Kawasan Falls seems to inspire a marmite love it or hate it reaction in those who visit. We are firmly in the love it category. This guide will help make sure you are too by avoiding the crowds that put people off one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Cebu, if not the Philippines.
Most pictures you will have seen from Kawasan are taken on the first level but there are actually two more stunning areas to explore. Want to see one of the most beautiful waterfall in Cebu? Head to level one. When that gets too busy, head up to levels two and three which virtually no one visits (except a few canyoneers).
Many bloggers and Instagrammers will advise you not to visit Kawasan now it has become so popular, but we’d say you’d be missing out. It has become arguably the biggest Instagram spot in the Philippines so many people have turned against Kawasan Falls, like a rock band that became mainstream.
Don’t let this put you off. If you plan it right, you can have this stunning place virtually to yourself and trust us it will be magical.
What is Kawasan Falls?
Kawasan Falls is a stunning, three tier waterfall in the South of Cebu island. It became incredibly popular after a few instagrammers with a couple of million followers each showed it off to the world. Ever since it attracts international and local visitors by the hundreds each day.
However, you can still take in this magnificent waterfall with barely anyone else around. Here’s how.
How to avoid the crowds
Don’t go on a weekend
If there’s anything we’ve learned from travelling South-East Asia this time around is that domestic tourism has sky rocketed. This is very true in Cebu as a lot of Filipinos use the weekend to explore and jump into the many stunning waterfalls their gorgeous island is blessed with .
If you can, plan your trip to Kawasan for a weekday as this tends to be a lot quieter. However, if you have no choice, you can always follow tip two.
Arrive as early as you can
The early bird catches the worm and in Kawasan you will be rewarded for arriving early. You can enter at any time, so don’t worry about the potential for not getting in.
However, don’t expect to literally be the only one there. We arrived at 6am on a Monday and still found four others there! Not a problem as the falls are huge, but it is one of the few places we’ve been to at sunrise and seen other people.
If you can’t face sunrise, then you should be ok before 10am. There will be people there (about 20-30 on our visit), but it wasn’t exactly a huge crowd. Those come later!
How to plan your trip to Kawasan
Head to level 1 first
To most visitors, Kawasan Falls is only level one. It is by far the most popular part and for good reason. This is the iconic and beautiful spot with the huge blue pool and stunning waterfall surrounded by trees.
What you won’t see in photos is the concrete paths and restaurant just behind the blue pool. They are quite unsightly but I found when facing the falls I could forget about them entirely and just enjoy the moment.
The bamboo raft seen in the most popular Instagram shots is still there, but tethered to the left of the falls rather than the right as it used to be. We don’t think you can get quite as good a photo now but not quite as good is still pretty epic when you’re talking about Kawasan. Be careful getting down on to the raft as it is quite slippery.
The funniest thing we saw were people dressed up in swimwear, getting a shot on the bamboo raft and then leaving! Level one of Kawasan Falls is a great place for a dip. The water is cool but not cold (perfect on a hot day) and there’s so much space.
If you are here early you will be there before the life guards turn up and can actually swim underneath the falls without a life jacket. As soon as they arrive if you slip under the ropes close to the cascade you will be shouted back and ordered to wear a life jacket (it goes without saying if you aren’t a swimmer then don’t go near the falls without a life jacket as people have died in falls and lakes around the Philippines in this way.).
In the pursuit of the perfect shot you can overlook why this is such a famous spot in the first place. It’s beautiful, don’t miss out on such an amazing swimming pool, we fell in love and spent a few hours in it before it got too busy for us.
Head up to level three
Once you’ve had enough of the first level (or there’s too many people), head to the left of the falls and up the small staircase. About halfway up is a open area to the right which overlooks the falls. Its a great spot to see the deep blue pool and the falls from above.
Level two will look tempting but this was quiet the whole time we were at Kawasan whereas level three had more people as it is where many of the canyoneers end their trip.
