Rock Climbing in Krabi – Thailand’s #1 Climbing Mecca
Rock climbing at Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand, is on many a traveller’s bucket list, and it’s easy to see why! It’s got everything the adventurous climber could want: towering limestone cliffs, stunning sea views and endless opportunities for both the outdoor ropes climber as well as the keen boulderer. So, as British backpackers Ellie and Will from Tapp and Bear Travel, gear up for a day of scaling world-renowned walls at the rock climbing hotspot of Railay Beach, Thailand. Did it live up to its famous name?
Railay Beach – A Rock Climber’s Dream!
Railay (locally known as Rai Leh) is a pocket of Thai paradise located east of Krabi and is defined by its picturesque beaches and dramatic limestone mountains. It’s these colossal karsts which isolate Railay from the mainland, meaning that even just getting there is an adventure, as the only way is by long-tail boat! With hundreds, if not thousands of routes to conquer, it’s often described as a climber’s utopia, and is well known as one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations!
Unsurprisingly, it’s hugely popular with climbers and boulderers from all corners of the planet, who journey here to try their hand at completing some the trickier routes. But Railay isn’t just for the experienced, it also offers climbing opportunities for just about anyone, no matter how many skills they may have under their harness, and this makes climbing a must-try activity when visiting Krabi and Railay Beach.
Railay and Real Rocks Climbing School
With one of us being a lover of rock climbing and the other being a complete beginner, we signed up for a full-day tour with the well-established reputable rock climbing school, Real Rocks. After kitting us out with all the gear at their office in Krabi, they took us to Railay by long-tail boat to show us the ropes!
With highly qualified guides and years of local expertise, Real Rocks Climbing School has been offering multi-day courses (level 1 + 2), as well as one-day climbing sessions at Railay since 2007. They pride themselves on safety, and (unlike all of the schools in Krabi) all of their staff are regularly trained to the highest standards, meaning that they can provide guests with a fantastic climbing experience delivered by a friendly, passionate and knowledgeable climbing guide.
They are committed to accommodating any experience level, with the goal of enhancing your climbing skills and making sure the day at Railay is unforgettable. It goes without saying that we were super excited to be climbing with Real Rocks and couldn’t wait to get started!
Kitting Up and Making the Journey to Railay
A little sleepy but full of anticipation for the day ahead, we got up early ready for our 7.30 am pick up, and by 8 am we were at Real Rocks trying on our gear for a full day of climbing at Railay. Our guide, New, helped us get kitted up, making sure everything fit (pinchy toes in your climbing shoes are how it’s meant to be so you can grip onto tiny precipices!), and that we had all the right equipment packed. With our climbing shoes fitted and the chalk bags, helmets, harnesses and mats packed into our bags, all that was left to do was wait for the rest of our group to arrive.
Will, who has gone from rock climbing three days a week at home to only once in the last year, couldn’t wait to get started, and so he took the opportunity to warm up on the mini indoor bouldering wall at Real Rocks whilst we were waiting!
Once everyone had arrived at the climbing school, we jumped into the back of the taxi and head towards the pier to catch a long-tail boat over to Railay. We all piled into the boat (and out of the monsoon rain!) and soon we were on our way. Within seconds we were passing the iconic cliffs, and with views like that, it no longer mattered that the weather was a bit soggy! The great thing about there being so many climbing walls at Railay is that no matter what the weather (except a huge storm of course), it’s easy to find a spot that is sheltered and dry, and the breeze helps cool you down after working up a sweat!
After about 15 minutes, we arrived at the beach and hopped out onto the sand. The scenery surrounding us was stunning, and we could already tell this was going to be a great day of climbing! From the drop off point, it was a short walk under some even more incredible limestone formations to our first climbing spot – Phra Nang Wall.
Phra Nang Wall – Our First Climbing Spot
Phra Nang Wall is a sheltered crag beside the Princess (Fertility) Cave and is named after the beach it borders. As soon as we arrived we could see that this was a super popular spot for climbing, but even though the ground was a little crowded, once we got climbing there was space for everyone. After Nui (our guide) had set the first route and shown us the basics, it was our turn to head on up the wall!
