Photo: Meet Ko Kradan.

Introduction

Our rating:

A slender slip of an island off the coast of Trang province, Ko Kradan boasts a magnificent coral-sand beach stretching between fluffy green low-slung hills and the aquamarine Andaman Sea. Home to some decent snorkelling and low-tide sandbars that make for the beach walk of a lifetime, the island places among Thailand’s more visually spectacular offerings.



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Why should you go to Ko Kradan?

With some advanced planning, anyone from solo gap-year backpackers to honeymooning couples and flashpacking families can enjoy a quiet getaway in a sublime setting on Kradan. Though you won’t find fishing villages like on neighbouring Ko Muk, a few of the eccentric resort owners give the otherwise uninhabited island some character.

Ko Kradan's main beach is quite lovely. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

Ko Kradan's main beach is quite lovely. Photo: David Luekens

The long but narrow beach (voted the ninth best beach in the world by Guardian readers in 2016) has powdery white sand and breathtaking views to Ko Ngai, Ko Muk, Ko Libong, the mainland, a number of karst islets and even Ko Lao Liang and Ko Phetra on a clear day. Daytrippers unload from around 10:00 to 14:00, but once they depart you’ll hear only gentle waves, the hum of longtail boats and the laughs of children playing in the sand. If you’re dreaming of a postcard-worthy tropical island paradise, you’ll find it here.

The swimming is excellent at any time to the south, where the finest stretch of sand fronts a Hat Chao Mai National Park campground. To the north, at low tide you can stroll on sandbars amid crystalline water as sea eagles plunge for minnows. The shallows stretch so far out that it can feel like you’ve walked halfway to Ko Muk.

A swing here, a swing there. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

A swing here, a swing there. Photo: David Luekens

Where is Ko Kradan

Ko Kradan is in Trang province, southwest Thailand. The island sits roughly 13 km offshore, making it the westernmost permanently inhabited island in the province—this isolation can make for crystal waters—and high prices. The closest airport to Ko Kradan is in Trang, though there are boat connections to many islands and mainland spots in Thailand’s southwest. This makes it easy to combine a visit to Ko Kradan with other surrounding islands.

What are alternatives to Ko Kradan

Ko Kradan isn’t everyone’s cup of tea primarily because it is expensive and, because there is no village on the island, it has a bit of a tourist bubble/sterile feel to it. In both of these aspects it is very similar to neighbouring Ko Ngai, which sits just to the northeast in Krabi province. Both are pricey and lack a village, but have quite impressive beaches.

Crystal waters. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

Crystal waters. Photo: David Luekens

If you’re looking for a more “local vibe” or want to spend less money, we’d strongly recommend staying on neighbouring Ko Muk, which has far more affordable lodging, way better Thai food, and plenty of local life and colour. It is easy to visit Ko Kradan on a daytrip from Ko Muk. Another option, if you want something less-touristed than Ko Muk (not that Ko Muk is over touristed by any means), then Ko Libong, further to the south is a solid bet—though be warned the beaches there are not as good—though there are dugongs!

When to go to Ko Kradan

Ko Kradan is subject to the same monsoon as the rest of Thailand’s southwest coast. The rainy season runs roughly from May to October, during which time many places on the island are closed. Across the dry (and high) season however, expect calm seas and brilliant sunshine. High season runs roughly November to April, with January and February in particular being very busy (and expensive). Bookings in advance in February are close to essential.

Orientation

Measuring in at just 240 square hectares and located 13 kilometres off Trang province’s coastline, Kradan is a tiny island with no roads, villages, ATMs, large minimarts, police stations or medical clinics.

Damn. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

Damn. Photo: David Luekens

Some 90% of the terrain is protected under Hat Chao Mai National Park, which has a small station towards the southern end of the beach with a campground. In the past, we were told it was impossible for any more resorts to be built on the island, but on our latest visit in late 2019 a new resort was nearing completion at the far northern end of the main beach.

The main beach’s rockier and thinner northern stretch is lined with small to medium-sized flashpacker to midrange resorts, including several with Italian management. The swanky Seven Seas and lacklustre Kradan Beach Resort between them occupy a lengthy central part of the beach.

