Updated September 2022
If you have been daydreaming of endless sunshine and idyllic beaches, maybe a trip to Thailand will be just what the doctor ordered. But with so many amazing places to visit within the kingdom, where should you head to first? Two destinations to check out are the neighboring provinces of Krabi and Phuket, on Thailand’s southwest coast.
Both of these provinces are packed full of pristine beaches, jungle-covered national parks, and fun-filled activities to ensure your Siamese sojourn is one that you will never forget.
But before we dive into the details and differences that make these provinces so special, let’s first cover the basics…
Krabi Province sits on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, facing the Andaman Sea. Krabi was pulling in visitors way before Leonardo DiCaprio and a Hollywood film crew descended on Koh Phi Phi Ley to film The Beach.
The province also happens to be home to some of Thailand’s most famous tourist locations: Phi Phi, Railay, Koh Lanta, and Ao Nang. And it’s also known as the home of one of the world’s most famous beaches, thanks to Leo and friends…
Phuket is an island province lying to the west of Krabi, surrounded by warm and inviting tropical waters. The Island of Phuket, or Koh Phuket, is the country’s largest island, and it dominates the province.
The whole province covers 543 square kilometers, with Koh Phuket claiming 514 of those square kilometers and the rest being shared among the 32 other smaller islands in the province.
Phuket is home to the infamous nightlife of Patong, several picture-perfect beaches, and some excellent shopping and activities to make sure your visit is truly memorable. It’s one of the best places for nightlife in the country, as we talk about later.
But which one is best for you and your holiday plans? Let’s dig deep into the details of these two incredible Thai destinations to help you plan your perfect vacation as we pit Krabi vs Phuket. After reading, we’re positive you will have decided which one to visit!
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has The Better Beaches?
- Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
- Which Is Best For Scuba Diving & Snorkeling?
- Which Has The Best Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For A Family Trip?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where You Should Stay According to Your Budget
- What Time Of Year Is Best?
- Which is Safer
- Our Final Thoughts
Which Is Easier To Get To: Krabi or Phuket?
Depending on your point of origin, the traditional route to reach these two southern provinces has been to fly to Bangkok and then transfer down to Phuket or Krabi via a domestic flight. However, with the recent expansions of Krabi International Airport and Phuket International Airport, it is now easier than ever to reach these provinces without first traveling to Bangkok.
For Europeans, there are some direct flights which land in Phuket. If the airports in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Zurich, or Istanbul are convenient for you, you can hit the beaches of Phuket with just one flight. From other locations, you can transit via these airports or via the major airport hubs in the Middle East, such as Doha and Dubai. Krabi Airport is also starting to welcome more and more of these flights.
For travelers coming from Australia, there are direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Phuket, and you can also fly via Singapore to either Phuket or Krabi.
And if you are traveling from the Americas, you may need to fly via Seoul, Hong Kong, or Bangkok.
It is also worth noting that, as these two provinces are close together, you could also fly into Phuket and transfer overland to Krabi. The journey from Phuket Airport to Krabi Town, the administrative hub of Krabi Province, takes about two and a half hours by road.
And, of course, if you fancy a couple of nights exploring the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, the option to fly via the Thai capital is still there.
Just make sure you know which of Bangkok’s two airports your domestic flight is leaving from. Most international flights arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, but most domestic flights are operated through Bangkok’s second airport – Don Mueang International Airport.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
The transport infrastructure throughout Thailand makes moving around pretty easy. There are plenty of taxis, tuk-tuks, and minivans moving around both of these provinces to make sure you see everything on your Thai bucket list.
With Phuket Province essentially being a single, main island, it is very easy to move around, and arguably easier to move around than Krabi. Phuket is also Thailand’s second-smallest province, so there are no huge distances involved when moving about. The journey from Phuket Airport, in the north of the island, to Rawai Beach, in the south, would take around one hour, depending on the traffic.
Moving around Krabi Province can be a little more time-consuming, as depending on the journey you may also need to take a ferry. Krabi Airport is situated on the edge of Krabi Town, the administrative and transport hub of the province. Krabi Town itself is not a major tourist destination, but it’s good to stay here for a night if you have an early flight out. Around twenty kilometers to the west of Krabi Town is the tourist town of Ao Nang.
Ao Nang is a small town on the edge of the Andaman Sea with plenty of resorts and hotels to welcome you after your flight. If you plan to visit the iconic sunrise and sunset beaches of Railay, then Ao Nang is the best departure point.
