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Railay Beach (or Rai Ley) is a picturesque beach in Thailand located on a peninsula that is only accessed by boat. Many people believe it’s an island because they arrive by boat, but it’s the massive rocks that block access by land.
There are so many things to do in Railay Beach:
- Rock climbers flock to this beach to test their skills and to enjoy the view.
- Tourists visit to enjoy the sun and take photos.
- Of course, Thai vacationers from the city fly here for the weekend!
Railay Beach is unique. There are few places on Earth like it. The rocks that emerge from the sea make it appear as a magical place.
This beach, along with others in SE Asia are often seen in movies, television shows, and magazines.
Have you seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach? Railay Beach isn’t the same beach as Ko Phi Phi Leh (it’s an island not far from Railay), but it’s eerily similar!
Where Is Railay Beach, Thailand?
Railay Beach is located in the Southwest of Thailand. On a map, you’ll see a thin piece of Thailand that separates the Gulf of Thailand from the Andaman Sea.
Eventually, the long strip of Thailand turns into Malaysia.
Railay Beach is not far to Phuket (a more popular tourist destination) and ferries are available to take you across the Andaman Sea. If you’re a backpacker ferrying to the various beaches in the South of Thailand is an inexpensive way to see many places!
Getting To Railay Beach
While the ferry option is recommended from Phuket (1.5 hours by speedboat – add a few hours by ferry), most people reach Railay Beach by flying to Krabi Airport.
There are several flights per day from Bangkok on Air Asia and roundtrip tickets are usually around $100.
On arrival to the small airport, you can arrange a taxi or bus to the coast (40 minutes).
Once you arrive at the coast, boats are regularly leaving Krabi to Railay Beach (15 minutes – there are boats to other nearby islands also). It’s inexpensive and the boat ride provides a beautiful view.
Once at Railay Beach, you won’t need transportation because everything is walkable (it’s a small place). There are boats that offer sunset cruises, diving, and visits to nearby islands.
7 Things To Do In Railay Beach
1. Soak Up The Sun
Days spent on Railay Beach should be under the sun. The beach is beautiful with stunning views of rocks that surround the bay.
There are few waves, so swimming is easy but beware, some of the rocks on the bottom of the sea can cut your feet.
>>read my Must-Have Beach Items list
I’m sure there was excellent snorkeling at Railay Beach decades ago, however, with the amount of tourism the water isn’t as pristine as it once was. Regardless, the beach is amazing and you’ll find people in the water, taking selfies all day!
In the evening, return to the beach for sunset photos with your friends.
2. Discover The Caves
One of the easiest walks on the peninsula is the Diamond Cave Tham Phra Nang Nai. It’s located on the northeast part of the peninsula and is visited less than the other attractions.
If you’re spending a few days in Railay Beach, be sure to walk here and enjoy the cool caves within. There are lights and it’s a beautiful, yet short walk that takes you away from the crowds of tourist.
You might even see wildlife (monkeys, birds, and more).
The more popular cave destination is the Princess Cave which is unique to say the least. Not kid-friendly (phallus shrine) but a lot of people take photos there.
3. Climb To The Overlook
There’s a famous photo spot in Railay Beach that overlooks the peninsula. Chances are, someone you know has this photo!
It is a short but steep climb and not easy to reach, especially during the rainy season. Be prepared to have sore muscles the following day
Wear shoes and know that you’ll get muddy. Here is my photo from this well-known overlook.
4. Rent Kayaks and Snorkel Gear
On Railay Beach you find snorkel and kayak rentals. Spend an afternoon kayaking around the peninsula and discover your own private beach.
I used the kayak to visit Phra Nang Beach as well (see #7). Kayaking ends up being a faster trip than walking south to Phra Nang.
While kayaking, I also snorkeled, however, most of the reefs were dead. There is still plenty to see, but don’t expect the magnificent coral reefs that were once there. Tourism takes a toll on the environment.
5. Take A Boat Ride To Other Islands
It only takes 1-2 days to walk around Railay Beach.
