Almost an hour’s drive away from the surfing capital of the north, San Juan, you’ll be surprised to find La Union’s other surprises that veer away from its well-known waves (depending on how fast you drive, actually). Past farmlands and into the mountains, you’ll find yourself in the next town of San Gabriel.
Landlocked, yet the largest municipality of La Union, San Gabriel has its own little secret paradise as well – Tangadan Falls. Standing at a massive 40 feet, the mother falls has become a tourist attraction, although preserved in all its glory. A 45-minute hike upward will take you through various sites: La Union’s miniscule version of the rice terraces, rock pools, and mini falls.
With so many to see, the estimated time for the hike uphill is hardly limited to its 45-minute mark. Before heading to the main falls, you are met with a number of stages, if you will. A balanced walk through a small-scale man-made irrigation dam will lead you through views of cascading rice paddies, then by the river bank where you’ll need to maneuver through boulders and rocky terrain.
Further uphill, you’ll find a tiring walk through trees and open grasslands that will finally lead you to the hike’s halfway mark – a ragged cliff area where pools of water have gathered from the river. These freshwater basins are perfect for a quick cool down while the edges make great launch pads for jumping.
Past more trees and narrow walkways, you arrive at a wide berth of riverbanks that leads to the mother falls itself whose pathways are lined with makeshift cottages and seating. The waterfall has a concave facade that makes jumping off tricky and requires an angle. Also, the rafts below also pose a danger to those planning to jump.
A few steps further, and through a challenging series of boulders at a height, you’ll find a more serene area of Tangadan Falls – a 15-foot deep catch basin with its own set of waterfalls. More quiet and less inhabited, this area is perfect for kicking back and relaxing.
After a refreshing dip, picnic lunch and cleaning up, the hike down seems faster, sans the sightseeing, picture taking and water breaks. The guides are friendly but only require Php 100 fee for the tour if you go without any resorts or tour operators, so be sure to tip extra generously for their service.