Known for its "Graveyard of Shells" (fossil beds near the sea), Krabi, Thailand, also has nice beaches and an interesting botanical garden. Krabi province lies mostly on the mainland of Thailand, about 40 mi/65 km northeast of the island of Phuket. It encompasses beach areas along the coast as well as 132 islands offshore, the picturesque Phi Phi islands among them.

The beaches in Krabi are crowded in the winter, as are the beautiful Phi Phi Islands (Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh), about 40 mi/60 km off the coast. Krabi Town is the nondescript commercial heart of the province, and Ao Nang is the main tourist hub. Ao Nang is where visitors head for a bustling seaside strip of souvenir shops, restaurants, beer bars and a nice arc of wide beach.

Not long ago, Krabi was a string of sleepy villages until the local international airport opened only a 15-20-minute drive away. Today, hotels and other developments are cropping up, although Krabi is still relatively low-key compared to Phuket.

One of Krabi's most scenic spots is the Railay peninsula. Its spectacular limestone cliffs keep it cut off by road from the rest of the mainland, giving it a very secluded island vibe. Visitors get to Railay by longboat from Krabi Town, about a 15- to 30-minute ride, depending on the tides. The area has earned international renown as a rock climbing hot spot, beckoning beginners and experienced climbers from around the globe.

Railay is compact and filled with low-rise hotels and cafes that stretch back from Railay Beach West's semicircle of golden sand. This strip, along with the peninsula's other good beach at Phra Nang, are super-scenic and framed by the stunning rock formations. The peninsula's third main beach, Railay Beach East, is full of mangroves.

Much of the rock climbing takes place in Ton Sai, a cove around the corner from West Beach filled with cheap backpacker accommodations. If you have come to climb, note that not all Thai climbing schools abide by Western standards of safety and certification. Carefully research your guide's qualifications beforehand.

Longboats take visitors to the beaches daily, but since there are no roads on the peninsula, it still has a remote, lost-in-time feeling. There are a number of accommodations on the peninsula, from low-cost guesthouses to small hotels to the high-end Rayavadee resort.

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