Pagsanjan Falls shooting the rapids
Guides and Itineraries,  Philippines

Shooting the Rapids to Pagsanjan Falls (Cavinti Falls)

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A majestic waterfall about 90 meters high — Pagsanjan Falls is one of the main tourist attractions in Laguna. It was later renamed to Cavinti Falls since it is technically located in the municipality of Cavinti instead of Pagsanjan. However, the name has stuck and the boat ride via Bumbungan River in Pagsanjan (also known as “Shooting the Rapids”) remains a popular way to get there.

I had actually been to Pagsanjan Falls a month before. From Pueblo El Salvador Nature Park in Cavinti, I trekked and rappelled to reach the waterfall. The experience was thrilling, but I couldn’t forget what a friend told me while we were there — that the boat ride via Pagsanjan was an unforgettable experience and you can see the ethereal beauty of Pagsanjan Gorge.

And so, weeks later, I scheduled a Pagsanjan Falls boat ride with my boyfriend Hali. Here’s our experience in Shooting the Rapids to Pagsanjan Falls.

Our Pagsanjan Falls tour experience

We booked a transient house at Pagsanjan and they helped us get to the registration area for the boat tours. We paid our fees and we were given lifevests. I find it odd though that there was no registration — we were not asked to list our names, nor were we given receipts.

Anyway, we hopped on a dugout canoe manned by a boatman each at the front and back. It has seating cushions so it was comfortable. It was hot and we were exposed to the sun, so I was thankful that at least we were wearing bucket hats.

Pagsanjan Falls canoe ride
Hali and I at the canoe.

At first, a motorized banca pulled our canoe and we smoothly cruised along the river. Once we were past the town proper, our boatmen manually paddled. They pointed out interesting spots and even the location for the filming of the local series Tabing Ilog.

Pagsanjan Falls canoe ride
Passing by small cottages.

The boat ride was at times peaceful and at the other times crazy. It involves maneuvering through a total of 14 rapids. Our boatmen would get off the canoe and use their feet to push the canoe away from the boulders and sometimes literally pull and carry the boat forward. It was extremely hard work.

I learned that the boatmen are required to have a month of rigorous training to be be qualified for the tour. It was dangerous for them too, since the boulders are slippery and there’s a chance of getting crushed between the canoe and the boulders. Twice, the boatman in our front almost slipped and his knee hit a boulder. He also had a fingernail injury. It’s not to say that the rapids weren’t fun, but even though I know our boatmen were highly experienced, I can’t help but be concerned.

Pagsanjan Falls shooting the rapids
Our boatman maneuvering the canoe.
Pagsanjan Falls shooting the rapids
Metal bars allow the canoes to pass through difficult sections of the river.

This aside, the view along the Pagsanjan Gorge was amazing. Definitely the best part about the boat ride was cruising along the tranquil river, surrounded by high cliffs and forests. It’s like getting lost in a dream. Moreover, even though we went on a Sunday, we rarely encountered other boats along the way so it was like having the whole place to ourselves.

Pagsanjan Falls shooting the rapids
Couple shot in Pagsanjan Gorge

We saw a lot of dragonflies that seem to have luminescent blue wings. Our boatman said that sometimes you can also see wild monkeys, bayawaks (monitor lizards), and different species of birds. We also passed by locals diving for fishes, such as tilapia.

Later on, we stopped by Talahib Falls. It is also called the First Falls, while Pagsanjan Falls is called the Main Falls. During inclement weather, the canoes can only go as far as Talahib Falls since it would be risky to continue upstream with strong currents.

Talahib Falls in Pagsanjan
Approaching Talahib Falls.
Talahib Falls in Pagsanjan
Talahib Falls.

I saw a few weak streams along the gorge. Apparently there are a total of 13 waterfalls in this route (including Talahib Falls), although most of them are dried up during the summer months.

Waterfall along Pagsanjan Gorge
One of the waterfalls along Pagsanjan Gorge.

From there, we proceeded to Pagsanjan Falls. How wonderful to see it again! Pagsanjan Falls is actually a three-tier waterfall and the main falls that you see is the third cascade. Compared to my last visit, there were more people — interestingly, most of the guests going here are Koreans. The surrounding also looked less green compared to the wetter month of February, but the waterfall was still a sight to behold.

Pagsanjan Falls or Cavinti Falls in Laguna
Pagsanjan Falls.
Pagsanjan Falls or Cavinti Falls in Laguna
Pagsanjan Falls balsa ride_edited
Balsa ride to the cave.

Of course, we hopped on to the balsa going to the mouth of the cave (called the “Devil’s Cave”). We passed under the waterfall itself and the water plummeted against us. We then alighted the balsa to get inside the cave, where the balsa guides offered to take our pictures. Afterwards, Hali and I enjoyed a short swim.

