Everything you need to know about visiting Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos.
From Niagara Falls on the border of the US and Canada, to Semuc Champey deep in the jungles of Guatemala and Iguazu Falls from both Argentina and Brazil, we have seen some incredible waterfalls over the years.
There is nothing quite like swimming through cooling natural pools to the foot of a tumbling curtain of liquid and letting the forceful torrent shower your body. It is something we never tire of doing.
One of the absolute must-dos in Laos is spending a day exploring the Kuang Si Falls outside of Luang Prabang.
Hiking, swimming, jumping off the falls and relaxing in this stunning river makes for one of the highlights in any trip to South East Asia.
After we took the slow boat to Luang Prabang we found ourselves in a gorgeous little guest house in town and spent our days hanging out in this French-style paradise on the Mekong River.
Everybody kept telling us that Kuang Si Falls was by far the best thing to do in Luang Prabang, so it was only a matter of time before we headed out there ourselves to see them.
There were a bunch of travel agents in town offering tours to the waterfalls, but most of these would only give limited time exploring the site.
We knew that we’d want to spend as much time as possible there, so instead we hit up the owner of our guesthouse to see if he had any suggestions.
Luckily he knew just the guy, and after we decided to team up with a cool couple that we also met on the slow boat, we negotiated a price and convinced the driver to leave us at the falls for 5 hours instead of the usual 3.
The next morning we woke up early and met our driver with his tuk tuk. He was a friendly guy, but before we left we had our guesthouse owner double check that we could stay for 5 hours, and this caused a bit of a ruckus.
It turns out that while the driver was happy to take the extra money we’d offer to stay longer, he wasn’t aware that we actually wanted to stay longer than normal.
After a lot of back and forth with our guesthouse owner acting as a translator, our driver reluctantly agreed, and we jumped in the tuk tuk and headed off.
Kuang Si Falls is about 23km from Luang Prabang, and it took us about 40 minutes to get there, bouncing over rough roads.
Our group of 4 chatted away in the back as we left the city and moved into the gorgeous Lao jungle.
Once we arrived we headed to the gate, paid our 20’000 Kip (USD$2.40) entrance fee and started the walk towards the falls.
As soon as we arrived we were blown away! Some of the photos we had seen of the falls showed the water dark brown and murky, but we were greeted with crystal clear, turquoise water!
Tiny cascades tumbled over limestone walls into magnificent natural grottoes. All around was lush foliage and dense jungle.
We had stepped into a real paradise.
Excitedly we jumped into the first pool we found, and floated around laughing and admiring our environment.
If we stopped moving around and stood still, tiny little fish would come and eat the dead skin off of our legs.
It’s these kind of fish you see in spa treatments all over Thailand, and while they don’t hurt, it is a weird sensation getting attacked by minuscule creatures. We didn’t mind it, but some people do.
After 20 minutes we realised we had only see the tiniest section, so we wrapped our belongings up in a dry bag and started climbing the falls.
We came up with the great idea of trying to reach the end without stepping foot back on the main track, so that’s what we did, crawling up the falls and climbing through the jungle.
Each one got more and more beautiful, and we easily could have spent an hour in each one. But alas time was flying by and we wanted to make it to the top.
We found a few higher falls that we could jump off, so naturally we had to give it a go before moving on to the next one.
One thing we were amazed with was that for the first hour or so we were the only ones there.
Having our own driver and getting there early meant we had beat the crowds, and seeing Kuang Si Falls without anyone else was a pretty special thing.
But sure enough, as we got further up we started to see a lot more people walk along the path, making a beeline for the end pool.
We made the most of the quietness in the Kuang Si waterfalls, but eventually we had to give up our plans of not touching land and crawl out of one of the pools.
The one we found ourselves at is probably one of the most popular ones, primarily because of the huge branch that stretches out over it.
Our group took turns climbing out on it, getting our pictures, then leaping into the cold water below.
We checked the clock and half of our time had already gone at this point. How people manage to squeeze everything into a few hours is beyond us, because we were just having too much fun.
Leaving the jumping branch behind we finally made it to the huge, towering waterfall that is so iconic in Kuang Si.
Rising above us the water tumbled down the limestone wall and into a wide pool. We couldn’t swim in this one, but it was gorgeous just standing on the bridge admiring it.
We could see people at the top, and decided to make our way up there.
To the right a path climbed up through the jungle, and we made our way higher and higher until we broke out on the top level.