Take a walk through the interior. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

Take a walk through the interior. Photo: David Luekens

Marked by a sign towards the beach’s southern end, a sandy track begins just south of Kradan Beach Resort and runs 400 metres inland to Paradise Lost. Here the trail continues west to the small and undeveloped Sunset Beach. Beginning behind Paradise Lost’s biggest bungalows, another path cuts south to secluded Ao Nieang, which is the only true old-style bungalow spot left on Kradan and can also be reached along the shore at low tide.

Each resort has its own generator and some shut off electricity during the daytime. Thai provider cell phones work fine on the main beach but the service gets patchier at Sunset Beach and Ao Nieang. WiFi is free at most resorts, but don’t expect blazing download speeds.

Enjoy the nightly light show from Sunset Beach. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by David Luekens.

Enjoy the nightly light show from Sunset Beach. Photo: David Luekens


Where to stay on Ko Kradan

While a couple of places still offer semi-backpacker-range beds, Kradan is generally an expensive and highly seasonal destination. Unless you’re fine with a tent, advance reservations are recommended at any time from December to March, particularly in February.

Arrivals tend to be dropped in front of Kradan Beach Resort (T: (075) 211 391 Official site Agoda Booking) which is the most affordable (don’t confuse that with good value) accommodation on the main beach. Their cheapest offerings are in a very ordinary fan-cooled longhouse set-up (1,250 baht) behind the restaurant. Bungalows come in a few flavours with the cheaper ones in the back row being very well aged and (the one we were shown) musty and cost 1,700 baht for fan cooled, 2,100 baht for air-con. Similar, front row bungalows go for 2,300 baht and 2,850 baht for fan and air-con respectively. The better beachfront bungalows though are to the south of the restaurant and go for 4,200 baht. Air-con is available evening only in all but the most expensive bungalows. The beach out front of here can be swum in regardless of tide (unlike the resorts further north, where low tide presents a stunning white sandbar), however the beach here does get busy with longtails.

Meet Kradan Beach Resort. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Meet Kradan Beach Resort. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Next off the rack moving north is the somewhat salubrious Seven Seas Resort (T: (082) 490 2442 Official site Agoda Booking) with deluxe villas starting at around the 12,000 baht mark (and some cheaper hotel-style rooms to the rear of the resort). They are very spacious and well designed, and there is a small pool on site, but at this price-point we much preferred Coral Garden further up the beach—it is smaller, more charming and the staff far more welcoming.

Right beside Seven Seas is Reef Resort (T: (090) 067 4400 Official site Agoda Booking) which has modern almost motel-style, air-con glass-fronted rooms (4,900 baht) in a series of buildings around a small freeform swimming pool. We prefer the bungalow style you’d get at neighbouring Kalume, but if you want a swimming pool, this is as affordable pool as you’re going to get on Ko Kradan and the rooms and pebble-floored rainshower bathrooms were well kept. Staff were friendly and they have a cool little beach bar here, with the roof covered in wooden shingles bearing past guests’ names. Keep your eye out online for shoulder season deals.

Poolside at Reef Resort. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Poolside at Reef Resort. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Next north is Kalume (T: (099) 195 7340 Official site Agoda Booking), which competes with Kradan Beach Resort for the flashpacker crowd. Plastic-free Kalume has much to recommend it with well priced fan-cooled bungalows (2,300 baht for garden view, 2,900 baht for seaview) spread across a compact lawn garden being the best asset. They are mostly wooden, but finished with a flair and the real beds come with mosquito nets standard. The hot water bathroom in the room we were shown was immaculate. The restaurant here is one of two standout Italian places and we liked the beachside salas that you could relax in for just as long as you wanted while munching through one of their excellent pizzas. Welcoming staff. If you’re on a flashpacker budget, we would try here before Kradan Beach Resort—reservations in high season are essential as they only have eight bungalows.

