side by side photo comparison of Ao Nang or Railay Beach in Thailand

Ao Nang or Railay Beach: Which to Stay In?

Ao Nang or Railay Beach is a popular debate when deciding where to stay in Krabi. Both areas are excellent but have their pros and cons!

Despite both areas being on the mainland, Railay Beach can only be reached by boat.

In this Ao Nang vs Railay Beach comparison guide, I will highlight how to get to both areas, what each area is known for, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and a few tips to know!

By the end of this Ao Nang or Railay Beach guide, you should know where you’d prefer to stay between the two. There are standout significant differences between the two areas, so deciding which would be better for you to stay in should be easy!

beautiful large limestones surround by forest full of limestones in Krabi, Thailand

How to Get to Ao Nang

Bangkok to Ao Nang

Flight from Bangkok Airport to Krabi Airport – Fly into Krabi Airport, and from there, go to Ao Nang by taxi

Time: 1.5 HoursCost: $25 – $45 US

Bus from Bangkok to Krabi Town – Take the bus to Krabi Town, and go to Ao Nang by taxi.

Time: 13 HoursCost: $20 US

Phuket to Ao Nang

Ferry from Phuket to Ao Nang – The best/fastest way to Ao Nang from Phuket is by ferry from Rassada Pier

Time: 2 HoursCost: $20 – $25 US

Surat Thani Town to Ao Nang

Van from Surat Thani Town to Ao Nang – The best/cheapest way to Ao Nang from Surat Thani Town

Time: 4 Hours Cost: $13 – $16 US

large limestones standing tall photographed from a long tail boat taxi between Ao Nang and Railay Beach

How to Get to Railay Beach

There is only one way to get to Railay Beach from Ao Nang: a longtail boat taxi at Ao Nang Beach. Here’s everything you need to know about going from Ao Nang to Railay Beach and vice versa.

How do I get from Ao Nang to Railay Beach?

Once you’re in Ao Nang, walk over to Ao Nang Beach, and on each end of the beach are several long-tail boat taxis going back and forth between Ao Nang and Railay Beach throughout the day.

At each end of Ao Nang Beach, a stall sells long-tail boat taxi tickets on each side to Railay.

It’s important to know that long tail boat taxis STOP at 6:00 PM, sometimes earlier because of the low tide at Railay Beach. So leave before if you’re visiting from Ao Nang or vice versa. Boat taxis start at 8:00 AM.

Longtail boat taxis don’t leave until the boat is full of people, so you may have to wait a few minutes before leaving until the boat is full. – Cost: 100 – 150 Baht / $3 – $4 US per way.

Things To Do

Besides the beach and similar day trips, Ao Nang and Railay Beach offer different things to do.

Whether you’re staying in Ao Nang or Railay Beach, both places offer the same type of day excursions to experience.

Before you read further, here’s a list of the best day trips to attend from Ao Nang or Railay Beach.

Krabi 4 Island Tour

Phi Phi Islands / Maya Bay

Hong Islands

views of giant limestones and beautiful turquoise waters from a long tail boat on the way to Maya Bay Beach in Thailand

Best Things To Do in Ao Nang

While Ao Nang shares a few similar activities as Railay Beach, there are a few things you can do in Ao Nang you can’t do in Railay Beach.

That’s because Ao Nang is significantly more developed than Railay Beach. Here are the best things to do in Ao Nang when visiting.

Relax at Ao Nang Beach

The main attraction in Ao Nang is the beach. Ao Nang Beach is approximately 1.5 km long, offering plenty of room to sunbathe and go swimming.

Overall, Ao Nang has a chilled-out atmosphere, making it an ideal place to relax and unwind.

Many cafes and restaurants surround the beach, so it’s convenient when you’re looking to buy some food during your beach day.

From budget-friendly backpacker stays to luxurious hotels, Ao Nang Beach has many nearby accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs.

Check out Monkey Trail when visiting Ao Nang Beach, an area at the end of the beach with many monkeys jumping around in the wild.

