‘Thailand… Too touristy!’ some say. I always disagree. For me Thailand is still one the most beautiful, diverse and travel friendliest destinations in the world. Two Thai island towns that I have yet to visit are Ao Nang and Krabi. Fortunately, world traveler and writer Mari did have a chance to visit and she explains why you should add Ao Nang and Krabi to your Thailand itinerary. Read her ‘Top things to do in Ao Nang and Krabi’! 

Written by Mari Bunkova.

Things to do in Ao Nang and Krabi

When I first arrived at roaring Bangkok, which was full of sounds and people, of delicious smells and smiling faces I wasn’t sure which places in the country I wanted to visit. All I knew about Thailand I learnt from one really long article, about an adventurer, who set out to Koh Samui in search of the perfect beach. As I was walking nervously back and forth at the train platform in the middle of Bangkok, I knew that there was more to Thailand than Koh Samui, beaches and parties. Or at least I was promised that, when I planned and booked my whole stay, with the help of the workers at the Thailand Tourism Board.

And I have to be honest, if it wasn’t for these guys, I was going to end up not visiting Krabi. But instead I fell in love with the tranquil provinces of southern Thailand and I kept coming back to its natural beauty, rich cultural landscape and kind people. Continue reading if you have a hard time thinking of a reason why you should visit the picturesque Krabi and Ao Nang (and even if you don’t, continue reading to find interesting suggestions of what to do.)

Sunrise. ©Mari Bunkova

Elephant Trekking in Ao Nang / Krabi

I had the opportunity to experience elephant riding both in Chang Mai and in Krabi and I must say that the better experience was the one in Krabi. Before you rush into making any conclusions about me, I am an animal lover and I would never participate in anything that promote or is cruel against the animals.

There is a lot of controversy going on around about the various companies that work with elephants in Thailand. But the Huay Tho Waterfall Safari in Krabi, part of the Asian Elephant Foundation of Thailand is one of the few that actually work towards their preservation.

The safari camp is situated at Huay Tho, which is a short drive away from Ao Nang. Here you can enjoy a long trek through the dense jungle, follow a stream and take a refreshing bath with the elephants. Besides this you will learn interesting facts about these gentle animals and what it is like to be a mahout.

Update Bunch of Backpackers February 2018: Personally, I do not support any type of tourist interaction with elephants: especially no riding, but also no bathing/walking. However, I’m sure some of these parks are doing great work. Read more about my thoughts on animals & tourism in this post. 

Elephant riding. ©Mari Bunkova

The best beaches of Ao Nang

Let’s face it, Ao Nang is not the best beach that you will see in your life. Fret not, as there are many great options only a short longtail boat ride away.

Koh Hong ‘The hollow island’ 

If you have enough time to spend, make sure to visit Koh Hong, the hollow island. The center of the island is an enclosed lagoon with shallow, crystal clear waters. During the high tide, the longtail boats can enter the lagoon to go further inside, revealing a magnificent view of white sand beaches, lush greenery and exotic birds. If islands are not your thing, but you still want to visit some of them, go for the closer islands like the Chicken Island, Koh Poda or Railay (the last one is not actually an island.)

Koh Poda

Koh Poda is the largest island among a formation of four small islands -Koh Poda, Koh Kai, Koh Thab and Koh Mo. It was endless stretches of white sand beaches and beautiful turquoise waters. It is only twenty minutes away from Ao Nang, but the atmosphere is nothing like it.

Chicken Island

Once you see the Chicken Island, there is no question where the name is coming from. The place is also ideal for snorkeling but if you already have snorkeling experience, the variety you get there can be a little disappointing. However, snorkeling novices will have a memorable experience swimming among the colourful corals and fishes.


Railay is located between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang. It is accessible only by boat due to the high limestone cliffs that cuts off the mainland access. Railay is famous for its beautiful beaches, longtail boat vendors and massive overhanging caves. It can get quite overcrowded, but if you walk a little further from the rock formations you will find almost untouched stretches of beach. As a bonus, the visitors of Railay get to meet wild long-tailed macaques, one of the local visitors to the beach.

Railay. ©Mari Bunkova

Seashell madness

One of the best places for seashells lovers I have seen is the …beach at Ao Nang. The beach can be accessed only during the low tide and makes for an unforgettable experience (digging into the sand, stepping on sharp shells and getting a headache while staring into the sand for too long.) Ok, all of the listed can be experienced only if you are REALLY obsessed with sea shells.

Monkey encounters

A visit to Ao Nang will be nothing without some adrenaline bumping encounters with the local wildlife. You don’t need to go all the way to Railay to meet the native long-tailed macaques. All you need to do is to buy a bunch of bananas (probably not the best advise) and to go for a walk (to read: climb) on the Monkey Trail from Ao Nang to Centara resort. The steep way up the mountain features narrow wooden steps and it gets nuclear hot during the day.

The best thing however is you won’t have to climb back across the monkey trail if you return in the afternoon. During the low tide, the path between Centara beach and Ao Nang is cleared and this path offers a more pleasurable walk in the heat.

