Kuang Si Waterfall (also called Tat Kuang Si) is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Laos. And that’s really saying something in a country that’s famed for its stunning natural water features!
Less than an hour from Luang Prabang town, its beauty and accessibility mean that it is very popular. Don’t let this deter you though – a visit to Kuang Si Falls is well worth it, despite the waterfall being something of a tourist hotspot.
At the top of this three-tiered waterfall, crystal clear water flows 60 meters down a limestone rock face in an impressive display. It continues downhill in a series of cascades that spill over into turquoise pools that are perfect for a refreshing swim.
Time it right and you can beat the crowds to soak up the buzzing atmosphere as you marvel at this outstanding natural wonder. Read on for all you need to know before you visit Laos’ Kuang Si Falls.
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A Backpacker’s Guide to Visiting Kuang Si Waterfall, Laos
Things to Do at Kuang Si Waterfall
1. Soak Up the View
Enjoy amazing views of the majestic cascades from the bridge that crosses the pool at the base of the main falls. This is the best spot from which to witness Kuang Si Waterfall in all its glory, feel the refreshing cool spray on your face and listen to the roar of the water tumbling down the limestone cliff.
2. Swim in the Pools
The path up to the main falls passes three pools of clear aqua water fed by small but wide waterfalls. Enjoy the setting as you cool off with a swim in the fresh water surrounded by lush jungle. There are changing facilities nearby so you can change out of your wet swimwear before the journey back to Luang Prabang.
3. Learn About Bears
Just past the entrance to the falls you will find a sanctuary for Sun and Moon bears, many of which have been rescued from the exploitative bear bile trade. Established in 2003, Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre is part of the project Free The Bears, which works to rescue and rehabilitate bears in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Here you can see the bears in their new environment, learn about these magnificent creatures and donate to the project if you wish.
4. Hike to the Top of the Falls
Just to the left of the main falls is a steep path that leads up to the top of the waterfall. The hike to the top takes about 15 minutes and is sandy and slippery so take care, especially when coming back down on the other side of the falls. At the top, you will be rewarded with views over the jungle and a peaceful walk through a wooded area with another swimming pool complete with a swing to enjoy.
5. Have a Picnic
Kuang Si Waterfall provides a beautiful setting for enjoying some al fresco dining. Take advantage of the picnic benches dotted along the path and have a leisurely lunch with magical views.
6. Take a Bamboo Raft to the Source of the Falls
At the top of the waterfall, a local man offers trips on a bamboo raft to see the source of the falls. For around 10,000LAK (less than $1USD!) you can enjoy a calm and scenic journey down the river where the boatman will point out the cave from which the waterfalls begin.
Sadly, the cave isn’t accessible and its depth and size can’t really be appreciated from the outside, but this is a case of the old saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination”. A round trip takes about 30 minutes.
7. Visit the Butterfly Park
Kuang Si Butterfly Park can be found 300m before the entrance to the waterfall. The project was initiated in 2014 as a place to breed and study Laotian butterflies. Spot as many species as you can on a guided walk through the beautiful gardens. Note that this is a separate attraction with its own admission fee (approx. 40,000LAK/$2-3USD).
Best Time to Visit Kuang Si Waterfall
Laos’ dry season, which runs from November to April, is the best time to visit Kuang Si Waterfall. Luckily, the dry season doesn’t see the falls dry out and the water still flows in abundance at this time of year. This is when the pools are the bright teal colour that makes this waterfall so distinctive. The water will be calm enough for swimming during these months too.
The monsoon rains brought by the wet season (May – October) cause the water to lose its glorious aqua colour and the falls turn to rapids which makes swimming unsafe. The hike to the top of the falls is also impossible at this time as the track will be a slippery mud path. The wettest month is August and is best avoided.
If possible, visit Kuang Si Falls on a weekday as weekends are the most popular time with many domestic tourists arriving on Saturdays and Sundays. The middle of the day, from around midday to 3 pm, is also worth avoiding if you wish to avoid the bulk of the crowds and tour groups.
Practical Information for a Visit to the Kuang Si Waterfall
The waterfall is open daily from 8 am-5.30 pm.
The ticket office is located near the parking area and entry costs around 25,000LAK (approx. $1.50USD) and includes an electric shuttle bus to the entrance to the waterfall, which is worth taking to avoid the 20-minute uphill walk.
What to Bring to Kuang Si Falls
- Camera – Whether it’s your mobile phone or the latest DSLR, this is one spot where you should definitely have your camera on hand to capture the serene beauty of the falls and its startlingly blue waters.
- Swimwear – A dip in the swimming holes is a must-do activity so don’t forget your swim shorts or costume!
- Change of clothes – Beautiful but cold, the water is quite literally breathtaking at Kuang Si. You’ll appreciate a set of dry clothes when you emerge from the pools!
- Dry bag – To keep your belongings dry while you go for a dip or a raft ride.
