One of the most popular and scenic locations in the Krabi region is Railay. There is sometimes a bit of confusion when people talk about ‘going to Railay’ because of the geography of the area. There is a headland called Laem Phra Nang which is only accessible by boat from Krabi Town and Ao Nang. This headland is referred to as Railay by many visitors although it actually comprises three main beach areas inter-connected by walkways.
Phra Nang Beach
This part of the headland is shown on some maps as Ao Phra Nang or Hat Tham Phra Nang. In Thai, ‘ao’ means bay, ‘hat/had’ is beach and ‘tham’ is cave. The phrase Phra Nang translates to a revered lady and in this instance refers to the woman who locals still pay homage to at Phra Nang Cave.
Phra Nang Beach isn’t particularly long, but it is the most beautiful spot on the cape and is excellent for swimming. The sand is at its whitest and softest here compared to the other Railay beaches. Tucked away at one end of the bay is Phra Nang Cave (also known as Princess Cave) and this part of the beach offers plenty of shade.
West Railay Beach
West Railay is a wide attractive beach fringed by limestone cliffs and is a popular spot for day-trippers from Krabi Town and Ao Nang. Accommodation here is generally more expensive than East Railay.
East Railay Beach
This is the landing point for most longtail boats which arrive from Krabi Town. The beach here is quite narrow and when the tide goes out reveals an expanse of unattractive mud flats. The beach lacks the obvious visual appeal of those nearby, but it does still have plenty going for it and is only a short walk away from West Railay and Phra Nang Beach. Accommodation here is cheaper than other parts of the headland and it has become established as a favourite with budget travellers and rock-climbing enthusiasts.
Eating and Drinking
For eating and drinking there are some pleasant beach-side restaurants set amongst the coconut palms on West Railay, whilst East Railay has some good resorts which also serve decent food and drink for hungry or thirsty sun-seekers. Longtail boats double up as floating shops selling food and drinks whilst vendors also walk up and down the beaches selling drinks, fruit, ice-creams, sweet-corn and som tam.
What to See & Do
For the majority of day-trippers, Railay is all about relaxing on the beach and admiring the stunning scenery. For the more energetic, you can try your hand at rock-climbing even if you are a complete beginner. The area is a magnet for serious rock-climbers and there are experts on hand to instruct novices. There is also a secret lagoon that can be accessed without specialist climbing skills, but this does require a bit of clambering up and down vegetation so you will need to be reasonably fit or healthy.
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Photos © Thaizer