Right here on our doorstep in Krabi is one of the best cruising grounds in the world: the hundreds of islands and archipelagos of the Andaman Sea. The large majority of these are uninhabited – although not all of them are deserted, especially those on the popular tour routes from Phuket and Krabi.
Though you might not mind sharing these crescents of coconut-fringed powdery sand once you see how beautiful they are, it may be too much to rub shoulders with complete strangers on the boat, or be informed how many minutes you are allowed to stay in the little corner of paradise you have just discovered.
In this case, boat charter is for you. It’s our recommended way to visit the islands, and it’s much easier than you might think to organise. It’s a no-brainer for groups and worth every extra penny for couples and families. All you need to do is bring a book, a picnic, perhaps a snorkel and mask, and enjoy a day of freedom in paradise.
Longtail boat charter
Traditional longtail boats with drivers are available for hire directly from most tourist beaches (see our Getting Around page), and can take you to the various local islands – though it does involve a little extra planning than a normal tour.
If hiring a boat direct from the beach, you will, for example, need to bring your own food and drink with you – you can order a picnic from a local restaurant, or just grab some snacks from the roadside stands before departure.
You will also need to bring some cash: National Marine Park entrance fees are collected on all the popular islands, at the rate of 300 – 400 THB per foreign tourist. Most boat drivers will have snorkels and masks for rent for around 100 THB per set; otherwise you will need to bring your own.
To charter a boat, simply go down to the nearest beach whenever you wish to leave – no advance booking is ever required. In many places, e.g. Ao Nang, you will find an organised ticket booth where you can book and pay, then you will be assigned a boat and driver. If not, you can approach any of the waiting boatmen. You can leave immediately. Bargaining is almost never required as the local boat club fixes the rates every season, and these are usually posted on a big board at the beach.
The following are the current prices for longtail boat charter (driver and fuel only) departing from Ao Nang beach, for up to 6 people. If you leave from other beaches, or from Krabi Town pier, the prices will go up or down depending on the difference in travel time from the destinations. More people will also incur a higher charge:
Poda Island and Chicken Island group beaches (4 Islands), half day: 1700 baht
Chicken, Tub, Mor, Poda Island and Phra Nang beach (4 Islands + Railay), full day: 2200 baht
Koh Hong: 2500 baht
Koh Hong group (Koh Hong + Koh Pakbia, Koh Rai, Koh Lahding): 2800 baht
Bamboo Island (part of Koh Phi Phi group): 3800 baht
The boat drivers know all the standard routes and will be aware of the tides and timeframe, so there is usually no need to guide them – they will take you to the right places at the right time. Most will have enough English to discuss how long you wish to spend in each place and modify the route if required. Note: longtail boats can go only to the islands mentioned above – not to James Bond or further afield.
Speed boat charter
To visit Ko Phi Phi or James Bond independently – which are much further away – you would have to charter a speedboat for the day; these are also available on a private basis for local island trips, which may be a good idea if you are short on time as you can see more in one day, or even do a half day trip. Do not expect however to be able to see all the Krabi islands in a day! Many people make this mistake but the distances involved are simply too great to do any other than the following combinations:
– 4 Islands + Hong
– 4 Islands + Phi Phi
– James Bond + Hong
These are trips that go roughly in the same direction, so are possible fuel and time-wise. It is not possible, even with a fast speed boat, to see James Bond and Phi Phi in a single day, for example, nor to visit any of the islands around Phuket.
Speed boat charters, especially for smaller boats, must be pre-booked – several companies exist to help you with this, or you can also do it on site a day in advance. Expect to pay around 9000 baht per day for a small boat to the 4 islands, and up to 25,000 baht or more for larger boats (sitting 20+ pax) going further afield. Various add-ons such as lunch or an English speaking guide are available, and you will also need to pay the usual National Park entry fees.
Note: there are no toilets on board on any speed boat or longtail boat (though public toilets are available on at least one of the islands you will visit). On speedboats, it is not possible to carry any fishing, barbecue or kayaking equipment with you, which makes them suitable for daytime island hopping only. Most charters will offer around 8 hours of travel, with an earliest start time of 8am (which is still a couple hours head start on most tours) or a latest return time of 6pm.
Yachts and sailing boat charter
Most sailing boat charters around Krabi actually operate out of Phuket – Google “Phang Nga Bay charter” and plenty will come up. There are a few boats based locally, from small vessels to larger liveaboards. Contact Luang at Railay Adventure for some good options.