I originally wrote a blog post about my wonderful time on Tonsai Beach in Krabi back in March 2014. I stayed in a hut not far from the beach, I did yoga at Tonsai Yoga and chilled on the beach for one whole week. I loved the vibe of this place, I felt like I had stepped back in time to what Thailand was like many many years ago!
In February 2019 I decided to go back to Tonsai on a day trip from Ao Nang Beach with the potential of heading there for a few nights. I hadn’t booked accommodation in Tonsai because there wasn’t much online although I knew that the vibe of Tonsai meant it was the type of place you turn up to and look for accommodation once there, this was true in 2014 and it’s still true now as I found out!
However the Tonsai Beach I arrived to was not the Tonsai Beach I remembered and that’s why I wanted to update this post and basically write a fresh post about what Tonsai Beach is like now and what you can do in Tonsai.
I arrived to see no restaurants or bars lining the beach, in fact there was nothing there at all! I got off the boat from Ao Nang, walked along the beach to where Tonsai Bay Resort is and walked up a pathway through a remote piece of land and at the end I found.. a wall!
Long story short, not long after I left in 2014 the section of land between the beach and the small inland pathway which used to have restaurants, bars and accommodation on was purchased as private property by a big hotel company. The locals were forced to move their businesses inland and to mark the private property a huge wall was built!
I had no idea and was totally shocked when I arrived to see this so I did some research and found these posts explaining the situation in Tonsai. Its very interesting so if you want to know more, read these as they explain it better than I can.
My initial thought was that Tonsai Beach had lost its charm completely and I wondered why people were even still visiting, did they not know that Tonsai isn’t like this??
But I spent the rest of my day in Tonsai rather than leaving and I’m really glad I did because it made me realise that Tonsai Beach is still a great place to visit, the locals still need tourists to visit and the resort has still not been built! Even in Feb 2019 there was no sign of any building happening, and although I didn’t stay longer than a day this time, I would go back in the future, here’s why.
What is Tonsai Beach Like Now
Tonsai is different and if you have been to Tonsai pre-2014 you will be shocked and maybe a bit heart broken like me, but if it’s your first time visiting Tonsai Beach and you want to go rock climbing, do yoga, chill out, meet cool people, relax on the beach and feel disconnected, this is still the place to come in Thailand! It still feels like old school Thailand, like the time before the internet and before Thailand became so commercial! It still has that authentic, rustic feel!
All of the restaurants and bars in Tonsai Beach are now inland rather than on the beach, there’s a track that runs along the wall which is where the restaurants are and there’s also a track that leads up into the jungle which is home to bars too.
There’s a really good range of restaurants in Tonsai serving Thai and International Food, the best thing is that the prices are really reasonable showing that Tonsai is still a great place to visit if you’re travelling Thailand on a budget!
Mango Sticky Rice is advertised everywhere which is so delicious, I got some from Green Restaurant and after I chilled in the hammocks in Pyramid Cafe.
I was there during the day but there are a few bars too. Most of the wooden bars from the beach are now inland with just Fredom Bar out on the beach. The night before I arrived was Valentines Day and they had signs up advertising a Valentines Day Night with Live Music. For me I always remember Tonsai for it’s Thai covers of Bob Marley in the bars!
The bars inland look cool too and they openly offer mushroom shakes and weed cookies if that’s your kind of thing. I’m sure these bars will be super chilled at night and a great place to chill and socialise.
This ugly wall has been painted with some nice (and some sad) designs making it look much more attractive and because the private property has not yet been built on there is a pathway right through it. You can go from the beach and hop over the wall via a ladder that is opposite Base Camp Tonsai. In fact this piece of land is actually really nice because its lush, green and empty, it’s just a shame it’s like that because of the circumstances.
Things to do in Tonsai Beach
Whether you’re staying in Tonsai for a few days, or a few weeks (which could easily happen), or visiting Tonsai Beach on a day trip (which is also very possible and a good way to see Tonsai), there are plenty of ways to pass you day.
