Location | 29km south of Luang Prabang, Laos
Kuang Si Falls height | 50m drop
Kuang Si opening hours | Open every day from 8am until 5.30pm
Kuang Si entrance fee | 20,000 kip
Hiking time from bottom to top | around 15-20 min (40-60min return trip)
SWIM IN THE TURQUOISE POOLS
The best part about the Kuang Si falls is that in addition to being mind-blowingly beautiful, you can also take a dip in those same tiered pools of turqouise blue water. There are a few pools you can swim in at the main area, as well as at the very top (more on that below), but please be a respectful traveller and take note of the signs saying no swimming in certain areas, as some pools are considered sacred by the local population.
The same also goes for the so-called 'Kuang Si waterfall secret pool' that's gained cult popularity online. It's marked by numerous do not enter signs both for your safety, and because if a local specifically asks you not to go somewhere, you probably should listen.
The pools near the picnic area have changing rooms (make sure you change into appropriate clothing again post-swim, Lao culture is quite conservative!), and they also have rope swings and a tree you can jump into the pools from.
HIKE TO THE TOP OF THE FALLS
For the most part, visitors to the falls will congregate around the lower pools and picnic area, venturing perhaps as far as the small wooden bridge that offers stunning and unobstructed views of the main waterfall. But by only going this far, they're definitely missing out on what is probably the most epic view of all: the one from the very top.
Search to the left of the wooden footbridge and you'll eventually uncover the almost-hidden steps that lead the way to the top. The hike up will take about 15 minutes and isn't too taxing in terms of steepness, however you'll may find the terrain a little tricky. The steps are without railings, and there's water flowing over it in some parts. The tricky hike up is totally worth the views though; on a clear day you'll find yourself looking right out over the breathtaking Lao countryside. And while the noisy crowds clamour around the big falls below, up here there's nothing except the peaceful trickle of flowing water, a couple of small pools to take a cool dip in (season dependent), beautiful forest with twisting tree roots, and a small picnic area to relax at.
Once you're done taking in the views, head for the path to the right to make your way back down again - it's smooth, steep, and step-free, which makes climbing down easier (and climbing up near-impossible!).
PICNIC AT THE LOWER LEVELS
There is a restaurant nearby, but we recommend packing your own lunch (or picking some up at the market outside) and enjoying your own picnic with a (waterfall) view. There are plenty of picnic tables on the lower levels, that are perfect for a mid-afternoon snack stop and relax before continuing your explorations.
SNAP AN EPIC SELFIE AT THE FOOTBRIDGE
One of the most breathtaking views of the falls is from the wooden footbridge that stretches out above the lower pools. Here, Kuang Si takes center-stage, a powerful 50m drop of cascading blue water tumbling over the yellow stones. It's also as close as you can get to the falls, and gives everyone the opportunity to snap an instagram-worthy photo without a million people or infrastructure in front of it.
BROWSE THE KUANG SI FALLS MARKET
As you enter and exit the Kuang Si waterfall, you'll do so via the local market that's sprung up next to the parking area. The delicious smell of BBQ will tempt you to all sorts of tasty treats, while a cold Beer Lao or Namkhong can always be found. You'll also find lots of local souvenir and handicraft shops here, along with a couple of small bars.
Before you get to the cascading pools of the waterfall, you'll have an unexpected stroll through the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. At first glance, this rescue centre slightly resembles a rudimentary zoo more than a sanctuary - which is actually what we first mistook it for. But fret not if you're worried about involuntarily supporting animal tourism (as we were), the centre is operated by Free the Bears, and is home to more than 20 Asiatic Black Bears that have been rescued from an array of dire circumstances.
From living their entire lives in cages suspended above the Mekong to being sent to Bear Bile farms to have their bile harvested (which is used in medicine), all of these bears have been lucky to escape their fates, and are now living happy, healthy, well-adapted lives right here at Kuang Si. The bear enclosures are large, with hammocks, pools, and basic play areas to keep them entertained. The centre doesn't receive any of the admission fee for Kuang Si, and relies instead on donations or t-shirt sales sold at the falls, if you'd like to support the cause.