Krabi Nature photography tours and field trips

Railay Beaches East and West, Ao Phra Nang, Tonsai (Huge Guide)

[Page updated: 1 March 2022]

Railay beach in the province of “Krabi” is, to me the best place to go in Thailand if looking for a beautiful beach for some relaxation and enjoying a mellow time.

Read below for all the information you need about Railay Beach West, Railay Beach East, Ao Phra Nang Beach, and Tonsai Beach.

Railay Beach East and West have a few things that make it one of the nicest places to go during a visit to Krabi, Thailand. Couple that with the fact that it is close in proximity to a couple of other cool things to do and it makes a lot of sense to stop in Krabi during your stay in Thailand.

Krabi is located south of Surat Thani province which, as you might know, has the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, and Ko Tao which are quite nice in themselves and a quick van ride away from Krabi. I think total time in the van between the two places might be 3 hours. Many travelers choose to go to the full moon party in Ko Pha-ngan and then head down to Krabi so they can see Railay beach, Ko Phi Phi, and Ao Nang and Nopparat Thara beaches in Krabi.

What are Things to Do in Railay for Families, Less-active People?

Railay beach has a couple of interesting things to do. First, are the beaches. The beaches here are the nicest I’ve seen in Thailand, though admittedly I haven’t been to Ko Chiang or Ko Samet which I heard had very pretty beaches. Ko Samui’s Tong Takien beach is also a beautiful beach I enjoy a lot.

Railay’s beaches are dramatic and picturesque as you can see by the photos here. The water is clean, warm, and the waves are not bad. They are not surfing waves by any means, but if you are able to find a bodyboard (boogie board) for the kids they would have a blast during May-July when the waves tend to be bigger.

During the high season, there are many tourists visiting Railay, but if you go to the beach early you might be one of only a couple people at the beach. The tourists that tend to stay at Railay are mature and not the same type of ‘sexpats’ you’d see in Patong beach. There is no bargirl scene or ladyboy scene at Railay and they don’t want one to get started either. The locals are nice and not pushy about asking you to buy their goods, unlike Pattaya or Patong. Railay is more for family type travelers and serious (and not so serious) climbers.

Railay Beach water and mountains in Krabi province.
Image of amazing Railay beach taken by Robert Haandrickman at Flckr.

You can head over to the Phra Nang cave (pictured right) which is really a nice spot. Pra Nang means Princess Goddess. The spirit of the princess goddess (PhraNang) resides in this cave according to the locals. Before fishermen went out fishing they would make promises and prayers to Phra Nang before they went out to sea. When their wishes were granted they came back to the cave and gave an offering. Often flowers and incense sticks are given as gifts, but the villagers think that the goddesses really prefer the ‘lingams” or phallus (penis) figures.

These beliefs are not rooted in Buddhism or Islam. Thai people believe that the lingams and the princess goddesses fertile womb shall create fertility and prosperity for the whole earth and mankind. There are over 100 lingams in the cave and most tourists get a photo taken of themselves there for some reason.

If you feel like it Railay West has some shopping, some nice restaurants (outdoor) and last time I went to a book store with many English language novels that were available for sale or rent. There are some good restaurants here, and quite expensive if you’re a local to Thailand. I think I remember a good coffee shop here, but it has been a year since I’ve been to that shop, it might have changed by now.

Internet is all over Railay at any restaurant and hotel. So, if you’re worried about getting online for whatever reason, don’t be.

Things to Do in Railay Beach for Very Active People?

For active people, there are a couple of places you’ll want to see. You might want to hike up to where the ‘lagoon’ and “viewpoint” are up a mountain path. You find the path for them both by going from Railay (East) toward the mountain – walking along the sidewalk until you see a muddy and root filled path leading up the hill to the left (see photo). Take that up and when you reach a “Y” at the path take a left to see the scenic lookout and a right to find the lagoon.

