Railay is a true gem in Thailand. Located on the Andaman Coast, it’s nestled amongst dramatic limestone cliffs and surrounded by stunning coastline. It boasts an array of beautiful beaches, including one of the most picturesque beaches in the entire country- Phra Nang Beach. Railay is also a popular spot for rock climbing, rappelling, hiking, and diving.
There’s a variety of accommodation options for every budget in Railay, but I can only comment on the hotel that I stayed at- Diamond Cave Resort at Railay East. It’s a basic resort style hotel with bungalows, a pool, and a restaurant on site. My room had a mini fridge, air conditioning, hot shower, TV, and a large, comfortable bed. After staying in very basic accommodations in Koh Phangan and Khao Sok National Park, the amenities at this hotel made me feel like I was staying The Four Seasons. I’ve read quite a few negative reviews online, but I enjoyed my stay there.If you’re heading to Railay and trying to decide which beach to stay at, read below for a comparison and short summary of each.
Railay East has the most accommodation options and offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars. The water recedes at low tide and the surrounding mangroves make the beach fairly inaccessible, but Phra Nang Beach and Railay West are both an easy 10 minute walk away via a paved walkway. (On the walk from Railay East to Phra Nang Beach, you will pass an area where a number of inquisitive and rambunctious monkeys tend to hang around and terrorize unsuspecting visitors.)
The Last Bar is a lively place to have drink or watch a Muay Thai Fight in the evenings, and the restaurant serves delicious Thai (and international) dishes.
Choose Railay East if:
- You’re looking for budget or mid-range accommodations
- You want the convenience of being within short walking distance of a large selection of restaurants, shops, and cafes
- You want to experience Railay’s nightlife
Railay West boasts the largest beach and is beautifully set amongst limestone karsts. I noticed some higher-end resorts along the beachfront, along with an area of restaurants, shops, and bars nearby.
I only ventured to Railay West in the evenings, so I’m not sure how crowded the beach is during the day. (Apparently it’s an arrival and departure point for longtail boats from Ao Nang, so it can be quite lively in the afternoon). In the evenings, it was fairly busy, but not overly crowded (I visited during the high season). There are spectacular sunsets at this beach, which is why I made sure to visit each night.
Choose Railay West if:
- You want to stay at a higher-end beachfront property or a mid-range guesthouse
- You want higher quality dining options
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang Beach is often referred to as one of the best beaches in Thailand, and after visiting, I wholly agree. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and the location is beyond stunning. With powdery, white sand, crystal clear azure water, and limestone karsts and cliffs surrounding the beach, you couldn’t ask for a more spectacular setting.
I was told food stalls were banned from the beach, so longtail boats anchor near the shoreline and offer food and drinks instead. The boats serve everything from western style burgers to pad thai, fruit smoothies, and fresh coconuts.
The only resort at Phra Nang Beach is Rayavadee Resort- which is a pricey and luxurious hotel.
Tonsai Beach is located next to Railay West, and is often the destination of choice for serious rock climbers- as rock climbing is the main activity here. This beach boasts the most budget accommodation options and has a chilled, hippie vibe.
Choose Tonsai Beach if:
- You want to stay at a less developed, less crowded beach
- You want the best rock climbing spots
- You want cheap accommodation options
How to get there: Railay is only accessible by boat, with departures from Chao Fah pier in Krabi throughout the day, longtail boats departing from Ao Nang, and a speedboat departing daily from Koh Phi Phi. Check Travelfish for more detailed information and prices.
All four beaches are connected by walkways and trails (Source)
Check out the infographic I made for a quick and easy to read comparison of the beaches.
Gorgeous! I’ve never been out to Railay just because I figured it would be super touristy and crowded. From your photos though it doesn’t look like many people were there! Will have to reconsider this for next time 😉
Phra Nang Beach did get quite busy in the afternoons, but I didn’t find it to be overly crowded. Hopefully you visit because I think it’s definitely worthwhile! 🙂
Nice succinct guide. I stayed on Railay West in the low season (we still had great weather, thank goodness) at Sand Sea Resort and our bungalow was only about $65/night which was great (especially after splitting it with the boyfriend) since we had a huge room, ridiculous bathtub, air condition, and breakfast included. We walked down the path to Railay East, all the bars and restaurants, and Phra Nang. It was a great deal, and awesome to be able to walk out onto those beaches.
Thank you, Rachel! $65 sounds like a steal for those accommodations! I would be curious to see how different Railay is in the off season- especially if the weather was still great.
Love this breakdown of the beach options at Railay! I visited back in 2010 for one day/night and didn’t do much planning, so I only really saw Railay West beach. Time to go back!
Thank you, Erica! I hope you have the chance to revisit soon!
I love traveling specially to thailand, thank you for sharing