Philippines: The Kawasan Falls

I won’t easily forget visiting the Kawasan falls, an experience that felt more like an hallucination, perhaps even a dream.

On the tropical island of Cebu, Philippines, the 130-foot waterfall lies two hours south of the capital city; Cebu city.  Cebu island, itself, is rich in culture and history, being the first island of the Philippines colonized by the Spanish and the birthplace of Christianity in the far east. There are countless things to do and see, but I think the true gem of the island lies in the mountains of Barangay Matutinao – Kawasan falls.

Kawasan falls

After discovering almost CGI-like photographs of the crystal-clear and unearthly waters on Instagram, I immediately started to organize a trip to visit the waterfall, and even managed to rope a colleague of mine into joining me.

At the time, I was an English teacher in South Korea, so the journey was a relatively quick and inexpensive 4-and-a-half-hour flight from Seoul to Mactan-Cebu international.

The winter months in Korea are long and harsh, so the idea of tropical sunshine on my face was another gladly welcomed reason to go.

We spent our first 2 days on Cebu exploring the beaches, neighbouring smaller islands, and meandering the main city. Most of our time was spent out on the water after discovering that renting an entire boat to ourselves would not cost more than $100, we soon promoted ourselves to captains and took to the seas.

Accidentally gate-crashing a wedding at Fort San Pedro was also something we didn’t have on our initial itinerary, but that’s the beauty of travelling – it rarely goes as planned!

During this time, I did, however, shamefully, and not for the first time, underestimate the power of the sun.  I stupidly decided not to wear sunscreen… something I’d later regret.

The true wrath of the sun damage didn’t reveal itself (maybe because of the amount of tequila I drank in a competitive game of Jenga) until the third day – Kawasan falls day!

From Cebu city, there are 3 main ways to get to Kawasan. The cheapest option is to take a bus from the main bus station from Cebu City. The ticket will cost you around $4, but the journey can take up to 4 hours each way.

The more expensive, but most comfortable option is to take a taxi.  The fee is around $64 for a round trip, but between a group of people, and for the air con, I think it’s worth it in my opinion.

The third and most exciting option is to rent a scooter and drive there yourself. The roads can be dangerous, so I would say to anyone doing this – be careful!

Alternatively, staying closer to the falls is also possible as there is no shortage of hostels and hotels in the southern part of the island.

We chose option 2 – by taxi!

No matter how you decide to travel to the Kawasan falls, there’s no doubt you’ll be met by swarms of Filipinos upon your arrival asking to be your guide for the day.  It’s like the unwanted welcomes you get from taxi drivers at the airport in Marrakech or Cancun. Despite many, many ‘no thanks’ and ‘we’re ok by ourselves’, we still ended up with a guide at our side who helped us around and told us a little about the area. We of course paid him and thanked him at the end of the day, but I don’t feel there was much benefit to having a guide apart from to take photos.

To get to the actual waterfalls you’ll need to trek for about 15 minutes from the national park entrance. Like most national parks, there is an entry fee.  I think this is around 30PHP for foreigners which is relatively cheap.

The trail is mostly flat and adjacent to an azure-coloured river, so the walk is rather enjoyable despite the heat.

It will take your brain a few minutes after you arrive to the falls to realise that you are not dreaming or in a virtual reality experience. We were speechless for a while – the natural beauty, the sound of the falling water crashing into the pool below, the groups of locals swimming and enjoying themselves, it was magical.

There weren’t as many tourists as I expected there to be, which I put down to the location. I expect the number of visitors will drastically increase as the years go by, and, our guide did inform us that weekends are a lot busier.

If you’re on a budget, it’d be wise to bring your own food and drink because the vendors on location sell their products at high prices. It is a bit of a money trap.

There are actually 3 waterfalls. The first is the most impressive and is where most of the food, people and rafts are.

 Yes, rafts!

3 or 4 large bamboo rafts have been constructed in the waterfall pool. You can rent these rafts and even get a local to take you to the actual waterfall and go under it. The water gets VERY powerful and didn’t go nicely with my sunburn! To be honest, that is an understatement.  Despite the temperature of the water being quite cold, the force of the water and the shock of the pain that radiated from my shoulders left me almost in tears.

There are worse places to be in agony feeling sorry for yourself than floating on a raft next to one of the best waterfalls on planet earth, but still!

The other 2 waterfalls are just a little further up than the first and can be found within a 5-minute walk. They are located deeper in the jungle and allow for a more peaceful experience.

Go canyoning if you want to add a little adrenaline to your day. You can canyon down the three falls with the help of a few tour companies at the falls.

I cannot recommend the Kawasan falls highly enough. If I’m lucky enough to return, I’ll promise I’ll wear sunscreen!


10 thoughts on “Philippines: The Kawasan Falls

  1. Entertaining description. I did a so-called visa run from Seoul to Manila once. I never got out if the city because there was a tropical cyclone with bad flooding. There were even a few deaths due to it. Flights were delayed and I had to queue for hours at the airport but I finally made it back to Seoul. Quite the adventure.


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