If you want to spend another island, walk on Railay Beach and you’ll find boats lined up that will take you to other nearby islands for snorkeling, sunsets, and more. Talk to a local and they tell you how to buy a ticket.
Boat trips to islands are usually sold as half-day or full-day trips. Chicken Island (Koh Kai) is a popular day trip and people really want photos of the island that resembles a chicken.
Don’t forget to pack some snacks and sunscreen!
6. Rock Climbing
Railay Beach is famous for rock climbing. Serious climbers trek here from all over the world to enjoy the combination of climbing at the beach (there are few places you can do this).
If you’re a seasoned climber, you know what Railay Beach has to offer. There is plenty of equipment for rent for all levels of climbing.
Amateurs can also to take part while they visit the beach and there are plenty of tourist climbing options as well. Learn to climb on easier verticals or watch friends climb while you spot them.
7. Explore Hidden Beaches On The Peninsula
Railay isn’t the only accessible beach. Walk to the eastern side of the peninsula and you’ll find a trail running south. Follow that trail and you’ll come end up south of Railay Beach at a entirely new beach!
Phra Nang Beach.
The two beaches are separated by, you guessed it, large rocks. At Phra Nang Beach you’ll have a new view and you can swim out to Ko Rang Nok (one of the rocks).
There are boat shops selling food and drinks and when I visited there were plenty of other beachgoers (it’s not exactly a secret).
You might be wondering “what about the eastern side of the peninsula?” While there is water, it lacks a beach. It is more of a docking area with large changes in tide.
Outside of visiting a few nice restaurants, I spent most of my time on the western side of the peninsula.
Where To Stay In Railay Beach
For such a small, walkable area, Railay Beach has a large selection of hotels. I want to point out that although there might be very nice hotels on the eastern side, I highly recommend staying on the western side where the best views and swimming areas are.
I stayed at the Railay Bay Resort and Spa, which is one of the larger hotels, spread out on the southwestern side of the beach.
The Railay Bay Resort included breakfast and dining took place next to the pool, which has a spectacular view of the ocean. The pool was amazing and they had a nice bar to cool you down in the sun.
It’s not cheap, but the value is good given the location and views (note that most rooms will not have a view).
The Railay Village Resort is also on Railay Beach and offers a high-end stay with privacy. It is another good option to consider if you value proximity to the beach.
For those on a budget and who aren’t worried about a prime location (everything is walkable in Railay) Avatar Railay Krabi is affordable, clean, and classy. Just remember it’s on the less scenic eastern side and it is adults only!
Restaurants In Railay Beach
There are plenty of restaurants in Railay Beach. You can even take cooking classes if you want to learn to make spicy Thai food!
While I didn’t recommend the eastern side of the peninsula for hotels, I would recommend it for dining. There are several food options that offer good food at a reasonable price.
I recommend taking a walk through “main street” Railay Beach, which runs east to west. You’ll find many dining options and most offer fresh caught seafood.
Railay Family Restaurant (Tripadvisor review) was delicious and there were several similar restaurants nearby.
Whether it’s Thai, Indian, pizza, or vegan, you’ll find something that satisfied your appetite!
Railay Beach is a magical place. Although it seems like you’re on an island, it’s actually a peninusal most-easily reached by boat.
Tourists love taking memorable Instagram photos.
Rock climbers flock there to challenge their skills.
Thai citizens visit for holidays to appreciate the wonders of their country .
If you’re fortunate enough to visit Railay Beach you’ll likely arrive from Phuket (via ferry) or from Krabi (via flight). The logistics of switching from plane to taxi to boat seems tricky, but it’s easy and inexpensive.
More than likely, you’ll meet other people making the same trip as you!
Once you’ve arrived, take time to walk around. The area can be walked in a few hours and there are caves, hidden beaches, and overlooks to capture stunning photos.
Day trips can be taken via boat or feel free to explore on your own and rent a kayak. For such a small area there are plenty of things to do.
I think a weekend is sufficient but I’m sure some people arrived and decided never to to leave. Enjoy Railay Beach!