I spent 8 days in Ao Nang and had an absolute blast. This is a location that is perfect for adventurers and lovers of warm weather, particularly those who enjoy the ocean and exploring paradise…sounds like most people! As always I only recommend or list activities that I personally experienced so here is a list of what I got up to, in just over a week in Ao Nang, Thailand.
*I was hoping to add Hin Yoeng Waterfall to this list but it rained so much that I actually almost ruined a moped after it stopped working in thick mud in the middle of the jungle. I had convinced a guy at the hotel to come with me and halfway through the day I could see on his face he was imagining just relaxing on the beach instead of riding 60mph on a moped in the rain with this crazy guy he just met. But seriously… he was a great guy from Israel who battled through the day and made the most of it. My kind of adventurer. If anyone gets to Hin Yoeng Waterfall please let me know about their experience!
Ao Nang Things To Do: 13 Adventures
1. West Railay Beach
This was one of the most beautiful beaches in the area with so many other cool things to do within close proximity. West Railay shares a bay with Ton Sai Beach around the corner and is great for kayaking, sunbathing and enjoying the stunning backdrop of cliffs. 10-20 small cafes and bars are situated right next to the beach so you are covered for lunch and drinks. West Railay Beach is a great spot to base yourself for the day as many of the adventures on this list are in the same area.
2. Ao Nang Beach
This beach is a very long stretch of sand with cliffs at either end meaning access is limited to people staying in Ao Nang or requires transport by boats. While it isn’t the most picturesque beach in the region there are a number of reasons why it is a beautiful spot and great for photographers. The sun sets on the horizon, which is great news for sunset lovers. The other factor that makes the sunset beautiful on Ao Nang Beach is the low tide. As the water recedes away from the shore, it leaves behind a glistening layer of sand. Every night I could, I tried to catch the sunset at Ao Nang Beach hoping for some beautiful colors and one night I got lucky with soft pastel tones allowing me to get creative with my surroundings.
Planning on heading to Koh Samui? Make sure to check out the best viewpoints on the island!
3. Phra Nang Cave
A short kayak around the corner from Railay or a 15-minute walk across Railay you will find Phra Nang Beach. A huge islet sits out in the water, which is truly a majestic sight. Paddling out in the ocean beneath this monolithic backdrop was beautiful. Further down the beach, you will find Phra Nang Cave. Inside the cave is a shrine full of…. wooden penises. Offerings from local people who repay the gods after the things they prayed for, actually happened. Why penises? The sign at the front of the cave tied the offering of penises to the worship of creation among other beliefs. An interesting little piece of culture although quite bizarre!
4. Railay Rock Climbing
I did some rock climbing on my hike but I didn’t personally rock climb through an organized activity although I did enjoy watching the serious rock climbers for about half an hour. One partner belays the other, as they try to scale the cliffs. This was common on Phra Nang Beach but there were several sites around the Railay region suitable for rock climbing. This was usually an organized activity and there were plenty of places to book rock climbing. I think this is something I will definitely try next time.
5. East Railay Beach
The second time I went to Railay Beach, I walked across to East Railay. This was much busier with longboats dropping off and picking up hotel guests. The beach was nice but more of a mangrove type shoreline in some areas. A very picturesque spot but I would suggest Railay West for your out and out beach chill day. Railay East is awesome for photos as there are lots of longboats and the cliffs/mangrove trees make for some beautiful scenery in your photos.
6. Railay Viewpoint East
Very close to Railay East and only a short walk from Railay West is the well-known viewpoint. I didn’t attempt this one but thought it deserved to be on the Ao Nang things to do list as I did have similar views from the other hike. It looked extremely muddy and lots of fun with views of both Railay East and West but I was short of time. There weren’t too many signs directing people to the hike but it was on the path between Phra Nang to Railay East. A large assortment of flip flops at the base of the walk identified its beginning. The emerging and highly muddied tourists were evidence of the challenging climb. The views on this hike seemed great from photos I saw but not as good as the hike I did… by mistake! I was looking for this hike and accidentally climbed to a different viewpoint.
7. Railay Viewpoint West
Walk down to the southern end of Railay West, where all the longboats are moored. There are a number of paths that lead up the cliff. Pick the one you like as they all meet up. I came down a different way to how I went up without even knowing. The climb I did was only 20 minutes. The first part of the hike is just climbing and clambering over tree roots but the hike gets gradually steeper and steeper until it becomes vertical. At this point, you are rock climbing, with the aid of ropes, which is a lot of trust to put into a rope because it is a considerable fall down if you slip. There were more ropes from where I decided to stop but I am not sure if the people who go further have more equipment/harnesses etc. I like to push myself but I think I stopped at a good moment as it seemed to get a lot riskier past that point. The view from the top is amazing and you sit in this tiny little cave. I stayed there for an hour, peering down onto my kayak way down below on the beach. I wondered if anyone could see me, I felt on top of the world looking down on paradise. Going down wasn’t too much fun but was a definite adrenaline rush.
