Published/Last edited or updated: 13th November, 2018
Boat tours from the Ao Nang area will shoot you to a number of surrounding islands and beaches to snorkel, dive, kayak and chill. While the beauty of these spots is undeniable, thick crowds can detract from the experience and it pays to be strategic.
The sea off Krabi province is notorious for boat accidents. As we typed this update in July 2018, a large tour boat capsized off nearby Phuket during a storm, killing 47 Chinese tourists. It was the worst boat accident in Thailand for years, but smaller (yet still fatal) accidents occur with alarming frequency. The danger is more immediate in the rainy months from June through October, when we advise against taking boat tours anywhere in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. We also suggest opting for longtail boats or larger craft rather than speedboats, which have been known to explode.
Ko Poda and Railay by public longtail boat
Look west and south from Ao Nang beach and you’ll see the limestone massifs and brilliant beaches of Ko Poda and Railay. If you want to spend a day lounging around either of these spots without doing an actual tour, head to the ticket booth where the beach road meets the main drag in Ao Nang and purchase a round trip by public longtail boat, which costs 200 baht per person to Railay and 300 baht to Ko Poda. The boats leave after collecting six passengers any time from 08:00 to 16:00.
Unlike most group tours, these trips do not include lunch or English-speaking guides. Snorkels and kayaks can be rented at the national park station on Ko Poda, where you may have to cough up an additional 400 baht per foreign adult and 200 baht per child upon arrival. These tickets are not usually included in the price of tours, so using the public boats will be considerably cheaper. There is no extra national park fee to visit Railay.
One of the most popular boat tours covers Ko Poda along with Ko Gai (Chicken Island) and two neighbouring islets that connect to Ko Gai by way of a beautiful sand bar at low tide, a phenomenon known as Talay Waek or “Separated Sea.” After lunch, some time to lounge and swim at Ko Poda and most likely a snorkelling stop, these tours usually swing by Haad Phra Nang on Railay. Four Islands group tours range from 500 to 1,200 baht per person, mainly depending on the type of boat you choose.
Expect to be part of the crowds if visiting these islands as part of a tour. Alternately you could arrange a private longtail boat trip to take you to Ko Poda and Ko Gai for 1,800 baht, or 2,200 baht if also including a stop at Railay (those prices are for the whole boat, not per person). We’ve found that launching a private trip from Ao Nang at 07:00 will allow you to frolic on Talay Waek before the crowds arrive.
Those looking to head further afield might opt for Ko Hong, another national park island featuring a lagoon hemmed in by cliffs, plus an idyllic beach and a rocky coast that’s great for kayaking, which is included in many tours. Private longtail boat trips from Ao Nang cost 2,500 baht and last from 08:00 to 16:00, and the price jumps to 3,000 baht if including stops at a couple of smaller isles in the Ko Hong group, such as Ko Phak Bia and Ko Lao Lading.
Group tours to Ko Hong start at 700 baht per person by longtail and 1,000 baht by speedboat, rates that typically do not include the 300-baht national park fee. The beaches do get crowded. Also note that Ko Hong is located pretty far northwest of Ao Nang—head up to the Khlong Muang area and you’ll find that tours are cheaper with significantly less time spent in the boat.
Ko Phi Phi Leh
Another very popular set of tours take you to the famous Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh, where the Leonardo Dicaprio movie The Beach was filmed in the late 1990s, along with stops at Viking Cave and Ko Mai Pai (Bamboo Island) for snorkelling. Maya Bay has become a magnet for tours from all over Ao Nang, Phuket and Ko Phi Phi Don, resulting in a beach that resembles a packed concert ground in high season. In 2018, authorities closed Maya Bay due to overtourism concerns.
