Sometimes spelled Raileh or Railey -- the first views of Railay, Thailand, never fail to spark a spirit of adventure inside visitors who have just arrived. The famous, jagged limestone rock formations jutting straight from the water provide the feeling that you are indeed someplace exotic and special.
Wild caves along the main paths, monkeys, sea cliffs, and verdant jungle backdrops provide plenty of memorable photos and adventures. A lack of motorbikes and tuk-tuks help maintain the serenity.
Railay is a world-famous rock climbing destination, however, even if you prefer your feet on the ground you can enjoy the impressive scenery and one of the softest sand beaches in Thailand!
What to Expect
You'll find a relaxed, island vibe in Railay where climbers and backpackers mix with daytrippers and even luxury travelers. Unlike Phuket or Koh Phi Phi, there isn't much nightlife in Railay save for a few Bob Marley bars and an occasional party with fire show.
Because there is no pier or jetty, all supplies must be brought into Railay by small boat and then carried ashore. Prices for food, alcohol, cigarettes, and toiletries are slightly higher than on neighboring islands.
Railay, Thailand, is often mistaken for as an island, however, it's actually a peninsula separated from the mainland by impassable mountains. The peninsula is divided into Railay East -- where boats arrive from Krabi and most commodities are found -- and the more luxurious Railay West which is dominated by upscale resorts. Paths connect the two sides with only a 10-minute walk.
Budget accommodation can be found on the farthest points of Railay East; sprawling luxury bungalows now occupy most of the beaches and the center of the peninsula. The famous Rayavadee Resort -- the only resort on Phra Nang Beach -- charges more than US $600 per night during the high season!
Located north of Railay West, Ton Sai Bay is a haven for ultra-low budget travelers and serious climbers. The bay can only be reached by longtail boat at high tide or via a 25-minute jungle scramble which can be difficult to do with luggage.
Use these travel tips for Railay to stay safe and enjoy your visit!
- Railay East: Don't be sad when you first arrive on Railay East, the ugliest beach in Railay. Extreme tide changes and rubbish-strewn mangroves make the beach very unappealing for swimming.
- Railay West: Shallow water and decent sand make Railay West good for families. The north end of the beach is better for swimming with less rocks. Railay West is a great place to catch the sunset, particularly as the changing light reflects off the surrounding cliffs.
- Phra Nang Beach: Located in the southwest corner of Railay, Phra Nang is certainly the best beach on the peninsula and one of the better beaches in Thailand. White powdery sand, clean water, and spectacular scenery draw in the crowds during high season. You can watch climbers directly on the beach. The beach continues to the right around a 90-degree bend where a long stretch of sand provides a little privacy.
See more of the best beaches in Thailand.
Rock Climbing in Railay
If you've never climbed before, Railay is one of the best and cheapest places to do so. Numerous climbing schools will take absolute beginners for a day of safe climbing. The half-day courses (around US $30) are a great way to try your hands at an exciting sport -- and are enough to exhaust most beginners. Well-trained instructors provide safe equipment; climbs start easy then gradually increase in difficulty.
Experienced climbers can take advantage of over 700 bolted routes along limestone and sea cliffs ranging from easy to multi-pitched nightmares. You'll even find technical bouldering in soft sand along the beach, or the truly adventurous can try deep-water soloing -- climbing without ropes -- finished by a drop into the sea!
Shoes, ropes, and equipment can be rented from climbing schools. If you're accustomed to the grading system used in the US (e.g., 5.8) you will want to purchase a climbing guide or talk to a school: Railay uses the French grading system (e.g. 6a).
Getting to Railay, Thailand
Although Railay is technically not an island, getting there overland is impossible. Instead, you must take a minibus or boat to Ao Nang -- the closest point on the mainland -- then transfer to a small, longtail boat for a 20-minute shuttle to Railay Beach.
Expect for both you and your luggage to get wet when the sea is rough. There is no jetty in Railay; you'll need to climb out of the boat into the shallow water to walk ashore.
Boats circulate during the high season (November to April) between Ao Nang and all the major destinations such as Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, and Chao Fa Pier in Krabi Town.