While Ao Nang Beach is an excellent relaxing place, it could be better for swimming. You’re better off going to Railay, if you’d like to visit better beaches for swimming.

giant swordfish statue on the boardwalk in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand
Ao Nang Beach

Visit Ao Nang Elephant Sanctuary

No matter where you visit in Thailand, visiting an elephant sanctuary is one of the most popular things to experience when visiting.

During this Elephant Sanctuary Tour, you will experience an afternoon of interacting with these large majestic animals, bathing with them, and feeding them. It’s an unforgettable experience! – Tour includes roundtrip hotel pickup and drop off

Visit Krabi Town

Krabi Town is the capital of the province of Krabi It’s a small but laid-back town full of many things to do.

Some of the best local food can be found in Krabi Town because it’s far less touristy than most places in Krabi.

The Krabi Walking Street is lively on weekend nights and fun to walk around and do some shopping/eating.

Krabi Town offers a glimpse into the daily life of those living in Krabi. Something nice to experience because while Krabi province is home to many popular destinations, the tourism side isn’t all it has to offer!

Ao Nang Landmark Night Market

Another must-do activity in Thailand is visiting the many night markets. If you’ve traveled around Thailand, you must have visited a few. But if you’re visiting for the first time, go to a night market!

Ao Nang Landmark Night Market is the most popular night market in town. There, you will find several street food stall vendors selling foods from Pad Thai, papaya salad, lots of seafood, fresh fruit, cocktails to drink, and much more!

The night market opens at 5:30 PM till 10:00 PM daily.

Street Food Eats

This is your spot for those looking for cheap street food in the afternoon. It’s a street food day market named Street Food Stalls.

While Ao Nang is home to many different restaurants offering different cuisines, you sometimes want to try small plates of street food!

Walking down the main 4203 Street, you will notice a sign that says RCA; this is where the cheap street food stalls are.

You will find tom yum soup, pad Thai, pad kra pow, fried rice, kebabs, and burgers, amongst many other local dishes. Most food here will cost you $2.5 – $4 US per plate.

Street Food TIP: Close to the end of Ao Nang Beach, you will spot a man cooking corn that’s deaf. He cooks corn with coconut charcoal and has a sign suggesting he makes the best corn. I highly recommend you try his corn. it’s the best corn I’ve had anywhere.

a man cooking corn with coconut charcoal, famous in Ao Nang for his cooked corn
Man famous for his Special BBQ Coconut Charcoal corn in Ao Nang Beach

What is Ao Nang known for?

Ao Nang is known as the best area to do island hopping tours from, it’s also the most central area in Krabi, making it a top choice for those visit Krabi for the first time!

The main pier in Ao Nang, Nopparat Thara Pier can take you to all the islands in Krabi. Also, the beach town offers plenty of dining, shopping and hotels to choose form.

Best Things To Do in Railay Beach

The activities in Railay Beach vs Ao Nang are very different. Besides relaxing at the beach, the activities at Railay Beach tend to be more active and adventurous.

Relax at the Beach

large high rocks at the end of Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay, Krabi
Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay

There are three beaches to spend the day in Railay, and I highly recommend you visit them all because they are all remarkable in their own ways.

Choosing between Railay Beach or Ao Nang will be easy if beaches are important to you because Railay has much better beaches.

Spend a relaxing afternoon at any of these beaches and enjoy the tropical atmosphere Railay offers!

Railay West Beach: This is the famous main beach and where you will arrive if you’re coming from Ao Nang.

Tonsai Beach: Located next to Railay West Beach, you can only access this beach by swimming, hiking over the rocks, or by boat. It’s the most peaceful beach among the three on this list.

Phra Nang Cave Beach : Located in the Southern area of Railay, this beach is ranked one of the best in the world and is the most ideal for swimming in Railay.

Visit Diamond Cave, aka (Phra Nang Nai Cave)

Diamond Cave is the largest cave in Railay, accessible through the only trail that heads North of Railay.

Walking on course, you will notice the cave’s exterior alongside several monkeys jumping around.

