Spring Break in The Philippines–Pagsanjan Falls

My daughter and I recently met my husband in The Philippines during her spring break.  The other day, I wrote about our first excursion to Ta’al Volcano and riding those crazy, tiny horses.  You can read all about it here.

On the second day, we drove about 2 hours from our hotel in Alabang to Pagsanjan.

image from https://www.pagsanjanfalls.ph/tourist-spots/

Once there we hired a canoe, called a banca, with 2 oarsmen and set off on the hour-long ride up the river.  The first twenty minutes or so we were tethered to a small boat with a motor and pulled upstream.

There were some lovely views along this part of the river.


The river is a famous tourist spot, and many resorts are located on the river’s edge.

Once the water was too rocky and shallow, the oarsmen took over.  All of the oarsmen on the river are required to take about 6 months of training to become certified to do this work.  It’s really no joke.


In some parts of the river, the water was even too shallow to paddle, or the section was too narrow to allow safe passage, so they would get out of the boats, and pull and push the canoe until we were through.  In some areas there were logs set up between rocks that operated kind of like rollers, so the guys could get us up the river.  These guys were working HARD.

The scenery along the way was incredible.

I heard that portions of “Apocalypse Now” were filmed along this river.

We were there in the spring, before the rainy season, so there were only a few waterfalls to be seen along the ride.  During rainy season, there are about 20 waterfalls.  But, you’re not guaranteed to get to the main Falls during that time depending on how high the river is, and how fast the rapids are running.

You can see how they hop out and use their feet to propel us up the river.

There were many canoes making the journey the day we were there.  In looking at the pictures, it seems like A LOT of boats.  But I really never even noticed them until we got to the falls.  Once at the falls, we got on this little raft.  When I say ‘we’, I mean the two of us and about 25 of our closest friends.  It was hilarious and a little freaky.  We got on the raft with a bunch of Korean tourists, and one of them reach behind her to grab my arms to wrap them around her waist.  They were all laughing and by the time we all got on, the raft was underwater.  It was super off the books.

To get to the falls, another guide holds onto the rope, and literally pulls the raft and everyone up to and through the falls.  I don’t know how he did that with the raft somewhat submerged.  Anyway, the water was COLD, and that waterfall was no joke.  They made us wear hard hats for a reason.  Behind the waterfall is kind of an echo chamber with a little grotto.

Can you believe there were about 25 of us on this raft?  And what am I doing with my foot?  It’s a common theme you’ll notice…..

The falls are a lot higher than you can see here.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a water-proof camera with me, but here is another view I found online.

Image from http://www.philippinetrails.com

The real fun is going back down the river.  Since the river level wasn’t so high, it was a pretty tame ride comparatively.  It was really fun to watch the guides navigate the rocks.  Click on the link to see live action  IMG_4969

I have to say that I was a little leery of taking this trip at first.  It seemed like a long way, and I wasn’t sure how comfortable it was going to be with Chloe basically sitting in my lap the whole way.  Plus it looked like rain the whole drive up there.  But, this was probably one of the most unique river trips I’ve ever taken, and one of my favorite days in the Philippines.  It was ‘spendy’ as my husband likes to say, but well worth the time and expense.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the trip to Pagsanjan Falls.  Next time I’ll share with you our trip to Busuanga Island and Coron.  It was a totally different experience and one I’ll never forget.

Thanks for stopping by!

Joan