To get to the famous Phi Phi, you will need a ferry from either Krabi Town or Ao Nang. There are regular ferries running back and forth between these locations, and the journey takes around 90 minutes by regular ferry. There are also speedboat options, which whilst more expensive, are around thirty minutes quicker.
It is also fairly simple to get to Koh Lanta Yai from Krabi Town. The majority of this journey is by road, with a ten-minute crossing from the mainland to Koh Lanta Noi via car ferry being the only section needing a boat. You can then drive across Koh Lanta Noi and over the bridge that joins Lanta Noi to Lanta Yai (Small Lanta Island to Big Lanta Island).
There is also a ferry service which connects Koh Lanta to Koh Phuket via Phi Phi. Why not explore both provinces? Traveling in and around Phuket and Krabi is relatively easy, and there are so many cool places to explore in both…
Which Has The Better Beaches?
There are many exceptional beaches strewn throughout both Krabi and Phuket. The problem will not be in finding stunning beaches; the problem lies in deciding which ones to visit.
Although if we had to choose which had the better beaches in the Krabi vs Phuket battle, Krabi may be better. However the best way for you to decide is to see what each province has to offer…
The main beaches in Phuket are found on the island’s west coast, perfect for a sunset gin and tonic. The northern beaches are smaller and quieter, with the main bustling tourist beaches being towards the south.
Phuket’s busiest beaches are at Patong, Karon, and Kata. To the north of Patong, you can also find Kamala Beach and Bang Tao Beach; these are also very popular, but a bit more chilled than the rest.
Patong Beach is the busiest Phuket beach, and it’s also the busiest area of the island too. The beach is set in a large bay, and the water is usually very calm. The sand is soft and golden, and there’s plenty to do in and around the beach area.
For a calmer beach, head to Bang Tao. The sand is powdery soft, and the vibe is much more chilled out than Patong. Drop by the Catch Beach Club for a sunset beer and some cool tunes.
The best beaches in Krabi are out on the islands, although Railay is always worth a visit. Railay is situated on a small headland between Krabi Town and Ao Nang. The area is only reached by boat and is stunning and secluded. Enjoy breakfast at the sunrise beach and a cocktail as the sun drops into the ocean at the sunset beach.
Koh Phi Phi Don is also home to some excellent beaches. The two main beaches, Ton Sai and Loh Dalum, sit back-to-back, with a narrow strip of land separating them. Loh Dalum is the quieter of these two beaches, as Ton Sai Bay is where the ferries to and from Phuket and Koh Lanta dock.
Long Beach is a twenty-minute walk from Ton Sai, and it’s much quieter. This is an excellent beach to chill with a book and is also good for snorkeling. Bring a mask and snorkel at dawn or dusk, and you may be rewarded with the sight of black-tipped reef sharks cruising around the rocks at the northern end of the beach.
For an even more peaceful beach on Phi Phi, head to Laem Tong in the north of the island. If you are already on Phi Phi and staying in Ton Sai, the best way to get to Laem Tong is via longtail boat.
And if you want to see the beach that Leo made famous, you need to travel by boat. Maya Bay is where the film The Beach was filmed, and it is located on Koh Phi Phi Ley, the uninhabited neighbor of Koh Phi Phi Don.
But, if you want to experience a few different beaches within Krabi, head to Koh Lanta Yai. Koh Lanta is a long, thin island, and its west coast is a beach lover’s paradise. From Klong Dao Beach in the north, with its shallow child-friendly water, to the secluded Bamboo Beach in the south, Koh Lanta has excellent beaches.
The most popular area on Koh Lanta is in the Long Beach Area, sometimes called by its Thai name, Phra Ae. Long Beach is two kilometers of uninterrupted sand, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and resorts running the length of it.
Towards the south of Koh Lanta is the stunning beach at Kantiang Bay, arguably Lanta’s best beach. This beach is pretty quiet, but the sand is soft and the bay is beautiful, with good snorkeling around the rocky areas.
The beaches in Krabi are pristine and you can still find remote stretches of sand with not much development. In comparison, Phuket has more beaches that are developed and geared towards nightlife.
Which Is Best For Scuba Diving & Snorkeling?
Thailand’s best marine life is found in the waters off its west coast. The marine life is way more diverse and varied on the west coast compared to the Gulf of Thailand, in the east. The reefs close to Phuket, Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta are good for snorkeling, with Phi Phi probably the best snorkeling spot between these two provinces.
