On its own, Ao Nang is the most developed beach in the Krabi area of southern Thailand. It’s easy to reach, has plenty of restaurants and accommodation around, and for that reason gets plenty of tourists. You can also look at any map of the area to discover the Nopporat Thara beach is less than a kilometer away from the western edge of Ao Nang.
Head southeast down Ao Nang beach (if you’re facing the waves, that’s left) and walk to the end of the beach for a treat: monkeys! Dozens of capuchins make their home along the trees and rocks at this end of the beach. They’ve probably been shoo’ed away by the nearby open-air restaurants and chairs, so there’s some distance between species.
A rather irrelevant sign — by the time you’ve seen it, you’ve probably given them something or had something stolen by the monkeys already.
A couple of small swings are around, but the pièce de résistance is the secret staircase. It goes up the rocks and along the ridge for a short distance before heading back down to a secret beach.
A sign in Thai (not pictured) is nearby, probably warning tourists not to take this path after dark or somesuch. It’s a moderately difficult climb, though thankfully fairly short — 8–10 minutes from one side to the other, but please don’t try to race this. It’s narrow, steep, and I would not trust my life to the railings. Be safe while passing people coming from the other direction as well — it’s not quite wide enough for two Westerners.
The reward, however, is a beautiful beach with fewer people around. Call it Pai Plong Bay or Plypom Beach — neither name is used on maps, and there isn’t exactly a lot of signage around.
The bay / beach is basically the home of the rather upscale Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas Krabi. Complete with a floating pier and speedboat, it might be exactly the secluded sort of beach you’re looking for. For folks not staying at the five-star resort, the beach itself is open to the public, it just requires some effort to get to. You’ll probably be shoo’ed away as a non-guest if you venture too far inland, but there’s 500 meters worth of beach to walk here.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you might be able to find your way through the forest to Tonsai beach. It’s about 450 meters as the crow flies, but I have no idea if or where any trails exist through this part.
When you’re ready to head back, take the staircase (called the monkey trail by some hotel guests) or walk around the gigantic rock through waist-deep water for about 250 meters to reach Ao Nang again. I’d caution against climbing the rocks, however — as it’s slippery, steep, and has lots of sharp points thanks to the shells encrusted in the rock.
Ao Nang beach is just around those rocks to your left.
As you walk back towards the main beach road, you can choose to walk along the sand and admire the views, or stick to the higher ground where plenty of masseuses and drink stands awaits. While I can’t vouch for any one of the nearly twenty numbered stands, they’re all open and visible from the outside, so there’s really little room for funny business.
Name: Ao Nang Beach / Pai Plong Bay or Plypom Beach
Address: Tambon Ao Nang, Amphoe Mueang Krabi, Chang Wat Krabi (GPS: 8.024262, 98.828176)
Directions: From Krabi Town, jump on the white bus or songthaew to Ao Nang. There’s only one route to each, and they’ll eventually arrive at the beach.
If coming via your own wheels, take route 4034 north out of Krabi Town. Turn left at the large four-way intersection (one good landmark there is the OMG / Oh My God bar) to stay on route 4034. It’ll get curvy after a few kilometers so watch your speed. Go about 5km to an intersection with a gas station and 7/11 — turn left onto route 4204 and go about 5km until you reach a small roundabout. Take a right onto route 4203 and go about 3 km. Bear left to stay on the main road — around this point you’ve entered the Ao Nang area, so pay attention as traffic can get a little crazy here. Take this road all the way in to beach — it’s about 2.2km away. Park where you can — it’s limited on the main roads, but venture down one of the side roads as you approach the beach for more options.
Hours: open 24/7