A bungalow interior at Kalume. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

A bungalow interior at Kalume. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Previously last off the rank along the main beach (but no longer thanks to a new place that was almost finished as of late 2019 further along the beach) is Coral Garden Resort (T: (094) 648 7576 Official site Agoda Booking) and it is very a case of saving the best till last (well second last). Italian managed, Coral Garden offers just a handful of luxurious wood faced bungalows (8,000 to 12,000 baht depending on time of year) running along the beach in a single row. Well spaced out for privacy, the rooms are lovely inside, and we thought considerably more charming than the far larger, but similarly priced Seven Seas down the sand a bit. Really the only thing missing was a hammock slung on the large wooden decks. They also offer three rooms in a duplex building (6,000 to 7,000 baht depending on season), but we thought that lacked the appeal of the bungalows. The restaurant is excellent, with an superior range of Italian fare (though it isn’t cheap) and we found the management to be bend over backwards accommodating and friendly. Reservations are essential. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, look no further.

Shady setting at Coral Garden. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Shady setting at Coral Garden. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Down the other end of the beach, around the corner on a south-facing stretch of beach that is simply delicious for swimming at high tide and sand castle building at low tide, you’ll find the Hat Chao Mai National Park office (Official site) where camping is permitted, making for the cheapest spot to sleep on the island. Despite visiting the “office” on numerous occasions during our stay we never found an officer there to sort out the details, but some Thai campers who were set up there said they were camping for free. There’s a small cafe on site which does the only reasonably priced Thai food on the entire island (single plate dishes 70-100 baht) so you won’t starve, but it is probably a good idea to bring your own tent.

Keep walking west (low tide only) and you’ll reach the especially pretty Ao Nieang beach, which is home to the only semi-backpacker place left on the island. Ao Nieang Resort (T: (081) 891 7379, no online bookings) has a gaggle of old school backpacker huts strung out in two clusters, with a similarly old school restaurant set in the middle. The (again old!) couple running the place are super friendly, but their English is very limited, so bring a phrasebook. As far as digs go on Ko Kradan, these are easily the most basic lodgings—as with Paradise Lost there is barely a straight angle in the place, but as long as you don’t mind a bit of grot (the bathrooms in particular could do with a sandblasting), this is easily the pick of the lodgings on Ko Kradan for those after a beachfront hut without spending the earth.

Simple shacks at Ao Nieang Resort. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Simple shacks at Ao Nieang Resort. Photo: Stuart McDonald

The family who run it are especially welcoming, friendly and helpful. The predominantly Thai fare restaurant is slightly better priced as well. Another asset here is the house reef, which boasts a good drop off and the best snorkelling we saw on Ko Kradan—just watch that current towards the western end—it doubles as an expressway to Ko Rok! Supposedly open year round, reservations are recommended (by phone) in peak season. Out the back look for the bizarre sign detailing the attributes of perfect canine physique in English.

Off the beach and carved out of the jungle, Paradise Lost Resort (No direct contact details, we were told a new website was on the way. Agoda Booking) was once our goto favourite on Ko Kradan, with a welcoming backpacker vibe and good value (for Ko Kradan) bungalows. Sadly the founder, Wally Sanger, passed away in 2015 and while it remains in business, something, perhaps not paradise, has been lost. The resort offers up a gaggle of dark-crimson, thatch-roofed wood bungalows around a slope of Bermuda grass punctuated by flower and herb gardens, bamboo, coconut and papaya trees. Outfitted with soft mattresses and fuzzy blankets raised off the floor and draped in mosquito nets, the simple yet clean rooms (1,000 baht) have a few swing-open windows and wall-mounted fans to keep you cool. Some larger bungalows (1,200 baht), including two suitable for families (1,600 baht), bag you more space and private bathrooms.

Bungalow style at Paradise Lost Resort. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Bungalow style at Paradise Lost Resort. Photo: Stuart McDonald

You’ll also find a string of cheaper rooms set in a longhouse (800 baht), each with two firm single mattresses on the floor, mosquito nets, wall-mounted fan, windows on either side and a glass-topped table. Guests staying in the longhouse and the cheapest bungalows use a few shared cold-water bathrooms. WiFi and cell coverage here is very patchy. To get here from the main beach, look for the sign just south of Kradan Beach Resort and follow the sandy track inland. While the lack of sea views will dissuade some from staying, the location does put you within an easy hop of Sunset Beach, and the main beach is a leisurely five-minute stroll away. Pack a torch and mosquito repellent. No human can ignore the racket of the crickets—take our word for it.


