While rice fields are probably the first thing that comes to mind when Nueva Ecija is mentioned, the province has a lot of gems, which makes a visit a must for travelers who love nature.

On top of that list is Minalungao National Park, a protected area located in the municipality of General Tinio. The park is 2,018 hectares huge, embraced by 16-meter high limestone walls.

It is promoted by the local government as an ecotourism destination—and rightly so. The park offers breathtaking scenery of green pristine river and unique rock formations. There are also caverns that have been identified as potential attractions within the area.

There are lots of activities to do in Minalungao, most obvious of which are the water activities.

The waters of Penaranda River are simply irresistible. It’s not too warm, not too cold. Exercise caution though because there are some parts of the river that tend to get deep. And while wearing a life vest is required, it’s best to go with a swimming buddy. Keep a sharp eye on children.

One doesn’t even need to know how to swim. There’s a mild current that naturally carries swimmers along the river. You simply need to jump in and, well, float.

There are several spots where swimmers are allowed to dive, so that’s something for adventure seekers to look forward to. But while cliff diving is allowed, it’s the responsibility of the swimmers to look after themselves, making sure they don’t jump onto anyone or passing kayaks.

Speaking of kayaks, visitors can rent a kayak so they can traverse the entirety of the river with only their paddles on hand.

Pro tip: It could get a little crowded in some parts of the swimming area at certain times of the day. Swimmers must also watch out for kayaks and rafts that could potentially hurt them.

Pro tip: Wear non-slip, easy-to-dry footwear which you can wear to walk along the rock formation and swim with at the same time.

Renting a bamboo raft is highly recommended, though it’s not at all a requirement. The bamboo rafts allow visitors to have lunch right in the river. Now that’s something of an experience.

Another activity for the adventure seekers is ziplining, which allows them to get a bird’s eye view of the entire park as if they were superheroes flying over everyone else.

During our visit there, we weren’t able to go trekking and caving. But apparently, there is a 5-minute trek, a trail from the side of the cliff that leads to a cave. We also weren’t able to check out the viewpoint (reachable by 1,000 steps of stairs), which would apparently lead to a giant cross atop a mountain, providing a view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. We’ll be sure to check those out on our next visit.

One of the nicer spots to take a photo is at the hanging bridge, which connects one side of the park to the other. It’s also a nice spot to just people-watch, if that’s ever your thing, as you have a very good view of swimmers and kayakers.

Pro tip: Minalungao tends to be a bit more crowded on weekends. Come early so it’s easier to get a parking slot.

What’s nice about Minalungao National Park is that it’s still not as commercialzed as other resorts, which is always a plus in our books.

It’s also perfect for a family outing, though there’s a lot of walking which may tire the elderly with weak knees. But it’s certainly manageable with help.

Oh, we don’t remember any proper shower area in the park, so prepare to be a cowboy and just change in your car.