Mantabios Falls is an awesome 4 level waterfall in Sta Catalina, less than 2 hours north of Dumaguete. It’s a popular spot for locals and anyone looking to day trip from Dumaguete, and the minimal hike makes it a good spot for picnickers and families. We’re gonna preface this by saying it usually looks better than this… but we unfortunately timed our trip the day after some heavy rain so the should-be-blue water was the colour of chocolate milk.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PHILIPPINES
HOW TO GET TO THIS EPIC WATERFALL IN STA CATALINA
Sta Catalina is around 1 hour and 40 minutes from Dumaguete city if you have your own mode of transport. The best way to get anywhere in the Philippines is with your own motorbike, which you can rent for $8 USD a day or if you’re not comfortable driving a bike, you can rent a car for $40.
You can also take a Ceres bus from Dumaguete city to Sta Catalina town proper for $2.60, which will take 2 and a half hours, or a public V-hire (van) for $2 which stops less frequently and will only take 2 hours. From the town, you will then need to take a habal habal (motorbike taxi) to Mantabios Falls. At the time of writing (July 2020) there’s a lot of road works between Siaton and Sta Catalina, so this route will take longer than going through the mountains of Pamplona.
HOW MUCH IS IT?
There’s a small booth at the entrance to the falls where you have to pay $0.60 to access the falls. The poster next to the booth is how we realised this waterfall in Sta Catalina has potential to be bright blue, but we caught it on a bad day.
OUR EXPERIENCE AT THIS WATERFALL IN STA CATALINA
The walk from the entrance booth to this waterfall in Sta Catalina is short and easy. We hardly broke a sweat and it was midday in the tropics! It was only about 10 minutes, if that, from the entrance booth to Mantabios Falls on mostly flat ground.
Our first impression was that it was beautiful and rugged, albeit brown. We can only imagine how stunning it would be on a blue day! This is just the first level of the waterfall, it goes up 3 more times from there. This first tier was made for jumping, just make sure you check for any debris if you happen to go on a muddy day. Oh, and snakes! When we got there, we were greeted by a black snake swimming across the pool. Only the brave went in the water after that. Neither Zowie or Carson were one of the brave.
You can either climb up the rocks to get to the second, third and fourth levels, or take the easy way and walk up the steps. We climbed the rocks up and took the steps down. It doesn’t take much effort to climb the rocks, and they’re surprisingly not slippery at all. Grooves and makeshift steps have been carved into the rocks to make it easier.
The second level is a little smaller, but just as jumpable. One of the local guys was saying it’s about 12 ft deep at this pool. Our guys were all jumped out so they gave this tier a miss and we kept scaling the cliffs to the third level.
The waterfall at the third level wasn’t as strong but was a little taller. We’re not sure if you can jump from here, but if the water’s deep enough it definitely looks doable. Just make sure you check for depth before going headfirst. Our rule is we only jump if a local goes first. “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” Why yes mum, yes we would.
The fourth level was the tallest waterfall of all, and you could see the river where it runs off from. You’ll have to go off road a little to get to the other side and see the waterfall in all its glory. All four levels are cool, but this one was our favourite since it was like a little oasis in the middle of a bright green jungle. There were even a few bats flying around. It gave off major Indiana Jones kinda vibes.
Each tier of Mantabios Falls is a little different, but what we loved the most was how rough and rugged it all was. A lot of locals come here, but it hasn’t lost its natural charm which was nice to see. One of the only structures was a bathroom, which blended in well with its nippa roof and bamboo walls.
The last bit of fun you’ll get is on the walk back to the entrance. The exit takes you on the other side of the stream so you’ll have to cross not one but two bamboo hanging bridges to get back to the road. The first bridge is right in front of the waterfalls and the second bridge is right before the exit. Very Indiana Jones-esque.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to catch a carabao (water buffalo) having his daily swim. We saw this little (big) guy cooling off under the last bridge. Don’t worry, he was downstream from the falls.
This waterfall in Sta Catalina was the perfect second stop on our day trip from Dumaguete. It’s an awesome and relatively low key tourist spot that you should definitely check out if you’re in town. If it had been blue like it is most of the time, it would be up there with one of our favourite falls. We just love a good tiered waterfall you can jump off.
While you’re planning your Sta Catalina trip, you should add the Monkey Sanctuary to your itinerary since it’s only around 2 minutes down the road. Check out our post for all the info you’ll need before you go.
PIN IT FOR LATER
WHERE TO STAY NEAR MANTABIOS WATERFALL STA CATALINA
Most people who visit Negros Oriental are told to stay in Dumaguete, but what they really mean by that is stay around Dumaguete. True, Dumaguete City has plenty of tourist inns and budget hotels, but it’s the surrounding towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita that offer the best spots to stay. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city itself, so when you stay in the nearby municipalities there’s plenty of nature to explore whilst still being nice and close to Dumaguete City. Check out our top picks for accommodation near Dumaguete City.
LUXURY: Atmosphere Resorts & Spa, Dauin
Atmosphere Resorts & Spa in Dauin is the resort to stay at if you’ve got a big budget and fancy the finer things in life. Atmosphere has hosted its fair share of local celebrities and deep pocketed divers looking for the best beachfront luxury in Dauin.
MIDSCALE: Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort, Dauin
If you want to stay by the ocean without breaking the bank, Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort in Dauin is a comfortable midscale accommodation option perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you’ve never dived before, you can get your certification at Mike’s, and divers of all skill sets can enjoy the abundance of macro diving opportunities in and around Dauin.
BUDGET: Bongo Bongo Divers, Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers is one of the most popular hostels in Dauin for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in a convenient location. The rooms are simple, without any glitz and glam, but the vibe is fun and welcoming. They have a variety of room styles to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to AC or fan only dorms.
AIRBNB: Villa Amani, Zamboanguita
Villa Amani in Zamboanguita is the perfect holiday home for small families or groups of friends looking for privacy that a traditional resort or hotel can’t offer. The main house sleeps 4 with additional space for 2 in the guest house, or you can book the guest house separately if it’s just the 2 of you and you’re on a budget. The property has a swimming pool, an unbeatable view of Apo Island and kayaks to use whenever you want.
MORE NEGROS ORIENTAL GUIDES:
Monkey Sanctuary, Sta Catalina
Niludhan Falls, Bayawan
Bin Bin Falls, Bayawan
Turtle Island, Siaton
Hidden Beach, Siaton
Palaypay Falls, Pamplona
Casaroro Falls, Valencia
Tottyn Falls, Valencia
Original Casaroro Falls, Valencia