Monday, May 1, 2017

TRAVEL | Kawasan Falls (Badian, Cebu): Wonderful waterfall but manage your expectations

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Top view of Kawasan Falls and its majestic pool.

I've spent my college years in Cebu City and it's a shame that I've never been to Kawasan Falls. One of Cebu province's better known and most visited tourist attractions, Kawasan is a three-tiered waterfall located in Badian, some 130 km southwest of Cebu City, or about 3 hours by bus. I've always been meaning to visit the place, and finally I've made that trip last month--nearly 20 years after.

The trek to the falls starts right next to a church by the highway where dozens of vehicles shuttling visitors are parked. The trail is very well-established that you really won't need a guide, although there will always be someone or a small group who will offer you their services.

Unless you're going canyoneering, which come in organized packages complete with equipment and guide, guide services in Kawasan are not organized. There are no standard fees and they usually leave it up to you how much you're willing to pay them. It's a practice I dislike because I'd rather have a tariff to prevent anyone from being duped. Conversely, I don't want to be burdened with guilt that I paid too little.

For all that I've said, however, we actually got a guide for about Php 150 (plus tip), if only to have someone carry our water for us.

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You're sure to find your way to the falls with this trail.

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The trail is well-established and tourist-friendly.

Running mostly right along the riverbank, the trail is lined up with trees, so there's lots of shade to make the 1.5 km trek a leisurely experience. The river itself is already a sight unto its own with its clear waters and alternating hues of blue and green. You'll also see locals bathing and doing their laundry at certain spots, something I remember also doing when I was a kid back in the province, where from time to time people would go on trips to a certain river to do major laundry.

A few meters into the trek, visitors are asked to register and pay a fee: Php 30 for locals, double that for foreigners. There's an official local government receipt issued but I really don't get why foreigners are charged differently. I don't know if they want to encourage or dissuade foreign tourists from coming. I was asked Php 60 until I spoke to the attendant in Cebuano.

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I'm amazed at why the waters here are mostly blue.

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Cute little bridge.

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I don't know what they are but I was smitten. Watching them being rustled by the current was just mesmerizing.

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I was surprised to see that there are still people doing their laundry by the river. Brought back childhood memories from the province.

Pardon me for my ignorance but I didn't know that there are actually people living around the Kawasan area. Our guide told us that people have been living there even before tourists started flocking, so it's not uncommon to see houses throughout the trek, and of course, food stalls and souvenir shops.

We carried on with our trek and shortly after passing under a concrete arch that I was told was part of a hydroelectric facility, I got my first glimpse of the famed Kawasan Falls.

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Natural beauty from a distance.

Yes, there were a lot of people but nothing could dampen Kawasan's sheer beauty. This is the first and the lowest of the waterfalls's three levels, and is unsurprisingly the most crowded. But it also is the most beautiful in my opinion.

Surrounded by thick foliage and gorgeous limestone rock formations peering through, Kawasan cascades mightily into an alluring natural pool 131 feet down below. Its unbelievably light blue color looks like that of your typical swimming pool, which is amazing. Most waterfall pools I've seen either have a greenish or a really dark shade. Tinago Falls in Iligan, however, is an enchantingly deep blue.

The water is very inviting and swimming in it was extremely refreshing. If you want a "waterfall massage," there are rafts for rent (Php 300 to Php 500) that will take you directly under the cascade. I didn't try it but it sure was fun watching the expressions on the faces of those who did.

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Waterfall massage, anyone?

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I love how lush the foliage is. And just look at the rock formations. Aren't they something?

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Really amazed with the pool's color here.

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Watching people go directly under the waterfall can be quite entertaining.

Kawasan Falls is postcard perfection. However, we don't always get to see the whole picture, which is why I was surprised to see concrete structures right beside the waterfall. There are food stalls, tables for rent, shower room facilities, lockers, and even an inn where you can stay overnight.

I understand that they're for the convenience of tourists and I'm not saying that it's a bad thing per se, although I have my own personal misgivings of course. It's just that I've never seen any of these structures in photos or blogs before, which is why I feel the need to share these photos to manage people's expectations.

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Fancy an overnight stay right by the waterfall? Yes, you can.

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More tables and chairs.

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And here's more from the other side.

The place was packed when we were there, so we rented a table for Php 400 (weekend rate; it's Php 300 on weekdays) so we can have a place to sit and rest our things. There are lockers available but I haven't asked how much the rental was.

After an hour or so we left and proceeded to the waterfall's next level.

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Kawasan's main cascade, as viewed from atop.

We hiked up a medley of concrete and stone steps, passed by houses, sections of the river that flow into the falls, and another beautiful but smaller pool to get to the next waterfall. The setup was similar as the one down below, only this was much less crowded.

The cascade here was less impressive but was still beautiful in its own right. The pool has that same aquamarine hue as its big brother and is just as inviting. Meanwhile, those on canyoneering expeditions make their way down by jumping off the waterfall, something that's no longer allowed in the first level because of the risk of hitting a raft. There are no bamboo rafts here in the 2nd level.

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Just before hitting the 2nd waterfall, this nice pool came to view. And no, that's not the 2nd waterfall.

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The cascade at Kawasan's second level. There's a canyoneering group taking turns to jump off the cliff.

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Aww... how sweet.

The falls at the third level is reportedly much smaller, and we no longer bothered. Instead, we started our descent and made our way back to where we started.

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Hope to see you again soon, Kawasan!

Whatever your take is on how touristy it is, or on the structures surrounding the waterfalls, there's no denying Kawasan Falls's sheer beauty and that it's still a place worth visiting in spite of the negatives. Just try shutting all the nuisance off.

Given that it's one of Cebu's most popular attractions, Kawasan is expectedly crowded, especially on weekends and holidays, so I guess it's best visited on weekdays if you want to escape the crowds.

And yes, I'll be back.

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GETTING THERE:

Coming from Cebu City, head to the South Bus Terminal to catch a bus bound for Bato via Barili (not via Oslob, which is on the opposite side of the island). Just tell the bus driver or conductor to let you off at the Kawasan Falls jump-off. The fare should be just a little over Php 100. Once you get off the bus, you'll be swarmed with people offering guide services and what-have-you. That's it, you're there.

On the other hand, some people would call Moalboal as their base, which is the town just before Badian. From there you can hop off a jeepney or make your own transportation arrangements. As for us, our base was Ronda, which was further up north, and we made arrangements with our resort.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very helpful post. We have a lot of guests asking us for tips and guides on the best places to visit in Cebu. I would definitely be recommending your post to them. Please keep posting on the wonderful experience you may have had particularly in Cebu. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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