Few places have been as hyped & glamorized as the beaches in Thailand. I’ve been looking forward to them so much that I worried I’d be setting myself up for disappointment, but Rayavadee in Krabi lived up to my dreams.
I decided to split my Thailand visit between city (Bangkok) and beach (Krabi) with a stop in Cambodia in between (Siem Reap). With my limited time, I had to pick one beach destination (I’m not interested in packing my bags everyday for the sake of seeing it all). So, I spent many months researching every thing about Thai beaches to find “the one”.
My priorities were:
- Close proximity/ease to visiting hot spots like Koh Phi Phi and other islands. I don’t want to spend 45 mins on a bus, then 20 min on a boat and another 2 hrs on a boat just to get to one island.
- Located on a picturesque beach. All resorts are generally on a beach, but I want the postcard-worthy scene outside my door and not have to get on a long tail boat to get to the good beaches.
- Five-star resort option. Hotels are where I splurge, especially at a beach destination where most of my time is spent at the resort. Many locations were primarily backpacker-type accommodations.
Why I decided against Phuket & Koh Samui
I started with the most popular locations, but quickly excluded them.
Koh Samui is on the wrong side. It’s on the east side in the Gulf of Thailand. So, if you stay there, you’re not leaving the east side (unless you want to spend hours in a car). All the popular islands like Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay (from the movie the Beach), James Bond Island, etc are all on the west side in the Andaman Sea. As you read further, I will come to the conclusion that Koh Samui might not be a bad idea for next time as there are some lesser known islands to explore and the beaches are supposed to be nice (better than Phuket, but I don’t think better than Railay Beach).
Phuket is an island in the Andaman Sea, but most of the luxury resorts are in the north west corner. The south east corner is where the dock is to explore other areas. It’s a 45 min car ride to the dock from the luxury resorts. The area by the dock is very touristy and I did not find any five-star resorts. Also, the beaches, at least by the high end resorts, are not very picturesque.
Why Krabi is ‘The One”
I found Railay Beach and Koh Phi Phi were the most common day trips from Phuket. All the resorts on Koh Phi Phi are low end bungalows. Railay Beach is located on Krabi. Krabi is east of Phuket, which makes it a touch closer to exploring the other islands, but most importantly, there are five-star resorts on the shoreline by the dock. Well, there is one, to be specific- Rayavadee. Rayavadee is located directly on Railay Beach– this is important in order to enjoy the beach without a crowd, either early in the morning or later in the evening when the tourist boats have left.
Rayavadee: The Best Luxury Beach Resort in Thailand
Rayavadee is located directly on Railay Beach. While Railay has an east and west side, Rayavadee is the only resort that spans both shorelines. This gives you access to three beaches directly from the resort.
On the east side, you have Nammao Beach. This is where your transfer boat will dock when you first arrive and where you’ll depart from. This side is mostly covered in mangroves, so you won’t be coming to this side unless you’re getting on a boat.
On the west side you have Railay Beach. If you see any stunning Thai beach photos with the colorful long tails boats- that’s usually from this beach. Rayavadee’s amazing pool over looks Railay Beach. You can also soak in the views, away from the crowds, on the resort’s Raitalay Terrace.
On the south west side you have Phranang Beach. It’s impossible to take a bad photo from Phranang Beach. You can rent snorkels or kayaks and take a trip around Happy Island. Rayavadee’s private charters leave from this side. You can also watch the sunset over this beach from the Grotto- the most romantic, open-air restaurant under an ancient limestone cliff.
Just as stunning as the beaches, Rayavadee has a unbelievable pool with a great view of Railay Beach. During the day, the crowds on the beach can get overwhelming. The pool is a great way to enjoy the views, in seclusion, with all the cold towels and tropical drinks you could want.
All accommodations are in private villas, which Rayavadee refers to as pavilions. The Deluxe Pavilion is the cheapest option, but also the best. The next four levels of pavilion types are exactly the same size but either have an outdoor terrace or some type of jacuzzi or mini pool. As amazing as my stay at Rayavadee was, the one thing I noticed is that they do not do a good job with insect control (I was eaten alive by mosquitos). This may have something to do with the eco-friendly grounds they keep, but it was in stark contrast to my stay in Bali, which is just as humid & insect happy. This, coupled with the fact that the private pools are shaded and not heated make the additional money paid to upgrade, a waste.
