Contributed by Travelista Journal
Railay, also known as Rai Leh, is a large peninsula between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang in Thailand. Although Railay is attached to mainland Thailand in Krabi province, it is not connected to any roads because it is entirely surrounded by limestone cliffs and only accessible by boat.
It boasts of an abundance of postcard-perfect beaches that cater to couples looking for a secluded romantic getaway, parents hoping to build sandcastles for the little ones, and travellers who are ready to dance as the sun goes down. Aside from its beautiful beaches, cascading waterfalls, caves, emerald turquoise sea and pristine white sand, it is also a haven for rock climbers who flock from all over the world.
Railay has two main parts:
1. Railay Beach West
This is the place to go if you want to swim and lay on the sand. This is where the better beaches are. It has a line up of restaurants and shops, and it is also the entrance to the walking street.
The Walking Street
This lane has a good deal of shops, bars and restaurants which offer cheaper alternatives for those who are keen on spending big Bahts on dinner at hotel restaurants.
2. Railway Beach East
This is a little more secluded. It doesn’t have a proper beach, but it makes for a nice walk along the shore. It also offers plenty of bars and restaurants, plus a wide variety of accommodations.
Railay West is the area where we opted to stay. It is approximately a 45-minute drive from Krabi International Airport and 15 minutes by long tail boat from Ao Nam Mao Beach to resort.
To be honest, when my partner and I saw Railay Beach for the first time, we were so excited that we just wanted to fly there right away. We did not do our research properly and did not know that we could reach our hotel in Railay by road. When we arrived in Krabi Thailand International Airport, the lady from the tour agency told us that we needed to catch a taxi or a shuttle van going to Ao Nam Mao Beach, and from Ao Nam Mao Beach we needed to catch a long tail boat. It was already late in the afternoon when we reached Ao Nam Mao Beach.
Ao Nam Mao pier is just down the beach that has cemented stairs going to the long tail boats. Fellow tourists and locals helped and stood on either side of my partner as he navigated the path. My partner suffers from lymphedema (a swelling of a body part, most commonly the arm or leg caused by excess lymph fluid connecting in body tissue).
He gets frustrated because he is not able to utilise his leg the way he used to, and his limb can feel heavy and painful. He loses his balance and limps when walking. My partner can barely climb steps and finds walking distances difficult. On the last step, Jaime a fellow traveller, helped him lift his leg onto the boat.
From Ao Nam Mao Beach going to our hotel in Railay West, we had to walk on their floating pontoon made of plastic interlocked boxes, which were really stable, and onto the footpath. My partner called it “The Pier Going to Hell”. It was a few hundred metres walk, so if you’re bringing a lot of gear or kids, be prepared.
Travelling with a person with a disability is tough and hard. But we will be forever grateful to the locals and fellow travellers who assisted and helped us all the way from Ao Nam Mao Beach to Railay. As a traveller, it is great to be resourceful and independent, but also to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Things to do in Railay Beach
Railay Beach is pristine and is always quiet, far from the usually crowded tourist spots. Here, you can relax, lay on the sand and read a book, listen to music, walk the long sandy stretch, go swimming, watch the sunset, kayak, go paddle boarding, play volleyball, get a massage under the trees and more.
2. Experience rock climbing
Railay is famous for its towering limestone cliffs, one of the reasons why tourists from all over the world flock here are rock climbing. There are plenty of companies which offer courses for beginners and excursions for those who are more experienced.
3. Go diving and snorkelling
If you visit Railay, you can not leave without diving or snorkelling. Many tourists and professional divers visit Railay just to go snorkelling or diving because the water around the beach is very clear.
4. Go kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)
Kayaking is the calmest water sports in Railay. Along with SUP, it’s the water sport that will give you the most scenic experience too. The waters around Railay are calm and safe for swimming and kayaking. You can rent a kayak from vendors or resorts on the beach. The cost is around ฿100 per hour.
5. Do an island hopping tour
Don’t miss this fun activity in Krabi. I booked the Phi Phi Early Bird + 4 Islands by Speed Boat with Krabi Ezy Trails. I highly recommend this tour agency. Our guide, Matt and Theresa along with their team, were professionals. They were fun and very entertaining and made sure that we were safe during our island hopping tour. They also gave us the freedom to enjoy the whole day trip.
Phi Phi Early Bird + 4 islands by speed boat itineraries
To ensure that we enjoyed our whole day tour and avoid the crowd, the team of Krabi Ezy Trails picked us up in our resort and departed at approximately 7am. You can visit their website if you wish to book online.
Maya Bay (sightseeing)
Our first stop was Maya Bay, which was made famous by Danny’s Boyle’s 2000 film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Maya Bay has been exhausted by mass tourism which made Thai authorities shut it down to help rehabilitate coral reefs and marine life. However, tourists and visitors can still take photos from their boats as long as the boats do not pass over any coral reefs.
