Luang Prabang is a sleepy and charming town in Laos featuring some stunning temples and a vibrant Buddhist culture. Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see in Southeast Asia, yet it’s often overshadowed by popular sites in the neighboring countries of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
For travelers who do venture to Laos, you’ll be rewarded by a country rich with culture, great cuisine, beautiful handicrafts, and some of the most stunning natural wonders in the entire region. In fact, one of the most popular sites in all of Laos lies just outside of Luang Prabang, the stunning turquoise cascades of Kuang Si Falls.
In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting the famed and beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall including how to get there when to visit, and what to bring. Enjoy!
- Complete Guide to Visiting Kuang Si Falls in Laos
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Complete Guide to Visiting Kuang Si Falls in Laos
Why You Should Visit Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is a thriving town in northern Laos. Its beautiful architecture is an interesting mix of traditional Lao and French Colonial design. The small historic center of Luang Prabang is packed full of things to see and do.
Visit beautiful Buddhist temples and shop in the impressively large night market that’s well-stocked with beautiful handicrafts. Tour the Royal Palace Museum and hike Mount Phousi for beautiful views of the surrounding area.
One of the most popular activities in the center of Luang Prabang is to watch the Tak Bat alms-giving ceremony – a long-standing tradition where hundreds of monks from monasteries in the area collect alms including gifts of rice, snacks, fruit, and other donations.
This beautiful city center offers the rich culture of Southeast Asia with a refreshingly slower pace. Watch fishermen with their large nets bringing in the daily catch, artisans putting the finishing touches on their crafts for sale, and rice cakes drying in the sun.
Luang Prabang may be a little off the typical tourist track, but that is part of its charm. Visit Bangkok, Siem Reap, and other popular places in the region, then visit Luang Prabang to decompress and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Kuang Si Falls
One of the most popular attractions when you visit Luang Prabang, or for that matter, the entire country of Laos, is visiting the Kuang Si Falls. These multi-tiered falls are a stunning turquoise blue that flows through the area. You’ll see gorgeous bursts of vibrant blue water as you wander your way along the path towards the waterfall. You’ll hear them before you see them and will know you’re close. Then, the jungle opens up and you’re greeted with one of the most breathtaking views in Laos. You have arrived at Kuang Si Falls!
There are three tiers of the main waterfalls and each has a beautiful blue-green pool that you can swim in. The water is refreshingly cold which feels wonderful in the warm and sticky climate of Laos. Take your time and enjoy each of the pools as you explore this majestic place.
The top waterfall is the largest with a drop of ~200 feet (~61 meters). A bridge spans the width of the falls so you can get great photos. However, it can get quite crowded and slippery on the bridge, especially during the busy season, so be careful as you cross it.
When to Visit the Kuang Si Falls
You can visit the Kuang Si Waterfall at any time of the year, but the best time is during the dry season – from December to April.
It does get more crowded at this time, but this area gets a lot of rainfall in the wet season which makes the trails quite slippery. The river also rises in the wet season which makes the river lose its turquoise hue and turn a muddy brown.
How to Get to the Kuang Si Falls
The Kuang Si Falls are ~18 miles south of Luang Prabang. There are a number of ways to get to these Laos waterfalls from Luang Prabang, ranging in cost and convenience. Here are the transportation options and the costs you can expect:
Similar to a covered pickup truck with two benches in the back, these are everywhere in Southeast Asia. They are an authentic and local experience, though not very comfortable, especially for longer rides. A songtaew from Luang Prabang to Kuang Si Falls will cost around 150,000 to 200,000 kip (~$17 – $23 USD) for a private ride and 50,000 to 60,000 (~$6-$7 USD) for a shared ride.
Your hotel or hostel can arrange a tuk-tuk and there are a couple of types available in Luang Prabang. These generally cost around 35,000 to 40,000 kip (~$4 – $4.60 USD) from the city center.
Private or shared minivan
This is a great option especially if you have a group. A private minivan will cost around 350,000 kip (~$40 USD) and a shared one will be a little less. They generally seat four people and are a comfortable option. If you’re not traveling with a group you can also book a seat in a shared minivan on GetYourGuide.
You can rent a moped if you’re feeling adventurous. There are some crazy impressive potholes on the road from Luang Prabang so consider yourself warned! Prices range from 45,000 to 90,000 kip (~$5 – $10 USD).
Everything is negotiable in Laos and this is a part of their culture. So, don’t simply accept the cost provided but try your hand at the art of haggling. Especially if you are offered a higher price than what is listed. Politely, of course! The worst you could hear is no.
