Railay Beaches

Railay Beach Crystal Clear Water and Limestone Karst Formations
Railay Beach from the Tonsai Beach overpass, showing the crystal clear water and limestone formations. Image Robert Haandrikman, Flickr.

[Page updated: 6 October 2017]

Railay beach in the province of “Krabi” is, to me the best place to go in Thailand if looking for a beautiful beach for some relaxation and enjoying a mellow time.

Read below, or see THIS PAGE for more specific details about Railay West, Railay East, Ao Phra Nang Beach, and Tonsai Beach.

Pra Nang Cave and Ocean
Close to Ao Phra Nang Cave in Railay Beach.

Railay Beach East and West have a few things that make it one of the nicest places to go during a visit to Krabi, Thailand. Couple that with the fact that it is close in proximity to a couple other cool things to do and it makes a lot of sense to stop in Krabi during your stay in Thailand.

Krabi is located south of Surat Thani province which, as you might know has the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Phangan and Ko Tao which are quite nice in themselves and a quick van ride away from Krabi. I think total time in the van between the two places might be 3 hours. Many travelers choose to go to the full-moon party in Ko Pha-ngan and then head down to Krabi so they can see Railay beach, Ko Phi Phi, and Ao Nang and Nopparat Thara beaches in Krabi.

What are things to do in Railay for families, less-active people?

Railay beach has a couple interesting things to do. First are the beaches. The beaches here are the nicest I’ve seen in Thailand, though admittedly I haven’t been to Ko Chiang or Ko Samet which I heard had very pretty beaches. Ko Samui’s Tong Takien beach is also a beautiful beach I enjoy a lot.

Railay Beach East Sand and Surf
The view from Railay Beach – of the surrounding limestone karst formations – is amazing!

Railay’s beaches are dramatic and picturesque as you can see by the photos here. The water is clean, warm, and the waves are not bad. They are not surfing waves by any means, but if you are able to find a bodyboard (boogieboard) for the kids they would have a blast during May-July when the waves tend to be bigger.

During the high season there are many tourists visiting Railay, but if you go to the beach early you might be one of only a couple people at the beach. The tourists that tend to stay at Railay are mature and not the same type of ‘sexpats’ you’d see in Patong beach. There is no bargirl scene or ladyboy scene at Railay and they don’t want one to get started either. The locals are nice and not pushy about asking you to buy their goods, unlike Pattaya or Patong. Railay is more for family type travelers and serious (and not so serious) climbers.

Ao Pra Nang Cave Overhanging Ocean
Amazing overhanging cave area at Railay Beach West, Krabi.

You can head over to the Phra Nang cave (pictured right) which is really a nice spot. Pra Nang means Princess Goddess. The spirit of princess goddess (PhraNang) resides in this cave according to the locals. Before fishermen went out fishing they would make promises and prayers to Phra Nang before they went out to sea. When their wishes were granted they came back to the cave and gave an offering. Often flowers and incense sticks are given as gifts, but the villagers think that the goddesses really prefer the ‘lingams” or phallus (penis) figures.

Phra Nang Cave Phallus Display
Phra Nang Cave with the wooden phallus display – Penis Cave, Railay Beach.

These beliefs are not rooted in Buddhism or Islam. Thai people believe that the lingams and the princess goddesses fertile womb shall create fertility and prosperity for the whole earth and mankind. There are over 100 lingams in the cave and most tourists get a photo taken of themselves there for some reason.

If you feel like it Railay West has some shopping, some nice restaurants (outdoor) and last time I went a book store with many English language novels that were available for sale or rent. There are some good restaurants here, and quite expensive if you’re a local to Thailand. I think I remember a good coffee shop here, but it has been a year since I’ve been to that shop, it might have changed by now.

There are a couple places for internet on Railay besides the hotels so if you’re worried about getting online for whatever reason, don’t be. The prices are high. I remember 1 baht per minute seems to the be the standard here.

Things to Do in Railay Beach for Very Active People?

For active people there are a couple places you’ll want to see. You might want to hike up to where the ‘lagoon’ and “view point” are up a mountain path. You find the path for them both by going from Railay (East) toward the mountain – walking along the sidewalk until you see a muddy and root filled path leading up the hill to the left (see photo). Take that up and when you reach a “Y” at the path take a left to see the scenic lookout and a right to find the lagoon.
The viewpoint overlooks Railay beach East and is breathtaking. You can also see Railay west. Really great photos can be had here on a nice day. The day I went was NOT nice and so, no photos here. Maybe tomorrow?

Railay Lagoon - Hidden Oasis
The Railay Lagoon – a Hidden Oasis, which is beautiful sometimes, and muddy and nothing to look at other times.

