Pai, located in the Mae Hong Son province of northern Thailand, is a picturesque town known for its stunning natural beauty, including its waterfalls. The town is surrounded by gorgeous green mountains and forests, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. The beautiful waterfalls in Pai each have their own unique charm, making them must-see destinations when visiting Thailand.
Pai is close to the Myanmar border on Route 1095, 91 miles (146km) northwest of the larger city of Chiang Mai. Although much quieter than the larger cities, Pai has begun to draw more and more local and international visitors as the world becomes aware of its natural beauty. As we explore some of the exquisite local waterfalls in Pai, you will soon add this tranquil area to your travel bucket list.
A little over 6 miles (9.9 km) west of Pai, you will find Mo Paeng Waterfall, one of the locals’ favorite waterfalls in Pai, due partly to its proximity and accessibility to the town. On a hot summer day, a dip in one of the waterfall’s pools is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity.
It’s an easy drive on a scooter or motorbike to the Mo Paeng Waterfall (Google Maps), but make sure you purchase travel insurance that covers accidents because the roads are quite dangerous in Asia.
If you’re a novice driver, it might be worth hiring a songthaew (a pick-up with a covered back and two benches for passengers). Of course, then you won’t have the full view of the beautiful scenery. Remember to negotiate the price before you hop in the back, though.
You will pass the entrance to the Chinese village, and the road ends at Mo Paeng Waterfall’s parking area. From there, it’s only a hop and a skip to the base of the waterfall. Set in a lush green forest of rubber trees, it’s worth taking the trip to these falls just for the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Until 2021, there was no entrance fee to the Mo Paeng Waterfall or the other waterfalls in Pai, but nowadays, local visitors pay 50 baht and “farang” (foreigners) 100 baht. This stunning tourist attraction opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM.
The waterfall cascades over the rocks on three levels, and during the rainy season, the heavy flow resembles a white curtain swaying in the mountain breeze. It’s a magnificent place to enjoy a picnic under the shady trees or the nearby gazebos.
The section of the waterfall leading from the car park doesn’t flow very strongly and only has a shallow pool at its bottom. But if you head further downstream, you will find the real reason people flock to these waterfalls in Pai.
A larger part of the waterfall gushes down over silky smooth rocks into a magnificent rock pool below, deep enough for swimming. The smooth and slippery rocks form a natural water slide, a source of great delight for daring visitors of all ages. The water is known to be freezing cold, and the area is heavily shaded after 4 PM, making it much cooler.
Several short walking trails lead off from the falls, and if you’re in the mood for clambering further up the rocks, you will find a few smaller waterfalls. Visitors should take their own food and water because these are not available at the falls, but there is a shop and toilets a short distance away. Unfortunately, the area is not suitable for wheelchair users.
Pam Bok (Google Maps) is a seasonal waterfall about 5.4 miles (8.8 km) southwest of Pai town. You can best access this attraction by hired scooter or motorcycle. It’s a scenic drive, although the road is a bit bumpy, as you cruise past rice paddies, jungle, and traditional farms. Once you’ve hit Route 1095, it’s a short 2.4 miles (3.9 km) to the turn-off of the parking area.
You will take a 10-minute walk on a pretty jungle trail before climbing down to a rocky canyon. The trail consists of some concrete steps and a metal bridge, and from there, you work your way to the waterfall’s base.
Recently, the authorities have started charging entrance fees to the waterfalls in Pai and other previously free attractions. Currently, it costs 200 baht to visit Pam Bok Waterfall.
As it is a seasonal waterfall, there can be considerable differences in the flow depending on when you visit the falls. The best time to visit Pam Bok Waterfall is between July and November, the wettest part of the year. When it’s in full flow, it’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pai. It’s surrounded by high cliffs and cascades into a lovely pool below, deep enough to swim in.
At times like these, you can jump off some of the high ledges into the water, but be sure to check the pool’s depth before you jump and be careful on the slippery rocks. Because the pool is in the shade of the cliffs most of the time, the water can be quite chilly, so baking in a sunny spot might be a good precursor to your swim.