From level two the third falls are a 10-15 minute jungle walk away, across a bamboo bridge before getting to a small pool to cross before heading up some concrete steps.
You can do it in flip flops but bare feet would be tough on your soles. The route is uneven with a few steps and tree roots but nothing too challenging.
Take in the epic view of the dam
At the top of the steps you should take five minutes to absorb one of our favourite views (and one of the most instagrammable places in the Philippines after heavy rain) - the dam at level three.
There is a deep pool of stunning blue water fringed by trees and jungle. The view to the left of this spot is actually not very nice as it is all concrete but the view to the right is lovely.
It had been a really dry time in Cebu, so there wasn’t much flow over the dam, but after some rain the dam becomes a semi-waterfall. You can walk along the edge, dive in or just take in the view. Whilst most people rush on, we stopped here for a while in blissful peace.
You can then either walk a little further to reach the other side of the pool and the tarzan swing or swim across.
Read next: The stunning Kayangan Lake in Coron and the epic Twin Lagoons - one of our favourite swimming spots
Try your hand at cliff diving or the tarzan swing
The furthest point you can walk to is the third set of falls. After this you’d need to do a canyoneering tour to see further up river.
There’s a small waterfall, but the most popular thing here is the huge cliff jump or the slightly more sedate rope swing.
There were a few people around but there is plenty of space to swim or take in the beautiful surroundings. There is a platform and sheltered seats to chill if you wanted a break from the water.
Read next: All the best things to do in Coron
Head down to level two
If you haven’t had enough, then head down to level two. The falls here are small, but more impressive than level three and there are many quiet pools away from any crowds.
This area was almost entirely empty, even in the middle of the day. The area is largely shaded so you could spend the rest of the day relaxing here if you wanted. There is also some seating around the largest pool.
Even the entry is bliss!
In the hunt of getting to the main falls, many people ignore the beautiful river that runs all the way along the path to Kawasan Falls. There are some really nice swimming spots which are just off the main path like this one.
Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls
Most people visiting Kawasan are interesting in the canyoneering and though we didn’t do it ourselves we did pick up a few tips along the way. There are many companies offering the experience both from the nearby town of Moalboal and also all along the road on the lead up to the falls. Prices are cheaper at the closer areas, we were approached by people offering us the full experience for just 1000 pesos per person (just over US $19).
We spoke to many people and everyone really enjoyed the experience, they also said there were regularly lower jumps and easier routes to take if you don’t want to do any huge jumps. Lots of the wilder looking Instagram photos of Kawasan are all taken during canyoneering expeditions.
Getting to Kawasan Falls
The easiest way to get to Kawasan Falls is with your own motorbike. You can hire one in Moalboal for 300 pesos per day ($6 USD) and it is a 30-40 minute ride to the falls along a paved road. The junction is a really abrupt turning off the main road just before a corner. Be prepared to stop suddenly!
We’ve marked it on the map, but keep your eyes open for the turning on the left after lots of canyoneering shops.
Then you either park your bike at the entrance or convince them to let you go further!
The Ceres buses (the bright yellow ones) operate all the way around along the circumferential road. This means you can go just about everywhere that’s along the main road as there are buses that go from Cebu City to Bato via Oslob (on the east coast) and from Cebu City to Bato via Barili (on the west coast).
The buses are a pretty informal affair, so they’ll stop just about anywhere you want them to. This makes hopping out at Kawasan Falls (which is a short walk from the road) really simple. The majority of Ceres Buses don’t have air conditioning and rely on open windows.
From Cebu City to Kawasan Falls by bus
Cebu City is the furthest away from Kawasan Falls, so be prepared for a long long journey. The buses will tell you that it will take 1.5 - 2 hours to get from Cebu City to Kawasan Falls, but the truth is that it can easily take double this during rush hour and the middle of the day. We recommend leaving really early to have any chance of having a journey time of 2 hours.
