If you’ve seen pictures of the neon blue water at Kawasan Falls, you’re probably eager to visit the beautiful falls in southern Cebu. The most common place for travelers to stay when visiting the falls is the seaside town of Moalboal. In this post we’ll cover how to head to Kawasan Falls, make the most of your visit, and get back without a tour and for less than $15.
While this isn’t the closest town to Kawasan Falls, it makes sense to stop here since it has a bus connecting it to Cebu City, and has a few other worthwhile things to see. Moalboal itself isn’t much of a destination, but an incredible sardine run just off the coast is as worth seeing as Kawasan Falls, and it’s only a 30 minute motorbike ride to the waterfall as well. Getting to Moalboal from Cebu is easy, just grab a taxi to the southern bus station, or take the cab driver up on his inevitable offer to drive you directly, likely for 2,000 pesos ($40 US). From the bus station to Moalboal takes about three hours on a local bus and costs 115 pesos ($2.30) without air conditioning, or 15 pesos more with.
Once you’re in Moalboal you can either rent a motorbike and enjoy the faster ride and freedom of being able to go where you want, or you can hire a tricycle to get you to the falls. Tricycle prices are very negotiable, so the guy who wanted 150 pesos to drive us 5km from the bus station to our guesthouse was the same guy who drove us from our guesthouse to Kawasan Falls and back for 300 pesos the next day (we made the trip by both tricycle, and motorbike the following day). The motorbike ride is easy enough, the roads are well paved and traffic isn’t bad outside of town.
Kawasan Falls is very popular, both with Filipinos and foreigners alike, and can get really busy. If you can avoid the weekends and visit in the early morning it will help you enjoy the relatively empty falls. You’ll start your walk to the falls from Saint Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, and walk around the right side. After a short walk along a clear river lined with palm trees you’ll be asked to pay 40 pesos per person to visit the falls. This is the only fee you’re required to pay during your visit!
The walk to the falls is 15-20 minutes, and you may be asked if you’d like someone to guide you. The path is clear and unmistakable, so you may save that money and continue onward. Kawasan Falls is made up of three tiers, with the lowest one being the busiest, the second tier a bit less so, and the top tier had only a few locals swimming and jumping from a cliff during the duration of our visit.
Your first view of Kawasan Falls will reveal the gorgeous blue color of the water, which is indeed as blue as it appears in all of the pictures. Locals offer to take visitors on bamboo rafts, which they pull along the pool by rope, and bring you right under the waterfall. The official rate for this trip is 300 pesos per raft, and they pull you about 10 meters, where you can pose for pictures and get pelted with water. On weekends locals told us the price per raft tends to jump to 1,000 pesos ($20) or more, and we preferred swimming in the pools over being pulled along after watching another couple on their raft.
Walking up toward the second tier, to your right there is a viewpoint over the waterfall which is pretty incredible. Just above that there are a few pools to swim in that remain pretty desolate throughout the day. At the second tier things get a bit more fun with a rope swing and a spot to jump off a seven meter high cliff.
If you’d like an even bigger pool with even less people to share with, head across the small bamboo bridge to the opposite side of the pool, and climb up an easy enough path for another five minutes until you reach a dam. Climbing the concrete steps on the right of the dam reveals a massive pool of beautifully blue water, a natural waterslide, a few small waterfalls, a ropeswing, and another cliff to jump from. The waterslide costs 10 pesos per person for unlimited rides, but looked a bit violent for our taste. Jumping off the cliff near the largest waterfall is free, and a nice seven meter drop to the blue water below.
Over the hour or so we were at the top tier of the falls we didn’t see another foreigner, only a few local kids practicing their flips off of the rope swing and daring each other to jump from the cliff. We had read that the top tier was hard to access, however in dry season when we visited we found it easy enough to walk in flip flops without worries.
Canyoning (or canyoneering) is a popular tour that is sold around Moalboal, and we must have seen two dozen shops on our way to and from the falls, all selling the same tour. For somewhere between 750 – 1600 pesos per person (we were offered the same trip within that huge price range by various people) you can jump off a few cliffs and swim through the falls. A few travelers we met really enjoyed the trip, however we’ve done a bit of canyoning and were trying to keep the cost down during this particular visit. If you are interested in canyoning you may try a few of the shops closer to the falls since that’s where we had the 750 per person offer.
Other Must See Attractions Nearby: The Sardine Run
On the west coast of Moalboal near Moalboal Backpacker Lodge is an incredible sardine run just off the coast. Skip taking the island hopping trip since only one of the four destinations is more than a hundred meters from the coast, and rent a mask and jump in where all of the boats are anchored! We made the mistake of taking an island hopping tour, and the only island we went to was surrounded by decently nice coral, very few fish, and tons of visitors. The other three destinations were meters off the coast, where we could have walked to faster than the boat took us.
One of the young men who crewed the boat we took (he was maybe 10 at the oldest) told us before we visited the sardines, “You can see either a million, or even a billion!” He was right, there were somewhere in the range of a billion sardines, more than either of us had seen in our lives, all swimming in a tight group just off the shore.
Jumping into the water, the sardines scattered in every direction, only to regroup and continue swimming past us. The sardine run looked like a freeway of fish, all swimming in a constant flow. Giant turtles swam by from time to time, but interacting with the sardines was by far the most interesting part of our visit. We’ve been scuba diving and snorkeling all over the world and have seen some pretty incredible sea life, and this experience ranked up there with the best of them for us.
The highest point on Cebu Island, Osmena Peak isn’t much of a hike, but the scenery is out of this world! At 3,323 feet, or just over 1,000 meters tall, Osmena Peak is surrounded by small peaks in every direction, reminding us of the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, but much more dramatic. For more information on this hike, check out our post here.