Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija Day Tour

Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija used to be a well-kept secret but has since gained popularity. Its proximity to the metro makes it a weekend destination for city dwellers. One of the few remaining natural attractions in Central Luzon, this natural wonder is also a protected landscape under Republic Act No. 5100 in 1967.

Its name “Minalungao” translates to mine of gold in caves, although gold panning has long been a restricted activity here.  The landscape here boasts of sea-green waters of the Penaranda River. And towering limestone formations reminiscent of Palawan’s Twin Lagoon in Coron.

Heading to Minalungao

The initial plan started as a trip down south. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the plan changed in the blink of an eye. As it almost always happens when you travel with your friends. In most cases, the unplanned meet-ups are the ones that happen. 😀

A trip to the Rice Granary Capital of the Philippines won out. Finally, we can see this treasured gem of Nueva Ecija that we have been hearing more and more about. We were also excited to try out all the activities that the park offers.

San Antonio, Nueva Ecija to Minalungao

We left our friend’s house (in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija) around 9:30 AM. And plotted Minalungao National Park in Google Maps.

After a bit of stop at Gapan, we drove as per Google’s directions until we reached a small town. Still seeing houses along the way, we felt assured that there would still be people to ask for directions, in case we got lost.

After a few kilometers, we decided to ask a passerby if we were going in the right direction. The guy then told us that we missed the turn and we should go back and take the next street on the right after doing the U-turn. Things then went downhill from there.

Turns out, it wasn’t a good idea to trust Google Maps too much. The few times we did not heed our instinct to just turn back and retrace our steps, we found ourselves on deserted roads, with big rocks, dusty, and filled with thorn bushes on the sides. There were times we had to push the car over big rocks on the rough roads that we found ourselves in. Poor, poor car.

Finally, we gave up when we realized that we were already deep inside the mountain and that the car really couldn’t go further anymore because the road wouldn’t let us. Somehow, with the help of many individuals we met along the road, we finally made our way to the correct road leading to the coveted destination.


Minalungao National Park Experience

Minalungao National Park rates in 2015

Imagine our sigh of relief when we finally saw the sign announcing that we had truly reached Minalungao National Park. After 5 long and grueling hours!

Immediately, we made our way to the river to rent our bamboo raft. Since we already used up most of the day getting lost, we had to choose wisely how we were going to spend our remaining time in the park.

Rafting, swimming, and zip line won out. Our rented raft came with a kid guide who also was the one navigating the bamboo cottage along the river. Since the river was quite narrow, a guide is really handy to keep you from colliding with another raft, the rocks, or a swimmer.

The river was shallow in some parts, with the water reaching only knee-deep. Still, some spots can allow swimmers to dive from the rocks near the end of the river.

Be advised though, that the emerald waters turn to murky brown during the rainy season so this is best to be visited during the summer months or from November.

The towering limestone formations are the highlight of this natural wonder. You can choose to explore by foot and walk along the rocks up to the cemented path, interspersed with bamboo bridges. It used to be quite tricky to walk along the rocks because of its sharp edges. But when we got here, there was already a paved path to make it easier for visitors.

We chose to skip the cave and the cross based on the blogs we read and instead decided to try out the zip line at the last minute. I have never liked heights but since the zip line is for two people, I didn’t hesitate anymore to jump at the opportunity. The ride down to the other side gives you a picturesque view of the river and all that it has to offer.

Although promoted as an ecotourism destination, developments such as hotels, cable cars, and a night zoo are alleged to be in the works. Developments that I dearly hope won’t materialize as I believe that this will not complement the natural attraction and can only prove to be detrimental in the long run.

It is also quite sad to see the river dotted with a little trash here and there and even more in the cottages by the banks of the river. Although our kid guide said that the local government maintains the park weekly. I just hope that future visitors will have discipline and respect not to leave their trash lying around.

Quick Guide to Minalungao National Park

  • Destination: Minalungao National Park
  • Location: Sitio Minalungao, Barangay Pias, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija
  • How to get here: Take a bus to Cabanatuan City from any major bus terminal in Manila. If you ride the “via SCTEX” route, get off at Cabanatuan City Terminal and transfer to another bus for Gapan. If you choose the “via San Miguel/Bulacan” route, tell the conductor to drop you off at Tinio Street junction in Gapan and wait for a Papaya- or Gen Tinio-bound PUJs. From Gen Tinio market, you can ask for a tricycle that’ll bring you to Minalungao.
  • Activities: Swimming, bamboo rafting, hanging bridge, trekking, zipline
  • Food: there are small stores near the river bank but best to bring your food
  • Entrance fee: Php 150
  • Zipline fee: Php 100 (one-way)
  • Bamboo Raft fee: Php 1,200 (4 hours good for 8-10 persons)

Darlene is currently on the road again and traveling full-time after being an expat/overseas Filipino worker in Qatar. She's rediscovering what it means to travel solo and in her 30s while working on her blogs.