Where to stay in Krabi? For most, the choice is obvious. Ao Nang is, without a doubt, the centre of the tourist scene on the Krabi mainland, with the most developed services and hotels on offer. Most people who come to Krabi stay here as it offers the widest range of accommodation and is ideally placed to explore the rest of the region.
Most of the activity is concentrated on and near the main road, which forms a U-shape, heading down from the village, along the beachfront, and back out across to Nopparat Thara beach. You’ll find countless souvenir and cheap clothing shops, tour agents, banks and ATM machines, along this stretch and its side streets, as well as restaurants with a wide selection of international cuisine and seafood, bars, massage and beauty salons and, of course, a huge range of hotels.
The road means that no accommodation in Ao Nang (with the exception of one, Krabi Resort) has direct access to the sand; however, the advantage of this is that the beach is permanently visible and accessible by everyone – and the view is amazing, especially at sunset.
The beach itself is pretty and palm-fringed, although – for Krabi – relatively unspectacular, especially now part of it is used as a parking lot by the longtail boat drivers that will take you to the more beautiful nearby islands. However, it is still a popular sunbathing spot as its gently sloping sand offers some of the best swimming in the area.
Daytime in Ao Nang tends to be fairly quiet and relaxed, as most people go off on tours, island-hopping or simply lie on the beach. Night-time is busier, especially on the Beach Road, with its concentration of shops, bars and restaurants. The crowd in Ao Nang is very mixed, with old and young people, couples, families and groups of friends. Typically Ao Nang can accommodate them all: there are quiet restaurants and cafes, loud and boisterous bars, sports pubs and, of course the beach or the terrace of your hotel for an evening under the stars.
The huge and rapid development of Ao Nang over recent years has brought benefits such as these: choice and availablity of leisure options, higher standards of hotel accommodation and service and much better infrastructure – banks, ATM machines and pharmacies are now everywhere. On the other hand, many (particularly those who visited it years ago) feel that it has lost some of its charm as a result.
An influx of businesses cashing in on Ao Nang’s popularity has meant that even the experience of walking down the street has changed: it is now common to be hassled by salesmen soliciting business in a persistent, even agressive manner. If you experience such unpleasantness, please note the people who do this are not locals and do not reflect the general attitude towards tourists here.
Ao Nang Beach is a definitely a holiday resort in the truest sense in that all businesses are there to cater exclusively for the tourist trade. However, the village of Ao Nang, which used to be a sleepy fishing hamlet, still exists, around 1km back from the beach. There is a strong sense of community here; most local people have not left and many still live ‘old-style’, in traditional houses. A vibrant street life can be found here early mornings and in the evening with many pavement eateries serving up tasty street food.
As always, with holidays abroad, there is a trade-off between convenience and authenticity. If you are looking for a more ‘real’ Thai experience, you may like to consider renting accommodation around the village, or in Krabi Town, where tourism is minimal. However, if the prime concern of your holiday is comfort, relaxation and choice, you can do no better than the various pleasures of Ao Nang beach.
More guides to Ao Nang
More Krabi destination guides
► Noppharat Thara Beach
Ao Nang’s up-and-coming neighbour
► Railay Beach, Krabi
Hippy-chic, with an island feel
► Ton Sai Beach, Krabi
Backpackers’ and climbers’ hangout
► Klong Muang and Tubkaek
Upmarket escape from the crowds
► Krabi Town
Authentic Thai market town
► Koh Jum, Krabi
The last get-away-from-it-all
► Ko Ngai (a.k.a. Ko Hai)
One of Krabi’s most pristine spots
► Ko Phi Phi (external site)
The ultimate crazy / beautiful destination
► Ko Lanta (external site)
For laidback lounging