Below are photos of my deluxe pavilion. It was the cutest little house, perfect for double occupancy. I loved the layout so much, I wish I could build the same pavilion back home in Chicago to live in. The first floor is a large living area and a half bathroom. The second floor is a large master ensuite with an office area and a vanity desk. There’s also a generous supply of Rayavadee’s own brand of toiletries from aftersun lotion to mosquito repellant. The lotions & soaps are so fantastic that I bought extras home with me.
Rayavadee has four restaurants in addition to in-villa dining. I really loved that only hotel guests are allowed to eat in the restaurants. This ensured that they were never crowded and always able to accommodate resorts guests at any time. Breakfast is included and features a generous buffet along with a made-to-order menu of American staples and South Asian classics. The pavilion guests have breakfast in Raya Dining.
I loved having drinks on the patio at Raitalay Terrace. It’s lovely being perched above the crowds enjoying the gorgeous view of Railay Beach. I also highly recommend having a romantic dinner at the Grotto. Time it with sunset and enjoy the live music. Don’t order the set menus; they are an obnoxious amount of food, and you’ll end up wasting it.
Located at the edge of Krabi’s National Marine Park, Rayavadee is home to hundreds of animals and plants. The resort was built to reside amongst the wildlife- not a single tree was cut down to build it. As you walk the beautiful grounds, you’ll weave through tropical gardens and see monkeys trapezing overhead, just be sure to not let them into your villa! The beautiful plants are labelled throughout and you can read about each plant and animal in a colorful booklet located in your villa. You can also ask for extras from the front desk to take home as a souvenir.
When I started planning my Thailand trip, visiting Koh Phi Phi was at the top of my list. It was the most talked about destination. I even watched the Beach to get excited for the trip, but as I did more research and read more reviews, so many people complained about the pollution and crowds. When I saw actual traveller photos, Maya Bay did not look anything like the movie. The issue is that all the tour boats arrive & depart at approx the same time, and they all dock in the same place. So there’s no escaping them, unless you book a private charter.
Rayavadee offers many different types of private and small group excursions from riding elephants to rock climbing to private charters to all the major islands. I decided that I would take advantage of the complimentary activities on the resort (more below) and just book a private charter for a half day to Bamboo Island. I saved even more by getting a package deal with Rayavadee that included massages, a cooking class and dinner at the Grotto.
The private charter allowed me to choose my departure time so I chose to leave a couple hours earlier than the tour groups. Having a smaller boat allowed us to dock in a secluded area away from the tour boats. Rayavadee provided a lovely picnic lunch which we enjoyed on the island before setting off to do some snorkeling by Chicken Island. The trip was picturesque and relaxing.
When I saw the tour boats leaving Railay Beach packing in people to an alarming amount, I didn’t miss Koh Phi Phi one bit. Honestly, Railay Beach and Phrang Beach are so beautiful you really won’t feel like you missed anything if you never left the resort.
Rayavadee offers many complimentary activities like tennis, squash, fitness center, kayaking, snorkeling and great hiking trails. There’s an amazing hike that takes about 30 mins up to a stunning view point. You can also take that same trail and hike down into a secret lagoon. It’s very steep so I only took it halfway down. The start of the trail is inconspicuously located off the Phranang Walk. There are no markers except for a ropes which you’ll use to pull yourself up.
They also have a fantastic spa on site and many different types of classes, like flower garland making and Thai fruit carving. I signed up for a cooking class. It was held in the beautiful, open-air restaurant, Krua Phranang. I had amazing views of Phranang Beach while I learned to cook three traditional Thai dishes. Rayavadee provides beautiful recipe cards in a keepsake holder to each attendee. I highly reccommend the class.
Also, be sure to check out the Rayavadee Boutique. It’s a wonderfully curated store with unique treasures within every budget. I got the earrings below for about $15 USD.