Railay Beach is a stunning peninsula on the west coast of southern Thailand. It’s picturesque limestone cliffs make it only accessible from Krabi or Ao Nang by boat, even though it is attached to the mainland. It’s split up into three main parts, all accessible by walking. East Railay is where we stayed, and where you can find some cheaper accommodation and restaurants. West Railay is where you will find higher end accommodation on the shore of the nicest beach. Tonsai Beach is a short hike away and is a little more rustic, with bars looking more like wooden shacks and boasting more interesting menu items. Railay in general attracts a lot of climbers who want to try their hand at scaling the beautiful cliffs! It was a perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, and we loved being surrounded by the amazing scenery.
How to Get There
We took a long winded trip from Koh Tao directly to Railay Beach, and it took a full day. Our ticket included a taxi to the boat launch, our boat ride to Surat Thani, our bus ride to Krabi, and our longtail boat ride to Railay Beach. The whole package cost us 1200 baht, but after you add up the price of those individual trips it made sense, especially because we were guaranteed to get there in a day, with no risk of missing a transfer. Definitely look around though, because we found the same ticket at some places for 1600-1800 baht. The taxi left at 8:30am from the travel agent we booked at, and got to the pier at 9am. We got to the mainland on a Seatran Ferry (pretty comfy as long as you’re in the front; the back stunk of gas fumes) at 1:30pm.
Our bus (also Seatran) left at 2:30pm and got to Krabi at 5pm. At that point we had to switch into a minibus which took us the rest of the way to the longtail pier. We arrived at 5:30pm and got our tickets from a lady sitting at a booth. She also tried to sell us a bunch of stuff, and we ended up going for a room at Viewpoint Resort for 600 baht. Though she insisted it was cheaper to book through her, the price of a room if booked at the hotel was the same, and we might have been able to negotiate a discount in person. She also tried to sell us tickets to Koh Phi Phi for 450 baht, insisting that they cost 600 baht once you get to Railay Beach. Luckily we didn’t fall for that one, as we ended up getting tickets to Koh Phi Phi for 400 baht. The longtail boat left at 6:30pm and we arrived 5 mins later at a pier on East Railay to a beautiful sunset colouring the limestone cliffs.
If you’re arriving from Koh Phi Phi or any islands in the Andamans, you will arrive at West Railay on the beach. You’ll most likely get a bit wet up to your knees when you jump out. The trip between Koh Phi Phi and Railay takes between 1.5-2 hours and should cost no more than 400 baht.
Where to Stay
- Viewpoint Resort – This “resort” was one of the cheaper spots at on the peninsula at 600 baht, and we quickly found out why. It advertised free breakfast, but in the fine print breakfast was only free for the guests staying in the higher end accommodation (ie not us). Breakfast cost a whopping 120 baht each so we went elsewhere. The room was cozy enough, but we found about 7 cockroaches in our room over the 4 nights we stayed there. The shower in the bathroom was also very hit or miss, sometimes not spraying any water at all, and sometimes alternating between boiling hot and freezing cold every minute or so. It did have a nice pool however, which we used a lot. We would not reccommend this place, but if you’re looking for a deal, stick to East Railay or Tonsai! You can book places in Railay Beach here, or in Tonsai Beach here.
What to Do
- Deep Water Soloing – NOTE: Deepwater soloing was been banned in Railay Beach and surrounding areas in February of 2016. However, normal sport and lead climbing is still available, so make sure to still check out the climbing scene! Railay Beach is a climbing hotspot, and deep water soloing is the most fun way to do it. We booked through Tonsai Basecamp at Tonsai Beach which cost 800 baht for a fun day of climbing. We were picked up at West Railay in a long boat and taken to our first climbing site. Our guides were locals and were very knowledgeable, and they came equipped with sheets outlining different climbing routes and their difficulties. You start by either catching a kayak over, or swimming yourself, and climbing a short ladder to the rock. The issue with swimming is that your hands get wet and slippery, making it harder to grip the rock. Either way at some point you get wet, as the only way down is to jump into the turquoise water below! We headed over to a beach cove for our included lunch of chicken and fried rice once we were all tired out. There was a small cave to climb in while we relaxed, as well as snorkel gear and a Frisbee to play with. Our second climb after lunch was called Spiderman, and it was an easier climb, but much higher. Jumping/falling into the water after your climb was basically a cliff jump! Once we all had our fill we headed back to the mainland, arriving at 3pm. The day was well spent climbing amazing cliff faces over a stunning backdrop.
- Tonsai Beach – Make sure to check out Tonsai even if you’re not staying there. Though the beach isn’t as nice, it’s basically deserted. There’s a fun bar right on the beach with some games to play, and there’s a ladder beside leading up to an overhang that gives you a great view of the cliffs on either side. If you’re so inclined you can indulge in some mushroom shakes offered at the shadier bars. It’s a 5 minute walk though a trail accessible from the north end of the beach at West Railay. You can also walk through a back trail between East Railay and Tonsai, but it’s almost completely overgrown and we do not recommend it.
- Walking Street – Running East/West is the main walking street. Most of the cool shops are clustered near West Railay beach. There are lots of stands offering smoothies and other goodies. If you walk farther inland you will find cheaper restaurants as well.
Where to Eat
- Mom’s Restaurant – A cheaper restaurant with good thai and western style food. We went here often and it had a pretty tasty breakfast. It’s located along the main boardwalk at East Railay.
- Railay Family Restaurant – We got breakfast here a few times as well. It’s cheap compared to most restaurants on the peninsula, and it also had wifi and free nuts when you ordered a meal. It’s located between East and West Railay.
- Mangrove Restaurant – Also between East and West Railay, this restaurant offered a good selection of yummy Thai food, and it was cheap. Worth checking out.
- Mama’s Chicken – North in the more jungly area of Tonsai is a great chicken place called Mama’s Chicken. Alex had an amazing crispy chicken sandwich there, and we both had great fresh fruit shakes.
- Bamboo Bar – Just past the main clump of shops and restaurants on the Walking Street you’ll find a yellow, red and green hut with some tables gathered around it. Bamboo bar was a really fun drinking spot, playing rasta music and supplying fun games of Connect 4 and Jenga. Drinks weren’t necessarily cheap, but they were reasonably priced.