Minalungao National Park: A Hidden Paradise in Nueva Ecija
Discover one of Nueva Ecija's best-kept secrets.
By Rhea J. Bernardino
October 28, 2016
What's so special about Minalungao National Park?
At first glance, Nueva Ecija does not look like it has anything to offer in terms of tourist attractions. It is a landlocked province, which means that there aren't any beaches around. While this might bum out beach bums (pun intended), it does not mean that Nueva Ecija does not have its roster of interesting attractions for travelers. If you thought that the province is all about the rice fields, Minalungao National Park will change your perception about that.
Minalungao National Park is a protected area and one of the few remaining natural environments in the region north of Metro Manila. Spanning over 2,000 hectares, it lures travelers with the picturesque sight of the emerald-colored Penaranda River that runs across most of the park and the towering limestone formations that border it. Adrenaline seekers also have a place in Minalungao as there are plenty of activities there that will give them their fix.
How to Get There
Minalungao National Park is located in the town of General Tinio. From Manila, catch a bus bound to Gapan City. Five Star, ES Transport, Baliwag Transit, and Golden Bee bus lines serve this route. The fare costs PHP 150.00 and the travel time is about three to four hours.Once you're in Gapan City, hire a tricycle to take you to Minalungao National Park. The going rate for a tricycle ride to and from Minalungao is about PHP 500.00—yes, that’s the going rate. But that’s because the ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
While jeepneys bound for General Tinio are also available in Gapan, they only come once in a while. If you're lucky enough to board one of these jeepneys, General Tinio is your drop-off point. From there, you can hire a tricycle towards Minalungao National Park.
Things to Do
The waters of Penaranda River are crystal clear, which is why it will be hard for you to resist taking a dip. Some parts of the river tend to get deep so swimming without a life vest is prohibited. If you don't have one of your own, vests are available for rent for only PHP 20.00.
While it's not required, renting a bamboo raft is highly recommended. The raft takes you directly to the river's swimming area, whereas if you're only renting a cottage, you'll need to climb down the rock formations to get there. The bamboo rafts also have built-in cottages so you can have a picnic right by the river. A four-hour raft rental good for eight people costs PHP 600.00, inclusive of life vests.
Not only can you swim in the river, you can also dive into it. Climb up the base of the rock formations and jump into the cool waters of the Penaranda River. Just remember that while cliff diving is allowed, you must be very responsible and exercise caution so as not to hurt yourself or others.
One of the newest water sports you can enjoy at Minalungao, kayaking lets you explore the entirety of the river at your own pace. A kayak that can fit two people can be rented for an hour for the price of PHP 200.00.
Trekking and caving
Minalungao National Park also has a cave that you can explore. A trail from the side of the cliff leads up to it and although it's just a five-minute trek, there are sharp rocks that you will encounter along the way so make sure to be very careful. There is no entrance fee to the cave; you'll only need to pay a guide fee to have someone to take you inside and out of the cave. Make sure to bring a flashlight since the insides of the cave are very dark.
Hiking is one of the most exhausting but the most rewarding activities you can try at Minalungao. A series of 1,000 steps leads you to a giant cross atop a mountain. From there, you can enjoy a most breathtaking view of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Crossing the hanging bridge
A steel hanging bridge connects one side of the park to the other. You can catch a view of the river and the rock formations as you cross.
Ziplining is another fun activity you should not miss when in Minalungao. For only PHP 200.00, you can zoom across the entire river and back. It's highly recommended if you want to enjoy a view of the entire park.
Having a picnic
Whether you're enjoying your meal on a bamboo raft or on a cottage, Minalungao National Park is a scenic place to have a picnic. There are no corkage fees for packed food but you can also check out the eateries around that serve affordable local dishes.
To better prepare you for your trip to Minalungao, here are a few tips that you should keep in mind:
1. Minalungao tends to be a bit crowded during the weekends so it's better that you come early to enjoy a more peaceful ambiance.
2. It's also best to visit during summer because the river tends to turn brown in color after it rains.
3. Minalungao is usually good for a day trip, but there's a hotel onsite if you want to stay overnight. Camping is also allowed.
4. There's no cellphone signal in the park, so if you're traveling with a group, you may want to stick together.
Here's a rundown of the fees at Minalungao:
Entrance fee – PHP 100.00
Environmental fee- PHP 50.00
Raft rental – PHP 600.00/4 hours (for 8 people)
Cottage rental – PHP 300.00 minimum
Kayak rental- PHP 200.00/hour (for 2 people)
Two-way zipline ride – PHP 200.00
Including the PHP 300.00 roundtrip bus fare to Gapan City and the PHP 500.00 tricycle rental to Minalungao, a day trip will only cost you roughly PHP 1,500.00 or less. Considering Minalungao's jaw-dropping sights and the various activities that you can try, the price is absolutely worth it.
Nueva Ecija has more things in store for travelers! Click here for a list Nueva Ecija's attractions.
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