I’m traveling around Southeast Asia during March and April 2016. This series is about island hopping in the Andaman Sea.
Railay Beach was our second stop in our tour of the Andaman sea, and it was a relief to leave busy, crowded Phuket behind and arrive there. It turned out to be everything our guidebook said it would be: laid-back, relaxing, and framed by gorgeous, dramatic cliffs. It's actually not an island but a small peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang in Thailand and accessible only by boat.
Getting to Railay Beach was a mini-adventure in itself. To get there, we took a ferry from Phuket; only one goes there nonstop leaving at 9:45 in the morning. We got colored stickers saying “Railay” which we attached to our shirts, then joined the swarm of other people getting onto the ferry, threw our bags onto a pile in the middle of the deck (hoping we'd find them again), and found a place to sit inside, which was air conditioned and had windows.
After the two and a half hour crossing, we heard an announcement for Railay and lined up, grabbing our luggage, to get into another boat, a wooden long-tail that fits about 10 people. Getting into the long-tails without losing balance is a bit of a feat as it’s a big step from the ferry to the smaller boat. Our luggage went into the front of the long-tail and once it was full, we sped off for the beach, fueled by an open diesel engine in the back and a seriously lethal-looking propeller that the driver used to steer the boat.
Side note: the long-tails are noisy, seem bad for the environment (the fumes from the engine are pretty noxious), and are relatively dangerous; we saw a propeller nearly slice off an unwitting swimmer's head. I'm betting they wouldn't be allowed in Europe or the U.S.!
Once at Railay Beach, the long-tail stopped a few feet from the shore for everyone to get out, jump into the water, grab a suitcase and walk the few feet to shore.
We had reserved a room for a couple nights right on Railay Beach, so it was easy for us to walk to the end of the beach and check in, then hang out by the pool and gaze at the ocean while we waited for our room to be ready.
The beach itself is short, about half a mile long, which I found out the next morning when I forced myself to go on a run around 8 am before it got too hot.
It’s beautiful and peaceful—no fire dancers here—except for the longboats, which go back and forth pretty much constantly from morning until sunset doing drop-offs and pickups. The engines are extremely loud, which is unfortunate as the beach would otherwise be quite chill.
I was happy to find that we could walk everywhere from the Railay resort and had a good pick of eating and shopping options. There is a walking street that cuts down the middle of the beach with plenty of street food stands, tourist shops, and cafes. The two of us indulged in some fruit shakes and ate papaya salad and pad thai at a café for about $7 each total. There’s a range of accommodation and eating options so it’s a good place for all budgets.
Railay Beach was good for a few days. We enjoyed two beautiful sunsets and loved chilling out and getting in some good reading and pool time. On the second day we rented some kayaks just to have a little more activity.
For climbers or those doing trips into the peninsula, it might be worth staying longer, but otherwise there’s not a lot to do. Two days was enough for us before moving on to our next stop, Koh Phi Phi, for a stopover before our final destination: Koh Lanta.
In summary: a few tips
- Wear shoes you can get wet (or easily remove) if you’re taking the ferry to Railay beach. If you have trouble with mobility, you’ll need to book a private speedboat. Bringing luggage you can easily carry is also a good idea—it’s a bit awkward to be struggling with a huge suitcase on the beach.
- Have a fruit shake or some ice cream—it’s a great way to beat the heat and the prices are good
- Don't worry about getting things like toiletries, sunscreen, or having laundry done—the walking street has everything you need and laundry is only 30 baht per kilo
- If you want to get a nice view for the sunset, I heard the viewpoint is beautiful but it is a bit of a climb, so allow some time!