Railay is a real unique place. It is not an island, nor a beach town…..the Railay Peninsula is so different from any beach area I have ever seen. Railay Beach is actually a mainland destination in the Krabi Province and can only be reached by boat, making it feel like you’re actually on an island. Since it can only be reached by a boat, there are no cars, motorbikes nor any roads… only walking paths. As stated many times on this blog, any place without cars has got to be a good place.
Railay has arguably the most scenic beaches in the world with a lush green landscape and a backdrop of incredible karst (limestone) cliffs and the scenery looks like something from Jurrasic Park. It also resembles the scenery of Zion National Park but much more green and add a real beautiful ocean to it. Railay is also recognized as one of the top rock climbing destinations. You will see tons of young people scaling the limestone cliffs over looking the beach. I am not a fan of rock climbing but if you are going to do it, this sure is the setting to do so.
The only drawback, is that Railay has not been developed in the most ideal way considering its isolated location. It will never happen, but in my opinion, if a top notch developer razed many of the existing structures and started from scratch, this could be the most special destination in the world. Maybe the nature gods were sending the Thais a message with the 2004 Tsunami by leveling some of their incredible beach destinations and giving them a clean slate and an opportunity to rebuild in a proper sustainable manner. However, it looks like the Thais took that message sent from the nature gods, and said the ole, Fu*k You. Greed apparently set in, and without proper planning, they proceeded to rebuild these resort destinations even bigger than before.
Because of such magnificent beauty here, I see Railay really struggling with the influx of tourists looking to experience this paradise. I hate to sound like a broken record but once again, 10-20 years ago the sheer number of tourists were not as great as today. The number of tourists in recent years has exploded in such a way that there is a strain on resources and infrastructure. I can visually see issues like water supply, cleanliness, and waste removal are a real struggle to manage for the Thais. Fortunately, we timed our visit to this popular destination right before high season and avoided the crowds. In order to fully appreciate the magic of Railay, it is imperative to time your visit here accordingly to avoid the big crowds and much higher pricing. I cannot begin to imagine what Railay Beach looks like December – February.
Most tourists who come to Thailand flock to Phuket, but I would suggest bypassing Phuket and head to Krabi Province and visit Railay Bay and Koh Lanta. (Visit during the shoulder season and avoid coming during the high season and rainy season)
Railay is surrounded by four beaches and probably one of the most naturally scenic beaches, Haad Phra Nang Beach, often appears on many “best beaches in the world” lists. Haad Phra Nang has caves, monkeys, rockclimbing, an awesome beach but no stand-alone restaurants due to the 5 star, Rayavadee Resort’s control of most of the beachfront. But this is still Thailand, and the clever Thais always find a way to sell food. Here the locals stock longtail boats full of cold beer, coconuts, blenders and fruit for smoothies, woks to whip up simple Thai dishes and grills for churning out burgers and corn on the cob. If you’ve never waded into clear emerald water for a plate of pad thai and a fruit shake in paradise, I highly recommend doing it here.
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative on the Railay Peninsula, many backpackers opt to stay on Ton Sai Beach in more basic huts just around the bend from the more upmarket Railay West. You can walk over the cliff from Railay West or opt to wait for low tide and wade over to Ton Sai Beach. On Ton Sai, you will find a rocky beach, hippie bars and a very relaxed vibe. It is a perfect stopover for backpackers to hang together, get stoned and then ferry over to the other Ton Sai on Ko Phi Phi to continue the party path.
BEACHES VISITED –
Railay West Beach – 9
Haad Phra Nang Beach – 9
LOOSE STOOLS INDEX – 5 (Index drops another notch and concern sets in)