Visiting Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang During Rainy Season: What You Need to Know
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 Waterfall 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!
Looking for more Laos travel guides? You might also enjoy these:
- Luang Prabang is an underrated UNESCO-listed town in Laos, read on for what to do in Luang Prabang and what NOT to do during your time there
- This ethical elephant sanctuary in Laos is one of the best places to visit in Luang Prabang
- Sit back and relax in this peaceful boutique hotel in the heart of Luang Prabang
- Thinking about observing the alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang? Read this first
- Head on over here for more Southeast Asia travel tips
Has something similar happened to you during your travels? Share your experience with me in the comments section below!
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Hey 🙂 may I know which month exactly you visited kuangsi? I’m thinking of going at the end of this month but if you went in June and it was already like this I think I’ll skip the trip!
Hi Vanessa, I visited in mid-August 2016.
Speaking of bad luck… That was not at all how the Kuang Si Waterfall looked like when we visited in August earlier this year! The water was pretty turquoise (although not like some photos we’d seen beforehand) and an impressive amount of water was gushing over the edge of the waterfall, making it bigger and (in my opinion) more beautiful than the photos I’d seen beforehand. Thanking my lucky stars we were in more luck than you were. You definitely should go back one day when you get the chance!
I absolutely will be back! Laos is such an incredible country <3
I am here now October and it is Beautiful people are swimming and the water is turquoise in colour. You really can’t put it into words it is that beautiful.
Damn girl, those are some crazy rains! I do not blame you for turning around!! Better to think about personal safety!!!! Plus hopefully you can go back sometime soon. Cant wait to see what you have next in store for #FlyAwayFriday!
What’s one step above TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR? It’s been absolutely crazy! I’m definitely hoping to go back during dry season 🙂
I would have done the same thing, Flo – that’s for sure! I’m glad you were safe, though! Safety first!! Thanks so much for joining us on #FlyAwayFriday!
Safety first is too right Kana! Loving the #FlyAwayFriday link up!
Oh what a shame, I would have done the exact same thing it didn’t look all that safe! It’s disappointing when up have in your head what an experience will be like and then you get the opposite. Great tips for future travellers at this time of year and Hopefully you will return one day and get the picture postcard experience of the falls. #flyawayfriday
Exactly! I think I was disappointed because I had built it up in my head – but lesson learned! And it gives me a great excuse to go back 🙂
That’s too bad that you had to turn back, but it’s good hat you did! Sometimes you just have to call it. By the looks of it, that trail would be a nightmare.
I think you would have needed boots with spikes to make it to the top! It was an absolute nightmare. Thanks for taking the time to read through!
Holy crap that is terrifying! I had a similar albeit different experience recently on a climb where we didn’t do our research properly and it turned out that the climb was WAY harder with much more severe exposure than I had anticipated. Once we were on the climb, there was no turning back since back-climbing is harder, but definitely agree about throughly researching. Nice post!
Wow! I’m glad I was at a point where it made sense to get back down, I can’t imagine not being able to turn back!
I think you made the right call, girl! There is no point messing around with this type of thing. Bummer your adventure was cut short, but this type of information is good for other travelers.
I think so too, Susanna! There’s always next time, I didn’t want to injure myself before my month of teaching in Vang Vieng! Definitely taught me a lesson to do more research though!
It’s not really about quitting we’ve all been in a situation where we have to put our safety first and that’s the bottom line. Love that you put the video in half way through this post! Something I’m yet to try. Great read, thanks.
My first time including a video! Thought that would be a more accurate representation of what was going on and how it sounded!
OMG! That looks like a serious flood, how disappointing! I was there in October time and it looked like a waterfall not a muddy flood. We actually hiked the whole way from Luang Prabang and arrived at the top of the waterfall and made our way down the trail, having that dip in the river at the bottom was the best thing as it was sweaty work hiking! I hope the rest of Luang Prabang lives up to your expectations – I loved that town and we stayed 10 days doing yoga, cocktails and activities nearby.
Wow – that hike must have been amazing! I’m definitely going to try to go back one day during dry season. Everyone who has ever been to Kuang Si raves about it!
That really sucks that you made your way there to get rapids. Oh well, it allows you to go back and see it properly next time. I haven’t had too many experiences like this, its probably my ultimate fear…but can’t worry and there’s always next time!
Exactly! There’s always next time 🙂 It’s interesting to see that there are two very different sides to the Kuang Si Waterfall!