We haven’t even touched a fraction of the beaches in Thailand. There are so many, and it seems like each was better than the last! When we went, we were so overwhelmed, and found it hard to find out which ones to go to, where to set up camp, and what to do. The good news is that we didn’t end up at a single one that we didn’t like — it was more about which one we liked even more than the others. To make it easier for others, we wrote down some of our quick notes about beaches across Krabi and Phuket.
The one thing that you have to be aware of though, is that some beaches are not that great based upon the time of the year and rain seasons. The season we went (February time), the beaches on the western coast on the Andaman coast were recommended as the best to go to.
We started off by taking a flight from Bangkok to Krabi. We used Lion Air to fly to Krabi from Bangkok (DMK airport, not the main airport) and it was super cheap and easy! (approx. $25-40 USD per person including baggage). If you are flexible with your schedule, I would recommend buying a one-way ticket and then buying your return ticket once you have a better idea of when and from where you want to return. The change fees for the tickets are almost as much/more than the cost of a new ticket and once you spend a day on the beaches you will likely want to spend more time than you had planned for 🙂 Also, it is really easy to island hop, so if you end up in a different island, you can fly out of there easily.
We often hear two things about Krabi — the beaches are amazing or there is nothing in Krabi. I think it depends upon the context. Krabi is both the name of a province and a town. The town is inland without beaches. The province straddles the Andaman coast, and there a bunch of different beaches of which some are the best we’ve ever been to. As a base, we chose to stay in the town Ao nang as it is cheap, has great food, a nice beach of it’s own, and has super easy access to many of the other beaches.
Getting around Krabi
When you arrive at Krabi airport, go to the taxi counter in the airport to book a taxi – should be a flat rate to Ao Nang town and will drop you anywhere in there (i.e. your hotel). I believe it was about 600 bhat per taxi. Just to be sure, have the address written down and say the name of the hotel and the address.
Ok so now to the beaches! Our trip to Krabi was absolutely wonderful and we loved all of the beaches there – especially Railay beach. Ao Nang iswhere you will want to stay. Ao nang has it’s own beach and it’s nice, but the best beaches are accessed via long tail boat from Ao Nang pier. You will LOVE your time here!
Ao Nang beach (and Noppharat Thara Beach)
This is the main beach in Ao Nang town and it is the jumping point to Railay and other beaches which are only about 10 or 15 min boat rides away. Ao Nang beach is really nice on it’s own if take a short 1 or 2 min walk away from where the ferry boats are coming and going from and it stretches forever, although we found it a bit hard to tell where Ao Nang beach ended and Noppharat Thara Beach started.
The water is shallow for yards and yards and you can walk from tiny sand dune to sand dune — great for kids or a chilled day of walking. We spent a whole afternoon just walking and exploring the different small outcrop of islands (although other than standing on some of the jutting rocks, you can’t walk onto the islands).
Railay beach – the winner
This was by far our favorite beach – it was quiet, but not too quiet. The water is incredibly clear and calm. There are activities if you prefer, but the sand is incredibly soft and clean that you can just sleep and veg out all day. We came back to this beach often.
Getting to Railay
When you get to the dock in Ao Nang town, there is an office where you can buy tickets for boats to go to all of the islands. You can buy a one-way or return ticket to Railay beach. It cost 100bhat each way per person. There is a set time that the last boat returns from Railay beach so be aware of that. If you miss it then you will have to haggle with someone on that side to give you a flat rate for you to come back and it will usually be expensive or not possible if the tide is too high/low. We usually bought the return ticket so on our way back we would show our ticket (there is a hut near the “walking street” where the ticket sellers hang out and you make sure you tell them that you are waiting to take the boat back and they will tell you which one to take). Reasons why you wouldn’t ‘pre-buy’ the ticket is if you decided that you wanted to take another boat from Railay to another beach etc. But really that’s not likely.
The ticket you buy for Railay will likely stop at three stops: Railay east, Railay west, and Phra Nang Cave beach. I don’t know the order they will go in but usually the first stop is railay east where you will see lots of rocks and nobody gets off, then the real Railay beach (where you will see lots of people and a big sign that says “walking street” in the middle and all the hotels etc.) This is where you want to get off!
