Out and About in Krabi
Famous for stunning islands and gorgeous beaches, there’s so much more to Krabi province than the backpacker hub of Ao Nang and the bays of Phi Phi Islands. With limestone karsts, mangrove forests, winding rivers, and mineral rich hot springs, Krabi invites you to get out and explore. You really should take Krabi up on the invitation!
As we prepared to welcome 2021 (and kick 2020 to the curb), we drove from Bangkok to Krabi’s coast. We were all set for a short time of sun and sand when COVID numbers across the country went up and restrictions came down. With our work and our kids’ school back online, we decided to hunker down in Krabi – which had less COVID than Bangkok and much more breathable air. We based ourselves at Eden Villas and from there we explored and fell in love with this stunning tropical playground.
You can check where to caffeinate and dine in Krabi or read on to see the places we adventured and the spots we avoided.
Sa Kaeo Cave and Pools
Located conveniently close by to our accommodation, we went here multiple times. The first time we managed to drive past the cave without realizing and parked on a dirt road next to the sapphire waters of two other pools. Misreading our phone map, we set off into the jungle and went more off path than we should have with young kids. We wandered into a rubber tree farm and rounded a corner to find grown men in full scuba gear standing in the jungle. We were all surprised to see each other. They warned us that the forest there is filled with access points to an extensive underwater cave system. We watched them dive into a harmless looking pool and then disappear out of sight. Don’t be like us!
The cave, which we don’t know how we missed, is located by the well signed Srakaew Cave Elephant Sanctuary. Park there to see the cave. The cave is more of an open space in the side of the mountain. There is a small and active shrine so do be respectful of worshipers. A makeshift step-bridge gives access to a natural second tier to the cave. Adjacent to the cave there are two pools which lack sparkle and apparently are nearly 200 meters deep.
A short drive or walk down the road, where it turns to dirt, there are two gorgeous emerald coloured pools where locals love to cool off. We spoke with a man who has grown-up in one of the houses nearby, he told us the pool is 150 meters deep and has an additional cave at the bottom. The waters were cool and refreshing. The mineral runoff from the limestone karst gives these pools their intense colour. Sa Kaeo (sometimes spelled Sae Gaew) is free of charge and you can find it on Google Maps.
Krabi Hot Springs Waterfall
When you search the interwebs, this place seems to have a dozen names (Namtok Ron Khlong Thom, Hot Waterfall, Krabi Hotspring etc) so don’t be thrown by the change in names. If you want to be sure you are headed to the right place, it is located 9.8 kms from the famous Emerald Pool (which we skipped – more on that below).
The naturally hot waters pack a mineral punch and are supposedly very therapeutic. The same minerals that give the Emrald Pool it’s emerladness flow here too. The waterfall itself has natural and human-helped basins that you can access by rock scrambling and holding onto ropes. If you need out of the hot water, you can jump into the brown waters of the river below either from the falls or down a short path to a small riverside pier.
There are also two swimming pools filled with these waters. Temperatures range from 35-40°C and it’s like swimming through liquid summertime. There is a playground next to one of these pools where kids can play while adults soak in the benefits of the pool.
There are basic facilities on site for toilets, showers, and changing. There was a simple massage place that was shutdown. There are no food or drinks allowed inside and nothing was available for purchase so have some water and snacks in your car either for after or if you need to nip out and then go back in.
Located about 70kms from Krabi town, this is best done if you have a car or if you are paying for transport, make a day of it and include a stop at the Emerald Pool.
With few people traveling because of COVID, the parking lot was empty. Despite this, the staff made us park as far away from the hotsprings as possible. With 2 kids, 1 toddler, and a baby, we then paid 80 baht for the shuttle (10 Baht per person per way – toddler and baby were free). We read online about the staff’s lackluster treatment of customers and sadly, we shared that experience too.
Dual pricing is practiced here and foreign nationals can expect to pay 160 Baht per adult and 80 Baht per child.
Tha Pom Klong Song Nam
Often called the Crystal River, here the two waters (salt and fresh) come together to create something beautiful. This 1.2km stroll on a raised concrete walkway (made to look like wooden planks) was an absolute family favourite. We went in the afternoon and the tree canopy provided us with a cool and calm place to walk. We took our pram (baby stroller), water, and a few snacks. There are several covered seating areas where you can pause along the way.