You can also negotiate the amount of time you have at the falls. They typically allow for around three hours, but you can request more for a fee or an additional tip.
Also, stopping at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park (more info on it below) is not generally included in the visit. So, if you do want to stop there as well, consider either reducing your time at the falls or bump up the time and price a bit.
What You Should Bring to the Kuang Si Waterfall
The entrance to the falls costs 20,000 kip (~$2.50 USD). You’ll pay at a stand near the entrance to the falls. Though there are some vendors near the entrance to the falls and some people selling things inside as well, it’s a good idea to bring the following when you visit:
- Bathing suit
- Bottled water and snacks
- Bug repellant
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
There are bathrooms near the Kuang Si Waterfall though they are quite rough. It’s a squat bathroom (without a proper toilet) so be sure you bring toilet paper and sanitizer. They do offer a separate place for changing which is decent. However, you may want to wear your bathing suit under your clothes on the way in.
Though the area is a thick jungle, it is still a good idea to wear sunscreen and you may want a hat as well. You can purchase some things on the way in if you forget them, though it’s a better idea to simply bring everything you’ll need.
Other Places to Visit Near the Kuang Si Falls
Though the beautiful Kuang Si Falls are the primary attraction in this area, there are a couple of other worthwhile stops before you head back to Luang Prabang – the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center and the Kuang Si Butterfly Park.
Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center
Located within the area of the Kuang Si Waterfall is this Asiatic Black Bear Rescue which is managed by Free the Bears. Sadly, these bears, known as Moon Bears, are prized for their bile which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Captive Moon Bears are typically kept in horrific conditions in tiny cages, however, the bears here got lucky and were rescued. There is an interesting exhibit to learn more about these bears and the rescue effort, and you can even climb into a cage, like the one they live in, to see what it’s like.
There are ~25 Moon Bears of various ages throughout the seperate enclosures. You can watch the older bears lounging around on wooden platforms or the younger ones jumping around and playing with each other.
There is no entry fee to visit the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center and donations are not required, but they are appreciated. You can also buy a t-shirt to support the bear rescue effort while also taking something home with you to remember the experience.
Kuang Si Butterfly Park
This passion project was started by a couple from the Netherlands to teach the locals about biology, a course of study that is not included in local public schools.
Here they train local teachers to be able to cover this important subject. They also have botanists, biologists, and entomologists visit from around the world to help educate locals about caring for the many living things found in this small but beautiful park.
The Kuang Si Butterfly Park is a short drive from the entrance of the Kuang Si Falls (and a separate entrance fee of 30,000 kip, or ~$3.30 USD).
There is a teaching structure, a cafe, exhibits to learn about butterflies, and a large butterfly enclosure containing more than 20 different types of butterflies. The owners also planted beautiful orchids and other flowers around this area and you can see random pops of color from the turquoise waters as well.
Grab a laminated sheet of the butterflies there and see how many you can find, or stay longer and volunteer to support their conservation efforts.
Final Tips for Visiting Kuang Si Falls
Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your visit to the Kuang Si Waterfall:
- Bring cash as credit and debit cards are not accepted here. (And for that matter, they aren’t widely accepted in most of Laos). It’s a good idea to bring small bills in case you want to purchase anything. It makes it easier as the vendors sometimes don’t accept larger bills.
- Go on a sunny day to see the true beauty of the falls. Sunny days really reflect off the water and brighten the color tremendously.
- Arrive early to beat the crowds. Especially during the busy season, if you want to get there before the rush of tourists, go by 10:00am.
- Wear your bathing suit under your clothes, but be sure to either change out of it when you’re done swimming or hang out to enjoy the beauty of the area long enough to dry out before leaving. Laos is a very conservative country and you shouldn’t plan on wearing your bathing suit when you leave.
- Make sure you bring appropriate footwear to navigate the tree roots on the walk around the falls. The trails can get quite slippery as well so you’ll want something with a good tread, like sneakers or sturdy and comfortable sandals.
- Don’t forget to double-check the list of things to bring when you visit!
Visiting the Kuang Si Falls is one of the highlights of any trip to Laos and something you don’t want to miss. Plan to stay in the magical small town of Luang Prabang to see all that it has to offer, including a trip to the Kuang Si Waterfalls.
Do you plan on visiting Kuang Si Falls? Let us know about your trip to Laos in the comments!
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Sam Glauser – About the Author:
Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover with big plans to travel the world with her dog. When she’s not blogging about her travel adventures at My Flying Leap, you can find her volunteering with her pet-therapy cat and dog, on the top of a mountain, or enjoying a glass of bold red wine planning for her next trip.