If you go to Railay beach there is food/drinks at the beach on the “walking street”. However, the prices will be higher than in town so sometimes we bought a bottle of water and some snacks from the shops in front of the Ao Nang dock before we left. If you go to Phra Nang Cave Beach then they had ‘restaurant boats’ that docked on the beach – so much fun ordering food from a boat!!!
The travel agents also sell lots of other tours for emerald pools, horseback riding, day trips to other beaches etc. We didn’t try these because the beaches were just so tempting, but there is certainly lots to do. Railay beach also offers kayaking and rock climbing.
Phra Nang Cave beach
Phra Nang Cave beach is just a few minutes past Railay. It is the last stop on the Ao Nang-Railay-Phra Nang long boat route. It is the best in the morning as by the afternoon there is very little water which when it recedes, is is mostly rocks left. But the cave itself is kind of cool to see which is easier to walk to with low tide (it isn’t difficult to walk to with high tide either). The coolest part of this beach was there were ‘long boat restaurants’ — imagine taco trucks, but long boats instead, serving food for dirt cheap prices. We didn’t see this at any other beaches but maybe that has changed since we wet.
SO BEAUTIFUL for the crystal clear water. SO many fish and you don’t even need to snorkel to see them. But if you have any snorkeling equipment or want to buy goggles, this would be the place to use it. To get to poda you have to buy a separate ticket from the dock to go straight there and there is only ONE boat that returns in the afternoon. It’s best to go in the morning so that you don’t have to wait (boats only go out once they are full and most people don’t go here) so go early-ish and then be prepared to stay all day. there is no food or amenities on the island so take some stuff with you (unless that’s changed) like cookies, crackers, bananas, etc.
UPDATE: My sister went last summer and said that they now sell some food on the beach!
Long Beach, Koh Lanta
This beach is consistently ranked as one of the best, and it was beautiful, but it didn’t seem great enough to go out of your way for. It is definitely a nice spot to park and spend time at if you want to escape the business of some of the islands. And there is some fun nightlife — there are a bunch of muy thai boxing matches nightly which were cool to check out. It is not a area that you will meet lots of others or have drinking nights out though, if that is what you’re looking for. However, we also go unlucky in that the water was infested with mini jelly fish!there were literally hundreds of them and you felt their tiny stings as you walked through the water. Apparently it happens sometimes, so it might be worth to try and find out if that is the case before going.
Koh Phi Phi
Yes – THAT island – the one made famous by the move ‘The Beach’. We loved it here and actually got to spend a night there. The day time is crazy busy with every tour boat coming to check it out, but they are supposed to leave by 6 pm. We were lucky that our tour group had an exclusive to be able to stay the night so we got to experience the island after everyone left. Check out our post about the tour group Maya Tours.
No trip to Thailand beaches could ever be complete without going to check out Phuket — it is the one with all the debauchery and will open your eyes to very different lifestyles and fetishes! *cough* ping pong balls *cough*…. but aside from the craziness, the beaches, the food, and the atmosphere are stunning as well. It is well worth the trip even if you don’t want to go the party spots.
Patong beach (Phuket Island) – The party beach!
This beach is amazingly beautiful and with lots to do. Jetskiing, paragliding, banana boats – everything you would expect from popular beaches around the world but also with stunning views. It often gets a bad rap because part of it opens up right to the main stretch of the party streets so you definitely get the spill over. However, we stayed about 500 meters down the street from that area, and it was super quiet but with the same beautiful water. Take a look at our airbnb wishlist to see the place we stayed at.
Karon beach (Phuket Island) –
For some reason, we don’t have any pictures from this trip of Karon, so I’ve used a pic from when I went in 2001 — it hasn’t changed much! Still just as beautiful, with more of a family vibe. It is about 30 minutes form Patong beach and it has a lots of beachside restaurants and cafes.
Kata beach (Phuket Island)
This beach was really nice and chilled although, unlike Karon which had more of a family feel, this one seemed more like an off the beaten track beach for hippies and druggies. A lot of really old European dudes with really, really, hot young women walking about. It was super chill though and we loved our hostel (backpackers place called Fin Hostel) which had this really big screen in their lounge where we all binged old movies like Jurassic Park. It was a great place to recharge.