This low-key provincial capital enjoys an enviable setting as the gateway to the glorious islands and beaches of the Andaman Coast. The surrounding landscapes are paradise made real, with jagged jungle-clad rock spires spiking up through cobalt seas and swaths of blazing white, flour-fine sand.
Krabi is a popular launching pad for travellers hoping to explore the region and has all the requisite public and private transport services needed to do so. Songthaews (converted pick-up trucks that function as buses) run to nearby beaches such as Ao Nang. Motorcycle taxis and regular taxis will take you wherever you wish to go on land, while long-tail boats and shared water taxis will transport you out to the islands.
Krabi Town makes a good base, but really the great outdoors is what this region is all about. You could don swimwear and sun yourself on the beaches, but with so much to see in the province, it would be a shame to spend all your time lying motionless on a towel. Organised swimming and snorkelling excursions regularly take visitors to offshore destinations such as Chicken Island, Koh Poda and Tub Island.
Back on dry land, the Wat Tham Suea cave temple complex is a good spot for the culturally curious, providing they can stomach the gruelling 1,000-plus steps up to the 600m summit. At the top, a giant golden Buddha and a rewarding sea view await. For those who yearn for something more high-octane, join the fearless climbers clinging on to the limestone cliffs in Railay.
While other visitors decamp to the beaches and islands during the day, it’s worth staying behind for a morning to wander around Krabi Town. Scour the stalls of the morning market, admire the views from the pretty riverside walk and look for the unusual ape-like figures standing guard atop the town’s traffic lights. These bizarre sculptures are representations of ape-man remains previously uncovered in the province.
Visitors to Krabi tend to come with heads full of sand and azure surf, and as such, aren’t drawn to the murkier, mangrove-lined island of Koh Klang. Despite being just a five-minute ferry ride from the centre of Krabi Town, this car-free island feels a million miles away. Visit the Muslim communities who make their living through rice farming, fishing and the production of handicrafts.
North of Krabi is the spectacular Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. The park isn’t served by public transport, which can make getting there a little trickier, but it also means its excellent hiking trails, which lead to waterfalls and caves, are all but empty.
Krabi has an array of Western restaurants and chains offering everything from Italian to Mexican to cheeseburgers. If you want to eat like the locals do, head to the town’s night markets. There is one on Soi 10 Maharat Road and another near the old Chao Fah pier. At both, seafood and Satay dominate the offerings, though you can expect to see everything from wok-fried noodles to papaya salad to khao mok gai (Thai-style chicken biryani).
Another tempting option for street eats is Krabi’s ‘walking street’ market, which is held on Soi Maharaj 8 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Traffic is blocked as vendors set up their simmering curry pots and sizzling grills.