Let’s get one thing straight off the bat – neither the hike nor the Pirate waterfall are really secret. It just really feels like that because the trail is difficult to find, the hike is secluded, the waterfall is remote and there was hardly any information about this at all. Even the island locals couldn’t describe to us exactly where to go.
That is unacceptable! Hence this post.
Skip the intro & jump to the directions and hike guide if you’re hiking now.
A Short Backstory
I, Byron, really wanted to do the Pirate Waterfall Hike the first time we stayed on Koh Adang (see Island Life is on a Budget), but was met with blank stares and blatant disinterest. The buddy-system suggested I don’t go alone.
Our second stay on the island was with our mothers. Now I knew we were going to do it.
Tammy and her mom stayed on the beach, lying in the sun (intentionally!) and listened to the waves crashing on the white sandy beaches… While my mom and I smashed our way through dense forest to bring you this guide.
Does The Pirate Waterfall Hike Really Need A Detailed Guide?
No. We did it without…
However, it will make it a lot more enjoyable to know you are on the right path, know how to navigate some obstacles and assure you it’s possible.
Is The Hike Worth It?
If you are enthusiastic about ornithology, dendrology, herpetology or hiking – the answer is a simple yes.
It’s a little more complicated if you’re in it for the Insta or impressive waterfall.
As far as picturesque waterfalls are concerned, Chon Salad doesn’t really make the cut. This is more about the journey, isolation and remoteness. Few people have made it here and even less talk about it. We put this place on the Maps! Literally, we added it to Google Maps.
What Else Is There To Do?
The lookout hike is another good idea on Koh Adang; I say that with no confidence as I have never done it myself. I was pre-occupied with snorkelling and relaxing in a hammock. Apologies.
There is another waterfall on the island that we didn’t have time to visit. I’d suggest asking an island local for some advice on that. We’ve heard a longtail boat can take you a lot closer to that area of the island if you are interested.
We were told the Pirate Waterfall hike was short and easy. We were lied to.
Okay, this is no great trek through mountainous passes with the heat of a thousand suns; but it’s not a light stroll either.
Hike To Chon Salad (น้ำตกโจรสลัด) or Pirate Waterfall Hike
1. Prepare Yourself
• Water. Not to sound patronising, but do you have your water? We polished 2l without a sweat (actually, with a lot of it) and could have even done with a little more.
• Sunscreen is always essential, even though the hike is through island forest, the sun has a way of sneaking up on you.
• Bug spray! We forgot this one and paid the price. Again, this is a forest in Thailand, wear bug spray and take some with you.
• Lunch. We took nothing except some water and aspirations and by the time we got to the waterfall, we would have loved to stay much longer and explore the surrounds, but we were so hungry! Imagine how great a picnic would have been. Don’t be us.
• Camera. What’s the point of having fun if you can’t prove it?
• Closed shoes. There are a few tricky moments, hills and rocks that would be a challenge in something less than a closed shoe.
• A childlike wonderment. You are about to explore a place that very few tourists dare conquer; you are about to join the club of the elite few who have stood at the foot of the waterfall – try to appreciate the journey.
2. Find The Trail
Easier said than done.
Tides, foliage and time could play a factor on finding this entrance, so try to be observant.
- Situate yourself in front of the floating blue jetty, facing the Andaman sea.
- Look to your right, along the shoreline.
- There are a few rock outcrops leading towards the tip of the visible beach.
- Head towards this point, keeping your eyes on the trees.
- You ‘should’ see a brown and yellow sign guiding you towards the trail, but it’s difficult to see at the best of times.
- The trail starts BEFORE the first major rock outcrop, ±200m walk from the jetty.
3. Start The Trail
Inherent right? Wrong!
Even with the sign in front of us, we weren’t 100% convinced that this was it.
If you find that you would have to enter into battle with hanging vines, low-lying branches and a steep incline towards what looks like solid jungle – you’ve found it!
There’s a great camouflaged sign to give you confidence as you reach the top of your short summit – the path is to your left.
4. Get Hiking
Now it’s time to stroll through the rich green forest alongside the unbelievably turquoise water.
We were fortunate enough to have a breeze accompanying us which made it a lot more pleasant, but this part of the hike is not strenuous at all.