Couple shot in Pagsanjan Falls
Going to the cave!
Pagsanjan Falls balsa ride
Here we go!

The boat ride going back to town was easier, since we were going with the current. I enjoyed the scenery as before and I treasure the chance to see Pagsanjan Gorge and Pagsanjan Falls.

Overall, it was a fun experience for us and I recommend it as a weekend day tour.

However, there were some things I would like to talk about too. Particularly, the tipping. I read that it is customary to tip the boatmen after the trip, so we were already ready with extra cash. But we were still caught off-guard when the guides suggested a tip of P500 for each of them. They explained that they were paid little for each trip. We felt sorry and we actually didn’t enjoy the tour as fully as we would’ve have knowing this, and of course we gave them the tips. But at the same time — if I am being honest — I think it’s unfair to place this burden on the tourists like us. At that time, I just wanted a pleasant weekend and I didn’t have the mental space to process an issue like that. Also, the standard rate is already a lot — we paid P1450 per person.

This brings me to the next point.

After our trip, I contacted the tourism office and they informed me that the rate is just P1350 (standard rate of P1250 + P100 for the entrance fee and landing area). When I told them we paid P1450 each, they said they will be making a report about it. I guess it’s a lesson to research which establishments offers the right tour rates.

So those are some things that we experienced.

After the activity, here are the things that we did:

  • Checked in at Shum’s Transient House. This is a unique transient house with art deco style. We booked a room with bath tub for only P2000! What a score. (Other highly recommended resorts you can book at include Casa Marina Bed and Breakfast.)
  • Dined in at Calle Arco. An ancestral-house-turned-restaurant, Calle Arco is one of the recommended eats in Pagsanjan. Some of their suggested dishes include sinigang na baka with langka and binagoongang crispy pata. To be honest, the food was good but a little underwhelming especially considering the high praises online.
  • Strolled across the town. There are a lot of ancestral houses in Pagsanjan, with some turned into commercial establishments. Another point of interest is the Pagsanjan Arc, which is a remnant from the Spanish Colonial Era.
  • The morning after, we drove to Liliw to visit Kilangin Falls/Bukal Falls. This is also one of our favorite waterfall trips!
Calle Arco restaurant in Pagsanjan
At Calle Arco.
Transient house in Pagsanjan
Capping the day with a bubble bath.
Kilangin Falls in Liliw, Laguna
Kilangin Falls in Liliw, Laguna.

How to get to Pagsanjan Falls from Manila

From Manila, it takes around 2 hours to get to the town of Pagsanjan. Here are the commute directions:

  • Ride a bus bound for Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
  • Once you get off at Sta. Cruz, ride a jeep bound for Pagsanjan, Lumban, Paete, or Siniloan and get off at the town of Pagsanjan.

An alternative way to access Pagsanjan Falls is via the mountain trail in Cavinti.

How to book a Pagsanjan Falls tour

Once you arrive in Pagsanjan, you can proceed to Pagsanjan Tourism Office at the town proper. Or you can head to resorts/lodgings with signages offering tours to Pagsanjan Falls, where they will offer the tour for the standard rate plus a small fee for entrance and use of their facilities.

(Updated as of March 2023) Here are the current rates for the Shooting the Rapids boat tour, including the Pagsanjan Falls entrance fee:

Standard rateP1250 per person
+ P100 for entrance fee and landing area
OthersBalsa ride at Pagsanjan Falls is free, but the people pulling the balsa may ask for tips

The standard rate includes rent for lifevest and hard helmet. Maximum of 3 people per canoe.

For easy tours, book a Pagsanjan Falls private day tour via Klook.  This includes round-trip transfer from Manila and the boat tour.

Reminders and Tips

Here are travel tips for your Pagsanjan Falls tour!

  • The boat tour goes along Bumbungan River, a 5-km trip that will take you to Pagsanjan Falls. The tour takes about 3 hours. The upstream ride takes 1 hour, and the return trip takes 45 minutes.
  • The best time to visit Pagsanjan Falls is from December to May.
  • Shooting the Rapids is a weather-dependent activity. During inclement weather, the canoe only goes as far as Talahib Falls. There may also be an option to trek to a small waterfall called Amang Falls, which is near the river toll gate. I read complaints especially from foreign tourists that they were not informed about the half-way tour but still paid in full, so it might be best to confirm that you’re doing the whole route before paying.

Other things to note:

  • Things to bring: A drybag with your essentials, water, and/or snacks.
  • What to wear: Active wear/swim wear and hat. Make sure that you’re wearing sunblock as well!


For inquiries about Pagsanjan, you can contact Pagsanjan Tourism Office via Facebook.

Did you enjoy this post about the boat tour to Pagsanjan Falls? If you have comments or questions, let us know in the comment section below!

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