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the amazing beauty of Railay is super famous - know what to expect

Railay Beach and its connected beaches are the stars in Krabi’s constellation of geographic jewels. It was images of Railay’s tropical beach perfection, towering limestone cliffs and jagged mountains dripping with rainforest that first inspired the world to descend on Krabi. Indeed, it is still images of Railay Beach and adjacent Tham Phra Nang Beach that are used to sell all of Krabi.
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Railay Beach and Tham Phra Nang Beach are so stunning that they are often included in lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches. See the images in the gallery here, showing the beaches at different times of year – with lots of visitors, and empty.
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Adding mystique to beauty here, the towering cliffs that virtually surround Railay Beach also cut it off from the world, making this little peninsula with its four beaches accessible only by boat. In the high season access is by a day-long stream of longtail boats from Ao Nang that pull up onto the sands of Railay. During the monsoon, when waves pound this beach, the boats leave from a small port on the Krabi River behind, landing on the 'back beach' at Ao Nam Mao.
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The wide, coral sands of Railay Beach are soft and inviting, and used for reading & relaxation during the day, beach volleyball at sundown and beach dining after dark. There is some shade from trees at the top of the beach, but not enough for all visitors here in the high season. By midday many visitors have to retreat to the shady restaurants overlooking the beach. The water washing all three 'front' beaches is generally very clear and calm in the high season months, providing good snorkeling and kayaking conditions.
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Beachfront resorts occupy every square metre of flat land in Railay, with rooms crammed tightly into much of the area. All, happily, are low-rise and built among the coconut palms, thus helping the area retain its overall green appearance. The three mid-range hotels facing Railay Beach, Sand Sea Resort, Railay Bay Resort and Railay Village are in highest demand, with prices really peaking from November through March. Each of these has a beachfront restaurant overlooking sand and water, and each is quite pleasant in its own way.
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The luxurious star of Railay Beach, however, is the amazing Rayavadee Premier Resort. This claimed a vast track of land here very early on, and an environmentally-conscious owner built low density to preserve the extraordinary natural beauty of the site. The result is one of Thailand's most outstanding resorts, and perhaps that with the most stunningly beautiful location in the entire country. Viewing photographs in the beach and hotel galleries is the best way to appreciate this in full.
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Prices in all of Railay are at a premium during the high season, due to the huge demand and limited capacity. Many who would like to sleep in Railay are forced to take accommodation in Ao Nang, and boat in and out of Railay and Tham Phra Nang beaches by day.
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The scruffy, muddy back beach, Ao Nam Mao, has a few hot beach bars and some late night discos providing Railay's minimal nightlife. Though the beach is not very nice, and swimming is not possible here, Ao Nam Mao has becomes the alternate accommodation area with a good variety of rooms available. And it's just five-minute walk to the main beach.
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Krabi is justly famous as a rock climbing area, and is now part of the global rock climbers' network. Accomplished climbers come from countries everywhere to meet the challenge of sheer vertical walls of karst rock, polished smooth in many places, and pitted with caves in others. Many established climbing trails are now available, and there are a few rock-climbing schools here for beginners.
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Railay has suffered some of the same over-development that blights so many of Thailand’s tourist destinations. The central zone is a developmental free-for-all, with rooms crammed in as tightly as possible, in whatever style and materials an owner can dream up. However, the over-powering geography of the place and the regulation that keep building tops below the coconut palms ensure that, for now, Railay's amazing environment will prevail.
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Some of these guide pages might prove helpful with their detailed info & photos:

Krabi; amazing beaches & islands, all you need to know

Krabi’s Top 3 most beautiful, luxury resorts

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by John Everingham
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need advice about Thai beaches & beachfront hotels – try this expert, for free
Want help? E-mail John E, who has photographed 1,100+ beachfront hotels in this site and most beaches in Thailand, for help finding the perfect beach and beachfront hotel. john@beachf.com