In the south of Thailand between Ao Nang and Krabi Town lies Railay Beach. Railay is a peninsula surrounded by lush tropical forest and dramatic towering cliff faces. This area is only accessible by boat, but is certainly worth it. The beaches are sandy and water is clear and the landscape make it a haven for climbers around the world.
During part of my trip to Thailand I spent a few weeks in the south based in Ao Nang. I wanted to avoid the party and crowds of Phuket especially following our time in Bangkok which was entertaining to say the least. I loved climbing and had spent the summer going to as many crags as possible in England as well as going to my local climbing wall (Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission should you chose to purchase via a link from this article at no extra cost to you. I only recommend experiences, companies or products I trust and have used).
Coming from Ao Nang, the boats arrive in Railay West. Here you can rent out kayaks and book other trips. The climbing shop and diving shop are on the street that goes off from the centre of the beach to connect to the east side with hotels and hostels alongside.
Climbing took part on Railay East beach, In the middle of the beach is a floating pier and either side are some huge cliffs sheltering the beach and calling you to climb. We booked to climbing prior to our trip and it was one of main things that attracted me to this area.
We went for the intermediate climbing day and which included a warm up climb on East Railay beach and some anchored routes. We then did a little bit of lead climbing with the group and really enjoyed it. Guide to participant ratios were reasonable (5:1). The team of instructors were really friendly and you should expect to see a few groups around the same cliff areas. The instructors free climbed up to set up the routes for the beginner and warm up routes (or those not being used to lead). As the day progressed we gradually moved on to higher routes and then slowly over towards the routes above the water.
Most of my experience climbing was on grit stone or greenstone, the cliffs here are limestone. There was lots to hold on to however the rock is a bit softer. It also seemed to have a deceptively easy appearance, which soon took a little more effort with grip or when using smaller foot placements.
There was an advanced option to do routes that would have greater overhangs or multi-pitch and another options to include deep water solo climbs. Neither of us (me and the friend on this trip with me) felt confident enough in our climbing to try that just yet. In future I would love to climb here again and try some of the more challenging routes around the peninsula or other areas of Thailand.
We stayed in Ao Nang at Cliff View in a bungalow with a pool, breakfast included and had cliff view for £20 per room per night. It was lovely and we changed our plans to stay here an additional week but I do wish we had booked onto Railay for a few nights, it had a great atmosphere and we spoke with a few other people who gave us some recommendations.
For low budget friendly you may need to head a bit back from the main beach, but the whole area is lovely. These were recommended by others climbing on the trip.
Railey Garden View Resort which is about £17.00 per room per night
Rapala Rock Wood Resort which is about £12.00 per room per night
The two below are for more generous budget, both beautiful and come from a recommendation off a couple we spoke to on our trip and friends from home who have visited the area. We also loved Sand Sea resort and had a cheeky look round when we were waiting to hire our shoes for the climb.
Railey Princess Resort and Spa which is about £99 per room per night
Sand Sea Resort which is about £180 per room per night
Other considerations for Railay
If you are staying in the Krabi area or even Phuket I would really recommend going Railay for a full day trip at least.
As the sun goes you will see amazing sunsets (below) from the east and south side. As the sun set that evening when we were heading to our boat, a sudden calm came over the groups of people on the beach and in the restaurants of the resorts. Everyone including myself was in awe.
The east side where climbing takes place tends to be a bit quieter with fewer people but the towering cliffs block out the sun so it becomes dark on this side quite quickly.
After taking a boat trip around several islands in the area (including the phi phi islands) and one to Railay beach, the coral in the area is unbelievable. I was slightly annoyed at the boats allowing tourists to jump out into the shallows on top of the coral, without guidance or referring to the health of the marine life. However since this trip there have been numerous attempts to protect the reefs even around the nearby famous Maya Bay of Pi Pi Leh (which included a temporary closure to tourists). I really hope this continues and would like to safely enjoy the marine life scuba diving in future.
You can hire double and single sea kayaks for various levels.
If you go to this area at a minimum go snorkelling, if possible get scuba diving.
We missed the Railay view point due to limited time, but from the pictures I've seen it's definitely on my list next time.
Phra Nang Beach
Phra Nang beach is on the south west of the peninsula. It is pretty cool, tends to get busy with boat trips and looks out to an awesome sea cliff. Along the beach is a number of caves with a grotto restaurant and some other caves. You will see a number of climbers doing some of the more advanced routes here using some of the rock next to the caves that were smaller concave shapes and between some stalactites. On the the south side of the Phra Nang Beach lies some caves aptly referred to as the penis caves. There are a number of shrines around Thailand that also have penis’s and are generally used for luck in fertility. The stories behind what this cave represent is a little unclear, however we were told that fisherman would pray for good luck and if they returned safely believed that the goddess had protected them during their journey. When they returned they would make an offering to her. But again there are a few stories dotting about on this one.