Ao Nang is the busiest beach destination in Thailand’s southwestern Krabi Province.
It used to be called Ao Phra Nang (“Princess Bay”) although everybody uses the short form, Ao Nang is the most ‘Westernized’ beach in Krabi, originally a backpacker hotspot but now it is moving quickly upmarket as the nearby Krabi airport brings in more tourists. There is a good range of accommodation, many good restaurants, easy transport and travel/tour agencies ready to cater to your every whim, making it a good base for exploring Krabi.
Orienting yourself in Ao Nang is easy: almost everything is located either along the beach, which runs west-east, or along the Airport Road (Highway 4203) which goes up north from the east end of the beach. Long-tails arrive on the beach near the junction of the two roads.
Krabi International Airport is about 30 minutes away by car. Private taxis can be hired to take you to your hotel for about 600 Baht.
Local shuttle buses, just converted pickup trucks (songthaew), run from Ao Nang to Krabi (50 baht) and from Krabi to the airport (60 baht). The total trip between Ao Nang and the airport takes little less than 2 hours. To get to Ao Nang from Krabi town you should look for a white songthaew outside the 7-Eleven store.
There is now a big bus service from the airport to Ao Nang, via Krabi Town, the Krabi ferry terminal and Noppharat Thara beach.
Railay West and Tonsai are only 10 minutes away while the less developed Had Yao (Long Beach) is 25 minutes away by long-tail. Boats leave constantly from the east end of the beach and charge a flat 80 baht/person during the day, 100 baht/person at night. There is no pier so expect to get at least your feet wet, probably more.
There are also public ferry services to Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta (usually twice daily), for which any travel agent will be happy to sell you tickets at around 200 baht/person.
Boats from Ko Lanta now arrive at the new jetty, from there take a taxi (350 baht), or local bus to Krabi (50 baht) and then on to Ao Nang (40 baht).
There is a Songthaew(shared pick-up truck / taxi) service to Ao Nang from Krabi town, which runs throughout daylight hours in low season and up to 10pm in high season. The fare is 50 baht and they can be expected every 15-20 minutes. Songthaews are colour coded according to destination so make sure if you are coming to Ao Nang from Krabi you get on a white one.
Tuk-tuks in Ao Nang charge a flat 20 baht/person for trips around town. Songthaews also run all across Ao Nang onto the Shell Beach and some all the way to Krabi town, fares from 10 baht up depending on distance.
Things to See
Fossil Shell Beach (Thai Su-san Hoi, literally “Seashell Graveyard”). 7 km west of Ao Nang, this tourist attraction has slates of compressed 40 million year old shellfish. There’s also a small museum and gift shops.
Nopparat Thara Beach. Picturesque beach at the western tip of Ao Nang, zoned as a national park. During low tide you can walk up to some of the nearby craggy limestone islands.
Things to Do
There is little to do actually in Ao Nang town, but Railay and Koh Phi Phi are very close and there are many tour operators offering activities such as sea kayaking and elephant treks.
Climbing can be arranged through Ao Nang agencies who will arrange transfers, lunch, and as much climbing as your limbs can handle – alternatively, simply wander over to Railay or Tonsai and organize an introductory course yourself.
Most of the dive shops offer a very similar price for the dive courses and dive trips. Sites visited daily include the local islands in Ao Nang bay, Phi Phi Marine National Park, the King Cruiser Wreck site and Shark Point Marine sanctuary. It’s now also possible to do a one day safari by speedboat to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang for the chance to see whale sharks and manta rays, or to do some spectacular cavern diving at the 5 islands of Koh Ha Yai.
Ao Nang has no shopping malls or supermarkets, but there are plenty of convenience stores and souvenir shops. The vast majority of shops are lined nicely along the beachfront road. There are also a few side roads that branch off into the cluster of crowded shops found elsewhere in Asia. The regular tourist fare (e.g. postcards, magnets, trinkets, etc.) are plentiful as are clothes, shoes, and pretty much anything else you’ll find elsewhere in Thailand.
There is a wide range of accommodation available from cheap guesthouses to luxury resorts. Here are a few recommended resorts: