While Krabi Town is the provincial capital, Ao Nang is tourist central. With the highest concentration of hotels, resorts, restaurants and shopping, as well as good transport infrastructure inland and offshore, it’s the ideal place to base your holiday. There’s a wide choice of accommodation on offer, although prices tend to be comparatively higher than those in the north and Bangkok – but this is true of all the beaches and islands in Thailand.
Ao Nang is becoming increasingly commercial, and since the opening of McDonalds a few years ago, a number of chain brand food outlets have followed suit. However, Ao Nang is still far from Patong Beach. Ao Nang Beach resort is much smaller and most of the businesses are still locally owned and run, so it has a more homely feel.
Because everything is concentrated in a small area around the main beach road, Ao Nang is also quite convenient to get around. Most places, including the beach, will be within short walking distance from your hotel, although lately the resort has grown in both directions – towards Noppharat Thara Beach and especially Krabi Town Road – making distances longer.
Ao Nang Beach itself is a pretty, palm-lined stretch of sand, dominated by the large cliffs at its southern tip. You can spend the day here swimming and snorkelling, or just relaxing in a beach café. Many travellers use Ao Nang as a jumping off point for day trips to the islands and inland, and return in the evenings to eat, shop and enjoy a night out.
Tour agents line the beach road and the many trips depart from here – operators will be able to pick you up directly from your hotel. If you want to go it alone, longtail boats can be found on the shore, waiting to take you to the islands. You can also hire a car and guide for the day from agents located along the beach road and nearby Krabi Town Road.
After sunset – which is often a spectacular show seen from the beach – the beachfront comes alive as people return from the islands and set off, freshly showered and dressed up for a night out. Shopping, eating and drinking are what is done best here. There’s a large choice of restaurants, particularly for Western food – so much so that the beachfront has earned the nickname of ‘Little Italy’.
Shops sell everything from souvenirs to fake Rolex watches and DVDs (buyer beware!) and bargaining is a must. Massage shops, spas and beauty parlours stay open late, so you can indulge after your hard day island-hopping. Alternatively, you can sit in a roadside bar and people-watch, or sip a pina colada under the stars at a beach bar on the sand.