If you find yourself in Chiang Mai hungry for an adventure and being close to nature, you’re in luck. Northern Thailand is great for venturing off to different, unusual creations of nature, such as the canyons of Chiang Mai.
In the last few years The Grand Canyon is has become one of the most popular tourist attractions near Chiang Mai. And that’s hardly surprising, as it’s the nearest swimming spot to the city where people go to cool off from the daily heat. And can cliff-jump into the refreshing water!
I decided to jump on a motorbike to see what all the fuss is about.
What is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is the solution to the only major thing that Chiang Mai is lacking – the beach.
It’s a former quarry that’s turned into a fun water park in 2014. But tourists discovered it way sooner and used to sneak in for swimming and cliff-jumping; even though it wasn’t allowed.
We understand the temptation: the high red clay walls filled with the blue water at the bottom of it makes it look so tempting to jump in and find relief from the burning Chiang Mai heat.
The whole Canyon consists of two separate parks with separate entrances – Grand Canyon and Grand Canyon Aqua Park.
1. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon park section is for swimming and cliff-jumping. Right after the entrance, you’ll reach the wild side of the park where people line up excited and a bit nervous. That’s because they’re about to jump off an 8-meter high cliff into the deep water.
There is one designated jumping area. It’s the only one from where everyone is allowed to jump. Local Thai lifeguards are overlooking the whole process, making people feel safe and encouraging the doubtful ones.
The water is very deep. It’s rumored to be about 50 meters. Even when you get into the water from the shore, it gets deep within a few steps.
However, those who can’t swim so well don’t have to worry about being safe. There are plenty of life jackets available for free, and the eagle eye of a nearby lifeguard is always watching you.
Another treat for the adventure lovers is the two-way zip line crossing the whole canyon. Don’t expect anything too crazy, but it’s still fun to look at the entire area from above.
What I like the most about this place is that there’s something to do for everyone – the adventurous ones as well as those who prefer something more relaxed.
The left side of the park offers the lounge area with palm trees, sun beds and a terrace on the water with a few tables. There are also two cafes where you can purchase food and drinks at any time.
Right there it’s possible to take a SUP for a ride around the canyon. You can also pick an inner tube or a bamboo raft to lounge on the water for hours.
At those moments it’s hard to believe you’re actually in Chiang Mai, which is known for not having any beaches around that you’d find in South of Thailand.
And of course, it compares in no way to the ‘real’ Grand Canyon in the US. But it’s still fun to visit when you’re in Chiang Mai!
2. The Grand Canyon Aqua Park
On the opposite side of the canyon, you’ll find the inflatable water park. You can bounce, jump, do backflips and land in the cool water.
There’s also a zip line in the Aqua Park, but it’s shorter than in the first park and goes only in one direction.
For wakeboarding, cliff jumping and just relaxing and watching all the water fun there’s a separate section. You can even rent a GoPro for 100 THB per hour and film all the adventures without having to worry to about getting your phone or camera wet.
The water in the Aqua Park is around 50-meters deep, so it’s up to you if it’s a good idea to visit with kids. Everyone is required to wear life jackets at all times though, and local lifeguards are watching visitors from all sides.
Either one of these parks will do the job to get you relaxed and refreshed in the water and exhausted, but happy from having all the water fun. It just depends on which water activities appeals to you most and how much you’re willing to pay, as the fee to both parks significantly differs.
The entrance to the Grand Canyon is 100 THB per person. It includes all the activities except the zip line, which costs an additional 300 THB per ride.
The Grand Canyon Aqua Park standard entry costs 500 THB per person. If you want to do the wakeboarding, that will cost you extra 450 THB per hour from 9:00 – 12:00 or 550 THB per hour from 13:00 – 16:00). The Aqua Park allows free entrance for kids at the hight under 90 cm and a reduced fee of 400 THB for kids under a height of 120 cm.
What to bring with you?
You’ll need a towel, sunscreen, flip flops, swimsuit, water and some money for the entrance and lunch. If you have an action cam, bring that with you, as a cliff-jump make an excellent shot.
There is no easy access to lockers in the Grand Canyon, so don’t bring any valuables and lots of cash. Once you’re in the water, it’s not easy to keep an eye on the things you left outside.
You could ask the restaurant staff to store your things. However, the right thing to do still feels leaving valuable things at home.
If you choose to visit the Aqua Park, lockers are available there.
The best time to visit
The Grand Canyon is open from 9:00 – 19:00 every day. The Aqua Park closes at 18:30.
I’ve been to the park a couple of times now, and it never feels too busy and crowded. However, expect to see more people on the attractions and in the water during the first part of the day until around 14:00.
Later you can find way more people in the restaurant than in the water.
During the high season in Northern Thailand which is from November – March the water at the Grand Canyon seems muddy and not so clean, as hundreds of people visit every day.
The Grand Canyon looks exotic and powerful in the photos. For the best photos you want to be there until around 13:00 as later the shadows from the cliffs start to cover the water.
Climbing on things and jumping off stuff takes so much energy that 3-4 hours is a good enough amount of time to plan for the park.
How to get there?
The Grand Canyon is located approx. 20 km south of Chiang Mai in the Hang Dong area.
The best way how to get there is by a motorbike. It’s an easy 40 min ride.
The other option is getting a songthaew (the red truck) to take you there and back. That should cost around 500 THB one way. As it might not be the easiest thing to find a songthaew who will agree to take you to The Grand Canyon just off the street, ask your hotel to arrange you one.