Kawasan Falls: See It or Skip It?
I’ve been guilty of planning some of our trips based on photos I’ve seen on Instagram. Who needs a guide book when you can just flip through thousands of beautiful photos on the app and in an instant, be compelled to see it in person. On our recent trip to the Philippines, that is exactly what happened. I’ve seen too many photos of this stunning waterfall that it ultimately charmed its way into our itinerary. After a 2-night stay in Palawan, we excitedly booked a flight to Cebu to check out this famous Instagram waterfall.
Thoughts on Cebu…
After a relaxing stay in Palawan, I was completely blindsided with Cebu (Cebu City, to be exact). The traffic, the pollution, the crowd – it reminded me a lot of Manila (not a good thing btw). It was hard to get around because of the congestion so we didn’t even bother leaving our hotel.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely not generalizing Cebu. I’m sure there’s plenty of beautiful islands outside the city that are worth visiting. I just wish we knew better than to stay at the city center. The night before our trip to Badian and Oslob, I was feeling a bit under the weather. James and I were going back and forth, trying to figure out if we should still take a trip to Oslob to see the whale sharks. I was already having second thoughts about it due to the controversy surrounding the tourist attraction. Hoping to get some rest before our trip to Bohol, we decided to forego our trip to Oslob. Instead, we focused on getting to the falls.
traveling to kawasan falls:
The falls is located in Badian, approximately 3 hours away from Cebu City. After contacting a few rental car companies, we figured it was cheaper if we do it on our own. I don’t exactly know how I was able to do it, but I convinced my husband to take a chance on my public transportation skills (I’m not sure if I had any at the time), and take a bus to some town we’ve never been before. I quickly researched the routes and fares and finally, came up with a plan.
Equipped with information I got the night before, we made our way to the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Surprisingly, the bus we took was well maintained and clean. The wifi was working rather well too! The only downside was the travel time. It took us almost 4 1/2 hours to get there and that includes the bathroom breaks and picking up/dropping off passengers.
- If you’re not familiar with Cebu City, you can always take a taxi for convenience. Taxi fare: Php 75/$1.63.
- There are three bus companies that take the same route to Badian. We chose to go with Ceres Bus (located at terminal 10) for convenience and comfort – A/C, tv and free wifi. Bus fare: Php 147/$3.19 per person.
- Make sure you take the bus bound for BATO via BARILI not BATO via OSLOB. The bus bound for Oslob will take you on the eastern side. While the bus bound for Barili will take you on the western side where Badian/Kawasan Falls is located.
- Don’t forget to bring cash!
- To be sure, let the conductor know that you’re headed to Kawasan Falls just in case you fall asleep or don’t know where to get off. The stop should be at Matutinao Badian Church. You will see a large sign right next to the bus stop near the church.
traveling back to cebu city:
We waited at the bus stop for about 30 minutes, before finally getting on a bus bound for Cebu City. Unlike the trip to the falls where we had several bus companies to choose from, the trip back was one of our worst travel experiences ever. Since it was getting late (we left the waterfalls at around 3 pm) and our bus choices were slim to none, we ended up with an open, non A/C bus back to the city.
For the most part, we didn’t mind that there was no A/C even though it was hot and humid. The two things that bothered us the most were the pollution and traffic! Imagine sitting in traffic for almost 4 hours, windows open and inhaling smog from every vehicle on the road. By the time we got back to our hotel our head was throbbing with pain, most likely from the air pollutants we were forced to inhale and endure for 4 hours. I seriously felt like I smoked 2 packs of cigarette – that’s how tight my lungs felt. I don’t know how the locals do it everyday. It’s so bad for their health! 🙁
What to expect?
Right when we got off the bus, we were immediately swarmed with locals rendering their services to us. We politely declined and proceeded to walk the 25-30 minute trail towards the falls. The road is not well-paved and with my flip flops clinging on for dear life, it made me wish I wore my water shoes instead. The walk to the falls was scenic and quiet. We passed by a village and a few small bridges before finally catching a glimpse of the cascading falls. It was even more beautiful in person! But my excitement faded quickly after seeing several man-made structures right next to the waterfalls. I turned to James, asking if we were in the right place.
This was a classic example of “travel expectations vs reality”. Gone were the images of a tranquil waterfall in the middle of a jungle. All I could see was a hotel, restaurant and a store seemingly out of place in this beautiful setting.
Image via Flickr
Image via Flickr
Hidden Gem or Tourist Trap?
As we inched closer to the waterfall, a few people approached us asking if we needed a guide or a table to put our things while we swim. I then realized that everything here has a price – table (Php 300), bamboo raft (Php 300), food (varies), life vest (Php 50), changing room (Php 10), etc. We couldn’t figure out where to have lunch so we ended up renting a table and since I had to change to my bathing suit, I was charged yet again to use their facilities. Now, I’m not knocking down anyone’s opportunity to make a living. I just wish that they didn’t charge for every single thing.
As for the waterfall itself, well, it is absolutely stunning. There’s no arguing that. I tried to ignore the noise around me and took a quick dip into the turquoise pool. It was refreshing despite being cold. After a few minutes of treading in the water, I sat on one of their bamboo rafts, hoping to recreate THAT Instagram shot. It was nearly impossible to get an alone time with the falls but I finally did it! We only stayed for an hour or so before heading back to the bus stop.
Although the waterfall is gorgeous, the atmosphere kind of ruined the experience for me. Because of the proximity of the structures, the noise was a bit overwhelming. I really wish they didn’t build so close to it, making it seem like a waterpark. Should you see ir or skip it? It depends. If you solely focus on the fact that the waterfall is beautiful then you should definitely see it! But if you’re looking for a relaxing swim then this isn’t for you and you should probably skip it.