Krabi, in Southern Thailand, is where many Thai experiences feel more local and personal than those at the more famous, yet fun, Phuket Island. Nearby Krabi is simply breathtakingly beautiful and worth going out of your way for and enjoying its hospitality, with its over 100 islands and jagged limestone cliffs, and sharp edges piercing the skies.
My first stop was Wareerak Hot Springs & Wellness, a rustic hot springs spa, far in the countryside in the Khlong Tom district. The spa blends in with the lush tropical landscape, giving visitors a natural and relaxing atmosphere. I even got a traditional Thai massage outside, where I could enjoy the sounds of the jungle.
When you arrive at the spa, you are offered a health test. Results are used to determine, among other things, what type of food they will prepare for you personally to eat. Based on the results, you might be prescribed foods like bitter gourd vegetables, popular in Asia, and fruits like pomelo, which is kind of like a grapefruit. Or other foods may suit you better. I enjoyed this afternoon lunch meal after the massages and natural mineral hot springs pools.
This individually-tailored lunch is prepared while the visitor soaks in the mineral springs, each with different temperatures, or while getting massaged. Beneficial yoga positions helpful for different body types are also taught.
The staff at Wareerak were hands-on and helpful for health and well-being. The spa combines conventional spa therapies with ancient traditional Thai medicine for a holistic approach to healing and harmonizing the mind, body, and soul.
It felt heavenly to lounge in the small hot pool a bit, then go in a warmer one, and back to the hot. You step over natural rocks to go from one pool to the other. Guests take pleasure in laughing and having their pictures taken if they want. This spa is rural and filled with greenery and trees. You can see a waterfall and people frolicking in it.
Guests might be lucky to have a special longevity massage by a trained masseuse. She gently pushes on the stomach area and sides. This massage is useful for a pregnant woman, or one who wants to improve their general health and organ functions.
There is plenty of comfortable lodging at Wareerak for overnight guests. It was great they provide spa clothing to wear so you don’t have to leave with wet clothes.
Finally, we said our thank you and goodbyes. The staff smiled and waved. It was hard to go because it felt so good there. Soaking in these natural pools of water at this Krabi spa was so satisfying.
Krabi likes to go local. Community-based tourism and local events are being promoted. Ban NaTeen Community Tourism Village is one great local experience. The village celebrates traditional local handicrafts and foods and is worth visiting. Here, we were able to enjoy fresh coconut milk pancakes made fresh to order, called kanom krok.
One local authentic experience we enjoyed was working with batik in a small group setting. It was rewarding to paint fabric, with a nature theme, using our choice of colors, guided by locals from Lanta Batik at Lanta Noi Island.
Later at dinner, we met the batik teacher again at a fashion show at a nearby hotel restaurant at Twin Lotus Resort Koh Lanta. Every Tuesday and Saturday, a buffet and show event is held here. I got up and danced with the local ladies in costume when they motioned. Several other good choices of hotels in this area are Layana Resort and Lanta Casablanca.
Another great natural Krabi experience with majestic scenery involves a boat ride from Sriraya pier to Koh Ngai, a green, small island. Here you can see hornbill birds and hermit crabs, and eat lunch facing the sea at the sustainable Tap Warin Resort.
Ao-nang, Krabi’s most popular beach, is the busiest area with resorts such as Amari Vogue Krabi and Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. The Andalay Beach Bar and Cafe is one spot nearby that provides an incredible array of foods and scenery. We loved Thai mango rice dessert and other specialties. That is where we met people from the Krabi Sustainable Foundation. We bought key chains made of fisherman’s nets here and chatted with people at booths of organizations By Wonpanit Krabi and Souvenir from the Sea at a little night festival. It was all complete with incredible fire dancers. Krabi prides itself on “upcycling” and sustainability. Our group kept remarking on how Krabi has a caring vibe.
The Mud Crab Sculpture, a symbol of Krabi City, is where we joined a boat ride to see a mangrove forest at Khao Kanabnam. The boat ride, with Sea Cool Tours, included a stop to hike in and out of a cave. Afterward, we really had an appetite for an amazing Thai seafood meal at a family-owned Baan Ma Ying restaurant.
A favorite experience we did in Krabi was riding a “tuk-tuk” motorized vehicle far into the countryside, seeing lots of birds, farmers, and smiling rural Thai locals. We saw animals, such as water buffalo, ducks, and chickens. Our fun ride took us to Islanda Hideaway Resort, Koh Klang, Krabi, for a cooking class, where we learned to mix up a healthy, delicious seaweed salad from local ingredients.
If you like kayaking, Thalane Bay could be a place to set off for the most beautiful mangrove forest in the whole of Thailand. Adventure kayaking here is a magical experience, best seen slowly and in silence while viewing the oldest exposed rock in all of Krabi. The sandstone was formed before even the ancient reefs.
To kayak at Ao Thalane is to find the solace in nature that so many seek and to truly connect. This out-of-the-way area is full of hidden gems. Our guide at Sea Kayak Krabi knew where to find them.
A great nature activity we enjoyed was taking a longtail boat trip to Koh Hong Island by way of the Krabi Expert Tour. Here, we were able to get pictures of desolate white sand beaches, and a bay surrounded by the cliffs and jagged edgy mountains that make Krabi famous.
Nature abounds in Krabi, with places such as Thapom Canal, where an underground freshwater canal meets an ocean canal from the Andaman Sea. The colors of the canal change based on the tide. The canal where they meet is rich with extraordinary minerals.
Speaking of canals, several out-of-the-way resorts we recommend are Venice Krabi Villa Resort, with its canals throughout, and Railay Village Resort, reachable only by boat. The Venice Krabi Villa has the option to reach your room by boat or by golf cart. Both of these two resorts were unusual in their own way. We loved Railay Beach, and marveled at its natural surroundings, with jagged cliffs and mountains.
At Venice Krabi Resort, we enjoyed being taken by boat to our room at check-in, and the next day to the buffet breakfast, (as close to Italy as we could get in Thailand!). The Venice resort has an incredible swimming pool. The pool is so long that everybody can have their own private viewing area of rice fields, and even the sunset, if you stay in the pool long enough – as we did.
Railay Beach has much less hustle-and-bustle than the more popular island Koh Phi Phi, but it is still very much worth going to for a couple of nights.
Thailand is full of amazing places like all of these, especially in beautiful, natural Krabi. We couldn’t help but smile as we boarded and took the appropriately-named Smile Airways back to Bangkok.
We’re sold on Krabi and its charms. ThailandInsider.com is the best place to learn more about Krabi and all of Thailand.
(Carla Marie Rupp and her son Jason Rupp are freelance travel journalists based in New York City.)