The are waterfalls and then there are really epic waterfalls. Kuang Si Falls is in the second category. It’s deep blue waters emerge from a limestone cave and almost immediately cascade down the side of a mountain in a series of tiers and pools. The limestone deposits build up on anything they touch to create magnificent rock formations and natural pools. Stop reading and watch the video to see it for yourself. 🙂
Getting There: Kuang Si Falls is an hour tuk tuk ride from the center of Luang Prabang. I heard that you can ride there on a bicycle and I’m sure it is physically possible, but you risk getting run over by a speeding van full of tourists (our tuk tuk was nearly run off the road by one or two). If you want to get there quicker, hire the speeding air conditioned van, but I doubt the ride will be any better.
When To Go: Whenever you want, but for sure go. To avoid the crowds, go early. We left Luang Prabang at 8am and were the fifth car in the parking lot when we pulled in at 9am. We had the place to ourselves and when we returned to leave at 11:30 am the lot was completely full.
What Does It Cost: We paid 20,000 kip ($6) each for the entrance fee. Hiring the Tuk Tuk for half a day was 300,000 kip ($35). Not sure if that was a good deal or not.
What To Do When You Get There: From the parking lot it’s a short walk to the river. Along the way you pass through an Asian Bear rescue center. These beautiful animals were rescued from a range of exploitation activities (e.g. bear bile harvesting, circuses, etc.) and this is their new home. Not their natural home, but a better home. I recommend that you spend some time learning about the bears and the mission of the rescue center, but if you got there early to avoid the crowds, do it on your way BACK – skip it to get to the falls early.
Upon reaching the river it will be a 10-15 minute walk to the base of the first waterfall. Along the way there are tons of places to stop and take in the pure beauty of the river and its many pools and tiered cascades. There are a series of bridges and viewing areas where you can capture the fall from every angle. For many visitors this is the end of their trip. For those looking for more, you can climb to the top of the waterfall, although the vantage points along the way are few. You can get to the top of the waterfall up either side. The flow of traffic pulls you to the right – which is a steep muddy path with no stairs and lots of sliding. The path up the left side is much more structured but the entrance is not well marked. I recommend going up the left side for safety reasons and also because there is a cool old stairway that now has part of the waterfall coming down it (see video). Climb to the top in 15 minutes or so and explore around the headwaters. There is a rope swing and a pool for swimming. There is a sign that advertises a 200 meter bamboo boat ride to the source of the river, but the boat was half submerged and not operating when we were there.
Summary: Kuang Si Falls is a must do if you make it to Luang Prabang. It was a great half day trip and one of the best waterfalls we’ve seen in Southeast Asia.