The Lagoon

If you decide to go to the lagoon it is not an easy trek because you’ll reach a couple places – 3 rock faces I believe that you must use the ropes primarily to support your weight in order to get past the rocks. If it is rainy season the ropes are a bit slippery and your shoes are likely covered with red clay mud which doesn’t give you a great grip on the rocks. You MUST have decent shoes to scale down the rock faces that are jagged and dangerous quite frankly. You will need to have some upper body strength to get up and down the ropes as you will be scaling the rock like Spiderman. There are 20 foot drops that, if you lose one of your shoes while climbing down – you’ll cut your feet – 100% guaranteed.

I had sport sandals and I still didn’t feel comfortable to risk it on the last drop. I probably shouldn’t have done the first two either. My feet were very wet and muddy from the slippery trail and I pictured my foot slipping out of my sandal and slicing my foot open. I’m going back tomorrow to conquer it and I’ll bring my running shoes this time for those rocky sections. Oh, and don’t bring anything in your hands – even a camera. A small waist pack or backpack is necessary as both of your hands will need to be free.

There is a first aid clinic on Railay beach east. They are able to treat most cuts and abrasions and they get many chances to do that. I cut my foot on some submerged coral that I didn’t see while swimming and they cleaned me right up. The longtail boat even gave me and my girlfriend a 2 person ride back to Ao Nam Mao for just 100 baht which was really nice. Maybe that’s the policy there for injured people – the boat owners must take them for the regular price regardless if the boat is full or not.

Railay Beach Rock Climber at Tonsai Beach.
Climbing limestone karst at Tonsai Beach in Railay is a great place to get started in the sport.

There is another short hike up into the jungle and on the hill that you can do if you want to visit a spot on the northwest side of Railay beach West where the climbers are mostly. You go to Railay west and then walk north. You’ll be staring into some rocks and jungle, but there is actually a path there to climb up into that will take you to the other side of the hill and a climbing mecca.

The trail is not difficult, but at the end you will see a lot of large rocks and wonder how to get through. With some trial and error you should find the way through. Be careful and if you have kids you should be really careful as there is one section they could fall between the cracks and wedge themselves in there. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen many kids on that other side… hmm. Seriously, just be careful and your kids can probably make it
too.

This is where the climbing schools like CLIFFS MAN take their beginner students, but the rock face is so diverse that there are pros on a section right next to the beginner sections.

There are numerous climbing routes – many easy and many difficult. I think someone said 700+ climbing routes in Railay. Recently some climbing groups have expended a lot of money and effort to install titanium clips and bolts into the rock. I think most of the routes are finished with titanium as the other metals were degrading quickly in the harsh environment.

Jumping off Cliff in Railay Beach
Cliff jumping at Railay Beach West, Krabi, Thailand 2017

If you climb – go here! Even if you don’t climb, it’s fun to watch people climb too – I’ve taken videos of people climbing and I’ll get them online soon. Climbing is a slow and cautious activity, not always quick and exciting but fun to watch anyway.

Best time of year to go to Railay beaches?

Good question. Krabi during the rainy season (May to November) is quite wet. That’s not to say that there aren’t 3 or even 4 day stretches without rain, but having lived here for a year those rainless periods were not many. I would say that most days during the rainy season there is some kind of pattern to the rain. It doesn’t just rain at 3 pm like in the Northeast (Isaan region) every day during rainy season. It doesn’t rain only in morning. It rains anytime, anywhere, for any amount of time – days at a time even.

The trick is, I see that it goes in micro-patterns. If it’s raining in the evening at 6 pm then likely it will continue raining like that over the next few days or up to 3 weeks. The patterns seem to stay for 1-2 even 3 weeks at a time. If it’s raining all day, it might rain all day for 3 days or for a week. If it’s raining with short showers that come 1-5 times per day – it will likely do that over the next 1-3 weeks.  See what I mean? So, if you have that kind of flexible schedule you might want to find out right before you come what the weather is doing and decide if it’s worth it for you to come to Railay beach in Krabi during rainy season. There are FAR fewer tourists and you’re likely to have a better time just for that reason. High season can be a drag since Railay is perhaps the hottest destination in Krabi after Ao Nang. You can feel free to write me for an up-to-date report on what the rain patterns are in Krabi before you come. Seriously!

Where to stay?

I don’t stay in Railay Beach when I go, I’m very cheap and the 1000 baht plus for marginally decent rooms during high season doesn’t do it for me. I usually go in the morning and return around 5 or 6 pm. There are some nice accommodations there if you have the cash. Alternatively you can visit during low season when 2 different hotels (at least) offer rooms for as low as 350 baht one of them was Ya Ya resort.
Railay Beach East: Diamond Cave Bungalow; Coco; Ya Ya Resort; Sunrise Bay Bungalow.
Railay Beach West: Viking Village 2; Andaman Nature Resort; Dream Valley Resort; Ton Sai Bungalow; Railay Beach Club; Railay Village Resort; Sand Sea Resort; Railay Bay Resort.

How to get to Railay?

Longtail Boat to Railay Beach East
Our longtail boat arriving at Railay Beach East, Krabi. Let the FUN BEGIN!

