The Best Laos Waterfall: Kuang Si Falls

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One of the top things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos, is a visit to the best Laos waterfall, Kuang Si Falls. It’s a great day trip (or half-day trip) with a short trek through the jungle to view these stunning turquoise cascades with three levels.

You can even swim in the pools, making this a top thing to do on Laos’ hot and humid days. And, added bonus—there are a few fun things to do in and around the park.

When you visit the sleepy town of Luang Prabang, it’s worth taking a half-day or more to visit. Here is all you need to know to visit the Kuang Si Laos waterfall.

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What to do in Luang Prabang

You’ll likely visit the Kuang Si Falls from Luang Prabang, a historic city in northern Laos. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a small city with a gorgeous historic district comprised of a mix of Lao and French Colonial architecture.

The pace here is slow and that gives you ample time to soak in the charm and to decompress from some of the other busy cities in Southeast Asia.

Even for a quiet town, there is a large number of fun things to do in Luang Prabang. The top activity according to Tripadvisor is a visit to what is often considered the best Laos waterfall, Kuang Si Waterfall.

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Kuang Si Falls Fast Facts

  • 18 miles (29 km) south of Luang Prabang
  • Open daily from 8 to 5:30
  • Entrance fee: 20,000 kip (around $1.75 USD)
  • Hike time: around 15 to 20 minutes each way, depending on your speed
  • Cost to get to Kuang Si Falls from Luang Prabang: varies depending on the transportation from $4 USD up to $23.

How to Get to the Kuang Si Falls

There are a number of transportation options to get to the Kuang Si waterfall from Luang Prabang.

  • Tuk-Tuk—The approximate cost from the Luang Prabang city center is around 35k to 40k kip ($4 – $4.60 USD). You can have your hotel or hostel arrange it.
  • Taxis are available for more than twice the cost of a tuk-tuk.
  • Private or shared minivan—This is a great option if you have a group. A private minivan will cost around 350,000 kip (around $40 USD) and a shared one will be a little less. They generally seat four people and are a comfortable option.
  • Songtaew—These are similar to a covered pickup truck with two benches in the back. It will cost around 150,000 to 200,000 kip (around $17 – $23 USD) for a private ride and 50,000 to 60,000 ($6-$7 USD) for a shared ride. These aren’t generally very comfortable, though.
  • Moped—You can also rent a moped if you’re feeling adventurous. However, I’ll warn you there are some crazy impressive potholes on the road from Luang Prabang. Do it at your own risk! Prices range from 45,000 to 90,000 kip ($5 – $10 USD).

There are lots of tours to the Kuang Si Falls. That’s a good option if you want some additional information about the area or if you want to see multiple things in the day. And of course, if you don’t want to deal with transportation.

The Trip to the Best Laos Waterfall

The drive from my hotel took close to an hour. You start off driving through the city of Luang Prabang outside of the quaint old town. It’s a bit of a shock to the senses as it’s very crowded and noisy.

Once you leave the city, it’s a meandering road through small villages, farms, and terraced rice fields. There are some beautiful mountains off in the distance.

The ride is bumpy as the road is not in the best shape, and as I mentioned, sports some quite impressive potholes that take some maneuvering. It was nice to see the lush jungle countryside and the many farms along the way.

Though it’s a little way from Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls is sometimes referred to as the Luang Prabang waterfall.

luang prabang, laos, hut in the hungle

If you took a tuk-tuk or a taxi to get here, make sure to arrange a meeting place and time for your return. Drivers will usually provide you with 3 hours or so and you can arrange for more if you pay a little more.

Kuang Si Waterfall Entrance

There are many shops and food carts just outside the entrance to the falls, similar to pretty much every tourist attraction in Southeast Asia. Prices will be a little higher than in Luang Prabang and of course, the selection is much less and quality often not as good.

There is a booth with a big sign selling tickets for the entrance fee, which is 20k kip (around $1.75 USD).

