I grew up in Naga City, but I never knew that there was a very nice waterfall circuit just in my own backyard. Most Naguenos are probably familiar with Malabsay and Nabontolan Falls accessible via Panicuason in Naga City, located on the East slope of Mt. Isarog.
But apparently there are also eight pristine waterfalls shrouded by a triple-canopy forest in the Pili section of Mt. Isarog National Park (MINP). The site, surrounded by farming communities and some historical points of interest (including a Japanese memorial and wartime tunnels) is currently being eyed as a potential eco-tourism trail. And boy, does it have potential!
It took our group less than an hour by van to get from Eurotel in Naga CIty to Pili, the capital of the province of Camarines Sur. The jump-off point for the waterfalls circuit is in the barangay of Curry (pronounced Koory).
Since it rained the previous night, the rough road going in was a bit slippery, so our driver had to park at a clearing before the road became too steep. From there it was a 5-minute walk to a small waiting shed where we signed a logbook and met up with the local guides.
They guides told us that the trek to the last falls was only 45 minutes “kung mabilis kayo.” Based on my experience of hiking estimates for a group (with lots of photo stops), this usually means 1.5 to 2 hours, which isn’t that bad.
We first passed a river crossing where there was a partially hidden cove to the left where 3 small cascades converged into a shallow basin. We didn’t stop to swim on the way up but we swam here on our way back. The water pressure felt really great on my back and head.
From here, the guides directed us to climb up the tree roots and vertical face leading up the trail. This is probably the trickiest portion of the trail, but it’s easy enough if you’ve had some wall-climbing experience.
The rest of the trail was uphill, but not too difficult. Even in some portions where the trail was very narrow, there were lots of branches and rocks to hold on to.
After hiking a bit more, we passed another smallish waterfall leading to an enclosed pool. Our guide pointed out that there was a tiny cave to the left of the falls that swimmers could enter.
We continued our trek, wading through serene riverbeds, clambering over mossy rocks and passing through Skyrim-like forest scenery, eventually passing another smallish waterfall that ended in a shallow basin.
I’m not sure what the individual names of the first three falls we passed, but the next cascade we encountered was called Twin Falls. It was a relatively small cascade that forked into two because of the rock formations. With all the hanging vines and lush vegetation all around, this looked really pretty. It wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy film with fairies flying around.
It was nearing noon by the time we arrived at Slide Falls where we stopped for an early lunch and to take a dip. This one cascaded down from a smooth rock surface resembling a steep slide. The Naga Excursions group had actually tried rappelling down the falls during an earlier trip to scout out the area. I haven’t tried canyoneering yet, but would love to try it one of these days. From above you can see how clear the water at the basin of the falls is.
After lunch, we took a dip in the basin by the falls. The water was ice-cold, but after submerging fully it felt really refreshing. The water near the rocks was pretty shallow, but suddenly becomes deep, so I didn’t venture near the actual falls. You can actually jump from the rocks above into the deep part of the pool, which is about 20 feet deep.
Photo by Estan / Langyaw
With Christine / JovialWanderer. Photo by Shawn.
From Slide Falls, it was another 10-15 minute trek to Shower Falls. The gorgeous narrow waterfall cascades down from a towering cliff shrouded in leaves and vegetation. The water here trickles into a soft shower into an enclosed pool. There’s a small set of stairs carved into the rocks to the left side of the falls that you can swim to if you want.
A large log was stretched out right in front of the falls giving us a front seat to the gorgeous scenery. It was really relaxing to just sit amidst the serene surroundings and watch the water cascading from above. I ended up lying down on the log to try and take a short nap, thankful that beautiful places like this exist in the world.
The light drizzle threatened to turn into full on downpour, so we decided to make our way back on the advice of the guides, who said that the trails could be treacherous in the rain.
The hike back down from Shower Falls was shorter (about 30-45 mins) since it was all downhill with minimal stops. There’s apparently an easier trail with bamboo railings in some of the steeper areas for those who don’t want to cross through the riverbeds and pass by the other falls. I’d recommend you pass the scenic route going up though.
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- There is currently no entrance fee to visit the waterfalls.
- Most locals just go directly to the place since they know it already, but tourists are advised to pass by the Municipal Hall in Pili to hire a local guide.
- If you’re in a group, it’s recommended you have your own vehicle to get to the jump off point.
- If you’re an experienced hiker, you can visit most of the falls on a half-day trip from Naga City.
- Allot about 5-7 hours for the trip if you want to maximize photography, go swimming in the different falls, and visit all of the waterfalls. We weren’t able to go to all.
- To maximize photography, bring a wide lens and a tripod. A waterproof or underwater camera would also be very useful.
- Bring a dry bag or plastic bags to secure your gadgets in case it rains.
- Expect to get wet. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet like rashguards or dri-fit stuff. Bring a towel & extra clothes if you want to change for the ride back.
- The trails can be a bit slippery, so wear secure footwear like outdoor sandals with straps and not ordinary slippers.
- Bring alcohol or spray for limatik (leeches).
- There’s a bathroom and wash area at the jump off point (waiting shed).
- Bring your own bottled water & snacks for the trip.
- Leave nothing but footprints!