With towering limestone cliffs, caves, sandy beaches, and warm, crystal blue water, Railay Beach, is definitely one of the best beaches in Thailand; a place traveler’s dreams are made of! This remote peninsula is cut off from the rest of Thailand due to the terrain, so the only way on or off this little piece of heaven is by boat.
Getting to One of the Best Beaches in Thailand – Railay Beach
We flew into the Krabi airport, then hopped on a bus that took us to the beach town of Ao Nang. From Ao Nang we boarded a longtail boat for the final leg of the journey, a 15 minute boat ride to Railay Beach West. You could technically leave from Krabi Town and arrive at Railay East beach, but we had heard that the journey took longer and that it was sometimes more difficult to exit the boat at Railay, depending on the tide. The Ao Nang route was easy and the best way to go.
Keep in mind that Railay Beach is a remote location; and there are no docks — so you will be getting wet on this journey. Getting both on and off the longtail boat requires you to wade knee deep in the water. Consider what you are wearing and the luggage that you bring. It is not easy hauling large suit cases in and out of the boat while wading in the water, nor across the beach. We saw a few unprepared travelers who were cursing as they were dragging their large rollerbags through the sand, juggling their tennis shoes in their hands, and sweating profusely in the heat!
Relax in Paradise!
Railay Beach had been one of the most anticipated stops on our itinerary. Josh and I had been traveling for some time when we arrived in Railay, and we were really looking forward to a couple days of pure relaxation! As soon as we got off the longtail boat, we headed toward the nearest bar / restaurant because it was definitely beer o’clock!
We put our packs down on the sandy floor, ordered an early lunch (since we had been up since 4 am already), and toasted our beers to celebrate our arrival in Railay. Finally having some relaxation, we sat back and enjoyed the view over the beach from the restaurant.
Don’t forget the sunscreen – it’s really hot!
After finishing lunch and a few drinks, we realize that it is getting extremely hot! Even our thin hiking shirts feel like they are stifling us, so we go next door to “Walking Street” – where most of the little shops in Railay are located. Josh isn’t typically a tank-top kind of guy, but with the intense heat burning down on us, he opted for a tank top to represent his favorite Thai beer!
The Railay Princess Resort & Spa
For our stay at Railay Beach we opted to splurge a bit on our room (at least more than usual for this trip). We chose to stay at the Railay Princess Resort and Spa. The hotel isn’t directly on the beach, but it is much more affordable than the beach resorts without sacrificing quality.
All of the rooms are spacious with luxurious amenities, have balconies that overlook the mountains, and a peaceful lotus pond with water features. Being set back and away from the beach actually made this hotel more peaceful and relaxing. In typical Thai hospitality, a lovely woman who worked at the front desk escorted us to our room and gave us a tour of our amenities.
Don’t Let Monkeys Raid the Mini-Bar!
While the woman showed us the balcony area of the room she began to talk quite animatedly, waving her arms and pointing to the door. Confused, Josh and I looked at each other. “What did she say?” Josh whispers to me. “I’m not quite sure,” I responded. So the two of us listen more closely, and luckily the woman repeated her lively story.
Then it dawned on me, “haha” I laughed out loud and looked at Josh, “she said that we need to keep our balcony door closed and locked when we are not here because monkeys come down from the mountain and can get into the room!” The woman nodded her head and added in broken English “Yes they empty mini-bar & leave wrappers all over room. Don’t be charged for monkeys eating your food. And they make such a mess!”
We all three burst into laughter at the idea of monkeys breaking into your room, ransacking it and raiding the mini-bar! Now that would be a travel story!
Railay Princess – Open Air Spa
After being on the road for some time, Josh and I were looking forward to some rest and relaxation, and The Railay Princess Resort and Spa had just what we needed. Their Waree Spa is a unique thatched roof, open air spa that overlooks a peaceful lotus pond. We couldn’t wait to get a traditional Thai massage in this tranquil environment while listening to the water fountains in the pond.
This peaceful and rejuvenating experience was much needed to soothe these tired travelers! The prices at the Railay Princess Spa were much more reasonable than other resorts in the area, and service was extraordinary.
Railay Beach: East vs. West vs. Ton Sai
Even though Railay is a small area, there are very different parts of it to check out. Railay East is very marshy and you cannot swim (it also smells kinda funky), but if you walk north past Railay East there are some cool shops and out of the way bars, such as the Ya-Ya bar! This is where a lot of backpackers stay, and it’s more of a party area. Railay West is a much nicer beach, and this is where the boats from Ao Nang arrive. You will find the major resorts in this area and nicer (but pricier) restaurants.
There is also a nearby cove, Ton Sai, that is north of Railay West. This area is a climbers paradise, and also where a lot of backpackers stay. It is more remote because when the tide is high, boat is the only way to get there unless you walk from the back of Railay East all the way around a mountain! It’s a bit of a hike, and not very convenient. So if you stay in Ton Sai, you will be even more isolated than on Railay itself.
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However, the hidden gem of Railay is Pranang Cave Beach! If you walk to Railay East and then head south on the walkway, you will go past some caves and arrive at the most spectacular beach in the area. In our opinion, this was the most peaceful spot in Railay. Great sand, perfect water for swimming, and some beautiful limestone cliffs for climbing and exploring. Perfect for relaxing and watching the sunset.
Relax or Seek Adventure!
There is actually a lot to do in Railay Beach! In the end, we wished we would have stayed longer because we found that we didn’t actually get to do all the things we wanted to! Besides the gorgeous beaches and spas, there are also a number of caves that you can explore and some hikes that you can take. You can also take boat trips out to nearby islands, or rent a kayak to explore the waters under your own power. One of the things we wished we would have had time to do was the cave kayaking tour!
The Railay area is also a rock climber’s paradise. Climbers come from all over the world to master these limestone cliffs. Climbing opportunities are available for all skill levels, and a number of schools in the area offer classes and excursions out to great climbing locations. There are even some locations where the climbers will climb high up on a limestone edge that extends out over the water, and they will let go and drop right into the ocean (on purpose of course).
Dining on Railay Beach
In particular, we enjoyed the evening that we dined in Railay West. We had dinner at a restaurant that was on the beach, while lights twinkled in the trees around us. We could look out toward the night sky and watch the stars, listen to the sound of the waves mildly crashing on the shore, and wiggle our toes in the sand under our table! And the food was incredibly tasty!
We Will Be Back to One of the Best Beaches in Thailand!
We were also lucky enough to participate in a Thai tradition on the beach, sending a “wish lantern” up into the night sky. Thai’s believe that you can not only make a wish when you send off the lantern, but that along with lantern you are sending away any misfortune as well. A woman helped us light our “wish lantern” and held we it until it filled completely with hot air.
Once it was full, Josh and I made a wish that we would come back to this beautiful place and on the best beaches in Thailand, and we let it go…up, up into the air and out over the water. We watched the lantern soar up into the night sky for at least 10 minutes; drifting farther and farther away until it was just a little speck of light amongst the stars.
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As the lantern floated away we couldn’t help be realize how lucky we are to be able to experience different cultures around the world, to see the world for the wonderful place that it is, and to be able to share these experience with all of our readers. Our hope is that you will all be able take a chance to get out there and explore this world for yourself too.