Having visited Thailand many times over the years for both for business and as a tourist, I have gravitated to the more visited spots such as Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Krabi was not even a blip on my travel radar until recently when a friend commented that I should “check out Krabi’ in southern Thailand.
When Googling Krabi, it was all a bit confusing, as Krabi is not only the province but also the capital city. Every province in Thailand also has capital city by the same name, which can make searching for a hotel a challenge.
So, where should I go? Well, that very same friend had recently visited Ao Nang Beach, and returned with a glowing review of this seaside enclave just north of Krabi Town. Decision made, I was off on my first Krabi adventure.
Armed with a few recommendations I arrived at the small Krabi Airport, and grabbed a taxi bound for Ao Nang Beach and the comfortable Alisea Boutique Hotel. The ride to Ao Nang Beach traversed across the inland industrial and residential outskirts of Krabi Town. Under the watchful presence of towering limestone karsts and the slumbering mountains, the wind-y road eventual descended to the hotel.
And once checked-in, I was surprised to discover that I was only a short walk from both Ao Nang and Noppharat Thara Beach. A perfect location for my first exploration of the Ao Nang Beach area.
Ao Nang Beach
Thailand Highway 4203 is the main road to Ao Nang Beach. As it slowly descends towards the beach front, the congested street gradually gives way to a beach town ambiance with an eclectic mix of shops, businesses and restaurants. Along Ao Nang Beach to the north, the tree lined embarcadero that sits astride the rocky seawall, is pleasantly crowded with resorts, souvenir and clothing shops, restaurants and a healthy dose of tour agencies.
The beach itself, all but disappears at high tide. But the long stretch of course yellow sand, breaking surf and sea breeze create a natural balance to the often bustling and chaotic activity on the boulevard above. This is the place to people watch while dining at a side walk café or taking a stroll next to the seawall.
Venturing south the road passes by a smattering of smaller resorts and private residences as it becomes the Walking Street and then finally ends in the sand at The Last Fisherman’s Bar. Here the paved road ends and the beach naturally segues into the sandy tree laden interior.
Numerous bars and small restaurants nestle between the trees and claim their part of the beach with tables and chairs in the sand. This southernmost part of the beach belies the Au Nang Beach of yesterday with its beachfront simplicity. A part of the beach where you can lay out a towel in the sand, and seek respite from the sun beneath the shady trees.
Noppharat Thara Beach
To the northwest of Ao Nang the road rounds a rocky headland and then returns to the seafront area of Noppharat Thara Beach. With a similar tree lined embarcadero running atop the seawall, Noppharat Thara Beach has a more laid back feel and a slower pace than its neighbor to the south. You will find more locals picnicking and exploring the beach here, and a more eclectic and upscale blend of restaurants and shops lending it a less tourist-y feel.
Things to Do
In addition to just enjoying a beach holiday of swimming, sunning, shopping and dining there are plenty of additional activities for the more adventurous. Long tail boats are available for excursions to more remote beaches such as Rai Ley and to the outer islands, where there is excellent snorkeling and diving. Kayaking is also a popular way to explore the rocky coastline with its diverse marine and wildlife. Journeying inland you can try zip lining through the trees, go whitewater rafting or visit a natural hot spring. All are easy to book, with one of many agents along the beach road.
There is a wide diversity of dining options in Ao Nang Beach. From the traditional hawker stalls on the headland road to boutique restaurants to McDonald’s and Starbucks to Pizzerias; you will not be disappointed with your options.
Where to Stay
Alisea Boutique Hotel
Ao Nang Beach has a wide selection of accommodations from 5 Star Resorts to guest houses and everything in between. I stayed at the Alisea Boutique Hotel which is located just off the road that connects the Ao Nang and Noppharat Thara beaches. The white walls, dark wood accents, and a blend of Thai modern construction in wood and terracotta tiles give it almost a Mexican coastal villa ambiance. Entering the spacious open air lobby the staff greets you with warmth and attention and the cool towel and chilled juice refreshes your senses as you check-in.
Climbing up the open-air staircase, I crossed tiled landings, and past the infinity pool to my top floor room. Upon entering, the abundance of natural light filtering through the wood casement windows accented the soft color tones and the warmth of the Thai wood furniture. And of course, there was the plush king size bed. There was also a small seating area and another staircase to the second floor living area complete with a wooden tub overlooking the surrounding township and nearby hills.
The tiled bath was full of natural light and its large shower even offered a choice of shower heads. There was also an ample choice of toiletries as well as plush towels, robe and slippers. Add in the mini-fridge, coffee service and a flat screen TV, this is definitely a perfect spot for both work and relaxation.
The clear water of the blue tiled infinity pool and an array of sun loungers were made even more inviting by the broad vista of the sea beyond. The adjacent outdoor bar provides cool beverages and lite bites throughout the day.
There is also Umberto’s Italian Restaurant, on the ground floor, which is open in the evenings for classic anti pasta, pastas and main courses with an extensive wine list. Umberto’s serves up a Eurasian breakfast buffet ever morning included with the price of the room.
AoNang Cliff Beach Resort
The AoNang Cliff Beach Resort is located on the main road to Ao Nang Beach. And as such, the small street lobby is a bit misleading, tucked in along the busy main thoroughfare. Luggage is gathered here, reservations checked, and then guests are escorted to the main lobby located in the upper level courtyard. Once check-in is complete you are escorted through the fascinating complex of walkways, stairs and lifts that are a result of the design that works to preserve the natural beauty and flow of the cliffs.
When the door to the room swung open I immediately was drawn through to the panoramic view through the floor to ceiling glass doors. It was not until I turned around that I took note of the large and incredibly spacious interior. The muted color tones and wall art balance the minimalist furniture, which included settee seating with a coffee table and a very large desk for those working travelers. The tile bath is not lacking for anything; from toiletries to bath robes to slippers for casually relaxing. Not a shower person? The small veranda has a tub just outside for bathing and soaking al fresco.
And the beds? So, comfortable you possibly will not want to get up in the morning even with the in-room espresso service.
The resort also has 2 large pools. The pool by the courtyard lobby is family friendly and the roof top infinity pool is for the adults only. The views from the pool are fantastic and the in-pool Jacuzzi loungers are just that added, luxurious, touch that makes the AoNang Cliff Beach Resort so memorable.
The breakfast buffet is one of the best in the business, bar none. In the evenings, the resort hosts an expansive dinner buffet, on the ground floor that spills, into the street with a charcoal grill cooking up a selection of grilled seafood and a selection of meat and chicken.
And with the top-notch Infinity Spa offering a variety of spa treatments you may find yourself not leaving the hotel at all.
Just a short and direct flight from Kuala Lumpur, Ao Nang Beach offers a quick and easy beach get away from the fast pace and congestion of the Malaysia’s capital city.
Written by TC Gerrard.