You will see and hear a myriad of animals as you navigate through their forest. Monitors/lizards/geckos (I’m not great at reptile identification), flying squirrels, colourful birds (also not an ornithologist) and mosquitoes.
I can say that you will pass a few Looking-glass Mangroves, identifiable by their distinctly thin and tall roots that protrude from the ground. Not found everywhere in the world, so appreciate if you can.
5. Keep Going
There are a few signs along the way to give you confidence, as well as black water pipe. I say ‘black’ very loosely; it’s mostly green, brown and yellow from moss, soil and the lich-en (get it?).
This pipe wends its way alongside the pathway almost the entire journey, only veering off a few times and even gaining a friend somewhere too!
If in doubt, follow the pipes.
Side note: there were a few tears in the pipe during our journey in April 2019 that we alerted the island staff to. Perhaps do your good deed for the day and note if there are any more?
6. Almost There
You’ll know you’re getting close when you have to duck under a fallen tree (a really cool fallen tree) and you can hear the sound of victory in the distance, often coming across as the sound of a feint waterfall.
- Duck under fallen tree
- Go down steep path
- Go up steep path
- Find river
You cross this river via the conveniently placed tree that spans the gap.
One of us (not me) decided to be a hero and navigate their way across the rocks so we know it’s both possible and daring. Your choice.
7. The Final Obstacle
But it’s the end? Where is the waterfall?
There is red sign that points you towards a wall of rocks; with a flimsy rope taunting you.
We can assure you three things:
1. You are in the right place
2. You need to get over these rocks
3. It’s possible.
Option 1 – The Rope
This is not going to be the first rope that jumps into my mind if asked for ropes I’d trust my life with, but it held up. It’s sitting untouched for weeks on end, exposed to the unforgiving weather of the Thailand rainforest and yet it sits there with smug confidence.
Option 2 – The Right
A little rock hopping, a little bit of fearing that you will fall as you can’t find a grip for your hand and you’ll be up in no time. There’s a sort of step-like formation on the right that is fit for the confident rock wranglers, but more manageable if you are worried about upper-body strength with respect to the rope.
If you go this way, be warned that there is a lot of fallen foliage covering the rocks up there, some of which is concealing holes. Tread carefully and try to be sure you are stepping onto something solid.
Option 3 – The Left
Who would have guess this as the final option?
This one is a little tighter of a fit with a narrow opening, but a much easier step system. I’d definitely recommend this as your way down (obviously being the ‘right’ when you’re coming back).
Recommended route: Option 2 for the way up and Option 3 for the way down.
8. Not A False Horizon
After summiting the rock wall, you will be faced with a steep incline.
The horison you see there is the end.
9. Now What?
There are so many levels to this waterfall that you can climb up (if you are confident) or walk around to. The stream splits into two rivers and there are many places to sit, relax and picnic.
You can also take a dip in one of the pools. If you are there in dry season as we were, I’d suggest a dip in the pool one level up from the main cascade. The rainy season would offer you so much more!
Dry season: November to February
Transitional season: March to May
Rainy season: June to October
You can see the pipes are used to collect water from this river, with makeshift filters that need some cleaning. The defined pathways up the waterfall signify that these pipes are visited and maintained from time to time. Please be respectful of the area and the water; there are people using it on the other side of the pipe. Could even be you if you’re staying on Koh Adang.
10. Bid Farewell
Before you head off, reapply some bug spray and sunscreen and check you didn’t leave anything behind, intentionally or otherwise.
The walk back felt a lot shorter than the hike there, so take it easy.
Don’t forget, Option 3 to descend the rock wall.
Koh Adang Elite Club
The Pirate Waterfall Hike was one of the more memorable hikes we’d done because of it’s mystery and all of the unknown factors involved.
There were a lot of posts online about how difficult the hike was and impossible it was to find the waterfall. We really hope this guide has helped you find it or merely enjoy it a little more.
If it did, we’d love to hear from you. Tag us in a picture online (#DearTravallure) or write a comment below; tell us we made a difference! Or don’t… Your call really.
Need More Help?
Plan your trip here. 12Go Asia has been our go to since we stepped foot in Southeast Asia; they are reliable and super convenient. Simply book a trip to Koh Lipe and take a taxi boat from Koh Lipe to Koh Adang for around 100THB per person.