We suggest giving Phi Phi Leh a pass from Ao Nang, perhaps saving it for an early morning excursion from Ko Phi Phi Don if you’ll be staying there. These islands are a lot further away from Ao Nang than Ko Hong and Ko Poda, so most visitors make the trip by speedboat or larger pleasure boats. If you do go, expect to pay 1,000 to 2,000 baht per person, most likely not including a 400-baht national park fee. Prepare to be squished in tight.
Other boat tours
So far we’ve covered only the basics—from there the options splinter into all sorts of alternative tours with names like “Seven Islands Tour,” “Nine Islands Tour,” “Sunset Tour” and the rather insane “Ko Hong Plus Seven Islands, Railay and Sunset Tour.” The additional islands are invariably small piles of rocks such as Ko Sri and Ko Ta Ming, where you’ll get some extra time for snorkelling.
Travel agents in Ao Nang also sell tours to more distant islands in other provinces, such as James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay and even the Similan Islands, which would require a 140-kilometre ride by van before you even set foot on a boat. While some of the sunset trips looked appealing to us, we’d skip most of these longer trips because they’re more rushed than tours focusing on just a few islands.
If you want to do some paddling without booking a tour, head towards the south end of Ao Nang beach and rent a kayak for around 200 baht per hour or 600 baht per day. This is a good place to launch: paddle south around the headland and you’ll reach Centara Resort’s beach, with Ao Tonsai and Railay West reachable just beyond that. Along the way you’ll get an up-close look at the remarkable cliffs that cut these beaches off from the rest of the mainland.
Starting at around 1,000 baht, the cheapest kayaking tours take you to Ao Tha Len (also spelt Ao Thalane), a bay and estuary rimmed by mangrove forest and a limestone canyon some 30 kilometres north of Ao Nang. If you’re not big on tours and are up for renting a vehicle or paying for a taxi, this trip can be done independently without too much hassle. Many of the Ko Hong tours also offer a kayaking option.
Kayakers who are also archaeology buffs should instead opt for the tours touted as “Kayaking Sea Cave at Ban Bor Thor,” which include paddling through mangroves on the way to check out 3,000-year-old cave drawings in Phi Hua To cave, part of Than Bok Khorani National Park. This is a longer trip than Ao Tha Len and costs around 1,500 baht per person.
Though Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi Don are the better-known diving hubs of Krabi province, Ao Nang is home to a handful of outfits offering trips to many of the same sites commonly hit from those islands. Sites include the Bida Islands, Ko Haa, Hin Mueang and Hin Daeng and the wrecks of several decommissioned Thai Naval vessels that were intentionally sunk for the enjoyment of divers. There are also a few local sites around Ko Poda.
Small diving outfits based only in the Ao Nang area include Aqua Vision, The Dive and Local Diving. Kon-Tiki is a larger operation with shops in Ao Nang, Ko Lanta and Khao Lak. There’s also Raya, which has additional offices in Khao Lak, Ko Lanta and Phuket and runs live-aboard trips connecting sites throughout the northern half of Thailand’s Andaman Sea and even into Burmese waters. All of these offer certification courses to go with fun dives that cost around 2,500 to 6,500 baht, depending on the sites you choose. Snorkellers are often welcome to tag along for roughly half the price.
Aqua Vision: Offices on the main drag in Ao Nang and the main road through Khlong Muang; T: (086) 944 4068; (081) 797 3924; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.aqua-vision.net
Kon-Tiki Diving and Snorkelling Centre: Offices on main drag and beach road in Ao Nang; T: (075) 637 826; www.kontiki-thailand.com
Local Diving: Office on Khlong Haeng Rd just off the beach road between Ao Nang and Haad Noppharat Thara; T: (089) 871 2629; email@example.com; www.localdivingkrabi.com
The Dive Ao Nang: Office on main drag in Ao Nang; T: (082) 282 2537; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thediveaonang.com
Raya Divers: Office off Noppharat Thara Rd, one km inland from the western end of Haad Noppharat Thara; T: (075) 637 630; email@example.com; rayadivers.com
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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