Pai, Thailand is one of those places you don’t expect much out of, but somehow it creeps up on you and steals your heart away. A weekend trip to Pai will quickly turns into a week-long trip, and before you know it, you will extend your stay for a month. We even know people who never left. The hippy vibes of the small village are contagious; the lush and natural surroundings are mesmerizing and of course, the amount of amazing things to do in Pai is both thrilling and endless. However, I must be honest that the Pai town itself is nothing to brag about, as it’s mostly restaurants, shops and bars, but walk a few minutes away and Pai’s true beauty will shine like gold in a mine.
Oh, and I can be a bit verbose at times. If you are looking for something specific, like best places to stay in Pai, use the index below to go directly to that section.
What You’ll Find in This Article
Okay! Enough blabbing. Let’s get to this list of best things to do in Pai, Thailand :)
Best Things to Do in Pai, Thailand
1.) Rent a Scooter and Cruise Around Town
The beauty of Pai lies in its mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and lush landscapes, i.e the countryside. The best way to explore Pai’s natural attractions and lush beauty are by renting a scooter. By having your own set of wheels you can enjoy all the awesome things to do in Pai and its breathtaking countryside on your own time and at your own pace. Scooters can be rented in town for as cheap as 100 baht (~ $3USD) a day.
We recommend renting your scooter from Aya Services. Why? Well, our scooter broke down (over 40 miles out of town) and we had to take it to the mechanic. They, of course, overcharged us (1000 baht for a belt replacement), but once we got back into town we showed Aya Services the receipt and without questions or a raised eyebrow they reimbursed us. Now that is great service. Plus, they have a great reputation and a very simple rental process.
Since crashing your bike and getting a Pai tattoo (i.e scars from a bike accident. Yup, it’s that common!) isn’t on our list of best things to do in Pai, we strongly recommend taking motorbike lessons (there are a few shops in town that offer them) if you don’t know how to ride a bike or need a refresher. And don’t you dare ride your scooter without a helmet! Don’t be an idiot!
Insider Tip #1: People getting into bike accidents in Pai is super common. You will constantly see people covered in bandages or with scars from their accident! This is why we highly recommend you get travel insurance before heading to Pai or anywhere for that matter.
Insider Tip #2: If you have an international driver’s license, carry it on you so you don’t have to pay a bribe, sorry I meant fine to the police, every time they pull you over.
2.) Chase Waterfalls
No trip to Pai is complete without a visit to one of the many beautiful Thai waterfalls in the area! Here are the three main waterfalls you just have to add to your list of things to do in Pai.
Mo Paeng Waterfall: This waterfall is the easiest to get to from town, which makes it the most popular and overcrowded of them all. Because of that very reason, we chose to skip it. However, many visitors seem to enjoy Mo Paeng Falls because of its natural water slide that leads right into the natural pool below.
Pam Bok Waterfall: Because Pam Bok Waterfall requires a scooter to get to, it’s way less crowded than Mo Paeng Waterfall. It’s a great spot for a refreshing swim (the water was freezing) or to act like Ariel from the Little Mermaid. From here, you can also head to the view point or check out Su Thong Pae, a 500-meter long bamboo bridge that stretches across rice fields.
Mae Yen Waterfall: This waterfall isn’t for the faint-hearted or lazy traveler. It’s more for the adventure seekers and those who enjoy a good hike. Mae Yen Waterfall is different from the other two. To get to this hidden waterfall requires you to cross a river over 45 times, hop over falling trees, and hike 2.5 – 3 hours through the jungle. We think the hike was 80% of the fun and the rest was hanging out near the waterfall. Either way, it was by far one of our favorite things to do in Pai. Oh, and we saw water buffalo towards the end of our hike too, so cool!
Insider Tip: If you decide to visit Mae Yen Waterfall bring food and enough water, as it’s an all day adventure. It’s about a 6-hour hike back and forth. Sandals or good water shoes are ideal, not your durable or awesome travel shoes.
3.) Enjoy the Natural Hot Springs
If you are looking for a day of relaxation while in Pai, the natural hot springs are a must. The Pai Hot Springs cost 300 baht to enter and the Sai Ngam Hot Spring cost 20 baht.
If you are looking to experience the hot springs without the crowds and in a little more luxurious way, you can head to the Pai Hot Springs Spa Resort. For only 100 baht (~$3 USD), you can relax in not just one, but three different thermal baths, then cool down by the pool surrounded by the beautiful landscape.
