Many people ask about the best time of year to come for climbing. The best time of year for a climbing trip is just when you want to hear: “when it’s cold, dark, wet and generally depressing in the Northern Hemisphere”. That time it is mostly dry and warm, yet cool at night here in southern
Southern Thailand has two weather seasons: high season and low (now often called “green”) season.
High season begins in November. From then through March, it’s seldom humid and a comfortable breeze is common. The weather is generally clear and sunny. The coolest weather is in late December through early February, a timeframe better remembered as peak season. During peak season, you will have to compete with a lot of sun-hungry, non-climbing human biomass for accommodation and restaurant tables. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is not idle in paradise: this translates into prices that are considerably higher than in low season. For climbers, some may find the popular crags very crowded, especially routes in the lower grades seem to get climbed all day.
Features wind predominantly from the southwest which means monsoon. This, however, is not as bad as you might think. Many people imagine the monsoon as being a faucet that is turned on at a certain day and then rains until it’s turned off at a certain day a few months later, but it’s not that simple. When it rains, it really rains and then it’s finished just as quickly as it started. Cloudy days are cooler, conditions often change by the hour. It will seldom drizzle all day, most the time you can actually wait until it’s over and continue climbing. The views are superb as the air is clean and the sunsets beautiful. In terms of climbing, this is possible all year round. Many crags are overhanging and can be climbed during or after a shower. Elsewhere, climbing routes dry quite quickly with a bit of wind. The transition between the seasons actually brings the most chances of rainy, stormy weather which can last for several days. This occurs mostly in April/May and again September/October. For climbers staying in Ton Sai, on some days the mainland may be reached only via Railay East and Ao Nam Mao as the longtail boats cannot exit the bay when the waves are high.
So, when to come is decided by the eternal trade-off between time and money: climbers with money and little time are better off in the high season due to more reliable weather, climbers with time and little money are better off in the low season due to much lower accomodation cost. Every low season, more climbers are taking advantage of the lower cost and relaxed atmosphere, so it’s still easy to find a climbing partner.
In response to the many weather questions mailed to us a breakdown by month:
November is a transitional month
The rains gradually taper off throughout the month, but in some seasons it can still rain almost every day though never for long. The prices of everything start to go up. Popular climbing crags can get crowded.
December/ January / February is peak season.
The closer to Christmas, the more people arrive. Negotiating room prices is impossible, many hotels in Railay are completely booked out from mid-December to mid-January. If you don’t like crowds, this is not be the best time to come! If you would like to increase and internationalize your circle of climbing friends, this is the time for you! The weather is perfect. The average temperature during this period is approximately 24C to 32C. There is very little chance of rain, though it can happen during El Nino years. The prevailing wind is from the Northeast. The other side of the Malay peninsula (Ko Tao) is experiencing their rainy season.
March / April / May see high season tapering off
Towards the end of April there seems to be less people and negotiating prices is possible. It gets hotter at the end March. April and May are the hottest months of the year. The temperatures range from 27C to 36C. April is a transitional month. The previously Northeastern monsoon winds gradually start moving around to eventually come from the Southwest. Somewhere around the middle of April, there are high chances of some heavy showers with strong winds. These storms can create high waves on Pra-nang peninsular’s West side, so that boat ferries to Ao Nang are not possible. On such days, climbers have to travel via Railay East and Ao Nam Mao. Deep Water Soloing trips may be possible depending on the waves. The second half of April and into May is usually pretty wet. Frequent thunder showers occur. They are often quite heavy but mostly brief. It seldom rains all day, the showers merely give you a little break from the sun. Low season storms can be absolutely stunning. The colors and views are often breathtaking. The sunsets are much better than in high season. When it stops raining, the visibility can be absolutely outstanding! Rooms prices come down a lot.
June / July / August.
June can be the same as May in some years, in others June and July behave like August with nice weather. The wind is still from the Southwest, but the rain is a bit less than the previous months and a lot less than the next two months. The temperatures range between 20C to 33C. Ton Sai is not likely to get cutted off from Ao Nang by high waves. There are a lot more days than the previous months when Deep Water Soloing trips are possible, it all depends on the storm activities out to sea. Even during stormy years, high waves are not happening every day. This is the time for climbers on a long-term break, you may stay one month at the same cost of one week in high season.
September / October are usually is the wettest months of the year.
There are frequent storms. However, there are still plenty of clear days. The rains aren’t necessarily all day long. Many days have brief showers or no rain at all. Tourism is slow, so you’re able to negotiate prices easily. Climbing routes with stalagtites can be dripping for a few days after a big rain. There is an increasing number of climbers around. Some crags are overhanging and can be climbed during rainy showers.