Gently lapping shores of blue green sea, soft, white sand and mysterious limestone towers sprouting from the water. The islands around Krabi are iconic to Thailand’s coast. Island-hopping in Krabi in your own private speedboat is a must.
Do you remember when Alex Garland’s The Beach came out? When the movie from the book hit our screens and everyone dreamed about finding that secret hidden island somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand?
Images of pristine beaches, soaring cliffs and coruscating blue crystal waters sent our travel bugs scurrying for flights and our urges for adventure blistered like the peeling paint from the prow of a longtail boat.
For most of us, those halcyon skies and paradisiacal islands were mere fantasy.
They were just fantasies for Christina and me until we stepped aboard our speedboat from the marina of Ao Nang – better known as Krabi.
Check out our video of our day amongst the islands of Krabi here:
Now we know they really exist and it’s hard not think about those towering limestone karst islands looming from the ocean every day we’re not there.
Island-hopping in Krabi – where to go
Leaning out into the street from our open-sided truck, we watch the world whizz by – the noisy, colourful world of Ao Nang’s beach and tourist strip blurring into crescendo as we make our way north to the marina and the entrance to Tan Bok Khorani National Marine Park.
A short walk along the beach and we board our speedboat heading for the islands, a mystical horizon of domed pinnacles sprouting from the sea.
Our vessel is a modern one, not the iconic longtail wooden boats the Thais are known for. It’s a shame not to be aboard one, but on the plus side, they’re very noisy and not very fast. We happily sacrifice the traditional mode for speed, comfort and the ability to see more in less time.
Our day of island-hopping consists of four stops, including lunch.
Stop 1: Ko Lao Lading
A tiny lagoon but with impressive limestone walls greeted us at our first stop. We’ve race here to be first on the beach, but are actually fourth to drop anchor. And by the time we leave, there are probably a dozen other boats anchored off the brilliant sandy shores.
After a quick swim and snorkel, and a go on the beach swing, we wade back to our boat for the next stop.
Stop 2: Ko Lading Noi
Just round the corner, the little version of Lao Lading – Ko Lading Noi – is private land protecting the thriving bird colonies from illegal nest harvesters and egg collectors.
The spectacular cliffs and tempting beach of this tiny island act as a good snorkelling spot, but we’re not allowed to touch land here. Anchored in deep water just offshore, our boat and master waits patiently while we explore the corals and shoals.
Stop 3: Ko Hong
A quick trip south of Ko Loa Lading, Ko Hong is one of the more popular spots for visitors. The floating jetty makes getting off the boat very easy.
Then it’s a short walk round to the sandy beach enclosed by more of those signature limestone monoliths where you can swim and relax while your boat moors in the shallows.
This is the only island in the area with a restaurant open to the public, and the traditional Thai hawker-style food they serve here is excellent with a few southern Thai options too.
Whole prawn larb, mixed vegetable stir-fry, fried chicken ‘Thai KFC’, delicious red curry with snake beans and Kua Klang – a special southern style minced pork dish – are all very much worth coming to Ko Hong for on their own.
After lunch, a swim and more snorkelling, we hop back in the boat and sail to the other side of the island.
A tiny inlet between the cliffs invites us in, narrow and forbidding. But the walls suddenly open up to reveal a spectacular lagoon of shallow sparkling water surrounded on all sides by high limestone cliffs.
If anywhere mirrors the hidden sanctuary of The Beach, it’s this place.
Hidden, secret and utterly beautiful.
Stop 4: Ko Deang (Red Island)
Before we make for home, our trip has one last stop in store for us.
Ko Deang – just a big rock in the middle of the ocean – offered a secluded mooring and we anchor and snorkel, with the island to ourselves.
Because of its size and isolation, there are strong currents around Ko Deang, but it’s good for coral and fish. Occasional plankton scum can reduce visibility, but there’s still so much to see here.
All too soon, we’re back at the marina on the mainland, crossing the sandy beach to our open-sided truck, ready to take us back to our hotel.
An unforgettable experience amongst some of the most dramatic, beautiful scenery we’ve experienced.
And one thing’s for sure, we no longer feel that envy we’d been holding against Leonardo DiCaprio all these years. The beach is now ours.
Check out AF Holidays for the best experiences in Thailand. We travelled with these guys and they are – as their name suggests – absolutely fantastic.