Daranak and Batlag Falls: An Oasis Near Manila

The Philippines is an incredible country. The archipelago is made up of over 7000 islands lined with pristine beaches, rolling mountains, rice fields and diverse culture. However, having 7000 islands to explore can be overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re stuck in Manila!

The good news is… There’s plenty of things to see close to Manila. It’s relatively easy to escape the urban jungle for the day or weekend and experience lush nature, waterfalls, beaches and rolling mountains.

It’s ‘summer’ in Manila and it’s scorching hot. Even more so than usual (it’s always hot here!). We were desperate for a refreshing swim and were sick of chlorine pools that are almost luke-warm from the relentless sun. We craved something more, something that would be truly refreshing. After buying a new motorbike a week ago, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to cruise out of the city and escape the gridlocked traffic, pollution and heat.

Enjoying the fresh surroundings and getting out of the city for the day!
Enjoying the fresh surroundings and getting out of the city for the day!

Well ‘cruise’ is probably the wrong word for the first part of our journey as we ground our way through the chaotic Manila traffic. We headed from the south of the city north along C5 Road before exiting at Ortigas Avenue. We then made our way out-of-town enjoying sporadic bursts of free-flowing traffic, interrupted by market traffic, buses and Jeepneys! Eventually we climbed the mountain up to Antipolo before descending down its back, gliding above the green pastures and Laguna Bay in the distance. We followed Manila East Road which is the main road that runs along Laguna Bay.

Stretching our legs on q quick rest stop near Antipolo.
Stretching our legs at a rest stop near Antipolo.

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We used ‘Waze’ GPS app which is remarkably accurate in Manila. All Uber and Grab drivers use it so, you get real-time notifications on traffic, police, accidents and more. With the voice of Waze in my ear, we navigated our way down the mountain range and out towards Tanay. We stopped once at Jolibee in Teresa for a feed of ‘Chicken Joy’ and a much-needed cool drink and shortly after, we started to see signs posted on the trees indicating ‘Daranak Falls’ straight ahead. Including our stop, the trip took 2 hours and 10 minutes via motorbike.

One hour into the trip! Feeling hot and need a swim!
One hour into the trip! Feeling hot and need a swim!

We finally reached Tanay at about 10.30 am. The turnoff to the falls is a small road that takes you through a local village before turning to dirt. Now, on a motorbike, you can ride all the way down the road to the entrance and park in the bike parking area which is directly in front of the ticket booth… Easy!

The motorbike parking area, right near the entrance to the park! Very handy!
The motorbike parking area, right near the entrance to the park! Very handy!

However, If you take a car, it’s an entirely different story. The road is narrow and crowded. Cars park on both sides of the road and parking space is a precious commodity. Navigating past the trikes on the steep slope and dodging large crevasses on the unpaved road can be challenging!

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Crossing the bridge at the entrance to the falls.

The attendants will guide you where to park and we saw some people having to park a LONG way from the entrance, all the way up the top of the hill. If going by car I would suggest having a driver drop you off or park in nearby Tanay at the Tanay Market Public Transport Terminal and get a trike to the falls (200 pesos per trip – max 4 people).

The entrance to Daranak Falls
The entrance to Daranak Falls

Once we parked our bike, we made our way to the entrance where you need to queue to pay the 50 peso (pp) entrance fee for Daranak Falls. As we crossed the long wooden bridge, we could see the Danarak River and swimming holes below. The river is quite wide which allows for plenty of swimming room if you picnic on the River Banks.

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Swimming holes in the Dranak River
Swimming holes near the Daranak River

After making our way through the public area of huts, BBQs and stalls, we finally made it up to Daranak Falls. It’s quite a large waterfall that cascades into a large swimming hole of bright blue water. The falls are beautiful but were incredibly crowded. We struggled to find standing room on a rock where we looked down at the mass of bodies bobbing and splashing around the liquid blue in their inflated tire tubes. Quite simply, it was too crowded and there was nowhere to even leave our things. Every bit of rock, tree, or grass real estate was occupied.

