While some rumors may have you believe the only things to do in Pai are hammock rocking and channeling whatever inner hippy spirits you may have in you, that’s not quite everything…
Pai has far more to offer than that and while those hippy vibes are infectious, and chillin in a hammock is certainly part of everyday life here, I strongly encourage you to also get out there and get lost.
Through the foothills, around the huts, over and under the waterfalls with little direction, Pai is best savored than marathoned through.
At least that’s me. I spend months living here (two different times, actually) during my years bopping around Thailand finding new “homes…”
Pai was a place that I randomly circled back to a few times and I hope you visit or perhaps even circle back for another taste, as I did. For anyone curious, here’s what to do in Pai according to someone who lived there…
Things to Do in Pai, Thailand: The Highlights
These are the places in Pai that you should definitely check out no matter what. Sure they are some of the more typical things to do in Pai, but they are worth a visit in my eyes!
→ Not sure how to get to Pai from Chiang Mai? Click here
1. The Container
First, coffee. Just 10 minutes outside of Pai, with crazy cage-like cocoon chairs suspended from balcony roofs, The Container is a must when you’re wondering what to do in Pai and are dying for a pick me up after your hellish 3-hour ride up here. This is your intro into complete and total chillaxin vibes, which is what Pai is all about.
Grab a wonderful coffee, a fresh coconut, or even a beer, and enjoy the view as you swing in the Thailand breeze (if there is any, hope that there is).
2. Memorial Bridge
This bridge has WWII history, so it is an emotional memory to take home with you. The bridge was torn down by the Japanese when they left Pai in retreat during WWI. The villagers then rebuilt it, and it has since been fortified with the help of US Steel.
Fun story and a lesson: Always look down. Something I definitely know considering I have been living abroad for years now… Well, I was walking along the bridge, NOT looking down and I fell through a hole. Luckily, the hole was only big enough for one leg and I was fine. Any bigger and I may have found myself in a body cast. (I have a permanent dent in my leg there now, yay)
3. Walking Street
An open-air market that is 4 blocks wide and 6 blocks deep, Walking Street is the best thing to do in Pai to taste fresh food from a variety of regions and shop for jewelry and other knick-knacks. It’s a class tourist attraction here.
One thing I had to get every time I went to the market was a masala chai, she does a good job!
4. Land Split
This geographical oddity is just a fun stop right outside of Pai. A farmer found that after a few quakes his land cracked wide open. Now he offers free juice and snacks for visitors and simply asks for whatever donation you can spare for the visit. The Split itself is nothing super amazing but the owners of the land are very sweet and their fruits and juices make the stop worth it.
5. Pai Canyon
The Canyon is a prime “what to do” in Pai location. Long narrow pathways that drop off into steep canyons on both sides lead you out to the edge of a cliff to see some of the most stunning views anywhere in the world. Warning: it can get crowded AF, going earlier in the day is nice because it’s cool out and there are fewer people but sunset is often the best views!
6. Themed Cafes
Pai is full of them! Wander the streets in and out of central Pai and you’ll find a variety of themes. They are ridiculous. But it’s still a thing to do in Pai! You can’t miss it… Or can you?
When you ride around you’ll see a crazy large strawberry for selfies or two interlocking hearts overlooking a view begging for you to snap and post to Instagram.
I will say, these cafes are very popular with Korean and Chinese tourists, however, I’ve stopped only once because a friend was visiting me and wanted to. Otherwise, no. But, hey! Maybe it’s your thing?
7. Lod Caves
Feeling a bit of wanderlust? Hop on a scooter and head outside of Pai to explore a gorgeous limestone cave system. You’ll pay a guide to take your into the cave on a bamboo raft, then you’ll be guided along a system of three different caves. A great day trip that may find you getting pooped on by a bat. Now that’s a once in a lifetime experience!
*insert yet another reference of TLC’s Don’t go Chasing Waterfalls…*Pai is full of waterfalls to chase. The most common are Mo Paeng, because of the natural waterslides shaped from the slick rocks running into the waterfalls, and Mae Yen, because it is one of those classic long walk hiking trails that will take you over the river and through the jungle.
There’s Pombok as well which is a fun one to hike and swim around at.
9. Get a Massage
Yes, after all that hiking and scooting, eating and drinking and adventuring, you’re gonna want to take advantage of one of the most important things to do in Pai: a Thai massage. Do it. And do it often.
