There’s a beach, a cave, a lagoon, a viewpoint, many stalagmites and stalactites.. and also a lot of monkeys. This is Phra Nang beach in Krabi, one of the most beautiful beaches of Thailand.
Wooden phallic symbols installed over generations and riveting tales to add to the mystery have made Phra Nang a popular beach destination in Thailand all round the year. The crystal clear waters and pristine sand have only added to the lure of the travelers. Phra Nang Beach has been a part of many travel publications’ top beaches list year after year along with the famous Maya Bay of the Beach Movie fame.
Phra Nang was believed to be the name of an Indian woman, who lost her fisherman husband at sea and spent the rest of her life awaiting his return in this cave. To ensure safe fishing, offerings in the form of male genitalia are made by the locals, which present a truly colorful site. Today this is one of the most visited attractions in Krabi and the following information will make your trip to Phra Nang beach a memorable one.
Most people come to Phra Nang on a day trip as a part of the Karni four island tour, but we recommend you spend more time here and stay in one of the nearby bungalows or resorts. Due to the secular nature, Phra Nang beach trip will surely leave one with a feeling of tranquility and bliss.
Where is Phra Nang beach?
Phra Nang beach is situated in the Krabi region on the southernmost tip of the Railay Peninsula, just to the south of West Railay. The beach has a very good location on the tip of the headland overlooking the Andaman Sea and is also known for the spectacular limestone formations.
One of the four beaches in the area, Phra Nang is has the calmest of waters, ideal for sunbathing and swimming. In comparison, you can’t swim or sunbathe in the nearby Railay East beach because it is covered with mangroves. You will enjoy the nearby beaches of Railay West and Ton Sai, but we will get to that part later in this post.
How to reach Phra Nang beach?
It may take some doing to get to Phra Nang cave beach, but once you have arrived you will realize that every step of yours was worth the effort to get to this legendary place.
In order to reach Phra Nang beach, you first have to reach Krabi Province in Thailand. Krabi Town has an airport, pier and railway station. Krabi Town can be easily reached from many other places in Thailand. You can go even go easily from Koh samui to Krabi and all other major destinations in Thailand. (Btw, read about my funny entry in Krabi in 2013 in this blog post here)
If you’re staying in Railay, then you can just walk to Phra Nang beach. It is very close to Railay East, Railey West and even Ton Sai. The walk from Railay East or Railay West is lovely and flat, so anyone can do this. From Ton Sai, you may have to climb on a rock if the tide is high.
Below is a little map that I made a few years back to share the walking instructions for a friend. The dotted yellow path is for walking – of course it isn’t straight as how it looks on the map.
Most of the people who visit Krabi, end up staying in Ao Nang or Krabi Town instead of Railay. The most convenient way to access Phra Nang from Ao Nang is by hiring a long tail boat, as a shared taxi.
The boat services run between 8 am to 6 pm, and the tickets cost about 200 Thai baht per person one way. The trip takes ten minutes and the rates are decided by the local longboat association. You can buy the tickets at either the end of Ao Nang beach or the southern end of Nopparat Beach. The boat drivers usually wait till they have at least eight passengers, before embarking on the trip.
Phra Nang Cave & Shrine
If you’re visiting the Phra Nang Cave Beach, you don’t have to go out of your way to see the cave. Just at the entry point of the Phra Nang beach is the legendary Phra Nang Cave, and inside the cave is the Phra Nang shrine. There are many legends and stories about the shrine, you can read some of them here.
If you look at the map, you will notice that the Phra Nang Cave lies on the eastern part of Railay bay. The entire rocky area has amazing limestone formations, especially the wonderful stalagmites and stalactites which can be found here. Oddly enough, the formations look like mushrooms, or dicks. Haha!
Well, those aren’t the only penises you will see here, there are wooden penises all over the Phra Nang shrine. Said to be the home of a mythical sea princess of the same name, locals consider the cave to be a sacred place and houses more than a hundred phallic symbols of all sizes symbolizing fertility.
Most people visit Phra Nang to relax and enjoy the sunshine amid the beautiful limestone formations – the typical Krabi scenery.
Are There any Hotels on Phra Nang Beach?
A part of Phra Nang beach is a part of the luxurious Rayavadee Resort, the only one of its kind in Phra Nang, and occupies an area of 26 acres. Budget accommodation is also available at a short distance from the beach in Railay East or Railay West.
Avoiding Crowds at Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang Beach is massive and tends to get crowded mostly near the entry area. Go walk till the end of the beach and most likely you will find a lot of empty areas starting from the middle of the beach till the end.
The best way to experience Phra Nang Beach is to stay here after the crowds leave on the long tail boats or to arrive here early in the morning before the day trippers reach.
Apart from the Phra Nang Beach, another lovely beach in the Railay peninsula is the Railay West beach. It is the main beach of Railay and serves as the arrival spot for visitors from Ao Nang to the Railay area. The boat ride between Ao Nang and Railay West barely takes around 15 minutes.
As compared to Railay East, I found Railay West to be a little upscale. A small community of expats and friendly locals run some bars and stores along the Railay walking street.
Railay West is surrounded by tall cliffs which have been twisted in different shapes over the years due to the constant vagaries of the weather. Rock climbing here has therefore become a major challenging sport in Railay West.
Since the beach faces the west, it becomes an ideal spot to watch the setting sun against the stunning backdrop of the tall limestone cliffs.The beach becomes a very active spot at night with the constant arrival and departure of the boats from the mainland. Visitors too have a great time engaging in various outdoor activities like football and sepaktakraw.
