Complete Guide to the Erawan National Park
The Erawan National Park is one of those destinations you must see when visiting Thailand. Most people come to explore the 7 levels of the stunning Erawan Waterfall and then go for a refreshing swim right in the middle of the jungle. The hike to the top of the waterfall is quite easy and only takes less than on hour each way.
There are also a number of caves and hiking trails in the national park which most visitors are totally unaware of. I’ve provided more details on these in this guide. If you visit the park with your own transport, you should definitely allow some time to visit these.
Erawan National Park is one of my favourite places to visit near Bangkok. It is the most accessible national park from Bangkok, located just three hours away by van. It is about 50km from Kanchanaburi and easily accessible by bus, van, or motorbike. More details on those options in the “how to get to Erawan national Park” section.
So let’s get exploring. Here is your complete guide to the Erawan National Park (and Erawan Waterfall).
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Things to do in the Erawan National Park
When people hear of the Erawan National Park they typically think of the Erawan Waterfall, and for good reason, it is amazing. However, visitors don’t usually know about the caves and hiking trails which are scattered throughout the national park too. So here I am going to give you the complete rundown on all the attractions.
Firstly, you need to visit the Erawan Waterfall. The waterfall has f 7 individual levels which you can explore along a winding jungle trail. The trail runs up hidden wooden ladders, between large boulders and crosses the river a few times. It is a fairly easy walk and takes about one hour to reach the top.
So, let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. Level 1 of the Erawan Waterfall is a good place for lunch. Feast on your grilled chicken, sticky rice, and somtam as the locals do. Food isn’t allowed beyond the first level, so you want to eat everything down here first.
There are some food stalls around Level 1 of the waterfall too which are reasonably priced. You don’t need to worry about bringing food with you from Kanchanaburi or Bangkok.
You will need to pay a small deposit to the park rangers for your plastic water bottle when continuing to Level 2. Don’t worry, this isn’t a scam. It is a system designed to reduce the amount of trash which is left behind on the trail. There are strict penalties enforced for littering too which I highly support!
Keep in mind that the lower levels of the Erawan Waterfall are often quite crowded. However, as you continue further up beyond Level 3 there will be fewer people around. Lots of the locals are not really interested in hiking to the top, they’d rather enjoy their grilled chicken with the family.
I personally recommend levels 5 and 7 as the best place for a swim at the Erawan Falls. The pools here are deeper, and typically have enough water to swim in all year round. Some of the other levels dry up too much outside of the wet season.
You will notice the water here is a cloudy emerald green color (similar to the Kuang Si Falls in Laos). As the water runs through the falls it dissolves the calcium carbonate in the limestone rock. There are also lots of fish hiding in the water which will come up and nibble at your feet and legs. It’s an odd sensation to get used to, but they won’t hurt.
As you continue to the top level of the Erawan Falls you will find a sunny opening in the jungle. Here there is a tall stream pouring over the rocks which apparently represents the three-headed Elephant Hindu God called Erawan. Hence the name of the waterfall.
Love waterfalls? Check out these great waterfalls in Pai
There are a few hiking trails in the National Park which most people don’t know about. Here are your options:
Easy – the easy hiking trail starts behind the public toilets, just by the National Park HQ. The trail runs parallel to the main walking track leading to Level 1 of the Erawan Waterfall. This trail is about 1km long and makes its way through a leafy bamboo forest. It is a nicer alternative to taking the standard walking route.
Adventure – the adventure hiking trail is the 5km Khao Hin Lan Pee Nature Trail. The trail ends at level 5 of the Erawan Waterfall and takes 2-3 hours to walk. According to the National Park staff, a guide is required for this.
The Erawan National Park also has a whole range of caves to explore. These caves can be accessed for the same entry fee that you pay to visit the waterfall, however, the national parks staff will force you to take a guide to navigate the way.
It is important to note that these caves are located in different areas through the National Park. You cannot reach them with the public bus, so I suggest
Phra That Cave – this cave is located approximately 12 kilometers beyond the National Park Headquarters. The entrance is a squeeze, but once inside the main cavern is over 200m wide. There are lots of stalactites and stalagmites inside this cave. The cave is open from 8am to 4pm, however, the guides should be contacted before 3pm to visit.
