Those seeking gorgeous white sand and clear blue water in the Kingdom of Thailand have two options: the Gulf of Thailand, home to Kho Phang Ngang and the (in)famous full-moon party or the Andaman Coast, whose most famous destination is undoubtedly the amusingly-named Phuket. (For the record, its pronounced Poo-Ket).
But just across the channel between Phuket and the mainland lies the province of Krabi, one of the region’s best-kept secrets. For those who find Phuket’s glitzy resorts and endless girly bars to be too much, Krabi offers a laid-back alternative that really showcases the region’s famously gorgeous beaches and lush tropical rainforests.
The Railay Penninsula is a little spit of land that projects out into the Andaman Sea about an hour south of Krabi Town. Although physically connected to the mainland, this haven can only be reached by boat due to the sheer cliffs and jungle that occupy the neck of the peninsula. This gives the whole place an island feel, similar to Phi Phi but without the same crowds.
Railay East is the backpacker’s enclave. The beach is nothing special – it’s a mud flat at low tide and serves as the landing point for the longtail ferries. However, the lack of a view means that this is the locus for the cheap accommodation. If you don’t mind the precipitous staircase, the Diamond Private Resort is high enough to afford a great view and offers a pool for very reasonable rates.
West Railay is where you go to get horizontal on fine white sand and stare out at the cool blue Andaman (preferably with a Singha in hand – readily available from the restaurants set about 50 meters back from the beach).
But the best part of Railay is experienced vertically. The area is home to some of the most accessible climbing walls in Thailand and beginners and experts alike will find some great routes and there are plenty of operators to provide guides, training and equipment rental. King Climbers is the most established and they run single- or multi-day classes with expert English-speaking guides to show you the ropes (so to speak).