Visiting Thailand for the first time was both exciting and totally out of my comfort zone. I sat on the airplane with my Lonely Planet guide book in hand and reminded myself that I spent months planning this solo adventure and had nothing to worry about. It turned out I was right.
Many who visit Thailand make their base in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Koh Phi Phi, but my wanderlust led me elsewhere. My quest for an off-the-beaten-path beach vacation meant that I was ditching the popular beaches of Phuket and opting for the less-visited province of Krabi. Krabi is the jumping-off point for 130 islands in the stunning Andaman Sea with countless beaches, crystal clear waters, caves and waterfalls.
The next ten days were some of the most relaxing and exhilarating solo traveling I had ever done. I was almost bubbling inside about the amazing islands I’d temporarily called home. I can only wish that you, too, get the chance for such an experience. Almost exclusively in the Krabi region, these are what I feel are Thailand’s best underrated places to visit. Away we go!
1. Bamboo Island
A brief stopping off point for boat tours where tourists can frolic on the white sand beach and snorkel for an hour, Bamboo Island has no structures of any kind. The best kept secret is the beach on the back side of the island—totally pristine and empty. I ended up hiring a boat to drop me off there for a quiet day of reading, swimming and poking around the purple and yellow rocks.
2. Emerald Pool and Hot Springs Waterfall
Hire a day tour to take you to this beautiful natural pool of bright aqua water. It’s shallow enough for most people to stand up in and when you’re done, follow the signs and walk 200 meters to the natural hot spring waterfall. There you can soak in the (smooth rock) natural pools of mineral water or sit under the waterfall. It surprisingly healed my sun burn.
3. Railay Beach
Though this is one of the top rock climbing destinations in the world, don’t be fooled if climbing isn’t your thing. Only accessible via boat, it feels like a private beach with gentle waves and a row of hotels ranging in quality (and price) from left to right. Sit at one of the casual open-air restaurants where you can watch the beach sunset, or get mildly adventurous and explore caves and tide pools. You can also head to the other side of the island via the footpath that is lined with monkeys. I highly recommend the beautiful Railay Village Resort for $100 per night, though you can easily find bungalows and other resorts in the $40 per night range.
4. Koh Phangnan (Santhiya Resort)
Yes, Koh Phangnan is indeed home to the world-famous Full Moon Party at the island’s southern tip, but you’ll feel a world away at the sprawling 18-acre luxury Santhiya Resort. Enjoy a couple days of luxury and relaxation complete with waterfalls, infinity pools, a spa, ocean view rooms with authentic Thai decor, plus stunning breakfast spreads and candle-lit dinners. Rates run about $125 per night, though they offered me a deal for my third night free. Go for a Deluxe room or a private villa with your own pool or jacuzzi, I promise it is worth every penny. Incredible!
Where to Stay in Krabi
Two important things to know: walking distance to Ao Nang beach is where you want to be for easy access to boat tours / rentals and restaurants. Secondly, Agoda is your best option for booking hotels because this part of the world is their specialty and they have deals up to 70% off. Near Ao Nang beach 4-star hotels typically range $55-$85 per night, while you can find comfortable 3-star hotels in the $30-40 per night range.
If you’re in search of a resort, I highly recommend the Peace Laguna Resort, Krabi Resort and Phra Nang Inn by Vacation Village. For something more affordable and perhaps smaller or more private, you might like the iRest Ao Nang Sea Front, Mini House Aonang or the Alisea Boutique Hotel.