The Railay peninsula near Krabi, Thailand is famous for great rock climbing, including many deep water solo opportunities. While it had been years since either Kat or I had been rock climbing, and we had never been deep water solo rock climbing, it’s a sport we really enjoyed in the past and we were itching to use this opportunity to get back on the rocks. The timing worked out perfectly so that Nana and Papa could watch the kids while we went in search of our adrenaline fix.
Normally when you go rock climbing you use a combination of ropes, harnesses, and a variety of metal hardware to protect yourself from falls and to help you to descend the rock face after you’re done climbing.
Deep water solo rock climbing means rock climbing over the water with no ropes, no harnesses, and no hardware. Just you and the rock. When you’re done you simply jump into the ocean below. If you fall, you fall into the water.
Deep Water Solo Rock Climbing in Railay
Rock climbing is big business in Railay, including deep water solo climbing. There are several rock climbing schools in Railay that offer day trips to do deep water solo climbing and we saw signs everywhere.
The one major differentiator for Hot Rock is that they use a big sailing yacht to transport you to and from the deep water solo rock climbing site. All of the other climbing schools use long tail boats.
We were pretty psyched about combining a day of climbing with a day of sailing so we followed their advice and we’re glad we did. Our day out deep water solo climbing with Hot Rock was absolutely awesome.
We met our guides and the other climbers in our group at the Hot Rock shop before heading to the boat. As high season was winding down our group was small, just us and one other couple. Our fellow climbers, Max and Dani, lived in the Netherlands and we had a great time chatting with them all day on the boat.
The sailboat departs from Railay East. We took a small inflatable motorboat from the pier to the sailboat and soon were making our way towards the Poda Island area where the deep water solo rock climbing area is. With just the four of us, plus two crew, on the boat there was tons of space and it felt pretty luxurious.
When we arrived at the rocks there were already a few climbers there from other rock climbing schools. That’s the one benefit of taking a long tail, you’ll get there faster. But we enjoyed the journey sailing over so much that I don’t think it’s really a benefit after all.
Hot Rock uses a small inflatable motorboat to ferry you closer to the rocks for climbing while they moor the sailboat a safe distance away. You can go back and forth as much as you want though, it’s all very informal.
A great part of deep water solo rock climbing, compared to typical sport climbing, is that there’s very little waiting to climb. Normally with sport climbing you’re climbing on a particular “route” and only one climber can be on a route at a time (since there’s one rope per route).
But with deep water solo rock climbing there’s no ropes! As long as you’re not directly below someone else, and no one is below you in the water, you’re free to climbing whenever and wherever you want.
So as soon as we arrived we laced up our climbing shoes (Hot Rock provides shoes), jumped into the inflatable boat, and headed to the cliff. At the base of the rocks we all jumped into the water and swam to a small rope ladder to help get started. Getting up the rope ladder actually proved to be really difficult, more difficult than some of the actual rock climbing!
Another surprise right off the bat, though it should not have been if we had thought about it, was how slippery the rocks were. Both Kat and I are used to dry New Hampshire granite, made stickier by endless supplies of chalk and nice dry climbing shoes.
Deep water solo rock climbing, where everyone climbs out of the ocean onto the rocks, was very different. The rocks are wet, your hands and shoes are wet, and even your shirt is wet so you can’t dry anything! At the top of some of the ladders coming up from the water there were chalk bags or towels tucked into holes in the rock, but they were also mostly sopping wet and useless.
Luckily as we climbed up the rock got drier and a bit easier to cling to. The guides and other climbers shout tips from below if you get stuck, helping you to find the next hand or foot hold. I made my way to what I thought was a respectable height for my first climb and perched myself on a small ledge, taking in the view.
Then I remembered that I had to jump. I’ve never been afraid of heights, but looking down at the water knowing that I needed to actually take that step off the ledge I was paralyzed. One part of my brain was reminding me of all of the other people that I just watched jump from the same spot, but another part was telling me I was f-ing crazy.
I eventually succeeded in making my limbs let go of the rock and step out into the blue. It was definitely the highest I’ve ever jumped from before and long enough for me to notice that I was actually falling before hitting the water. It was probably not more than 20 feet or so but it felt like a lot more!
We spent the next couple hours climbing various parts of the cliff and enjoying a delicious lunch on the boat.
There was a big variety of different routes to try, from low but challenging overhanging climbs, to easier but higher climbs – requiring a long jump from the top. Kat and I even did one jump together, complete with competing shrieks as we fell (it’s in the video above).
You can climb basically as long as you like, but by early afternoon we realized that while our minds were still wiling, our bodies were ready to call it a day. Rock climbing is one of the most physically demanding sports I’ve done and deep water solo rock climbing was the hardest climbing I’ve ever done!
When everyone was finished climbing we motored over to a private beach for some relaxation time and snorkeling. The snorkeling was a nice addition to the day but not spectacular in its own right. You can also swim over to some snorkeling spots from the climbing area if you’re tired of climbing, or if you’re a non-climber just along for the ride.
After the beach time we set sail back to Railay. The sail back was peaceful and beautiful. The sun was just starting to set, making the cliffs of Railay and the surrounding islands glow.
Railay Deep Water Solo Rock Climbing Summary
We highly recommend Hot Rock Climbing School. The owner and staff were amazing and the sailboat experience made a fun day spectacular. The sailboat was fun transport, made for a relaxing platform between climbs, and even had a bathroom (bonus points!).
The cost was 1,000 baht per person ($30) including lunch, shoes, plenty of cold water, and a day on the sailboat. The Hot Rock shop is located on Railay East, just off the main walkway. It’s on the path heading towards Railay West by the Anyavee Resort.
If you’re looking for a unique way to get your adrenaline fix in Thailand, definitely check out Railay for deep water solo rock climbing!