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We can’t believe it took us so many visits and so many other islands before we discovered the incredible, pristine little island of Koh Kradan. Only about 4 km long and less than a kilometre across at its widest point, Koh Kradan actually feels much smaller than that. Nonetheless, we spent a full week there and had no trouble keeping busy (or not, depending on how we felt that day) on this gorgeous Andaman Sea island in Trang Province in southern Thailand.
Koh Kradan is a true island getaway as it does not have a permanent village or resident population other than those who live and work in the hotels. And the 5 main hotels are all located side by side along the 1.5 km east coast beach. Beyond that, you’ve really just got a pair of far side sunset beaches, a hard-to-reach southern beach and the weirdly apocalyptic remains/current buildings (??) of a national park.
The entire centre and northern half of the island are covered in thick vegetation and are more or less impassable. All of which combine to make Koh Kradan a fantastic place to relax, rest and unwind. But not necessarily unplug, the wifi was actually quite good (he said with a delighted grin). It is also a very popular place for families with young kids, as the calm, shallow water is great for them and there are no roads or traffic to concern themselves with.
Pretty much the only downside is that Koh Kradan’s exclusivity also means higher prices. With only a handful of resorts to choose from, all of which have impressive beachfront locations, bungalows cost more than on most Thai islands (with food prices to match).
As for facilities, there is occasionally a small shop at Kradan Beach Resort but it wasn’t open at all when we were there and I wouldn’t want to count on it. Also, there is no ATM on Koh Kradan. We were able to pay with credit card at Mali Resort (with an added 3% fee) but you should definitely check in advance with the other resorts if you aren’t bringing enough cash to cover everything. It is also worth bringing mosquito spray as those little buggers do come out to play in the evening.
Is Koh Kradan Worth Visiting?
Yes, it is one of the most beautiful and natural islands in Thailand. While so many islands have given in to the temptation of adding big hotels, shops and more and more roads, Koh Kradan has retained its peaceful, tropical charm.
It is a very quiet place so don’t go expecting lively nightlife or big beach parties. But if you’re looking for a gorgeous place to relax with a fantastic beach and great snorkelling, Koh Kradan is a great choice.
The 13 Best Things to Do in Koh Kradan
Koh Kradan is ideal for a quiet, relaxing beach holiday, not so much for action and adventure. However, beyond the great beaches there are also some fun activities that can help pass the time while unwinding on Koh Kradan.
1. Walk Along Koh Kradan Beach
Koh Kradan Beach, also known as Main Beach or Paradise Beach, runs for about 1.5 kilometres down the east side of the island. It is classically pretty, with a narrow strip of light sand backed by a thick bank of trees that provide plenty of available shade in the heat of the day.
Adding to the impressive visual is the fact that all the huts, restaurants and hotel rooms are set a bit back from the beach, making them practically invisible from the water. The beach itself isn’t very wide, though, and can all but disappear at high tide.
The water is shallow with a sandy bottom, perfect for wading and lounging, although then at low tide suddenly a couple hundred metres of damp sandbar appears. Any time other than full high tide you need to go quite far out to do any real swimming. But the water is clear and beautiful, especially on a calm day.
2. Visit Ao Pai Beach
From the north end of Koh Kradan Beach, just past the end of Mali Resort, you can either walk around a rocky headland (low tide) or cross a small headland through the bushes (anytime) to reach lovely Ao Pai Beach.
Relatively short but wide and flat (depending on the tide, of course) and hemmed in by jungle and rocks on three sides, this is the place to come if somehow even lightly populated Koh Kradan Beach feels a bit too hectic to you.
3. Check Out Hat Chao Mai National Park
Hat Chao Mai National Marine Park is a large park that includes several beaches and caves on the Thai mainland as well as 7 different islands. But as far as its role on Koh Kradan, I’ll be honest, even after several conversations and some mildly curious exploration, I’m still very unclear on what exactly is going on. Located just south of the beach resorts on the far side of the floating dock, it seems to be part construction site, part abandoned ruins and part day tripper picnic area.
There are lots of official signs and even a board stating prices (all in Thai except the numbers). And what look like bungalows on the edge of the jungle (all of which seemed empty). There are multiple public bathrooms, although it was unclear which ones were actually in use.
Meanwhile, there are a few crumbling husks of former buildings and ones that look like they were left to return to nature about halfway through construction. Yet there are also a few new buildings actively being built right now, possibly bungalows, a restaurant and what really looked like a pool. It is all very confusing.
From a visitor’s perspective, though, there are some cute little beach areas hidden among the mangroves, a decent picnic area where people on the “4-island boat trip” out of Koh Lanta or Koh Mook stop for lunch and some good snorkelling fairly close to shore.
They were not charging an entrance fee when we visited and the people I talked to thought those prices listed were probably what will be (or used to be) charged for camping and the huts. We also stumbled across some discarded or lost diapers/shorts combos that alerted us to the family camping at the very end of the beach, presumably for free right now but in the future, not sure.
