We often like to describe Krabi, located in the province of the same name, as Phuket’s little sibling. It’s smaller, quieter (although it doesn’t always feel like this!) and overall a more casual destination. A holiday in Krabi is often a more affordable destination versus Phuket and whilst it still reflects its backpacker origins the area now offers many mid-market and some up-market dining and accommodation options. Of course, this doesn’t mean to say that there is a lack of attractions, indeed quite the opposite when considering things to do in Krabi, and for many people on a once-a-lifetime holiday to the south of Thailand, it makes complete sense to combine both Phuket and Krabi in a single trip.
When people say ‘Krabi’ most really mean ‘Ao Nang’. This town, and nearby beach villages comprise a strip along the West Coast of about 4km. The strip starts from Nopparat Thara Pier in the north and journeys to the commercial zone at Ao Nang beach in the south. It is along this coastal strip that most will source accommodation for a holiday in Krabi. There is also a huge range of restaurants and shops (but no malls).
Krabi Province can be reached by road from Phuket (~2.5hrs) as well as by ferry (3 – 4 hrs) from Rassada Pier near Phuket Town. However, the quickest way from Phuket is via speedboat (1hr). This is best done via private charter and Simba Sea Trips offers a Krabi Boat Tour that is hard to pass up! Krabi has an international airport (30 to 40 minutes by taxi at 600 baht) with most flights from Bangkok although increasingly there are direct seasonal flights from the Middle East and Northern Europe.
Once in town the travel options are very easy and cheap compared to Phuket – tuk tuk journeys about 30 baht per person and local buses range between 50 and 100 baht per journey.
With respect to land-based activities in Krabi, we will repeat the advice we often provide our customers about the best way to get around for a day tour. Hiring a driver and car is often very affordable (2,000 to 2,400 baht for 6 to 8 hours) and very efficient as you can hit up all the key land-based attractions for a holiday in Krabi (sometimes in a single day) without having to plan for sometimes unreliable public transport. Just remember to make it very clear to the driver that you are not interested in a ‘city tour’ (aka shopping tour) otherwise you’ll find yourself being ferried from one overpriced souvenir shop to another.
Before we dive into some of Krabi’s attraction it’s important to point out some key differences when considering Krabi vs Phuket:
Without a doubt the standout attraction for your holiday in Krabi is Railay Beach. The beach and towering limestone cliffs on the west side are truly stunning and arguably the most picturesque site in the entire Phuket AND Krabi region. The surf is very sedate as Railay is a protected bay and it is unusual to suffer from crowds if you take an early tour such as those offered by Simba Sea Trips. A 5-minute walk takes you to the east side and whilst there are no beaches one can visit Phra Nang Cave and surrounding cliffs. This area is very popular with rock climbers and there is also a pathway to a viewpoint nearby. Be warned though, the ‘path’ is very steep, is rope assisted in places and does require a high level of agility. But of course, the fantastic views make it all worthwhile. Time permitting we’d recommend staying a night on Railay to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and experience the beach and its surrounds at sunrise.
Ao Nang is well placed to provide tours into both Phi Phi and the eastern fringe of the Phang Nga Bay area. Word of note – we are not aware of any premium tour operating at Simba Sea Trips standard – rather the market is very much about budget speedboat tours and Long Tail tours. This can mean high passenger numbers per boat and basic food offerings, when comparing Krabi vs Phuket making a Simba trip ideal.
Phi Phi is 40 to 50 minutes away (Phuket 60 to 70 min) and the journey is less exposed to the bumpy sea conditions that can sometimes be found between Phuket and Phi Phi.
One of the great things to do in Krabi is to visit the Tiger Cave Temple which is located 18km northeast of Ao Nang. This temple is famous for the tiger paw prints on the cave walls and the amazing views for the broader Krabi area from the summit. Speaking of the summit, just make sure you have the necessary fitness to cover the 1,237 steps! As you can imagine well worth the effort given the quality of the views!
If you have hit the night markets of Phuket this visit might not be essential, but if not we’d definitely recommend. Krabi Town is located some 30 min (18km) from Ao Nang and can be reached by local bus as well as taxi. The market is a good blend of local produce and tourist-orientated clothing and trinkets but overall the souvenirs are quite authentic. As always it is the street food that is a key attraction experiencing the local foods from night markets should be at the top of your ‘to do’ list when visiting Thailand.
If you are looking for a rewarding physical activity then a hike along the Tab Kaj Hang Nak Hill trail is one of the best things to do in Krabi. For planning purposes consider a near full day to undertake this activity (30 – 40min drive each way + 3 – 4 hrs walking time). It can be a hard effort for some but the views are truly special. The trail gets many strong reviews online and its reputation is well deserved. Make sure you wear suitable shoes and take plenty of water.
This water feature also referred to by its Thai name ‘Sramorakod’, is famous for its luminous green / emerald color. The unique color is generated from the high mineral content in the water. The pool is located some 70km east of Ao Nang so we’d strongly recommend you combine with some other land-based attractions as part of a 6hr to 8hr tour with private car and driver. For more information visit our dedicated emerald pool in Krabi article where we go into more details.
No location guide can ever be complete without some wise words on where to have a drink as the sun goes down! Our pick? The string of restaurants and bars located right on the beach to the southeast of the Long Tail ticket office/departure point. No super budget options but a deep enough variety to suit most budgets. Insider tip: we love the pop-up cocktail van down past the Long Tail ticket office. Grab yourself a Mai Tai for 100 baht and stroll along the beach. Magic!
So there you have it – an overview of some of the best things to do in Krabi province. If you are looking for a casual and relaxing environment, and certainly less hustle and bustle, then it’s clear what to choose when assessing the Phuket vs Krabi question. If you have made the long journey from Europe, America or Australia you’d be crazy not to add a Phuket boat tours to round out your Thailand adventure.
You can book a tour now and experience the wonder that Krabi has to offer. We hope you’ll enjoy Krabi as much as we do!