are Krabi's beaches really among the world's very best?

Are these the most beautiful beaches in Thailand? Are these among the most beautiful in the world?

Thailand has beaches on two very different coastlines facing the Pacific and Indian oceans, and is now one of the world’s top beach tourism destinations. And among its world-famous beaches, Krabi's are often said to be the best in the country.

You judge if Krabi's beaches are really among the most beautiful in the world?

These photographs were taken over a number of years, and generally show the beaches at their very best. Many people will expect that today, with tourists literally swarming over Krabi, the beaches have been changed forever, and can never be photographed like this again.

'not true', says this photographer Most of these beaches are still in fine condition, and will remain so. Happily, many are located on small islands that are now protected by National Park status. Then, each year when the monsoon season sets in, the tourists virtually disappear. The few who remain rarely take boat tours to islands when waves are rolling in from the Indian ocean. The beaches are left to nature, to face their makers, the wind and waves. For nearly six months the beaches take their annual pounding, a cleansing in fact, which becomes a thorough annual rejuvenation. Even the foliage that may have suffered human damaged in the high seasons flourishes with regrowth in the rains.

There are no human constructions near most of these beaches to spoil the views or interrupt the annual rejuvenation. When the monsoon fades away in November Krabi's again beaches appear as pristine perfect as they did a million years ago, and as they do in these images.

Happily, the tourists leave little more permanent than footprints on these sands (and unfortunately a bit of plastic rubbish).

Some of these photographs were shot during one of the blue-sky breaks that occur often through the monsoon months. Those breaks in the weather give perfect photography conditions.... usually without a tourist on the horizon. Those with a passion for photography should see The Beauties of the Monsoon Season on Thailand’s Andaman coast to understand why this photographer loves the monsoon months.

Tham Phra Nang beach, the Princess’s lonely stretch of sand

The beach at Tham Phra Nang is a fantastical place quite unlike any other - named for a mythological Princess said to have made this beach and cave her home. To her north a huge pinnacle of rock juts skywards like an erect phallus. At the south end the Princess's cave lies half hidden below another towering wall, mysterious and inviting, like a feminine invitation to her excited male on-looker. Offshore a number of smaller, phallic rocks stand, stoically watching over the pair like males-in-waiting.

Only a closer look finds the towering male symbol leaning the other way, and the lady's cave closing down to the sand. An impossible situation, and an impossibly beautiful stretch of sand holds these would-be lovers apart. During the eons it will take for them to come together in their next life, as sand, we humans can frolic with abandon on the virgin Princess's own beach.

Aside from being one of the most strikingly beautiful beaches in Thailand, Tham Phra Nang also secrets one of the most outstanding beachfront resorts in the country – something that many visitors miss. Rayavadee Premier Resort is so well hidden behind the beach’s natural facade of rock and jungle-like foliage that only hotel guests really get to witness how beautifully this establishment has been crafted into the original coconut plantation and natural environment.

Our photos show two seasonal incarnations of Tham Phra Nang Beach - deserted and virgin, and crawling with visitors in the peak tourist season. The few lucky enough to arrive on this beach during one of the blue-sky breaks in the monsoon have a good chance of finding it as pristine as in the image here.

That oh-so-famous Railay Beach

So stunningly beautiful is Railay Beach that is has been included in many lists of the world's most beautiful beaches – understandably so. Where else can one find a perfect stretch of coconut-fringed sand so completely protected by walls of sheer rock that roads cannot enter, and cannot bring cars, pollution and cement truck here.

However, Railay Beach is now a major pit-stop on Thailand's well-worn tourist circuit. Almost 1,000 rooms here is not enough to accommodate all of the people coming here each day during the peak season. The majority of visitors coming to bask in the sun and aura of the mighty rocks have to return to hotels in Ao Nang each evening by longtail boat.