As this is a mangrove forest, be sure to check the tides before you go. We went in the afternoon when the tides were low so did not see many fish but it was fascinating to see the mangrove root system on full display. The waters truly are crystal and they dance with the mangrove and banyan trees.
Be sure to bring your bathing suit and jump in at the clearly signed, designated swimming area near the end of the walkway. In the parking lot there are simple washrooms and a few food stalls where you can change and snack.
Few tourist make it here, but there are clear signs on the road. Just as you start to wonder if you’ve gone too far, you’ll spot a modest reclining Buddha to assure you that you’re going the right way. Non-Thai citizens will pay 100 Baht per adult and 50 Baht per child.
Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea)
For the parent on this excursion, it was 1263 steps of regret on the way up, but it leads to one stunner of a view. PRO TIP – don’t go in the heat of the afternoon like we did. Go in the mornings to enjoy the cool and the views. Also, we brought 2 litres of water for 2 children and 1 adult. It wasn’t nearly enough and the kids drank it all leaving dear old dad to feel parched and light headed for the second half of the climb. There are shops at the base of the temple stairs where you can buy water, drinks, and food. Do so before you climb as there is nothing along the way.
It’s believed that monks settled here after finding tigers living in a cave. With human encroachment, the tigers moved on but the temple and legend endures. The temple is an active place of worship so despite the hot climb, be sure to wear temple-appropriate garb.
The stairs are numbered – which you may find motivational or discouraging depending on how you’re feeling. If you’re in decent shape and have appropriate shoes, then you can do this climb. Be mindful of monkeys who can and will take your stuff. On our way up we saw few but there was an entire welcoming committee awaiting us upon our descent.
Stray dogs were scattered along the mountainside but all of them seemed too over heated to pay any attention to us. Upon reaching the top, you’ll be met by sweeping views of the mountains and flatlands. It’s the kind of view that demands you simply stand and take it in. Find a shady spot, drink some of that ample water supply you brought (hint, hint) and embrace the panorama.
Parking was free, entrance was free but we were bluntly asked to make a donation – and so we did and had no problem with that. Because of COVID we did have to sign-in before entering the temple complex. There are bathrooms along the climb but we suggest you use the larger, nicer ones in the parking area before going up.
Hands down our favourite beach in Krabi, Tubkaek serves up white, powdery sand, clear waters, and great views of the Hong Islands. If you’re still not sure, then be persuaded by some of the most amazing sunsets. Without a car, a taxi ride here will cost you, but if you do drive, there is free street parking. The beach is public property so the hotels legally have to let you through but we made use of the access road by Tup Kaek Sunset Beach Resort.
The road to Tubkaek ends at the entrance to the Ngon Nak Nature Trail (Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park) and if you’re going to hike Dragoons Crest, then be sure to include some beach time too. Being a little removed and truly beautiful, Tubkaek’s sands are lined with fancy hotels and you won’t find Ao Nang’s backpacker crowds here. The waters are shallow and when the tide is out, it’s really out – you’ll be able to explore rocks and patterns in the sand.
At the south end of the beach, you’ll find Tubkaek Seafood. This open air eatery is raised off the beach, but the floor is sand. The prices and portions are decent for beachfront and beers were cold for watching the sun go down.
For more on this restaurant and other great places to eat in Krabi, check out this post!
Monkey Trail and Pai Plong Beach
Connecting Ao Nang Beach with the much smaller Pai Plong Beach, the Monkey Trail is a mix of worn wooden walkways, jungle trail, and elaborate staircases. The trailhead has a small sign and there was construction on the nearby storm drain while we were there. To find the trailhead, look for the Centara Ao Nang Beach Resort and Spa. If you’re driving, then make a left just after the hotel entrance but before the hotel parking. You can park on the dirt road by the trail. If you’re coming from the beach, then use the hotel as a landmark as the trail begins where the cliff meets the sand (in fact, when the tide was out we saw a few people forego the trail and just stick to the rocks below).
