We heard Koh Kradan described as ‘Paradise Lost? – Paradise Found’. It is a small island with beautiful beaches and only a handful of hotels, all of which are rustic. Most visitors come for a day by boat for snorkeling and never even set foot on shore, however the people that make time to stay on Koh Kradan come back again and again.
Day 1 – Saturday, February 7, 2015
There are a few ways to reach Koh Kradan, but all of them involve boats. We arrived from Koh Lanta on a passenger ferry run by Tigerline. We weren’t very impressed with Tigerline. The inside of the boat smelled like oil and was hot without fans. The outside of the boat was breezy, but there was little shade and a constant spray of seawater. The ferry went to several other nearby islands as well, including Koh Mook, Koh Ngai, and Koh Libong. When the ferry was centered between Koh Mook and Koh Kradan, two longtail boats pulled up on either side and passengers disembarked over the ocean onto the longtails. The crew must have been more organized than they seemed, because we saw them loading out bags onto the longtail. We ran to the front of the boat to tell them we were waiting for the Koh Kradan stop, just to find out that this was it, so we followed our bags and boarded the longtail with 5 other people. When the longtail pulled up to the beach we had to jump into the water and wade a few feet to shore.
I don’t think it would be possible to have a bad first impression of Koh Kradan. We landed on Paradise Beach and there was clear water and sand stretching as far down the island as we could see. The interior of the island was green jungle, and the few hotels were set back enough that shady trees block most of the beachfront resorts from view.
We had a reservation at the Paradise Lost Resort, which is the only inland resort on the island. They don’t have a website and are not bookable on any of the popular booking services, so we needed to call them. It took a little bit of work to find the right path into the island’s interior for Paradise Lost. Paradise Lost is the real deal. In 2000 an American named Wally, fresh off a 20 year adventure sailing the South Pacific, decided to build a resort on Koh Kradan with his Thai partner Nok. The resort consists of 11 wooden bungalows with grass roofs and an open air restaurant. It was the first stop on our trip with mosquito nets over every bed and often the dinner conversation turned to who had seen the most animals in their bathroom that night. We had heard there was no hot water, and its true some bungalows don’t have hot water, although now several do. A handful of dogs seemed to have the run of the resort.
But, the bungalows are clean and fresh towels and beach towels are provided. The restaurant has been called the best on the island, and in our experience it was. Wally is still at the resort everyday and most of the customers are repeat clients who come back year after year. The restaurant is a nightly gathering place and you start to recognize the other visitors and know where they are from. There was one large ‘reserved’ table in the restaurant where Wally’s regulars sit to chat with him and meet each other. We were lucky enough to be near that table and invited to it on the final night.
More about Paradise Lost later, when we first arrived we settled in and then went to explore some of the island. We started by walking back to Paradise Beach and heading north along it. The beach doesn’t seem to change much; green water, yellow sand, shady trees with rope swings, and tucked just out of the way restaurants and bungalows for the other resorts. There seem to only be about 6 operating resorts on the island, each with a restaurant. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Kradan Beach Resort.
In the mid-afternoon there is a lot of nice shade on the beach. We picked a shady spot and stayed at Paradise Beach for a while. A few times we wandered out into the water. The water stayed shallow and you could walk far out. At one point there is a very distinct change in the color of the water to dark blue, and apparently there are coral reefs. When we got within 10 feet of the dark blue water we found ourselves surrounded by small black and yellow fish. If we moved backwards they would leave us, but whenever we neared the blue water they appeared. We were a bit worried that maybe we were too close to a breeding ground or something, but it is most likely that they are used to snorkelers feeding them so they expected food from us.
Later in the day we walked south and followed the beach all the way to South Beach. We learned later that you can only do this during low tide and that the sand connecting Paradise and South Beaches disappears under the high tide. There was one small resort with a restaurant on South Beach and a trail behind it leading back to Paradise Lost. The trail is a true jungle trail and I was surprised later to hear how many of our fellow guests used it daily because it didn’t look very used to me.