Railay West has a lot of amazing places to stay on the beach. Look for Sand Sea Resort and Railay Village Resort – they’re both good and you will enjoy your stay there.
Railay East doesn’t really have a beach where you can swim or sit on the sand. This narrow beach is very different than beaches here because of the mangroves which are only found on Railay East. But hey, don’t get me wrong. Railay East is beautiful too, you just have to go a little high to see how lovely it looks when the tide is high.
A two kilometer long cement path goes around the beach and offers ideal avenues for jogging and hiking. This path is dotted with a lot of restaurants, bars and and adventure shops. Railay East also has a boat pier and if you arrive in Railay area from Krabi town, this is where you will arrive on a long tail boat.
While Railay West is all about the beach and fancy restaurants, Railay East has an amazing nightlife. The most amazing place to party here is the
Last Bar, which is literally just the last bar at the end of Railay East. You can also check out the nearby Skunk Bar and Why Not bar.
Apart from the nightlife, the Diamond Cave is one of the principal attractions of Railay East. It features a wooden walking path with adequate illumination to make access to the cave easy. For a nominal entrance fee one can see fantastic rock formations inside the cave as well as witness a large colony of bats.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Railay, then check out Railay Garden View Resort – we stayed here in 2013 and absolutely loved it. We had a sea view bungalow here for which we had to climb up a little but it was worth it. Alternatively, you can also consider Sunrise Tropical Resort.
As you walk from Railay East to Phra Nang Beach, there are rocks on the left side and you will notice a climbing path before you turn for the beach. If you go up there, you will reach an amazing viewpoint from where you can see both the Railay Beaches – Railay East and Railay West.
The climb to the viewpoint isn’t difficult but can get very slippery. There are ropes along the climbing path that you can hold for support. The rocks have holes and form natural steps. There isn’t just one single viewpoint but a few of them as you explore the area on top.
Wear shoes that don’t have a slippery sole and you will be good to go. Watch out for the monkeys, they are everywhere. They’re cute but can attack too, so keep your belongings close to you, especially snacks.
Right on top of the viewpoint, you will notice a path that goes down. This path goes to the lagoon. Reaching here will take you around 45 minutes. It is unbelievably gorgeous that will make you feel you’ve entered a movie.
The lagoon is surrounded by the rocks on all the sides that are covered with trees, so the sound effect of the forest and monkeys is insane. The water is amazingly refreshing, make sure you swim here as a reward for your hard work of reaching here.
While getting on top of the viewpoint is easy, the way to the lagoon isn’t. Mostly because it gets extremely slippery. The mud here is clay like and gets very smooth as you step on it, enough to throw you off balance. Make sure you wear good shoes (and no flip flops) and pick a dry time of the day to climb down to the lagoon.
Carry a super small backpack with drinking water, maybe a snack or two, a sarong that you can use as a towel after your swim and of course your little camera.
We saw a couple of injured people here, who looked physically fit. Bear in mind that reaching the lagoon isn’t for everyone and you should know when to stop. If you do decide to go, take all the time you need to reach the lagoon because you can slip and hurt yourself if you’re in a hurry.
The Best Way to Enjoy Phra Nang Beach?
Understand that visiting Phra Nang isn’t only about the beach. There are many unmissable things to do here and below is how I think you can maximize your experience:
Stay in the nearby Railay East or Railay West for the night. Walk to Phra Nang before 9 am, hike up to the viewpoint, climb down to the lagoon, swim in the lagoon, spend an hour or two in the lagoon area, get back to the Phra Nang beach from the lagoon and swim again to cool off.
After your swim, eat a snack from one of the long tail boat cafes, drink an overpriced cocktail in Grotto cave bar, relax on the beach on a mat till it gets dark and swim again to see the bioluminescent plantkon.
Ton Sai Beach
Ton Sai may not enjoy the same popularity as some of the other beaches in the vicinity but is no less dramatic than the others. It is my favorite part of the Railay Area, mostly because it has a low key and relaxed vibe, which is missing from many other areas. This part of Southern Thailand may be known for its laid back atmosphere but is also a hub of outdoor activities like snorkeling, diving, rock climbing and more.
Ton Sai is a small village that is accessible only by boat or by walking from Railay West when the tide is low. This walk takes just 10 minutes from Railay West Beach. When the tide is high, you may have to climb a little, it isn’t tough to do so. For this reason, Ton Sai is mostly visited by backpackers, campers and adventure enthusiasts.
Apart from a few wooden shacks that function as bars, restaurants and homestay, there is really nothing in Ton Sai. It may seem rustic at first sight, but once you experience the tranquility and the natural beauty of Ton Sai you would wish to stay longer.
Evenings at Ton Sai have a unique flair of its own with locals performing with fire dance shows as reggae music can be heard in the background. Prices here are much lower than other places in the region, with good accommodation in bamboo bungalows can be had for around 500 baht per night.
We stayed in a place called Andaman Nature Resort in Ton Sai, which at that time did not have an option for online booking. We also stayed in a place called Sai-Ngam Botanic Garden Resort, which was deep inside Ton Sai’s forest area. It is very basic so don’t stay here if you’re looking for something fancy.
Eating in Ton Sai isn’t so expensive as compared to Railay. We enjoyed the food at Andaman Nature Resort. Also, Mama’s Chicken is the trademark dish at Ton Sai and can be had for less than 100 baht at certain places.