As your long tail boat sails gracefully toward the shore (given you have beautiful weather, if not the ride can be extremely rough, and to be honest downright dangerous), you’re simply in awe of Railay’s natural beauty. This is a true paradise with stunning scenery like none other. Unfortunately, the tropical paradise offers very few options when it comes to accommodation and suitable restaurants. Because of its years in the business, Sand Sea Resort has secured the prime position in the middle West Railay Beach. However, splendor at Sand Sea Resort on depends greatly on how much you’re willing to pay as there are several levels of bungalows and rooms to choose from.
A new building to the rear of the complex is home to the new and modern Grand Deluxe rooms, which seem to be on par with what you would expect from a more modern resort. The building itself sits at the end of a very nice new pool surrounded by padded wooden lounge chairs and beautiful scenery.
Lining the pathway to the Grand Deluxe Building you’ll find the resort’s bungalows, which include two types: an older Superior Bungalow and an update Deluxe Bungalow. Online , through Agoda or Books.com, the price difference between the two equates to about $12.00 US/night during low season. If money isn’t an issue, I would highly recommend upgrading to the newer Deluxe Bungalows.
The old Superior Bungalows are darling from the outside and sit amid the same well manicured grounds, but inside you’ll find very old, basic furnishings and worn amenities. The entire room is encased in a light, wooden paneling surrounding an old, white tile floor with mint green drapery. While old and pretty beat up, it is clean, and provides the hotel basics like an in-room safe (which does not fit an average lap top), an electric device to boil water with instant coffee and tea and a make-shift minibar.
The bathroom is extremely basic and not necessarily as clean as the room. There is mold covering the caulking, the tile is cracked in places and the smell of sulfur hangs in the air. The fixtures including the counter top, mirror, sink, facet and shower heads are very old and dirty, but they suffice. Your shower will most likely turn from scalding hot to freezing cold without notice as if the temperature control isn’t even attached, but somehow twisting and turning it will make you at least feel as though you’re doing something to adjust the varying water extremes. In addition, you’ll want to keep the door to your bathroom closed as the bathroom windows boast the old traditional slats of glass which are open, however, there are screens. Still, mosquitoes will make their way into your room, but you can’t blame the resort or the room – the area is infested with them and they’re tough to avoid.
The service is lackluster as most of the staff do not go out of the way to make your stay something special. As we approached, a man standing near the open-air entrance, just off the beach, barked, “Do you have a reservation?” I understand a lot of backpackers may show up without prior reservations and try to barter for a room, but we have never been those backpackers. It was a little rough and demoralizing. The women behind the counter were kind, but check-in seemed to just be a process for them to get through, almost as if we were slightly a bother.
The inclusive breakfast buffet was surprisingly nice after we had read such horrible reviews. It was decently comprehensive including freshly made omelets. My advice would be to get there early when the food is fresh as the pancakes or waffles, fried eggs, fried rice, sausage, etc. get cold quickly.
Overall, despite the lacking service and older superior bungalows, I wouldn’t steer you away front his hotel. If my husband and I were simply vacationing for a short period in Thailand, we would be highly disappointed and dissatisfied and maybe even disgusted. However, we’ve been traveling for months and while we refuse to stay in filthy hostels, we have ‘roughed’ it in camper vans in New Zealand and Australia – which makes Sand Sea much more bearable for us. At the same time, we have stayed at numerous top luxury resorts under the Starwood Brand hotel chains and know what to expect from quality service.
At Sand Sea, the stay is comfortable enough and the location can’t be beat. Comparing the price with other options on the island – it’s about on par with what you’ll find. If you do stay inside the Grand Deluxe Building, you’ll find your room to be very modern and hopefully clean. If you’re looking for a step up – try the Railay Bay Resort next door – it seems to be slightly more updated, and of course the Ravaydee Resort at the end of the beach is prides itself on being a luxury resort, but the prices you’ll pay are high for Thailand.