Thailand is home to many famous beach getaways, but one of my favorites is Railay Beach (Rai Leh).
Limestone cliffs besiege this peninsula, which lies between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang, and the only means of reaching this precious gem is by boat.
Home to white sand and far-reaching views out to the Andaman sea, Railay Beach provides the ultimate chill time for weary travelers and city dwellers.
The area has some remarkable attractions, not least a lagoon that changes shape according to the change of tide.
Getting to Railay Beach may take a little more effort (a short boat ride), but the paradise that awaits you offers optimal relaxation and outdoor adventure.
Tip: Chance the weather in low season for some splendid isolation and cheaper hotel prices.
Railay East vs. Railay West
This is super important, so pay attention, as I nearly got this mixed up the first time I visited.
Now, it is easy to visit both sides of the beach because it only takes around 5-10 minutes to reach one point from the other, but the west side is where I recommend you stay – if your budget permits.
The west beach boasts the fine sand and majestic views, whereas the east side is swamped with mangroves, especially when the tide goes low. This can be unsightly and sometimes smelly, depending on the time of year.
The bars of Railay (which we'll get into later down the page) are located on the eastern side.
The west is more isolated and chilled.
If you want to roll out of the bar and straight into your hotel room, you might want to stay on the east side, but I'd still say west is best.
Beaches of Railay
Railay West Beach
Railay West is a whopping 600m long and in my opinion the best beach. The only downside is that in high season a lot of boats will be coming in and out bringing tourists to visit the area.
It's not a huge deal as the boats have to be confined to a certain area, and drop off and pick up times tend to be fairly concentrated.
There's a handful of restaurants and shops on the west side walking street, and of course the bars and restaurants that belong to the 4 (I think) hotels on this side of the bay.
Either side of Railay West are interesting cliff formations shaped by weather over many centuries. Thus the area attracts rock-climbing enthusiasts.
The beach is lovely in the evening too, with lots of people just chilling and eating and drinking.
Railay East Beach
Railay East is fairly narrow and dotted with mangroves. Local fishing boats and long-tail boats regularly dock here as they to and fro from Krabi Town.
Other than being dropped off on arrival, I rarely visit this side of the beach. There is accommodation on this side, though most who stay here walk through to the west side to chill at the beach during the day.
The east side is where the party vibe gets a little crazier, especially during the peak season. Some bars offer fire dancers as well as the usual music and cocktails.
Climbing schools can be found at the end of the Railay East beach, for those who unlike me aren't scared of heights.
The Diamond Cave is also worth a mention, which can be explored for just 40 Baht.
At busier times you might like to break away from Railay West and visit Tonsai Beach.
It's found at the far right-hand side and, during low tide, you can walk across. This isn't possible during high tide because a rock face blocks the way.
The walk across through the shallows is beautiful and highly recommended.
The water off Tonsai is not really suitable for swimming because it's a tad rocky and there's reefs.
Tonsai offers some attractive rocks for climbers, but the difficulty level here is challenging for even seasoned rock climbers.
Personally I'd just explore and chill. I enjoyed some good thinking time here.
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang Beach is a 450-meter long strip of sand to the left of Railay West.
Aside from reefs, caves, and shallow waters, two islands, Koh Rang Nok and Nai, front the beach, both of which are renowned snorkelling.
Another worthy attraction is the Princess Cave, known locally as Tham Phra Nang Nok.
Found at the bottom of a limestone cliff, the cave is dedicated to the ancient goddess of fertility and houses different phallic symbols.
Additionally, on the western side of Phra Nang lies a cave that gives you a spectacular view of nearby islands and the Andaman Sea.
How to Get to Railay Beach
If your starting point is Bangkok, the easiest way to get to Railay is by booking a flight from Bangkok (DMK airport) to either Krabi or Ao Nang.
Driving from Bangkok to Krabi will take more than 10 hours, so traveling by plane is the best option.
Upon arrival at Krabi Airport, take a bus or taxi to Ao Nang Pier and take a ferry to Railay Beach.
The hotel I stayed at arranged our transfer. We were picked up from the airport in a luxuy minivan, driven to Ao Nang Pier and taken across in a private boat.
If you're in Krabi, you can head to Klong Jilad Pier and buy a boat ticket, or to Ao Nang Pier, depending on your location.
From Ao Nang
Head to Ao Nang Beach and buy a boat ticket for Railay Beach.
Use the search box below to check for tickets using air, bus, train and ferry to Krabi:
Where to Stay
Blanco Hideout on Railay East boasts a pool, restaurant, two bars, and air-conditioned rooms and bungalows.