The cliff faces and rock formations were spectacular! The limestone has been shaped over thousands of years to create so many epic climbing routes for all abilities; one route even leads climbers into the mouth of a cave.
There are also opportunities to boulder here, so whilst waiting for the others to make it to the top, we (mainly Will!) could try our hand at something a bit lower to the ground without the need for ropes. To me, the inexperienced climber, these walls looked completely flat, but another guide from Real Rocks, Rain, was on hand to show us where to grip onto the virtually non-existent cracks!
As the morning went on and the weather cleared up a little, a crowd gathered behind us giving us a bit of an audience! Of course, this happened when I was about to do my first climb, and being afraid of heights, I was probably about to embarrass myself! However, I’ll try anything, and with a little (a lot) of guidance from Nui, I managed to get into the swing of it… eventually!
During the first half of the day, Will, being a fast climber, managed to complete three routes, while I did two (or one and a half because I chickened out of the first one!). For those with a bit of climbing knowledge, the grades of this first set of routes ranged from grade 4 to 6b+, and we climbed them on a Top Rope. As the name “Top Rope” suggests, the rope was secured at the top of the crag and New belayed (pulled the rope through and supported) us from the bottom.
In between climbs, it was interesting to sit and watch other people taking on the walls. There were not only people from Real Rocks but also other climbing schools and some who had journeyed here solely to test out their skills at this famous haunt. These guys were so interesting to watch as they scaled walls, climbed up crevices and hung onto impossibly tiny pieces of rock in their efforts to make it to the top. They were extremely talented and fascinating to watch, we could see why an audience had gathered on the beach!
Time for a Lunch Break
After all the hard work it was lunchtime, and Nui gave us each 150 baht to spend on what we wanted. We walked along the bay until we came across a place where the owner was barbecuing chicken outside (she knows how to draw customers in!).
There are quite a few choices of restaurants in this area, but we chose this one for the cheaper prices, variety of dishes…and because it was home to an adorable two-week-old kitten! The kitten and the young boy who lived there chatted with each other and the kitten followed him around everywhere, it was so cute! After eating our fill of sweet and sour and fried cashew nut, and of course, cuddling the kitten, we headed back to find New and jump straight back into an afternoon of clambering up the crags!
123 Wall – Our Second Climbing Spot
Our next climbing location was the famous 123 Wall. One of the earliest routes to be set at Railay, it’s named for the days of shorter ropes, when the wall had to be climbed in three sections. Again, there was something for everyone here: short routes, easy routes, tricky routes and even a 52 m route called “Massage Secrets” that takes climbers up to stunning views across the bay!
This area is popular with climbing schools, and as it was a slightly small space, we ended up having to dodge around people a little! At one point I found myself squidging into a hole to avoid someone on their way down, which turned out to be hilarious for the both of us and everyone on the ground! However, being busy also meant that everyone supported each other and congratulated climbers when they made it to the top or struggled over a difficult problem – a bit of motivation is sometimes the thing you most need when your arms and legs are shaking from the exertion!
During the afternoon I made it up another one and a half routes, and Will topped three more! The grades of these ranged from 4 to 6a. As well as Top Roping, Will also got to try a different technique called Lead Climbing, which is where climbers attach the rope to bolts in the rock as they go along. At the top of the 52 m high route, which also happened to be Will’s final route, his arms were starting to get tired after all the climbing. He was nearly at the top when his arms gave way and he fell off the wall! Nui, belaying from the ground caught him before he fell very far, but it was definitely a heart-stopping moment for his onlooking girlfriend!
Eventually, Will made it to the top and was rewarded with breathtaking views of the limestone formations and the curving bay – he said he could have sat there all day taking it in, and I wish I could have done the same, except 52 m is just a little too high up for me!
After we’d had an amazing day and well and truly climbed ourselves to aching point, we caught a long-tail back to the mainland and made our way back to town for a much-needed shower and to rest our tired limbs!
Rock Climbing at Railay – Our Verdict
There’s no other way to describe our day of climbing with Real Rocks Climbing School at Railay Beach than by saying that it absolutely rocked! It was one of the best tours we’ve done with South East Asia Backpacker yet. The day was amazing because it’s something that we could both do; we both enjoy climbing but have varying degrees of experience and our tolerance of heights is the complete opposite! The routes were epic, the climbs were so much fun and the views were something else.
