Tonsai is in my opinion one of the better vacation climbing trips you can take. There are just very few places in the world where you can wake up and eat breakfast in an open cabana next to the beach, walk to the crag and climb for a bit, take an afternoon break and go for a swim and drink a couple of beers while watching others climb and still have time for more climbing or an afternoon hike. Not to mention getting to go out on long-tail boats for the deep water soloing.
We went in August which is a down time for that area, the peak season is in February when it’s cold in Europe and North America and people want to escape to the beach. The summer is not that bad though, it wasn’t much warmer than the winter and it was way cheaper to stay there. We stayed in the Railay resort area and we had our pick of places. I have heard that it gets booked up in peak season so you would definitely want to make reservations if you want to stay at one of the resorts.
The climbing was good, the cliff right next to the restaurant on Tonsai beach is very short but still fun. On the north end of Tonsai you can take a short hike up to some of the longer routes that are well worth it, probably the best on the peninsula. There is a multi-pitch route out on the point of Railay that we didn’t get a chance to do but I would love to go back at some point and try.
You can book a flight in to Phuket and from there you have two options to get over to Krabi. The first is to just take a taxi from the airport all the way to Krabi, this would take you all the way around the bay in a private car. If you have two or three people and are willing to split the price then it’s not a bad way to go and would definitely be faster. All the Taxi drivers will be pushing you to do this but they don’t budge on the price much. The cheaper and more timely option is to take a taxi from the airport to the Phuket bus station, there you can buy a bus ticket for a ride to Krabi. The bus ticket is minimal (roughly US $10) but you will probably have to wait a little while for one that is leaving and it makes the ride to Krabi about three hours instead of two and a half in the taxi.
From Krabi bus station it’s easy to grab a shuttle for super cheap to Ao Nang. The shuttle’s run on the hour so don’t get those confused for a taxi that will charge you three times the price for the same trip. In Ao Nang you have the option of jumping on a long tail boat and heading straight to Tonsai/Railay or you could stick around Ao Nang and be a little touristy for a few days (If you like more options for food and nicer hotels some people even stay in Ao Nang and just take the boat over to Tonsai for the day to climb and then come back at night, but this can be hard to do if the water is rough).
You definitely have a good, better, best option depending on how much you want to pay. Tonsai is the cheapest with pretty much shack’s set up just up from the beach, and only a couple of food options unless you want to make the hike over to Railay. Railay is the next step up with small bungalows up to 3 star resorts. Several of the resorts have restaurants attached and there are other restaurants scattered throughout the peninsula. Staying at either of these areas is the closest to climbing (some of the shacks on Tonsai you could throw a rock from and hit one of the crag).
Ao Nang has the nicer resorts but it puts you a little further from climbing. You’ll either have to take the boat over to Tonsai or rent a scooter to go to some of the inland crags like Chong Phli.
Sport Routes Not to Miss
Cross Eyed - 5.12b (one of the longer routes at Tonsai)
Tom Yum - 5.12a (short and bouldery)
Babes in Thailand - 5.11d
Pill Box - 5.11a
Exfoliation - 5.10c
Man or Mouse - 5.12a (tall and techy)
Attractions Not to Miss
Railay Beach viewpoint - a short scramble up one of the karst gets you to the best view of Railay beach
Tiger Cave Temple - Watch out for the monkeys at the bottom and don’t let them steal your lunch! Take the hike up the 1,247 steps to the top for one of the most serene overlooks I’ve ever been to
Emerald Pool - Hike back to the swimming hole for a refreshing dip, it does get crowded but a great opportunity to people watch
Most of the restaurants on Railay offer their take on the same dishes, and usually have a pizza or a burger you can get if you’re not keen on the Thai food for the evening. In the peak season (January through March) it’s pretty hard to avoid the dreadful “Tonsai Tummy”. Unfortunately the cleanliness standards for food just aren’t the same on the peninsula, just know that it usually only last for 24 hours
If you are out walking around at night on Ao Nang beach stop at one of the Thai pancake carts and treat yourself
Safety - From our experience the whole area was pretty safe but you would definitely want to be on guard in the bigger cities. We didn’t go through Bangkok but I have heard some horror stories from that area. The peninsula is very laid back and easy going. The street vendors are definitely trying to get you for as much money as they can, just hold out for a bit and they will come down on the price.
If you have a large dry bag I would bring it for the boat ride alone, sometimes the waves can get pretty big and all of your stuff will end up wet by the time you make it to Tonsai. Most of the belays are from the beach so it’s almost impossible to keep sand out of your gear but you can by the large mats to lay down for pretty cheap and it helps with having a place to put all of your gear. The tallest route has about 12 draws but the majority only have 6 or 7 so you don’t need to bring a huge rack or a long rope, 60m would be more than enough and you could probably get away with a 50m.
Guidebook - You can purchase a book there from several of the shops but if you want to get one before hand you can order it from here: