Located in an astonishingly scenic setting among lush rainforest and incredible craggy limestone rock formations, Railay Beach is as idyllic as they come, and that’s without even having mentioned its wealth of fantastic beaches.
Jutting out into the Andaman Sea on a large peninsula, Rai Leh, as it is also known, is nestled between the city of Krabi and the seaside resort town of Ao Nang and is only accessible by boat. Although it is now an increasingly popular tourist destination, Railay has long been renowned for the fabulous rock climbing that it has to offer.
Due to its stunning setting, beautiful beaches, and lovely, laidback vibe, Railay Beach is certainly one of the most picture-perfect places to visit in the whole of Thailand.
9. Phra Nang Cave Shrine
Located at the east end of the fabulous Phra Nang Beach, this cave certainly earns its nickname of the ‘Diamond Cave’ due to all the glittering rock formations it contains. After paying an entrance fee, visitors can walk along a wooden boardwalk that takes you through the cave’s shimmering and shining caverns, which are beautifully illuminated.
The sparkling aspect is only visible when the cave is wet, but you’ll always see stones with shades ranging from orange to light blue. Although it is not that large, it is still well worth checking out.
8. Sa Phra Nang
Hemmed in on all sides by steep, jungle-coated cliffs that tower over it, Sa Phra Nang is a lovely little lagoon that arguably boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in Railay Beach. Meaning ‘Holy Princess Pool’ in Thai, the lagoon is located around a 45-minute hike away from Railay East, although, in truth, it is more of a challenging climb and scramble to get there.
After ascending an almost vertical cliff, pulling yourself up by the tangled mess of roots as you go, you’ll be able to enjoy the best view of Railay Beach from its awe-inspiring clifftop viewpoint. The lagoon is then a muddy and slippery slide down an equally steep cliffside.
Although you’ll almost certainly question what you were thinking on the arduous way there, Sa Phra Nang more than makes up for it. Swimming in the secluded lagoon with the jagged cliffs all around really you is an unforgettable experience. Just make sure to check that it’s high tide when you go; at low tide, the water can get a bit murky and muddy.
7. Railay East
Although it still sports much of the stunning scenery for which Railay Beach is known for, the eastern part of the peninsula has no glorious beach to speak off: its muddy shore is lined by mangroves and fishing boats. It is, however, a popular place to stay, as there are lots of affordable hotels, bars, and restaurants on offer.
The lovely Phra Nang Beach is just a ten-minute stroll away, as are a number of fantastic rock climbing spots. The most developed of Railay’s ‘beaches,’ Railay East has a wonderful little boardwalk by the waterfront for you to stroll along; from here, you can enjoy some dazzling sunsets.
6. Ton Sai
Nestled between two towering limestone cliffs, Ton Sai is the least known and least accessible of Rai Leh’s idyllic beaches. To get to Ton Sai, you either have to wait for low tide, when you can clamber over the exposed rocks to Railay West, or hike along a clifftop path to the same place.
Its secluded setting lends Ton Sai a lovely, laidback vibe, although once dusk falls, it is home to some of the best and most raucous nightlife in the area. Backed by lush rainforest, Ton Sai and its handful of bungalows, bars, and restaurants is particularly popular with backpackers and rock climbers; the surrounding cliffs and rugged rock faces make for some fantastic climbing.
One downside to Ton Sai is that you can’t really go swimming here as quite a lot of rocks lie submerged beneath the waves.
5. Phra Nang Nai Shrine
A cave unlike any you have ever seen before, Phra Nang Nai’s peculiar claim to fame is that it is full of carved wooden phalluses. Known as the ‘Princess Cave,’ local fishermen, both Muslim and Buddhist, have long left the particular offerings in the cave in the hope that they would be blessed with a good catch.
Couples who are hoping to get pregnant also leave the elaborately carved penises as a gift to the princess who drowned long ago in the surrounding waters, asking that she bless them with fertility. The small cave certainly makes for an interesting, albeit brief visit and is located right on the gorgeous Phra Nang Beach.
4. Railay West
Blessed with dazzling white sands lined by jungle-clad cliffs and shimmering blue waters, Railay West certainly does paint a pretty picture. Besides lounging on its warm, inviting sands or swimming in the sea and taking in the beautiful scenery, Railay West also has lots of brilliant rock climbing for you to try your hand at if you’re after a more active holiday.
It also has a lot of different shops, bars and restaurants for you to choose from, and its hotels and resorts are decidedly more upmarket than at Railay East. In the evening, the beach is a hive of activity as people stroll around, play games on the sand, or simply take in the incredible sunset.
As long-tail boats from Ao Nang stop off here, Railay West is many people’s first port of call, and they certainly won’t be disappointed with the paradise they see lying before them.
3. Rock Climbing
As already mentioned, Railay Beach really is a mecca for rock climbers due to the all the limestone cliffs that cut the peninsula off from the mainland. Regarded by many to be the best winter rock climbing place in the world, it has over 700 bolted routes for you to try out, with something for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or professional. Everywhere you go, you’ll see people climbing steep cliff faces.
There are a number of different rock climbing schools scattered around Rai Leh, where you can hire a teacher and climbing equipment. If you’ve never tried this sport before, this is the most idyllic spot imaginable to give it a shot.
The beautiful location makes it one of the most memorable places to go rock climbing, and seeing Railay Beach spread out below you really is an awe-inspiring experience. Some of the most popular routes are found at Ton Sai and Railay West.
Although it is undoubtedly the best view around, this excellent viewpoint is slightly hard to get to. It involves a steep ten-minute climb up an almost vertical cliff face, pulling yourself up by roots, tree branches, and ropes as you go. Lying halfway along the trail that takes you from Railay East to Phra Nang Beach, the view over Railay Beach is simply incredible and is well worth all the exertion.
From its prominent clifftop lookout, you can see both Railay East and West before you, as well as the dense jungle that lies between them and the craggy limestone cliffs that form such a stunning backdrop. As the half-hour hike is quite tough with the steep climb, it is best to be in relatively good shape and wearing appropriate footwear before you attempt it.
1. Phra Nang Beach
Lying at the southwestern tip of the peninsula, Phra Nang Beach is considered by many to be one of, if not the, most beautiful beaches in the whole of the country. Backed by some simply awe-inspiring rock formations, cliffs, and jungle that threatens to engulf the beach, its golden sands are ideal for lounging lazily on. The shoreline stretches for almost 500 meters.
Lying just offshore are the two small and picturesque islands of Rang Nok and Nai for you to gaze out upon, while its inviting waters lend themselves perfectly to swimming and kayaking. Some long-tail boats act as floating kitchens if you get hungry, and there are a couple of fantastic caves for you to explore at either end of the beach.
The most popular beach in Rai Leh, and with good reason too, Phra Nang is just a short stroll away from Railay East or a short boat journey away from Railay West.