The trail begins with wooden walkways that were receiving some much needed care while we were there. The stairs feel makeshift at times but they’ll get you to the top where the trail rejoins solid ground and uses spaced-out sandbags to help when it’s wet. This trail will take you across the cliff that separates the two beaches. The trek down is made on more stairs that are far sturdier but the spacing feels wide. It’s here where we saw the monkeys that give this trail it’s namesake.
Once on Pai Plong Beach, the Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas is the only facility. So unless you want to dine there to use their facilities, be sure to bring everything you need. As non hotel guests you can rent kayaks near the hotel’s floating pier. The hotel is set back from the water, and with no one else on the beach, we truly felt like we had the place to ourselves!
The sand is more like brown sugar, but there is so much to explore. There are rocks, little openings in the shore line, and lots of beautiful shells. Ao Nang Tower demands attention as it, quite literally, towers over the waters. Apparently people rock climb this but that’s a pass from us. Just around the next set of cliffs are the beaches of Tonsai and Railay.
There’s no cost to coming here and our 9 and 7 years old did the walk easily. We used a baby carrier for our baby and our toddler made the walk in on her own but, with energy levels depleted, needed to be carried on the trip out. In daylight and no rain, this is a great family adventure.
Wherever we travel, we’re always fascinated by civic infrastructure and the spaces where people come together. Thara Park is a great example of outdoor community life alongside the river in Krabi town. Hugging the shores of where the Krabi River meets the ocean, this park has pathways to stroll, sports fields and race tracks, outdoor fitness facilities, benches to sit on, a small beach, and lots of places to picnic. There are a few shops and food vendors, washrooms for a price, and free parking in a well signed parking lot. We would picnic by the Thara Park Pier and then make our way to the one of the largest playgrounds we’ve seen in Thailand. There are play structures for all ages and all of our kids loved it! A lot!
Krabi River Walk
This well maintained path follows the shoreline from Thara Park, through the Krabi River Marina, to Kong Ka Pier (where the big big tour boats rest), connecting Chao Fah Park and Pier, before ending at the famous black crab statues. If you’re feeling ambitous, you can switch to the sidewalk and walk to the “Mangrove Walk to the Khao Khanap Nam Cliffs” and the entrance to Krabi Urban Forest. After the almost 2km walk from Thara Park to the crab statues, our kids let us know that they were done walking.
There are many vendors and eateries along the way. There’s even a 7-11 or two and bathrooms for 5 Baht or showers for 20. When you are at the Krabi Marina, you’re looking across the river at Koh Klang. This island community of about 8,000 people is believed to be the birthplace of the iconic Thai longtail boat. You can pay for a ride across at most of the piers, but once you’re over there, be ready to walk or rent a scooter as there are no cars.
By the time you reach the crab statues, you’ll be starring at one of Krabi’s most recognizable landscapes – Khao Khanab Nam. These limestone mountains are the gatekeepers of Krabi town and stand at 100 meters tall. The longtails along the river will take you to explore the caves in the mountains and through the mangroves (depending on time and tides) for 500 Baht. You can also try going to the end of the Mangrove Walk and negotiating for a lower price.
Away from the riverwalk and on the main street, the Chao Fah Park has a decent night market. There are food stalls a plenty and many of our strolls ended in dinner el fresco here.
Noparat Thara Beach and Piers
Noparat Thara sits in the elbow where the Andaman shoreline meets a large waterway that cuts inland. This waterway is used by tiny and sizeable boats. Because the waterway has no natural outlet, the waters hit the end and flow back out with force. If you come here to swim, be sure to stick to the beach and not the waterway. A number of companies and private operators use this waterway as their base. You’ll even find a few government and park ranger offices.
Located just down the road, or coast, from Ao Nang, you’ll find lots of public transit options to get you here for cheap. If you’re driving, there is ample free parking (something Ao Nang lacks at any price). Try to park in the lot at the very end of the road as you are closest to the beach, shops, and eateries that way. There are also bathrooms here too.
