Here’s what you need to know about visiting the famous Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos during rainy season. But let’s start the story from the very beginning! I arrived in Luang Prabang a few days ago to explore the UNESCO site, and also to clear my mind and put together some yoga sequences before my month of teaching at Yoga in Vang Vieng. Like almost everyone else visiting Luang Prabang, I had my heart set on visiting and seeing the famous aquamarine Kuang Si Waterfall in all its glory.
During my first two days in Luang Prabang, there was rain. A lot of it. But I was encouraged when I woke up bright and early on my last full day in Luang Prabang to see that the sun was shining outside and the sky was blue. I asked reception at the stunning Maison Dalabua to book me a van to visit the waterfall, which is a 45-minute to 1-hour drive away from downtown Luang Prabang (you can also get there by tuk tuk or shared minivan). I had myself a breakfast of champions (eh, close enough) at the hotel and set off to see the turquoise blue pools. The road to Kuang Si is scattered with beautiful, cascading lush rice paddies and wandering water buffalo. And so the anticipation continued to swell.
Entrance to the Kuang Si Waterfall costs 20,000 Kip (approximately $2.5 USD) and includes a visit through a bear rescue centre that houses about two dozen moon bears that were saved from poachers, including 4 cubs! These bears, although not in the wild, looked chill AF as they lounged around in the sun. While I’m not a fan of “zoos” as such, these bears looked comfortable, well cared for and had plenty of room to roam around. The centre relies on donations and sponsorship and you can also buy a t-shirt to support their development (but I already have too many clothes as it is, so opted to donate some cash).
A few hundred meters further ahead is the base of the waterfalls and the beginning of the trail. My heart was racing for the incredible view that was about to appear in front of me. But then the roaring began. And it got louder and louder as I approached. And then I saw this.
And this. Not exactly the glistening, mineral-rich aquamarine water that you see in photos of Kuang Si Waterfall, right? Had I done my research properly, I would have known that from July to October, the waterfall often looks like this and swimming is impossible because of the rapids. January to May is the “recommended” time of year to visit the falls. Would you go swimming here?!
Nevertheless, I attempted to venture on towards the top of the falls. I had read that the trail was not paved but that it wasn’t too strenuous of a hike. Because of the sheer volume of water that was pouring through, the trail was flooding and muddy, which made it quite impossible to get to the top. 5 minutes later, I hadn’t made much progress and asked some people who were heading back down what it was like at the top and whether it was worth it. Apparently the trail only become less safe and more flooded the higher you went, and I made a judgment call to turn around and head back down.
I’m not a quitter, but I quit.
It turned out to be a great idea because if you think walking up a muddy trail is hard, try walking back down. I pretty much slid my way all the way back down and got (even more) drenched as I crossed the bridge back to the other side.
A quick peek at my phone showed that I had been at Kuang Si for less than an hour, instead of the four hours I had budgeted for swimming and frolicking in the pools. While the waterfall was still seriously magnificent, the experience was definitely dampened (literally).
So, when IS the best time to visit Kuang Si Falls?
The best time to visit the Kuang Si falls is a few months after the monsoon season when the pools settle and the turquoise colour returns, around November/December to April/May. The waterfall gets busy during the weekend so if you want to avoid the crowds then head here early on a weekday.
For those of you traveling to Luang Prabang during monsoon season, be sure to ask around and see if any of your fellow travelers have visited the waterfall in the past few days. You can still make the trip over, just adjust your expectations slightly as you’re probably not going to get that money shot of the sky blue pools.
Don’t fret if you have a trip planned during rainy season, there are lots of other things to do in Luang Prabang! Visit the dozens and dozens of temples, hike up to the top of Mount Phousi, visit the night market, take a cooking class or take a boat ride down the Mekong. For more ideas on what to do in Luang Prabang (and what you’re probably better off skipping), head on over to this travel guide.
Visiting Luang Prabang for the first time? Head on over here for 9 of the best things to do in Luang Prabang (and what you might want to skip!)
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
Maison Dalabua is situated a short walk away from the historical center of town and is the perfect place to find serenity in a popular tourism destination. Click here for my full review of the property. The hotel is one-of-a-kind and visually stunning, the rooms are the epitome of comfort and class, and the staff are well-trained, warm and were true ambassadors for Laos. Click here to book your stay at Maison Dalabua!
I also highly recommend Moonlight Champa Riverview, a stunning boutique property just outside the old town in Luang Prabang. The rooms are spacious and the area is extremely quiet and peaceful. We loved the breakfast options and the terrace overlooking the river. The property is a 10-15 minute stroll from the night market/Mount Phousi, or you can also rent a bicycle for no additional cost. Keo, the manager, is always eager to help and available to answer any questions about Luang Prabang. Click here to check current rates at Moonlight Champa, or here to see other highly rated hotels in Luang Prabang!
Has something similar happened to you during your travels? Share your experience with me in the comments section below!
Looking for other travel guides and tips for Laos? Click here or head on over here for more Southeast Asia travel tips!
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