The inside is beautiful, and you will hear several bats screeching. I highly recommend visiting. Walking through the entire cave will only take 15 minutes. The cost to enter is 200 Baht per adult.

exterior view of the famous diamond cave in Railay Beach, Krabi

Kayaking or Paddle Boarding

With beaches surrounded by large limestones and exotic views everywhere you look. One of the best ways to appreciate these picturesque views is to kayak or paddleboard along the water!

You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and do just that. Both will cost 200 baht to rent per hour or if you want to use them for the entire day, each should cost 800 baht.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is popular in Railay, and it’s easy to see why. Railay is home to several large limestones, ideal for rock climbing.

Some well-known rock climbing spots include Bat Cave, Diamond Cave, and Phra Nang Cave Beach.

To do any rock climbing here, you’ve got to book through a local company – Book Rock Climbing

Or, if you’re not up for some rock climbing, go on a hike in Railay. The Railay Lagoon and East Railay viewpoint are both popular hiking spots in Krabi.

What is Railay Beach known for?

Railay Beach is famous for its mesmerizing beaches, large, beautiful limestones, rock climbing, and tropical nature.

Staying in Railay offers one a bit of a relaxing jungle-like atmosphere. It cannot be entirely described but more felt when you visit. Despite not being an island, Railay definitely feels like one!

long tail boats docked at Railay beach on the west of the island
Railay West Beach

Hotels & Resorts

Whether you stay in Ao Nang or Railay Beach, both places have many different accommodations to choose from.

However, Ao Nang has a more extensive selection because it’s more developed than Railay Beach.

I’ve included three different accommodations for Ao Nang and Railay. Included are luxury options, mid-range, and a budget-friendly hostel accommodations.

Where to Stay in Ao Nang

Holiday Ao Nang Beach 5 Stars

Holiday Ao Nang is a stunning 5 Star resort right in the heart of it all, located directly on Ao Nang Beach. The resort has a pool and several beach loungers to enjoy.

Staying here means you’re only a short walk away from everything: restaurants, bars, markets, and more.

Cosi Krabi Ao Nang3 Stars

COSI Ao Nang is a fun, colorful, modern hotel offering exceptional rooftop views. It’s a short walk away from Ao Nang Beach, and the road it’s located on has several nearby restaurants.

K Bunk Ao NangHostel

K Bunk is known for being the highest-rated hostel in Ao Nang. They have a choice of private rooms as well as dorm rooms.

The communal area is spacious, and they have a breakfast bar to eat at in the morning. It’s also close to many restaurants on the main 4203 Road. Ao Nang Beach is only 20 minute walk away.

tourist walking around Monkey Trail an area full of wild monkeys and the beach in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand

Where to Stay in Railay Beach

Rayavadee 5 Stars

Located at the south end of Railay’s West Beach is Rayavadee, a stunning 5-star oasis. This resort has done an exceptional job delivering a luxury experience in the middle of the jungle.

Staying at the Rayavadee is a unique experience in itself. Just look at the backdrops surrounding this hotel; they’re spectacular!

Avatar Railay Resort3 Stars

Avatar Railay Resort is located along Railay’s East side, an exceptional 3-star hotel. Just read the reviews and browse some of the photos of the rooms.

Some rooms face each other because the pool is in the center, so privacy could be better, but again, considering the price and reviews, this is a strong choice for a mid-range hotel!

Blanco Hideout RailayHostel

Those looking for hostel accommodation in Railay Beach, look no further than Blanco Hideout. This is the top-rated hostel in Railay.

A pool with an exceptional view, it’s clean, and the communal area is spacious.

clear skies, several palm trees along the three-way road in Railay Beach, Krabi


Let’s discuss the food in Ao Nang and Railay Beach because there’s a noticeable difference between the two areas regarding food.

Ao Nang has a significant advantage of Railay Beach regarding restaurants, street food and overall cuisine variety. It’s the more developed area of the two, so it makes sense.

Below, I will share a list of the best restaurants in each place. But before I do that, I’d like to mention that Ao Nang has a street food culture/night market, something Railay Beach doesn’t have.

