Railay, also known as Rai-Leh is an extremely unique area of Thailand, that almost makes you feel like you are transported to a hidden paradise. There are three beautiful beaches all within walking distance, cute restaurants and treehouse bars, and absolutely no cars anywhere. There is something for people who just want to relax and watch a beautiful sunset night after night, to those that want to party all day long. Activities like hiking the sheer cliff faces that Railay is known for, to island hopping to other secluded locales.
We spent almost a week in Railay during our last trip and enjoyed every minute of it. Cody and I have been to many places in Thailand and I can say that Railay is quite unique. It reminds me a little of Koh Phi Phi with the bohemian hippie Rastafarian atmosphere, a little like Phuket because there are still partiers, and a little like Koh Samui because of the monkeys that randomly try to grab your drinks as you’re laying by the pool (there’s a lot of monkeys at our place in Samui so we don’t mind them too much).
There are tons of things to do in Railay but I’m just going to focus on my three favorite things in this article, since I want it to be only the MUST DO stuff anyone to Railay should do.
Ao Phra Nang is a beach at the very tip of Railay that is surrounded by towering cliffs. You can reach this beach by walking from wherever you are on Railay. There is a trail heading south from Railay East pier and it will take you through the mountains and jungle until finally the rocks open up and the beach is presented to you. This beach is famous for it’s rock formations, particularly one large karst rock formation jutting straight out of the sea from the middle of Ao Phra Nang.
This beach is the most popular with day trippers, as you’ll see tons of longtail boats arriving and departing at all hours with people who are staying in or near Ao Nang, or taking boat trips from other areas of Krabi.
On the east side of the beach there is a little shrine to fertility which is quite distinct. And I mean distinct as it is filled with hundreds of wooden penis statues and colorful ribbons.
There are also food boats that are located at different places on the beach. They are basically floating kitchens and you can get tons of food from bbq seafood to pad thai, coconuts and more. Prices are fair and we have enjoyed the food we got from these vendors. Honestly, it’s better than most of the hotel food.
The west side of the beach gets more sparsely populated making it great for lounging around in the quiet, listening only to the waves and the animals chattering behind you. I suggest walking along this entire beach as you really get the best view of the rocky cliff faces and fill your mind with awe.
You can also get to Phra Nang Beach by renting a kayak from Railay Beach West and paddling there yourself, or by hiring a longboat taxi to take you there from Railay Beach West.
Facing west is always a good location for a beach and the main reason is for the sunsets. I’ve long said that Thailand has some of the best sunsets in the world, and Railay does not disappoint. Looking at many of my Thailand pictures makes me realize how there are so many creamsicle skies throughout my photo gallery. I don’t know if it is the sun playing off the sea or what, but everything is just so beautiful and orange, and you can really bask in the fading glow of the evening sun.
Getting to Railay Beach is easy as it is where most of the hotels are, however if you are staying in Railay East like we were it’s only about a 5 minute walk. Railay is SMALL. There are a few streets you can walk down, and we usually took the little alleyway going straight down from the pier. However you can also take the walking/bar street if you want.
There are some beachfront restaurants to get a meal if you want to eat while watching the sunset, otherwise just bring a few towels and some beer from the mini-mart and make a romantic evening out of it.
Ok so I don’t know if it is called Main Street, or if it has a name at all. It’s pretty much the popular walking street of Railay, and the largest one that cuts through the entire peninsula east to west. There are dozens of bars and restaurants that serve affordable, yet still good food and drinks here, and other than our first night in Railay, pretty much spent every night here.
They have Thai food, Sushi, Western, Indian, and more so don’t worry about not finding something to your liking. If you are looking for decent affordable Thai food, then we recommend a place called Local Thai Food. I know, right on the nose. But it is good, and not overpriced. I would also recommend the Kohinoor Indian restaurant if you like Indian food. The sushi place was actually really good (not super authentic, more Western style rolls) but I did feel it was overpriced for what it was. However if budgeting is not your thing and you want some sushi, then go for it.
Also pay special note to all the different bars. Most of them are open air so you can chill out on a rooftop watching the people below you on the walking street walk on by. I quite like Jen Bar for their upstairs bar chill-out area, but we did not eat there so do not have an opinion on the food. I also like Skunk House Bar which sells seafood by weight. It is not the best price, but it does have a good atmosphere and everything was fresh.
Not on the walking street, but one of my best recommendations is Skunk Bar. This one is different than Skunk House Bar, and it has an awesome treehouse vibe. They have live music every night and the drinks are strong which means a good deal for the price. The food is good as well, although I must admit we just got Pad Thai which was our boring go-to whenever we focused more on the drinking than the eating.
One thing you should know about Railay in general is the fact that there is a definite reggae culture. Partly due to the fact there is no central police force in this area, and possibly because of the tourists. Either way, many of these bars and restaurants also offer “happy” items if you know what I mean. Just ask the server and they’ll tell you what the offerings are.