Top 10 Places to Rock Climb in Southeast Asia

Headed to Southeast Asia to beat the winter temps?  We have arranged the top 10 places that you can’t miss because they are among the best locations to go rock climbing in Southeast Asia.  Whatever type of warm weather climbing you’re looking for we got you covered.  Enjoy your climbing vacation regardless of your skill level, since most climbing locations in the area have routes suited to different skill levels.

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You’re about to go the some of the best international climbing destinations, so make sure you choose the right one (or two) for you.

1. Tonsai/Railay, Krabi, Thailand

Many people call this paradise, and for good reason. This area boasts the most routes in SE Asia. You can get cheap massages, $3 dollar meals and $2 mango shakes on rest days. Tonsai is also known as playground for adults”. Use your judgment if you partake. Railay is a bit more upscale, has electricity 24/7 and nicer rooms. Get some insurance to cover your climbing. For chilling go to Phra Nang beach or Railay West, do not swim at Tonsai beach as it’s a little dirty. For the ultimate adventure take a Deep Water Solo tour. Go with Hot Rock, and they’ll take you on a yacht. Gear rental and climbing instruction is readily available.

If you’re like us, then you’re an eager beaver that just wants to experience the adrenaline rush of the climb. However, if you feel like finding out some more detailed information about rock climbing, stay in the school for a little while. They have excellent courses on how to multi-pitch and use all pieces of equipment properly. Of course, you’ll need to consider the weather conditions, and the best time is also the high season in Thailand when there aren’t that many rains and the land is dry.

Half a day of rock climbing will cost approximately $28 and don’t expect anything less than $50 for a full day’s climb.

Tonsai, Birthplace of Deep Water Solo, Southeast Asia
Tonsai, Birthplace of Deep Water Solo, Southeast Asia

2.  Thakhek, Laos

This hidden gem will soon be #1. Set away from the sleepy town of Thakhek, this underused climbing area should be your stop before it gets too polished. Plenty of climbing for all levels.  You can stay at the the Green Climbers Home, they oversee the climbing area. It gets full quickly, so book early. Here, you’ll find twenty beautiful bungalows, but there’s also some additional space in the dorms. It’s the perfect place for a weary traveller to rest, shower and to gather strength. Alternatively, you can stay in town’s many guesthouses, grab a Lao BBQ for dinner $8 for 2 people.

Rent a scooter to get to the climbing and the plenty of awesome sights in the area on rest days. Do not give your passport as a deposit, as you may need it in an emergency, negotiate a financial deposit instead. As far as weather is concerned, it’s very important to arrive at the right time of the year, as you don’t want precipitations getting in way of your exploration and climbing activities. The period from November to March is usually the perfect time for rock climbing since there aren’t as many rains then. At this time, you’ll be able to experience Thakhek to the fullest, so plan accordingly.

Wild Climbing in Thakhek, Southeast Asia
Wild Climbing in Thakhek, Southeast Asia

3.  Crazy Horse, Chiang Mai Thailand

This is the most chill climbing scene in Southeast Asia! Located 40km outside Chiang Mai.  In this best part of Thailand you will find the cheapest food and lodging. Beginning Rock climber? No problem, Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Association (CMRCA) has US trained guides and over 160 routes suited to beginners. Their price for a full day course is 2,500 baht, which is about $80.

Pushing your limits? Crazy Horse has the safest standards in all of Asia! Stay in Chiang Mai and take the daily bus to the crag. What’s really interesting about Crazy Horse is that it doesn’t get as many visitors as the south of Thailand during high season.This makes it a great spot for rock climbing and avoiding unnecessary crowds that might make you nervous if you’re a beginner. The perfect time to do the climb in Northern Thailand is from December to the end of February. It will be neither too hot nor wet from all the rains, so you’ll be able to make the most of it. If you want to experience or to surround yourself in a cool bamboo forest, stay in La Bhu Salah in Mae On. Rent a motorbike so you can go to the Hot Springs on your rest days!

