Krabi’s distinctive limestone cliffs line the region’s 150-kilometre coastline, biting out of the sea like incisor teeth. The rocks play a central part in Krabi’s tourism industry, too. Sunbathers come from all over the world to bask on the blonde beaches beneath them and climbers come to scale them.
Koh Phi Phi
Visitors are also lured by the endless opportunities to go AWOL for a time. The Ko Phi Phi National Marine Park, just off the Krabi mainland, is dotted with semi-deserted and uninhabited islands, and boat trips run to them regularly from the mainland. The national parks in Krabi’s interior also let you fall off the radar. These nature reserves are contoured with rock pools, waterfalls, thermal springs and caves.
Of course, you don’t have to hideaway in Krabi. If you head to Ao Nang, you’ll find a small but perfectly formed beach resort with a collection of restaurants and bars that bat above its size. But, despite being one of Krabi’s best-known resorts, it’s not bowed to all the trappings of tourism. The 2-kilometre beach is still largely sunlounger free, and traditional Thai long tail boats, shaped like bananas, bob in the waters close to the shore.
Things to See and Do in Krabi
Krabi’s beaches are cut from a different cloth to those in the rest of the world. The stretches of sand here are characterised by the limestone cliffs that back them, and the huge boulders of karst that spear out of the sea not far from their shores. Krabi’s most accessible beaches are on the mainland. But, if you’re willing to take a boat ride, there are 200 islands’ worth of bays and coves to stake a claim on, too.
The big beach
Most visitors to Krabi have Maya Bay on their to-do list. This is where 20th Century Fox filmed The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Its fame means it’s hard to be alone on this stretch of sand. But its popularity has done little to detract from its good looks. You can take a boat trip here from the Krabi mainland.
The secret beach
Ko Pu isn’t a secret, but it’s not exactly a read-all-about-it sort of place either. This island, roughly 15 kilometres south of the Krabi mainland and east of the Phi Phi Islands, isn’t really in the tourist domain. You won’t find international restaurants or souvenir shops on the shores. Instead, you’ll see locals bringing in the catch of the day or hauling coconut or cashew stocks along the sand.
Ao Nang is Krabi’s shopping hub. The shops here lean on the side of boutique. On Beach Road you’ll find places selling silk cushion covers, hand-painted scarves, and gold and silver jewellery. There are some good shops in between the souvenir stalls on Noppharat Beach Road, too, selling designer-style handbags and custom-made jewellery.
Krabi’s most popular beaches usually come with a side-order of souvenir shops. In Phi Phi Don Village, for example, you’ll find a cluster of stores selling bead necklaces, picture frames, photo albums and chopsticks. It’s a similar story on Noppharat Beach Road near Noppharat Beach, next door to Ao Nang Beach. Here you’ll find kiosks selling the likes of t-shirts and flip flops.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are market nights in Krabi Town. Stalls open up along Thanon Khon Dern and sell everything from hand-made textile purses to paintings and jewellery. If you’d rather spend your money on food, head to Krabi’s second market near the boat docks on Khong Kha Roa. Street food stands outnumber the souvenir stalls here on weekdays.
If you like the idea of sipping cocktails while lazing on Thai cushions, head to East Railay, 15 minutes from Ao Nang. A few paces back from the beach you’ll find laid-back bars that play chill-out music. West Railay, meanwhile, is the place to go to experience some of Krabi’s best sunsets. Some nights the sinking sun draws fire dancers to the beach.
Ao Nang holds sway over the nightlife in Krabi. Airport Road and Beach Road are the names to put in your little black book. The bars here start with happy hour and don’t stop serving until early morning. The 3-storey Centre Point complex is another safe bet. This is the place to come for themed bars, cocktails and live music. For something out of the ordinary, head to the Laem Phra Nang peninsula, a few kilometres south from Ao Nang. Hat Ton Sai Beach hosts full moon parties.
Som tum salad
Salads take on a whole new lease of life in Krabi. The main ingredient of this one is green papaya, which is marinated in garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Tomatoes and long beans are thrown into the equation later, and it’s up to you whether or not you garnish it with peanuts.
This recipe is culinary hot property. It’s actually the national dish of Laos, but you’ll often find it on street food stands in Krabi. It’s made by mincing a meat like chicken, beef or pork and mixing it with mint, lime juice and fish sauce. A sprinkle of roasted rice powder called khao khua gives it a nutty aftertaste.
Khanom jeen soup
You’ll often find a nest of khanom jeen noodles at the bottom of a bowl of soup. Different broths can be poured over them, but the most common is nam yaa, which is made from fish, ginger, garlic, shrimp paste and coconut milk.
All over Krabi you’ll see roti being fried up on giant grill plates. These doughy pancakes can be served sweet or savoury. The sweet ones are doused with condensed milk. The savoury ones, meanwhile, are often used instead of cutlery to mop up curry.
In Thailand, there’s fruit, but not as you know it. Durian, longkong, jackfruit and mangosteens are all part of your 5 a day out here. The ingredients of Krabi’s most popular juices look run of the mill in comparison, though, including chilled glasses of lychee and watermelon juice.