8. Railay Ladder viewpoint
If you don’t like the idea of the ropes to the viewpoint. Follow all the same directions as the viewpoint above but keep heading west (away from shore along the cliff) instead of climbing up. You will find a ladder that leads to a smaller viewpoint but still has panoramic views of Railay West and Ton Sai Beach. All the ropes and ladders seemed pretty sturdy but always test the steps and ropes before you put your weight on them.
9. Pai Plong Beach
Although Ao Nang Beach is blocked on either end by steep cliffs, if you walk all the way to the southern end of the beach you will find a wooden boardwalk. I stumbled upon it and decided to go for an adventure. The boardwalk takes you up over the cliff and down into the next bay. A luxurious and remote resort lays claim to the entire bay and you need to check in as you enter the beach with security but it is free to enjoy the ocean and its surroundings.
I did some body surfing here and then noticed another security guard with a slingshot down the far/southern end of the beach.He was shooting rocks at monkeys to keep them out of the hotel area. I watched him for a while and swam to the side of the rocks only arm’s reach away from at least 20 little monkeys. The security guard stopped shooting them with his slingshot while I was standing there and suddenly one brave monkey started running to the hotel, taking his opportunity. Buoyed by the success of their friend, the entire troop followed. Suddenly 30 monkeys were headed to the resort in a flurry. It was like a scene from Planet of the Apes. I had my camera in the wrong setting but managed to snap one photo.
10. Kayak Ao Nang to Railay
For $11 you can rent a kayak and paddle for about an hour to get to Railay and Phra Nang. I explored several islets along the way and had a great time paddling right under the overhang of the cliffs where the longboats cannot fit. It was my favorite adventure of my stay in Ao Nang and I made a short video and blog post about the journey if you think you want to give it a shot.
11. Longboat cruise
I kayaked to Railay Beach once but for my second visit, I took a longboat, which takes about 15 minutes and costs $5 USD return. The last boat returns to Ao Nang in time for sunset so you can enjoy a full day at Railay for only a few dollars. There are also many longboat journeys to other islands – of which there are many – in the region.
12. Emerald Pool
After the failure of our Hin Yoeng Waterfall expedition, we cleaned up the moped and headed to the Emerald Pool. This was much more tourist friendly and was also quite busy. It does cost $5 to get in, but substantial infrastructure in the form of a 800-meter long boardwalk is part of the cost , I assume. The water is unbelievably clear. Even where there is leaves and dirt in the water it is still crystal clear. Several different pools along the boardwalk had amazingly clear water but it was the Emerald Pool that everyone had come to see. A naturally bright green pool with a trickling waterfall was a beautiful spot to clean off the mud and relax.
We also stepped off of the track for a little bit and found a few beautiful streams that had a stunning aqua/teal color. Shlomi my Israeli friend from the hotel was kind enough to be my subject for this shot.
13. Diamond Caves
On the way to Railay East, we stumbled across the Diamond Caves. For only $3 USD entry we thought it might be worth a look. Wow! A boardwalk leads you inside a stunning cave, which you share with screeching bats that hang from the ceiling. Dripping water and yellow lighting create an eerie atmosphere inside this magical cave that seems like a scene from a movie.
Smoothies and Pancakes
An adventurer has gotta eat! My favorite meal in Ao Nang quickly became a fresh fruit smoothie and a banana crepe/pancake. For $2.50 USD from a cart on the side of the main street, you can’t ask for much more. One of these meals in the morning and I was good to go until lunch. It is meals like this instead of $10 breakfasts that will save you hundreds of dollars a month. They are just as good if not better than eating at a sit-down cafe. Plus I used to buy my breakfast and eat it at the beach. It’s a no brainer if you ask me. So grab yourself a pancake and a smoothie and then attack this list of Ao Nang things to do!
Where to stay?
There are a ton of options in Ao Nang and I was then fortunate enough to be invited to stay at these two amazing accommodations.
Alisea Boutique Hotel
The Alisea Boutique Hotel is tucked away in a great location in Ao Nang only a short walk from the beach and close to a lively street brimming with street vendors, bars, and restaurants. At night I would take a walk and enjoy the laid back scene of the area while enjoying live music and local cuisine. My room had a loft with an outdoor bathtub, which I had never seen before! My favorite part of the hotel was definitely the infinity pool. On the roof of the hotel, the infinity pool overlooks the ocean and you can spot several islets. The sun sets over the ocean and I can’t think of many better spots in Ao Nang to be, as the sky lights up.
Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort
Right on the main street, this resort has rooms all the way up the cliff with views of the entire ocean. The room once again had a bath on the balcony with sunset views! This was a really good location to base yourself no matter what you had planned for the day. Everything was right at your doorstep. Restaurants, bars, tour offices, moped/car rental, longboat tours. The infinity pool at Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort was amazing. Looking out over Ao Nang beach, the stark and steep cliffs almost seemed a stone’s throw away. Sunrise and sunset at the infinity pool were just amazing!
For any other activities, I missed put them in the comments below. I know there are several waterfalls in the area and a lot of islands you can take a longboat too, so check those out if you complete everything on this list!