Say hello to Erawan Falls, seven tiers of beautiful waterfall goodness, boasting emerald-green ponds and feet-nibbling fish.
One of Thailand’s most picturesque waterfalls. Maybe also one of the most visited. Expect beauty but don’t expect to enjoy the falls all by yourself. It’s a popular spot for a day trip and a group tour.
To visit Erawan National Park requires a short hop from Kanchanaburi City in Western Thailand, the park is not just home to Erawan Falls but can be combined with a visit to the River Kwai, Death Railway, Phra That Cave or Hellfire Pass.
The Route: Getting There and Away
Erawan National Park is about 65 km (40 miles) northwest of Kanchanaburi town in Western Thailand, which is where we spent the night. But it turns out it’s something of a major attraction with day trippers coming from Bangkok too.
The National Park is home to Erawan Falls which is handily located at the park entrance. It’s also home to Phra That Cave a further 12km into the park. Worth a visit for sure but requires a bit more planning.
As you’ll read below we ended up being fancy fecks and going by private taxi but there are much much cheaper ways to visit Erawan National Park. Much much cheaper. Such as…
Public Bus: – 50 baht – 1.5 houses
A local bus from the Kanchanaburi Bus Station to Erawan National Park takes about 90 minutes and will cost about 50-60 THB. From the entrance of the park, it’s a short walk to Erawan Waterfall.
Shared Songthaew: 60 bath – 1 hour
For a bit more adventure you can grab a shared taxi, called a Songthaew, from the Kanchanaburi Bus Station to Erawan National Park. They tend to hang out outside the bus station, and the fare is around 60-70 THB per person. The journey takes around 1 hour.
Private Car: 1,500 bath – 1 hour
Got the dough for a private chauffeur and an air-conditioned chariot. We paid 1,500 baht for a day trip in a private taxi to Erawan National Park. But as I misheard the price we didn’t haggle so there is a chance we got ripped off. I’m a fool.
Motorbike: 150-250 baht a day – 1-1.5 hours
Renting a bike is generally fun in Thailand, it means you get to explore at your own speed. That said the route to Erawan National Park from Kanchanaburi did involve some big ass motorways so it might be a little sketchy. Be careful.
Best Time to Visit Erawan Waterfall
The rainy season in this part of Thailand runs from June to October. The heavy rain means more water and more spectacular falls but also a higher risk of slippery trails and landslides closing the park.
The dry season between November to February means the pools at Erawan Falls are clearer and cleaner. Making it a better time to enjoy swimming. But also the crowds at Erawan National Park will be crowdier. If that’s a word.
Get ready for some splishy splashy action.
Intro – Misheard Prices and Personal Revelations
Ok. It’s official. I’m no longer a broke backpacker. I mean I knew this but now I really know it.
How? Well, back in the day I would’ve crawled naked on shards of hot glass to save a few baht for beers. Now. Well, let me tell you what I’ve become. A lame person.
When looking to do this trip to Erawan Falls I asked our hotel reception in Kanchanaburi City how much a taxi would be. I thought she said 500 baht. Expensive but not bad for a chap driving a few hours and waiting around for you.
When the driver turned up I found out the price was actually 1500 baht, £35. Doh!
A little context for those of you fresh off the boat from Europe or the US thinking £35/$40 ain’t too bad for a personal driver for a day. Well, it isn’t in the grand scheme of things but a single bus ticket from Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park costs just 50 baht, so about £1.
And renting a bike would’ve been a few hundred baht at best. Both would’ve meant an adventure. These are all the things I thought of when we pulled away from the curb.
As we drove away, I felt wrong. I felt like I’d betrayed my younger self. The one with more hair who believed all good experiences must have an element of struggle attached to truly appreciate. Would I enjoy the day less now because we arrived in luxury?
What’s next? Maybe I’ll be ringing up tour companies asking them to check which hotels in town only use ice from imported bottled water.
Maybe this is what old age feels like. It creeps in one taxi ride at a time. Your baseline shifts until eventually, the mere prospect of public transport makes you physically sick on the spot.
Oh, god. I’m going to die one day, aren’t I!?
As we left Kanchanaburi, every time I saw a motorbike bezzing past or a songthaew trundle by I considered calling it off. Jumping out and reclaiming my youth.
But then the nice gentle roads turned into a scary three-lane motorway and I thought, nah! Air-conditioned taxi good. Motorbike bad.
Then we asked the driver if we could put on some tunes and my girlfriend Sara cracked open a fresh pack of Mentos.
Not just normal Mentos like you can get at home in the UK but one of those weird flavours you only find in 7-Elevens in Southeast Asia. Toffee apple flavoured. Noice one Sara you beaut!
Yeah, luxury travel is sometimes good.
Good selection of eateries at the Erawan National Park entrance.
As we stepped out of our climate-controlled vehicle and back into the regular face-melting humidity of a regular Thai day, we were greeted by a well-maintained car park.
If you’ve read any of my UK hiking adventures you will know my love of a well-maintained car park. Well, this one had a visitors centre and a good selection of basic food stalls in case you missed your brekkie.
We forked over our entrance fees. 310 baht per person. Seemed a little steep but looking around there seemed to be a good amount of infrastructure on display. More so than the much wilder Pala U Waterfall which cost about the same.