Wang Badan Cave – this cave is actually accessed from the other side of the National Park behind the Saiyok Waterfall. Head to the guard house on the western end of the park, from there it is another 1.5-kilometer hike to the Wang Badan Cave. There are two levels in this cave, the upper had lots of stalactites, while the lower level has an underground stream.
Rua Cave – the main reason to visit the Rua Cave is to see the burials of an ancient civilization. There have been some very old coffins found in here which are made from carved out trees. The Rua Cave is located on the southern end of the Erawan National Park, about a 1-kilometer hike in the forest from the village called Ban Thap Sila.
Best Time and Season to Visit
Duration: The hiking trail is fairly easy and takes about 30 minutes one way to the top, without stops. However, you should not rush your trip to the Erawan National Park.
Many group tours visiting the Erawan Waterfall tend to rush in and out in about 2 hours. This really isn’t enough time to enjoy the amazing Thai jungle. Forget about package tours and spend a whole day at the waterfall.
When: The National Park opens its gates at 7am and officially close at 4.30pm.
The Erawan Falls are busy on weekends. If possible it is best to visit the waterfall during the week. Arrive early in the morning and you’ll have the jungle to yourself.
I also suggest visiting during or just after the wet season, as the dry season can be well… quite dry. So when is that? Check out my guide on the best time to visit Bangkok and surrounding areas for more.
How To Get There
Getting from Bangkok to Erawan National Park involves two legs unless you take a tour and go direct. It can be done in one day either way. These are your options:
Leg 1: Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
- Minivan – Vans depart Mochit from 5am to 11pm almost every 20 minutes. Tickets and timetables here. This is the best way to get to Erawan National Park early in the morning. The bus takes about 2 hours and costs up to 110 THB (USD 4) per person one way.
- Train – Trains depart from Bangkok’s Thonburi train station at 7.50am and 1.55pm. The trip takes about 3 hours but Thailand’s trains are notorious for being much slower. Tickets are 110 THB (USD 4) per person one way.
Leg 2: Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park
- Songtaew – Songtaews depart from Kanchanaburi Bus Station, located in the centre of town. A songtaew typically costs 1,000 THB (USD 35) for a round trip. This is a great price when divided by a group of up to 10 people.
- Motorbike – Riding a motorbike from Kanchanaburi is my favourite option. The ride takes about one hour and gives you complete flexibility. Motorbikes can be rented for 300 THB (USD 10) per day in Kanchanaburi. Get directions here.
- Bus – A bus runs directly from Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park. It departs the Kanchanaburi Bus Station hourly from 8am to 5pm. The public bus takes about 1 hour each way and costs only 45 THB (USD 1.50). It returns to Kanchanaburi hourly too.
National Park Entrance Fee
The Erawan National Park entrance fee is 300 THB (USD 10) for foreigners and 100 THB for locals. Although the entrance fee seems expensive, negotiations won’t work. The good news is that this entrance fee is used for conservation efforts, and keeping the national park clean.
There is also a fee of 20 THB for a motorbike and 30 THB for all other vehicles.
You will be given a small paper ticket when you pay the national park entrance fee. Keep this with you at all times (except when you swim of course).
Hotels Around Kanchanaburi
I prefer staying outside of Kanchanaburi and closer to the Erawan Waterfall. There are some great guesthouses located out in the forest, which is much more peaceful than being in the centre of town.
You can get great deals for under 1,500 THB (USD 50) per night, twin room. By staying closer to the National Park you can also arrive earlier in the morning, long before all the day tours from Bangkok arrive. What’s better than having the waterfall all to yourself?
Here are some great hotel options both near the National Park, and in town:
- River Kwai Park Resort | 18km from falls | from USD 38
- Silver Lake Resort | 16km past falls | from USD 68
- The Float House River Kwai Resort | luxury raft house from USD 158
- Bamboo House Kanchanaburi | in Kanchanaburi | from USD 12
Where to Travel Next?
There are loads of things to do in Kanchanaburi, especially if you like nature. Head to Sai Yok and spend a night on a floating raft house out in the jungle. You could also visit the Sai Yok Waterfall further towards Sangkhlaburi. Unknown to many, you can explore the ancient Khmer temple Prasat Muang Sing which is similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Travel further past Saiyok to visit the Hell Fire Pass the Australian War Memorial from WW2. Continue as far as Sangkhlaburi to visit the iconic wooden Mon Bridge and taste some authentic Burmese curries.
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