Over the past few years, one of the main questions that I’ve been asked is where visitors should go in Thailand. Many are interested in Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket – all of which are unique and beautiful, however given the increased tourism to these places, they can be quite commercial and crowded.
Krabi, on the west coast of Southern Thailand however, provides untouched islands, fewer tourists and a multitude of quiet, serene beaches to choose from. It’s not as easy to get to as Koh Samui and Phuket, which is why many people don’t choose it for a quick trip, however it’s not difficult to get to either, as I’ll explain below.
What Krabi offers more so than other spots in Thailand is an idyllic beach landscape – one that’s surrounded by limestone cliffs, coconut and palm trees, turquoise waters and pristine white sand. A typical image of the area is the sight of long-tail boats floating tranquilly on the Andaman Sea, acting as taxis to take visitors to and from the islands.
What makes Krabi special is that there are a variety of beaches throughout the province, allowing you to beach-hop and stay in different areas throughout your trip. Each beach has its own personality and aesthetic, as well as a range of activities whether it be snorkeling or rock-climbing.
Of course there are many gorgeous beaches throughout Southeast Asia, but what Krabi offers is accessibility combined with the diversity and multitude of beautiful spots. During our week there, we went to Nakha Yai, Ko Phi Phi and Railay, all of which still remain among the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in Asia.
Getting to Krabi: There are a few ways to get to Krabi. The easiest is to fly directly into the Krabi airport if you’re in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, as those are the only places with direct flights. Another option is to fly into Phuket, a larger airport with many flight options, and then go to Krabi by bus, car or ferry. You can go directly there or make a few pit stops, as there are many beautiful places to explore on your way. We chose the latter, flying into Phuket and then taking a boat to Nakha Yai island.
If you’re intersted to go somewhere secluded, authentic and away from civilization, book Tenta Nakara Resort in Nakha Yai island. The resort is made up of tents framed by small wooden bungalows that are built into the jungle, making it feel like you’re sleeping outside, despite a roof over your head. It doesn’t come with bells and whistles (or air conditioning), but it’s on a private beach, the staff are kind and hospitable and there’s only a few bungalows at the resort, meaning you essentially have the beach to yourself. You can also book excursions at the hotel, which we did for a day, taking a long-tail boat tour to Phang Nga Bay to see the karst peaks and caves in the Andaman Sea, which is a much preferred alternative to the large, crowded speed boats most tourists take from Phuket to see the same place.
We only stayed here for two nights, as we had limited time, however, if you’re interested in ‘glamping’ or in need of a relaxing, simple getaway combined with sights of stalagmites, caves and karsts, Nakha Yai island is your place.
Ko Phi Phi: After two days on Nakha Yai island, we then took a ferry to Ko Phi Phi, part of a small archipelago of six islands in Krabi and known for being one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
If you’ve seen the movie The Beach, then you’ve seen Ko Phi Phi. If you havent, it can only be described as idyllic. Limestone cliffs surround the beachfronts and jet out of the Andaman Sea, there’s tons of hidden coves throughout the islands, as well as dozens of unique beaches to explore with each offering its own key differentiator. While Ko Phi Phi is a popular destination for tourists, the islands still feel relatively uninhabited and authentic – their beauty preserved as opposed to transformed into a tourist funhouse, as many beaches are.
Along with diving, snorkeling and rock climbing, one of the most popular activities to do in Ko Ph Phi is an island-hopping tour, as it provides a fun, easy and efficient way to see many of the islands and beaches, especially if you only have a short stay there.
There are a few different types of tours you can do depending on which island groups you want to see and what type of boat your prefer: long-tail, speed or cruise. We chose a long-tail boat tour, as they’re unique to Thailand and a great way to do a private tour on your own schedule without breaking the bank. We went around Ko Phi Phi Leh and Maya Bay – the most well-known of the islands for its outrageous beauty.
The landscape of Ko Phi Phi is the first image that comes to mind when I think of our trip to Thailand, as it was one of the most stunning landscapes I had ever seen – incomparable to the beaches in the States or Europe. Boating up to Ko Phi Phi, you’ll see dozens of 100-metre high limestone cliffs that are covered in green foliage along the beautiful turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea. As you get closer, you’ll notice that the cliffs form a semicircle of sorts, creating a small pathway for the boats to glide through to reach Maya Bay, a key destination for its beauty and superb snorkeling conditions. There will be a multitude of boats on the same journey, as a visit to Ko Phi Phi is one of the most popular things to do in Krabi, however, it doesn’t take away from the grandiose natural landscape.
While in Ko Phi Phi, we stayed at the Phi Phi Beach Resort on Long Beach, a quiet and serene spot on the main island that overlooks Maya Bay. Like Tenta Nakara, the resort itself was made up of little bungalows built into hills and overlooking the sea, however, it was not ‘off the beaten path’ or simple like Tenta Nakara. It wasn’t fancy by any means either, but it provided a very comfortable stay with spectacular views from every bungalow, if you’re looking for somewhere that feels special and different but also has full accommodations and facilities, as well as a private beach. Coming from Tenta Nakara, though, where only a handful of people were with us, it felt like we were at the Shangri-La.
Railay: Another highlight of our trip was our third stop in Railay, a small peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang, and a quick ferry ride from Ko Phi Phi. Surrounded by cliffs, it’s traditionally known as a mecca for rock climbers, offering hundreds of different climbs. However, if you’re not a rock climber like myself, it is still a place you absolutely must go.
What makes Railay special is that its atmosphere is laid-back and relaxed, despite being a fairly popular tourist spot. You’ll find backpackers there to climb, newlyweds there for a paradise beach honeymoon and executives at the exclusive five star hotels – there’s something for everyone.
Railay is also known for its beautiful beach that’s surrounded by limestone cliffs that physically cut the area off from the mainland, creating a very secluded and private atmosphere. There aren’t cars or modes of land transportation on Railay either, making it feel much more like a private island as opposed to a commercial beach. Throughout the area, you’ll find little local eateries, sticky rice food stalls and a variety of nice walking trails around the peninsula, as well as an array of wild animals that may wind up at your doorstep.
However, the best part about Railay was staying at Railei Beach Club, a community of Thai-inspired privately owned homes on the west side of the beach. The homes, which are rented out by their owners, are built into the natural surroundings of Railay and a good distance apart from each other, creating a nice and private atmosphere. They’re also a designer’s dream, as each one is architecturally unique and intricately decorated in harmonious Thai-inspired designs. Most are open-aired and have vast terraces, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings without leaving the house. The Beach Club also has a clubhouse and bar just steps away from the beach with spectacular views of the Andaman Sea and cliffs.
Of the places that we’ve stayed since living in Asia, Railei Beach Club is without doubt the most unique and extraordinary place, offering a local and one-of-a-kind experience. It’s worth the trip to Railay just to stay here.