Hidden Krabi: getting off the tourist trail

If Krabi has become your regular weekend break destination, you may be seeking new things to do. Or, you may just have read about the overdeveloped Ao Nang strip and decided it wasn’t for you. Luckily there are plenty of places to stay and / or to visit in Krabi that aren’t crowded or spoiled. It’s also possible to plan your visits to the popular, “must-see” destinations around the organised tour schedules so you can see them when the high season tourist hordes have left (or before they arrive) – usually this means early morning or late afternoon / early evening. Or, of course, visit in low season.

Stay in splendid isolation

Quieter (and correspondingly more isolated) places to stay include Tubkaek Beach and Ao Thalane. These are both attractive beach destinations with high end hotels (Tubkaek) and flashpacker bungalows – boutique style villas (Thalane), so there will be a basic tourist infrastructure – though don’t expect much in the way of shops and restaurants outside of the hotels. Ao Thalane is not on any tour operator’s pick up route either, so people who stay there need to make their own arrangements for sightseeing. Other relatively isolated five star beachfront accommodation (though still with easy road access) can be found in Ao Nam Mao: try The Shellsea or Amatapura Villas.

There are also villas and resorts popping up all over the province in the most unlikely of places. These are often standalone properties truly “in the middle of nowhere” – think rural areas far inland (Sawan Mountain Villas or Phanom Bencha Mountain Resort), or the tip of an isolated island backed by rice paddies (Islanda Hideaway Resort). The standard of accommodation – and support – in these places tends to be high however, so it definitely won’t be a “homestay” experience. Real “homestays”, where you stay with a host family in their own home, are unfortunately hard to find in Krabi, and rarely seem to stay open very long.

If your hell is other tourists (to misquote Sartre), but local people are ok, you can also consider staying in Krabi Town. Far less touristy, yet still very friendly, this will give you a glimpse into the ordinary lives of Thai people who work, go to the market, and hang out in the evening. Prices are lower across the board here – though gentrification, in the form of upmarket bakeries and hip coffee shops, is taking hold.

Laem Jamuk Khwai or “Buffalo Nose Cape” is one of Krabi’s lesser known spots

Avoid the crowds

But no matter where you stay, you can still spend your days away from the crowds. For the main tourist destinations the key is going early or late in the day, as mentioned. We have written a guide to island-hopping with this in mind.

However, to really get off the beaten path in Krabi, you should hire a car, motorbike or bicycle (guide optional) and go off exploring on the back roads, stopping to eat along the way. You’ll discover caves, swimming holes, pineapple plantations and lots of farm workers who think you must have lost your way to the beach. Krabi is perfectly safe for visitors, the people are friendly and there is an adventure to be had around every corner. What are you waiting for?

Some fantastic – and little known – places to visit by road include:
– the Ngon Nak trail (a 4 – 6 hour round trip hike, for incredible views), and Tupkaek Beach
– the Ao Luk area – home to many caves and incredible karst landscapes
– the Ao Nam Mao to Laem Pho road – stop off at the deserted beach, the marine conservation centre and Krabi Fun Park
– Ao Thalane, stopping off for lunch at Khao Tong Terrace, and checking out the “secret” beach of Laem Jamuk Khwai, accessible by boat or kayak from the pier
– Nong Thaleh market and community kayaking tours on the lake

Buddha figures at Sra Kaew Cave – one of the deepest in SE Asia

Or simply wander on foot around Krabi Town: the morning or evening market (open from around 3pm) areas are great places to start, then head down to the riverside and take a boat tour of the backwaters and Kanab Nam caves.

If you’re not quite ready to go it alone, there are several organised excursions for those who prefer the convenience of a group trip but wish to see something a little different from the usual islands and jungle trips. Click on the links below to see example itineraries – all are bookable from tour agents in Krabi or at your hotel.

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