Our last stop on our first Southeast Asian adventure, Railay Peninsula in Krabi province, blew our minds. After traveling for five months, we were completely out of energy. Thus, choosing well where to stay in Railay Beach was essential. We’ve been back to Railay several times now. The last time we spent 10 amazing days! We tried different hotels around the area.
The main reason to choose considerably costlier Railay West over Railay East is that hotels are directly on a spectacular beach. Since mangroves cover the sea in Railay East completely, there isn’t much of a beach. Though isolated Phra Nang Beach is another option, the only hotel there is too expensive. Tonsai Beach is a bit isolated too, but has a wider range of hotels.
How to Get to Railay Beach
Getting to Railay Beach can be challenging. Although we are talking about a peninsula, not an island, it is cut off from the rest of the province by several sharp rising limestone cliffs. The impressive landscape makes getting there a bit more complicated. The only way to access the area is through long-tail boats and sometimes you need to step into the water to board them. Additionally, big waves are frequent, so there is a great probability of getting completely wet.
Remember to bring isolated luggage, or at least cover well your electronic devices and documents. Most long-tail boats depart from Ao Nang Beach and arrive in Railay West, Phra Nang, and Tonsai Beach. However, to get to Railay Beach East, you have is to take the long-tail boats that depart from Krabi Town.
If you are coming from Phuket you can book a direct ferry here.
What is Railay Peninsula Like
Railay Peninsula is like a fairytale land. Due to its isolation from the mainland, and the lack of a permanent police station, it has a very relaxed and calm atmosphere. In the interior and on the eastern coast, there are several cool bars and restaurants and even a disco with fire jongleurs and a DJ.
But what makes it different from the rest of the party destinations is that it is fairly easy to leave the evening hassle and emerge to the silence in the backyard of your resort. Picture that with hundreds of monkeys walking freely and several caves and scenic paths allowing you to explore nature.
Where to Stay in Railay (Beach)
When we talk about Railay Beach we refer to Railay West. This is the main beach on the peninsula and the one with the most breathtaking surroundings. For us, it’s the best place to stay in Railay Beach, since we love being directly on the beach. The downside of Railay West beach is that it can get overcrowded, especially when tourists arrive on day trips.
There are hotels and restaurants pretty much all along the beach, but none of them offer reclining beds or sun shades. Nevertheless, there are plenty of trees to hide from the sun. Impressive tall mountains tower above the beach on both the north and south ends.
Railay West Beach Hotels and Resorts
In Railay West, there are several beach hotels and resorts. We stayed at the wonderful Sand Sea Resort south of the main path that connects Railay West to Railay East. It is probably the best value for money on the whole peninsula. Their spacious rooms with comfy beds are set along a lush garden. In addition, there is a large swimming pool and a restaurant in front of the sea. We loved having lunch and sipping cocktails on their deckchairs directly on the beach.
If you are looking for a bit more luxury, book a room at the Rayavadee, one of the best hotels on Railay beach. The hotel is within the jungle to the south of the Beach and even houses a small cave.
On the opposite side of the island, we find Railay East. It’s a popular place to hang out and most tourists stay here. As we mentioned above, there is no real beach since mangroves bock access to the water. Nevertheless, during the dry season, the sea moves away and reveals short stretches of the beach. Thus, perhaps you should visit during that period.
Most bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are here, and the noise is part of everyday life! Therefore we don’t recommend staying here, in spite of the low prices. We do recommend its lively bars, especially Skunk Bar, our favorite in Railay!
Railay East Hotels
Though we don’t recommend staying in Railay East, there are a couple of interesting options to consider. Our favorite hotel is the Bhu Nga Thani Resort & Spa. It’s next to the pier, but very quiet. The rooms are plush and huge. Most have splendid views to the sea and the karst mountains.
The Railay Princess Resort & Spa is next door. The hotel has two huge pools and a gym. The infinity one on the rooftop offers some of the best views in Railay. Every room has a balcony with views of the sea or the mountains. Go for the deluxe one for extra space and a tub!
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang Beach occupies the southern end of the Railay peninsula. It is a long sandy beach with high limestone cliffs all around providing natural shade. Most of the caves are here, including the famous Phra Nang Cave (Princess Cave). Dedicated to an ancient fertility goddess, it is popular among rock climbers. The water is warm, clear, and not especially deep.
The two small islands in front, Koh Rang Nok and Koh Rang Nai, lend an additional charm to this beautiful beach. Besides, when the tide is low, you can even walk to the islands. The only downside is that many day trips arrive here, so it can be very crowded. You can walk to Phra Nang beach from Railay East.
Phra Nang Beach Hotels
Phra Nang Beach is not full of hotels. In fact, there’s only one, which is not really a hotel. We are talking about two villas owned by the abovementioned Rayavadee Resort. Commonly known as Cowrie Villas, they include two three-bedroom units: Macaque and Languor Villa. It’s perfect for families since they offer activities for children and plenty of space in private gardens, right in front of the beach.
Because of their secluded location, guests may order food from Krabi or dine at the Rayavadee Resort. Both villas include a butler, villa manager, and a concierge.