The dive sites close to Phuket are okay, and you can enjoy some good dives here, but the Krabi dive sites are much better.
From Phuket, the best dives are at three sites clustered together, quite close to Phi Phi. The three dive sites are called Shark Point, Anemone Reef, and the King Cruiser Wreck. These three dives can often be done on one dive trip.
Krabi’s dive sites include the Bida Islands: Bida Nok and Bida Noi. These two dive sites are covered in colorful soft coral, and there are resident black-tipped reef sharks in the shallows and leopard sharks resting on the bottom, blending in with the sand. There’s also a good chance of seeing turtles and seahorses, as well as a whale shark or two if you’re lucky.
The Bida Islands are also accessible by daytrip from Koh Lanta. In addition to these excellent sites, Koh Lanta dive centers also head to Koh Ha and Hin Daeng & Hin Muang. Koh Ha is a stunning collection of five islands and a good place for whale sharks, too.
Farther south from Koh Ha are two more dive sites, located right next to each other: Hin Daeng & Hin Muang. These two deeper sites are always in the conversation for Thailand’s best dives, and the reason is that you can see both whale sharks and manta rays when visiting!
Which Has The Best Nightlife?
It depends on what type of nightlife you are looking for, but in general, Phuket is the best place to party.
The nightlife in Phuket’s Patong, in particular, is legendary. There are plenty of bars and clubs throughout Patong, but the main area is Bangla Road. At night, this street is a pedestrian-only zone, and both sides of the street are thronged by bars and clubs.
For a more chilled party in Phuket, the beach clubs in Kamala and Bang Tao are excellent too. Café del Mar has a chilled beach club in Kamala and is one of the best sunset spots on the island. Bang Tao, the next beach up from Kamala, is home to Catch Beach Club. Both of these beaches are a great place to end the day and start the party with a sunset cocktail and some cool tunes.
Krabi’s best party zone is Koh Phi Phi Don. The bars lining Loh Dalum Beach start pumping the tunes out in the early evening and don’t stop until the early morning. If you want to party the night away on the beach, then this is the place for you.
Koh Lanta has a few parties too, but they tend to be weekly rather than every night. Thursday night on Long Beach is the big Lanta party, but there are plenty of smaller parties on the island on other nights too. Lanta is a great place to recover from your Phi Phi parties…
Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
If you are planning a honeymoon, both Krabi and Phuket have some idyllic locations, away from the hustle and bustle, where you can enjoy a peaceful and private vacation. And the best way to decide is probably to try and find the resort which suits yo best.
A great place to stay for a honeymoon in Phuket would be the Anantara Layan Resort. This luxurious resort is built onto the hillside at the end of Layan Beach and has excellent views across the ocean, down towards Kamala. Layan Beach is a secluded area to the north of Bang Tao Beach.
One of the best honeymoon hotels in Krabi is Pimalai Resort and Spa, in Kantiang Bay on tranquil Koh Lanta Yai. This stunning hotel is also built on a hillside – see photo below – with views out across the Andaman Sea towards Phi Phi and Koh Ha. The pool villas are surrounded by jungle and are a peaceful haven with luxurious amenities. Members of the Thai royal family often vacation here!
Which Is Best For A Family Trip?
If you’re planning on visiting with the family, maybe Phuket will have more going on to keep the kids entertained.
Phuket, whilst Thailand’s second-smallest province, is Thailand’s busiest tourist destination and so there’s a large amount of choice for hotels, with many big resorts with lots of amenities and activities going on.
Krabi can still be a great place for a family holiday, but with things a bit more spread out than in Phuket, you should choose your area carefully. The best two spots for families in Krabi would be Ao Nang and Koh Lanta.
Ao Nang has plenty of large resorts with pools and more Western amenities than Lanta. The main road in Ao Nang has McDonald’s and Starbucks, but also plenty of amazing Thai restaurants too. Ao Nang is a great place for day trips out to the nearby islands, including the Phi Phi Islands.
Koh Lanta is still a very relaxed island, ideal for a laid-back family vacation. If you have younger children, Klong Dao is a great beach for them to play on, as the water stays shallow and there are usually lots of other children around playing. There are two Swedish schools on Klong Dao Beach; Swedish families enjoy staying on Koh Lanta for extended periods of time during the European winter, and their children attend these schools so your kids may make some Swedish friends when visiting!
Which Is Cheaper?
