Railay Beach (also known as Rai Leh, spelt Raileh) is a peninsula located along the southern coast of Thailand and Ao Nang area. Railay is completely separated from all the life in the north, even though it is only 5 minutes by boat from Ao Nang. All three of its sides are surrounded by the sea and by a range of spectacular limestone cliffs that cuts it off from all roads in the north. Therefore, when you travel to Railay, you will have to take a boat which feels like you are stepping into another world when coming from Ao Nang.
Railay Beach is known as one of the most breathtaking beaches in Thailand – a mix of dramatic limestone cliffs, white-sands-postcard-worthy beaches, blue waters and thick jungle. Railay has it all!
Railay Beach is famous for climbing activities, kayaking, snorkelling and diving, as well as for all types of leisure activities. But what really makes this place unique is the vibe you’ll find here.
The main attraction of Railay is that the two principal beaches are, without a doubt, the most stunning strips of sand on the Krabi coastline – perhaps even on the whole Thai mainland.
Railay Beach is split into two different walkable areas: Railay West (perfect for enjoying some amazing sunsets), the second is Railay East (perfect for enjoying some amazing sunrises). Railay West is known for its high-end resorts and hotels. On the East side, there are more affordable options to choose from.
Railay is not a party destination, meaning here you’ll find way more couples and families than backpackers and party people. Railay is more about relaxing than partying all night.
On Railay they are no vehicles – everywhere is just walkable which adds to Railay’s simplicity and serenity. Railay is a rare combination of affordable luxury, adventure activities, and incredible nature. And with so many things to do in Railay Beach, you may never want to leave! … But it is pricey to stay here for a longer time. Everything is more expensive compared to the rest of Thailand, even compared to Phi Phi Islands -so the only downside.
Railay Beach: Weather, Climate and Seasons
March – May: the hottest months in Railay. The average temperatures are between 28° and 35° with humidity levels steadily on the rise.
May – October: the monsoon season in Railay starts in May, the average temperature is 29°, the prices are low and the rains heavy! The wettest months are May, September and October. The sea off Railay does get rough in low season when boat tours are not generally safe.
December – March: the dry season in Railay, but you can expect some raindrops at any time of the year.
November – February: the coolest season in Railay. The average temperature is between 23°C and 30°C. From December to March the humidity is slightly lower and the night temperatures rarely drop below 20 °C.
Do not travel to Railay during the Chinese New Year, or any other major holiday – the whole region is overcrowded. So try to avoid it!
Prepare for severe mosquitos all year round.
How to Get to Railay Beach
Railay is separated by limestone rocks from the rest of Krabi, making it impossible to get to the beach by road. So the only way to reach the peninsula is by boat.
From Ao Nang
Longtail boats depart from Ao Nang frequently — you’ll usually need to wait until the boat is full to get to Railay without paying a higher fare.
During high season, longtail boats or private speedboats travel between Krabi Town and Railay.
Koh Lanta, Phi Phi Islands or Phuket
You can travel to Railay by Speedboat from any of these islands.
The nearest airport to Railay is Krabi Airport. You’ll need to secure transportation to either Ao Nang or Krabi where you’ll hop on a long-tail boat to Railay. And the biggest downside – most boats will only leave once full, which means you may be sitting around while waiting for more passengers to arrive.
The Main Areas of Interest in Railay Beach are Railay West, Railay East, Tonsai Beach and Phra Nang Beach:
Railay West is the most famous area and probably the most beautiful beach in Railay. Here you will find most of the big resorts offering high-quality (and extremely expensive!) accommodations. The beach is beautiful but can get a bit noisy during the day as it is also the arrival and departure point for longtail boats from Ao Nang. The evenings are blissfully quiet as the daily tourists are gone. Railay West is the place to enjoy the magical sunset!
East Railay has the least attractive beach in the area. In fact, there is no actual beach as it is almost entirely covered in mangroves and the water is far from perfect. Railay East is rather the place to enjoy the sunrise and the exciting nightlife of Railay.
Railay East is used as the back door for all the boats coming from Krabi Town and Ao Nam Mao.
In the mornings during low tide, the water is only 300m deep, revealing not sand, but sticky mud.
From Railay East to Railay West
A walkway running alongside Railay Bay Resort connects Railay East to Railay West – a distance of only 400 metres and max. 5-minute walk. The next walking path is between Avatar Resort on Railay East: if you follow the left path you will go to Railay West, while the right one leads to Phra Nang Nai Cave.
Tonsai Beach is probably the best location in Railay for rock climbing as it is close to some large limestone cliffs. Ao Tonsai stretches just beyond Railay West, but it is technically a separate beach and there’s no easy way in. If you want to visit it, you have several options: kayaking, a longtail boat, climbing the steep rock, hiking 1.5 km through the jungle or “just” swimming. Probably the best way is to hike – the jungle trail to Tonsai starts near the Garden Cabana Bungalows.
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang Cave Beach is located on the southernmost tip of Railay Beach. It is best known for its fertility cave, which is filled with wooden phallus statues. Phra Nang Beach is where the most day-trippers spend their days so it gets very crowded during the day.