Monkeys. ©Mari Bunkova

Hiking up Hang Nak Mountain

Krabi province had a number of great hikes with Hang Nak being one of the most famous. Hang Nak or Ngorn Nak, offers a strenuous hike, but you don’t need to be a professional hiker to complete it. It is a 3.7 kilometers hike up to the summit, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the forest and the beach lagoons.

View from the mountains. ©Mari Bunkova

–> Like this article :)? Book your Thailand accommodation through Hostelworld.com or Booking.com! Booking through these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it will get me a small commission to keep this website up and running! Thanks! ~ Manouk
About the author

Mari bob guest writerMari Bunkova is a travel blogger and native Bulgarian. She quit her job in 2011, at age 21, and decided to travel the world. She went to Aarhus Denmark to pursue her bachelor degree, but quickly realized that she wasn’t happy with losing all feeling in her face during the long and cold winter. Last year she won National Geographic Best Travel Award for her travel stories about Cambodia and Hong Kong. You can follow her adventures on her blog Lifeswanderlust.You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Recommend further Thailand reading
Escape busy Bangkok: Visit Bang Krachao island
What were the costs of first-time backpacking in Thailand? 
What are locals’ favorite places in Bangkok? 
A stay at the Bangkok Treehouse hotel, an eco-retreat on Bang Krachao


  1. I did the beach hopping circuit with some friends, it was great! Some of them were so deserted it felt like they belonged to us. I plan on heading to Railay again, specifically to its Ton Sai side, to bask in the sun for a while..a long, long while..

  2. Thailand has got so much to offer still and it’s a shame that so many label it as “too touristy”. I mean come on, you can still go off the beaten path, and maybe go in the tourist direction, see what the hype is about!
    Anyway, I’ve not been to Krabi, my fav island though is Koh Wai.

    • Hi Marie-Carmen! Yes, like Brianna says: often places are hyped for the right reasons :)! I just googled Koh Wai… How beautiful!

  3. The Ao Nang/Railay/Krabi area was our first introduction to Thailand, a three-week tour round the Andaman Sea.
    An unforgettable impression.

  4. Krabi looks like a fascinating place to visit! I would love to go back to Thailand and experience the more rural areas. Bangkok was a bit much for me and it made me wish we had gone there before the beach!

  5. Hello Manouk

    Thank you for all the useful information and fabulous photos you’ve given me in this blog . I’ve got to say that you inspire me to travel more and more. I just want to be there right away. I’m writing this to ask for permission to repost your article our website http://fiuzu.com/ .

    Fiuzu is a smart trip planning app on the web and mobile that helps plan travel activities, especially auto/semi-auto generation of itinerary that match traveller’s time, budget and interests.

    At Fiuzu, we want to give users a complete insight and real experience by real people who came to that place and experienced thing themselves as you did. Hence, your content on this blog is invaluable resources for us. So I just want to ask whether I can use your “Top things to do in Ao Nang and Krabi”? We will definitely put your name and link will be straight to your blog and all is your copyright.

    When is your next holiday? Why don’t you give Fiuzu a try to make your own plan for your upcoming trips? I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Fiuzu solves the hard part of travel activity planning and let you enjoy traveling as much as you can. With Fiuzu, just go.

    Again, I would be very grateful if you could give us permission for reposting your blog

    Looking forward to hearing from you very soon.

    Best regards,

    • Hi, thank you for your kind words. This particular article was written by a guest writer. I will ask her whether she gives permission to republish the story. If she does give permission, I reckon her name should be specifically mentioned as the author. I will email you, after I heard back from her. Kind regards, Manouk

  6. What a great recap of your time in Krabi. I have to say that Krabi was one of my favorite cities in my 3 week tour around Southeast Asia for my honeymoon. I think that in the beautiful scenery & the monkeys were some of the most memorable parts about my time in Krabi.

    Check out my blog about my 4 days in Krabi.

  7. Hi Manouk,

    we are two girls from Germany travelling the world. Our first destinations were Dubai and Singapore and yesterday we arrived in Krabi. Unfortunately, all the islandhopping tours that are offered here seem to be very touristic and don’t promise to be a real experience. We’d like to get to know the surroundings beyond the surface. Do you know a different way than paying for a one-day-trip to go there?

    Best regards!

  8. Hi girls,

    I’m afraid I haven’t been to Krabi! Do contact Mari from Lifeswanderlust.com. She wrote this article and I’m sure she can answer your question :)

    Enjoy Thailand!

    Cheers, Manouk

  9. I love Krabi! I’ve been rock climbing there and all the beaches are so beautiful. Like if you compare Ao Nang to Ko Phi Phi, it’s the same kind of paradise beach, but not as crowded. It’s getting more touristic there now, but still one of the best places in Thailand to relax for a couple of weeks. Great blog Manouk!

  10. Great information, but please don’t promote elephant riding in any shape or form. There are many sanctuaries that do not ride them and will tell you any where that does is definitely not working for the benefit of the elephant.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.