Island hopping is probably at the top of every Krabi visitor’s to-do list: this coastal province boasts more than 100 islands and dramatic rock formations out at sea, which makes for a thrilling boat ride. You’ll take in breathtaking colours and scenery before even reaching the white sand beaches and turquoise water!
But you know all that already, right? What you want to know is: what’s the best way to visit the Krabi islands? Which Krabi islands are the best / which ones should I visit if I have only 1 or 2 days? How do I avoid the crowds? We are here to provide answers to these questions.
1. The itineraries
There are four groups of islands accessible from the mainland coast in Krabi: the Phi Phi Islands; the Hong Islands; the 4 Islands; and James Bond Island. Each group can be covered in a one day tour – either with a private boat, or as part of an organised tour. Tours combining 2 island groups are available but, due to the distances involved, do cost more and see less of each place. The only available combinations are Phi Phi + 4 Islands; 4 Islands + Hong Islands; Hong Islands + James Bond Island. It is not possible to do Phi Phi + Hong or Phi Phi + James Bond or 4 Islands + James Bond as the distances and travel time are too great to comfortably do this in a day.
The Phi Phi Islands (Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Bamboo Island, Bida Nok, Bida Nai and Koh Yung) are the Krabi “must-see” – though this also means they are the most crowded, especially as they are also a Phuket “must-see” – their midway location means they also get thousands of day trippers from across the water. The first three are usually visited on the tour boat itineraries; the last three are mainly used by divers.
The Hong Islands (Koh Hong, Koh Pakbia, Koh Rai, Koh Lahding) are a must for nature lovers as this area offers the best wildlife and snorkelling close to the coast.
The 4 Islands (Koh Poda, Chicken Island, Koh Tub, Koh Mor) are a good, shorter trip for families with younger children, or for anyone if the weather is looking dodgy – they are the most sheltered of the groups. Decent snorkelling is almost impossible here, however, unless you go on a specific snorkelling trip that will take you to rock islands away from the high traffic spots.
James Bond Island (Koh Khao Ping Kan, Koh Tapu, Koh Panyi, Khao Kian, Tam Lod), in Phang Nga, is a stunning location that is possibly even more overrrun than Phi Phi (again, due to being a midway point between Krabi and Phuket). The best way to visit is independently and off-peak, so you can enjoy a wider cruise of Phang Nga Bay.
Please click on the links below to get more details about what to see in these 4 areas.
2. The boats
Which vessel you choose to visit the Krabi islands is a crucial decision. Aside from your own personal preference – sitting on a wooden bench in a longtail; (possibly) banging up and down in a speed boat; or relaxing on the deck of a fishing or dive boat – the type of boat will also determine where you can go, how long you spend in each place and, in some cases, what you can see on the way.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, as outlined below:
– Usually a smaller group size on organised tours
– Relatively cheap to charter privately
– Relatively smooth ride
– Can park up on all beaches
– Most can only go short distances (not, for example, to Phi Phi)
– Noisy / splashy
– Possibly difficult to get in and out for those with limited mobility
– Fast, can save travel time over long distances
– Can park up on all beaches
– Potentially bumpy ride in wavy conditions – not suitable for infants under 18 months, pregnant women or anyone with back problems
– Larger boats (40 seater +) do not allow you to see out during travel
– Expensive to charter
Cruise / dive boat
– Very smooth ride
– Superior comfort on board (usually has a covered deck and a sun deck, kitchen, toilet)
– Tour itineraries for fishing / diving usually go to less visited sites
– Can’t park up on any beaches, only cruise around (may be possible to go ashore by transferring to longtail boat)
– Relatively more expensive
– Is usually more focused on activities (fishing, diving) than sightseeing
3. Join-in or private?
The final decision you need to make is whether to go with a group tour, or with a privately chartered boat. In the case of Phi Phi, the decision will generally be made for you – it is very expensive to charter a speed boat for the day here, unless you are a group of at least 6 people. Private longtails, however, are generally more affordable and are our recommended way to visit the local islands.
For more details on private boat charter in Krabi (longtail and speedboat), please see our dedicated page.
You may also like to check out our advice and tips on how to avoid the crowds on island tours in Krabi.
Finally, to see all your options for each place, please visit our destination pages: