When it came to planning our Philippines itinerary, a trip to Kawasan falls was number one on our bucket list. We’d seen the photos and read the reviews now we were ready to see for ourselves if they truly were the best falls in Cebu. Were they really that mind-blowing blue colour or was it simply an Instagram lie that won’t live up to the hype?
To be honest, after our visit there are a lot of rumours we want to dispel and several truths that need to be told in order to prepare your expectations before your own visit. If you want to know if kawasan falls is worth it, this guide will not only answer your question but give you tips, costs and the unfiltered photos too.
When we were trying to figure out how to get to Kawasan falls or even the Kawasan falls entrance fee there was so much contradictory information online, or it was out of date.
Our intention with this guide to Kawasan falls is to give you an honest review as well as all the necessary info you need. Spoiler alert, it may just be a highlight of your Moalboal itinerary.
KAWASAN FALLS HISTORY
I’d hoped there would be some whimsical folklore stories surrounding the Kawasan Falls history but the reality was a little less majestic. Originally they were known as “Manayupan Falls” after the barangay they are located in (in the Philippines, barangay is a term used to describe a local district/suburb.)
Then in the 1980s, it was simply decided to revamp the area as a tourist destination and so this natural oasis was transformed into the “Kawasan Falls” as we know it today. Alongside better infrastructure such as the concrete bridge and footpaths, restaurants and cottages were also built.
In the local language Cebuano, the term Kawasan translates to cascade. A fitting name considering the falls have three tiers with the most impressive being the first tier as you approach the falls. It is possible to swim at each tier and despite that Gatorade glow of blue, the water is naturally that colour thanks to the fresh water from the surrounding forest.
Fast forward to today, the Kawasan Falls in Cebu is one of the most popular tourist spots. Our guide covers our top tips for swimming here alone, as well as answers that all-important question – is Kawasan falls worth it?
KAWASAN FALLS LOCATION
Kawasan falls are located in South Cebu. More specifically, they are nestled within the mountains of Barangay Matutinao near the town of Badian.
Most people visit Kawasan falls from Moalboal as it’s only a 30-40 minute journey. There are multiple ways to reach the falls, including by scooter, car, or public bus. Then there is around a 15-minute walk to the falls themselves.
Alternatively, you can travel from Cebu to Kawasan Falls. This takes around 4 hours. We’ve covered the best travel options below.
KAWASAN FALLS 2023 UPDATE
Following the devastating events of Typhoon Rai, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Odette, in December 2021 parts of Kawasan Falls suffered serious destruction. The Category 5 typhoon brought fierce floods and winds that left many people homeless as entire villages were washed away.
Not only this, major roads around Cebu were destroyed and the Kawasan Falls as we know it was severely damaged. You can still expect those beautiful blue waters, but the surrounding trees, building and pathways severely took a hit.
This includes the three footbridges that are essential to access the falls. For this reason, (as of March 2023) Kawasan falls remains closed to the public.
However, it is still possible to visit to experience the epic Kawasan Falls canyoneering. Not only that but they have since added an incredible zipline – more on that later!
HOW TO GET TO KAWASAN FALLS
Moalboal to Kawasan Falls
There are three main travel options to get from Moalboal to Kawasan falls:
- Rent a scooter (around 400 pesos for the day)
- Book a Kawasan falls canyoneering tour (around 1500 pesos per person)
- or take the public bus (23 pesos).
As Scottish backpackers, I’ll let you guess what option we chose.
Despite what you may read online, travelling from Moalboal to Kawasan Falls via public transport is straightforward. Here is how we did it…
We left our Moalboal Accommodation around 7:00 am and took a trike to the bus stop in Moalboal town. This cost 150 pesos and it was super easy to flag down a trike on the street.
From Moalboal to Kawasan Falls, you will need to catch the public bus, headed for Badain. The bus should be every half hour. However, ours was late, during which time every bus, motorbike and trike driver offered us an overpriced lift to Kawasan waterfalls. You might be tempted to do this as a quicker option but the bus is so much cheaper and to us safer as the road was pretty crazy.
The bus from Moalboal to Kawasan falls cost us 23 pesos per person for a single ticket. When you pay, ask the conductor to let you know where the Kawasan Waterfalls stop is. Make sure it’s the falls stop and not Kawasan Falls canyoneering stop – they are a few miles apart.
The bus will stop at a very obvious entrance which is a car park with a dozen vendors trying to sell Kawasan falls canyoneering tours. There is also a huge sign that says “This Way to Kawasan Waterfalls” so you really cannot miss it.
From here it’s a pleasant 15-minute walk to the falls. You will pass the river which is crystal clear and just as beautiful as the falls themselves. We were surprised at how well kept the road there actually was, it shows where your fee is being spent and there was even construction work taking place which looked like new changing rooms or toilet block.
Cebu to Kawasan Falls
From Cebu city to Kawasan falls takes around 4 hours. Take a bus from the South bus terminal in Cebu headed to Badain, which is the area where the falls are located.
The bus will likely be bright yellow from the company “Ceres” and have the destination Bato on the front. Some have air-con; some don’t – we’ve experienced both, and the non-aircon wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The bus station staff and drivers are so friendly so ask anyone for help if you’re unsure.
Busses from Cebu to Kawasan Falls cost around 150 pesos with the earliest leaving at 5 am. This will mean that even if you take the first bus of the day, you will arrive around 9 am when the falls start to get busy. If you want a crowd-free experience, travelling from Cebu city to Kawasan falls isn’t the best option, instead, stay in Moalboal the night before.
KAWASAN FALLS ENTRANCE FEE 2023
The Kawasan Falls entrance fee in 2023 is 45 pesos for foreigners (approx. $1) and 20 pesos for locals. Canyoneering in Kawasan falls costs around 1500 pesos (approx. $30)
You will spot the entrance desk about halfway to the falls from where the bus drops you off. You will need to sign in with your name and nationality.
As well as the Kawasan Falls entrance fee we paid for life jacket hire which was 50 pesos per person. You could opt to swim without a life jacket, but as we explain in detail below, you will be restricted on where you can actually swim without one. We didn’t know if this fee was a money-making scheme or genuinely for public safety – perhaps both.
Before our visit, we were told of people being offered local guides for the remaining walk to the falls and a guide of the falls themselves however we were not offered this nor did we see other people with a guide either. Perhaps it’s seasonal or perhaps it’s only when an enterprising local chances their luck.
WHAT TO BRING TO KAWASAN FALLS
To make your swim stress free, we recommend you make sure to pack the following items. While the majority are actually available to buy from vendors at Kawasan falls, you’ll likely need these items anyway for your time in The Philippines.
Waterproof Phone Case
How else are ya gonna snap those #blessed photos?
We only had our flip flops and so wished we’d thought of getting a pair of these as some parts of Kawasan falls require a slippy hike.
Lightweight, packs up super small, and dries super quickly.
Super handy as not only does it keep your valuables dry but it’s great for keeping out sand/insects/dirt too.
Take your own (ideally reef friendly) as you’ll likely be overcharged at the falls.
Don’t forget cash, snacks (or we ate there), and a GoPro if you’re keen to do the Kawasan Falls canyoneering.
OUR EXPERIENCE OF KAWASAN FALLS
After paying the entrance fee and declining a vendor or 10 offering us everything from bottled water to selfie sticks, you’ll cross a bridge before arriving at the famous falls. You might spot that classic Kawasan falls blue colour first, or more likely the giant rainbow umbrellas from the surrounding café.
Despite arriving at 8:30am, we were both shocked and overjoyed when we approached Kawasan falls to find no one in them. We were also shocked that there is a lifeguard as well as roped off areas where you are not permitted to swim unless you are wearing a life jacket.
It’s also worth pointing out that whether you hire a life jacket at the office (where you pay the Kawasan falls entrance fee) or whether you hire it actually at the falls, all vendors charged the same price.
We worried we’d be ripped off buying nearer the falls, but this wasn’t the case. To swim under the waterfall, you have to wear them, despite how strong of a swimmer you are.
Before we went in, locals warned us that the falls are really cold and the life jackets are also to help if you in case you experience cramp due to the temperature. Being Scottish, we found them incredibly pleasant and not too cold at all.
To be fair, this may be the reason there were plenty of people at the falls but just us swimming – locals find them too cold in the early morning.
How to Reach The Other Kawasan Falls
When you exit the first of the Kawasan falls head to the steps on the left. These will quickly turn to a steep forest track which will bring you to a beautiful viewpoint of the falls from above.
Be extra careful if posing for photos here as there are many tree roots which make excellent trip hazards, not to mention your feet/you will likely be dripping wet from your waterfall swim turning the ground to mud.
The second waterfall had a cliff jump which explicitly said you were not allowed to jump unless you had a helmet or a guide. However, as we were there in the dry season the water was quite low, so it didn’t look the safest to jump off, even with a guide.
The water was equally stunning as the waterfall below, and there were natural waterslides formed in the rocks which looked amazing if you were taking part in the canyoneering in Kawasan falls.
There was also a second picnic area and numerous smaller waterfalls which all looked equally inviting to swim in.
Waterfall Number 3: The Dam
The vendor who we hired the life jackets from explained we could not miss waterfall three as not many people can be bothered to make the trek so it would be blissfully quiet. What he didn’t explain was that it was bloody hard work – especially before 9 am and without breakfast.
You will cross a small bamboo bridge (which I didn’t even attempt due to fear of falling off onto the rocks) instead I walked through the water. Following this, it is a tough climb to the third and final cascade – the dam.
I guess that’s why it’s the most rewarding as only the most determined make it. A further few rock paths and half a rainforest later you will come to the grand finale of the Kawasan falls.
There was a small group here canyoneering, and we admit, we were a tad jealous as they slid down the natural slides in the refreshing blue pools. We were also jealous of anyone who had previously shown us photos of the Kawasan falls earlier in the year when the dam was in full flow. Unfortunately, it was completely dry in our visit.
It was still a beautiful walk nonetheless, we met lots of friendly locals and enjoyed the nature of the area while it was still cool before the sunshine hit.
KAWASAN FALLS CANYONEERING
As we were staying in Panagsama beach in Moalboal, every few minutes someone tried to sell us a tour for canyoneering in Kawasan Waterfalls. To save money and because we didn’t fancy jumping off cliffs, we decided against it.
However, we met several people who had done it and loved it. They also said for those (like us) that don’t fancy big cliff jumps that there are routes where you won’t have to jump from a high height, so don’t let that put you off.
When we arrived at the falls, there were still crowds of guides trying to persuade us to buy a Kawasan Falls canyoneering tour. Admittedly, once we saw the canyoneering tours, we were a little jealous as there are so many natural waterslides and jumps which you’re only permitted to do with a guide.
Also, the guides we passed were so incredibly friendly and even gave us a few pointers although we were not part of a tour.
Book your Kawasan falls Canyoneering Tour here.
Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Top Tips
- Price – If you plan on canyoneering in Kawasan Falls the price varies depending on if your tour includes transport. Our friend paid around 1500 pesos which included transport from Moalboal to Kawasan falls. Other tours last up to 5 hours and are more expensive.
- Public Transport – If you’re getting public transport from Moalboal, remember to get off at the Kawasan Falls canyoneering stop which is a few miles BEFORE the actual waterfalls stop.
- Time of year – A few tips we did note about canyoneering in Kawasan falls was that during our visit the water was very low as it was the dry season. This may affect the tours, so if your heart is set on doing one, maybe plan your Kawasan falls visit at a better time of year than we did (we visited Moalboal in April.)
- Crowds – It’s also worth noting if you do canyoneering at Kawasan falls the grand finale is the falls themselves, so you will end there when it is much busier. Most tours start at the top around 8 am and you work your way down, ending in the falls later in the day.
Can I go to Kawasan Falls without canyoneering?
KAWASAN FALLS: INSTAGRAM VS REALITY
Before our visit, we had read and seen so much online which didn’t match up to reality. Below are a few truths to give you an honest insight to Kawasan Falls, which many others seem to have filtered out of photos and reviews.
Get There Early
Everyone will preach “get to Kawasan falls early” which is true, however, there’s no need to set the alarm for 5 am. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at 08:30 am, and no one was swimming. We may have been lucky, or people may be exaggerating.
