129km (80 miles) SE of Krabi
Trang Province, south of Krabi, is where it's at if you're looking for a real Thai-style beach holiday in the south. Popular with Thai tourists, the large province is spectacularly placed, with plenty of unspoiled national parks and 46 islands. The jumping-off point for the islands is at Pak Meng Beach, about 40km (25 miles) west of the small town of Trang. Day tours for snorkelers are affordable and the scenery is much like nearby Krabi, but cheaper and without as many tourists. Bear in mind that during the monsoon season (May-Oct), there are no day tours and many resorts close down.
Trang Province is also great for light adventure activities such as sea kayaking and diving. Had Chao Mai National Park, which consists of several islands -- Ko Kradan, one of the Andaman's real gems, with healthy coral reefs, azure seas, and powder-soft sands; Ko Mook (Muk), famous for the Emerald Cave, a hidden lagoon, which is accessible only at low tide; Ko Waen and Ko Chueak, which offer excellent deep-sea diving and also a chance to spot the rare dugong (a dolphinlike creature). For mainland nature visits, visit wildlife sanctuaries such as Namtok Khao Chong and Khlong Lamchan Park, which boast waterfalls, trails, and caves. The Southern Thailand Botanical Garden (Thung Khai), on the Trang-Palian Road (Hwy. 404), offers stunning nature trails through lowland jungle and tropical gardens. For keen adventurers, there are some pretty remote islands -- one such island is Tarutao Marine National Park, which lies close to the Malaysian border, in Satun province. This region is great for kayaking and pristine diving. For more adventure tour info, see www.paddleasia.com.