I’m rounding off my Trang island coverage with the most beautiful place of all.
Now, you know me and beaches: beautiful ones are like a magnet for me, and if they just so happen to be in Thailand? I’m already there.
And Koh Kradan? Well, it’s often voted as having one of the best beaches in the world. I was curious to see how it would compare to Koh Kood. I’d spent time on the latter the year before and had been blown away by its sandy offerings. In fact, back then, I declared it the prettiest island in all of Thailand.
You could say I was travelling to Koh Kradan specifically to see if it could steal Koh Kood’s crown.
Koh Kradan is a long, narrow island in Trang province, with a phenomenal stretch of sand running along its east coast. There are no roads here, no stores, and no ATMs. Just excellent snorkelling, white sand beaches, and several guesthouses and hotels. You can see from the photo above just how few structures are on the island.
And now it’s time for a confession.
I visited Koh Kradan on a day trip.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, you see, it’s rare for me to ever visit an inhabited Thai island on a day trip. In fact, I think this was the first time I’ve done it.
I typically like to spend at least one night on every island I visit — no matter how small it may be — in order to get a feel for what it’s like outside of the day trippers and traffic. So, why was Koh Kradan different?
Quite frankly, the accommodation sucked.
We were staying on nearby Koh Mook at the time, in a lovely guesthouse, and all of the accommodation that was available on Koh Kradan either had a rating of 6 or 7 on Booking or was something like $200 a night.
Nothing was grabbing me.
I didn’t want to leave my beloved Koh Mook to sweat it out in a rubbish guesthouse.
It was a tough call, but I decided to spend a morning on Koh Kradan before heading to the Emerald Cave on Koh Mook. Sure, I wouldn’t see what the island was like away from the day-trippers, but the day-trippers were also a big part of staying on Koh Kradan. During the heat of the day, there would always be visitors roaming up and down the beach.
We set off early to beat the rest of the boats.
Koh Kradan is the most popular day trip destination in Trang, along with Koh Mook’s Emerald Cave, so we were firmly traversing the tourist trail. Wanting to escape as much of the crowds as possible, we made our way to Kradan at 8 a.m., eager to see this paradise without anybody on it.
We splashed through the surf in our longtail, past tiny islands in the ocean, and when we arrived, I was surprised by how little development there was on the island. I could see why people say there’s not much to do on Kradan, as the jungle was engulfing the land, leaving room for just a couple of beaches.
We motored past the main beach and stopped at the southernmost point of the island.
There, our driver reached into a faded red box and brandished some snorkels and fins in our direction. I immediately recoiled.
Long-time readers will know that there’s nothing I hate more than a good snorkelling session. In fact, I refuse to believe such a thing exists. During my attempts to fall in love with snorkelling, I’ve ended up with a migraine, been swept out to sea, and exposed myself to my tour group.
It had been written in the stars: I would never have a pleasant experience while snorkelling.
I encouraged Dave to don his fins under the pretence that I was eager to photograph him in action, and I smiled when he lowered himself into the clear waters. Maybe this would be okay? Maybe I could just stay on board and save myself a terrible travel experience.
I stood for a few moments watching Dave before I realised I kind of wanted to join him. I felt left out. The visibility looked exceptional, and I could see a lot of sea life from the boat. I was worried I was missing out on something special.
With a sigh, I reached for the fins and squeezed my feet inside the cold rubber. This had better be worth it.
I swung my legs over the side of the boat, pushed off, and immersed myself into an incredible underwater scene.
There was so much to see.
I was impressed by the number of fish that swarmed around me, and there was just as much coral as there had been in the Maldives, although it looked pretty dead and beaten up. As it also had been in the Maldives.
But there were so many fish. Hundreds of them, all playing around my mask. I hadn’t expected such fun snorkelling from Thailand, where I’ve never really been impressed by the offerings.
As I paddled across the surface of the water, there was one particular creature that kept capturing my attention.
Not only were there hundreds of them, but the water was so shallow that I was finding myself coming within mere inches of their black spines.
Now, let me tell you why I’m so concerned about these, um, echinoderms.
On a previous trip to Greece, Dave happened to accidentally step upon an urchin. He shrugged it off but when his foot continued to burn for days afterwards, he began to worry. He turned to his paramedic friends to get their opinion. One of them grabbed a pair of tweezers and then pulled a two inch spine out of the heel of his foot!
What? No thank you!
Here’s a video that shows exactly how many sea urchins are lurking off the coast of Koh Kradan. It’s pretty wild.
And so, swimming so close to a seabed that was populated with sea urchins was enough to have me heading back to the longtail.
Spine-free and satisfied, we motored around to the main beach, where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
It was just the most incredible view, with knee-high water stretching for a hundred-odd metres.
When I stepped off the boat, I couldn’t stop grinning.
This was one of the best beaches in Thailand.
I watched with bemusement as a family unpacked their suitcases from their longtail and placed them into a metal trolley. With no roads on the island, they would need to push their luggage through the sand until they reached their guesthouse.
By the look of despair on their faces, I suspected it was several hundred metres away.
Turning my attention back to the water, my eyes began to beam. I couldn’t believe how shallow the sea was here; that the people in the distance were all paddling through turquoise perfection. As you can probably deduce, the water was so warm.
“This is one of the prettiest places I’ve been,” I announced to Dave, interlocking my fingers with his. And it really was.
The main beach stretches for around a mile along the east coast, and I resolved to walk the entire stretch, side-stepping starfish along the way. I mean, what else did I have to do? I had five hours on Koh Kradan so I had to make the most of it.
The majority of Koh Kradan is protected by Hat Chao Mai national park, which has helped to keep the levels of development down. The restaurants and bars are all attached to guesthouses and resorts, and there’s only a handful of those to stay at.
Unexpectedly, there’s a lot of Italian restaurants. By which I mean, like, three.
If you’re a fan of messy nightlife, this isn’t the island for you.
There’s no party scene, few backpackers, and definitely no buckets.
But if you’re looking for a chilled-out place to spend a couple of days relaxing in paradise, getting an early night, and revelling in the silence once all of the boats have left, this is undoubtedly the spot for you.
So what is there to do on Koh Kradan?
Well, we’d kind of exhausted our options. There’s good snorkelling and a wonderful beach on Koh Kradan, but when it comes to activities… well, there isn’t all that much to do. There’s Sunset Beach on the other side of the island, which is good for visiting at, well sunset. And you could hire a kayak to circumnavigate the island if you were feeling up for a workout.
I’m conflicted about how to end my write-up of Koh Kradan.
It’s clear that it’s such a beautiful island. One of the most beautiful in Thailand. And yeah, I’d say it has the best beach in the country. Or at least, of the many I’ve seen.
And yet, it’s expensive. The accommodation is disappointing. The food isn’t amazing. There isn’t much to do. And it’s crowded as hell between 10 and 2.
This isn’t a place to spend days on end.
But one day?
I still recommend visiting Koh Kradan. If you plan on heading to Trang province, I’d even insist that you add it to your itinerary.
Just don’t plan your whole holiday around it.
See more of the Trang islands.
This part of the country has so much to offer.