Ko Kradan is a small island in the Trang island group, south of Ko Ngai and west of Ko Muk. The nearest mass tourist island is Ko Lanta about 45 minutes by fast ferry north. I'd class it as one of the more laid back Andaman islands.
Most of the action is on the 1500m long eastern beach. This has sand tending more white than yellow, a backdrop of steep rainforested hills and an outlook towards Ko Muk, somesmall karst islets and the rugged Trang mainland coast.
There are reasonable coral and fishies for snorkellers on the fringing reef maybe 70m off the sand (but better just a bit further south - see down page).
The low tide blues kick in about mid-beach northwards but this did not put me off staying at the far northern end latest visit - it was just a matter of a pleasant walk along the rather nice beach to the southern half at low tide - at high tide swimming immediately adjacent my bungalow at Ko Kradan Island Resort was fine, and at low tide fossicking in the rock pools kept plenty of people entertained.
Best swimming is up around the Anantara day trip facility and adjacent National Park bungalow area. This area got quite a bunch of visiting speedboats, small ferries and longtails from about 1100 thru 1430 but it was always easy to find somewhere uncrowded to swim or stretch a towel in the sun.
Best snorkelling starts off the rocks which separate this beach from the south-east Ao Niang twin beaches. Swim out and follow the edge of the fringing reef into Ao Niang Bay. Look for the snorkelling daytrip boats for the key spots. BTW - the quality of fish and coral has deteriorated these past two years, as has most of Thailand's. Good old global warming.
The eastern aspect and the protection of the hills behind from the monsoon westerlies makes Kradan's eastern beach one of the Andaman's better wet season ones - but when I visited in June 2010 I was the only guest on the island and only Paradise Lost and the luxury Seven Seas were open.
Apart from a 200m section north of the Anantara Beach Club daytrip facility this beach is just about fully built out. However it gives the impression of being pretty relaxed because all resorts are low key and don't dominate their part of the beach.
Budget travellers should be looking at the National Park bungalows and tents (although the couple of user reviews sent to me complain of generator noise, crap food and indifferent staff), Kradan Beach Resort and Kradan Island Resort. I think you can still get budget rooms at Kalume. However probably better value is off the main beach at Wally's Paradise Lost in the jungle (Wally showed me one of his new 1200baht bungalows which shot my absolute-beachfront Kradan Island 1500baht bungalow out of the water) and maybe on the separate south-east beach at Ao Niang Resort where you may be able to get a basic bungalow around 1000.
I can hear you people mumbling about "budget" 1000, 1200 and 1500 bungalows. Hell, the Andaman is expensive these days and Ko Kradan aint missing out.
Mid-range travellers have more choice on Kradan now. Kalume has aircon bungalows and there is a new associated place called Coral Garden Resort immediately north with some very nice looking aircon jobs. Kradan Beach Resort has added some very similar ones just south of the original resort. Seven Seas tries to pass itself as more than midrange - but user reviews might differ. At least it has the island's only pool. That wont be true once (or if) the New Joint (dunno what the planned name is) just north of Seven Seas is open. This place was 60% finished in mid-December 2012 but no work was being done approaching peak season suggesting the developers have some sort of fiscal problem.
Food is not Kradan's strong point except at Paradise Lost where it is excellent with big servings - albiet at higher than normal bungalow restaurant prices. We found food at our Kradan Island Resort was disappointing and more expensive than normal. It was similarly priced but a bit better in quality at Kradan Beach Resort. Kalume seems to have shifted its restaurant activities next door to Coral Garden - Italian food is the theme, prices pretty steep.
A word on our Kradan Island Resort. If you want an old-style backpacker joint one meter from the sand (and water at high tide) with rattan walls, thatched roof, rattan windows held open with poles, mattress with mozzie net on the floor, this is the joint. The place has some two-storey bungalows which would be great for families/groups plus some outside bathroom cheapies in the back row. Excellent attentive owners and staff. But as said the value and food are minuses as could be the position way up the north end of the beach for people not prepared to hike it at lowest tide for a swim. Good swimming right off your bungalow above mid-tide.
A quick mention about Kradan's other accessible beach, Sunset Beach on the west coast via a shortish jungle track past Paradise Lost. This was still badly eroded in mid December 2012, with no more sand than in full wet season June 2010. Last wet season must have been a killer. At least Wally and his boys had cleared the beach of much of the wind blown debris.
Thanks for the detailed update, Tezza - it's greatly appreciated. I spent a few days on Koh Kradan at Wally's place and loved it. Am looking forward to going back soon - although it sounds like big changes continue to occur (both natural and man-made).