Get 'Cooked Alive' in These Traditional Philippine Kawa Baths

Woman relaxing in round outdoor bath with tropical flowers
Woman relaxing in round outdoor bath with tropical flowers | © Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer18 April 2018

Nothing beats a warm bubble bath after surviving a long stressful week. It’s invigorating for the senses and relaxes those strained muscles. In the Philippines, there are so-called kawa baths that are just as relaxing. The only difference is you’ll experience being ‘cooked alive’ in a huge cauldron!

What is a Kawa bath?

A ‘kawa’ refers to the huge cauldron that was traditionally used in sugar-making, specifically to process molasses. But since technology and advanced methods came along, these giant pans were replaced by sugar mill factories. Local residents found a way to reuse the pans, turning them into big tubs for hot baths (referred to as kawa baths). It’s a perfect way to refresh oneself and experience being ‘cooked alive’ for the first time!

But don’t worry, that’s just a euphemism for your extraordinary experience. You won’t get burned or scalded. While they will literally put you on fire, it won’t reach a point where it becomes dangerously hot for you.

How do Kawa baths work?

It takes time before someone is able to take a kawa bath, usually about 45 minutes to an hour preparation. First, the personnel will heat the kawa by lighting up the fires using pieces of wood and dried bamboo. As the water gets slowly heated to a desired temperature, the personnel would then add herbs, fragrant leaves, and flowers. The water steam subsequently gives off a wonderful aromatic scent that’s invigorating to the mind and senses.

Woman relaxing in round outdoor bath with tropical flowers | © Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock

Before taking the kawa bath, slowly enter the giant pan of garnish so your body can adjust to the temperature. Once fully immersed, just sit back, relax and enjoy the soothing feeling that the steaming water brings. The warm waters of a kawa bath usually bring relief to aching and tired muscles.

Where to take a Kawa bath?

The most famous kawa baths in the Philippines take place in the town of Tibiao in Antique province, which is part of Panay Island in the Visayan Region. Antique’s neighboring provinces are Capiz, Iloilo, and Aklan – which also includes the world-famous island Boracay.

There are four major airports in Panay Island, but the fastest and easiest route that will take you to this unique experience is from Caticlan. Across their port, you can ride a bus bound for San Jose, Antique and alight at Brgy. Importante in Tibiao. Since the area is a popular spot for trekking, kayaking and other adventure activities, ending your trip with a kawa bath is a must for relaxation!

If you won’t be heading to Visayas, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a place near Manila which also offers hot kawa baths. These are the same as those you’ll experience in Tibiao. They take place at a resort in Tanay, Rizal called El Patio Razon – which is only three hours away from the capital region.

For less than 500 pesos, you can feel refreshed and energized after taking a hot kawa bath!