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Kathu waterfall is more of a trickle than a flow, but if you’re exploring the interior of Phuket its quiet jungly setting makes it worth a stop.
Found at the base of one of Phuket’s highest hills in Kathu district, about halfway between Patong beach and Phuket Town, Kathu waterfall has a series of small cascades reached by climbing a wide set of stairs and a jungle path.
Most visitors hang out at the lowest level just inside the entrance, which has been built up with concrete and a few salas. In mid-2014 this area was looking scruffy with graffiti and strewn garbage. A small pond in front of the waterfall at this level has concrete edging and dingy water. The public toilets are grim looking and don’t appear to have been in use for a long while.
Things improve as you head uphill. After a five-minute climb up the steps you’ll reach the level with the highest cascade and a more natural shaded setting with cool rocks to sit on. For most of the year the water at the base of the falls is only ankle-to-knee deep, so it’s more about cooling your feet here than having a swim. Best to go to Bang Pae waterfall in Phuket’s northeast if you’re in need of a full natural pool immersion.
Further uphill, the steps eventually end and the path levels out and turns into a dirt track. From this point on it feels more like a real jungle mini-trek, the only sound the trickle of the stream below. Reaching the end there’s little in the way of a waterfall, but the small clearing is a pleasant place to relax.
The steps are steep in parts but the Kathu waterfall path could be navigated safely with children (though they may whinge!) and wearing flip-flops or sandals. We saw two smaller, rougher paths leading off the main path that appear to lead further up the hill, but lacking proper trail-walking footwear we didn’t follow them.
We didn’t find the main trail too difficult, but on the way up we met a sweat-soaked family who had turned around long before reaching the end of it. Even in the shade it’s hot and steamy going, and it would be a challenge for those not acclimatised to Phuket’s tropical weather.
The best time to go to Kathu waterfall would be late in the rainier southwest monsoon, September through November, when the falls would be at their fullest. Even then, however, don’t expect a roaring flow — it’s more about the jungle than the water here. Among the wildlife you might see are golden tree snakes, skink lizards, spiders and centipedes, plus several butterflies of many shades.
You could spend as little as 30 minutes here for just a quick walk up and down or a whole afternoon if you want to bring a packed lunch and relax in its peaceful setting for a while. It’s a shame that some parts of it are so rundown, but a lot of Phuket public parks are in a similarly neglected state.
Just outside the waterfall’s entrance is a mini-mart and small open-air restaurant if you’re short on food and drinks. Along the same road is Phuket Wake Park, so you could easily combine a visit here with a cable-wakeboarding session.
How to get there
To get to Kathu waterfall, take Route 4020, the road connecting Patong and Phuket Town, and look for the street light about 500 metres west of Loch Palm golf course. At the light, turn onto Soi Namtok Kathu. Kathu waterfall is found at the end of this two-kilometre road.
By Lana Willocks
Last updated on 20th June, 2014.