A favorite destination of ours for a quick getaway outside Metro Manila, this coastal town boasts a variety of attractions – pristine waterfalls, lush forests, fast-moving rivers for white water rafting, a ruggedly beautiful coastline and the raging swells of the Pacific for surfing. Getting to Real, Quezon means driving through the Sierra Madre foothills – a relaxing drive up hilly terrain past pleasantly verdant surroundings. You know you’re near the town proper when you land on the road along the coast with the blue waters of the Pacific as a backdrop.
We’ve been to this town more times than we care to remember. During every visit it seems a new attraction always opens up. Here are some of them:
The first destination that attracted us to Real, Balagbag Falls is a two-tiered waterfall located in Barangay Tignoan. It lies close to the incomplete Real-Mauban Road, requiring just a short 3-minute walk from the latter. The lower tier is around 20 feet in height but the second tier is much taller at around 100 feet. A series of steps carved into the rock allowed us to make the climb to the catch basin at the second tier for a closer look.
Balagbag is one of our most photographed waterfalls and we’ve already been here four times. A tip for visiting Balagbag Falls: be sure to make your visit here during the rainy season or during the months of December and January. During the summer months the falls might be reduced to a trickle like what we experienced during a hot summer day visit in May several years back.
Just a kilometer south from Balagbag Falls and less than a 10-minute walk from the Real-Mauban Road is Nonok Falls. About 10 meters high, Nonok Falls nevertheless has a catch basin much wider than Balagbag Falls, making it a favorite swimming destination among locals. Because the middle section of the catch basin is deep some visitors take the opportunity to dive from the top of the waterfall. Nonok Falls lies in a forested area that provides a cool shade. It is also surrounded by chiseled rock formations that give it an aura of charm.
The third waterfall we visited in Real – Cawayan Falls – lies just off the Real-Infanta Road, the main highway running along the coast. The jump-off point lies to the left of the highway just before a bridge and the Cawayan Gardens, a resort in the area. Cawayan consists of a series of 6 relatively small cascades along a rocky, meandering stream. Part of the trek to get to these cascades goes over rocky ground and involves stream crossings. We easily got to the first two waterfalls but due to unforeseen circumstances we had to abort our hike to the rest of the 6 cascades. It was an unfortunate development as the series of cascades lie along a scenic crystal-clear stream with turquoise pools.
The above three falls are just a peek into the collection of cascades in Real. There are 7 other known waterfalls in town but only four are really accessible as of this writing. Tipuan Falls in Bgy. Llavac is the fourth accessible cascade. It requires a hike of slightly over an hour. Locals state that there are even more waterfalls hidden in the forests and hills above the coastal town. This isn’t surprising since Real lies at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range with streams originating from these heights and running along the forests above the town. Besides waterfall-chasing an activity that has become popular in recent years is river rafting at the Tignoan River.
Because of our preference for white sand beaches we were not attracted to the beaches along Real’s coast initially. However, the beaches here, while mostly of gray and brown sand, have a rugged beauty all their own. And because the coastline is exposed to the crashing swells of the Pacific, surfing has become a popular activity for visitors in Real. Several beach resorts and surfing camps have sprouted along Real’s coast making it easy to find accommodations here.
Sometimes our primary reason for coming to Real – despite the trip taking about 3 hours – is seafood. At the seafood market of Tignoan along the main road to Infanta you can select from a wide array of freshly caught fish, crustaceans and other marine animals and have them cooked at some of the stalls. The items for sale here seem better fit for an aquarium than for the dinner table but hungry stomachs are only too willing to look beyond that for a good fill.
Some of our highlights here include a squid adobo which is still the best of its kind that we’ve ever had, crispy fried groupers and steamed giant freshwater prawns. Many times we would either bring some of the catch home in styro boxes (with ice) or have them cooked before the return drive home. The catch is more plentiful during the hot and dry or summer months but even during the rainy season there is still plenty to go around. The catch is scarcer during the amihan (northeast monsoon) season or during stormy weather.
We’ll probably never get tired about visiting Real even if we’ve been here numerous times. Just the drive to the town and the scenery along the way is already relaxing. And then some destinations are now also opening up in the towns of Infanta and General Nakar which lie beyond this coastal town, making us excited about future road trips here.