Despite Krabi being a very large province, there are only a handful of areas which have appeal to the average tourist and ex-pat. Most visitors and foreigners who are here on extended terms are drawn to one particular area for one reason or another. This could be the love of green open areas, mountains, the beach, island life or nightlife. Believe it or not, Krabi has all of this and actually all these options can be found in a small radius in a particular area of Krabi….
This once sleepy beach village has seen development over 30 years into the No.1 tourist destination in Krabi. With attractive beach area, sunsets, mountain views, restaurants, bars, nightlife and shopping, combine this with an active boat taxi and ferry service between Railay beach and outlying islands such as Koh Phi Phi, then you can understand why people come to stay in Ao Nang.
Undoubtedly foreigner central, Ao Nang has built up its tourism base from a rising backpacker and climbing destination in the 80’s and 90’s with travellers being drawn to the then unspoiled beauty of Ao Nang beach and slow long-tail boat trips to the neighbouring islands. In the late 2000’s, the opening of Krabi airport and increased arrival numbers was a catalyst for development of major high street shops, with popular names like Burger King, 7-Eleven and even a Starbucks! The 2010’s saw this maturing into bigger and more ambitious hotels along with fine-dining restaurants and wine bars.
Slowly but surely, private houses and villas also started appearing since the 2000’s with the highest number of higher-quality property in Krabi.
As Ao Nang saw increasing development, the original visitors and people looking for new virgin areas pushed tourism farther afield.
A beach village area which quickly followed on from Ao Nang’s popularity n the 90’s, Klong Muang with its large golden beach, quickly saw the opportunity to develop beachfront hotels, something which Ao Nang lacked, and saw the arrival of Sheraton and Sofitel along with other boutique hotels and support businesses. However, Klong Muang was a victim of its own success and polarity as rich investors, seeing what was going on in Ao Nang, bought up most of the available land making it expensive for others to develop in the area, keeping progress in the area to a minimum. Most bars and restaurants that exist, lease small land plots on or near the beach giving them a good balance of appeal and cost-effectiveness.
The limited availability of cheaper land held back private house development forcing those who were desperate to stay in this area, to buy jungle land on the hillside, sometimes without a surfaced road. Sadly, mainstream development is still very low because of the higher prices, now even on the hillsides.
Fast forward to today and Klong Muang is still home to a handful of hotels, although many have changed hand, Sheraton has now become Dusit Thani, Andaman Resort turned in Beyond Resort, but also now condominium projects such as The Pelican with its large units and room quota allow people to make a personal base here. A growing number of higher quality restaurants are also evolving in the area which, coupled with the bars directly on the beach, and sleepy coastal feel, means KM ticks many boxes for the those looking for idyllic Krabi beach life.
Krabi Town serves as the administrative area of Krabi with Krabi’s main government buildings, police, general post office as well as a vast assortment of bank’s dealerships and hair salons. Krabi Town also has the highest concentration of schools and colleges, which the reason a lot of foreigner teachers want to stay here.
Krabi town itself also has arguably the best restaurants in the province and for local prices as compared to Ao Nang foreigner oriented steak dinners. That being said, restaurants such as Ruen Mai are considered upper-market but quiet rightly so producing some of the finest Thai dishes the baht can buy.
Krabi town accommodation has a large mix of higher quality mansions, home to Krabi’s wealthy elite, and many small homes and shop houses following a typical Thai house style. Many foreigners working in the area usually rent these type of houses and have some of the lowest rental cost. The proximity to the bars, restaurant and place of work makes this appealing for many but at the expense of missing the beach scene in other areas.
Krabi Town is slowly cleaning up its act and money is being spent to attract tourism back to the centre with development around the river and main streets. Privately owned hotels still dominate Krabi town with no major brands but that will change with the opening of Holiday Inn Express just outside the centre in 2023.
Railay along with Koh Phi Phi are Krabi’s poster boys, used to sell the province to tourism and quite rightly so.
Railay is a world class destination with fine sandy beach. Accessible only by boat taxi, this area has an island vibe and since the 2000’s has seen the rise of an enormous amount of tourists that pass through this area on a daily basis. Covid of course halted this and tuned back the clock to the 1990’s which has been heaven for those on a long stay in Krabi, but a nightmare for anyone in tourism with many businesses going under. There are three distinct areas to Railay. Railay West, East and Phra Nang beach which are all connected by public access paths. Railay West gets the higher quality tourist due to the enormous sandy beach and sunsets. Railay East is beautiful, but a mangrove bay with limited sand but a good handful of hip restaurants and cafes.