Presumably, there’s a fairly flat fee between all Thai National Parks. I don’t know for sure and I’m too lazy to look it up.
I was feeling good. The fancy parking lot. The shiny visitor centre. I had high hopes. Ahead of us was a hike up a seven-tiered waterfall, spread over 1.5km.
I’d seen so many photos of Erawan Falls of solitary figures swimming in mystical green water. That was about to be us!
There we are now, what a friendly pair.
Warning folks, here comes a grumpy old man grumble.
The impressive feeling I had from the snazzy parking lot didn’t last long. It seems that good infrastructure doesn’t just mean better paths and better signs it means waaaaaay more people.
It’s safe to say Erawan National Park is very popular with Thai people and tourists alike. It felt like half of Bangkok was here on a group tour or day trip.
This is not somewhere to go if you want to feel like a jungle explorer. On top of this, there were “no swimming” signs everywhere.
Something I usually love about Thailand and Southeast Asia is that they expect people to look out for themselves. They expect you to make your own sound decisions which I like.
If you want to dive head-first into a pool without checking for rocks first. Great. You do that. It’s up to you buddy.
Sadly at Erawan Falls maybe one too many people did in fact dive into a rock as now there is a sign on every tree along the trail telling you not to.
Caution hot drink is hot! Water is wet! Sun is hot!
I was in a National Park to experience nature but it felt a bit like when they put “caution hot” on your coffee cup. Nature but with the edges sanded down for city folk.
This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact most of the other visitors were wearing big yellow life jackets which you could rent from the visitors centre. I didn’t understand this as the water rarely exceeded waist height.
That said, my waist is slightly higher than the average Thai person. Not because they are small but more than I have incredibly long legs. Not that I’m tall. I’m average height. I just have a very very small torso. Kinda like an overused Stretch Armstrong toy that lost its elasticity.
Disclaimer. None of the last paragraph is true. I’m fairly normal. I just wanted you to imagine that image for a moment.
Now, all this health and safety meant the hike up Erawan Waterfalls was a little vanilla for us. But I am aware that it also means more people can enjoy them, so that’s good. Just not good for hardcore advenutrers like us.
The paths up the tiers are very easy to walk on and I’d be confident almost anyone can reach at least the fifth level of the falls without too much effort.
Legit pretty I’m sure you will agree.
Now level five is where things start to get a bit interesting. It gets a lot rockier, with big boulders. And I love a good rock jump I do. I like seeing how long I can leap from boulder to boulder without touching the ground and screaming “The floor is lava!!!” at the top of my voice.
Maybe I’m not yet an old man. There’s hope!
It was also possible to finally enjoy a good splishy splash up here. Either we didn’t see the “no swimming” sign or the health and safety patrol hadn’t made it up this far…probably too dangerous for them.
We found a spot where there was no one around, for a few minutes, and we frolicked around in the emerald water. The water itself is legit cool.
It’s super clear and it’s full of those fish that chomp the dead skin of your feet. Not sure of their real name, we just called them fishy nibblers. It seems to be the little ones that have a foot fetish, the big ones leave you be.
For a moment we were able to relax and forget the crowds. We even heard the sounds of the forest. Bliss.
Lost the crowds, and my keys by the looks of it!
The seventh tier supposedly looks like a three-headed white elephant from Hindu mythology. Which is where the name Erawan Falls comes from.
Now, I didn’t see it myself. But hey I’m neither an elephant expert or a Hindu mythology expert.
It was beautiful up here but it was also absolutely jammers. I suppose everyone and their mum want to say they swam in the top pool. Not for us, however. A bit busy but definitely fun.
We had our swim already, so we stayed for a while enjoying watching others enjoying the water before heading back down.
My advice, if you’re at Erawan Falls and you spot a quiet moment at any of the pools then that’s the best time to enjoy swimming. Don’t necessarily wait until the top.
And this was just a normal day of the week. I’d say weekends and public holidays are chaos so best avoided if you have a fear of crowds.
Although that said I have seen some photos from Songkran, the water festival, and that looks like chaos in a good way.
Splashing about in Erawan Falls
Maybe now I’m officially an old man. I’ve matured in my tastes. Maybe I’m less easily pleased than I used to be but I’d only give Erawan Falls a 7 out of 10 on my imaginary waterfall scale.
Don’t get me wrong I really liked it. It is genuinely beautiful. But it is not wilderness.
I think my expectation of a National Park is that it is mainly going to be you surrounded by large amounts of nature. Well, this was mainly other people with a background of some nature.
This is my fault entirely. The success of everything in life is down to expectation vs reality. I should’ve done more research in advance.
I would’ve quickly discovered Erawan National Park is one small part of popular group day trips from the Thai capital Bangkok, which take in Death Railway, Hellfire Pass and the Bridge over the River Kwai on the same day.
Would we have still come? Hell yeah we would! The falls are a nice half-day thing to do. I just would’ve come with different expectations. Or maybe come in the rainy season when the crowds would be smaller.
Sorry to any big-time Erawan Falls fans out there, that’s my honest review.
Until next time you beautiful butterflies of the trail you, go easy and watch out for blisters.
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