Long before Danny Boyle, who directed Leonardo di Caprio in The Beach, uprooted palm trees on one island and conveyed them to another to make it look “more tropical”, Thailand’s Krabi was the haunt of backpackers. Later came discerning, richer tourists who stayed at the 5-star ecologically friendly hotel on Phra Nang.
Now hotels, bungalows, and mini resorts are springing up overnight and tourist numbers are increasing. Surprisingly, the beaches are still idyllic, the waters still serene and filled with rainbow-colored fish, and the magnificent limestone karsts that surge out of the sea are still an awesome sight.
Here is a rundown of the main beaches that are just as you imagine tropical island beaches to be:
Phi Phi Islands, Krabi
This is the most famous of Krabi’s off-mainland beaches and a favorite spot for day-trippers. It is a place to avoid unless you are into sitting in a bar watching old Rambo movies in the middle of the afternoon.
Now recovered from the tsunami damage, Phi Phi is a group of two islands, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le Phi Phi Don boasts several white beaches with clear turquoise waters and stunning underwater life.
The smaller Phi Phi Le is where boats will take you to see the swallow’s nests (the main ingredient for Chinese soup) inside Viking caves.
Lanta Island, Krabi
Tranquil and virtually undisturbed, it is a perfect retreat for anyone in search of inner harmony.
Tham Ao Phra Nang Beach, Krabi
Considered to be the best beach on the mainland, the area is cut off from Krabi by high karsts (limestone hills or sea outcrops) on the east.
The tall limestone cliff on the beach holds two caves one of which houses a shrine to the spirit of a princess and where weekly ceremonies are performed by the fisherfolk of the area. Access to the beach is only by long-tail boats from Ao Nang or the pier in Krabi.
Ao Nang Beach, Krabi
A long beach with cliffs at each end. Pearly white sand and the sparkling sea lies in front of a pleasant esplanade that caters to the tourists arriving and departing from the long-tail boats that ferry them to nearby secluded beaches.
This is the only place where anything akin to nightlife can be found in the area. Food, drink, and fellowship is to be had here.
Nopparat Thara Beach, Krabi
This is the local’s favorite beach and they come to this two-kilometer stretch covered by tall casuarinas to picnic. At low tide, one can walk across to any of three islands just a few hundred meters from the shore. Food hawkers abound here and can be a minor nuisance.
Tham Pranang Beach, Krabi
Without a doubt, this is Krabi’s best beach. Accessible only by boat and relatively isolated, it has outstanding views of the surrounding areas as well as access to the Pranang Caves.
Finally: Krabi is now in the sights of major developers and should be visited soon to appreciate its wonder.
Important: Krabi is a Muslim area so do be careful and always respect the local culture. Nude sunbathing is a no-no.