The viewpoint overlooks Railay Beach East and is breathtaking. You can also see Railay west. Really great photos can be had here on a nice day. The day I went was NOT nice and so, no photos here. Maybe tomorrow?

The Lagoon

If you decide to go to the lagoon it is not an easy trek because you’ll reach a couple of places – 3 rock faces I believe that you must use the ropes primarily to support your weight in order to get past the rocks. If it is the rainy season the ropes are a bit slippery and your shoes are likely covered with red clay mud which doesn’t give you a great grip on the rocks.

You MUST have decent shoes to scale down the rock faces that are jagged and dangerous quite frankly. You will need to have some upper body strength to get up and down the ropes as you will be scaling the rock like Spiderman. There are 20-foot drops that, if you lose one of your shoes while climbing down – you’ll cut your feet – 100% guaranteed.

I had sport sandals and I still didn’t feel comfortable to risk it on the last drop. I probably shouldn’t have done the first two either. My feet were very wet and muddy from the slippery trail and I pictured my foot slipping out of my sandal and slicing my foot open. I’m going back tomorrow to conquer it and I’ll bring my running shoes this time for those rocky sections.

Oh, and don’t bring anything in your hands – even a camera. A small waist pack or backpack is necessary as both of your hands will need to be free.

There is a first aid clinic on Railay beach east. They are able to treat most cuts and abrasions and they get many chances to do that. I cut my foot on some submerged coral that I didn’t see while swimming and they cleaned me right up.

The longtail boat even gave me and my girlfriend a 2 person ride back to Ao Nam Mao for just 100 baht which was really nice. Maybe that’s the policy there for injured people – the boat owners must take them for the regular price regardless if the boat is full or not.

Railay Beach Rock Climber at Tonsai Beach.
Climbing limestone karst at Tonsai Beach in Railay is a great place to get started in the sport.

There is another short hike up into the jungle and on the hill that you can do if you want to visit a spot on the northwest side of Railay beach West where the climbers are mostly. You go to Railay west and then walk north. You’ll be staring into some rocks and jungle, but there is actually a path there to climb up into that will take you to the other side of the hill and a climbing mecca.

The trail is not difficult, but at the end, you will see a lot of large rocks and wonder how to get through. With some trial and error, you should find the way through. Be careful and if you have kids you should be really careful as there is one section they could fall between the cracks and wedge themselves in there. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen many kids on that other side… hmm. Seriously, just be careful and your kids can probably make it
too.

This is where the climbing schools like CLIFFS MAN take their beginner students, but the rock face is so diverse that there are pros on a section right next to the beginner sections.

There are numerous climbing routes – many easy and many difficult. I think someone said 700+ climbing routes in Railay. Recently some climbing groups have expended a lot of money and effort to install titanium clips and bolts into the rock. I think most of the routes are finished with titanium as the other metals were degrading quickly in the harsh environment.

Jumping off Cliff in Railay Beach
Cliff jumping at Railay Beach West, Krabi, Thailand

If you climb – go here! Even if you don’t climb, it’s fun to watch people climb too – I’ve taken videos of people climbing and I’ll get them online soon. Climbing is a slow and cautious activity, not always quick and exciting but fun to watch anyway.

Best Time of Year to Go to Railay beaches?

Good question. Krabi during the rainy season (May to November) is quite wet. That’s not to say that there aren’t 3 or even 4 day stretches without rain, but having lived here for a year those rainless periods were not many. I would say that most days during the rainy season there is some kind of pattern to the rain. It doesn’t just rain at 3 pm like in the Northeast (Isaan region) every day during the rainy season.

It doesn’t rain only in the morning. It rains anytime, anywhere, for any amount of time – days at a time even.

The trick is, I see that it goes in micro-patterns. If it’s raining in the evening at 6 pm then likely it will continue raining like that over the next few days or up to 3 weeks. The patterns seem to stay for 1-2 even 3 weeks at a time. If it’s raining all day, it might rain all day for 3 days or for a week. If it’s raining with short showers that come 1-5 times per day – it will likely do that over the next 1-3 weeks.

