many rocky islands off the coast is the best way to do some up-close exploring and have a look at the hidden caves that can be spotted along the way. From Ao Nang, it’s a fairly easy paddle to several interesting islands, and tour operators can take you farther out to Hong Island and a number of other islands found in spectacular Phang Nga Bay. More on kayaking in Krabi.
Shopping: is available at markets, boutiques and souvenirs stalls, found in all tourist areas of Krabi and in Krabi Town as well. You’ll find some interesting souvenirs at good prices in Ao Nang. Unique items of locally-made clothing are usually good value, as are local handicrafts and second-hand books. Although Bangkok offers more choice and better prices, there are plenty of vendors if you want to while away time souvenir shopping at your own holiday pace.
Spas: Thais are known for their skill in body and skin care including massage. Spa visits are increasingly popular in Krabi, with numerous venues scattered around Ao Nang. Many resorts feature their own facilities, where you can treat yourself to this relaxing and rejuvenating experience at quite reasonable prices.
Recommended activities provider
A multi-award winning eco-tourism operator with branches in Phuket and Samui, and more than 10 years experience running sea kayaking tours all over Southern Thailand. Their daytrips to the Pha Nga Bay are hugely popular but many other multi-day and adventure tours are offered. Highly recommended company!