Dormitory rooms can be had for four, six, eight, or ten people.
This hostel is definitely a bang for the buck, given the organized activities and decent amenities available at an affordable cost.
Avatar on Railay East offers rooms with pool views and suites with private pools. Pay extra for a room with seating space too.
Each room comes with a flat-screen TV and satellite channels.
The property has a restaurant and a bar. Guests particularly love the pool and breakfast buffet at this resort. Airport shuttles are available, which I wholly recommend wherever you stay.
Sunrise Tropical Resort
Half a kilometer away from Railay Rock Climbing Point, Sunrise Tropical Resort offer modern rooms with private balconies – some rooms also have a patio.
The on-site restaurant offers Thai and international cuisine and is open all day.
Guest reviews rave about friendly staff and the assistance provided by the front desk for trips and travel.
Railay Princess Resort & Spa
Railay Princess Resort & Spa sits at the center of the Railay Peninsula. The Waree Spa is the highlight of the resort and a go-to place for a Thai massage and other body therapies.
The outdoor pools are also a guest favorite; the infinity pool in particular.
Bhu Nga Thani Resort & Spa
Arguably the best resort on Railay East, Bhu Nga is situated next to mangrove forests and surrounded by mountains and the sea.
The majority of the furnishings are in classic dark wood and the rooms are spacious with picturesque views.
As with most decent hotels, you can book your island hopping and water activities such as diving and snorkeling through the front desk.
Railay West is more expensive and the few places to stay start at mid-range pricing.
Sand Sea Resort
Sand Sea Resort is generally the most affordable spot on Railay West.
The resort offers spacious bungalows with verandas and poolside views of the sea.
I did a walk around while I stayed at Railay Village and and it looked pretty decent.
The trees that soar over the bungalows are home to dusky leaf monkeys, so have your camera ready but hide your wallet!
Rates are normally £80 per night + but during the low season this can go down to around £30. Bargain.
My Top Tip: Railay Village Resort
Located right on the beach, Railay Village Resort is where I stayed with my wife and daughter.
The location is second to none and we had a fantastic stay.
The rooms open out onto the pool, which runs through the middle of the resort.
Behind you are epic views of the forestry, and in front of you is the beautiful Andaman Sea.
For me the best thing about this resort was breakfast overlooking the sea, and being able to chill while my daughter dug about in the sand.
The location is such that you get equal parts of the pool, sea, and mountains in your scenery.
I went at the start of low season and got a great price (under £80 a night) – and a week of sun!
Railay Bay Resort & Spa
A four-star property with good amenities, including a coffee bar, sauna, jacuzzi, fitness center and a spa, Railay Bay is a lovely property with classic-cum-modern rooms and generous grounds to chill.
Rayavadee screams luxury. This five-star property, adjacent to the Krabi Marine National Park, offers 100 luxury pavilions, beachfront pool villas, and a full-service spa.
The resort’s highlight is its natural setting – surrounded by beaches and gardens.
There are multiple dining options, including authentic Thai cuisine and traditional Western food.
At $600 a night, it certainly is reserved for those who aren't short of a buck or two.
Food on Railay Beach
Food at Railay Beach is pretty standard fare, as you find all over Thailand.
It ranges from your cheap noodle dishes to classic soups and curries. Prices, of course, depend on the hotel/restaurant and the standard of chef.
Expect to pay 80-250 per dish, depending on the above.
There's plenty of western food options too.
You're by the sea, so of course seafood is in abundance, though I personally abstain from unnecessarily eating animals.
Islam is widespread in this part of Thailand, so the food in Railay is Halal. You certainly won't find pork on the menu.
The cheapest eats are found in Walking Street, as follows:
- 1 Stop – dishes for vegans and vegetarians
- Coco Restaurant, Mangrove Restaurant, Railay Family Restaurant – Thai cuisine
- Kohinoor – Indian cuisine, pizza, and pasta
- Fusion Sushi – sushi with a twist
- Baan Tree – sandwiches (only open for lunch)
- Railay Various Café – Thai and Western dishes
- Local Thai Food Restaurant – as its name suggests
- Railay Thai Cuisine – quality food (and a cooking school)
Railay Bars (Nightlife)
Railay is obviously most active during the high season, so don't go in low season expecting to party much.
Even in high season, in comparison to Phuket or Samui, this is a low-key destination – so don't expect an all-night rave.
That said, it still “goes down” on the east side.
Note that the price of drinks is higher than on the mainland. Happy hour is the best bet for a cheap beverage – beers at 100 Baht and cocktails at 120.