If you’re a person who loves to take the roads less traveled, you’re in for a treat. Where the trail leads down to the bottom of the waterfall, take the less obvious path to the right, which takes you high above the top of the waterfall and back around it. There you will find the river and several stunning swimming holes, unknown to the general public.
In the drier months, much less water flows over the rocks, and the pool will be shallower, so you will probably only be able to enjoy the little trail and a dip in the pool. But that’s nature, and it doesn’t always cooperate with our holiday plans!
If you’re lucky enough to visit Pam Bok Waterfall when it’s in full flow, you can spend a few hours swimming and relaxing in this pristine environment. Otherwise, it makes a lovely quick stop en route to other attractions in the area, such as the Pai Land Split, the Bamboo Bridge, and the Chinese village, to name a few.
Unlike at some other waterfalls in Pai, it costs nothing to view this magnificent attraction called Mae Yen Waterfall. It also feels less like a typical tourist attraction because you don’t arrive at the site when you step off your scooter. Mae Yen Waterfall is an adventure in itself. If you want to see what some consider the most impressive of the waterfalls in Pai, you will have to take a hike.
The 10-mile (16.6 km) trail starts 1.8 miles (3 km) northeast of the town and is best accessible by motorcycle or scooter. Follow Route 4024, turning left and following the road until it becomes a dirt path. When you reach the river, it’s time to get your hiking boots on.
The parking area is where you will make the first of many river crossings on the hike to this beautiful three-tiered waterfall. Most of the hike is relatively flat, but the last 20 -30 minutes are quite steep. Make no mistake; you will earn your right to enjoy this pristine mountain paradise, as it takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours each way.
You will clamber over fallen trees and rocks, make multiple switchbacks, and plod through ankle-deep water more times than you can count. It’s advisable to wear light hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. The rocks can be slippery and unstable.
The steep incline comes when the trail along the river becomes too dangerous, and you have to follow the path straight up the hill. Near the top, you will hear the waterfall before it comes into view. The path ends at the base of the waterfall, a small, shallow pool where you can rest, and enjoy a snack and the splendid view, a reward well worth the effort.
Since it’s a hiking trail that stretches into the jungle, there are few amenities besides a little stall where you can buy bananas before you hit the track. You should take your own food (or you can rely on bananas) and sufficient water, as it will be a few hours before you reach civilization. It’s also advisable to take bug spray and a small first aid kit along.
Mae Yen Waterfall is a popular hiking and birding trail, and you will find innumerable species of plants, animals, and insects along the way.
We highly recommend visiting Hua Chang Waterfall, one of the town’s best-kept secrets. It’s another of the waterfalls in Pai that requires a moderate hike to get there.
The trail starts about 6.8 miles (11 km) northeast of Pai, but you can’t find it on Google Maps without the coordinates (19°24’10.4 “N 98°28’55.7 “E). It is only accessible by motorbike or scooter, as there is no parking space for cars at the trailhead.
It’s approximately a 5.4 mile (8.7 km) hike, which can take 2.5 -3 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level, and it’s suitable for anyone, from novices to experienced trail busters. The trail takes you through bright green forests, following the river (and crossing it many times) to the multi-level waterfall.
The best times to hike this route are from June to February. March to May are the smokey months when the farmers burn their lands in preparation for the following crops.
The Sai Ngam Hot Springs cascade over three tiers into warm natural pools. Located approximately 10.5 miles (17 km) north of Pai, they form part of the Pai Basin Wildlife Sanctuary National Park. An unlimited time entry to the hot springs costs 300 baht.
The water is beautifully clear, and the pools and surrounding forests are unlandscaped, still in their natural state. You will find vendors selling food and beverages, and restrooms are also available.
