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Krabi island tours (and how to make the best of them)

Longtail boat heading to Hong Island
The traditional longtail boat is used to visit islands close to shore

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 – and practical, bookable solutions – 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 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 Hong Islands (Koh Hong, Koh Pakbia, Koh Rai, Koh Lahding) are a must for nature lovers as this area offers the best wildlife and snorkeling 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 snorkeling is almost impossible here, however, unless you go on a specific snorkeling trip that will take you 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 probably the most overrated of the the four, though may be worth it if you are in a group and take the speedboat tour, so you can enjoy a wider cruise of Phang Nga Bay.

Please click on the links below to see all the options to visit these 4 areas (combination tours are also included).

Krabi 4 Islands Tour
Hong Islands Tour
Phi Phi Islands Tour
James Bond Island Tour

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; 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:

Longtail boat
Pros:
– Usually a smaller group size on organised tours
– Relatively cheap to charter privately
– Relatively smooth ride
– Can park up on all beaches
Cons:
– 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

Speed boat
Pros:
– Fast, can save travel time over long distances
– Can park up on all beaches
Cons:
– Potentially bumpy ride – 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
Pros:
– 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
Cons:
– 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 and book places, please visit our destination pages:

Phi Phi Islands Tour
Krabi 4 Islands Tour
Hong Islands Tour
James Bond Island Tour

Last updated: October 24, 2016