Chillest climbing in Southeast Asia, Crazy Horse
Chillest climbing in Southeast Asia, Crazy Horse

4. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

The birthplace of Thai Climbing is surrounded by Andean Sea. Some of the longest multi-pitch climbs are located here, most holds are massive jugs. At night pick your place to among the best party scene around. There is a wide range of accommodation: quiet, loud, cheap, high roller-it’s all available! Although devastated from the Tsunami this place is completely rebuilt and bumpin’. Don’t forget the sunset hike.  Gear rental and guide hiring is available.

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When you are done with climbing, if the impossible happens, head out to the gorgeous Maya Beach, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie The Beach. Sometimes, large groups of tourists devastate the natural beauty of this beach, so don’t be surprised if it’s closed down during your stay here. This is usually done in order for the ecosystem to recover from all the outside influence. Ko Phi Phi is also known by amazing overlooks and vantage points, and yes you guessed it – you can climb up to these locations instead of walking. South of Thailand has so much to offer to both rock climbers and party-goers, so hours of fun is guaranteed.

Sunset over Kho Phi Phi climbing and beaches in Southeast Asia
Sunset over Kho Phi Phi climbing and beaches in Southeast Asia

5. Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Want inland and seaside climbing? Then go to North Vietnam for the best of both worlds. Stay on Cat Ba Island and rent a motorbike for some of the most pristine climbing in Southeast Asia. Beginners and experts will stay busy for days. Want to explore some phenomenal seaside climbing join a guided tour or hire your own boat to Halong Bay send some of the sweetest limestone in the world. During rest days going hiking in National Park, close to a 1000 species of plants.

After arriving in the Halong Bay for the first time, take some time to stare at off-world scenery that you won’t find anywhere else. When you’re done staring at it in awe, try one of the best Deep Water Solo locations in Vietnam, or as some others claim, the best place for such activities in the world. If you ever get tired of leaping into the water (doubt it), check out Moody’s Beach and Pyramid Cave. Make sure you’re experiencing Halong Bay to the fullest extent, take as many photos as you want, have a couple of drinks on the beach and only then start thinking about the return trip.

Climbing in Halong Bay, Seaside in Southeast Asia
Climbing in Halong Bay, Seaside in Southeast Asia

6. Batu Caves, Malaysia

A popular tourist destination for many new arrivals to Malaysia, Batu Caves area home to an awe-inspiring Hindu temple, attracting people from all over the world to come and see. Those with a more adventurous spirit will be far more interested in limestone cliffs looming above the cave entrance. Don’t just take our word for it, this spot gets so many climbers per year that it became an attraction on its own merits. There are even three prominent climbing locations that adventurers can choose from. Suffice it to say that most climbers go back down after reaching the breathtaking peak and try a different spot immediately. These spots are known as Damai Wall, Nanyang Wall and Nyamuk Wall. Beginners should probably start with Damai Wall, and only try the rest if they managed to beat it effortlessly. Of course, these are just the more frequent ones, in reality, there are more than 100 routes to take.

After exhausting your strength from all the climbing, make sure to visit the caves themselves. Huge ceilings and grand temples are quite a divine sight to behold, it would be a real shame not to explore the cave systems since you’re already there and willing to attain new experiences and knowledge.

Climbing on rock in Batu Caves (Malaysia)
Climbing on rock in Batu Caves (Malaysia)

7. Bukit Lawang, Indonesia

This place is not primarily known as a climbing location, even though it provides amazing hills and cliffs to scale. Even the name itself means hill (Bukit). People usually come here to observe orangutans in their natural habitat, thanks to the efforts of kind people that maintain the biggest animal sanctuary of its kind in Indonesia. This area is very humid, and climbing up the rocks here can be very dangerous – one slip is all that needs to happen in order for you to be hurt.

