A BEAD OF SWEAT BEGAN TO FORM on my forehead, the sun warming its way across my exposed shoulders while I pedaled the last uphill stretch of that solitary paved road. I smiled and waved as I passed a woman with a jovial grin wearing a traditional palm woven hat and debated stopping to purchase one of the fresh coconuts she was selling from her pieced-together bamboo stand. I was on a borrowed bicycle from the Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort where I was staying, and was off on an adventure inspired by my villa butler’s recommendation for his absolute favorite thing to do in Krabi.
Had he not described it to me with such a giddy smile and a clandestine chuckle, I may have just nodded politely and gone about my plan of spending the next few hours balancing my time between lounging on the beach and swimming in the velvety soft waters of the Andaman Sea. But his childlike enthusiasm as he explained his little secret inspired my adventure, and I was out to see what made this native Thai man so giggly with excitement.
I sped up as I neared the top of the hill and, just as instructed, took my feet off the pedals at the exact moment my tires began to slope downward. I extended my legs out as far as they would stretch and let gravity pull my two wheels down the hill toward the beach below. Not a soul was in sight as I flew faster and faster down the pathway, the wind swift and the speed making my heart race with excitement. I hadn’t felt this carefree in far too long, and soon I was wearing the blissful grin of someone who has been let in on the secret of kicking back in Krabi.
Thailand’s southern province of Krabi is often regarded as one of the most beautiful destinations in the country, its sandy shorelines acting as the backdrop for many cinematic moments in some of the most celebrated films of all time. Although it lies just across the Bay of Phang Nga to the east of Phuket, Krabi feels worlds away from its more touristy neighbor. The area has only been lightly touched by tourism, so you’re likely to still see local fishermen toting home nets of fresh catches after fishing the waters of Ao Thalane Bay or see school-aged children splashing in the shallows along the secret shores of Laem Jamuk Khwai.
Even though the area seems only lightly inhabited, the province is home to one of the oldest continual settlements in all of Thailand, where ancient cave paintings deck the walls inside Tham Phi Hua To and other northern caves. Krabi boasts a unique geographical makeup of more than 130 large and small islands rising up sharply from the water and peering out over a decidedly mountainous mainland that opens up into highlands and plains throughout the province. More than 100 miles of coastline stretch through Krabi, many belonging to Hat Noppharat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park, where you’re more likely to find wooden longtail boats wedged deep within powdery piles of sand than concession stands.
Like the rest of Southern Thailand, Krabi operates two main seasons — the rainy season and the dry season. Although the rains cease from November through April and then pick up again from May through September, the temperatures remain constant throughout the year, averaging a high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the temperamental seasons, shops remain open year-round; visitors can shop alongside locals for authentic Thai dishes, handicrafts and souvenirs at one of Thailand’s best night markets along Walking Street in Krabi Town.
Krabi Town isn’t necessarily the top choice for finding a hotel, but it’s home to a few of the province’s most iconic temples, and it’s definitely worth a hike through the dense forest to arrive at the stunning Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple). The temple was built into the base of a karst cliff among soaring vegetation, and from there active visitors can gain an even better perspective of the region by climbing the 1,237 steps that rise just beyond the temple to the Buddhist shrine at the top of the mountain. On your way out of town, make sure to stop in at Wat Kaew Korawaram to check out what many refer to as the “wedding cake temple” for its uncanny resemblance to an ornate white wedding cake.
The region’s top accommodations lie along the coast, where gems like the Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort and the Amari Vogue Krabi offer private beachfront access to their guests. The Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is in a class of its own with its immersive experiences, exclusive excursions and 54 luxuriously secluded villas, each manned by a personal butler. The resort’s prime location along Phulay Bay makes it ideal for daytrips like cruising on a longtail boat, sea canoeing through the mangrove forest or taking a private yacht out to Phi Phi Island to swim in the lagoon at Phi Phi Le and snorkel at Monkey Beach and Maya Bay. Consider two favored excursions at the resort: a private trip out to James Bond Island with John Gray Sea Canoe, and a journey out to Shark Point to snap a few underwater pictures with Thailand’s famous leopard sharks before returning for a private picnic on the uninhabited island.
The resort’s restaurants range from authentic Southern Thai cuisine served familystyle at Sri Trang to fresh seafood served under the stars at Lae Lay to the coveted seats at the Chef ’s Table inside the Mediterranean- inspired restaurant Jampoon. Most of the cuisine in Southern Thailand tends to focus around what is found locally, so fresh seafood, coconuts and fiery spices often dominate the menu. Don’t be afraid to ask for dishes prepared “European spicy” unless you’re ready for the kick many of these local dishes offer. Kaeng tai pla is the region’s signature dish of fish stomach served as a spicy coconut curry alongside jasmine rice, and you’ll find the best versions at The Frog and Catfish and Khaothong Terrace Restaurant, although Jenna’s Bistro & Wine serves up an amazing version using duck and red curry in place of the regional staples.
Getting around on land is relatively easy, and many of the resorts like the Phulay Bay offer complimentary bicycles for guests to use. More daring visitors can opt to rent a motorbike, although the easiest (and safest) way to get around is by a local taxi known as a songthaew. Offshore, the waters are full of longtail boats and charter boats that offer tours of the caves and islands as well as transportation to and from the nearby airports.
Krabi Info to Go
The nearest airport, Krabi International Airport, operates multiple domestic flights per day from Bangkok (BKK), Chiang Mai (CNX) and Koh Samui (USM). International flights from Singapore (SIN), Shanghai (PVG), Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and Jinan (TNA) are also available. Many resorts offer complimentary shuttles to and from the airport.
Where to Stay in Krabi
AMARI VOGUE KRABI The Lanna architecture sets the tone for a unique stay at this 57-room boutique hotel. Tubkaak Beach $$$
DUSIT THANI KRABI BEACH RESORT This 240-room resort is ideal for family and business travel, with direct access to Klong Muang Beach. 115 Moo 2, Nong Thale, Muang $$$
PHULAY BAY, A RITZ CARLTON RESERVE The 54 villas at this luxury resort all feature a 13-foot-long bed as well as private plunge pools, personal butler service and other highend touches. 111 Moo 3, Nongthalay, Muang $$$$$
Restaurants in Krabi
THE FROG AND CATFISH Local recipes and fresh ingredients make this authentic Thai restaurant stand out. Din Daeng, Nong Thale $$
JENNA’S BISTRO & WINE This cozy bistro serves up traditional Thai dishes with a distinctive French flair. 328/3 Moo 2, Ao Nang $$
KHAOTHONG TERRACE RESTAURANT The view from this beautiful restaurant is topped only by its sumptuously spicy dishes and fresh seafood. 135 Moo 2, Khao Thong $$
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