We were completely alone in the falls for a good half an hour, with the odd local popping in now and again but getting out as they felt it was too cold. In all honesty, even when we left there was only around 20 people were swimming in the falls. As there was so much space and people coming in and out at different times, it never felt too crowded.
We can’t vouch this would be the case if you rock up at 2 pm on a weekend in July, but for a weekday during the dry season we found it pleasantly quiet.
Wear a Life Jacket
From all the Instagram photos or blog posts we’ve read no one is wearing a life jacket in the photos, yet such a huge portion of the falls is blocked off from swimmers unless you’re wearing one.
You will be unable to swim under the actual Kawasan waterfalls unless you wear a life jacket. By all means, remove them for a photo or two, but you will be unable to swim further than the entrance without one, which many people don’t share.
Take A Photo on a Bamboo Raft
Spoiler alert, you can’t. You may have seen photos online of people posing on a bamboo raft, the turquoise Kawasan Falls flowing in the distance but this is no longer possible.
The Bamboo rafts were, in fact, a ridiculous 500 pesos to rent, and the Badain government banned them as they felt it was ripping tourists off.
In all honesty, we preferred this, as we can’t imagine wrestling against the raft as you try and swim around them. We also think it actually looks better without them as there’s more space to swim and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Yes, They Do Run Dry
On the third section of Kawasan falls is the dam. After the first cascades, this is probably the most popular area you have seen photos of. In fact, friends of ours even said they had to queue to take a photo here.
However, as mentioned above when we visited Kawasan falls in April, there was no water flowing into the dam. There was still the striking blue coloured pool but it looked entirely different than we expected – although beautiful none the less.
You Need To Be Physically Fit
In none of the photos online will you see the red, sweaty faces or dirty hands and knees from the slips and slides on the way up to the falls. The climb up to the second and third falls is tough.
Bearing in mind you’re only equipped with swimwear and flip flops, we expected a short 15-minute jolly to the third and final fall. Instead, we experienced a steep rocky incline, slippy steps and as mentioned above, no water in the fall. Learn from our mistakes, take plenty of water and be prepared for a sweaty hike.
Also take your time, even if you want to “beat the crowds” there are limited barriers to hold on to when climbing from one waterfall to the next, not to mention the wobbly bamboo bridges to walk over so be careful. In the end, Lauren avoided them completely and walked through the water as it seemed safer.
Kawasan falls Behind The Scenes
Understandably, online you only ever see photos of the falls, so it can come as a surprise when you rock up to a fully organised tourist complex complete with cafés, picnic tables and lockers.
It’s far more leisure centre vibes than a natural oasis. You are restricted to which areas you can leave your bags unless you pay for a locker or place them near the tables. Also, the tables themselves are only available if you hire them for a ridiculous fee.
Where to Eat at Kawasan Falls
We read this advice over and over again, “pack a picnic”, “don’t buy food at the falls”, “the Kawasan cafes are a rip off” etc etc. However, we completely forgot to pack snacks and as we had travelled from Moalboal to Kawasan falls at 7 am we did not fancy breakfast before swimming.
We were pleasantly surprised after ignoring all that advice as not only was breakfast cheap, but the service was super friendly, and the food was delicious. We went to LRR café which was nearer the bus drop off than the falls themselves, however, we only paid 110 pesos for a traditional Filipino breakfast and that included coffee. The owner also let us refill our water bottles for free.
As we walked back to the bus, we also saw numerous vendors selling coconuts, homemade doughnuts and corn on the cob which was very reasonably priced. We were surprised at the value for money although cannot vouch for the cafés directly at the falls which maybe are more expensive.
We hope this guide to Kawasan falls guide gives you an honest insight and helps fill in the gaps of information that we couldn’t find ourselves online.
Whether you are travelling from Moalboal to Kawasan falls or making the journey from Cebu, we can say for sure that it is worth it as it was still a highlight from our Moalboal itinerary.
Like all tourist attractions take it with a pinch of salt, remember people only share the highlights online and not the full picture. With our guide, we hope to have shared the entire picture, and you make as epic memories at the Kawasan falls as we did.