Visit Krabi and you will see why Thailand’s islands and beaches continue to win out over any other in the region.
By Dave Stamboulis
While Krabi used to be the uninvited sister to the prom of siblings Phuket and Samui, she is now one of the most popular attendees. Once the word got out, visitors discovered that Krabi was indeed one of the most beautiful spots on Thailand’s Andaman coast.
Have you seen the picture-perfect shots put out by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, showing towering limestone karst pyramids sticking out of the turquoise sea? Yep, that is Krabi. Not only is it in the region home to famed Phi Phi Island (site of Alex Garland’s novel and Hollywood film, “The Beach”) and nearby rock climbing mecca Railay Beach, but it is also known for its mountaintop Tiger Cave temple and Emerald Pool park. Throw in some top-notch resorts, and you’ve got all the makings of one of Thailand’s premiere holiday destinations.
Visit Krabi and you will see why Thailand’s islands and beaches continue to win out over any other in the region. Especially during the cooler winter months, this spot in the Andaman gets plenty of sun, and its emerald-colored water is calm. The top spots are all located within an easy boat ride of each other as well, making it possible to spend a few nights on Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and even have time for some inland sights. The beaches in Krabi boast some of the whitest sand in the country and, for adventure lovers, the entire area is a paradise, with one of Southeast Asia’s best rock climbing along with fantastic sea kayaking being some of the top attractions.
What to See
Phi Phi Island tops most visitors’ to-do lists. While highly developed, this jungle-covered set of two islands is still one of Asia’s most beautiful. The resorts are found on Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two, while everyone makes the obligatory pilgrimage out to Phi Phi Leh and its stunning Maya Bay, where Leonardo DiCaprio and gang filmed “The Beach.”
Railay (also known as Rai Leh) Bay and its fabulous beaches is also a top draw. Although not an island, it is accessible only by boat. Railay is surrounded by high cliffs and limestone pinnacles that offer one of the absolute best rock climbing routes in all of Southeast Asia, if not in the world. The beaches here are long and blindingly white, and there are day trips available out to nearby islets offering excellent snorkeling and diving.
Sa Morakot (the Emerald Pools) and the Khlong Thom Hot Springs (Tel: 075 622 713) should also be on any Krabi itinerary. About an hour’s drive south of town, Sa Morakot features pristine emerald-colored pools set in a beautiful forest park. If the water here is too cool, you can head over to nearby Khlong Thom, where there is a hot river, complete with hot pools and even a hot waterfall to soak under.
Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple) is just outside of Krabi, and it features a giant golden chedi. The temple sits on top of a cliff, accessed by 1,240 steps. Needless to say, the views of the entire province from here are stunning.
What to Do
The top activity around Krabi, other than beach bumming, is rock climbing. There are routes of all grades on Railay, and the Tonsai end of the beach is where the big-league action is to be found. King Climbers (Tel: 075 662 096, www.railay.com) has been guiding and bolting routes here for years and can show you the ropes.
Kayaking opportunities abound in the region, with the best being a jaunt around Koh Hong Island and its hidden lagoon. The nearby mangrove swamps also feature some great serpentine kayak routes. Andaman Adventures (Tel: 080 535 4847, www.andamanadventures.com) offers a variety of guided trips.
Eating and Drinking
Anchalee (315/5 Maharaj Road, Tel: 075-631797), formerly known as Ruen Mai, is a great reason to stay in Krabi, as it serves some of the most authentic food in the region. On Phi Phi, Le Grand Bleu (Tonsai Beach, Tel: 081 979 9739) is the island’s finest culinary experience, and the menu features French and Thai dishes. The Dojo Bar (Tonsai Beach Tel: 083 174 4075) is the island’s most sophisticated place to drink, offering coffee and free Wi-Fi during the day, and great cocktails at night.
The Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay (Tel: 075 628 111, www.phulaybay.com) was featured in “Hangover 2” and is the most opulent spot in all Krabi, perched opposite Hong Island. The Rayavadee (Tel: 075 620 740-3, www.rayavadee.com) on Railay, has been featured by many top travel magazines as one of the best luxury spots in the world; it has Phra Nang Beach all to itself. On Phi Phi, Zeavola (Tel: 075 627 000, www.zeavola.com) is a charming boutique resort on the more secluded north side of the island.
Thai Airways, Nok, and Air Asia all have several daily departures to Krabi. There is no rail line to the Andaman. Train lovers have to take a sleeper to Surat Thani and bus over from there (4 hours). Overnight buses go to Krabi from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. Once there, ferries and speedboats run to Phi Phi. Railay is accessed from Krabi or Ao Nang by longtail boat.