We cleaned up in cold water showers and joined the crowd in the Paradise Lost restaurant. Their food is so good that people staying all over the island The special that night was BBQ ribs, chicken, or pork. This is apparently the special every night. A charcoal grill in the middle of the restaurant cooks all of the BBQ. We ordered the ribs which came with rice and vegetables. One order of ribs was more than enough for two people and they were very good. We ended the meal with ice cream after Wally suggested it saying it was the best in Thailand, and he very well might be right. Our homemade chocolate gelato was rich and delicious.
Day 2 – Sunday, February 8, 2015
We started the day with breakfast at Paradise Lost. I had the banana fritters and Jon had a fruit pancake. Both were huge, delicious, and sinful. We couldn’t finish. The front desk of Paradise Lost (which, it is worth mentioning is run by a very sweet and helpful Thai woman) has snorkels and fins for rent. So we picked up a set and took the jungle trail to South Beach.
We’d been told that when Paradise Beach is choppy, South Beach is still. I’m not sure what Paradise Beach was like, but South Beach wasn’t bad. We found shade for our towels, but got right into the water right away with our snorkels. You don’t have to go far to see corals on the bottom of the ocean. As we got farther out the density of the corals increased and we started to see sea urchins, yellow and black bannerfish, green parrot fish, and schools of small blue fish. Koh Kradan has the best offshore snorkeling I’ve ever seen.
In the afternoon we briefly stopped by the resort for some snacks and headed to Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach is on the west side of the island and is accessed by another short jungle trail. The last few yards of the trail are down a steep hillside. Sunset Beach was smaller than we expected, but large rocks made it dramatic looking. Unfortunately, when you look a bit closer there is a lot of garbage on it too. In the afternoon sun the beach was hot with little shade. I holed up next to a rock to try to get some relief from the sun while eating our snacks. Eventually we waded out into the water to cool off, but ended up leaving the beach before sunset.
Back on Paradise Beach we found a small bar with Happy Hour and had a drink as the sun went down across the island. It got dark faster than we expected and we had to use the light of our phones to find the trail back to Paradise Lost. Dinner was in full swing again when we arrived. This time we sampled their Thai food by having the Pad Ka Pow and Cashew Chicken. Both dishes were delicious, this was one of my favorite meals of the trip. I’m not sure which one I liked better.
Day 3 – Monday, February 9, 2015
Rather than departing on Sunday, we decided to stay an additional night and extended our stay. For breakfast we had something lighter and split a fruit plate and french toast. We went back to Paradise Beach with the idea to rent a kayak. We were surprised when we arrived at the beach to see how rough the water was that day. We considered kayaking around the entire island, but when we asked about it we were told times ranging from 2 hours to 4 hours. We got kayak prices at a few places, but were a bit timid committing to kayaking. Instead we laid in the shade for a while.
Finally around noon we had to decide to do something. We ate lunch at Kalume, where we had an passable pizza, and then rented a kayak from them. We got the kayak into the water and started north in the direction that had been recommended to us. The water was still rough and it was difficult going. We tried going away from shore (so the waves would hit the front of the boat inside of the side) but found the water to be just as choppy away from the island as it was near shore. We also didn’t see many fish. Not wanting it to be a complete waste, we decided we would go as far as the north tip of the island before turning around.
After our kayaking, we needed to cool down for a bit so we relaxed on the beach again and took another dip in the water. When we got back to Paradise Lost we cleaned up, and found a little frog in our bathroom. We walked back to Sunset Beach to watch the sunset, stopping briefly at an overlook point of the beach. We ate dinner once again at Paradise Lost where we tried some of the remaining Thai dishes that interested us.
Day 4 – Tuesday, February 10, 2015
We woke up early to catch our ferry off of Koh Kradan. We had arranged a longboat and minivan off of the island and to Krabi town using our hotel front desk. Not only did it go well for us, but we found out that we had gotten better prices than most of the others on the longboat. We had a light breakfast at Paradise Lost before taking our bags to the beach to wait for the longboat.