The beach has tables, benches, and covered areas for eating and you could easily dine out here. During our time there, jellyfish also decided to frequent the area and with the waters not very clear, we did little swimming. When the tide is out, a sandbar is revealed and you can make your way out to several tiny islands to look at some trees and rocks.
Looking for a pool adventure in Krabi? Swim in Thailand’s largest pool at the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort Hotel.
Din Daeng Doi
Start the day by greeting the sun with 360° views of mountains, islands, and jungle. Sunrise at Din Daeng Doi is sure to create a cherished memory.
The path up to this amazing viewpoint opens at 5:30am and we were there shortly thereafter. At that time the dirt parking lot was empty, but it was full upon departure. Non-Thais will pay 50 Baht for adults and 10 Baht for children at a small booth by the restaurant. The climb begins on uneven concrete steps that will lead you past 3 simple A-frame rooms (for rent). The path will turn into a dirt road and is lit, but at times we did use our phones to see our way forward.
This moderate hike is best done with proper shoes as it is on dirt and rocks for the second half. It’s a moderate 15 minute walk and it was seeing the terrain that was the real challenge. Our 7 and 9 year old did it with ease. Upon reaching the top, you’re welcomed by a small coffee shop which served great coffee and simple, but warm and delicious, breakfasts. It was khay krata (ไข่กระทะ), coffee, and hot chocolate for us. We were the only foreigners there, but if your Thai is minimal, picture menus will help you order.
We dressed in layers as it is cool before the sunlight warms your skin. Though not every sunrise is guaranteed to be breathtaking, ours was truly spectacular. There were gorgeous vistas in each direction even if you cannot come for sunrise, be sure to check out this community led business and embrace the beauty of Krabi from above.
To find Din Daeng Doi, you can use Krabi International School as a landmark on road signs and Google Maps. Alternately, you can put Din Dang Doi into Google Maps. This is a small coffee shop located by the parking lot. If you’re able to read Thai, then Google Maps has ดินแดงดอย (Din Daeng Doi) on the map too. The signs for the “entrance” (ทางเข้า) are only in Thai, but the large neon green store serves as a solid marker for where you turn off the road and onto the access driveway.
Wanting to set sail from the Krabi mainalnd? Take a daytrip to paradise on Hong Island.
Places Unseen and Why:
We’d heard so much about the Emerald Pool and after driving an hour to get there, we were told that COVID rules prevented anyone from swimming. We could still pay the full foreigner price to go and look at the pool. We had paid 40 baht for parking, and were tempted to pay to go and see, but some quick internet sluthing showed us we could swim at the nearby hot springs (see above) and that Sa Kaeo would show us emerald waters. We did not go to the Emerald Pool.
The Shell Cemetery caught our eye as our kids have been learning about fossils in school. We read the TripAdvisor reviews and were hard-pressed to find a positive one. Again, because of dual pricing, it felt like a lot of money for something that may not be great.
Overpass Hin Pheng (สะพานลอยน้ำหินเพิง เกาะกวาง แหลมป่อง) is on your way to Tubkaek Beach. At this floating dock you can park and walk out onto the bay for free. When we arrived there was no dock and it turns out a storm in September 2020 damaged it and there have yet to be repairs.
Technically not an official town, Ao Nang is a backpaker enclave along a beach road with several hotels and resorts hemming it in. With so much closed for COVID, Ao Nang had a sad and lifeless feel. The beach is narrow and the road’s retaining wall serves as it’s backdrop. We did some exploring, hopped back in the car, and then explored elsewhere.
Dragon Crest Mountain is THE hike in Krabi. Everything we read and heard from locals about this hike sounds enticing, but after our Tiger Cave Temple drama, it was a hard sell with the kiddos. It’s earmarked for future travels.
Krabi is crammed with caves and there are so many to explore, on foot, by long tail, or by kayak (another popular pastime in Krabi). The Thai word for “cave” (ถ้ำ) can be written in English as Tham or Tam (but always pronounced “tam”). Whether it’s Railay’s Tam Phra Nang Nok (Princess Cave) and Diamond Cave, Ao Luk’s Tam Lod and Tam Phi Hua To, or Krabi town’s Khao Khanab Nam and Tam Sadet, it is worth looking into these openings in the earth.