4.) Enjoy the Views at Pai Canyon
The Pai Canyon is Pai’s super small version of the Grand Canyon. Here, you can enjoy some great views over Pai. Around 5:30pm, most tourists flock here to enjoy a stunning Pai sunset. Another spot where we enjoyed watching a sunset in Pai was at Wat Phra That Mae Yen or up by the White Buddha Statue.
5.) Gaze at the Stars
During our night stroll back to where we were staying (outside of town) we realized in certain spots you can look up to the sky and get lost in the lucid stars that fill the sky. We found several areas outside of town where the light pollution was nonexistent and the darkness prevailed, i.e the best places to stargaze. Scout out some places during your visit, and enjoy what many people take for granted.
6.) Land Split
The Land Split is what many would call a “force of nature combined with Thai hospitality.” A farm that was once “damaged” by two earthquakes is now a unique attraction in Pai. The friendly owner greets every visitor with a welcoming smile and unlimited delicious and healthy snacks grown right on his property. While swinging on a bamboo hammock you will enjoy a refreshing Roselle juice and wine, crunchy plantain chips, delicious Roselle jam, sweet papaya, roasted peanuts and so much more. Best of all, this is offered to you without a price tag. It’s a pay-what-you-want restaurant, which means you decide what you think your meal was worth it. Once you’re done stuffing your face with the delicious goodies, be sure to head up to the Land Split and see what nature can do!
7.) Stroll & Eat Your Way Through Pai’s Walking Street
Strolling through Pai’s Walking Street is not like your typical Thai Walking Street or Night Market. Yes, there are food vendors and jewellery and clothes shops however, the variety of food you can get here is crazy. Even health nuts, celiacs, and meat lovers can enjoy a meal all on the same street. It’s more than just pad thai and mango sticky rice, it’s bruschetta, chai tea, falafel, lasagna, smoothies, thai noodle soups, pikachu hats, samosas, coconut balls, broccoli stuffed spring rolls and so much more. Even if you ate here every night for a month, your taste buds would never be bored. The Pai Walking Street, which is the main street in Pai town, starts at 4pm and ends around 10:30/11pm.
Insider tip: If you are celiac or a gluten free eater, there are two stalls that are 100% gluten free! Read our Gluten Free Thailand Guide to find out where they are located!
8.) Enjoy Live Music Night At Art in Chai
Our favorite spot to enjoy live music was by far Art in Chai. The vibes there are chill, relaxing and artistic. It’s the place to enjoy good music with a cup of tea and some dessert. Live music nights are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting at 8:30pm. Spoken word on Thursday’s can be interesting as well. Edible Jazz is another cool spot to chill on a hammock to listen to live music when it’s not crazy busy.
9.) Explore the Lod Cave (Tham Lot)
Okay, Lod Cave is not in Pai, but it’s close enough! Though it’s over 40 km out of Pai town, it’s completely worth adding to your ever growing list of things to do in Pai. The drive to the cave is absolutely spectacular and half way there you also get to enjoy a beautiful viewpoint over the mountaintops. Once at the cave, you will need to hire a local guide (150 baht for a group of 3) to navigate the dark, incredibly large and impressive limestone cave. Once in the cave, you can take a bamboo raft down the river that runs through the cave for 300 baht per group. The fee must be paid at the entrance.
Insider Tip: If you are taking a scooter there, be sure to take a hoodie with you. The ride gets cold and very windy.
Budget Tip: If you are heading to the cave on your own, scout out two other people (at the entrance or before) so you can split the price for the local guide and the bamboo raft. It makes for a way cheaper excursion, 300 baht cheaper to be exact. If you are looking for more budget tips, check out our article, how to save money while traveling.
What NOT to Do in Pai (or Anywhere Else for That Matter):
Please, please stay away from doing anything that includes animal tourism, like visiting an elephant sanctuary. Why? Because we, as humans, don’t think about the torment these animals must go through just to put a smile on our face, or store a selfie on our phone. Animals should not have to suffer, be imprisoned, mistreated or forced to live outside of their natural habitat for our own pleasure or curiosity. Don’t think there is anything wrong with animal attractions? Read this article, the sad truth about animal tourist attractions, and see if you still feel the same way.
With that being said, human tourism, i.e visits to tribal villages like the “Long Neck,” is just as bad as riding elephants, visiting zoos, or going to the circus. How would you feel if you were forced to put your life on display for barely nothing, while the real profit goes to companies and not you? It’s crazy how selfish, inconsiderate, and thoughtless we can be! Is it really worth exploiting a group of people for our own entertainment?
Best Places To Stay in Pai, Thailand
There is no shortage of places to stay in Pai but the below are some of the best hotels and hostels in town.
