A GUIDE TO VISITING RAILAY
The soaring cliffs and pristine beaches of Railay, Thailand have hovered near the top of my travel ‘wish list’ for years.
Every time I saw photos, I couldn’t believe it was a real place.
It appeared to be actual paradise.
When planning my jaunt around the Thai islands, Railay was a must-visit. I was so keen to visit, I didn’t even consider staying in Krabi town or Ao Nang and day tripping to Railay- I had to stay in Railay for full vibes.
Luckily, there are a few resorts that aren’t too overpriced in East Railay. I stayed at the Railay Phutawan Resort, choosing to spend a bit more than I normally would.
The hotel was okay, but nothing spectacular. Breakfast was your typical buffet variety, the pool bar and restaurant were standard island fare, and most of the rooms seemed to be a bit run down. I upgraded to a new room for only a few extra dollars a night, which was 100% worth it for the comfort.
The only other thing I wasn’t wild about at the resort was the 10 minute walk to town. During the day, no problem but at night, it’s a walk down a pretty dark and deserted pathway.
All said though, it’s nicer than some of the other properties in East Railay and affordable.
If you can afford the splurge, staying at the Rayavadee would be an absolute dream.
Many people actually think Railay is an island, but it’s actually part of mainland Thailand.
It is, however, difficult to reach. Because of the cliffs and dense jungle, you can only access Railay East or West by taking a long tail boat.
The isolated location lends an island feel, which manifests as secluded relaxation.
To get to Railay, assuming you fly into Krabi, you’ll take an airport shuttle bus (200 baht) to either the Ao Nammao or Ao Nang pier. Ao Nammao goes directly to Railay East with long tails leaving hourly (100 baht). Ao Nang goes to Railay West with boats leaving once they’re near full (~8 people).
There’s no pier at Railay West, so be prepared to wade through shallow water to get to the shore from the boat. If you need help with luggage, the boat driver may help, but it’s best to pack light.
If you’re coming into Railay East, you’ll walk down a long, floating pier to get to land. Not the most stable effort, but I appreciated keeping dry.
Regardless of which side you stay on, walking from one side to the other is easy and shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes from any starting point.
If you’re staying in Railay, you’ll love having the flexibility of going to the beach early morning or for sunset, before/after the tour groups arrive and depart.
What else is there to do in Railay?
I wished I’d had a guide to visiting Railay before I ventured there, it would have put some of my concerns at ease, and helped me plan my trip a bit better than just ‘show up and figure it out’.
A Guide to Visiting Railay
- Go for a morning walk on Railay Beach (west) or Phra Nang Beach before the crowds arrive. With the long tails bobbing, this is a seriously serene way to wake up
- Note: There isn’t a beach in Railay East. So, whenever you hear/see Railay Beach, people are referring to the west side
- Rent a kayak and paddle around the shoreline and limestone karats: An hour rental should cost 200 baht, make sure you take a dry bag with you to keep things safe from the water
- Sign up for rock climbing: With more than 600 routes, Railay is home to some of the world’s best rock climbing. You can sign up to climb at any of the stalls offering it in Railay town or at your hotel if they offer it. That was one of my favourite parts of staying at Phutawan- one of the island’s rock climbing courses is on the cliffside towering over the hotel, so cool to watch climbers scale the surface!
- Hike to the Railay viewpoint: I didn’t attempt this, the hike is actually closer to a very steep climb in mud/rock with nothing to hold onto but a flimsy rope. I saw photos of the viewpoint from the top and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. But, if adrenaline climbing is your speed, the entrance to the climb can be found on the rock path to Phra Nang Beach
- Visit Phra Nang Beach: A stunning beach accessible by a separate trail than Railay beach (head through town to find it), this is one of the most beautiful beaches I saw in Thailand. Mangroves, caves, stunning limestone carats. It’s incredible. Visit during the day to relax, and again at night to watch the sun set
- Tip: There are lots of bars in town and Railay East, but cocktails are pretty expensive and sub-par for what you get (in my opinion). Instead, if you want to have a drink while watching the sun set, I’d check out the Boat Bar- you can grab a takeaway beer to sip on the beach. If you’re set at having cocktails at a bar, check out Tew Lay- beautiful view
- Don’t miss Phra Nang Cave when you visit the beach: It’s a cave with two entrances, both filled with penis carvings. The carvings are put there by fishermen and symbolise an offering to Phra Nang, a goddess who helps ensure safe travel at sea
- Wander over to Ton Sai Beach for a bit of quiet: Less frequented than Railay West or Phra Nang, Ton Sai is accessible through a jungle path north of Railay West, or by walking around the rocky cliff that separates it from Railay West during low tide
- Do a day trip or two: Can’t recommend visiting the Hong Islands enough (gorgeous!), and I’ve heard great things about the four islands boat trip as well- visiting Chicken Island, Poda Island, Tup Island and Koh Mawr
- To do one of these trips, you can join an organised tour or rent your own long tail or speedboat. I chose to rent my own long tail because it was only 30 GBP more than the group tour with 40+ people. This meant we left an hour and a half before the group tour, and had flexibility in when we left places so it was easier to avoid the crowds. A splurge, but one that ensured my day was relaxed and beautiful
- Finally, don’t expect much by way of food. I’ve heard Rayavadee is outstanding, but the rest of Railay is what you’d expect for a Thai island- overpriced and mediocre. I ate at Flametree twice, their pizza isn’t bad but there’s much better food elsewhere in Thailand. Important to note I may have struggled more than most people do with food- more so than anywhere else in Thailand, I spotted cashews in everything. With Railay being so secluded, there being a language barrier and my allergy being so serious, I decided to stick to ‘safe foods’ even if it meant defaulting to Western eats. Even though I wasn’t impressed by the food or drinks (a theme that held true throughout the Thai islands), it’s worth giving Railay town a wander- it’s surprisingly chill, with the sound of Bob Marley in the distance and faint smell of Cannabis in the air, you may momentarily think you’re in Jamaica
Is there anything you’d add to this guide to visiting Railay? Have you been to any of the other Thai islands?
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