You will cross the walkway and enter the jungle. It is very well marked so you can’t miss it (and I say that, as an expert sign misser!) You have the option to take a number of paths to hike in the jungle.

I’d encourage you to do some hiking while you’re there. It’s a bit cooler and slightly less humid here than in Luang Prabang, so visiting this Laos waterfall is quite pleasant.

Asiatic Black Bear Rescue – Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center

The first thing you will see is the Asiatic Black Bear Rescue off to the right. I know, it seems totally random and it’s a strange place to find it. It was started to assist these endangered animals as part of a wildlife conservation effort run by the Free the Bears organization.

These bears, also called moon bears, are taken for their bile, which is used in Chinese medicine. They live in horrific conditions in small cages. They actually have a caged exhibit you can climb into to see how tiny they are and how awful a situation they live in.

There is a good bit of education available if you’re interested in learning more, and of course, you can donate to the cause. You can donate money to support their rescue efforts or buy a t-shirt, though you are not required to.

There were around 23 bears there of different ages, with a few adults, some energetic younger bears, and some very young ones. At any time you can see them sleeping and playing with each other.

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Those feet!!

There are some viewing areas behind glass where you can spend some time watching the babies playing and it’s a lot of fun to see. Some of the adults seemed a bit stressed and were pacing a bit, but the babies were happy as could be.

Either way, the conditions are markedly improved from where they came from. They have a chance to live a more normal life, albeit in captivity.

A Note on Animal Tourism

One thing to be very cautious of is animal tourism in Southeast Asia. There are a lot of organizations that claim to be sanctuaries that are in it for profit and not the animal’s welfare.

So, be sure to do your homework if you love animals, Make sure that if you go to a place to see animals, the organization is legitimate and treating the animals well. In this case, there is no requirement to pay to see the bears. So, I don’t think it really applies in this situation.

Going to the Kuang Si Waterfall

You continue to hike through the jungle towards the falls and are greeted with the sound of rushing water and pops of crystal green color randomly through the woods. The hike is pretty flat with just a slight incline, though beware of roots as you make your way.

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There are three tiers of the main waterfalls. Each has a gorgeous blue-green pool that you can swim in made of limestone ledges. I went in December at the start of the dry season and the water was extremely cold, so be prepared!

Given the heat and humidity in Luang Prabang, it was a really nice break. It felt really refreshing and it’s a great trip to take.

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The main, largest fall on the top has a drop of around 200 feet and is impressive. There is a bridge that spans this Laos waterfall to get pictures. It gets quite crowded and you may need to wait for your ideal shot at certain times of the year. It can also get a bit slippery during the rains.

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If you find yourself hungry, there are some industrious people selling snacks of different types here. I spent around three hours here and felt it was the right amount of time.

The Secret Waterfall

How I wish I had come across this blog post before my trip, but sadly, I didn’t. You may benefit from my finding it now, though! Apparently, there is a secret waterfall that many/most people don’t know about.

Check out the article about the secret waterfall at Kuang Si to learn more, including directions on how to get to it.

Visit the Kuang Si Butterfly Park

If you weren’t already in love with the gorgeous turquoise waterfalls or the black bears, then the butterfly park may clinch it. This park is only a short drive from the entrance to the falls, and it’s a beautiful area with loads of flowers, orchids, small strips of turquoise green water flowing, and of course, the butterflies.

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This sprung to life as a passion project of a couple from the Netherlands. Olaf, the husband, whom I got to meet, is passionate about flowers, plants, and gardens and in particular, orchids.

His wife was a teacher and started this place as a mission to teach children biology, which isn’t taught at the local schools. They are training school teachers to be able to cover this subject. They also have entomologists, biologists, and botanists come to train locals about caring for the many living things in this gorgeous small park.

There is a large structure for teaching classes, as well as a small cafe and some other things. There are exhibits to learn more about butterflies, and some nice walks through the gardens. If you’re lucky, you may be joined by one of the dogs or cats who live in the park.

My driver was willing to take me to the park and waited for around an hour while I toured it, so I gave him an extra tip for the time.