Here are some Railay bars worth a visit:
- Bamboo Bar, D Bar, Jamaica Bar: all Reggae-themed
- Skunk: relatively reggae-free – options for smoking, drinking, eating
- Boat Bar: as its name suggests, the bar is shaped like a boat
- Black Pearl Bar: normally has live bands
- Chillax Bar: chill and relax
- Flame Tree: a bar to watch the sunset
- Joy Beach Bar: famous for its pizza and mojito cocktail
- Tew Lay Bar: treehouse-themed
Other Facilities of Interest
ATMs are found in two locations: one in Mountain View Resort and the other at the walking street shops in Railay West.
On the west side there's a few pop-up stores and shops that sell clothing, trinkets, and souvenirs. There's no 7/11 but there is a minimart.
Also check out Lek & Om Jewellery, a charming boutique selling handmade necklaces, bracelets and ear rings located on Railay East beachfront.
There's a couple of pharmacies here and a clinic on Railay East, which hopefully you won't need. For further medical attention, you would need to head to Krabi.
10 Things to Do at Railay Beach
1. Four-Island Hopping Boat Tour
This island tour visits Chicken Island (snorkeling), Tup Island and Koh Mawr Island (swimming), and Poda Island (normally a lunch stop).
Aside from these islands, the tour will also visit Phra Nang Beach.
Take an early tour to avoid the crowds.
2. Take a Rock Climbing Course
Railay is one of the top rock climbing spots in Thailand, and beginner or advanced, there's a course for you.
Rates vary, but a half-day tour usually works out at about 30USD, with a guide and all equipment provided.
3. Go to Phra Nang Beach and Pranang/Princess Cave
Aside from the beautiful white sandy Phra Nang Beach, Princess Cave worth a visit for an unusual sight.
The cave contains phallic carvings, known as lingam, which locals offer to the fertility goddess as gifts.
Locals believe these offerings will fulfill their wishes for prosperity and fertility.
4. Hike Up to Railay Beach Viewpoint
The hike to the viewpoint is less than a kilometer, but it can still be challenging for those not used to hiking or climbing.
Make sure you wear trainers or shoes, not flip flops, as you will need a strong foothold to reach the top.
The viewpoint is on the left side of the peak of the cliff and offers stunning views.
5. Descend to Railay’s Hidden Lagoon (Caution!)
Be warned: this is recommended for experienced mountaineers or rock climbers, and you can only reach the lagoon once you have passed the viewpoint.
The descent is steep and can be muddy and slippery, so experience and the right clothes is highly recommended.
It's also hot and humid, so only recommended for the fit.
A girl broke her leg trying to get down to the lagoon in 2018. You have been warned!
6. Go Kayaking
The sea front at Railay West is perfect for Kayaking.
You can paddle your way around the rocky coastline and explore some cool cave passageways.
Kayaks can be rented from the beach at the following rates:
- 1-hour: ฿200
- 2-hour: ฿300
- 3-hour: ฿400
- 4-hour: ฿500
- full day: ฿800
Two hours is recommended because it gets tiring and you will need to stop for a bit during your expedition.
Wear sunscreen and a hat!
7. Chill with a Beer at Sunset
Simple, but free, and courtesy of Mother Nature.
The sea and cliffs make a beautiful setting for the sun to go down. I adore Railay for this spectacle.
If you want good pictures, this is the time for an Instagram-worthy shot.
8. Spotting Dusky Leaf Monkeys
Dusky leaf monkeys are a common sight in Railay and they often appear in groups.
Monkey sightings are frequent on the path that connects Railay East to Phra Nang Beach, and often seen in the Tonsai area.
Don’t try to feed the monkeys though. It makes them dependent on humans, and if caught you may be fined.
9. Visit Tonsai Beach
Tonsai Beach is usually pretty quiet and wonderful for a stroll and some thinking time.
You can walk through the shallows at low tide, but at high tide you'll need to take a boat.
Just wait for low tide and wade across from Railay West. You can Kayak over there too but it does get rocky over that side so mind how you go.
10. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Trips
Krabi is famous for its diving and trips are easy to arrange through your hotel. Some popular sites to visit are as follows:
- Phi Phi Island (Koh Phi Phi)
- Garang Heng
- Hin Daeng & Hin Muang
- Koh Ha Yai
- Koh Yung Pinnacle
- Koh Yung South
- Loh Samah Bay (Ao Loh Samah)
- Maya Bay (Ao Maya)
- Shark Point
You can also take day trips to islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.
Tips to Start Planning Your Trip Now:
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight to Thailand using Momondo. This is my go-to search engine.
Book Your Accommodation
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
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