Ao Nang & Railay Beach
Also referred to in Thai as Ao Phra Nang, this bay is fringed by palms, limestone mountains and cliffs.
The main beach is also called Ao Nang beach, which is has a wide range of accommodation including resorts, bungalows and guesthouses. Further to the south around the headland are a few smaller beaches including Railay (Railay West) and Nam Mao (Railay East). These are not accessible by road, so visitors must take a longtail boat from Ao Nang.
The area behind Ao Nang beach is quite developed. Most travel services can be found here, and there is a good variety of restaurants featuring both local and international cuisine. The nicest part of the beach is probably towards the southern end, after the road turns inland. Due to it’s location, range of services and accommodation, Ao Nang serves as an ideal place to both stay and explore surrounding islands and beaches.
Just to the south of Ao Nang is Laem Tham Phra Nang, a headland with caves and beaches often referred to as Railay (or Rai Leh), which is the name of its main beach. The west side of the headland has a beautiful curved beach backed by limestone cliffs. The cliffs feature stalactites that drip into the sea. The east side of the headland, Nam Mao beach, is mostly mangroves.
Nopparat Thara Beach
To the west of Ao Nang is Nopparat Thara beach. The area has developed to catch the overspill from Ao Nang, and there is a lot of reasonably priced accommodation. The 3 km long beach is popular with local picnickers, and there are also plenty of casual seafood restaurants located at its western end. The beach itself is wide but a little muddy and not great for swimming.
There is a good range of accommodation here that will suit any budget. The trend is towards more upmarket hotels, but there are plenty of budget hotels and guesthouses as you go further back from the beach.
The main road runs along the beachfront so there isn’t lots of beachfront accommodation, though there are resorts with bungalows on the beach after the road turns inland at either end of beach.
For more information see Ao Nang hotels
Most of the accommodation here is in the form of bungalows. However, these can range from quite luxurious to fairly basic. Generally speaking, the more expensive accommodation is located on Railay beach, while cheaper bungalows can be found by walking across to Nam Mao.
For more information see Railay hotels
There is plenty to see and do in the Ao Nang area if you are the active type. A popular place to visit is the Shell Fossil Beach at Ban Laem Pho, where you can see 75 million year old mollusc fossils, perhaps the only place in the world that these can be found. The caves close to Railay, at Hat Tham Phra Nang (Phra Nang Cave beach), are worth investigating and there are guided tours, as well as treks into the surrounding jungle.
The headland between Phra Nang Cave beach and Nam Mao beach has good climbing for both beginners and more experienced climbers. Guides and climbing lessons are available. Equipment is easily rented if you don’t have your own.
Ao Nang faces Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea so has access to large number of high quality dive sites. There are plenty of dive centres in Ao Nang and a few in Railay which arrange liveaboards to distant dive sites or day-trips to nearby islands and reefs. If you need to get certified there are plenty of dive centres offering three or four day courses.
For more information see scuba diving.
Snorkelling & Island Trips
There are dozens of beautiful islands nearby Ao Nang and Railay, such as Koh Poda and Koh Kai (Chicken Island). Long-tail boats can be chartered from Railay (West) beach and Ao Nang for half-day or full-day trips to these islands, while snorkelling gear can be hired from local dive shops.
A number of sea canoe companies operate out of Ao Nang for trips to the islands in Phang Nga Bay, as well as shorter excursions around the caves and mangroves around Railay.
Outside of the resorts and hotels, Ao Nang has some good restaurants and plenty of fresh seafood. The pricier restaurants are found along the main beach road, while there are plenty of more casual restaurants on the roads leading away from the beach at either end.
Railay is not great for food, both in terms of choice and taste. There are not many independent restaurants outside of the bungalow operations, so its mostly overpriced and mediocre. This is arguably the only thing that lets this place down.
Though the nightlife here is pretty quiet, Ao Nang does have a few bars. These are mostly concentrated at the northern end of the beach road. There are also a few places on the roads leading away from the beach.
Railay has a bit more of a chilled out scene and there are a few beach bars at the far end of Railay East beach (Hat Nam Mao). These can get quite lively, and during the high tourist season there are usually beach parties in the evenings
Travelling to Ao Nang & Railay
Krabi Town has an airport with daily flights from Bangkok. From there, it is about 45 minutes by car to Ao Nang.
To get to Railay from Ao Nang there are longtail boats that act as ferries which can be found at either end of Ao Nang beach. The trip takes about 15 minutes. There is no pier at Ao Nang or Railay so be prepared to get your feet wet.
Bangkok: There are daily buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Krabi Town, as well as privately run minibus services which can be arranged at most travel agents in Bangkok.
Phuket: Buses for Krabi Town leave several times a day from Phuket’s Bus Terminal on Phang Nga Rd.
It is possible to get to Krabi from Phuket by way of Phi Phi Island. During the dry season, from November to May, there are two ferries per day, taking about 2 hours.
You can also get to Railay from Koh Lanta further south. The express boat leaves Ban Saladan on Koh Lanta Yai and arrives at Railay East beach.
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