To get to Kawasan, go to the Southern Bus Terminal and hop on one of the many buses that are going to Bato via Barili (check that it’s Barili as otherwise going via Oslob will take much much longer). The bus costs 150 pesos ($3 USD).
As this is a long journey (and you are often at a standstill in traffic) we recommend waiting for an air conditioned bus. When it is hot, the non-AC buses can be a really uncomfortable and sweaty affair, trust us we learnt from experience.
From Moalboal to Kawasan Falls by bus
The Ceres Buses only run on the main road, so if you’re staying at Panagsama Beach you will need to get a tricycle to the main road. From here, wave down a bus heading towards Bato and hop off at Kawasan Falls. You may want to ask the driver to let you know where this is as it isn’t the most obvious of stops. Keep an eye out for all the canyoneering signs.
The bus should take just under an hour from Moalboal as there isn’t much traffic on this stretch of road. The ticket will only cost 40 pesos (76c USD) per person.
From Oslob to Kawasan Falls by bus
Getting from Oslob to Kawasan Falls is a little trickier than everywhere else as you will need to take two buses. Hop on the buses heading to Bato where it will terminate. Then you’ll have to hop on a bus towards Cebu City. You shouldn’t be waiting too long as the Ceres Buses seem to run every 10 minutes.
So long as you don’t have a long wait, the journey by bus should take just under 2 hours. However, the change of buses and traffic could make this journey longer.
Entrance Fee for Kawasan Falls
Even if you turn up at 6am, there will be someone there to charge you! The cost to enter is 50 pesos per person ($1 USD) and 10 pesos to park your motorbike (20c USD).
Packing List for Kawasan
An essential that we take to every waterfall. A good dry bag will mean you can take your money, phone and camera to Kawasan without water damage.
The best way getting shots at Kawasan without having to worry about your camera getting wet! The Hero5 Black takes 12 megapixel photos and 4k video.
Sun screen is essential in the Philippines, but bringing some that won’t damage the environment is as well.
The perfect drone for beginners: dead easy to use, great quality photos and video and the cheapest DJI drone on the market. There’s no better excuse than getting awesome shots of Kawasan to invest in your first drone.
Or you can read more on our blog all about the best drones to buy for travel.
Where to stay in Moalboal
D Gecko has everything you need for a trip to Moalboal, comfy rooms, space and a location right in the middle of the restaurants and by the beach. You can literally hire the cheapest scooters in town right next door to the hotel! It is a little on the pricey side for what it is, but the majority of the time we found it to be quiet and a good place to sleep.
However, be aware that this isn’t a good place to stay on Fridays when the beach party is on (although we aren’t sure there is anywhere that doesn’t get the full brunt on the music). The music is loud and echoes through the corridors until 3am, making you feel like you’re in the middle of the party!
Where to stay in Oslob
Melronz Inn - Oslob
Currently one of the best reviewed guest house in Oslob is Melronz Inn. The rooms look decent if basic and the views look great.
Where to stay in Cebu City
Best Western Plus Lex
The Best Western is a little haven of quietness and comfort in the middle of this busy and noisy city. The rooms aren’t huge, but the beds are perfect to sink into and the showers have the best pressure in the whole of Cebu (something you’ll struggle with for the whole trip!).
It is conveniently close to places to eat and a great hotel to rest up in after a long journey. It is a little more expensive than some of the mid-range options in town, but much better value. We managed to snag a last minute deal online so it’s definitely worth checking.
Our Camera Gear
Our brand of choice for camera gear has been Canon for many years and we love their L-Series lenses. Whilst they are heavier than some other brands, the image results are worth the additional weight. Weâ€™ve also used a few drones in our time (check out our guide to which drone to buy here) but currently own a DJI Mavic Pro.
Here’s the camera gear we use the most:
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Are you planning a trip to Kawasan Falls? Have you been and what did you think? Let us know in the comments below!