10. White Buddha
If you’re in Pai, you already know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, you will. The White Buddha looks down on Pai, and you can climb up to join him. It’s a bit of intense hike up (mostly because it’s boiling outside and there’s of lot of steps) but it’s worth it. Just make sure you actually pay respect. It’s a popular thing to do in Pai for tourists, but it’s is a sacred shrine for the locals. (AKA wear decent clothing)
11. Pai Springs
This is really only a cool thing to do in Pai when it’s a bit chillier outside or if you wake up really early. There are numerous hot springs sprinkled around Pai which provide some relaxing, steaming hot waters to soak in. Unfortunately, it’s often far too hot outside to enjoy a dip in water that could boil an egg (literally).
If you want to go here during the summer months, I’d say you need to wake up really early and head out, otherwise, it’s just simply too hot!
12. Santichon and Yun Lai Viewpoint
Santichon, or the Chinese Village, is not the most remarkable thing to do in Pai, but it’s worth a wander on the motorbike, particularly so you can get to Yun Lai Viewpoint which is quite beautiful. Sit down, have a cup of a tea, and enjoy the views.
13. Fluid Pool
It gets hot as hell in Pai, doesn’t it? If you’re looking to cool off with some drinks, the Fluid pool is a pretty damn good spot to do so! There’s even a mini gym here if you’re looking for some weights to throw around, don’t expect much though.
Offbeat Thing to Do in Pai, Thailand
The typical things to do in Pai are definitely cool, but here’s a way to make your trip a bit more exciting and less common than the rest…
14. Huay Dimi
Of the places in Pai you might not know about, this one might be the least frequented. Grab some lunch in town and chow down at this chilled out lakeside location. You’ll maybe see a couple of fishermen. That’s about it.
The surroundings are sweeping hills and before you is a serene lake. There’s isn’t anything to do but chill, but hello…that’s the thing to do in Pai! And this lake is a great place to do exactly that.
Side note: There are sometimes mini music festivals out here now! Keep an eye out around town for posters.
15. Human Powered Ferris Wheel at Kiew-Lom Viewpoint
2-4-1 here. A view point and some odd human powered ferris wheel that’s certainly not safe at all, but hey! Go for it if you’re totally cool with going up about 20 feet in the air on a rickety piece of wood. I actually would have done it but there was nobody around to swing with me…
16. Pai Viewpoint
Where the F is this viewpoint? No seriously… please comment if you ever found it! This is definitely one of the places to go in Pai, if you can find it… We tried so hard, but it was getting late, the roads were rough for our rickety automatic scooter, and it started raining.
It’s about 40 minutes past Pombok waterfall (so the sign says). There’s a sign pointing you to it and we got so close, but after 45 minutes of driving, then attempting to walk, we had to give up. We even continued a bit after a local told us to go back because the roads were bad.
We had to find out for ourselves. We got a decent view at one point, we must have been close…but in the end, no cigar. Try your luck. The drive through the villages is quite nice as well.
17. Viewpoint Coffee’s Flying Chairs
There’s a swing and two red flying chairs. It’s random AF and pretty cool. There are some great views here and the chairs make for a good photo op. (right before Pai Cabana coming from town)
18. Pai Circus School
OK, OK, this place is actually popular… I think. I mean, it’s popular for me because I’m a circus freak (I’m a hula hooper in case ya didn’t know). But I felt like mentioning it because maybe people don’t know that all are welcomed?
Come by and take a class, play with the circus toys, or just chill at their pool. It’s a super sweet spot to chill for the day and one of my favorite things to do in Pai.
19. Huay Chang Waterfall
Uhm, I’m confused. Why does nobody come here?! This is one of my most favorite waterfalls that I’ve been to in the country. Take the exciting ride with your scooter through three streams, then I suggest you stop and park at the fourth one. Use your judgment. Don’t drive through if you can’t see the bottom. Just walk the rest.
The hike is about an hour or so and it’s very easy however not well marked. The end result? An epic waterfall with freaking nobody there. A picture does the rest of the talking…
Things to Do in Pai: Food & Nightlife
You know I couldn’t leave without telling you where to eat! After trying and testing for months on end, here are my fav spots…
20. Nong Beer
You gotta hit this place up at least once, and then you’ll be back many times. It’s a super inexpensive hole in the wall that offers excellent authentic food. It’s a local staple. I especially appreciate the khao soi; it’s the best I’ve had in the country, and this is my fav Thai dish!
21. The Good Life
For all my health nuts out there looking for things to do in Pai, this is your spot. You’ll get great tea, some kombucha, homemade bread, and more, and you can even take fermentation classes. If you’re looking to chill and get some awesome grub, head over to The Good Life.
22. Earth Tone
More healthy stuff! This adorable little wooden structure not only offers a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes for those with a meat-free diet, but it also showcases shelves of herbal products and cases of ice creams and cakes. Quite literally everything you could want.
