Enjoy the Beautiful Beaches of Ao Nang, Thailand

The beaches around Ao Nang offer stunning scenes of an idyllic Thailand
The beaches around Ao Nang offer stunning scenes of an idyllic Thailand | © Silvan Wick-tropical / Alamy Stock Photo
Kim Gregory

Towering limestone cliffs, white sands and turquoise seas make Ao Nang a Thailand paradise. Each stunning beach has its own character and selling point. Here are our recommendations of the best things to do on each beach, from sunset-watching to cave exploration.

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1. Ao Nang Beach

Natural Feature

Beach of Ao Nang
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Featured on Culture Trip’s very own 10-day tour of Southern Thailand, blissful Ao Nang Beach is a 1km(0.6mi) stretch of soft sand lined with colourful long-tail boats and overlooked by those famous limestone cliffs. The huge, jagged rocks with their luscious greenery protrude from the sea, and this landscape makes Ao Nang Beach the perfect spot to catch the sunset. Grab yourself a Chang (refreshing local beer) from a nearby shop, and watch the sky flush with colour as the sun dips behind the sea. For some true Thailand magic, perch on one of the rope swings to the left of the main sitting area. They’re fit for two and, as the stars come out, you really can’t beat it.

2. Nopparat Thara Beach

Natural Feature

Nopparat Thara Beach
© Nuttapong Wannavijid / Alamy Stock Photo

What better way to spend a day than enjoying a picnic on the beach? At Nopparat Thara, you’ll find locals doing just that. Visit nearby food markets for the best street food, then join Thai families and friends on the sands to the west side of Ao Nang. Nopparat Thara Beach is less busy than the main stretch and, thus, much more peaceful. There are lots of tall trees providing shade, which makes it a good sitting spot for lunch or dinner. There are nice restaurants here, too, if you fancy a cocktail or two after sunset, and the port, where you can see traditional wooden boats nestled amongst palm trees, is also nearby. Perhaps best of all, when the tide is low, you can explore the tiny island of Koh Khao Pak Khlong by walking through the shallow sea – it’s the perfect day out.

3. Pai Plong Beach

Natural Feature

Pai Plong beach in Krabi province
© leonovo / Alamy Stock Photo

Awaken your explorer’s spirit by navigating the mysterious Monkey Trail, starting at the east side of Ao Nang Beach. Cross the wooden bridge, then climb the rickety steps up into the hillside. They’re pretty steep, and you’ll have to rely on bamboo rails for support, but the views of the bay are breathtaking. As the name suggests, you might just come across a few furry friends. After your 10-minute mini-adventure, you’ll see the towering trees part, revealing one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. The white sands and turquoise sea at Pai Plong Beach boast the colours of a tropical paradise. It’s lined with perfect palms and a pretty, unobtrusive resort. Take your towel for an idyllic day of swimming and sunbathing on this quiet hidden gem.

4. Railay Beach

Natural Feature

There’s more to explore in Ao Nang than just the main town area. Take a quick trip in a boat to nearby Railay Beach. The journey across the water is enjoyable and relatively cheap (around 100 baht/£2.50) – a little adventure in itself. You may have to climb in and out of the water to access the boat, so dress appropriately. Railay Beach is a traveller’s favourite, thanks to its combination of untouched natural sites and vibrant nightlife. You’ll arrive on the west beach, which is the best for swimming, and it’s easy to explore the area on foot. Railay does get busy due to the number of day-trippers, but the many food and drink stalls on the beach make for a fun and easy visit. There’s an incredible viewpoint, accessible via a tough climb, for looking out over the islands dotted throughout the sparkling Andaman Sea. You can also hire paddleboards or kayaks – the perfect way to watch the sunset out at sea. If you want to stay overnight in Railay, there are lots of hotels to choose from, and you’ll never be far from a chilled-out bar with a long list of refreshing beers and cocktails.

5. PhraNang Cave Beach

Natural Feature

Phra Nang cave on Phra Nang Beach
© Nadezda Murmakova / Alamy Stock Photo

Once you’re at Railay, walk over to PhraNang Cave Beach. The huge rock formations are otherworldly. Inject some excitement into your break by climbing inside and exploring the cave. If the tide is right, you can even swim in it – floating underneath the gigantic stalactites is truly awesome. For a bit of the unusual, visit the smaller cave next door, called Princess Cave. Locals have created a shrine to the gods of fertility, where, in difficult times, they leave wooden penises. Marvel at the hundreds lined up inside the rocky walls and bask in the power of the hopes and prayers left here over the years.

6. Tup Island

Natural Feature

Tup Island
© Jordan Rooney / Alamy Stock Photo

This tiny paradise, accessible by a short boat ride from mainland Ao Nang, is unique in its setup. Two lovely beaches are connected by a sandbank, so explorers can hop between them via a refreshing walk through the shallow part of the sea. If visitors are sparse, sit on the bank and spot tropical fish as the gentle waves lap over you. Make sure you’re back at the beach where your boat landed before the tide engulfs the walkway, or be prepared to wade through the water.

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