Butterfly Enclosure

The butterfly area is fenced off and netted to contain the butterflies. They bring in volunteers from around the world, and the young woman there was from the United States, visiting and volunteering for a few months. She loves it and has learned a lot about butterflies in her time there.

The enclosure contains more than 20 different types of butterflies. the park has a laminated sheet with a picture of each butterfly, their name, and a description. I was able to find more than half during my time there.

My favorite was the dead leaf butterfly that has blue, orange, and black bands on its wings but when closed, it looks like a dead leaf, stem and all! There is an area with a little pool of water and a chair in it, where you can sit and see if the butterflies will land on you to say hello.

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Dead Leaf Butterfly

There are also many chrysalides to see, the cocoons for baby butterflies. Each was a little different based on the butterfly contained inside and they were different colors and shapes.

We even got to see a newly opening butterfly and another starting to come out from its chrysalis. It was really beautiful and they actually looked like earrings on an earring tree.

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Chrysalides
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New Butterfly, Recently Emerged from its Chrysalis

What to Bring to the Kuang Si Waterfall

You should plan to bring the following things on your visit to the Kuang Si Waterfall:

  • Comfortable waterproof hiking sandals or water shoes
  • Bathing suit (I recommend wearing it when you visit)
  • Towel
  • Bottled water
  • Snacks
  • Bug repellant
  • Toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Most of the area is in thick jungle, so you probably won’t need a hat. Sunscreen is always a good idea, though may not be required, depending on when you go.

You will find vendors outside the falls selling some useful items like flip flops, towels, etc. in case you forget them, but don’t. It’ll make it easier to enjoy your time there.

The bathrooms are a bit… rough. The one inside the park is slightly better, but not much. They are squat toilets (no proper toilet seat and instead, you squat over a hole). Definitely bring paper and hand sanitizer as you likely won’t find either there.

There are separate changing areas which is a nice touch. Keep in mind that Laos is rather conservative, so you’ll either want to change out of your wet suit before you leave or hang around long enough for it to dry out.

It’s not acceptable to wear your bathing suit around in Laos. Also, bring some cash in small amounts in case you want to pick up a snack or something else.

When to Visit this Laos Waterfall

The best time to visit the Kuang Si Waterfall is during the dry season from December to April. Not only is the weather a bit better, but the falls are also more beautiful as well.

This area gets a lot of rainfall in the wet season and the falls can be a bit of a hot mess then. The trails get quite slippery when they are wet as there is little traction on the ground around the falls and the watering holes.

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You’ll also want to go on a sunny day. The sun casts the most beautiful glow on the water in this area and it turns it a striking turquoise blue that’s quite enchanting. I’ve only ever seen it one other time, at the Havasupai Falls in Arizona. It’s worth seeing and it’s truly gorgeous.

Do you love waterfalls and want to see another that’s the same beautiful turquoise color? Consider a hiking adventure to Havasupai Falls in Arizona, United States.

Kuang Si Visit Details

Following is a summary of the key information you will need to visit the Kuang Si falls:

  • Transportation costs are generally 35k-40k kip ($4 – $4.60 USD) for a tuk-tuk. Moped rentals for a day range from 40k to 80k kip ($4.60 – $9.30 USD).
  • The trip is usually around 5 hours, with 3 hours visiting the falls. You can negotiate to extend this time if you wish.
  • Hours are from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m and it is open daily

Tad Sae Waterfall

If you have a little more time in Luang Prabang and want to explore further, the Tad Sae waterfall is another Laos waterfall that is recommended. There is one main area for the falls with cascading limestone pools of the same color as Kuang Si.

Different from Kuang Si is that there is a seating area with lots of room for people to relax and to picnic if you choose.

Why do I think Kuang Si is the best Laos waterfall? It’s a stunning crystal aquamarine color with beautiful swimming pools, great hiking trails, and a chance to just wander in the jungle for a bit to beat the heat and humidity in the area. The bear sanctuary and the butterfly park are both great things to check out as well.

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