Ok, first things first. I have to apologize to the city of Krabi. You see, when we were first planning our trip and I was researching places we’d want to visit, Krabi ended up on the “do not visit list”. Between personal friends and other travel blogs, Krabi was getting a bad reputation. In fact, if you google “Krabi is crappy” you’ll see lots of posts related to this. But a couple of our friends had planned a trip to Thailand and wanted to use Krabi as their home base. We were reluctant to change our minds about the city, but really wanted to see familiar faces during our travels, so we decided to give Krabi a go anyways. And boy am I thankful we did! Krabi was calm, relaxing, wonderful, and provided a lot of opportunities of things to do with our time. We want to spread the love for Krabi and change the minds of travelers and thus, have compiled a list of things to see and do in the city.
Tiger Cave Temple
Located about 3km northeast of Krabi, Wat Tham Suea (more commonly known as Tiger Cave Temple) is nestled in the Ao Luk Thanu mountain range. Contrary to the name, there are no tigers found at Tiger Cave Temple, but legend has it the animals used to find refuge within the networks of caves in the area. Still used today as a meditation centre, the main hall is set within a small limestone cave. Within this hall is a smaller cave that houses a beautiful jade Buddha.
The main draw, however, is the 360-degree view from the top of the mountain, some 1,237 steps up from the main hall. A fitness guru’s challenge, the climb is steep and provides extra challenges along the way; like the local monkeys who can be quite aggressive, especially if you’re holding a bottle of water. But the view from the top is worth the physical pain. There’s a large Buddha statue at the top, but the panoramic scenery is stunning.
Entrance is free. Wear comfortable shoes, pack lots of water, and beware of the cheeky monkeys!
Visit a Beach
Krabi is ideally located close to three beautiful beaches, Ao Nang, Railay, and Tonsai, but far enough away from the touristy hot spots so you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of it all. Ao Nang is best reached by one of the local tuk-tuk style buses (a converted flat-bed trunk with benches for seats in the back) that will take about 20 minutes to drive. The bus will have its route written on the side and will cost 50baht per person, one-way (more coming back after the sun goes down). Railay is best reached by longtail boat, which you can pick up from the pier in the city. It will cost you anywhere between 100-150baht per person, one-way, so make sure to bargain. There’s no set schedule, so the boat will likely wait until it’s filled up a bit before it sets off. Although it might seem to be more of a hassle to get to Railay, it’s considered to be the best one. Tonsai is a quick longtail boat ride away from Ao Nang beach.
Spend a Day Kayaking
The options for kayaking in and around Krabi are endless. Due to its location along the Andaman coast and the surrounding topography, there are so many little nooks and crannies to be explored. We booked a ½ day tour kayaking through the Borthor area. Paddling up a shallow saltwater river, we had mangroves lining the banks and limestone mountains looming over us. Our tour took us into Thanboke Koranee National Park, where we first kayaked through a cave tunnel, with stalagmites and stalactites surrounding us. It was incredibly peaceful, with only the sounds of our voices and paddles filling the air. We even got to witness a weird fish species that seemed to have arms for fins, crawling along the sandy shoreline.
Next, we paddled up river a little bit more and came to another cave, this time only accessible by foot. Once inside, we were given a glimpse into Thailand’s ancient past. Interesting figures were painted on the walls that have remained a mystery even until today. The most famous painting is that of a human figure with what looks like an animal head, but it’s somewhat alien-like and eerie to look at.
Even though we only booked a half-day tour, lunch was waiting for us when we returned to the riverside terrace. We were pleasantly surprised! Our tour guides were very knowledgeable about the area and able to answer any of our questions. We had such a great experience.
The ½ day tour cost us 900baht each and included transportation to and from our guesthouse in Krabi in an air-conditioned mini-van.
Take a Day Trip to the Surrounding Islands
If you don’t want to spend the money staying on Koh Phi Phi Island (and we’re here to strongly recommend you don’t), taking a day trip from Krabi is your next best bet to see these famed islands. However, depending on the time of year you go, this can be either an enjoyable or very disappointing experience. Since the movie “The Beach” was filmed there, tourists have been arriving by the thousands to see these beaches, resulting in an over-commercialized area that’s far removed from what made them so famous to begin with.
Almost all of the tour companies offer the same package: speed boat transportation to Kah Nok Island, snorkeling at Koh Phi Phi Ley, relaxing on Maya Bay Beach, lunch on Koh Phi Phi, a visit to Monkey Beach, and a pass-by of Viking Cave. But shopping around with the tour agents is a must as we found quite a substantial price difference between companies for the same packaged tour.
If it wasn’t for the beauty of the location, these day trips would be a bust, as you’re more than likely to be on an over-booked tour and sharing the tour spots with dozens and dozens of other speed boats. Its not quite paradise when you’ve got Guido in his white Speedo doing muscle poses on Maya Bay beach.
But with that being said, there are still other day trips that are less crowded including the Hong Island Tour and another island hopping tour that takes you to Chicken Island, Bamboo Island, and even the other famed island where the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun,” was filmed.
If you’re interested in doing the Koh Phi Phi day tour, we recommend doing it any other time than high and peak season. And once again, shop around. We paid 1000baht each, and that included transfers, transportation, snorkel gear, and lunch.
Krabi is a great place for those who enjoy a quieter setting while traveling. There isn’t a huge party scene, though there are a number of well-visited bars in the area, some of which even have live music. The main downtown core of Krabi Town is worth an afternoon stroll and there’s a night market that sells all kinds of nick-nacks and interesting looking grub along the main road, and a smaller collection of food stalls that set up every night by the pier. But the main activities lie around the city. There’s a lot more things to do that we didn’t get the time to try, including the Klong Thom hot springs, a collection of natural water springs that cascade down the mountain creating natural “jacuzzis” you can bathe in. And if you’re into rock climbing, the area around Krabi is known for having some of the best climbs in the world.
So don’t believe what some of the haters might say. Krabi is a great city to settle into with a ton of activities to keep you busy for at least a week.