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Visiting Railay Beach is a must for any traveller heading to Krabi, a popular destination in south Thailand. Railay Beach is one of the first things to feature on any Krabi to-do list and it’s easy to see why. From beautiful white sandy beaches, bars, restaurants, hikes, lagoons and caves, Railay Beach has something for everyone and in this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know for visiting Railay Beach, including insider tips, things to do and what to look out for.
How long should I spend at Railay Beach?
We spent two days at Railay Beach even though we’d only planned one day into our itinerary. We just liked it so much and felt there was so much more to see that we ended up heading back a second time. In fact, looking back now, I wish we’d stayed overnight and spent two consecutive days there to really make the most of our time.
There’s enough to keep you busy on Railay for at least two days, maybe even three, depending on what you plan to do. If you have the time, I’d highly recommend an overnight stay as the atmosphere on Railay is vastly different after sunset. Many tourists head home on long-tail boats before 6pm causing a more laid back vibe for those left behind.
Getting to Railay Beach
You can get a public long-tail boat to any of the above beaches from Ao Nang seafront for 200 baht return. You can buy a return on Railay but you’ll need to head back before 6pm, as you’ll pay slightly more to return after that time. The sunset was so beautiful from Railay Beach, and we only had to pay an extra 50 baht in addition to the return we’d already purchased to get back to Ao Nang after 6pm, which was totally worth it.
You can walk between all four beaches via an inland jungle path but we recommend starting early at Phra Nang Beach and then advancing on to Railay East, then West and on to Tonsai Beach.
Things to do at Railay Beach
Phra Nang Beach and Cave
Start your time on Railay by getting a long-tail boat from Ao Nang to Phra Nang Beach. While on Phra Nang, enjoy some delicious food from the long-tail boats parked on the shore – highly recommend the tempura prawns and a mango smoothie. Then head along the beach to the left where you’ll find the beach to be slightly quieter, with fewer people.
Top tip: To the very far left of the beach (if you’re facing inland), you’ll find a neat little cove cut off from the main beach. Depending on the time of day, the light filters down through the cove making a great photo spot. You’ll need to walk to the very end of the beach and wade out chest high into the water around the rock and into a small crevice.
Next, head to the far right of the beach to check out Phra Nang (Princess) Cave, which is actually a cave full of phallic symbols – a shrine where fisherman make offerings to the Phallus of Shiva before going out to sea. It’s a bit of an odd spot, but worth a look. This is also the end of the beach that enjoys a bit of shade due to the high cliffs, so if the sun’s getting a bit much, you can enjoy some respite here.
Railay Viewpoint Hike and Hidden Lagoon
No visit to Railay Beach would be complete without allowing time to climb/hike to the viewpoint between Phra Nang and Railay East. A little to the left of Phra Nang Cave, you’ll find a path that heads in land towards Railay East. About halfway between the two beaches, you’ll notice an area of red rocks with ropes hanging down. We only noticed it because people were in the process of climbing up and we were curious as to where they were going.
You’ll need decent shoes for this – I wouldn’t recommend doing this in flip flops as it takes at least an hour to climb to the top, with a lot of clambering over steep, sometimes slippy, rocks, but the view across Railay East and West is phenomenal and well worth the hot, sweaty climb.
You can also climb down to a lagoon near to the viewpoint, although several people told us on the way down that it wasn’t worth the treacherous descent without ropes. Apparently, it’s more beautiful during the wet season (when the descent is even more treacherous due to wet, slippy rocks), but during the height of summer, we were told it’s pretty much a stagnant pool of water that doesn’t hold much of an appeal aesthetically speaking, so we decided to turn back half way to the lagoon.
The climb down to the lagoon was a highlight for us though, even though we turned back halfway, because the path takes you through a beautiful area of jungle, with incredible trees.
If you’ve been to the lagoon yourself, I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether it was worth it!
Railay East is the quietest spot on Railay due to the fact it’s more of a mangrove swamp than a beach and is not good for swimming. We sat on the small patch of sandy beach for a short time, while sipping from a fresh coconut, until we were told by a local that this side of the beach is where they pump out the sewage and waste from the hotels and restaurants. That explained why it was so quiet! After that we moved pretty swiftly from that spot!
On the path between Railay East and West, you’ll likely see wild monkeys roaming around, so look out for them!
Make sure to spend some time on Railay West where you’ll find restaurants, food vendors and awesome reggae bars. We loved the chilled, laid-back reggae vibe on Railay and wished we had stayed a night there!
On one side of Railay West, you’ll find upscale, luxury accommodation and restaurants but head down the main ‘street’ and you’ll come across a more backpacker-esqe vibe.
The beach is beautiful at Railay West and a great spot to watch the sunset. We caught a long-tail boat back to Ao Nang from here. You can book paddle-boarding tours, kayak tours and even tours to see bioluminescent algae at Railay West.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to head to Tonsai while we were visiting Railay Beach, so it’s a spot we’ll definitely hit up next time. Tonsai tends to be quieter than its wider known, more popular neighbour, Railay West, providing a much friendlier and relaxing atmosphere.
The limestone karsts surrounding Tonsai mean this is the ultimate playground for rock-climbing enthusiasts, providing entertainment for daredevils and those who want to sit back and watch them!
It can be dangerous to swim at Tonsai due to the jagged rocks that sit close to the shore, so for swimming stick to Railay West and Phra Nang Beach. You can, however, hire out kayaks at Tonsai Beach.
Each beach at Railay has a different vibe and selling point and it’s worth spending a little time at all of them. If adventure is more your thing, rather than just laying on the beach, be sure to set aside time for the viewpoint hike or rock-climbing for something a little different.