Dampalit Falls: Los Baños’ Hidden Wonder

view of Dampalit Falls downstream
Los Baños used to be the summer getaway I would often look forward to when I was a kid. Its hot springs and relative proximity to Manila made it such a preferred destination. But as my world opened up and I started traveling to more distant lands those Los Baños summer escapades soon faded into memory. But very recently, while searching the web for waterfalls to visit in the province of Laguna, I chanced upon a little known falls by name of Dampalit and its location intrigued me: Los Baños.

Why such a destination as Dampalit Falls could totally evade me for decades was beyond my comprehension. Nina and I drove with a friend to Los Baños on a late October afternoon in search of this enigmatic waterfall. We had just visited Kalayaan Falls earlier that day and barely had enough time to get to Dampalit and back before it got dark. After parking the car by the DPWH and DENR offices just off the National Highway we were off for a short trek that took us past a residential neighbourhood and into the edge of a forest at the Mt. Makiling Nature Reserve.

second tier of falls after main falls, Dampalit, Los Banos

The main falls of Dampalit is quite tall (I can’t give a good estimate of its height) and falls into a relatively shallow catch basin. It then continues as a series of much shorter albeit wider drops into a maze of huge rocks that dot the stream. The latter is probably a tributary of the Dampalit River that flows all the way to Laguna de Bay. The lush, green surroundings make the place an ideal picnic area. The locals have built several tables and huts for rent at P200-300 each and there are also a few stores that sell foodstuffs at higher-than-normal rates.

another view of Dampalit Falls downstream

There is a P20 entrance fee per person but since we arrived at past 5PM and with only several minutes of daylight left, the caretakers generously waved off our entrance fees. Visitors were already beginning to leave the place. A group of students were drying off after their swim at the catch basin; one nearly slipped down a row of rocks in her descent. That reminded me to be extra careful even as I waded into the stream to begin taking photos of Dampalit Falls.

It started to get dark after a while and we soon had to bid farewell to our new friend. Our visit might have been a bit too short but with Dampalit Falls less than 2 hours away from our home in Taguig, it probably won’t be long before we are back to sample more of Dampalit’s wonders.

closer view of Dampalit Falls’ second tier

Getting There

If you’re coming from Metro Manila or any area up north take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), exit at Calamba and take the National Highway going to Sta. Cruz. At Los Baños (about 3-4 kilometers before the University of the Philippines Los Baños main entrance) look for the DPWH and DENR offices near Camp Eldridge on the right of the road. This is just after the Splash Mountain Resort on the left of the National Highway. If you are driving you can park your vehicle near the DPWH regional office and ask one of the locals to look after it (for a fee of course).

You will take an uphill trek on the way to the falls. It’s a good 15-20 minute walk that will take you through a residential area of Barangay Dampalit. An alternative way is through the Lalakay Elementray School which is before Camp Eldridge if you’re coming from Calamba/Metro Manila. The Lalakay route will take you through the same residential neighbourhood.

Cafe Antonio in Los Banos, Laguna

Before visiting Dampalit Falls we chanced by Café Antonio right along the National Highway and close to the UPLB main entrance. Café Antonio serves pasta, pizza and other specialty dishes but we were here for the coffee and some dessert. We weren’t too particularly impressed by the blueberry cheesecake and black truffle cake but their coffee was outstanding. They serve a wide variety of coffee blends from both local and international sources including coffee from Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua and Rwanda. It’s a nice place to rest and refresh. Being coffee connoisseurs we spent a good deal of time there chatting with baristas Elmer and Jabez before our trek to Dampalit Falls and our return trip to Metro Manila.

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