Add to all of that the ambiance of the stream running behind it, the thatch roof and boho decor and you might decide that this is the only thing to do in Pai that matters, and it very well may be. I found myself here for days in a row far long ago before the owner took this cafe to the next level (it’s grown so much!)
Now, aside from their ridiculously clean, beautiful, and healthy meals, they even have a mini shop to grab some local, organic, and deliciously amazing products!
TIP: Buy the raw chocolate balls.
23. The Witching Well
One of the most popular places to go in town and it’s DAMN good. I loved their breakfasts and when I wasn’t too hungry, I’d snack on one of their homemade pies with coffee while reading a book.
24. Om Garden
Literally beautiful food that’s vegan-friendly. The presentation is on point and so is the flavor, they know what they are doing here. Pumpkin curry for the win!
This spot is a bit hidden and outside the main bustle of the town but it’s worth a visit. Order anything that comes with their braised mushrooms and you’ll be in heaven. They are the best mushrooms I’ve ever had in my mouth—EVER.
26. Bars to Go To
There are plenty to choose from! When I was hanging around Pai you could find me at the Living Room (although I think the name has changed but I’m not sure to what), Don’t Cry Bar, and Sunset Bar. Pretty much all the bars in Pai are hippy and chill so they become kind of same same.
27. Random Parties
Keep an eye for signs and posters going up! There’s usually something happening around town. Sometimes there’s a mini music festival at the lake I mentioned above, Huay Dimi. There are also occasional Pittalew parties as well.
The last thing I’ll also mention is Moon Village. It’s a bit secluded, underground, not popular, and yeah… If you stumble upon it you stumble upon it… 😉
Make friends, chat, read the boards… You’ll discover something cool!
So! Go grab a masala chai from Art in Chai and go get lost (the single best thing to do in Pai).
Just rent a motorbike and head out into the glorious wild. This really is the best way to get away, explore Pai, and really appreciate the area for what it has to offer: miles and miles of natural beauty.
Word of warning though: Don’t be a douche on the road. There are SO many bad drivers riding around Pai, be careful. I have seen accidents in front of my face. This is a popular area for people to learn how to ride motorbikes and there are many new drivers on the road.
There are lots of hills and dusty roads so be cautious and ride slow.
Where to stay in Pai
1. Pai Cirus School Hostel
It’s a great place to stay in Pai for all you party people. But if you are looking for something more comfortable Pai Cirus School Hostel may not be the best for you. It’s also out of the center of Pai. With that said, it’s a super happening spot to stay!
2. Spicy Pai Backpackers
This is like having a treehouse on the ground. You can chill in a hammock, or you can socialize with fellow adventurists. Spicy Pai Backpackers provides great value for money when it comes to accommodation in Pai.
3. Pai River Villa
It may be a little tricky to find Pai River Villa, but it’s on a great location. Right on the Pai river, close enough to the street, but far away from the bustle. Have your morning coffee on the porch and you’ll feel at home. This is my usual spot when I’m just visiting Pai.
4. Pai Cherkaew
Pai Cherkaew is in a great spot, just behind the main street. This is a pretty stylish place to stay in Pai. It has a pool and they serve excellent breakfast.
5. Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm
Don’t judge a book by its covers is how to best describe Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm. On the outside, it looks traditional and frugal. However, inside you will find quite a modern interior and various amenities including a farm with bunnies, ducks and sheep!
How to Get to Pai, Thailand
There’s essentially only one way, and it’s not fun. There’s over 700 twists and turns that you’ll need to endure for 3 hours to get here coming from Chiang Mai giving those who get car sick a real shock! Grab the Dramamine and try to get a seat closer to the front, this ride sucks. It’s beautiful, but it sucks!
[box]Transportation Tip for Thailand:
While you can simply book at the pier, bus or train station, you may want to book ahead for certain legs of your journey to guarantee that you get a seat on the day you need to travel. 12go.asia is the best way to do this. Book your next trip ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about.
You can book your minivan ride from Chiang Mai to Pai right here. If you pay when you’re on the ground to an outside service, they often charge a bit more and have crappier vans and drivers in my experience. If you don’t want to conveniently prebook here, then just go to the bus station and book directly.
There are two other options… You could rent a motorbike and drive yourself. Just keep in mind this is NOT the drive to make if it’s your first time riding. Or, you can see if there are any flights, as Pai does have a very small airport. However, I never found flying to be worth the cost and hassle.
Where will you go after Thailand?
So what to do in Pai? Hopefully, this list will keep you busy. Which spots are you most stoked to visit? Let me know in the comments.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!