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Phuket is the largest and perhaps most popular of Thailand’s islands, and you’ll likely be tempted to go there. I know, because the first time I went to Thailand, I also went to Phuket. But don’t be a Thailand noob. Skip Phuket, go to Krabi and Koh Lanta instead.
Well, technically, go to Ao Nang in Krabi province and then hop over to the island of Koh Lanta.
While Ao Nang certainly isn’t an off-the-beaten-path destination, it’s way less popular than Phuket. And it’s also got its seedy areas, but in general, Ao Nang feels much less rowdy and crass in comparison.
And it’s a fantastic jumping off point to Koh Lanta, a peaceful, idyllic reserve compared to the more popular islands.
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Krabi province.
What to do in Ao Nang & Krabi
If you’re coming in by air, you’ll land just outside of Krabi town.
I hear Krabi town is actually an interesting place to stay because few tourists stick around. But because I was going to be reliant on public transit and my two feet during my time in the area, I chose to go to Ao Nang so I could be closer to the beaches. Shuttles from Krabi airport to Ao Nang cost around 150 baht per person.
Hire a longtail boat to visit the beaches
Once in Ao Nang, it’s all about the beaches. Well, everything but Ao Nang Beach itself.
If you arrive in Ao Nang too late in the day to make it out to the famous beaches nearby or if you just want some quick beach time, Ao Nang Beach will do. But with a less-than-pristine shoreline and rougher-than-normal sand, it certainly isn’t among Thailand’s top 100 beaches.
The real beach gems are slightly tucked away, accessible by the famous and picturesque longtail boats.
These days, ticketing for longtail boat rides tend to be consolidated by boat companies. Prices depend on which beach you want to go to.
My suggestion? Skip the more famous Railay Beach and go to either Ton Sai or Phra Nang Cave Beach. Less crowded, more pristine.
If you’re super adventurous, you could technically also walk from one beach to another when it’s low tide. But let’s just say it’s probably not something you should do alone or if you’re not sure of when the tide will rise.
Quick note: getting from Ao Nang to any of the beaches is fairly simple. Just buy your ticket and get on the boat when the one going to your chosen beach is leaving. They tend to fill up pretty quickly.
On the way back, though, it can be hard to move on your own schedule.
If you happen to be wanting to return to Ao Nang at a less popular time, you either have to wait until there are enough people who also want to go back, or you have to pay more money. This additional money is requested by the boat operators and seems to be common practice, if not fully approved by the boating companies they work for. Makes sense business-wise, I guess. In my case, I had to wait approximately 45 minutes before there were enough passengers.
If you have a little extra in your budget, you can also hire longtail boats to go further out. There are a number of immaculate, less-visited islands out in the Andaman Sea, such as Koh Kai and Koh Poda.
Get muddy on an ATV
If all that swimming and laying out in the sun is too much for you, head inland and explore Krabi on an ATV. It’s a fun way to see the wide swaths of forested land around Krabi province.
If you’re an experienced rider, it may not be as interesting as the landscape isn’t too challenging, but if you’re a beginner or rarely ride, it’s a nice morning activity beyond the beaches.
Pricing depends on how many people you have and whether you go during high, low, or shoulder season. I was quoted between 1000-1500 baht per person per hour during high season.
Eat halal street food
Chicken samosas, meatball and chicken skewers, quail eggs — there’s a lot of great street food in Ao Nang. Halal street food.
You see, Krabi province has a significant Muslim population, and that’s very much reflected in Ao Nang, from the food to the Ao Nang Mosque.
So while halal food may not be something you usually associate with Thailand, make sure to try it out when you’re in Ao Nang.
How to get from Ao Nang to Koh Lanta
While Ao Nang is much nicer than Phuket in my opinion, to really get the calming influence of an idyllic paradise, you need to leave the mainland and go to Koh Lanta.
To get from Ao Nang to Koh Lanta, you’ll need to hop on either a vehicle or passenger ferry. (The same applies basically anywhere from mainland Krabi province, unless you’re willing to charter a private boat.)
We chose to go with a van transfer, which costs 300 baht per person each way, and picked us up and dropped us off near our accommodations. Make sure to give yourself extra buffer time with these van transfers though, as they are notoriously lacking in punctuality.
The worst part? There are no stops for bathrooms once you get in these vans! Our driver literally shouted “no, no, no!” at us and locked the doors when we asked if there was a bathroom to use while waiting for the ferry.
Bring your pee cups! 😉
What to do in Koh Lanta
Ah, Koh Lanta. Seriously a slice of paradise.
Miles and miles of sandy beaches yet with few enough people that it still has a sleepy small beach town feel.
Grab a beer and dig your toes into that sand, or go for a dip in the water. I could do this for days.
Go snorkeling off the shores of Koh Rok
Or, grab your snorkel and get active.
Off the coast of Koh Lanta are the gorgeous, unpopulated islands of Koh Rok Nai and Koh Rok Nok. Part of Mu Ko Lanta National Park, these twin beauties are home to crystal clear waters, active coral reefs, and tons of marine life.
While you could get a longtail boat to take you to the islands, the journey is often too long to be bothered with. Instead, hop on a chartered speedboat for a day of snorkeling (or diving!).
We had a fantastic time with TIN Adventure Sea Tour’s two-site snorkeling trip. 1300 baht per person (slightly discounted from the normal prices of ~1500 baht per person) for the full-service trip, which included transportation, equipment, food, and the entrance fee for the national park, among other things.
We didn’t have the time to stay overnight, but Koh Rok does offer tent reservations for those who want to camp on the islands. I mean, with this view, wouldn’t you?
Get a massage on the beach
Like elsewhere in Thailand, there are opportunities for amazing massages basically everywhere in Koh Lanta (and Ao Nang).
But there’s something extra special about getting a massage right on the beach. I don’t do it often, but I try to do it at least once per trip.
Waves, sand, falling asleep in the middle of a massage. Hmmm…
There are, of course, plenty of other things to do in Krabi province. These are just a sampling of my favorites, and I look forward to exploring more islands in Krabi province in the future.
What are your favorite things to do in Krabi?
6 thoughts on “Skip Phuket, Go to Krabi and Koh Lanta”
Great advice – I have just booked flights to Thailand but haven’t planned a route so appreciate this honest advice! I’ve bookmarked this for later 🙂
Have a fantastic trip!
Goodness, this all looks perfect! I am not sure how I managed to make it to my 30s without ever visiting Thailand, but I hope we’ll get these at some point. I’ll happily follow your advice as Krabi and Koh Lanta sound (and look) fantastic.
Book a trip to Thailand stat!
Ahh man! I keep yearning a return to Thailand but always think of the north because there’s so much more I want I want to see there – but really, I could easily spend like 2 weeks just around Krabi! I didn’t go to Ao Nang, just spent a day at Railay and Phra Nang. Krabi town is nice for a couple of days but it’s more just a “transit” town so there isn’t that much to do there; you’re better off going straight to Lanta or Phi Phi. Ugh, I think I might have to start planning a month’s holiday in Thailand now, haha!
I gotta say, as much as I love beaches, I would 100% opt for northern Thailand over the islands, any day. I love the north too much.