West Railay Beach, Krabi

The secret Thai beach

OK, so Railay Beach is a bit of a cheat to include in the "Thai Islands" section, since it is not, technically speaking, an island. However, when the islands occasionally shut down during monsoon season (May to October), packaged trips and guided tours to Thailand tend to spend their token sun tanning days at a mainland beach near the river town of Krabi.

There are dozens of area beaches, but the romance of a spot beyond the end of the road—the only way there is via a 20-minute longtail boat ride from the tourist town of Ao Nang—makes West Railay the most enticing of the lot.

Ironically, this isolated mainland beach looks and feels the most like I expect the Thai islands to be, right down to having to hold my bag overhead and wade through the surf to get from the boat to the sand.

The good news is that Railay—an up-and-coming hotspot that's new and undeveloped enough the backpacker crowd still finds it hip—is all that it's cracked up to be. The strip of sand is hemmed in by Southeast Asia's classic, craggy karst cliffs, and there are as yet only four, pretty much interchangeable modern bungalow operations carved out of the thick jungle by the shore.

The drawback to Railay's isolation and limited development is that lack of competition makes prices double or triple what you find on the islands. Also, the little cluster of lodgings means the middle half of the beach has become a longtail boat parking lot, which only calms down at sunset when boats stop roaring in and out of the cove and the resort staff break into teams to play a few games of pick-up soccer on the sand.

To get away from the blatting roar of the longtails all day, stand on the beach facing out to sea, turn right to walk to the end of the strand, and then wade out around the little headland. On the far side is an isolated stretch of sand with little to disturb your peace and quiet.

Sleeping & Eating: There's precious little difference between the four bungalow resorts, all of them series of cabins lining a lush. garden-like cement walkway running back from the beachfront. I stayed at Railay Village Resort, (from $120 online), but all four hotels along this beach are great: Railay Bay Resort & Spa (from $113 online), Sand Sea Resort (from $44 online), and the seriously upscale Rayavadee (from $718 online).

The hotels are also the only game in town for meals (through there's a central minimart/Cybercafe for picking up snacks).

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.