Phuket or Krabi – which is a better destination for your holiday? Both of these superb southern Thailand resorts are usually on many travellers' bucket lists, and for good reason. Phuket is a well-established name in the travel industry. This island is widely regarded as one of the top places to visit in Thailand. Krabi may be a relative newcomer to the travel scene, but has rapidly grown in popularity.
If you're considering which of these 2 beautiful places you want to spend your next Thailand holiday in, we’re here to help. We’ve taken key aspects of a tropical beach holiday experience, and put Phuket and Krabi head-to-head in direct comparison to see which destination comes out on top.
- Phuket FantaSea Cultural Theme Park
- Phi Phi Islands Tour with Express Boat
- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Phuket has over 30 beaches to choose from, most of them boasting soft white sand and clear blue seas – the typical tropical island idyll. With a pretty good road network, most of them are very easy to get to and have good facilities nearby.
If you include all of the small islands which make up Krabi Province, then it also has quite a few beaches. Many are rather tricky to get to, often needing at least a short boat trip. The advantage of this is that the beaches mostly retain their natural setting, with fewer buildings, less traffic and fewer peddlers to disrupt your relaxation.
Phuket has more hotels than Krabi generally, many of which are on the top end of the scale, with 3-, 4- and 5-star properties dotting the beaches and touristy areas. There are some really outstanding resorts and hotels in Phuket, offering breathtaking views, luxurious rooms, extensive facilities and service, among other perks.
With its many islands and its less developed mainland, Krabi is an excellent place for a tropical getaway in Thailand. You can find plenty of resorts and hotels that are quite far from touristy crowds. If you’re looking for absolute peace and isolation, you’re more likely to find it in Krabi than Phuket.
With a classy and sophisticated atmosphere and a longer time in the limelight of the tourism industry, Phuket offers an excellent choice of fine-dining establishments, even around some of the island's more remote beaches. Whether it’s exquisite Royal Thai cuisine or quality offerings from around the world, you are spoilt for choice when looking for somewhere special to eat in Phuket.
What Krabi lacks in sophistication, it makes up for with its natural assets – a charming setting. It’s quite easy to find toes-in-the-sand beachfront venues in Krabi, which are every bit as romantic as Phuket’s fine-dining restaurants, but are more rustic and relaxed.
4. Cultural attractions
Phuket has quite a long and fascinating history, long before it became a tourism hotspot. You can explore beautiful temples and shrines, as well as Phuket Old Town's colourful streets and Sino-Portuguese architecture. Many festivals and celebrations are unique to Phuket, such as the Vegetarian Festival.
Most of the top things to see in Krabi are natural attractions, which the province has plenty of. Must-sees include the iconic Emerald Pool, beautiful caves in the province's national parks, and its pristine coastline.
There’s a good number of high points along Phuket’s length from which you can enjoy excellent views of the island. Fantastic viewpoints offer sweeping panoramas along the coast. In Phuket, the scenery is grand and spectacular.
There are only a few viewpoints in Krabi Province that provide a high perch for you enjoy the stunning scenery. Instead, most of the sights tend to be right down at water level, whether you’re canoeing on rivers through the virgin jungle or on an island-hopping cruise. In Krabi, the scenery is close-up and rugged.
Phuket has quite a diverse nightlife, with different areas each hosting different atmospheres. The island's party central is undoubtedly Patong, on the 500-metre-long Bangla Road. You'll find several high-quality nightclubs, as well as countless beer bars, go-go bars and lounges within a very short distance of each other.
With strict enforcement of rules on beach usage, Phuket has next to no beach bars or clubs. There are several that are near the beach, or just behind it, but next to none where you can enjoy a relaxing time with your feet in the sand. Krabi takes full advantage of the beach, with many easy-going party venues where you can enjoy your drinks right by the lapping waves.
7. Sports and Activities
There is an impressive number of fun activities available in Phuket, most of them from fully supervised and professionally run activity centres. This includes ziplining at places like Flying Hanuman, cable water skiing at Anthem Wake Park or Muay Thai training at one of the dozens of gyms. There are also plenty of first-rate scuba diving centres, several go-karting circuits, golf courses, flow riders and more.
As is often the case, Krabi’s greatest asset is its untamed natural surroundings. While it lacks the activity centres of Phuket, it still has plenty of things to do, particularly to those of an adventurous inclination. While those who like to explore can enjoy island-hopping, jungle-trekking and kayaking, those who like it extreme can take on rock climbing in Krabi, which is said to be the best in Thailand.
Phuket’s sophistication as a destination is nowhere more evident than in its shopping opportunities. The island has a number of big shopping malls, offering big-name brands, as well as a number of small boutiques selling stylish designer fashions. It’s maybe not a shopaholic’s paradise like Bangkok, but you could quite easily devote a whole day to retail therapy without seeing everything available.
Phuket’s development as an international destination has, to a certain extent, cost it its individual local charm. Krabi still has that in spades and local wares and handicrafts are much easier to find in its small shops and markets. There may not be as many outlets, but you are more likely to find something special and unique.
9. Lifestyle and people
Phuket: More cosmopolitan
Phuket is quite a cosmopolitan destination in Thailand. Sure, you can enjoy it on a shoestring budget but, between its high-end hotels, several yachting marinas, shopping malls, fine-dining restaurants, and classy clubs, it certainly attracts a sophisticated crowd. Even Phuket Old Town – built in the height of a tin mining boom – has an air of class to it.
Krabi: More backpackers
Unlike Phuket, Krabi never had an industrial boom. As a result, it has remained pretty much as it was – a local, rural community. It has a much more “Thai” feel to it than Phuket does, attracting the backpacker crowd with its budget accommodation, laidback nightlife, and easy-going atmosphere.
10. Value for Money
Price-wise, Phuket and Krabi are generally pretty even. Sure, there are certain things which will cost you more in one place than another, and Krabi will maybe have more choice at the lower end of the price scale while Phuket offers more at the upper end of it, but food, drinks, accommodation, transport and attractions are all effectively equal in cost.
Ultimately, which is the better destination between Phuket and Krabi boils down to the sort of traveller you are and the sort of holiday you are hoping to enjoy. It would be difficult to confirm whether 1 place is better than the other. Choose Phuket if you want a sophisticated holiday in a convenient and well-developed destination. If you want a great deal of choice which is easily accessible, Phuket is for you.
By contrast, Krabi is excellent if you want to relax or play in a natural setting. Its comparatively undeveloped environment favours those who want to get away from any concerns, in a world not over-complicated by the trappings of modern society. Thanks to its rugged setting, you can still enjoy Krabi if you're looking for activity and excitement.
Both Krabi and Phuket offer a wide variety of experiences and, being fairly close to each other, there’s no reason why you can’t visit both places.