Where to eat on Ko Kradan

The first thing about Ko Kradan is when it comes to eating, the food is expensive. There is no village on the island, so pretty much everything is boated in, and yeah, the costs add up fast, real fast, for Thai food, expect to pay roughly triple what you’d be paying on the mainland. The one exception is the small kiosk at the National Park office, where you can get simple one plate Thai dishes for under 100 baht.

Yay! Italian! Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Yay! Italian! Photo: Stuart McDonald

What Kradan does have, thanks to some of the resorts having an Italian hand in the management side of things, is excellent Italian food. Kalume, but especially Coral Gardens, offer outstanding Italian food—so if you’re looking at 300+ baht for a main, we say go Italian!

The best option if you’re on a tight budget is the national park restaurant serving simple but tasty dishes like krapao muu (stir-fried pork with chillies and holy basil) and khao pad talay (seafood fried rice) for around the 70 to 100 baht mark. They also sell Western breakfasts and cans of beer and soft drinks for cheaper than the resorts, but get here early as it shuts early—lunch is your best bet.

Chow down at the National Park Office. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Chow down at the National Park Office. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Kradan is something of a “Little Italy” in the Andaman Sea, with Italians involved in the management of four of the resorts. All four of them—Paradise Lost, The Reef, Coral Garden and Kalume Village—offer pasta and pizza. We’ve tried all of these except for The Reef and—in our opinion—the best was Italiano at Coral Garden. It serves 500-baht platters of divine cured meats along with grilled zucchini salad, Caprese baguettes, squid-ink tagliatelle and homemade gnocchi. On our last visit here, both the pesto and lasagna exceeded our expectations.

The best bet for a splurge is probably Seven Seas, serving Thai dishes like nuea yang jim jeaw with som tam, which consists of grilled beef with various spicy dipping sauces and a side of papaya salad. The goong ob wun sen (glass noodles and prawns baked in a clay pot with herbs) also smelled promising and beef lovers can grab an Australian ribeye here as well. Expect to have little change from 700 baht.

Cheaper than a green curry. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Cheaper than a green curry. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Kradan gets real quiet after dark, with no freestanding beach bars and most of the resort bars closing up by 23:00. Our favourite place to unwind after dark is Kalume Village’s bar, where you can grab a cold beer or cocktail to sip in a beachside sala with cushions set over the sand. Beer and wine, as with the food, is expensive across the board.


What to see and do

Though many visitors are content with a book and a hammock, Kradan is also a decent option for snorkelling right off the shore. Located just south of the national park station, the vast South Reef and harder-to-reach Ko Kradan North both have their share of marine life, even if the coral is banged up and dormant. Most resorts and the national park rent out snorkels for 50 to 100 baht.

Pre-sunset Sunset Beach. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Pre-sunset Sunset Beach. Photo: Stuart McDonald

For between 600 and 1,500 baht, longtails will whisk you off to the islets of Ko Waen and Ko Chueak for more snorkelling boat trips, perhaps with a stop at Ko Muk’s wondrous Emerald Cave. Longtails can also be chartered to take you around Ko Kradan snorkelling for the day—this is really the only comfortable way to reach the isolated beaches on the far northwest coast of the island.

Further west and reachable for 4,000 baht (per boat, not per person), Ko Rok’s bubble coral garden and divine beaches beckon. Ko Kradan is the closest developed island to the Ko Rok islands, so if you are planning on visiting, do it from here—and go early, both for the calmer seas and dodging the hordes that arrive later in the day.

Bloody awful. Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Bloody awful. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Based at Seven Seas Resort, Pro Scuba Diving runs day diving trips to Hin Daeng, Ko Haa and other worthwhile locales nearby.


How to get to Ko Kradan

Whether from the mainland or other islands, all boats pick up and drop off in front of Kradan Beach Resort towards the south end of the main beach.

