Plenty of choices
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd October, 2018
Reaching into a busy stretch of the Andaman Sea, the Railay peninsula puts you within daytripping distance of the same list of small islands and snorkelling/diving sties that are advertised in nearby Ao Nang. Various types of boats are available for group tours or private excursions, and you’ll also find kayaks and SUP boards for rent on Railay.
The Krabi and Phuket area is notorious for boat accidents causing tourist deaths and serious injuries every year, especially during the rainy months when the sea is often rough. Only snorkel in safe areas and don’t expect boat drivers to cancel or delay trips due to weather when they probably should. Just because you’ve paid in advance for a tour does not mean you have to risk your life.
Snorkelling and other boat trips
Head to Railay West and you’ll see the white-sand shores and towering cliffs of Ko Poda and Ko Gai, a pair of small islands located some four kilometres away. A low-tide sandbar connects Ko Gai’s chicken-shaped massif to a pair of neighbouring islets in a marvellous scene, at least when it’s not too crowded. We think Ko Poda’s beach is as impressive as any found on Railay, though the snorkelling around these islands is nothing special.
A half-day private trip to Poda and Gai by longtail boat costs around 1,800 baht and can be arranged directly with the boat drivers at Railay West or Haad Phra Nang. For around 3,000 baht you could opt for a full day, allowing for more beach lounging and a couple of stops for snorkelling. These prices are for the whole boat, not per person, but you’ll likely have to shell out an additional 400 baht per person for the national park ticket upon arrival at Ko Poda. Hold on to that ticket if you’ll also be visiting Ko Phi Phi Leh or other parts of Mu Ko Phi Phi – Hat Noppharat Thara National Park.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ko Poda and Ko Gai can be reached by public longtail boat from Ao Nang for just 300 baht per person, round trip, so you may want to hold off if heading over there after Railay.
Ko Poda and Ko Gai are also included on the “Four Islands” group tours by longtail or speedboat, with prices per person starting as low as 500 baht, not including the national park fee. Alternately you could opt for a tour to beautiful Ko Hong and its satellite isles for more cash (plus a 300-baht ticket—yes, Hong is overseen by a different national park); or to the famous Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh, plus Viking Cave, Ko Mai Pai (Bamboo Island) and other points in that vicinity.
Many boat tour outfits offer longer tours including different combinations of the islands mentioned above. An example is the “Phi Phi Early Bird Plus Four Islands” option, which starts at 06:00 and includes several stops around Phi Phi before continuing to Poda and the other isles found closer to Railay. It lasts 12 hours and costs 2,500 baht. You’ll also find sunset boat tours and fishing trips.
Most of these tours launch from Ao Nang and the boats stop at Railay to pick up passengers. Loads of boat tours also depart from Ko Phi Phi Don and Phuket—expect significant crowds and “paradise beaches” turned into boat parking lots in high season. Maya Bay gets slammed, in particular, but all of these islands are popular and at research time there’s virtually no regulation on visitor numbers. If taking a private trip, ask the boat driver to leave as early as possible to beat the crowds.
Group tours are usually booked through travel agents doing business out of booths and shops all over Railay. If you’ve decided on a tour, ask a few different agents to find the cheapest price. It’s usually cheaper to book through agents than direct through the tour companies.
At time of writing there was only one scuba diving outfit with an office on the peninsula: Railay Dive Centre on Walking Street near Railay West. They offer fun dives to sites around local islands (Ko Poda etc.) by longtail boat starting at 2,700 baht (1,200 baht if snorkelling only), as well as longer day trips by speedboat or a double-decker dive boat to sites further afield.
These include Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, the Bida Islands, Ko Haa, Ko Hong and the wreck of King Cruiser, a ferry that sunk in 1997 between Phi Phi and Phuket. Prices start at around 3,500 baht for fun dives (2,500 baht if snorkelling only). Railay Dive Centre also runs open water courses, including specialty options like deep dive and underwater photography.
Scuba outfits based in Ao Nang can also pick up divers on Railay—check out the Ao Nang diving and boat trips listing for a fuller picture of what’s available.
Railay Dive Centre: Walking Street; T: (096) 634 5641; www.railay-divecenter.com
Kayaking and SUP
Kayaks are easy to come by on Railay, mainly at Railay West and Tonsai, and the coastal cliffs can be a joy to paddle around. Expect to pay around 200 baht per hour or 500 to 800 baht per day for a kayak.
Travel offices also advertise group kayaking tours to Ko Hong, Tha Len and Phang Nga Bay. However, if you’ll be spending time in either Ao Nang or Krabi town, look to arrange the Tha Len and Phang Bay Bay tours from either of those spots to avoid the extra boat ride to/from Railay.
With an office on Walking Street, Freebird Stand Up Paddleboard rents out SUP boards for 400 baht per hour while offering lessons and SUP yoga classes for 600 baht. They also run a “Sunset Starlight Tour” for 1,700 baht that takes you out on the water for sunset before using LED lights to illuminate the underwater world after dark—it sounds nifty. We were told that it’s possible to swim with bioluminescent plankton on occasion during this tour.
Freebird Stand Up Paddleboard Co.: Office on Walking Street just off Railay West; T: (061) 953 9913; www.gofreebird.com
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.