You might come to Railay Bay for its beachside bars and pools, but you’ll stay for the adventures, hidden in plain sight.
The tiny jungle peninsula on Thailand’s east coast, accessible only by boat, is the ideal escape from the chaos of Thailand’s typical tourist hotspots, offering a chance for well-earned relaxation. But even the most chilled-out holidays need a little shot of adrenaline … and you don’t need to be super-fit or skilled to come home with jaw-dropping travel stories that will stand out from the hum-drum tourist experience. Here are six easy and heart-pumping adventures in the area that anyone can try.
1. Snorkel inside an island cave
A short boat ride from Railay Bay will take you to Ko Po Da Nok, a small, verdant island in the Andaman Sea. Crystal clear and warm, the surrounding water is too inviting to resist – jump off the boat, just off the north western beach with a pair of goggles and you’ll find an underwater wonderland. Swimmers are surrounded by vibrant reef fish, eager for the food that human visitors bring. Confident swimmers can venture the 50 or so metres in to shore, and find a shallow sea cave, home to some much-needed shade and a wealth of sea life.
Hiring a private longtail boat for the day costs around 3,000 Baht. Or, book a Four Island tour with a group, for around 800 Baht.
2. Take a rock climbing course
The Railay-Tonsai region is truly one of the world’s great rock climbing meccas, but the awe-inspiring limestone walls aren’t just for experienced climbers. Several companies run half, full, and multiple-day climbing courses for absolute beginners, both young and old, safely guiding adventurers up the epic beachfront cliffs. King Climbers Railay literally wrote the guide book on the thousands of rock climbing routes open for use around the bay, and they run safe, popular and exhilarating experiences with skilled and encouraging English-speaking guides.
Standard courses by King Climbers cost between 1,200 and 6,500 Baht.
You can also hire a private guide for between 3,500 and 21,000 Baht, or talk to instructors about tailoring a course to your individual needs and interests.
3. Explore a limestone cave in the dark
There are dozens of caves around Railay Bay, from beautiful sea caverns, to the sacred Phra Nang or Princess Cave, filled with quirky, phallic symbols. But by far the standout is a dark, cavernous pathway that takes you from an elevated bush track behind Railay Beach to Phra Nang. It is a little off the beaten track, and information about it is difficult to find online, so here are the basics: Walk to the end of Railay’s western beach, and follow the bush track uphill, until you reach a cliff face. With the help of fixed ropes, you can scramble up the rock to reach the mouth of the cave. Inside, you’ll find yourself shrouded in darkness, so a light source is necessary as you navigate through the twists and turns of the cave, with the help of ropes, slung on the rocky walls. Once you return to daylight, you’ll find yourself in bushland just behind beautiful Phra Nang beach.
This adventure is free, but it is best suited to travellers with a moderate level of fitness, as it requires the ability to confidently complete an easy rock scramble to the mouth of the cave. Even if you aren’t a confident rock scrambler, the jungle track that leads you up to the cave is still a must-do, culminating in sweeping views of Railay Bay from on high.
4. Swim with bioluminescent plankton
Picture this: night has fallen, cloaking the beach in darkness. You get into the water, and ripples start to form. Then, thousands of white sparkles begin to appear in the water. Thailand’s bioluminescent plankton is elusive, so budget multiple nights for your search. Finding areas with little light pollution and going out in the dry season will increase your chances of getting a glimpse. If you’re willing to pay, many of the Bay’s longtail boat drivers can take you offshore to secret spots around the islands where conditions are optimal for the plankton. They will also be sure to keep an eye on you while you swim in the darkness. Bioluminescence worldwide is rare, so if the conditions are right, don’t miss the opportunity; it’s a truly magical experience.
Longtail boat hire from Railay Beach costs upwards of 1,500 Baht, depending on the operator and number of passengers.
5. Ride a horse along the beach
Sure, you could go for a swim on your own…but heading out into the water on a four-legged friend just adds an extra sprinkle of magic. Walk the sands of the largely untouched AoNamao Beach near Krabi Town, a short boat ride from Railay. It’s quiet and wild, the limestone islands out at sea, providing a breathtaking backdrop before you plunge into a perfectly warm ocean, swimming into the depths on horseback. The more experienced rider can even take their horse for a beach run. This is an adventure that is as adrenaline-pumping as you choose it to be, and a perfect way to comb the breathtaking Thai coastline.
Tour guides Krabi Trek offer numerous horse riding experiences at AoNamao Beach, from a 1 hour trek for 900 Baht, to a full day of riding for 2,800 Baht. Both the half and full day tours allow riders to stay on the beach for sunset! Guides also offer pick-up from areas around the nearby Krabi Town.
6. Pamper an elephant (or two)
Ethical tourists will love the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. Another experience located in neighbouring Krabi Town, the Sanctuary is a retirement home for elephants rescued from hard lives in the entertainment and the logging industries. Its location is a sprawling property of largely untouched natural habitat where they can wander freely…until meal times! You’ll be taught to make your own protein balls to feed the residents, before meeting them and walking with them down to the river. Then, it’s time to get muddy! Armed with brushes, you’ll jump into the water with these gentle giants to help them take a bath…just be careful they don’t stand on your toes in the slippery silt! At Krabi Elephant Sanctuary, visitors are barred from riding the elephants, but the experience you will have is far better – the breathtaking chance to look a jungle giant in the eye, give it a cuddle and a kiss, and know that it is truly happy and free.
A visit to Krabi Elephant Sanctuary costs 2,500 Baht for adults, and 2,000 Baht for children aged 3 – 9. The Sanctuary offers pick-ups from areas around Krabi Town.
Nicole Rowles is the Weather Presenter for Nine News Regional Queensland and Darwin. You can catch her local weather reports 6pm weeknights in the Far North Queensland, North Queensland, Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast and Darwin regions.