VERY few people outside Laguna know about Cavinti and most of its attractions are unheard of outside the adventure circle. Often mistaken as Cavite, the province, instead of Cavinti, the town, it is located 100 kilometers outside Metro Manila. Its many natural and man-made attractions and proximity to Metro Manila make it an ideal eco-tourism get-away. Those who are patient enough to find out what they are will be rewarded with an action-packed and fun-filled weekend adventure.
But how did the town got its name? Legend has it that the original settlers of this place had a unique ritual where a groom must run after the prospective bride by catching her by holding on to her legs or kapit sa binti or “ka binti”. This eventually became the name of the place.
Cavinti was originally part of Lumban, Laguna. It became a separate town in 1619. According to legend, the present church was built on the same ground where the image of El Salvador was found. The construction of the first stone church in honor of San Salvador started in 1621.
For many centuries, Cavinti remained an agricultural town. Its fate, however, changed in 1939 when American engineers built man-made lakes on the mountain ranges of the adjoining towns of Lumban and Cavinti. The two lakes – Caliraya and Lumot – were created to supply water to the Caliraya Hydroelectric Plant. The Americans also seeded the lake with Largemouth Black Bass imported from the United States.
Recently, Cavinti finally reclaimed what was originally theirs – the famed Pagsanjan Falls. The waterfalls are actually located in Cavinti and the locals actually call it Cavinti Falls. It’s just that the entry is by shooting the rapids from the river in Pagsanjan. Cavinti has now opened a backdoor 589-step trail via metal ladders that go straight to Cavinti Falls.
Also opened recently is one of the biggest cave system south of Manila, the Cavinti Underground River and Cave Complex. It is said to have a 17-kilometer stretch of trail going into the heart of Sierra Madre.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach Cavinti is to drive south via SLEX, then exit at Calamba, turn left and continue drive via Los Banos, Santa Cruz and proceed to Pagsanjan. At the junction in Pagsanjan, the town center of Cavinti is only 16 kilometers to the right. Tourists who wish to visit the Underground River and Cave Complex are required to register at the tourism office located at the municipal hall. To visit most of the town’s attractions, take the road on the left leading to Lake Caliraya.
Another way to reach Cavinti is to take the left road at the junction of Pagsanjan, cross the bridge to Lumban and continue driving until the road forks to Lake Caliraya. Climb up to the right and then continue driving up to Cavinti town proper.
Those taking public transport must take the bus going straight to Santa Cruz. From there, take the jeepneys heading to Cavinti. Also, there are several UV Express vans in Calamba Crossing that go straight to Cavinti.
What to do, what to see
Opened to the public less than two years ago, the Cavinti Underground River and Caves Complex literally allows visitors to go “underground” with a series of 4X4 drive, trekking, rafting and cave connections.
The complex is under the municipal tourism office. Visitors are only allowed to enter the caves during dry season and the complex only allows 70 people per day, so it is best to book in advance (call 0998-394-5609/0915-823-4535/0929-584-1551) to be assured of slots or personally visit the Tourism Information Center located at Bumbungan Ecopark in Barangay Tibatib.
Cave Tour Fee is P500 per person plus an additional P400 Tour Guide Fee for a group of ten. As the trail leading to the caves is quite muddy even during summer, one can either bring his own 4X4 vehicle or rent one at a complex for P2,500 for a group of 10.
Another adventure at Cavinti is to go trekking to Cavinti Falls without shooting the rapids. Actually, the trek to the waterfalls is fun and challenging. The trail starts in Pueblo El Salvador, also in Barangay Tibatib, where one has to pay an entrance fee of P270 per head. The trail passes through several coconut farms before entering series of steel ladders leading down to the river. There are three or four stations where one has to do some rappeling to descend to the next stage. There are guides along the way to assist visitors in rappeling.
It takes over an hour to reach the waterfalls. Visitors can stay as long as they want near the waterfalls. Those who wish to try the “Cavinti massage” can take the bamboo raft that goes inside the cave at the back of the waterfalls.
The man-made lakes of Caliraya and Lumot are also worth a visit. The lakes’ surface elevation of 300 meters above sea level and its generally cool climate have attracted Metro Manila’s elite to lease lands and build their own vacation houses. Nowadays, there are several resorts and recreation centers built around the lake and these have made them a popular destination for business conferences, company outings and retreats.
Visitors to the lakes can try such activities like largemouth bass fishing, wind surfing, kite-boarding and many more. The nearby Japanese Garden and the many hidden waterfalls can easily be trekked from Caliraya.
Where to stay, what to eat
There are several places to stay in Cavinti, most of them located around Lake Caliraya. The most popular ones are Caliraya Re-Creation Center and Lagos del Sol, which both have cottages by the lake as well as facilities for sports activities and seminars. The Caliraya Springs Golf and Marina Complex have complete resort facilities, complete with a golf course and facilities for team building.
Families on a budget who wish to stay by the lake can go camping. For a minimal fee, Surf Camp and Eco Saddle allow overnight camping. These are safe areas with plenty of parking spaces, large camp sites with public bathrooms and water sources.
Pueblo El Salvador Nature’s Park and Bumbungan Eco-Park also have basic cottages for overnight lodging and allow camping at the parks’ ground.
There isn’t much choice for food in Cavinti, except those being served in the resorts. An alternative is to go to the nearby Pagsanjan. Erwin and Mila’s Canteen serves pansit (noodles) and other local favorites, while Aling Taleng has been serving their famous Halo-Halo since 1933. There are also many pasalubong items in Pagsanjan, from bottled sweets to espasol to kesong puti. But if you wish to bring home something special from your Cavinti trip, there are plenty of ornamental plants being sold along the road leading to Cavinti.