Pai Porpeang Guesthouse
Pai Porpeang Guesthouse was our little slice of paradise in Pai. Located 2 km outside of town, it was exactly what we needed. We enjoyed the super friendly and welcoming owners, a fully equipped kitchen, the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere surrounded by nature, a yoga deck with hammocks to chill out on and of course, great views. Our 5 day trip to Pai turned into a 3 ½ week trip because of this lovely guesthouse. Pai Porpeang has a variety of accommodation options to choose from, but we recommend staying in one of the bamboo bungalows overlooking the garden and mountains. They’re awesome, but they fill up quickly! Booking in advance is a good idea. We loved our stay here and couldn’t recommend it enough. If we had to chose, we would say Pai Porpeang Guesthouse is definitely the best place to stay in Pai, at least for us it is!
Suandoi Backpacker Resort
Located just an easy 10 minute walk or 3 minute scooter ride from town, Suandoi Backpacker Resort is a great place to relax and soak up all that Pai has to offer without the hustle and bustle of the town. This backpacker resort offers both private rooms and dorms, each with an ensuite bathroom, hot shower, and air conditioning. Lockers and towels are provided as well. Suandoi Backpacker Resort is definitely one of the best hostels in Pai if you are looking for a hostel that has the right mix of relaxation, good social scene and friendly staff.
Hostel Tip: Before you stay in any hostel, make sure to pack these ten essential items you can’t go to any hostel without!
Family House Zen Boutique Resort
Tucked away in a beautiful, secluded spot across the Pai River, Family House is where travelers go if they’re seeking a place to soak in the sounds and beautiful sights of Pai in a relaxing, peaceful and friendly environment. The ideal location makes it perfect for travelers who don’t want to be far from the action, but don’t want to be bothered by it as well. As the name suggests, Family House Zen Resort is the best place to stay in Pai for families.
Reverie Siam Resort
Reverie Siam Resort’s picturesque landscape setting, and beautifully designed architecture is one you just have to see to believe. With panoramic views of the Pai River, lush mountains, 2 outdoor pools, exceptional staff, and traditional Thai and colonial style rooms, it’s no wonder it’s considered one of the best places to stay in Pai. Each of the uniquely decorated rooms has a private balcony, an ensuite bathroom with natural handmade toiletries, a seating area, and other common hotel amenities like free wifi, a flat screen TV, air conditioning and a mini-bar. There is also a bar and restaurant on the property that serves both Thai and Mediterranean dishes. This place is seriously a bargain. You can read more about our experience at the Reverie Siam Resort here.
Best Time To Visit Pai
If you are looking to avoid the crowds and burning season, and have a cheaper trip, visit Pai between May and November. However, be aware that those months are considered the “rainy” season. So be prepared for an hour of downpour each day, which isn’t as bad as traveling during the high season.
How To Get To Pai
Usually people heading to Pai come from Chiang Mai. If this is the case for you, there are a few ways to get to Pai. Via the road, it takes about 3-4 hours to get to Pai from Chiang Mai. Keep in mind that the road to Pai is scenic, but also very curvy… 762 curves to be exact. The drivers can be reckless, so if you get car sick, make sure to pack motion sickness pills. We even caught our driver sniffing an aromatherapy inhaler, like this one, to make sure he didn’t get sick.
1.) By Bus/Minivan
Public buses heading to Pai are the cheapest (80 baht) and take the longest time to get to Pai, about 4 hours. You can catch the bus from the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. Minivans are a another and faster option. They leave about every hour from the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station and cost 150 Baht. You can book your bus/minivan ticket in advance on Bookaway.com.
2.) By Motorbike
You can rent a scooter from Chiang Mai (CM) and take on the curves yourself. However, this is only recommended for experienced drivers. Many have tried, and a lot of people came out with scars and bandages. If you go this route, please make sure to have travel insurance!
Insider Tip: If you rent a bike from Aya Services in CM, they will take your travel backpacks and luggage to Pai free of charge via minivan. This way you can bike to Pai without a bag weighing you down.
3.) By Air
Yes, small ass Pai has an airport. Kan Airlines has daily flights leaving from Chiang Mai that will get you to Pai in 25 minutes. No need to brave those crazy curves :)
You may not have been super familiar with Pai before reading this article, but now it should be on your list of places to visit while in Thailand. Now that you know everything from the top things to do in Pai to the best places to stay in Pai, we won’t be surprised a bit when you decide to extend your trip to this picturesque village. You are now ready to make the most of your adventure, and we are excited to hear about your travels :)