Our pick of the bunch
Railay’s accommodation is quite pricey on the whole. Most of the midrange resorts are underachievers, at best, or flat-out awful at worst. Well-heeled travellers will have no trouble finding a luxurious room, but backpackers will find things more tricky. Even so, a handful of quality places to stay in all budgets do stand out from the pack.
If you’re after a comfy room in a secluded spot and don’t mind paying at least 3,000 baht a night in high season, Railay Great View is the pick of the bunch on Railay East. Especially well-suited to couples, the smart cabanas blend into the forest on a hilltop that ensures the name makes good sense. Neighbouring Railay Garden View offers a similarly tranquil setting, though the 1,450 baht price tag on its fairly straightforward fan bungalows makes the value a bit questionable.
Backpackers will still find one true low-budget spot on Railay East: Rapala Rockwood, which had made some improvements to its coconut-wood bungalows since our last visit. Apart from Great View, we weren’t impressed by any of Railay East’s midrange resorts. Sunrise Tropical and Princess should both do the trick, but if you can afford them, you might be better off on Railay West.
If you don’t need a seafront location, a couple of our favourite places to stay are perched amid inland hills that put you within a 10-minute walk of both Railay East and West. Phutawan‘s cheap bungalows are falling apart, but its varied selection of cushier rooms for between 2,000 and 4,000 baht offer good value — and use of a lovely pool with sea views. Further back, Cabana Garden‘s rustic 500-baht bungalows make it a prime choice for nature-loving backpackers.
Moving over to Railay West, long-running Railei Beach Club is our top choice on the whole peninsula. Spread over a huge expanse of beachfront property, multi-bedroom homes fetch up to 30,000 baht per night while simple cottages go for as low as 2,000, and many other options fall somewhere in between. All of the privately owned houses have a personal touch, often with wide doors and windows opening onto private decks for soaking up the well-preserved natural beauty.
If you prefer a more classic luxury resort, Railay Village boasts two huge swimming pools and gorgeous rooms that are worth the extra 1,000 baht when compared to the neighbours. And if Railay Village’s top-end rooms don’t quite cut it, you could always splash out for a room starting at 15,000 baht a night at Rayavadee, a top-end resort that owns all of the land overlooking Haad Phra Nang. There is no budget accommodation on Railay West at all.
You’ll still find plenty of dirt-cheap rooms on Ao Tonsai, an isolated bay going through an identity crisis thanks to a planned large-scale resort taking over all of the beachfront land at time of writing. Though they now overlook a concrete wall, about a dozen old-school bungalow joints still welcome backpackers for as little as 200 baht a night. There’s often not a whole lot to differentiate one from the next, but Andaman Nature, Chill Out and Sai Thong are all tried and true.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 7th August, 2015.