For anyone who loves to escape the cold of winter and enjoy the great outdoors and rock climbing scene in the tropics and heat, South East Asia is a great place to flock to.
While there might be an immense amount of climbing places all over Asia, we’re focusing on rock climbing in Thailand. Zooming into the island of Krabi, specifically Railay where you would see flocks of rock climbers of all abilities from all over the world gathering here throughout the year to enjoy a great outdoor rock climbing expedition along the cliffs of Krabi.
Here’s everything you need to know about rock climbing in Thailand, specifically Railay.
See also: Remarkable Wonders of Asia
The best time of year to climb in Railay
Due to warm tropical and humid weather in Asia and quickly drying limestone, it is very possible to climb throughout the entire year in Railay and Tonsai, even in the monsoon season (though the hours and time on certain crags might be limited).
There are also plenty of overhanging routes and crags that stay dry when it rains (my favourite being Fire Wall). This opens up the opportunity to visit during the quieter and less touristy months, although conditions may not be completely ideal and all your waterproof jackets, shoes and climbing bags come in handy.
With that being said, the peak climbing season with the best conditions for the sport (and unfortunately the biggest crowds at the crag) is none other than October to March period. During this time of the year, the days are warm and dry, and you’re likely to be able to climb on every route without being stopped by stormy skies and sudden showers. Its also the perfect season to do your beach and water sports, as the weather is predictable and hence easier to arrange for water activities like snorkeling, kayaking and even the nearby ATV riding on the main island of Krabi.
March, April, and May are warm and sticky, hence rock climbing in Thailand in the early morning before it gets too warm, or early evening as it starts to cool down might be better than frying yourself on the side of a cliff facing the noon sun. Sun block, hats and sunglasses are a must to get through the climbs, especially if the sun is directly above your heads.
The rainy season tends to be a bit cooler but the weather can be a little less predictable as mentioned, due to sudden downpours and gusts of wind which could cause more turbulent waves as you take the longtail boat from Tonsai to Railay. The two big upsides to climbing during these periods are the reduced cost of accommodation and the smaller crowds of people in the restaurants and even popular climbing locations like Diamond Cave. In the peak season, Diamond cave attracts floods of tourists and it can get annoying trying to get to the crag or avoid masses of tourists staring at you while rock climbing (unless you like that kind of attention).
So give it careful thought before coming over during wet season. If you do decide to, as shared earlier best to also stock up on waterproof gear. Here are some useful recommendations base on rock climbers like us:
- Waterproof duffel bags and backpacks
- Gortex-coated hiking or approach shoes
- Water-resistant climbing pants
- Soft Shell Jackets with hoods
- Extra Pair of Socks
- Ziplock Bags and plastic container for food and gadgets
- First Aid Kits
- Sunscreen, Insect Repellent
- Hammock ( best thing ever for an afternoon snooze)
Check out Merino Wool clothing is a great option for all weather.
Best rock climbing routes in Railay, Thailand
If you’re looking for some of the best rock climbing routes to try out in Thailand, you have got to consider some of these top ones mentioned below. If you want the most Instagram-able one, Beauty and the Beast is the more iconic one that gets featured and publicized a lot by climbers when they are there, but the other amazing routes are equally fun, breathtaking and rewarding.
Check out this YouTube video on Beauty and the Beast:
- Fit to be Thai’d – 5c
- Beauty and the Beast – 6c
- Orange Juice – 7b+
- Lord of the Thais – 7b
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished – 6b+
If you have time and have the necessary skills and equipment to do it, do squeeze in a bit of multi-pitch climbing as well, it is absolutely incredible and one of the best in the world. Check out our multi-pitch experience here.
How to get to Railay
So now that you’ve decided you want to progress from just gym climbing in Bangkok city and are ready to explore Thailand’s best outdoor rocks, how do you get to Railay?
As previously mentioned, the peninsula is cut off from the mainland by the beautiful limestone cliffs (that attract the climbing community).
Most people arrive on the peninsula by longtail boat. Frequent ferries are departing from neighboring towns and cities which seat around 8 passengers. You can depart from:
- Ao Nang
- Nam Mao ferry terminal
- Nopparat Thara
- Krabi Town
Most of the boats arrive in East Railay, however, you can quickly walk around the peninsula to other areas, such as Ton Sai where the climbers tend to go, or you can hire a private boat to drop you elsewhere.
Search for transport options below:
Costs of longtail boats
Each ride can cost around 100baht, but if you try to get a boat later in the evening without enough footfall, you run the risks of having to pay full price for a boat to bring you where you want to go.
Where to stay in Railay
Most people visiting Railay stay in hotels and hostels. There are some campsites around the area, but there is no obvious campsite documented online that is situated on the peninsula itself, and there are regulating forces in the area that could well land you in trouble for setting up a tent on the beach. With that being said, hostels are very modestly priced, and a great place to meet other climbers to share your experiences with.
Ton Sai is the area with the most rustic, relaxed, and dirtbag atmosphere that climbers know and love. This is where you will find the most hostels, and they tend to be filled with backpackers and hippie climbers. Ton Sai is also the cheapest area to stay in, even though you can easily find private bungalows, beachside bars, and what many might call a luxury feel.
Some popular hostels include:
- Voyagers Hostel
- Dormsin Hostel
- Slinky Hostel
- Pier 519 Hostel
The other areas on the island tend to boast a holiday resort atmosphere. This could be a better option if you are visiting your family, or if you are seeking a five-star service between your sessions at the crag.
What else is there to do in Railay
Railay attracts a large crowd of visitors, not all of which are climbers. There is plenty to do on the peninsula during your rest days off climbing. If you want to avoid just napping all day or having recovery workouts, check out some of these great options.
Yoga on the beach is a popular morning and evening activity, and a great way to stretch out your tense muscles from climbing and work on your mobility and flexibility. It is also a great way to relax your mind and to physically and mentally prepare for your next climbing session.
The beaches provide a great spot to hang out, go swimming, enjoy a cold beer and spend warm afternoons. The beach areas can get very crowded, but there is a reason that they are so popular to visit. The natural beauty of the region is truly outstanding, and it is appreciated from both the top of the rock, and with the sand between your toes.
Water sports and diving in Railay
Snorkeling and diving are also popular activities in the region of Railay and nearby areas like Ao Nang. Swimming is another great activity to build up the antagonist muscles for climbing, and there is an entire universe beneath the clean, turquoise waters of Southern Thailand. There are regular trips with diving schools, or you can simply take a snorkel with you and start exploring from the beaches.
All in all, Railay is definitely a must visit for rock climbing in Thailand or other countries to escape to for a great getaway of climbing and relaxing.