Rest at Railay: Krabi's Most Famous Beach
Krabi’s most famous beach has never lost its charm.
Over the years, Railay has risen from peaceful fishing village to a world-class tourist destination, thanks to its imposing limestone cliffs that shoot out of the crystal blue waters to tower over the white sandy beaches. The area of Railay is actually a large peninsula jutting out into the Andaman, but what makes this place truly place special is that it’s cut off from the rest of the mainland by a row of steep hills, which means you can only get there by boat.
Railay actually covers three beaches, each with its own distinctive character. Railay West is the longest, featuring white sand and shallow water. Though Railay West is ideal for sunbathing, do be warned that the southern-end, close to Rayavadee Resort (see Where to stay), is pretty rocky. Being also the most popular, you’ll find a collection of resorts, restaurants and beach bars serving visitors. At the northern-end of Railay West you’ll also find a tiny walking street where you can get cheaper street food like roti (a kind of pancake), noodles and basic Thai dishes. (Tip: do ask for the price before ordering, though.) Further north is Ton Sai Bay, a good spot for rock climbing and affordable rooms. Railay West, and Ton Sai, are at there most beautiful at sunset, when those steep cliffs are silhouetted against the sky.
Opposite Railay West is Railay East, which is actually really just part of a bigger mangrove swamp. This is usually the access way for long-tailed boats coming from Krabi and is where the budget accommodation options are situated. Though it’s not great for swimming, it’s the best place to catch a beautiful sunrise.
Sitting between Railay West and East is Phranang Beach, named after the cave containing a sacred Buddha image that can be found on this beach. A lot smaller than Railay West and East, Phranang is the best beach for swimming, with clean, white powdery sand and crystal clear, shallow water. The trouble is this does mean it gets very busy with day trippers from Ao Nang town, though most normally disappear around 5pm.
Scaling the Heights
The towering limestone karsts that dominate the landscape mean Railay is also a haven for rock climbers, and the area offers more than 700 different climbing trails and an annual Krabi Rock and Fire International Contest for rock climbers which this year will be hold on April 28-29.
Popular climbing spots include the cliffs on Phranang Beach and those bordering Ton Sai Bay, though many also try climbing some of the offshore karsts for a real challenge. For those who want to learn or get some local guidance, there are plenty of climbing schools in the area, We recommend Sea Cliffs (084-629-2173, www.railayrockclimbing.com) and Hot Rock (085-641-9842, www.railayadventure.com).
If you’re not into crampons and belays then you can still enjoy a panoramic view of the area by taking a jungle walk along a trail that starts next to Rayavadee Resort. It takes around 20-25 minutes and from the top you get a great view of a hidden lagoon and the surrounding area.
How to get there
To Krabi: Air Asia (www.airasia.com) and Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) fly direct between Bangkok and Krabi. A roundtrip ticket is approximately B3,500 and B5,500, respectively.
To Ao Nang: There’s a shuttle bus service to Ao Nang from the airport at B150/person.
To Railay: Railay is only accessible by boat. You can get a public long-tailed boat from Ao Nang Pier (B80/person) or Nam Mao Pier (B80-100/person) but if you don’t want to wait for them to fill up then you can rent one of your own for about B700/one-way. The boat ride takes around 15 minutes.
Where to stay
Resorts on West Railay, are more expensive but it’s worth it as you get a better view and a better beach. Rayavadee (from B12,000. 075-620-740, wwwrayavadee.com) is the best of the lot, and probably the most luxurious resort in Krabi. Its 102 two-storey cottages and villas are hidden underneath among a lush grove of coconut trees and feature lots of local woods and sophisticated textiles, inspired by traditional southern-Thai culture. The authentic Southern Thai food at the beachfront Krua Phranang Restaurant is also recommended. Rates are from B12,000 during a low season. For something more affordable, see Mercure Krabi Deevana, page 15.
• There are lots of monkeys around Phranang beach. Feeding animals is not recommended and do take care of your belongings as they sometimes snatch things.
• Always ask the price before ordering food outside of hotels to avoid any shocks when you get the bill.
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