Read moreCheapest Way to Travel to Southeast Asia

However, it is such an amazing experience getting to the top of this rock formation, providing you with a crazy vantage point over the surrounding jungle and endless foliage. If there’s any time left after your adventure in the North Sumatra province, head on out to the Gunung Leuser National Park. In this, one of the last of orangutan sanctuaries, you’ll find nature intact. Observe Sumatran elephants, tigers, leopard cats and deer as they frolic around the jungle.

From the top of the cliff, you’ll be able to spot the mighty Bahorok River that is known to cause occasional floods in the area. All in all, Bukit Lawang is a great place to go rock climbing, even though it’s not one of the most challenging spots in Southeast Asia.

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Outdoor climbing - Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
Outdoor climbing – Bukit Lawang, Indonesia

8. Vang Vieng, Laos

Make a stop at Tham Nam Them and get your rock climbing course before heading out to the mountainous regions stretching all around the town of Vang Vieng. This area is well-known for amazing caves, limestone cliffs that are every rock climber’s dream and westernized entertainment and cuisine. Visitors can opt for either the 1-day or 3-day course in climbing at Green Discovery school, after which they’re ready to head out to the cliffs that include routes ranging from 6a’s to 8a’s. For those looking to go cave delving, the closes two caves to the town itself are Tham Non and Tham Jang.

When you tire from all the climbing and adrenaline levels start going down, you’ll be able to enjoy food and drinks very much similar to those found in the US and other countries in the west. Many bars are also notorious for constant reruns of the stellar sitcom Friends. Grab a few smoothies and enjoy the rest of your stay in this relaxed, tourist-friendly location.

This town also has a very nefarious tubing scene that’s not really regulated and can be fatal, but if you’ve always wanted to get in on all the dangerous fun, you ought to try this out.

Climber on Vang Vieng, Laos
Climber on Vang Vieng, Laos

9. Tioman Island, Malaysia

We hope you’re in for a change of pace because there’s an island in Malaysia with unusual cliffs, a place of legend, challenge and sandstone. Mostly sandstone. After a bit of jungle trekking, you’ll find yourself at the foot of the mountain. Above you, sandstone cliffs stretch as far as the eye can see. Considering all the limestone cliffs that you’ve seen so far, this will be a real treat. 6a and 7a routes will take you on a journey across sandstone slabs, leading you through narrow passages and providing an excellent overview of the island. You probably won’t be able to locate a climbing school in this part of the country, so make sure you come prepared and with at least a portion of the climbing experience.

When you reach the top, sit down and listen to the legend of a lovely dragon princess. After the story ends, you’ll realise that you’re sitting on top of her head, her legacy to all the travellers in the area. Tioman Island is, according to the legend, a sanctuary for passengers created through the sacrifice of the princess herself. There are many other myths surrounding these steep cliffs, so make sure to stop by on your climbing conquest.

Overhang vertical climbing in Tioman Island, Malaysia
Overhang vertical climbing in Tioman Island, Malaysia

10. Cantabaco, Cebu, Philippines

Cantabaco has got everything you need to experience the real pleasure of rock climbing. Limestone cliffs dominate the central position of this otherwise great party destination in the province of Cebu. Witness the astonishing beauty of the surrounding area from the top of this limestone formation, revelling in the latest of your accomplishments. Different routes are available for you to make good use of them, trying various approaches in the ultimate goal of conquering Cantabaco – multiple times.

After you’re done proving yourself on the cliffs of Cebu, hit a bar or the beaches. No matter how you flip it, expect to have an amazing time in this corner of the Philippines. This entire region is a haven for rock climbers of all skill levels, and if you head out in this direction, you will not be disappointed. Hopefully, you’ll also bring a couple of friends with you to have someone to share this latest victory with. Friends also make rock climbing much safer and way more interesting! Don’t forget to bring a camera with you, or at least a smartphone to capture the beautiful view. Make sure it’s holstered safely though, you don’t want to be looking for it in pieces afterwards.

Girl climbing Cantabaco, Cebu, Philippines
Girl climbing Cantabaco, Cebu, Philippines