4. Head Over to Ao-niang Beach
Tucked away around the corner from the national park is the tiny, sheltered and adorable Ao-niang Beach. It has the best snorkelling on Koh Kradan, a small restaurant and a collection of very basic, classically Thai beach huts. It can be reached by boat, kayak, paddleboard, swimming or, potentially, on foot at low tide. There is also a rough, overgrown path from Paradise Lost Resort but I wouldn’t recommend it.
There is a real “The Beach” feel to the area, right down to the fact that the whole place is allegedly illegal, with the owner spending a bit of time in jail “now and then” during land disputes. But firmly convinced they have the right to be there, they return back to business as usual every year.
5. Try Some Snorkelling
Koh Kradan is completely surrounded by coral reef but by far the best parts are on the east and south sides. Along Kradan Beach, you have to go quite far out (about 200m) before reaching the reef. A lengthy swim (at high tide) or easy walk (at low tide, just watch where you step).
The fish life is truly impressive and there is a lot of fairly unique coral. Although you shouldn’t expect to see much in the way of big stuff like sharks or rays, there is a tonne of variety, some surprising black and white eels, large boxfish and parrotfish and so much fascinating little stuff.
I personally enjoyed just drifting slowly along the reef where it dropped off into the deeper part of the ocean. On days with good visibility this is where you’re most likely to spot the larger fish.
The reef just off the point between Koh Kradan National Park and Ao-niang Beach was the other snorkelling highlight, the best part spending at least 10 minutes immersed in some huge, swarming schools of yellowtail scad. At least I think that’s what they were (about 6 inches long, silver with a yellow stripe down their side) but, as we’ve always found when it comes to snorkelling and diving – the names, they matter not.
6. Tackle Some Kayaking or Paddleboarding
Mali Resort had several kayaks and a couple paddleboards free for use by guests and I think that was probably the same at all the resorts. The reef keeps the water off Kradan Beach relatively calm even in bad weather, making it a great place for a leisurely paddle (something Laynni engaged in most mornings before I ever pried open a drowsy eye).
Just make sure you keep an eye on the tides or you’ll find yourself dragging your paddleboard back in.
7. Finish the Day at Mali Sunset Beach
There is a faint path that leads from behind the restaurant bathroom at Mali Resort that you can follow through the trees for an easy 10-minute walk over to cute, rocky little Mali Sunset Beach. Obviously, you have a clear view of sunset from here, just remember to take a light (or use the one on your phone) and possibly bug spray for coming back through the trees at night.
Unfortunately, the west coast beaches get the brunt of the trash and debris floating in from, you know, the world, and when we were there the amount of plastic bottles and flip flops (the stuff that floats, apparently) was almost overwhelming. There was talk of organizing a work detail to clean it up so hopefully it won’t be as bad by the time you get there.
Tip: When we ordered a few beer to take over with us, the staff at Mali were kind enough to pack them in a cooler with ice for the journey.
8. Trek to Kradan Sunset Beach
The more well-known of the two sunset beaches, Kradan Sunset Beach is about 15 minutes on foot from the dock on a clear path through the trees that goes past Paradise Lost Resort before reaching a steeper descent to the beach at the very end (with some steps and even a rope or two to help when slippery).
The path starts about 20 metres south of the estuary at the end of Kradan Beach Resort. So, to get all the way to Kradan Sunset Beach from Mali Resort it takes about 30 minutes, with each resort along the way being slightly closer. Just before the path starts down the hill at the end there are two side trails heading right and left to a couple of different viewpoints.
This beach was also pretty covered in trash but it sounded like it was going to be first on the cleanup list.
9. Go For a Massage
Most of the resorts have certified massage therapists on staff if you’re looking to take you relaxation to yet another level. Along with the physical benefits of a professional massage, their tables are all located right along the beach so you can enjoy the beach views and ambience at the same time.
10. Day Trip to Emerald Cave (Koh Mook)
This unique adventure has you swimming through an 80-metre cave to eventually emerge in a small, circular clearing with a lagoon, tiny beach and just a hint of jungle. The cliffs all around you reach way up to the top of the hill, only allowing sun in the middle of the day.
It is a very busy place but you are somewhat limited when it comes to missing the crowds because you can’t go at low tide (no water inside) or high tide (the water reaches the roof of the cave) so. And there is only sun on the lagoon in the middle of the day, so if that’s important to you it will shorten your window even farther.
But it is a fantastic experience, even if you end up following a chain of Chinese tourists through the cave (tied together and literally dragged by the guide), then listening to several of them vomit profusely into bushes upon arrival.