Calm pools led to the top of the waterfall, and you could gently glide to the very edge and be greeted with epic views over the jungle canopy.
In fact this could be the most spectacular natural infinity pool we’ve ever seen!
You need to be careful, because obviously one slip and you’d be falling down a long way to a very rough landing, but we didn’t feel it was overly dangerous.
Once we had played around at the top we started to descend on the other side of the falls.
A collection of other awesome infinity pools greeted us as we went down, and we easily could have spent the entire afternoon just relaxing in them.
Eventually we made it back to the jumping tree, and much to our surprise our driver was standing there waiting for us. He pointed at his watch, indicating that we’d been there for 4.5 hours and he wanted to go.
We tried to point out that we still had 30 minutes to go, but he started to rush us back to the tuk tuk, threatening to leave without us.
Not falling for his ploy we slowly made our way back, stopping to take a few final photos and jumping in for a final swim.
When we did make it back to the tuk tuk the driver was quite upset, because he had waited the entire time for us, but at the end of the day that’s what we had paid him to do.
The driver charged back towards Luang Prabang, with us bouncing around in the back of his tuk tuk, but at this point we were so happy with the day we didn’t really care.
Visiting Kuang Si Falls was a true highlight of our time in Southeast Asia, and to this day still remains as one of the most beautiful waterfalls we have ever seen.
The fact you get to swim in and enjoy them too really makes them a special spot.
Make sure you add Kuang Si waterfalls to your Southeast Asia bucket list!
How To Get To Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
There is a number of different ways you can get to Kuang Si Falls, and it all depends on your budget, how much time you want to spend and your travel style.
You can head down to the local post office or Joma Bakery in Luang Prabang and find dozens of songthaews or tuk tuks waiting to take backpackers to the falls.
These can be a great, cheap way to get out there if you only want to spend a limited amount of time,
The songthaews leave when full, cost 200’000 Kip total (USD$24) split between the 8 people that jump in.
The only downside to these is you may only get an hour or two at the falls before the driver leaves, and if you miss your ride you are left to negotiate with the tuk tuk mafia at Kuang Si Falls, who will charge you an arm and a leg to get back.
Private Tuk Tuk
This is the option we took, and we think this was the best way for us to visit Kuang Si Falls.
The reason we went for this option was because we didn’t want to be rushed during our time at the waterfalls, and even though it took a bit of negotiating, we finally managed to make it work.
We paid 300’000 Kip (USD$36) for the driver and 5 hours at the site. We also negotiated that we wouldn’t pay until after we returned to Luang Prabang, to make sure he didn’t leave us behind.
He waited for us the whole time and we could enjoy the waterfalls without fear that he would be gone when we came back.
We organised this through our guesthouse, which unfortunately is closed down now.
If you want to book a private tour that has an English speaking guide, and visits some other places like Pak Ou Cave, check out the options on Viator.
Ride A Bicycle To Kuang Si
If you’re feeling really fit, one of the best ways to visit Kuang Si Falls is to rent a bicycle from town and ride out there.
It’s 23km to get there, but the scenery while you go is awesome. If you are there during summer it will be extremely hot and humid, so keep that in mind.
You can rent a bicycle from lots of places in town, or from your guesthouse.
Ride A Scooter To Kuang Si
This was going to be our alternative option, because we actually bought two motorbikes in Luang Prabang, but decided against it in the end once our friends realised how expensive scooter rental is in town.
Most places charge USD$20 per day for a scooter, which is insanely high compared to the rest of Southeast Asia.
The reason they do this is because of the tuk tuk mafia, which is brutal in Luang Prabang.
If scooter rental was cheap, nobody would hire tuk tuks, so they set the prices really high to make sure nobody goes for that option.
Still if you prefer doing things independently, and perhaps wanted to visit some other places in one day, this can be a good option.
Tips For Visiting Kuang Si Wateralls
Heading to Kuang Si Falls is pretty straightforward, but here are some tips to ensure you have an awesome time there.
- Don’t bring any valuables with you except for a small bit of cash. Theft does happen at Kuang Si Falls, so always keep your eye on them when you’re swimming around.
- Have a waterproof camera. We recommend having a GoPro (check out our guide on how to take awesome GoPro photos).
- Keep an eye on the time so that your driver doesn’t leave you behind.
- If you have a dry bag bring that along, because then you can just carry your stuff with you as you climb through the falls
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Alesha and Jarryd
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