On your way to Railay beach, you’ll spot another isolated sandy beach. This one is Tonsai Beach. Two limestone cliffs isolate the beach completely off from both the mainland and Railay beach. To get to the beach you have to hop on a long tail boat from Ao Nang or walk from Railay. However, take note that the path from Railay West is only accessible when the tide is low.
There is one other option a lot of people miss: a jungle path connects Tonsai with Railway East. There aren’t many bars and restaurants here, and most massive day trips don’t stop either, thus it’s a relatively quiet beach. Just like Phra Nang Beach, it is popular among rock climbers. Bear in mind that during low tide rocks cover the beach.
Tonsai Beach Hotels
Tonsai Beach hosts several nice hotels, but most of them are close to the hills, away from the beach. That said, there is one hotel next to the beach: the Tonsai Bay Resort. Slightly more modest than the resorts on Railay west, it is nevertheless a great place to stay. They offer comfortable rooms overlooking a nice garden, and a restaurant right in front of the beach.
Another decent option on Tonsai Beach is the Dream Valley Resort Krabi. Located close to the tall limestone cliffs, its rooms are big and have balconies. Its highlight is the large swimming pool with outstanding views of the surrounding hills.
In the Middle of Railay
As mentioned, we love the beach. However, the middle of the peninsula is beautiful too. You step out of the coast inland and feel in the middle of the jungle! Besides, there are fewer tourists and many monkeys! You can see them dangling from the tall trees.
We believe that up the slope of the hill is the best area to stay in the middle of Railay. You get to enjoy breathtaking views. You will have to walk a little bit, but the views and the peace are worth it. Note that the entire area is safe. You’ve got nothing to worry about!
Hotels in the Middle of Railay
A great place far from the noise is the Railay Phutawan Resort. Since it’s on the hill in the middle of the forest, it offers incredible views of the area. Once again, the jungle surrounds the hotel, and there is an infinity pool overlooking the peninsula.
The hotel is the only one we recommend in the middle of the forest. To get to the others you have to climb way too much, and they are not that great. Besides it has its own tuk-tuk to take you everywhere. Stay here if you don’t like crowds.
Other Accommodation Near Railay Beach
Railay Great View Resort
The gorgeous Railay Great View Resort is within the jungle, 10 minutes on foot from the main area. It offers large bungalows, a swimming pool with panoramic views, and a private beach (though only during dry season). The grand deluxe cottages are massive and have a balcony with unforgettable views.
The hotel is great value for money. You can’t get a better deal for a sea view bungalow! We like it because it has no neighbors. Thus, nature is all around. It’s the only one with views of the other side of the bay. You have to walk a bit, but it’s worth it. The restaurant is pretty good!
Pai Plong Beach Hotel – Centara Grand
Though not technically on Railay Peninsula, Pai Plong Beach is part of the same landscape. The beach is isolated from the rest of Railay, so you need to hire a boat to get there. You can walk to Ao Nang Beach through the jungle. The beach is semi-private since it belongs to the wonderful Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Krabi.
You can visit Pai Plong Beach even if you don’t stay at the hotel, but you have to register with the security staff. The hotel is undoubtedly one of the best accommodation options in the entire Railay beach area. It has everything you need: a swimming pool, a huge garden, and direct access to the beach. Actually, it is the only hotel in the area with chairs and tables directly on the beach.
Ao Nang Beach Hotels
Ao Nang has some of the best beach hotels in the country. The beach is long and sandy. Since there are no rocks in the sea, it’s perfect for swimming. The first time we visited, we stayed at the Golden Beach Resort. The beachfront property has a pool and plush rooms with sea views. It’s near everything, and yet so quiet.
However, the Krabi Resort is by far the best hotel in Ao Nang. We spent a whole week there! It’s the only one directly on the beach. The garden is one of the biggest and most beautiful we’ve seen anywhere. Though close to everything, you feel in the middle of the jungle! The rooms are luxurious and big.
Day Trips and Tours from Railay Beach
Another good reason to visit Railay Beach is the variety of excursions offered there. Most include visiting several karst islands, including the famous Maya beach on Ko Phi Phi, Khao Phing Kan in Phang Nga Bay, Koh Yao Noi, swimming in the ocean, kayaking, snorkeling, and even scuba diving.
For those of you how are not fans of excursions overcrowded with tourists, it is possible to organize individual tours, though at a price. The islands are absolutely gorgeous, with an equally impressive sea flora and fauna. The three most popular day trips are Railay Beach to Koh Phi Phi, the Hong Island, and the 4 Island Tour.
Best Time to Visit Krabi and Railay
Railay Peninsula has some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. Considering we are talking about Thailand, you can expect it to be packed with tourists. If you are not crazy about too much sun burning, the best time to visit Krabi and Railay is during the rainy season (July and August), since there are not that many people in the area.
Even though the ocean is polluted, at least it has avoided the massive prostitution and heavy parties that plague other Thai destinations. The breathtaking scenery, outstanding nature, and a relaxed vibe are more than enough of a reason to visit this little piece of heaven. No wonder rock climbers consider it their own private paradise.
Also check this guide of the best places to stay in Krabi
Railay Peninsula Map