Yoga in Tonsai is on offer and the place to go is Flower Of Life Yoga, they had their schedule up outside the studio with regular classes everyday and it looks like a great place to practise yoga in Thailand!
If rock climbing is what you’re after in Tonsai, Base Camp Tonsai is still the place to go and there were plenty of people out when I was there and not only in Tonsai but in Railay Beach next door too!
In terms of things to do in Tonsai Beach, apart from Yoga, Rock Climbing and chilling out on the beach and in the bars you can visit Railay Beach next door which actually has 3 beaches – Railay West, Railay East and Phra Nang.
There are a few ways to get to Railay Beach from Tonsai:
One – along a path that takes you through the Jungle. This will take about an hour, it isn’t extremely difficult but it’s no walk in the park either. I did it in flip flops but trainers or sturdier sandals would be better!
Two – Climb the section of land that splits Tonsai and Railay West. This is also not the easiest walk as it’s very steep up and down but plenty of people do it and it’s much quicker than the Jungle walk.
Three – Get a longtail boat, although you may have to wait around for this until one boat drops someone off.
Four – Cross the rocks when the tide is down.
The sunset from Tonsai Beach and Railay West beach is really nice so be sure to see it!
As well as the things to do in Tonsai, whilst you’re there be sure to chat to the locals, I found them all to be very nice and chat with the tourists you see too, I feel like this is the kind of place Tonsai is. Although lots of day trippers and holiday makers walk over from nearby Railay, its the people who stay in Tonsai that make it special and I’m sure most will be willing to chat.
Accommodation in Tonsai
In terms of accommodation on Tonsai Beach, like I said, it’s still one of those places that has accommodation but some of it is not advertised online.
There are a number of huts and bungalows bookable online though so if you are not confident in just turning up and hoping for the best, have a look into Tonsai Beach accommodation on Booking.com here.
If you are happy arriving with no accommodation booked, get off the boat and head straight up the pathway infront of you rather than along the beach, this will take you a long side the wall and you will reach the main part of Tonsai and all of the accommodation. Most of it is huts and bungalows are easy to see.
Like the good old days, often reception will not know whats available until check out time because often people book their huts a day at a time so they won’t sell it to you unless they know they are leaving, so it’s best to search for accommodation after 11:00-12:00.
Getting to Tonsai Beach
The way you get to Tonsai beach is the same as it always has been – by boat! Although Tonsai and Railay are connected to the mainland of Krabi there are no roads to them and so a boat from nearby Ao Nang is needed.
Longtail boats leave Ao Nang very regularly all day and evening (although not as regularly in the evening), the boat costs 100baht all day and 150baht after 6:00pm. There is a ticket shop along Ao Nang Beach where the main road goes inland. During the day there are always lots of people around here so you can’t miss it!
Getting to Tonsai Beach from Ao Nang Krabi is easy however getting in and out of the longtail boats with a backpack can be quite challenging, it can be done, I’ve done it and many others do but just be warned that you do need to wade into the ocean and jump out into it too from the boat. Ask the boat driver or other passengers to help you if you need it with your bag!
Leaving Tonsai is the same however boats are not as frequent. Most day trippers like me waited in Tonsai to watch the sunset and afterwards there was a guy with a boat waiting and we managed to fill a boat after a 20 minute wait. During the day you’ll just need to wait for a boat to come to drop people off, get on and then head back to Ao Nang with the driver.
If you want to go elsewhere in Thailand you can book this on Tonsai Beach, there are a couple of travel agents. In 2014 I went from Tonsai Beach to Koh Lanta which was a really easy journey direct from Tonsai. If you head to Khao Sok or Phuket for example you can book a ticket with an agent on Tonsai and they’ll arrange a boat back to the mainland for you.
I really hope that this post helps you understand what Tonsai Beach is like now, especially if you have visited before, but if you haven’t you understand why there is a huge wall there but why it’s still a great place to visit in Thailand.
I know that I’ll be back in Tonsai one day and I hope with all my heart that the resort never gets built, life improves for the locals and Tonsai remains a hidden secret!
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