There are few places on Thailand's southern shores that have yet to be tapped by tourists. Whether it's Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Ko Phi Phi or Ko Pha Ngan, U.S. travelers are well versed about Thailand's best beaches. But for those looking for a southern destination that's yet to be overrun by other international travelers, consider Trang, a province not far from Krabi.
Trang has an extensive coastline that runs about 123 miles along the Andaman Sea. Despite its geography, which is similar to Krabi and Phang Nga, with idyllic islands, sugary beaches and towering limestone mountains, the province remains infrequently visited by tourists. Trang has both mainland beaches and a string of 46 offshore islands.
One of the most spectacular attractions in Trang is the Emerald Cave, a hidden lagoon deep within a cave carved inside of a small island mountain.
When the tide is low enough, the entrance to the lagoon is revealed. Travelers swim into a narrow, pitch-black tunnel for about 250 feet, lit only by a small flashlight from a guide.
From out of the darkness, swimmers emerge onto a secluded beach, protected by imposing, vine-covered cliffs. When the sun shines, the emerald colors of the water bounce onto the tunnel's wall, the inspiration for its name.
Additional attractions include the nearby Mu Koh Phetra National Park, which is peppered with beaches and islands for sunbathing and snorkeling.
There are also wildlife sanctuaries such as Namtok Khao Chong and Khlong Lam Chan Park, home to waterfalls, nature trails and caves. Wildlife lovers can try to catch a glimpse of the resident mascot of Trang province, the endangered dugong, or sea cow, a close cousin of the manatee. Only a few hundred are left in the wild, but the waters off the shores of Trang are teeming with them. Other beachside treats include Ko Kradan's beaches and reefs and Ko Sukorn's fishing villages.
While most visitors to the Trang province are going for the beaches, it is Trang City that sets the destination apart. Trang City, the capital of the province, was built as a seaport. With about 50,000 residents, the city is a melting pot of Thai, Malay and Chinese cultures. This fusion has created a vibrant foodie scene: The air is mixed with a blend of aromas, from steamed rice flour buns that are distinctively Chinese to roti and biryani, which come from the Thai Muslims, and the Malay curries.
The Anantara Pool Suite at Anantara Si Kao has its own private plunge pool at the edge of the balcony.
Where to stay
Anantara Si Kao is a beachside resort that makes a perfect home base for exploring the Trang province. The resort is about 90 minutes from the Krabi airport and 45 minutes outside of Trang City.
The resort offers 139 rooms and suites, with private terraces and balconies that overlook the gardens, pool and islands just off the beach. The resort features two swimming pools, one with a separate children's pool and slide; a private beach club on the island of Koh Kradan; excursions to natural and local highlights, including Trang City and the Emerald Cave; bicycles for rent; Thai cooking classes; and Thai language classes.
There are five restaurant options at the resort as well as Anantara's signature Dine by Design program. Acqua is the resort's signature restaurant that serves seafood and pasta with Italian influences; Leelawadee is an all-day, open-air restaurant that offers European and Thai specialties. For barefoot dining, retreat to the Beach House, which has snacks, smoothies and cocktails alfresco. A pool bar serves gourmet pizzas and light snacks. Also, the beach club on Koh Kradan is open from October through April, serving a la carte dishes for lunch on the shore.
The resort has the signature Anantara Spa, with six air-conditioned treatment rooms, including a suite with a private steam room, Jacuzzi and outdoor massage sala.
The resort is ready to help arrange activities at all of Trang's nearby attractions. You can hop aboard a wildlife tour to search for the dugongs, take a speedboat to Koh Kradan, swim to the Emerald Cave or hike in Had Chao Mai National Park.
Other excursions include a boat ride through the narrow tunnels and caverns of Tham Lay Khao Kob Cave, a visit to Trang City or a stop to Na Muensri village, which is known for the weaving done by the local women.
Between the city, coast and cuisine, Trang province provides travelers everything they are looking for from a trip to discover authentic southern Thailand, minus the hordes of tourists who are on the same mission.