Plenty to choose from.
Published/Last edited or updated: 13th November, 2018
Whether you’re after a lively scene or pure peace and quiet, at least one of the coastal beaches in the Ao Nang area should do the trick. Read on for the low down on a dozen different beaches spanning some 30 kilometres of Krabi province’s coastline.
Most of these beaches share one similarity: at low tide, all but the Railay beaches and Haad Tup Kaek have shallow water for up to half a kilometre offshore, making swimming difficult. In dry season the sea is usually calm, but fairly large waves often crash ashore in the rainy months. For info on how to reach all of these beaches, see the orientation section near the bottom of the Ao Nang intro page, and the transport page.
Haad Ao Nang
Kilometre-long Ao Nang beach is the busiest of Krabi province’s coastal beaches, but that does not make it the best. The main road runs alongside the northern half, where a concrete seawall hosts a huge statue of kids roping in a marlin. The beach has some fine tan sand but mostly pebbles and bits of shells. The water tends to be murky and there’s a lot of boat traffic, with minimal roped-off areas for safe swimming. People stay here mainly for the bustling scene, the large accommodation selection and other conveniences.
The best stretch of Haad Ao Nang is to the south, where the busy road gives way to a pedestrian-only walkway and the beach widens enough so that a seawall isn’t necessary. Down here you’ll find a few large resorts such as Ao Nang Villa along with some beach bars and massage stalls. Umbrella trees shade much of the sand. At the far southern end, cross a footbridge to find the “Monkey Trail” cutting up the headland before dropping down to Centara Resort’s private beach. On our last visit we spotted dusky langurs in the treetops.
The Railay beaches
The Railay peninsula’s four breathtaking beaches—Haad Phra Nang, Haad Railay West, Haad Railay East and Ao Tonsai—are just over a kilometre southwest of Haad Ao Nang but accessible only by boat due to the cliffs towering on all sides of them. We’ve covered these beaches in detail over in the Railay guide. Reaching Railay by boat from Ao Nang is easy unless the sea is rough, in which case you can still usually access it from the pier at Ao Nammao. Don’t come to the area and miss Railay.
Talking aesthetics alone, the other mainland beaches in the area don’t hold a candle to Railay’s beaches, which we think are some of the most beautiful in Thailand. Railay also has a serious rock climbing scene and some decent accommodation. When visiting this area we prefer to spend a few nights on Railay and then a few nights in Ao Nang, Haad Noppharat Thara or elsewhere on the coast.
Situated on the other side of the Railay peninsula but accessible from Ao Nang via a five-kilometre road, this long reddish-tan sand beach begins at a pier servicing boats to Railay and ends to the east amid piles of millions-of-years-old mollusk fossils at Suu San Hoi. This explains the alternate name, “Fossil Shell Beach,” although we advise skipping the mollusks (and the 200-baht fee to see them) unless you have a passion for prehistoric shellfish.
Quite a few dark rocks jut above the water along much of the beach, and the water is only knee-deep for a long way out at low tide. It’s a quiet beach but public songthaews do pass by, making it easy to reach without a vehicle or a pricey taxi. If you like the quiet life, Dawn of Happiness is a rundown backpacker joint overlooking Ao Nammao with bungalows starting at around 600 baht, while Rimlay Villas is a decent flashpacker option.
Haad Noppharat Thara
This two-kilometre beach begins a few hundred metres west of Ao Nang beach beyond a canal and headland with a small coastal walkway. At that end it’s quite ugly and narrow, but at the opposite (western) end you’ll find a scenic expanse of fine white sand reaching to a few limestone islets when the tide goes out. The western end is controlled by the national park, explaining why old casuarina trees still stand here. The beach ends at the deep Son River, where a busy yet photogenic pier services longtail boats, tour boats and the ferries to Ko Phi Phi.
The main road joins a concrete walkway and a seawall to back almost the full length of Haad Noppharat Thara, attracting joggers and picnickers. Places to sleep include Sabai Resort and Blue Bayou along with a few larger spots towards the crummy eastern end, including a Holiday Inn. The area continues to develop and we reckon much of it will look similar to Ao Nang—filled with large concrete hotels—in the not-so-distant future. Especially on weekends, locals flock to the western end to sit amid the trees and munch on the grilled seafood and som tam available from a string of vendors across the road.
