Railay beach

Highlights of Thailand, Part 4: Railay Beach – One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

I know there are a lot of amazing sights in this world, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of them. One place that is now definitely on my list of “most amazing sights” is Railay peninsula, located on the eastern shore of the Andaman Sea, about 80 kilometers straight east of Phuket. Phuket is probably the most well-known resort and beach location in Thailand, but we decided to go to a bit quieter area. My nephew and his wife had visited here about a year earlier, and based on their recommendation we decided to make the Railay beaches home for a few days.

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My wife and son upon our arrival at Railay peninsula. Typical long boat transportation to/from the peninsula is right behind them.

What a good choice! The peninsula (with its beautiful beaches) is isolated from the mainland due to rugged terrain and high cliffs and is accessible only by boat.

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A view overlooking Railay peninsula. West Railay Beach is in the distance and East Railay Beach is in the foreground. (Phra Nang Beach, shown below, is to the left and not visible). This view required a very steep, short hike.

There are several hotels on both West and East Railay beach, and some guest houses hidden up in the hills. We decided to stay in a pretty nice resort on West Railay Beach, and we were glad we did.

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Our bungalow on West Railay Beach.

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Our hotel’s pool, overlooking West Railay Beach.

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There are lots of restaurants near the beaches.

The setting was gorgeous – a wide crescent shaped sandy beach with high cliffs at either end. Walking paths take you across the peninsula and up into the cliffs.

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An early morning view of one end of West Railay Beach.

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An early morning view of the other end of West Railay Beach.

There are lots of things to do here. You can spend your whole time blissfully on the Railay beaches, at your hotel pool, or hiking into the nearby cliffs and caves.

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A view of Phra Nang Beach, on the southern end of Railay peninsula, from some overhanging cliffs – a surreal spot.

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Sunset at Phra Nang Beach

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Near West Railay Beach there is a more rustic spot with backpackers.

Additionally day trips via boat take you to islands around the area. One day tour (on a speed boat) took us to a few other islands and included time for lounging and snorkeling. Hong Island was a favorite stop, with another stunning beach, and the island is a national park.

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The beach on Hong Island. A photo does not do justice to the beauty of this spot.

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A remnant on Hong Island of the huge Tsunami that devastated much of the region on December 26th, 2004.

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A stop for snorkeling on our speed boat day tour.

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Another stop on our speed boat tour, Koh Phak Bia island.

On another day we took a ferry to Phi Phi island. It is a pretty large ferry (foot traffic only), and is slow.

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A beach on Phi Phi island.

Phi Phi Island is a tourist hotspot because it is close to Maya Beach, the famed filming location for the 2000 movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Railay Beach was our last stop in Thailand. On our final morning we took a long boat back to Ao Nammao pier, then a taxi to the Krabi airport (which we had prearranged) and then a flight from Krabi to Bangkok and another flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (our next destination).

If you get the opportunity, do NOT miss this part of Thailand.

Getting There:

From Chiang Mai, we took a direct flight to Krabi, the gateway to many beach destinations. From Krabi, we took a taxi to Ao Nammao pier, a tiny port where you then take a long boat with your luggage (about a 15-minute ride) to East Railay Beach. It is then a short walk across the peninsula to West Railay Beach. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the Krabi airport to Ao Nang, and get a long boat from there to West Railay. Ao Nang is a little busier port.

It is wise to prearrange your taxi back to Krabi airport, which can be done at Ao Nammao pier upon arrival from the aiport. Also note that long boats require a minimum number of passengers to depart from Railay Beach or you will have to pay the equivalent fare of a full boat. Allow yourself plenty of time for the travel logistics to catch your flight.