Our guide, Nui, was such a talented climber, a supportive teacher and an all-round great guy – in no time at all he sussed out everyone’s skill level and gave us routes to match that, offering some which were easier but still testing for me whilst giving Will more challenging, gravity-defying climbs.
There are so many routes to choose from at Railay, it’s recommended to have a guide. Not only do the guides from Real Rocks clearly know their stuff, but the climbing is super safe and well within the means of the beginner climber, so even if you’ve never climbed before in your life or you’re a pro, they will make sure you have an unforgettable experience. Think you’d like to climb with Real Rocks? Book your rock climbing experience in Krabi here.
Frequently Asked Questions about Rock Climbing in Krabi
What time of year can you climb in Krabi?
You can climb year-round in Railay and Tonsai in Krabi. Even when it is raining, there are sheltered climbing walls where you won’t get wet as you climb. However, it gets extremely hot during the months of April and May. November to March is the best time for climbing as the weather is both dry and warm.
What should you wear to go rock climbing?
The main tip for deciding what to wear when you go climbing is comfort. You want loose clothing but nothing that will catch during your climb. Be aware that you will be wearing a harness that will ride up so short shorts are probably a no-go! You can’t go wrong with a pair of sports leggings and a light t-shirt though. Climbing gear and equipment rental is free for all Real Rocks customers but there is also the option to bring your own gear if you prefer. Climbing shoes are also provided. Other companies may charge a rental fee for gear. Whenever you are renting equipment, always check its condition. In particular, you are looking for working carabiners and that the rope is intact with no excessive fraying. Always call out the company if they are providing dodgy equipment – you should never gamble with your safety!
What should you bring on your rock climbing trip?
- Socks (for the rental climbing shoes)
- Tough camera which will withstand a few knocks!
- Sunglasses (for staring up in awe!)
- Swimsuit if you fancy a quick dip
How much does a full-day / half-day rock climbing cost?
Most of the companies offering rock climbing trips in Railay and Krabi charge the same amount. Therefore, as there is no difference in price, you don’t want to skimp on quality! When it comes to pricing, group tours are much cheaper than private ones. A half-day group rock climbing trip lasts for four hours and starts at around 1200 Thai Baht ($39 USD). A full day group trip tends to cost in the region of 2000 Thai Baht ($65 USD). Private trips tend to be at least double the cost of what one person can expect to pay on a group tour.
Can I do a rock climbing course and how much would it cost?
There are plenty of courses available which cater to all climbing abilities. Depending on who you book with, you can expect to pay between 7000-8000 Thai Baht ($230 USD – $260 USD) for a 3-day course. The price will change depending on whether gear rental, meals etc. are included. These courses are definitely for the more serious climbers, those wanting to get to grips (see what I did there) with their rock climbing skills for future adventures! You will learn skills such as belaying, top-roping, climbing technique and safety knots.
Can you go rock climbing with children?
Yes! Rock climbing can be a great family day out, especially in a beautiful setting like Krabi. Many climbing schools allow children, providing they are over five years of age. If booking for children, always make sure the climbing schools has appropriate clothing e.g. helmets, shoes and harnesses. Check out this recommended family rock climbing trip which you can book through South East Asia Backpacker.
Is rock climbing in Krabi safe?
If you are climbing under the instruction of an experienced guide with well-maintained equipment, rock climbing is completely safe. Guides should ideally be licensed sport climbing instructors as defined by the South East Asian Climbing Federation. Do not be afraid to ask for a company’s accident record so you can assess the risk for yourself. We recommend Real Rocks as one of the safest climbing schools in South Thailand.
What is deep water soloing and can you do it in Railay?
Deep water soloing is when climbing is combined with jumping (or falling) into the water below. Until recently it was a popular sport in Krabi. However, currently, you cannot do this in Railay, owing to the Thai authorities decision to close access to the rock climbing and cliff jumping site. All tour operators are currently being scrutinised, to ensure that they are adhering to safety protocol. Until everyone passes, deep water soloing will be off-limits for all.