See what I mean? So, if you have that kind of flexible schedule you might want to find out right before you come what the weather is doing and decide if it’s worth it for you to come to Railay beach in Krabi during the rainy season. There are FAR fewer tourists and you’re likely to have a better time just for that reason.

High season can be a drag since Railay is perhaps the hottest destination in Krabi after Ao Nang. You can feel free to write to me for an up-to-date report on what the rain patterns are in Krabi before you come. Seriously!

Railay beaches are landlocked and the only way to get there is to swim or take a boat. Boats leave regularly for Railay from Krabi Town pier (25-minute ride), Ao Nam Mao beach (15-minute ride), and Ao Nang Beach (5-minute ride).

Leaving from Ao Nang Beach will get you to Railay Beach West. This is where the better beaches are, and where you can walk to the climbing section of Railay, and the viewpoint, and lagoon. If you leave from Krabi town or Ao Nam Mao, you’ll arrive at Railay Beach East. There are hotels on both beaches. Railay Beach East is a little more secluded, and there is much less to do.

It’s a rather long walk to Railay Beach West from the East side – a few hundred meters, so be prepared if you are bringing a lot of gear, or kids.

Why Go to Railay Beach?

The beaches at Railay are pretty incredible. You can explore a small cave, and you can walk up to a nice viewpoint and take photos (climb the mountain). You can explore a hidden lagoon in the center of some limestone karsts. The water seems quite dirty – but, who knows? I’ve had friends swim there. Seems like some days it is clear enough.

The scenery on Railay is worth it for sure. Reaching Railay West from Ao Nang beach is very easy and cheap (100 THB – $3 USD). Of course, prices are subject to change, it has been this price for years.

RAILAY BEACH WEST

Railay Beach West is the jewel of the Railay area. The beach is phenomenal in both aesthetic and quality. The sand is white and deep. The views are stunning with limestone karst formations rising out of the ocean, capped with trees and other vegetation. Really a paradise. Best to come when fewer tourists during the off-season for sure.

Location in Krabi: On Railay Cape, 1.8 km. (1.1 miles) southeast of Ao Nang Beach (direct line). 8.8 km (5.5 miles) southwest from Krabi Town (direct).

Direction Facing: West

Beach Length: 628 meters (2,061 feet)

Beach Width: 43 meters on average – huge! (142 feet)

Estimated Beach Area Meters2:  27,004

Beach Quality: Exceptional – one of the best beaches in Thailand. Soft, deep sand that is almost always clean of incoming tide debris.

Ocean Bottom: Soft, sanding bottom with large rocks partially submerged.

Surrounding Beaches: Ao Phra Nang Beach

Restroom / shower facilities? Yes, both are available.

Beach Features: Soft, deep, clean sand. Wide beach for laying down. Excellent calm water for swimming. Crystal clear water. Limestone karst formations in water. Islands in view.

Public or Private? Entrance fees? Public, no fees.

Boat anchorage possible? Short term is possible

Boat dock and marina? N/A

AttractionsRailay is like a national treasure. This is one of the top 5 most scenic spots in Thailand in our opinion! There is a viewpoint to climb that gives a view of Railay Beach East.

Activities: Viewpoint

Surfing? No.

Warnings: Waves from May to October can be so large that it is risky to take a longtail boat out on the sea. Do wear your lifevest when getting on a small boat.

Railay Beach West Restaurants / Bars

  1. No great spots listed – better to eat at one of the resorts below for the best experience.

Accommodations on Railay Beach West

  1. Rayavadee Railay Beach – large clean rooms and attentive and polite staff. Rooms starting at 15,000 THB. Luxury property at the very south end of Railay Beach West.
  2. Railay Village Resort & Spa – good ratings and a rather economical choice for travelers not wanting to go full-out luxury vacationing in Railay. Rooms starting at 5,000 THB.
  3. Railei Beach Club Bungalows – great ratings for this bungalow property on the north end of Railay Beach West. Rates starting around 7,000 THB and going up to 18,000 THB.

