A Day on Railay Beach in Krabi
Railay Beach is by far the most popular destination in Krabi. Despite the fact that you need to ride a longtail boat to get to the Railay, the place is busier than any other beach in the province. You also need to now that what is called ‘Railay Beach’ often refers to a group of beaches that include Railay West, Railay East and Phra Nang Beach. So what makes this Railay Beach so popular and what can you expect to find there.
The Beaches of Railay
Once you know that Railay is actually a cluster of beaches, it’s easier to understand its geography. The 3 beaches are connected by a series of small alleys so you don’t need to ride a boat to go from Railay West to the scenic Phra Nang beach as people often believe.
Railay West is where your boat will drop you from Ao Nang. It’s a vast and beautiful beach with an incredibly soft sand, surrounded by majestic limestone cliffs. All along this immense beach are hotels, bars and restaurants. This is probably where you should pick your hotel if you chose to sleep over. Most restaurants and bars have very welcoming terraces overlooking the bay, so it’s really easy to pick one for lunch. Don’t expect to find real local Thai food here though, it’s quite average.
Railay East is not a beach, it’s a muddy mangrove-lined by a narrow concrete path that sometimes barely allows 2 people to walk side by side. There are some new attractive hotels on this side of the bay but you need to know that there is no sand here, just mud and mangrove. The place often smells of mud or garbage. This bay has a few bars, restaurants and shops. Anyway, the beach is never far: the alleys that connect Railay East to Railay West are very short, so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The large majority of the rooms in Railay don’t have any sea view rooms anyway.
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang is a narrow but very scenic beach with an immense limestone rock standing tall in front of it. This beautiful crescent of soft white sand is where the famous Phra Nang cave is also located. There are no shops, bars or restaurants on this beach as it is entirely occupied by the exclusive Rayavadee Resort. Resourceful businesses found a smart solution to this: a few longtails boats converted into floating bars spend the day anchored on the beach, selling all kinds of beer, soft drinks and fruit juices.
Phra Nang Cave
Phra Nang Cave is famous for sheltering hundred wood phallic artifacts brought here by fishermen for good fortune (apparently Phra Nang was an Indian princess who died in a shipwreck or the wife of a fisherman who died at sea). The cave is not very large nor very deep, but there is always a crowd taking photos and selfies (with poses ranging from slightly disrespectful to plain obscene). Swimming in the shade of the karst cliffs seems to be the next popular thing to do next to the cave.
How to Get to Railay
You need to catch a longtail boat from Ao Nang Beach. The price per person for a return ticket is 200 baht. You will spot the signboards or the booth selling tickets very easily along Ao Nang beach so it’s no worries. The boats leave when there are 10 passengers on board. This is valid both ways. Usually you won’t have to wait too long for the boat to fill.
Where to Sleep, Eat and Drink
Railay is now a small touristic village that reminds a bit of Phi Phi island. Lots of small mid-range hotels occupy the beachfront of Railay West. If you want to experience something a little more sophisticated (and of course more expensive), try the Rayavadee resort on Phra Nang Beach. Rayavadee is also famous for its ‘dinner in a beach cave’. Staying overnight is a great way to see a different Railay and have the beaches for yourself, without the day trip crowds.
Everywhere you will find lots of bars and beach restaurants serving a tourist version of Thai food. Once you pick a restaurant for your lunch or dinner, just remember that life move slower in Krabi, and it might take a long time before you get served.
Strangely there are a lot of Reggae bars, just like on any tourist destination in Thailand. Apparently Reggae bars and tropical beaches can’t live separately. I wonder if bars say ‘Thai Bar’ in the Caribbean islands.
What to Do in Railay
On the beaches, you will be able to rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. These are a great easy way to gently glide around the limestone cliffs and get some different photos. After snorkelling, rock climbing is probably the most popular activity. With immense vertical limestone cliffs overlooking incredible turquoise sea panoramas, rock climbing is particularly rewarding. Climbing schools are well equipped, well-trained and very affordable. Weirdly we also found a shooting range but we didn’t go in to see how this works.
Shopping in Railay
There are of course a lot of convenience stores and you will find all those daily travel things you forgot but also beers and drinks at a cheaper price than bars. Convenience stores are known to have the best air con system in Thailand since they realized that people often would just come in to cool down and well since you are in here, how about an ice cream!
You will even find a couple of clinics, ATM machines, tattoo shops, tailors and even a shooting range! There are a lot of tour counters sell all kinds of activities and day trips tours. Tours usually include the 4 must-see islands nearby: Koh Poda, Koh Kai and its iconic chicken head shape.