Phra Nang beach is home to only one hotel, Rayavadee ,which is Krabi’s premier 5-star beach resort. Nestled in the nature Rayavadee also has a suite expressly available to His Majesty the King of Thailand. Dinner in a cave restaurant? No problem at The Grotto.
Ton Sai beach is the final remaining beach in the area but not easily accessible from Railay beach and has its own specific boat service. Ton Sai is mainly home to the mountain climbing backpacker crowd with some of the cheapest accommodation in the province but the best sport climbing which cements a consistent climber hangout region. Recently a developer constructed a resort on the beachfront, Tinidee Hideaway, attempting to take Ton Sai beach upmarket.
Made famous by a certain 2000 Leonardo Di Caprio movie and shortly after decimated by the 2004 Tsunami, Phi Phi has gone through many changes in the last 20-30 years.
Nearly a 100% tourism island home to Maya Bay, Krabi’s no.1 tourism attraction, at Phi Phi Leh. Completely scenic areas, hotels and support businesses dominate the location. Phi Phi has limited expansion now due to limited available land to build and most hotels have only evolved or upgraded.
Koh Jum is an island area to the south of the province and has a broad appeal with both low budget accommodation and housing as well as boutique luxury villa resorts.
Land prices have risen steeply at Koh Jum with the arrival of the upper market developments taking advantage of the limited white sand beaches here. Close to diving sites, Koh Jum is also popular with the PADI crowd with a diving school available on the island. More and more people seem interested in staying long term on Koh Jum.
Koh Lanta is Krabi’s largest island and located at the southern tip of the Krabi coastline.
Koh Lanta is it’s own district and its local government has been both a blessing and a curse to the island. Still only accessible by boat with a plan to erect a connecting bridge to the mainland, may see start of construction in 2023. Local politics has held back much of the development of Koh Lanta, which at one point had the largest number of roads in disrepair in Krabi province.
This being said, Koh Lanta is another area with an island vibe and many foreign and Thai tourist love this feel of the area with many large sandy beaches. Pimalai Resort and Spa at Kan Tiang bay, has often been called Thailand’s most beautiful resort.
Private developments have been limited in Koh Lanta with only a handful of quality homes and villas. Land prices are still reasonable however, with many seasonal plots available on the hillside with ocean views. This is the appeal to many looking to buy or build a home here. However, those who come to experience the island for a length of time find the area desolate in the low season months. This may change when Koh Lanta gains its road bridge connection.
Had Yao (Long Beach)
Long tipped in the late 2000’s as “Krabi’s next big area” Had Yao is actually Krabi closest beach to the airport but development is limited to a few private bungalow resorts and villas.
The largest appeal of Had Yao is availability of building plots directly at the beach. The beach itself is notably darker in colour, but this is because it doesn’t see that much foot traffic or resort owners turning over the sand which is golden when it is. Beach land you can build property on is becoming a scarcity in Krabi and something of which popular Ao Nang only dreams of. However Had Yao always had the problem of being at the far end of a long road into the area and most notably the lack of shops, restaurants and bars in the area. Not even a 7-Eleven in Had Yao. This could change in the not too distant future thanks to a large investment by Japanese investors and Thailand’s Apex Development group who are building a large resort to the north of the area.
Land in Had Yao is still at a lower price point for the province, mainly because buyers have to purchase larger plot to gain both beach and road access. Larger buyers already stepped in years ago. When Apex and Club-Med gives some opening dates of their resort, this will make many sit up and take notice. I anticipate land prices, along with the existing villas here, will surge and the inconvenience of the lack of a 7-Eleven to buy a bag of chips and a drink, may become a distant memory with far more businesses and resorts appearing in the area.
In the north of the province Ao Leuk is seeing increasing appeal due to the scenery, coastline, nature and pricing. A handful of foreigner properties exist in the area including home to Krabi’s largest personal home on 25 Rai (45,000 sq.m).
Krabi is famous for finding cave drawings from early man, estimated to be around 30,000 years old. This caves are all located around Ao Leuk and new drawing are being found regularly. Ao Leuk people are very proud of this heritage of one of the only areas in the world with evidence of early humans.
Land pricing around Ao Leuk is quite low but the location is not for everyone with being 35-minutes north of Krabi town and 45-minutes from Ao Nang. However there is an active town with shops and a super market and super easy and fast travel to Phuket. Ao Leuk may have future appeal from Phuket buyers looking for more nature.