RAILAY BEACH EAST

Location in Krabi: East of Railay Beach West – 3.2 km (2 miles) southwest from Ao Nam Mao.

Direction Facing: Southeast

Beach Length: Patches of beach in front of resorts, but there really is no functional beach here – the tide takes it.

Beach Width: 0-2 meters.

Estimated Beach Area Meters2N/A

Beach Quality: Exceptional – one of the best beaches in Thailand. Soft, deep sand that is almost always clean of incoming tide debris.

Ocean Bottom: Soft, sanding bottom with large rocks partially submerged.

Surrounding Beaches: Ao Phra Nang Beach is south, and Railay Beach West is 1 km. west over land.

Restroom / shower facilities? There are showers at the resorts if you’re staying at one.

Beach Features: Nothing really. There is a small cave, and there is a wall for climbing for beginners. Best climbing is at Tonsai  Beach out past Railay West Beach.

Public or Private? Entrance fees? No fees.

Boat anchorage possible? Small boats – yes.

Boat dock and marina? A small dock for small boats.

Attractions: Climbing wall and a viewpoint after a steep hill climb.

Activities: Rock climbing for beginners.

Surfing? No.

Warnings: Rocks and coral under the water as you’re walking out to your boat – wear shoes, not sandals or bare feet!

Railay Beach East Restaurants / Bars

  1. Bhu Nga Thani Resort Restaurant – They have food here – open seating, you should probably try it if you’re on this side of the island, instead of walking around to find something else. There doesn’t seem to be amazing dining on this side of the island.

Railay Beach East Accommodations

  1. Bhu Nga Thani Resort and Spa – starting around 4,000 THB, this resort is at the southern end of Railay Beach East, near the walkway that goes across the land to Railay Beach West. Convenient and near the boats and beginner climbing. Decent ratings, and the other accommodations here don’t have very good ratings. Suggested you stay over at Railay Beach West if at all possible.

AO PHRA NANG BEACH

Railay Beach caves and lagoon in Krabi Province.
View from near Ao Phra Nang Cave, Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand. One of the prettiest spots in Thailand for sure!

Location in Krabi: Next to (east) of Railay Beach West.

Direction Facing: Part of the beach is facing west, and part is facing south-southwest

Beach Length: 610 meters (2,002 feet)

Beach Width: 13.6 meters (44.6 feet) to 67.6 meters (222 feet)

Estimated Beach Area Meters2:  8,296

Beach Quality: Exceptional – the entire Railay Cape area and all the beaches have fine sand, it’s clean, and the sand is deep.

Ocean Bottom: Soft, sanding bottom with large rocks partially submerged.

Surrounding Beaches: Railay West Beach is west, and Railay East Beach is north around the hill.

Restroom / shower facilities? There are showers at the resorts if you’re staying at one.

Beach Features: Nothing really. There is a small cave, and there is a wall for climbing for beginners. Best climbing is at Tonsai  Beach out past Railay West Beach.

Public or Private? Entrance fees? No fees.

Boat anchorage possible? No

Boat dock and marina? No dock or marina here.

Attractions: Phra Nang Cave – phallus cave – with many wooden penis carvings for increased fertility among couples. 

Activities: Swimming, floating on air cushions and tubes. Laying out on beach and eating and drinking from coconuts.

Surfing? No.

Warnings: Rocks and coral under the water – just be aware. Usually easy to see.

Ao Phra Nang Beach Restaurants / Bars

  1. None – there may be food carts along the path or beach to grab snacks, or, bring your own.

Ao Phra Nang Beach Accommodations

  1. None – the resorts are at Railay Beach East or West. Check above for recommendations.

TONSAI BEACH

Location in Krabi: East of Railay Beach West – 3.2 km (2 miles) southwest from Ao Nam Mao.