- Shoes with good grip – If you plan to hike to the top of the falls, walking shoes or sandals with good grip are definitely recommended. The path is steep and can be very slippery.
- A picnic – Pack a few snacks or a full lunch, and enjoy the picnic areas dotted along the river. You couldn’t ask for a better view for a lunch stop.
- Sunscreen and water – You’ll need at least a couple of hours to explore the falls fully so bring plenty of water and sunscreen for protection from Laos’ tropical sun.
Tips for Visiting Kuang Si Waterfall
1. Arrive Early (or Late) to Avoid the Crowds
For unobstructed views and to have the swimming holes to yourself, arrive early in the morning – ideally around opening time at 8 am. Visiting in the late afternoon is also an option and by 3 pm, the majority of other visitors will likely have left, leaving you to enjoy the falls in relative peace, although you may find yourself rushing to see everything before closing time!
2. Take the Path to the Right
Just after the entrance, you will be faced with two options: turn left or turn right. Take the path to the right marked Forest and Wildlife Discovery Trail. This will lead you on a pretty journey through a natural landscape, into the bear sanctuary and to the swimming holes and lower falls. The path to the left is a shortcut to the main falls and bypasses all these must-see places.
3. Buy Some Snacks From the Locals
At both the ticket office and directly outside the entrance, there are lots of stalls selling local produce. Buying some snacks, such as fresh fruit, is a great way to support the local economy as well as adding another healthy option to your picnic hamper! If you prefer to have a sit-down meal there is also a restaurant close to the main falls.
4. Keep an Eye on the Time
If you visit by shared tuk tuk or minivan, the driver will give you a time to meet back at the car park for the return journey. Bear this in mind as you explore, particularly if you hike to the top of the falls. It can take some time to exit and make your way back to the car pack, especially if you need to wait in line for a shuttle bus which can happen at busy times.
5. Dress Modestly
When you’re not swimming, make sure to cover up and dress appropriately. There are signs requesting no bikini tops or bare chests so don’t wander around in your swimwear. It’s also advised that both guys and girls wear a t-shirt when swimming, or at the very least a one-piece swimsuit rather than a bikini.
6. Take a Swim in the Top Pool
The lower pools can get busy but if you decide to hike to the top of the falls you will discover a quiet pool that few people find. While the water here doesn’t have the blue glow of the swimming holes at the base of the falls, a swim in this quiet spot surrounded by jungle is an unforgettable experience.
How to Get to the Kuang Si Falls
It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to get to Kuang Si Falls from Luang Prabang, and the easiest way to visit is by shared minivan. This can be arranged through your hostel and will include pick up for around 90,000LAK (approx. $6USD). Vans usually arrive at the falls around 1 pm and allow two hours for exploration before returning to Luang Prabang.
Tuk tuks all over town will gladly take you to the falls. A shared tuk tuk is the cheaper option, but it’s best to find others to go with beforehand as waiting for them to fill up before you leave may take some time since most people now use shared minivans. The advantage of a tuk tuk is that you can go at any time you wish and the driver is likely to wait a little longer than a minivan, usually around three hours.
The most independent way to visit is by hiring a scooter. This will enable you to visit at any time of day and stay as long as you wish. Scooter hire costs around 150,000LAK (approx. $9USD) for a day rental.
From around $24USD you can also book a tour that includes transport and a guide, but these tours usually include another element such as a city tour, the almsgiving ceremony or a visit to the Pak Ou Caves.
Places to Stay Close to the Kuang Si Waterfall
Luang Prabang is a great base from which to explore Kuang Si Falls. It is the former capital of Laos and remains its cultural heartland. The Old City, renowned for its beautiful and colourful French Colonial architecture, is located on a small sliver of land surrounded on three sides by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. French influence is strong here and bakeries and pâtisseries line the streets alongside local Laotian restaurants and lively night markets.
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Vongprachan Backpackers Hostel has cheap and basic dorms with both ensuite and common bathrooms. The free breakfast is very good and is served on the rooftop which is a nice social space with good views.
Mad Monkey, the popular hostel chain, has an outpost in Luang Prabang. It isn’t the cheapest option but has a pool, onsite bar and restaurant, along with the usual social atmosphere that Mad Monkey is known for.
Fan Dee Hotel is situated a few minutes tuk tuk ride outside of town but the location, directly on Nam Khan River, makes the detour worthwhile. Bamboo huts provide 4-bed single-sex dorm rooms and there are good common areas including a bar, restaurant and garden.
Kuang Si Waterfall is undeniably one of the most wonderful natural features in Laos. It may be one of the most popular attractions but even this doesn’t diminish its impressiveness. Despite the crowds, the falls can still be enjoyed in relative peace if visited at the right time.
The majesty of this multi-tiered waterfall and its luminous blue pools can only truly be appreciated up close. So however and whenever, you choose to visit, experiencing Kuang Si Falls is sure to be one of the most memorable moments of your stay in Luang Prabang.
Have you visited Kuang Si Waterfall yet? Let us know your experience in the comments!
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