How Long to Stay in Railay Beach?
How long to stay somewhere is always suc a hard question to answer. It depends on what you want to do in Railay and what you expect to get out of this place. You can spend just a day in Railay without having to pay the steep prices to stay overnight. You can also stay for two weeks and enjoy every single day.
What to Do in Railay Beach?
Enjoy the Beaches
The best and most popular thing to do in Railay is for free! The beaches are gorgeous with fine white sands and turquoise waters, bordered by limestone cliffs on both sides! The only downside is that they can get pretty crowded during the high season.
This is the most famous activity here and what Railay is really famous for. Rock climbing attracts people from all over the world. Both Railay and Tonsai have climbing routes suitable for a wide range of climbers, from beginners to experts.
Hike to Railay View Point
This was my favourite activity in Railay – a hike up to Railay Viewpoint is a must! … But you have to be in good shape, as it is pretty hard to get there! Well, I think the whole thing is more climbing than hiking as I used not only my legs but also my arms and everything in order to get to the top. The main part requires pulling yourself up against the incredibly steep cliff. The only thing you can use is your strength and a piece of rope that didn’t actually look reliable. It’s exhausting! I’m proud I did it … But the panorama from the top is the best reward before going down, which is not less exhausting.
If you are visiting Railay during the high tide you should continue hiking to the hidden lagoon! During the high tide, the ocean fills the lagoon and makes it deep enough for swimming. During our stay in Railay the lagoon was completely empty, so we didn’t hike to it.
The Diamond Cave is an interesting activity if you haven’t been to caves before. The cave it looks pretty much like any other cave does. You will have to pay 100 Baht if you want to go inside..
The Princess Cave is the most visited tourist attraction on Phra Nang Beach and is the place where locals leave an offering – a wooden Ligam (wooden penis). The wooden lingams ensure fertility, 10 children and prosperity in their lives.
Renting a kayak is the best way to explore Railay and Phra Nang. You can rent a kayak on Railay West but you could also decide to join an organized kayaking tour. I recommend at least a two-hour trip to paddle around the coast and outcroppings south of Railay Beach.
Catch an Epic Sunset on Railay Beach
As luck would have it, you can actually catch a beautiful sunset from almost all beaches in Railay. The most popular locations for watching the sunset are Railay West and Phra Nang Beach. And the best thing is that they’re not as crowded as they are during the day, so you can have the beach almost for yourself!
I recommend watching the sunset from Tonsai Beach only if you are staying there. It’s too difficult to make your way back to Railay from Tonsai after the sun gets down.
… and catching an Epic Sunrise on Railay East
Waking up 5:15 could be difficult but I swear – you will love it as I did! The sunrise is amazing and you’ll be surprised how many people are there to catch the colours on their camera.
4 Island Trip
The four islands tour is one of the top things to do in Railay – but there the name is a bit misleading since you only have three stops. Your first stop is at Chicken Island (also known as Kai Island, Hua Khawan Island, or Poda Nok Island). The second stop is Tup Island and Koh Mawr. Depending on the tide when you arrive, you may find two separate islands, or they may be connected by a long and skinny sand bar during low tide. The fourth island and final stop is Poda Island.
Enjoy a Traditional Thai Massage
… As anywhere in Thailand! My very favourite thing to do is to enjoy a good old Thai Massage!
Safety in Railay
Don’t drink the water! It is not potable. Water from the tap will make you sick and that is definitely the last thing you want during your trip to Railay!
Don’t do drugs! Technically, imprisonment of anywhere from 1-20 years and 20,000-400,000 Baht may be applied.
Although it is not unusual to see people smoking e-cigarettes in Thailand, this is technically breaking the law as possession and smoking of e-cigarettes is illegal.
Be aware of the Sun! The sun is also something different from the sun we know in Europe … Always wear sunscreen with 50+ SPF! Not kidding, it will heart if you don’t!
It is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving because you never know what could happen and when you might need it!
What to Pack for Railay Beach
Umbrella or Raincoat: Because of its tropical location, whenever you travel to Railay Beach you will see some afternoon raindrops during your stay for sure! Thailand is a tropical country so escaping the rain and humidity is not really possible. So you better bring an umbrella or raincoat every time you travel to Phi Phi Islands.
50% DEET Spray: There is no vaccination against malaria or dengue fever so you have to prevent the mosquito bites as far as you can. Malaria could be a problem if you’re hiking through the jungle or mountain trekking during the rainy seasons. The best solution: use 50% DEET spray, wear long sleeves and trousers and sleep inside mosquito nets.
Sunscreen: Sunscreen is very expensive in Thailand! 100 ml costs about 15 €, so make sure you have enough in your bag. Be aware of the Sun! The sun is also something different from the sun we know in Europe … Always wear sunscreen with 50+ SPF! Not kidding, it will heart if you don’t!
Medicaments: Traveller’s diarrhoea is a common problem too. I would recommend you to choose what and where you eat more carefully, and also to bring some anti-diarrhoea pills (like Imodium) with you.
Nappies, Sanitary Towels, Panty Liners, and Tampons: These are also very expensive and sometimes difficult to get on the Phi Phi Islands.
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