Direction Facing: The beach curves from facing south at the westernmost point to facing southwest from the east side of the beach.

Beach Length: 450 meters (1,477 feet)

Beach Width: 24 meters on average (78 feet)

Estimated Beach Area Meters2:  10,800

Beach Quality: Again, just like all the Railay Beaches, Tonsai Beach has fantastic sand and views. One of the best in Thailand.

Ocean Bottom: Soft, sanding bottom with large rocks partially submerged.

Surrounding Beaches: Railay Beach West is to the west of Tonsai. To reach Tonsai, you must climb a hill of rocks between the two beaches. It is sometimes dangerous – especially when wet or at night. Not recommended you travel alone at night here, nor with a group of girls. There have been incidents here – sexual harassment.

Restroom / shower facilities? Yes, at the bar or bungalows.

Beach Features: Perfect sand for laying down, great ocean for relaxing swimming. Perfect views. Very relaxed vibe.

Public or Private? Entrance fees? Public, no fees.

Boat anchorage possible? No.

Boat dock and marina? N/A

Attractions: Tonsai Beach has some of the best climbing in the WORLD. Many top climbers come here to climb advanced routes, well bolted and kept in good condition. It’s fun, even if you’re not a climber, to watch pro-level climbers do their thing, scaling up rockfaces you can’t imagine can be climbed before they start.

Activities: World Class Rock Climbing!

Surfing? No.

Warnings: Waves from May to October can be so large that it is risky to take a longtail boat out on the sea. Do wear your life vest when getting on a small boat.

Tonsai Beach Restaurants / Bars

  1. Freedom Bar – Reasonably priced drinks, considering the location! Good chilled-out atmosphere here, and usually friendly and all having a good time. Can get loud at night, as you might imagine.

Tonsai Beach Accommodations

  1. Tonsai Bay Resort – not much choice here, this is a relaxed, no-frills hotel on Tonsai that most people stay in when climbing. They have a restaurant and bar, and usually the vibe is quite chill. Rooms starting around 1,300 Thai Baht.

Where to Stay?

I don’t stay in Railay Beach when I go, I’m very cheap and the 1000 baht plus for marginally decent rooms during the high season doesn’t do it for me. I usually go in the morning and return around 5 or 6 pm. There are some nice accommodations there if you have the cash.

Alternatively, you can visit during low season when 2 different hotels (at least) offer rooms for as low as 350 baht one of them was Ya Ya resort.

Railay Beach East: Diamond Cave Bungalow; Coco; Ya Ya Resort; Sunrise Bay Bungalow.
Railay Beach West: Viking Village 2; Andaman Nature Resort; Dream Valley Resort; Ton Sai Bungalow; Railay Beach Club; Railay Village Resort; Sand Sea Resort; Railay Bay Resort.

How to Reach Railay?

Longtail Boat to Railay Beach East
Our longtail boat arriving at Railay Beach East, Krabi. Let the FUN BEGIN!

There are many ways to get to Railay beach, but all of them involve small long-tail boats because Railay beaches are not served by roads, they are hidden around the side of large limestone mountains.

Where to get longtail boats that go to Railay? You can take a longtail boat straight from Chao Fa Pier in Krabi town for 100 baht if you can get 6 people to go with you at the same time. You might wait extraordinarily long to find 6 people though during the off-season. Sometimes they ask if you want to go for 150 baht for 4 people. 600 baht seems to be the amount they want to make to go one-way.

If you want you can take a tuk-tuk, song-taew (truck) or motorbike ataxi to Ao Nang or Ao Nam Mao and you can get a longtail boat from there. Prices vary a bit. The cheapest way is from Ao Nam Mao pier where you’ll pay just 50 baht one way if you get the required number of people – I can’t remember how many 6 or 8. From Ao Nang it’s 100 baht each person.

Daily Ferry Schedule between Ao Nang – Phi Phi – Railay – Phuket – Lanta on the big ferry (Ao Nang Travel & Tour Co.)

