Layana Resort & Spa
Backpacker-friendly Krabi isn’t quite as glitzy as Phuket and Koh Samui, but there’s still a growing number of luxe options. For starters, there’s the gorgeous Rayavadee Resort (214 Moo 2, Tambon Ao-Nang, +66 7 5620-7403), a sprawling 26-acre property hemmed in by beaches on three(!) sides and situated in the heart of Railay’s rock-climbing action.
Closer to the busy Ao Nang strip is the Centara Grand Beach Resort (142 Moo 2, Ao Nang, +66 7563-7789), where you’ll find lots of bars, restaurants and shops—convenient, if a little touristy. If you want serious peace and quiet, though, head away from the mainland to Ko Lanta, a tranquil island favoured by a more chilled-out crowd (lots of older Swedes) and stay at the Layana Resort & Spa (272 Moo 3 Saladan, Koh Lanta, +66 7560-7100).
For some of the best views in Krabi, head to the spacious and sleek Hilltop Restaurant (99 Moo 3, Ao Nang, +66 7563-7195). Request a table on the grassy area away from the main building for the best view of the beaches below. Ruen Mai (315/5 Maharaj Rd., 089-288-3232) is also very beautiful, with an open-air bamboo structure, soaring conical ceiling, rustic décor and excellent traditional Thai food. On a recent visit, most of the diners were locals on date night or part of a wine connoisseurs’ get-together.
Rock climbers at Railay
Get your hands dirty
The towering limestone karsts on Railay beach—Krabi’s most famous—are awe-inspiring and an understandable favorite among rock climbers. There are over 700 climbing routes here; popular spots include the cliffs on Phranang Beach and those bordering Ton Sai Bay. There are plenty of climbing schools and instructors if you’re new. Try Hot Rock (+66 08 5641-9842). Climbing tip: cover your legs and arms to avoid scratches.
Those not particularly into climbing should still visit anyway. Even hanging out in the sea, facing the shore and watching climbers and beach-goers is fun. You’re likely to spot: neo-rastas with formidable dreadlocks, scruffy white chillbros practising the zen of rock climbing, dazed backpackers who’ve forgotten when they arrived, girls with shaved heads wearing wifebeaters and ageing hippies with identikit beaded anklets.
There are plenty of islands around Krabi to explore, and most hotels and resorts do or can recommend boat tours. Be warned: these tend to be quite touristy. The alternative is to take a cab (45 minutes from Krabi Town) to Than Bokkhorani National Park, from which you can visit the gorgeous little Hong Islands, characterized by limestone cliffs and fine white sand beaches. You can also snorkel around the shallow waters in between islands, but the waters around Krabi are quite shallow and are quite unsuitable for diving.
Another pretty-as-a-picture attraction is the Emerald Pool (Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve, Klong Thon, 45 minutes from Ao Nang town), a hot water lagoon named after its gloriously vivid color, which comes from calcium carbonate deposits. Amazing for a dip after a long walk in the nature reserve.
Explore a Muslim hamlet
If you really want to veer from the beaten path, set aside a day to visit Koh Klang, a tiny island just South of Krabi. It’s home to a few sleepy Muslim villages and is still undiscovered by tourists, so you won’t be able to find much info online. To get there, take a short longtail boat ride from Tara Pier just south of Krabi Town and get a room at Islanda Eco-Village Resort (Moo 3 T. Klongprasong A. Muang, +66 8 9614-2333), the only resort here. It’s a well-kept little eco-resort, and although it’s pretty no-frills (don’t expect freshly-laundered fluffy towels and A/C) the infinity pool is stunning at sunset and the service is impeccable.
You can rent a bicycle from the hotel or walk around on foot—there’s only one little road running through the island, on which there are no cars—and watch villagers fishing, farming (coconuts, bananas and rice), dyeing batik cloth and working on simple crafts.
Islanda Eco-Village Resort
The best way to fly is with AirAsia‘s direct route—it’s worth it to upgrade your seat if you’re iffy about legroom (you can do this with their new online check-in service). Prices usually start at around $290 return, although they dip when there’s a sale.
Singaporeans don’t need a visa for stays of up to 30 days, while most other nationalities can stay up to 15.
$1 = 25 THB