Long Beach (Haad Yao)
Look across the river from the western end of Haad Noppharat Thara and and you’ll see another long expanse of off-white sand backed by forest. That would be Long Beach, also called western Haad Noppharat Thara, which can only be reached by boat or a roundabout six-kilometre trip by road. Colourful seashells and starfish collect on the soft sand, and the scenic outlook includes Ko Phi Phi and the Railay cliffs. With a secluded atmosphere that feels like Ao Nang in 1970, it’s one of our favourite beaches in the area.
The 1.5-kilometre beach ends to the west at some mangroves and a small fishing village abutting another river. The beach stays virtually empty even in peak season; on multiple visits we’ve seen only docile dogs, a few travellers taking long walks and locals collecting shellfish when the tide goes out. Staying here is not for everyone due to the isolation and limited electricity, but the few places to stay (such as P.A.N. and Sand Beach) are worth considering if you need a break from the world. Note that Krabi province has another beach also called Haad Yao, which is found south of Krabi town near Ko Si Boya.
The area’s most overlooked beach comes as a pleasant surprise on the north coast of Laem Hang Nak, a forest-covered cape extending between Long Beach and the Khlong Muang area. Ao Siew is very quiet, hosting little more than a sheep farm, a reggae bar, the laidback Pine Bungalow and a strictly sealed-off Thai royal palace set on a hill at the far end of the cape.
This narrow beach is interspersed by mangroves and backed by coconut groves where cows graze. We once bumped into an elderly couple grilling a fish for lunch at one of the beach’s many secluded spots. Haad Khlong Muang is only a kilometre to the north, and on the way there you’ll pass some old beached rice barges that are worth a look.
Haad Khlong Muang
With fishing boats bobbing offshore and locals reeling in their lines rather than trying to push souvenirs on tourists, Khlong Muang is a far cry from Ao Nang. A small number of travellers kick back on this long and pretty light tan stretch of sand rimmed by casuarina and palm trees. As with neighbouring Ao Siew, the aquamarine water stays relatively clear and calm in high season.
Tourism first came to Khlong Muang via a couple of upscale resorts that remain along with a few flashpacker-range spots, including Bann Chom Le. The main road is far enough away that passing traffic is barely audible on the beach, but close enough that it’s possible to walk up to the village for a meal. Staying here is a good option for families and couples seeking peace and quiet, and we think the general area (including Ao Siew, Ao Ko Kwang and Haad Tup Kaek) is worth a day trip if you’re staying closer to Ao Nang, which is 10 kilometres to the east.
Ao Ko Kwang
This beach stretches just north of Haad Khlong Muang beyond some mangroves and rocks, and hosts a larger selection of places to stay and eat. The coarse tan sand disappears at high tide, receding for several hundred metres at low tide to reveal rocks and mud. It’s not much of a swimming beach but we like the outlook to the hills of Ko Yao Yai and cliffs of Ko Hong. If you’re keen to check out stunning Ko Hong and its satellite isles, this is the closest and cheapest place in the area to launch a day trip by longtail boat.
Unlike at Haad Khlong Muang, the main road runs very close to Ao Ko Kwang and noisy trucks rumbling to a nearby gypsum mine can detract from the atmosphere. On the other hand, the road puts you much closer to a selection of cafes and restaurants. Just north of the beach on the way up to Haad Tub Kaek you’ll find a floating pier that might be worth a stop.
Haad Tup Kaek
A few kilometres north of Khlong Muang, past the mine and its deep-water pier, Tup Kaek beach is home to five large luxury resorts and nothing else. Lapping on to fine light-tan sand, the water is swimmable at any time and sunsets over Ko Hong aren’t too shabby. Yes, it’s a scenic spot, but 10,000 baht a night scenic? Let’s put it this way: they better be darn good resorts.
Public access to Haad Tup Kaek is available, even if resort security guards will tell you otherwise. Look for a dirt lane leading downhill to the left off the main road, just past the northernmost resort, and keep left on a path that crosses a small stream before dropping you at the far northern end of the beach. The resorts don’t own the beach so feel free to stroll the length of it. Beyond the beach, the road ends at a national park station where you can access the Tab Kak Hang Nak (“Dragon’s Crest”) trail. The eight-kilometre round-trip trek rewards you with a marvellous vista.
Ao Nang, Eastern Haad Noppharat Thara and Ao Nammao can all be reached by public songthaew, while the others can only be reached by taxi or private vehicle. See the orientation section for more details on the roads involved.
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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