The amazing beauty of Railay Beach, along with that of its sister around the corner, Tham Phra Nang, is the not-so-secret weapon selling Krabi around the world, keeping the visitors coming.

the many facets of Krabi's not-so-far Koh Hong island

Koh Hong is a very large gem in Krabi's jewel-studded seas, this one sparkling with many features. The name itself denotes an island with big hole in the middle, which here is a huge lagoon that has eroded from the inside of the island outwards. A narrow channel through which the eroding tides have been ebbing for a million year now provides entry for small boats. It is also excellent kayaking territory where those quiet enough may hear and see a variety of birds, including the greater hornbill.

The stunningly beautiful beach seen here is that on the east coast – a thin strip of sand sliding into clear water at the base of a towering rock wall. Lush forest spills out over the beach on each side of this sheer rock. The beach then swings around into a pretty side bay that has a lagoon carved out like natural swimming pool. Schools of bold, striped sergeant major fish swarm around swimmers hoping to be fed.

Longtail boats depart Ao Nang in Krabi throughout the morning, bringing visitors to this beach, meaning that you won't have it to yourself during the busy tourist months. But again, there are much quieter times when the weather is still fine and the beach will be almost deserted.

The striking geography of Koh Hong is replicated time and again further north in the amazing beauty of Phang Nga Bay .

Koh Pak Bia, few beaches, but what beaches!

This little group of about a dozen islands rising out of the sea in weird and jagged shapes sits midway between Krabi's coast and the two Yao Yai islands, delighting visitors on the beaches of both places. For guests in Tub Kaek resorts the island shapes add mystery to the horizon each time the sunset performs in brilliant colours. From the resorts of Koh Yao Noi , in the other direction, the shapes of these islands enhance the sunrise. There are very few beaches among islands that rise almost vertically from the sea, but those few we do find here are exceptionally picturesque, like the little tongue of sand seen here abutting the leader of the group, Pak Bia Island.

Koh Poda Beach and the delightful Poda sand bar

This striking island is seen directly out in front of Krabi's Ao Nang Beach . It has three connected but distinct beaches on north, east and south sides. But it is the curved sandbank beach wrapped around a little lagoon that is the most striking. This, on the southeast corner, is the result of the tidal currents swirling around the island. It often changes shape and size, and sometimes gets washed away in the monsoon months, only to be reconstituted in the calmer high season weather.

The second, exceptionally attractive sand feature here is the 'double beach' along both sides of the sand bar to the south of Koh Poda. This is completely awash on the spring high tides brought on by the full and black moons, but still enjoyable for swimming and playing.

Ao Nang Centara Beach – it's all in those spectacular walls of rock

This little beach is just 180 metres, but entirely unseen, from Krabi's main transport hub, Ao Nang Beach. It's so well cut off from view and contact by a small headland that guests in the beautiful big resort there, Centara Grand Beach Resort Krabi have to get in and out by boat. Visitors heading to Railay Beach get an excellent view of beach and hotels as they pass in longtail boats.

The beauty of this beach comes not from sand and water, which are barely average for Krabi, but from its toe-hold position at the base of towering rock walls whose every ledge drips with lush foliage. From inside the hotel guests get stunning vistas all around. Turn 360 degrees and the eye is challenged with amazing sights at every twist.

Krabi's little-known, low-key gem, Tub Kaek Beach

Tub Kaek Beach is unusual for Krabi – it does not have a backdrop of rock walls or other geographic wonders to pump it up with visual power. Here is a simple, but very natural combination of clear water, nice sand and beautiful old beach trees leaning far out over the sand as if they really cared about the humans they protect so well from the sun. The guests from the five luxury resorts here relax under those trees and learn to love them in return.

Krabi's more famous beaches inspire visitors with geographic drama, and the beach itself becomes just a small part of the total. But here are Tub Kaek the strip of sand, the clear water and lush trees are the very heart of things; the pretty offshore vistas just a little extra topping. While hotel guests on Railay Beach can be distracted as hundreds of visitors come to ogle, pose and snap photos each day, Tub Kaek slumbers in tranquillity. A large measure of Tub Kaek's calm beauty comes from the very fact that it has no geographic Wow! features. Just lots of zzzzz below those beautiful beach trees.

Tub Kaek Beach is also home of one of Krabi’s top 3, amazing luxury resorts .

by John Everingham