Railay — The Best Vacation Spot In Thailand?

Thailand has many phenomenal beaches but perhaps my favorites are found at Railay in Krabi Province on the west coast of the country. The town is reachable only by boat and is surrounded by water on 3 sides. The small peninsula makes a great family vacation destination owing to it’s slow pace, lack of cars, kid-friendly hotels and incredible mix of great activities for the more active and adventurous. It takes a little effort to get to Railay — usually by flying to Krabi airport, taxi to Ao Nang and then boat to Railay — but this resort town is well worth the trip.

Hanging out at one of Railay’s 2 great beaches. This one is called Railay West and it forms the social hub of the town with a majority of its restaurants, cafes and hotels residing here.
A family relaxing on one of Thailand's best beaches.

Phra Nang beach — a short walk from the main part of Railay — is without a doubt one of the best beaches in Thailand. Secluded and very swimmable it’s very kid friendly as well.
Children at the beach in Krabi, Thailand.

Railay East is the 3rd — and least appealing — beach on Railay. As you can see the beach turns to mud flats during low tide and though it can make a pretty background to an evening meal is almost never an appealing option for swimming. Staying on the east side though can be a good way to save money as the hotels tend to be a bit cheaper and offer larger discounts during the off-season.
The Children playing at the beach during low tide.

Boats are the only way of getting to Railay and the longtail variety form the backdrop to just about every view that looks out to sea.
Boats are the main form of transportation around Railay.

The different sides of Railay are connected by a web of paved lanes and dirt paths. It takes about 3 or 4 minutes to walk from one side to the other.
Pulling the luggage through the lanes and alleys of Railay in Thailand.

Leaving Railay to return to Krabi and a flight to Bangkok. When it’s low tide tractors transport guests and their bags out to waiting boats in the bay.
A mom and her kids taking a long tail boat in Thailand.

16 questions and comments

  1. Railay

    Thank you very much for the tips about the quiet side versus the more noisy side with the longtails coming and going. We’ve heard that Railay has built up a lot since we were there almost 15 years ago. Maybe we’ll try it again. But you said, “Thailand has many phenomenal beaches but perhaps my favorites are found at Railay in Krabi Province on the east coast of the country,” and I remember Krabi as being on the west coast of Thailand, on the Andaman Sea side, not on the Gulf of Thailand side. Still, we’ll check it out for a family trip. This time maybe with the grandkids.
    Anne Thompson

  2. Koh Samui with Kids

    Hi! We are going to be taking trip to thailand. We arrive Sept 18th, will spend a week in Chiang Mai, then head down to Bangkok for four nights and then to Koh Samui from the 1st – 10th. Is that too long? What other beaches would you recommend hitting while in Koh Samui. I have a 3 year old and 8 year old we will be traveling with..so am nervous about the ferry situation. Are they safe, do you get sea sick, etc!

    Thanks in advance!


    1. David Post author

      Ferries are fine as long as there isn’t a storm. I probably wouldn’t get on if I saw the skies were dark and the seas rough. But that’s rare and they’re mostly fine. Choeng Mon, Bophut (where I’m typing this from), and Chaweng are the best beaches for kids on Koh Samui.

  3. Phuket to Railay to Phuket

    Hi David, excellent blog!!!
    We will be this eastern in Phuket area for 9 days … following your advice we plan to spend some days in Phuket and some days in Railay. We are travelling with 2 kids (5 and 2 years old). Our plan:

    2-3 days in Phuket (for recovering from our long flight from Spain)
    4-5 days Railay –> too much? what about 1-2 days in Ko Yao?
    2 days Phuket (before flying back home)

    What do you think about the plan?
    Regards from spain!

  4. Railay or koh Samui?

    We are planning to visit a beach in Thailand in June for 6-8 days, traveling with 2 kids (6 and 2)… What would it be the best option… Railey, Samui, other or any recommendations?

    Thank you!

    1. David Post author

      I think the weather will likely be better and the sea calmer on the east coast (Samui) in June. But no guarantees.

  5. bob

    The eastside is very noisy with the roar of the longtail’s motors in the early morning. Everything is replenished by longtails. Noiser than some airports. Much quieter on the westside. Still a must see, though ,

    1. David Post author

      Hi Bob. I’ve stayed on the eastside and never noticed the noise. Thanks for your input though. It’s good to have another perspective. Cheers.

  6. Lyndel

    WE LOVE all that you have done here on the web for traveling families. Thank you. We are just in the beginning stages of planning a SE Asian trip with our 2 and 5 yr old. It will be my 8th time to the region– your info is spot on. Railay looks awesome, but I am having a hard time finding a place that has good reviews but at a good price. Is there a place that you would recommend particularly for a family with young kids? How long would you recommend staying (after 2-3 wks, would kids of this age get bored?)? Another recommended “Bottle Beach.” Have you been there? Thanks so much, Lyndel (Boulder)

    1. David Post author

      I think 2 or 3 weeks would be a bit much for Railay. It’s fantastic but has a bit of a resort feel that I don’t think suits an extended stay. Bottle Beach would be better for a longer stay like that.

      For hotels, search here for good priced accommodations in the Krabi/Railay area.

      Good luck.

  7. leura Ky

    Thailand was the first place we travelling to after we had our first child and i have to say Railay was the highlight of the trip. Our son had turned 1 the week before we got there and learnt to walk on the beaches of railay. It was a carefree, relaxing time and your photos reminded me of that great first trip as a family. Couldn’t recommend a better place for time away with kids.


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