Taxi! Photo taken in or around Ko Kradan, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Taxi! Photo: Stuart McDonald

To/from the mainland
Trang town is the main jumping off point for Ko Kradan, with travel agents near the train station offering combined minibus/longtail boat transfers departing in high season at 11:00 and 16:00 for 450 baht. After arriving at Kuan Thung Khu Pier on the mainland you’ll hop in a long tail boat for the roughly one-hour trip to Ko Kradan. Boats return to Kuan Thung Khu and a waiting minibus to Trang at 08:30 and 13:30. See the Trang transport section for info on getting there and onward transport. There are no shared boats to/from Kradan in low season. A private transfer will run 2,200 baht all up (including ground transport) from Trang—per group, not per person—and will depend on weather conditions.

Other islands
From around November 1 to March 31, speedboats and ferries connect Ko Kradan directly to a number of other islands. Most tickets can be booked through any resort on Ko Kradan; whoever sells you the ticket will need to call the boat so it’s best to give them prior notice.

There are three primary speedboat companies servicing Ko Kradan—Bundhaya, Satun Pakbara Speedboat Club and Tigerline. All offer similar large speedboats, with a focus on speed rather than comfort. These boats are often late running by the time they reach Phuket, so don’t count on making a tight flight connection out of Phuket. In bad weather they may be delayed or not run at all. You have been warned.

Heading north from Ko Kradan
Bundhaya picks up on Kradan at 10:50 arriving at Ko Muk at 11:00 (300 baht), Ko Ngai at 11:30 (400 baht) and Ko Lanta at 12:00 (1,150 baht). Book with 12Go Asia

Satun Pakbara picks up on Kradan at 10:45 arriving at Ko Muk at 11:00 (300 baht), Ko Ngai at 11:20 (400 baht), Ko Lanta at 12:00 for 950 baht. Then it continues on to Ko Phi Phi, arriving at 13:30 (1,550 baht) and Phuket at 14:30 (1,800 baht). Book with 12Go Asia

Tigerline runs twice daily in high season. It picks up on Kradan at 11:00 and 15:45 arriving at Ko Ngai at 11:15 and 16:00 (550 baht) and Ko Lanta at 12:00 and 16:45 (750 baht). Then it continues on to Ko Phi Phi, arriving at 13:00 and 17:30 (1,450 baht) and Phuket at 13:45 and 18:15 (1,850 baht). Note the northbound Tigerline service goes to Ko Muk before Ko Kradan (unlike Bundhaya and Satun Pakbara). Book with 12Go Asia

The cheaper and slower Petpailin ferry also runs to and from Kradan, picking up at 09:30 and running north to Ko Ngai for 300 baht and Ko Lanta for 600 baht. It also runs to Ko Muk, departing Ko Kradan at 11:20.

Heading south from Ko Kradan
Bundhaya picks up on Kradan at 11:40 arriving at Ko Bulon Lae at 12:30 (900 baht) and Ko Lipe at 13:30 (1,400 baht). Book with 12Go Asia

Satun Pakbara picks up on Kradan at 11:35 arriving at Ko Bulon Lae at 12:35 (900 baht) and Ko Lipe at 13:30 (1,400 baht). Book with 12Go Asia

Tigerline runs twice daily in high season. It picks up on Kradan at 11:30 and 14:00 arriving at Ko Muk at 11:45 and 14:15 (550 baht), Ko Libong at 13:15 (1,250 baht), Ko Lao Liang at 13:45 (1,250 baht), Ko Bulon Lae at 14:30 (1,250 baht) and Ko Lipe at 15:15 and 15:45 (1,250 baht). Note that only the morning Tigerline service stops at Ko Libong, Ko Lao Liang and Ko Bulon Lae. The Lao Liang stop is for Ko Sukorn, but you need to charter a longtail from Lao Liang to Ko Sukorn—organise this with your desired accommodation beforehand. Book with 12Go Asia

Private longtail charters
Once you have a few people, depending on the destination, it can be more affordable to charter your own longtail to Ko Muk or Ko Ngai for 800 to 1,200 baht. Ko Libong can be reached by private longtail for around 2,500 baht.

Bundhaya: T: (074) 783 111 https://www.bundhayaspeedboat.com/
Petpailin: T: (075) 667 033; (081) 979 9001
Satun Pakbara Speedboat Club: T: (081) 959 2094 https://www.spcthailand.com/
Tigerline: T: (098) 016 8181 http://www.tigerlinetravel.com/



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