Tham Lod Cave (also known as Nam Lod Cave) is a river tunnel system about 31 miles (50 km) from Pai. Although it is typically considered an attraction for its magnificent caves with their otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites, the river gets quite rough during the wet season, so much so that all kayakers, except those with experience in white water must be accompanied by a guide.
Aside from the breathtaking scenery, visiting the waterfalls in Pai also provides an opportunity to escape the busyness of big city life. The tranquil environment, with its crystal-clear water and glorious green forests, offers a unique experience that will remain with you ever after. So hop on a scooter and head for the hills. The waterfalls in Pai await you.
Pam Bok Waterfall is surrounded by a beautiful canyon, perfect for a cool dip on a hot day. Mae Yen Waterfall, a bit more secluded, requires a hike but rewards with peaceful nature and tranquility. Mor Paeng Waterfall, on the other hand, is known for its natural “slide” and picnic-friendly area, making it a family favorite.
To reach Pam Bok Waterfall, it’s a short and easy walk from the parking area. Mae Yen Waterfall requires a longer hike, usually around 5-7 hours round trip. Mor Paeng Waterfall is easily accessible, just a short walk from the nearest parking.
While it’s physically possible, it may feel rushed. You could visit Pam Bok and Mor Paeng in one day comfortably. However, the hike to Mae Yen is more demanding and could be a whole-day activity in itself.
Mae Yen Waterfall would be your best bet for a quiet and less crowded experience due to the longer hike to reach it.
Yes, there are several tour companies in Pai that offer guided visits to these waterfalls. It’s recommended to check online reviews and compare prices before booking.
Generally, it’s safe to swim at these waterfalls. However, it’s always best to take precautions, follow local advice, and check the conditions on the day of your visit.
The best time to visit for optimal water flow is during the rainy season, which typically runs from May to October. However, the landscape is beautiful year-round.
Depending on the season, you may see various birds, insects, and perhaps some small mammals. Always remember to respect the wildlife and keep a safe distance.
Pai is known for its eclectic food scene. You’ll find everything from traditional Thai cuisine to international dishes. Some of the local specialties include Khao Soi (a curry noodle dish) and Sai Oua (northern Thai sausage).
Regulations can vary, so it’s always a good idea to check with local authorities or a visitor center to get the most accurate information.
While the waterfalls themselves may not have specific cultural or historical significance, they are part of the beautiful natural landscape that the local communities deeply respect and rely on.
Beyond the waterfalls, you can explore Pai Canyon, visit the local hot springs, or wander through the charming Pai Walking Street market. If you’re into yoga and wellness, there are several retreat centers in and around Pai. Also, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the beautiful White Buddha statue (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) which offers a stunning view of the valley.
Pam Bok and Mor Paeng have basic restroom facilities near the parking areas. As Mae Yen waterfall is more remote, it does not have facilities, so plan accordingly.
There is no public transportation directly to these waterfalls. Many visitors opt to rent a scooter or a bicycle in the town center. For those who prefer not to drive themselves, there are local taxis available, or you can join a tour.
Yes, you can definitely bring your own food for a picnic. Mor Paeng waterfall is particularly popular for picnics. Just remember to pack out all your trash to help keep these beautiful areas clean.
The waterfalls are not lit up at night and are typically only open to the public during daylight hours for safety reasons. It’s best to check the specific visiting hours before planning your trip.
Comfortable walking shoes, sun protection like a hat and sunscreen, and swimwear if you plan to take a dip. Also, remember to bring enough water to stay hydrated.
In general, respect the natural environment by not littering or disturbing the wildlife. Also, local customs in Thailand appreciate modest dressing, so if you’re swimming, consider more conservative swimwear. Enjoy your visit and remember to respect the beauty and tranquility of these natural spaces!
Want to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai? Just contact us! If you are traveling in Northern Thailand and are staying in Chiang Mai, our company Cat Motors invites you to rent motorcycles for your travels. Check out our motorcycle rental rates. Don’t forget to read our other Northern Thailand travel guides.
Cat Motors Team
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