From raging rapids to calm pools, these five underrated natural wonders in Philippines will have you chasing waterfalls in no time.
Maribina Falls, Virac
Just a short tricycle ride from Virac airport in Catanduanes province is the magical Maribina Falls. There’s a modest entrance fee to access the short and easy hike up a dense jungle path that leads to the 6m-high beauty. The four levels of falls are punctuated with boulders and plunge pools that are perfect for diving.
Tarangban Falls, Calbayog
Due to its rugged terrain — it takes a bumpy motorcycle ride to get there — the northwestern part of Samar Island doesn’t see many visitors. However, this means fewer crowds at Tarangban Falls, which are reached by a 30-minute jungle hike. The falls tumble off rocks that break the impact and make them safe to swim under.
Catandayagan Falls, Masbate
Catandayagan Falls on Ticao island are the only waterfalls in the Philippines that drop straight into the ocean. A one-hour boat ride from Masbate City brings you to an anchor point to plunge into the ocean. The falls are glorious during the rainy months of December and January, but much calmer to swim under in June and July.
Katibawasan Falls, Camiguin
This gargantuan 70m-high waterfalls on Camiguin Island is a sight straight out of an adventure movie. A small fee allows you to access the falls, but you’ll first follow a paved path through a thicket of ferns, orchids and creeping vines before coming to a clearing with an obstructed view. Then snap the perfect shot of the entire drop.
Tuasan Falls, Camiguin
Also on Camiguin Island are the less visited but equally gorgeous Tuasan Falls. They are a stone’s throw from the Bura Soda Water Swimming Pool. The falls are broken by gray rocks of various sizes and flow into clear, shallow pools that feed the Looc River. A dip in one of the pools feels like you’ve stumbled into paradise.
Referred to by locals as Tugue, the capital of Cagayan province in Philippines is a gateway to quiet rolling hills and limestone caves ripe for exploration. Here’s how to spend your time in Tuguegarao.
1. Municipality of Peñablanca
A 30-minute drive from Tuguegarao transports you to the rugged landscape of Peñablanca. Home to more than 300 limestone caves, the area is dubbed the “caving capital” of the Philippines. One of the easiest caves to spelunk without a guide is Callao Cave. Enter a chamber called “The Chapel”, which contains a Catholic church — complete with pews and an altar — where Mass is still held.
2. Iguig Calvary Hills
Home to pastures and a ramshackle but enchanting 18th-century brick-and-stone church perched on a hill and overlooking the Cagayan River, Iguig Calvary Hills is perfect for those longing for fresh air. It’s just a quick jaunt outside of Tuguegarao. Weeds grow out from cracks on the church’s facade, beckoning visitors to wander the compound. Finding a shady spot is no problem so pack a picnic.
3. Don Domingo Public Market
Located in the heart of Tuguegarao City, Don Domingo Public Market is best visited on an empty stomach first thing in the morning when food is freshest. Vendors are friendly and navigating the parked jeepneys and outdoor food stalls is half of the fun. In addition to stocking fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms, the space also serves as a flea market and sundries shop.
The green hills of Luzon
The largest island in the Philippines has much to offer nature lover and adventure junkies, so grab your hiking boots and bathing suit for a weekend trip out of Manila
1. Mount Batolusong, Rizal
Boasting vast, sunshine-yellow grassland near the peak, Mount Batolusong is one of Luzon’s most underrated hiking spots. The mountain is about 48km from Manila, and by bus takes just over two hours and a jeepney ride to reach. The trail is good for beginners and leads to numerous streams and waterfalls. If you’re brisk, it takes just over four hours to get to Susong Dalaga Peak, where surrounding mountains covered by a sea of clouds await.
2. Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija
The landlocked province of Nueva Ecija is an often-overlooked destination with much to offer. The enchanting, emerald-green waters of the Peñaranda River in Minalungao National Park are the reward for the four-hour bus ride from Cubao to Cabanatuan and the ensuing short tricycle ride. Once you reach the spot, have a picnic on a floating bamboo raft while taking in the view of the steep limestone cliffs flanking the river. Then climb up the cliffs and take a dive into the water.
3. Mount Batulao, Batangas
Hikers who are relatively fit can attempt to scale Mount Batulao. Take a two-hour bus ride from Pasay City to the KC Hillcrest Hotel and Golf Club at the base of the mountain and ascend the clearly marked trail. Though the three-hour uphill bike is pleasant, certain parts require upper-body strength, as you’ll need to climb over rocks via rope — but that’s part of the adventure. At the summit, catch a 360-degree view of grass-covered hills before starting the two-hour descent.
4. Buntot Palos Falls, Laguna
A two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Cubao or Pasay bound for Santa Cruz, Laguna, brings you to the base of Mount Bikay, where, upon arrival, you can follow the grassy trail along the Pangil River for another hour, passing by streams gushing over boulders. The hike comes with a surprise as, finally, the will-hidden Buntot Palos Falls are revealed. The sight of the towering, 80m falls and secluded natural swimming pool surrounded by lush trees makes the long trek completely worth it.
This article is published with permission of Mabuhay, Philippine Airlines’ exclusive in-flight magazine.
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