Railay Beach on a budget from Krabi

Tonsai is a climbing mecca in Southeast Asia

Tonsai is a climbing mecca in Southeast Asia

The Thai seaside resort of Krabi is on the southwest Andaman Sea coast of the country. It is renowned throughout the world for its spectacular limestone rock formations, crystal clear seas, soft sandy beaches as well as abundant activities and affordable dining and nightlife.  

Krabi boasts a number of interesting resorts which are scattered along the coast and framed by a backdrop of soaring limestone karsts. These include Ao Nang, probably the best known, peaceful Had Yao Beach, Railay and the islands of Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.

Railay, or Rai Leh as it is often spelt in English, is a headland jutting out into the Andaman and is one of the most difficult to reach, although the end result of the trip makes it worthwhile.

Railay boasts three spectacular beach areas, renowned rock-climbing spots, unspoilt mangrove forests, diverse dining and accommodation establishments that range from budget options right through to luxury resorts that pamper guests with every conceivable service and amenity.

Railay can be accessed by small longtail boats from either Ao Nang Beach or the pier at Krabi Town. These boats depart when they have eight passengers aboard. Visitors embarking at Ao Nang usually have to paddle through the surf to the boat. Scheduled ferries also call at Railay between Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, and Phuket.

Phra Nang Cave Beach

From Ao Nang, this beach is at the bottom of the Railay Peninsula and the principal destination for daytrippers. There are not many accommodation choices here, just one international hotelier chain branch, yet there is a fine selection of snack-bars and restaurants which offer inexpensive salads, Thai seafood specialities and refreshing beverages.

Phra Nang Beach is one of the world's greatest

Phra Nang Beach is one of the world's greatest

The marvellous scenery at Phra Nang, fine sand beaches and translucent waters have consistently led to its rating as one of the globe’s top beaches. Due to its inaccessible location there are not, as yet, any jet skis or traffic, and food and drink vendors are relatively unobtrusive compared with some Thai resort towns.    

At the west end of Phra Nang is the Thaiwand Wall, a favoured location for rock-climbers. The iconic rock towers 200m over the beach and people climbing it on a hot summer’s day provide sunbathers with surreal entertainment. Non-climbers with a reasonable level of fitness can ascend the rock via a set of fixed ropes and ladders.  

Railay West Beach

A superb sheltered beach north of Phra Nang best reached from Ao Nang. Sand at the north end of the beach stretches all the way under water, perfect for paddling and crabbing, but the bottom end is rockier below the surface. Hotels and resorts here mostly cater to the well-heeled traveller, yet there are several budget eateries and a bar that provides fabulous sunset views. More on Railay.

Railay East Beach

This beach is on the opposite side of the peninsula to Railay West and can be reached by footpath from there or by longtail boat from Krabi town. The sands here are pretty limited and lined with mangrove trees and have fishing boats moored offshore. Railay East is not the best place for swimming and other watersports, but is the location to head for when looking for budget accommodation, nightlife and diverse dining venues.

Pleasant local restaurants set on the edge of the beach offer a pleasant location to take in the scenery during the day and at night turn into atmospheric nightlife venues where music played could be anything from Bob Marley to live Thai folk.

At the top end of Railay East there are lots of bamboo bungalows, which are the ideal accommodation choice for backpackers and budget travellers. The footpath between Railay East and Railay West meanders through a small village where there are additional inexpensive bungalows and restaurants as well as convenience stores and kiosks selling souvenirs and beachwear.

Tonsai Beach

This beach rings a small cove and is just a short walk from Railay West. Again it offers soft sands, but is generally a more low-key place than its three neighbours and is frequented by backpackers and rock-climbers. There is another grouping of cheap accommodation here as well as a climbing tuition centre. More on climbing.

Railay activities

The principal reasons for visiting Railay are the beaches, the ambience and the opportunity of going rock-climbing. The calm, clear waters are great for swimming, but there are better spots nearby for snorkelling and scuba-diving as coral and marine life is not that plentiful here. Visitor activities are listed below.

Two-person kayaks can be hired at several places in Railay with most at Railay West Beach. Kayaking offers a different aspect of the limestone karsts around the peninsula. Some cliffs have been eroded at their bases and are now sea caves.

Railay is famed for its rock-climbing and Thaiwand is among quite a few places here which provide people with the chance of ascending cliffs. Climbing schools offer training for novice climbers.

As Railay is not very big, the four main resorts are 15 minutes walk apart at most, there are not so many opportunities for trekking. Signposts on the cross-peninsula footpaths indicate the route to Sa Phra Nang pool. This is not an easy hike or particularly sight interesting at low tide.

Sightseeing in Railay

While Railay is principally a destination for rock-climbers and beach aficionados there are some interesting sightseeing spots.

Diamond Cave
Diamond Cave is near Railay East Beach. Visitors pay a small entrance fee which enables them to walk the boardwalk where illuminations reflect off the glittering diamond-like cave walls.  

Phra Nang Shrine
Is a small cave at the top end of the beach with a spirit house dedicated to the patron saint of Phra Nang.

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