On Thailand’s Railay peninsula remote tropical beaches are hidden from the mainland by limestone cliffs, and favored by adventurous travelers. Four getaways are possible in this haven in South Thailand, where the legacy of bohemian backpackers lingers among locals, foreign vacationers, day-trippers and rock climbers longing for jungle escapades.
Railay’s four beaches are each slightly different, with varying clientele, accommodations and natural features.
East Railay beach tends to bear the brunt of criticism; the water isn’t great for swimming, accommodations are less than luxurious, and the crowds tend to be rowdier. But there is charm to be found here, according to Travel Fish, which calls the atmosphere “unlike anything else in Thailand – a bit like a Louisiana bayou suddenly showed up and planted itself on the Andaman Coast.”
The West side beach is better for swimming and boasts glossier accommodations, but the beach buzzes with long-tail boats bringing visitors in from Ao Nammao pier at Krabi Town.
For simple beauty, consider skipping the others and heading to Phra Nang Bay, considered by Travel Fish and Thailand Paradise to be the most visually stunning area of Railay, despite the luxury resort taking up part of the beach. At low tide, wander through caves and tide pools, and explore the coral reef during the day.
Want to climb first and relax later? Head to Tonsai Bay, “at once off-the-beaten track and a popular destination,” says Travel Fish. Although the actual beach doesn’t quite measure up to the spectacular rock climbing available, Tonsai Bay has a uniquely mellow atmosphere and perhaps the best beach parties in the area.
On his travel blog, Stephen Young describes a rock-climbing and scuba diving trip to Railay Beach, providing great photos of his expeditions. According to Young, a relatively new climber, “most of the climbing sites require a pretty serious hike just to get there,” leaving him a bit achy, but eventually revived. He sounded pleased with the area’s lush scenery, international travelers, and “classic Thai massages,” as well.
A quick panoramic video offers a glimpse of West Railay beach early in the morning, before sunbathers and swimmers descend, while this longer home video shows the long-tail boat trip from Krabi, the outdoor café scene at Railay, typical bungalow-style accommodations and rock climbing.