There are many ways to get to Railay beach, but all of them involve small long-tail boats because Railay beaches are not served by roads, they are hidden around the side of large limestone mountains.
Where to get longtail boats that go to Railay? You can take a longtail boat straight from Chao Fa Pier in Krabi town for 100 baht if you can get 6 people to go with you at the same time. You might wait extraordinarily long to find 6 people though during off-season. Sometimes they ask if you want to go for 150 baht for 4 people. 600 baht seems to be the amount they want to make to go one-way.

If you want you can take a tuk-tuk, song-taew (truck) or motorbike ataxi to Ao Nang or Ao Nam Mao and you can get a longtail boat from there. Prices vary a bit. The cheapest way is from Ao Nam Mao pier where you’ll pay just 50 baht one way if you get the required number of people – I can’t remember how many 6 or 8. From Ao Nang it’s 100 baht each person.

Daily Ferry Schedule between Ao Nang – Phi Phi – Railay – Phuket – Lanta on big ferry (Ao Nang Travel & Tour Co.)

Route
Depart.

Arrival
Phuket – Phi Phi 0830 0930
Phuket – Ao Nang – Railay 0830 1045
Ao Nang – Phuket 1530 1715
Ao Nang – Railay Beach – Lanta 1045 1245
Lanta – Railay – Ao Nang 1330 1530
Ao Nang Package: One day tour of Phi Phi 0800 1700
Ao Nang Package: One day tour to James Bond 0800 1630
Ao Nang – Railay – Phi Phi 1030 1200
Phi Phi – Railay – Ao Nang 1530 1700
Railay Beaches Map, Krabi, Thailand.
Railay Beach map – West Railay Bay, East Railay, Lookout, Lagoon, First Aid Clinic, more.

For MORE INFO about Railay beaches like Ao Phra Nang and Tonsai – CLICK HERE >

For Tours Info around Krabi Town and Beaches – Click HERE.
Important Phone numbers for your stay in Krabi (Railay and all over Krabi province):

  • Krabi Emergency: Dial 1669 from any mobile.
  • TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) Regional Office: 07.562.2164
  • Krabi Tourist Police: 07.563.7208
  • Marine Police: 07.561.2756 and 2757
  • Krabi Airport 7 km east of Krabi Town: 07.563.6541 and 6549
  • Immigration: 07.561.1097
  • Krabi Bus Terminal in Krabi Town: 07.561.1804 and 1184
  • Thai Airways International: 07.562.2439 and 2441 and 2442
  • Krabi town Hospital: 07.563.1768 and 1769

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8 thoughts on “Railay Beaches”

  1. Hi, I am coming to Thailand and was very excited about coming to Railay beach but now that I’ve done more research I’m worried about the weather. I will be coming during the last week in May. Can you tell me how you think the weather patterns look this year? Accuweather suggests there will be just some showers, about 2 hours a day, and partial clouds during the last week in May. Do you think it will be worth the visit to railay beach or do you suggest Ko Samui instead?
    Thanks for your help!
    Sara

    1. Sorry, I didn’t get this until now. We are almost into the end of May now. The weather service just said expect 7 days of hard rain. We doubt it. They’re never right on! So, this is the way the end of May goes in Krabi. Can be almost daily showers – for a couple hours, or we might get a couple days of rain in a row… but then there is always sunshine after 3-4 days. At least part of the day. Samui or Krabi – Railay Beaches, will be much the same. Impossible to guess exactly.

  2. Hi I saw that you mentioned the weather usually follows a pattern for a section of time during rainy season. I was there a couple of weeks ago and wanted to come back to relax and end my trip in two days from now (June 1-3). I only have two days though and I was wondering if you could fill me in on what the pattern has been recently to see if its worth the trip. Thanks!

  3. Hi, we are going to Krabi at the end of July and staying in Tonsai bay somewhere close to Railay beach.

    How is it with transport and quite season? Could we have a trouble with transport to get in and out of our accomodation resort because of the bad weather. I red somewhere that if the weather is so bad the long tail boat are closed.

    what about the snorkling and swimming in the sea in July? is the sea rough?

    We would like to do some canoe trips also, is it dangereous as the weather is not stable?

    Should I wear or always pack some waterproof jacket and trousers with me?

    If you find the time to answer on my question I would appreciate. Thank a lot mate.

  4. We will be in Ao Nang between 27th and 30th of June (next week). How is the weather there now and what is the forecast for next week. I have been reading in the news that Bangkok (and Thailand in general) has been receiving heavy rainfall. Please tell us how it looks in Krabi for travel right now and next week. Thanks.

  5. thank you for your article, very interesting!! we are now (1st agust) in Ko Phangan and we will arrive in Krabi on 3th agust till 7th agust, how is it the weather now, is it raining a lot? And wich is the best way to get Railay West, we are 2 adults and a child, and we will arrive at Krabi airport at 13.00. thanks a lot! ele

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Things to do in Krabi, Thailand 2017