Pi Leh Bay / Pileh Cove “The Lagoon” (swimming)
This was one of my favourite stops during our island hopping tour and one of the most impressive sites on Koh Phi Phi Leh. It is separated from Maya Bay by a sheer limestone cliff. The water inside this lagoon is a crystal clear emerald-green and the views are absolutely stunning. The lagoon is surrounded by towering cliffs and the water is so inviting that you will want to jump off the boat and swim. The lagoon is a great opportunity for taking photos as well.
Viking Cave (sightseeing on a speedboat)
Just before the entrance to Pi Leh Lagoon, there is a cave that the locals call the Viking Cave. It is home to edible swiftlets which compose the “Bird’s Nest Soup”, which is famous in Asian culture. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the Bird’s Nest Soup has high nutrients and medicinalbird nests harvested here can fetch up to US$2,000 in the open market! The birds’ nest are very difficult to gather resulting in the high price for Bird’s Nest Soup and making it one of the most expensive foods in the world.
The wiry bamboo branches that you are seeing are used by local men who climb up the poles to collect birds’ nest.
Monkey Beach (snorkelling and swimming)
The Monkey Beach is a stunning long strip of white powdery sand fringed by emerald water and home to a colony of monkeys that will entertain you with their Muay Thai skills! The beach has a lush vegetation which offers monkeys a comfortable habitat. This is also where the beach gets its name from. Monkey Beach is not only famous for its furry inhabitants but it’s also a great spot for snorkelling.
Avoid feeding the monkeys so they won’t expect anything to eat when they see visitors and do not go to close to them. These monkeys are wild. They might scratch and bite you. Remove all your personal belongings as the monkeys are very curious and steal! Maintain a safe distance of at least 10 metres for your safety.
Loh Samah or Nui Bay (swimming and snorkelling)
Nui Bay is famous for its pretty walled beach, caves, coral reef and Camel Rock. We stopped here for swimming, snorkelling and enjoyed exploring the colourful tropical reef and marine life underwater.
Bamboo Island (snorkelling / swimming / lunch)
This island is entirely surrounded by a strip of powdery white sand with crystal clear water. Its central part is covered with lush vegetation and bamboo trees which gave the island its name.
Bamboo Island offers great snorkelling opportunities. It features a notable coral reef known as Hin Klang and is also a perfect getaway from the typical tourist crowd.
Koh Kai (Chicken Island) ( sightseeing / taking photos)
Koh Kai, which means “Chicken Island” in Thai, is a small island belonging to the Poda group of islands. Koh Kai takes its name from the chicken-shaped rock that forms its southern tip. Most island hopping tours from Krabi and Phuket make a short stop at this picturesque chicken-shaped limestone so that visitors get a cool photo opportunity.
Koh Mor and Koh Tub (swimming)
Koh Tap (also spelt Koh Tup, Koh Tub or Koh Thap) and Koh Mor are two tiny islands that belong to the Mu Koh Poda group. These two islets are linked by a sandbar, which at low tide, also enables you to walk to Koh Kai (Chicken Island). Both sides of the sandbar offer a great snorkelling opportunity in crystal clear waters.
Mu Koh Rhoda or Poda Island ( swimming / snorkelling)
The scenery and soft sand make the island a very popular destination for snorkelers and sea kayakers. It is covered with palm and pine trees and encircled by a soft white sand beach.
Where to stay in Railay Beach
Accommodations are abundant in Railay East but this part of the peninsula is not blessed by beautiful sandy beaches and is more of a mangrove swamp. When it’s low tide, Railay East is swampy with mangroves and a bit noisy because it is nearer to the nightlife scene. It is also used as “the back door” of Railay, because it’s the delivery point of goods for all the hotels, as well as the pier for taxi boats to and from Krabi Town and Ao Nam Mao.
Railay West has a number of mid-range hotels with stunning views and the finest beaches. This is where you will find big resorts offering high-quality accommodations. Evenings are blissfully quiet here, but a bit busy during the day because it is also the arrival and departure point for long tail boats from Ao Nang. The walk from the Railay East beach to the Railay West beach is only about 5-10 minutes.
We opted to stay in Railay Village Resort and Spa located in Railay West. The location is lovely. It has a stunning beach and is close to the walking street of bars and restaurants that lead to the east side. It offers spacious, comfortable rooms and combines a relaxing view that makes it an ideal choice for travellers looking for a luxury hotel with an affordable price.
This trip was quite adventurous and very memorable for us. We love to travel and travelling with a friend with a disability can be challenging, but with careful planning, patience, and some help along the way, you can make it happen.