The last time I was in Railay Beach, which was earlier last year, 2023, there was construction near the main walking street, and I think they’re building a night market there!

Where to Eat in Ao Nang

  • Kodam KitchenThai Restaurant
  • The Hilltop Ao NangViewpoint Restaurant
  • Manana Mexican Restaurant Authentic Mexican Food
  • Ton Ma Yom ThaiFoodAuthentic Thai

Where to Eat in Railay Beach

  • The Heart Restaurant Traditional Thai Food
  • Railay Cafe ThaiNoodle Shop
  • Railay StoryThai BBQ
  • Summer FreshBreakfast Cafe
the main walking street in Railay Beach empty in the morning hours

Tips for Ao Nang

  • If you’re on a budget, there’s plenty of affordable food at the markets here I’ve mentioned above.
  • If you visit Railay Beach from Ao Nang, return before 6:00 PM. – Longtail Boat Taxis stop after, and you will get stuck in Railay for the night.
  • Ao Nang has cheaper food on average compared to Railay.

Tips for Railay Beach

  • Don’t spend the whole day lying around when visiting Phra Nang Beach. Walk around the beach, there are a few hidden gems on the beach to discover.
  • If you visit Ao Nang for the day, return before 6:00 PM – Longtail Boat Taxis stop after.
  • If you visit Ao Nang for the day, buying anything you may need is a good idea. Railay Beach has a few locally owned shops, but goods are limited here.

Things to Pack for Ao Nang or Railay Beach

Here are a few items to consider packing when visiting Ao Nang, Railay Beach or anywhere in southern Thailand!

A Dry Bag: When you arrive by boat or island hopping in Krabi, you sometimes have to go into the water and walk to the shore. You run the risk of getting any electronics and your things wet. 

Fast Drying Towel: A towel is necessary, of course. But the best towel to bring is something made from microfibre, which drys quickly. You’ll be in and out of the ocean frequently, so always having a dry towel is convenient!

Waterproof Mobile Phone Case: When you’re on excursions, you will more than likely want to take pictures when you’re on the boat, but that also means your phone will get wet. This mobile case helps avoid that!

Travel Insurance: You never know what may happen when visiting a foreign country; hospital visits in Thailand can add up—boat accidents, food poisoning, flight cancelations, etc. Don’t take the risk!

large limestone isolated in the ocean being views from Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay, Krabi, Thailand

Ao Nang or Railay Beach Final Thoughts

After reading this Ao Nang or Railay Beach comparison guide, I hope you’ve decided where you need to stay!

But if you’re still undecided, here are some parting words about each place that may convince you to stay in one place over another!

Solo Traveler: Both places are popular amongst solo travelers, but Railay Beach is favorable!

Couples: Both places are excellent for couples. Ao Nang has larger town conveniences, but Railay is more intimate.

Group of Friends: It depends on the group of friends. If your group likes outdoor activity and adventure, go to Railay, but if your friends prefer to relax and shop/food, then Ao Nang will be better.

Family: Ao Nang is far better for a family. Railay Beach is less kid-friendly and has far fewer conveniences than Ao Nang.

several tourists walking by the long tail boat taxis in Railay Beach
Is it better to stay in Railay Beach or Ao Nang?

Both areas have their pros and cons. Ao Nang is an excellent area for its conveniences, beach, and central location.

In contrast, Railay Beach offers more outdoor activities and offers a more tropical atmosphere than Ao Nang.

Is it worth going to Railay Beach?

Yes, it is worth visiting. Railay Beach has many beautiful beaches and several outdoor activities to experience, and its nature is some of the most beautiful in Krabi!

Can you walk to Railay from Ao Nang?

No, you cannot walk to Railay from Ao Nang. Despite their proximity, large limestone formations and natural features separate the two areas..

Why is Railay Beach so popular?

Besides its breathtaking beaches and natural surroundings, Railay Beach is famous amongst solo travelers and backpackers for its extremely laid-back atmosphere.

Happy & Safe Travels

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