Kawasan Falls in the Philippines is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of breathtaking waterfalls!
What’s so special about Kawasan Falls? It’s special because the water is bright turquoise! Imagine a waterfall made of blue gatorade and you’re not far off. Canada has plenty of stunning blue lakes (like Moraine Lake), but I’d never seen a turquoise waterfall before!
There are literally hundreds of waterfalls in the Philippines, but this is one of the few that I’m aware of with this spectacular coloured water.
Naturally when we found ourselves with plane tickets to Cebu, this was the first place on the itinerary.
Want to come back and read this later? Why not pin it!
- Cost of admission: 45 pesos for tourists, 20 for locals
- Distance: 1-2km
- Difficulty: Easy, flat and paved
- Parking: Yes, 50 pesos
- Closest major town: Moalboal (check for hotels and rates)
- Closest Hotel: Matutinao Beach & Cottages (check for availability)
- Distance from airport: 125km, 3-4hours
Getting to Kawasan Falls:
Kawasan Falls is roughly a 3-4 hour drive from Mactan-Cebu International Airport (125km). It’s not a very far distance, but the road is extremely windy and busy. You’re not going to be breaking any land speed records getting there.
When we visited, we landed at Cebu Airport at 1am, and decided that we wanted to rent a car to drive ourselves to our hotel right next to Kawasan Falls (see below for our hotel recommendations). This meant driving through the night and arriving around 4am!
Quick tip for navigating
GPS is your friend for navigation through the Philippines, and I highly recommend downloading offline maps for as much of the island as you can before you arrive. There are plenty of dark spots on the island and if your phone craps out on you then you might be stuck!
Walking in to Kawasan Falls
No vehicle access
After just a couple of hours sleep in our hotel, Louise and I decided to get up early for sunrise and try and be the first people to Kawasan. Most people stay a couple of towns over in Moalboal and take a tour over, so we knew we had a rare advantage to get there first.
Worried that we were running late, we dashed out of our hotel, plugged the Kawasan into google maps, jumped into the car and sped to turnoff across the road.
We managed to get about 10ft from our hotel before some chuckling locals stopped us…. “Sorry, no vehicles past this point. You have to walk from here”.
Apparently our hotel was literally as close as you can get to the falls in a vehicle, even though our GPS took us right to the falls. Unfortunately, you have to walk the last couple of km on foot!
(If you’ve driven yourself, it’s 50 pesos to leave your vehicle in the parking lot.)
We turned around, drove the 10ft back to our hotel, parked and set out again on foot!
The walk to Kawasan Falls
Once we’d parked the car, we followed the signs upstream towards the waterfall.
Almost immediately, you’ll reach a ticket booth where you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. For foreigners, the fee is 45 pesos (updated for 2019). If you’re local then it’s only 20. Cash only!
Once you’re through the ticket barrier, it’s a peaceful, relatively flat and paved 15-20 minute walk along the river. You’ll pass several stands selling drybags, food, drinks and other paraphernalia, cross a couple of bridges and will eventually reach the stunning Kawasan Falls!
If this doesn’t make your jaw drop, nothing will. Ahead of you, you’ll see some of the bluest water on the planet cascading down a 40ft waterfall into a stunning turquoise pool below.
Then you’ll notice the dozens of picnic tables, lockers, lifevests, and several snack stands. Uh oh, I think we’ve just walked into a tourist trap!
Sadly Kawasan Falls is very much a tourist trap on Cebu. The guys working there are ready for you, even if you get there extremely early. Everything costs money, including even sitting at one of the picnic benches or sitting on the wooden raft in the water.
No sooner had we arrived, were we approached by several locals offering us canyoneering tours. It’s very hard to be a tourist just wanting to “look around” here. Having said that, on any other day the canyoneering tour could have been a lot of fun. Some of the cliff jumps on offer were absolutely spectacular.
Fortunately, we’d arrived first for the day, and none of the main tour groups had arrived yet. We took a couple of photos at the main Kawasan Falls and decided we’d explore and head to the upper waterfall. I don’t think these upper falls are as popular or that many people even know about them, so we were quickly able to ditch the hawkers and the other few people that had wandered in since our arrival.
We passed a couple of locals washing their clothes in the river and the cynic in me couldn’t help wondering if there was a whole army washing their socks upstream, and that that was the real reason the water was the colour of dishsoap!
After the main waterfall, you’ll hit another stunning waterfall and another chance to take a ride on a bamboo raft. We stopped here briefly, but decided to carry on up to the dam at the top and stay ahead of the crowds.
Upper Kawasan waterfall/ The Dam
This top waterfall is just a short walk upstream from the middle one. A beautiful dark green, man made pool with crystal clear water.
It’s a very easy walk, unless, like me, one of your flipflops is broken, in which case the uneven ground is extremely challenging to walk on.
Once we’d had our fill at the upper falls, we headed back to the main falls where it was quite clear that the first groups had arrived for the day. There was now a sea of high visibility life vests and bodies splashing about and the peace and tranquility we’d arrived to was long gone.
Time to get breakfast.
Overall, this waterfall is one in a million and should absolutely not be missed. With that being said, it’s one of the major tourist attractions on Cebu, so it gets extremely busy very quickly. We found sunrise to be a good time to get a few minutes in before anyone else arrived.
My hunch is that the majority of the traffic comes from tour groups, as most tourists aren’t willing to drive themselves in the Philippines. Most tours get underway at the beginning of the day, so you may have more luck with crowds if you visit later in the day.
Where to stay?
If you want to stay as close as physically possible to Kawasan Falls, then we recommend our lovely, but basic beachfront hotel, Matutinao Beach and Cottages. No aircon, but the perfect place to stay if you want to get to Kawasan Falls early.
Otherwise, if you’d prefer to stay closer to a major town, then Moalboal is a good option (check link for rates and availability). There are a few restaurants in Moalboal, and as our hotel was quite remote, we came here each night to eat. Moalboal is also one of the only places in the world where you can see enormous sardine shoals. If you’re a scuba diver, then you should definitely add this to your route!
Driving in the Philippines
Driving isn’t particularly difficult on most of the Philippine islands, as many of the roads are single lane and slow.
The hardest part about driving is avoiding constant hazards in the road. That means kids playing, stray dogs, chickens, slow moving taxis, jeepneys etc. You must be comfortable overtaking very frequently, as many of the vehicles on the road aren’t very powerful and just plod along at a snail’s pace.
Driving is also a very noisy business, as literally overtaking anything or anyone for any reason is typically accompanied by a honk on the horn. If you’re planning to drive, I’d recommend picking up this habit as it’s considered courteous, especially at night when people are wandering in the dark. Just a little toot is perfect.
Driving at Night in the Philippines
We drove to Kawasan at night, so there were a whole new set of hazards at night that weren’t present during the day.
The roads are littered with stray dogs trying to keep warm on the asphalt at night. Be prepared to be swerving around dogs the entire way.
Don’t drive too fast, honk your horn when you see dogs, and don’t swerve. They know well enough to get out of your way if you let them know you’re coming.
If you’re coming from the airport, I also recommend filling your tank before you leave Cebu. One tank (if you’re in a car) is probably enough to get you everywhere you need to go and there are very few gas stations around the island. If you’re in a scooter, look for glass bottles at the side of the road. These are bottles of petrol that you can buy and are the typical way of selling to scooter riders in Southeast Asia.
Final tip! Fast Food!
If you want to grab some food before your 3 hour journey, Jollibee is a great local fast food spot that tends to be open very late at night. We grabbed some before our journey. The Philippines loves its fried chicken and spaghetti, and you can find both of those at Jollibee!