As two neighboring provinces, there’s not a huge difference between the cost of living in Phuket or Krabi. The average meal and drink prices will be very similar, and are both cheaper than Europe in this regard. Whilst it may be easier to spend more in Phuket, it’s very easy to stick to your budget in either location.
Trips and excursions are also similarly priced in Krabi and Phuket, but with Phuket covering a smaller area than Krabi, some trips may involve less travel and could be cheaper as a result.
However if you are visiting in the middle of the high season, around Christmas and New Year, then you may find it easier to find a hotel which suits your budget in Phuket. That’s because there is a higher concentration of hotels in Phuket compared to Krabi. Both provinces have some extravagant 5-star hotels, and both have plenty of options for backpackers too.
What Time Of Year Is Best?
With both Krabi and Phuket being on Thailand’s west coast, the weather patterns are the same. The wet season on this coast runs from June through October. During rainy season, the vast majority of the rain falls between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm each day, which cools the air for the evening. The days are usually filled with sunshine and blue skies, but not always.
From November through May, the west coast experiences its dry season. At this time of the year there is very little rainfall, and the humidity is lower.
But if you visit Thailand in April, avoid booking travel on April 13th, which is Thai New Year. Whilst it is still possible to travel on this date, you and your belongings will get wet! Why? Well, Thais celebrate their New Year, called Songkran, by having a nation-wide water fight! This is a great day out anywhere in Thailand, and if you have never experienced it, you should!
Where You Should Stay According to Your Budget
Shoestring: Situated in Phuket’s Old Town, Baan Baan hostel is a tastefully decorated hostel known for being modern, pristine, fun, and an extremely friendly place. If you’re traveling on a shoestring budget, this is your best choice in the center of the action.
Budget: For a taste of luxury on a budget, then Island Escape by Burasari really is unbeatable. You’ll be taken on a boat shuttle to Coconut Island – five miles from Phuket center – where you’ll find a gorgeous five-star beachfront resort complete with swimming pool, private beach, outdoor activities and stunning views. It’s one of the nicest – and cheapest – five-star hotels we’ve ever come across in Thailand.
Luxury: Let’s be honest, if you’re traveling to Thailand then you will have access to some of the cheapest luxury resorts in the world. Sinae Phuket is one of them. At this five-star resort, situated on a peninsula near Phuket center – so still close to the city action – you can find luxury villas complete with private swimming pools and gorgeous sea views. Bliss.
Shoestring: The extremely photogenic outside of Play Poshtel & Cafe draws you in, but it’s the price you get for this four-star hotel that keeps people here for days. The location isn’t fantastic, but the hotel is modern, has great facilities, evening entertainment, and the staff are very friendly.
Budget: Talking of photogenic, Baan Phuvara Retreat takes that idea up a notch. This unique guesthouse is built in an old authentic wooden style on a jungle slope a few miles outside of Krabi. The result? You’ll be sleeping on a four-poster bed, and will have a balcony with fantastic views. All with the sound and feel of the jungle around you. Oh, and you’ll have a private jacuzzi on that balcony too.
Luxury: For a taste of the celebrity life then Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is a stunning choice. This beachfront hotel with huge infinity pool, spa, gorgeous grounds, five restaurants, 24-hour butler service, and glamorous rooms, is one of the most beautiful resorts in the country.
Which is Safer?
Both are safe destinations, which is why tourists visit in their droves every year. However, as always when on holiday you should avoid confrontations with locals, avoid walking in unlit areas at night, and keep an eye on your drinks when at clubs and bars.
As for which destination is safer, you’ll find this is a contentious point among locals and tourists alike. However the fact remains that Krabi has a lower crime rate than Phuket. Phuket also has far more ‘party areas’ and like anywhere in the world when drinks are involved, there’s the potential for criminal activity.
Krabi vs Phuket: Our Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, if you are looking for a beach vacation in Thailand, Krabi and Phuket are the best two provinces. Both have stunning beaches and plenty of activities to keep you bus and entertained.
Families may prefer the abundance of choice that Phuket offers, although, chilled out Koh Lanta is another great family destination. If you’re looking to party, head to Phuket or Phi Phi. But Ao Nang and Koh Lanta, or Phuket’s northern beaches, are perfect for a more relaxing beach holiday.
Krabi is arguably the more beautiful destination, and could be the better choice if you’re looking for a relaxed vacation with a mix of sunbathing and adventure, alongside cultural attractions.
However whichever destination you choose, you will have a fantastic time exploring the Land of Smiles!