11. Visit the Nearby Islands
If you have a hankering for a little bit of village life, trips to Koh Mook only take about 15 minutes by longtail or speedboat. You can visit beautiful Sivalai Beach and Charlie Beach, visit the shops and restaurants or simply wander around soaking up the local island vibes. There are also some really nice resorts if you’re looking to diversify your island time.
12. Sign Up for a Fishing Tour
There is outstanding fishing all around these islands and every hotel can arrange a private or group fishing excursion tailored to your goals and timeline.
13. Go Scuba Diving
There aren’t any popular dive sites right around Kradan but there is a dive company that works out of Seven Seas Resort that can get you on dive boats out of Koh Mook or Koh Lanta. The best dives in the area are Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock), a couple hours by boat from Koh Kradan.
Koh Ha (Five Islands) is also a good diving area much closer to Koh Lanta.
Where to Stay
There are only 7 Koh Kradan hotels to choose from, with 5 of them all located on the same beach. We spent a week at Mali Kradan (also called Mali Resort Koh Kradan) and loved it. We may be a touch biased but, in our opinion, it is the best resort on Koh Kradan.
However, there are some other excellent ones as well. For a detailed breakdown, check out:
Camping is allowed in Koh Kradan National Park but the exact details are hard to find. At the moment, it seems you could just throw your tent down in a discreet corner and be fine. However, there are long-term plans to charge for camping as well as rent out tents and equipment (so they say).
Where to Eat: Koh Kradan Restaurants
The only restaurants on Koh Kradan are those in the resorts. However, these are all open to the public so there is a decent amount of variety (even if most of the menus are pretty similar).
We ate a lot of meals at Mali Resort and were never disappointed. The service is wonderful and the Thai food consistently excellent. They also have a pretty good cheeseburger (speaking as someone who knows a thing or two about cheeseburgers).
The most unique menu on Koh Kradan is at Kalumé, with an extensive Italian section courtesy of the Italian owner. Good pizza and really tasty spinach penne stood out from our several visits.
Reef Resort, meanwhile, has an extensive menu of Thai food and pasta but specializes in seafood. The prices are great, the service prompt and we had some of our favourite Kradan meals here.
Seven Seas Resort is considered the fine dining option on the island. As such, it is a bit more expensive and attempts to produce a more romantic vibe.
Kradan Beach Resort is known as the “the most Thai” restaurant on Koh Kradan, offering local dishes at very reasonable prices. They sometimes have live music, which would be the closest thing to nightlife on Koh Kradan.
How to Get to Koh Kradan
Most people come to Koh Kradan by longtail boat from Kuang Tung Ku Pier. To get from Bangkok to Koh Kradan, you can fly to Trang and get combined bus (1 hr) and boat (1 hr) transfers to Koh Kradan (1,500-2,500B for up to 8 people). You can book these privately through one of the Koh Kradan resorts or join a public transfer to bring the cost down to as low as 500B per person. Check with your hotel and 12Go Asia for options.
Between the islands, there several daily speedboats that stop in Koh Kradan along the route between Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. Bundhaya and Satun Pakbara are the cheapest on the short routes (300B to Koh Mook / 400B to Koh Ngai), while Tigerline offers slightly faster service and different times. Interestingly, it is more expensive on the short routes (750B Koh Mook / Koh Ngai) but less to Koh Lanta (950B as opposed to 1,150B).
Koh Kradan Map
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
How to Get Around
Walking, basically. Up the beach. Down the beach. Repeat. Then there is the path behind Mali Resort that leads to Mali Sunset Beach (10 min) and the one from near the dock to Paradise Lost (10 min) or Kradan Sunset Beach (15 min). And that’s basically it.
Your other options are paddleboard (good for cruising up and down the beach) and kayak (the best choice for getting to Ao-niang Beach).
It is also possible to hire a private longtail to take a tour around the island, possibly stopping off to snorkel in Ao Niang Bay.
When to Go
As a tropical island, the temperature in Koh Kradan doesn’t change much throughout the year, although it does get a bit hotter from Feb-Apr (32C/24C high/low) compared to the rest of the year (29/25).
Rainy season lasts from May to October, with November being a transition month when you can get a bit of anything. There is very little rain from December to April but you may see a bit more wind at that time.
Koh Kradan is an idyllic tropical island, exactly what people imagine when they think of going somewhere to simply relax, enjoy the heat and the views and the ocean, all in the comfort of a nice beachfront bungalow.
So, if that sounds like your dream vacation, Koh Kradan could be just the place for you. Plus, there are a few things to keep restless types occupied (snorkelling, kayaking, hiking to the other beaches, off-island excursions) so hopefully you can keep the whole group happy.
However you choose to occupy your time, though, there is no question Koh Kradan is a very beautiful place. It is more expensive than many of the other islands in the area but compared with, say, Europe or North America, the hotels and restaurants are still relatively cheap. And it’s hard to put a price on staring out at the gorgeous turquoise Thai sea from the comfort of your bed.
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