Route
Depart.

Arrival
Phuket – Phi Phi08300930
Phuket – Ao Nang – Railay08301045
Ao Nang – Phuket15301715
Ao Nang – Railay Beach – Lanta10451245
Lanta – Railay – Ao Nang13301530
Ao Nang Package: One day tour of Phi Phi08001700
Ao Nang Package: One day tour to James Bond08001630
Ao Nang – Railay – Phi Phi10301200
Phi Phi – Railay – Ao Nang15301700
Prices were from couple years ago, they should be very similar today.
 
Railay Beaches Map, Krabi, Thailand.
Railay Beach map – West Railay Bay, East Railay, Lookout, Lagoon, First Aid Clinic, more.

For Tours Info around Krabi Town and Beaches – Click HERE.
Important Phone numbers for your stay in Krabi (Railay and all over Krabi province):

  • Krabi Emergency: Dial 1669 from any mobile.
  • TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) Regional Office: 07.562.2164
  • Krabi Tourist Police: 07.563.7208
  • Marine Police: 07.561.2756 and 2757
  • Krabi Airport 7 km east of Krabi Town: 07.563.6541 and 6549
  • Immigration: 07.561.1097
  • Krabi Bus Terminal in Krabi Town: 07.561.1804 and 1184
  • Thai Airways International: 07.562.2439 and 2441 and 2442
  • Krabi town Hospital: 07.563.1768 and 1769

Copyright ©2015-2022 KrabiNature.com.

8 thoughts on “Railay Beaches East and West, Ao Phra Nang, Tonsai (Huge Guide)”

  1. Hi, I am coming to Thailand and was very excited about coming to Railay beach but now that I’ve done more research I’m worried about the weather. I will be coming during the last week in May. Can you tell me how you think the weather patterns look this year? Accuweather suggests there will be just some showers, about 2 hours a day, and partial clouds during the last week in May. Do you think it will be worth the visit to railay beach or do you suggest Ko Samui instead?
    Thanks for your help!
    Sara

    Reply
    • Sorry, I didn’t get this until now. We are almost into the end of May now. The weather service just said expect 7 days of hard rain. We doubt it. They’re never right on! So, this is the way the end of May goes in Krabi. Can be almost daily showers – for a couple hours, or we might get a couple days of rain in a row… but then there is always sunshine after 3-4 days. At least part of the day. Samui or Krabi – Railay Beaches, will be much the same. Impossible to guess exactly.

      Reply
  2. Hi I saw that you mentioned the weather usually follows a pattern for a section of time during rainy season. I was there a couple of weeks ago and wanted to come back to relax and end my trip in two days from now (June 1-3). I only have two days though and I was wondering if you could fill me in on what the pattern has been recently to see if its worth the trip. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Hi, we are going to Krabi at the end of July and staying in Tonsai bay somewhere close to Railay beach.

    How is it with transport and quite season? Could we have a trouble with transport to get in and out of our accomodation resort because of the bad weather. I red somewhere that if the weather is so bad the long tail boat are closed.

    what about the snorkling and swimming in the sea in July? is the sea rough?

    We would like to do some canoe trips also, is it dangereous as the weather is not stable?

    Should I wear or always pack some waterproof jacket and trousers with me?

    If you find the time to answer on my question I would appreciate. Thank a lot mate.

    Reply
  4. We will be in Ao Nang between 27th and 30th of June (next week). How is the weather there now and what is the forecast for next week. I have been reading in the news that Bangkok (and Thailand in general) has been receiving heavy rainfall. Please tell us how it looks in Krabi for travel right now and next week. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. thank you for your article, very interesting!! we are now (1st agust) in Ko Phangan and we will arrive in Krabi on 3th agust till 7th agust, how is it the weather now, is it raining a lot? And wich is the best way to get Railay West, we are 2 adults and a child, and we will arrive at Krabi airport at 13.00. thanks a lot! ele

    Reply

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