The beautiful - but overcrowded - Daranak Falls
The beautiful – but overcrowded – Daranak Falls

However… Luckily there’s Batlag Falls. Batlag is only a 5 – 10 minute walk from Daranak. You need to pay another entrance fee of 100 pesos to go up to Batlag but, it’s definitely worth it! The extra cost seems to deter people which means the falls aren’t nearly as crowded as Daranak. I would recommend taking a look at Daranak falls but then going straight up to Batlag where you’ll enjoy a much more peaceful environment. The walk has a steep up-hill section however you’ll be rewarded with deep swimming holes full of pristine blue water.

The much more peaceful and uncrowded Batlag Falls
The much more peaceful Batlag Falls

There’s two main swimming holes and a few smaller ones along the river bed. The first fall you come to has deep water and a large pond. I couldn’t touch the bottom at all however, there are several large rocks around the pool that you can crawl on to. There’s also a rocky shelf under the falls themselves which is a beautiful place to sit under the cascading water. Many Filipinos can’t swim so, we found that the deeper pool was less crowded than the more shallow pool nearby. Most people chose to hire inflatable tubes for 50 pesos and float around all day.

Jen swimming in the cool, fresh, blue water of Batlag falls
Jen swimming in the cool, fresh, blue water of Batlag falls

We found a spot under (actually more like in) a tree where we left our bags and spent the day jumping in the bright blue water, swimming under the falls and enjoying the surrounding rain forest and mountains. The air is clean and fresh and the water is surprisingly cool and very clean. Daranak river is one of the purest inland bodies of water in Region IV.

The second falls at Batlag with a swimming hole that's not nearly as deep as the first falls.
The second falls at Batlag with a swimming hole that’s not nearly as deep as the first falls.

If you want to travel with a group, it’s worth getting a cabana. You can’t make a booking as it’s a first come first serve basis, so you’ll need to get there when gates open at 8 am. There are cabanas and tables everywhere, big and small, and most people chose to bring in their own food and BBQ. Just remember there’s no alcohol allowed and neither are plastic cups in order to keep the environment clean. Cabana hire costs 300 pesos and can accommodate 8 people.

You can swim underneath the falling water at Batlag!
You can swim underneath the falling water at Batlag!

Technically ‘only cooked food’ is allowed however, we saw many people cooking fresh meat on BBQs and others building their own fires for cooking on the river bank. You can also camp overnight however, you will need to book ahead for that –  see the contact details below for more information.

Enjoying the cool water after a long ride!
Enjoying the cool water after a long ride!

All in all, this was an easy getaway from Manila and a perfect day trip for anyone looking to spend a day escaping the concrete jungle and revitalise the soul in pristine fresh water and beautiful surrounds.

The water at Daranak & Batlag falls is cool, refreshing and clean!
The water at Daranak & Batlag falls is cool, refreshing and clean!

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Check out the Photo Gallery below for more images of this incredible place!

How to get there:

  • Car / Motorbike

If coming from the south, head north to Ortigas Avenue. Follow this to the  Sumulong Memorial Circle in Antipolo. From there continue until you meet with Manila East Road in Morong. This will take you through Baras and out to Tanay.

  • Commute

Take an FX or Jeepney from Starmall at EDSA Shaw. FX is 70 pesos and Jeepney is 53 pesos. Get off at Tanay Public Market Transport Terminal and take a trike to Danarak (200 per trip, max 4 people)

When to go:

Leave early! Get there as early in the day as you can, especially if you want a cabana! gates open at 8am and close at 5pm. however, I’ve heard stories of them turning people away and not letting anyone in from as early as midday due to large crowds.

Costs:

  • Car parking 20-50 pesos
  • Motorbike parking 10 pesos
  • Daranak entrance Fee: 50 pesos
  • Batlag entrance fee: 100 pesos (in addition to Daranak fee)
  • Cabana hire: 300 pesos
  • Inflatable tube hire: 50 pesos

What to do:

Aside from swimming in the falls, you can do day and night tours, camp overnight, visit nearby caves and indulge in other water activities!

Contact Information

  • For general information contact
    0917 522 9024 / 0922 749 6574 / 736 1059 or 0998 988 1590
  • For accommodation please contact Cabana at Tanay Hills
    6318492 and 0949 869 9114

Danarak & Batlag Falls Photo Gallery


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