Daranak Falls, Rizal
A two-hour drive from Manila, Daranak Falls is one of the most refreshing places to spend the hot summer days. Usually, if you go on a weekend, the big falls near the entrance (where you can cliff jump and take stunning photos) will be a bit crowded. However, if you pay a little more to get to the “upper falls,” which is a 10-minute hike uphill, you’ll find yourself away from the crowds, amid dozens of smaller falls and pools. This is more of a day trip, but there is so much to do in the area, that you might want to find accommodations nearby to enjoy everything Rizal has to offer.
With a private car, Baler could take five hours to get to from Manila. So this is definitely a weekend trip, at minimum. Although the area is known for its world-class surfing, there are also a bunch of other sites to see. From hiking, waterfalls, and even climbing inside a giant balete tree—this is a great place to get active after a long week of sitting at a desk. We suggest you bring tons of sunblock!
For those interested in scuba diving and snorkeling, Sabang has some of the best reefs near Manila. To get there, you’ll have to find your way to the Batangas Pier (by private or public transportation), and then take a boat ride to Mindoro. Once there, you can either stay at the popular White Beach, or right on Sabang, which has higher end resorts. You won’t have a hard time finding scuba and snorkeling tours, since people will just come up to you and offer them. For safety’s sake, we recommend that you ask your resort to hook you up with their connections.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bataan
Las Casas almost feels like a movie set. With its manicured gardens and photogenic angles, no wonder fashion editorials and prenups are shot here. However, what makes this place even more unique is that all the buildings are actually historical. They’ve been “uprooted” from their original locations (Quiapo, Laguna, etc.) and placed, brick by brick, into this Bataan compound. Las Casas offers tours, accommodations, and even a beach area. It’s becoming quite a popular destination, though, so be sure to book everything in advance!
San Juan, La Union
Big waves and epic sunsets—San Juan is a surfer’s paradise for sure. But this little town has been drawing throngs of visitors for more than just its water. It’s become a really hip place where Manila’s cool kids can hang over holidays and long weekends. So, if you want to party, meet new friends, and catch some waves, this is the place for you.
Mount Banahaw, Quezon
Mount Banahaw is considered by many locals to be a sacred mountain. And so, one of the most special things about it is that it is largely untouched. If you are longing to commune with nature, this might just be what you’re looking for. You can either spend the day hiking through the thick woods and refreshing falls, or you can bring a tent and make a camping weekend out of it. And if you love wildlife, there’s a lot of exotic birds to see here too!
Taal Town, Batangas
Us city-folk hear “Taal” and immediately think of our favorite Tagaytay restaurant overlooking the famous lake. However, Taal is also the name of the historic town on the south side of the lake—away from the contemporary developments on the mountain. So, for those who want to get an immersive experience of Philippine history, this is a great weekend getaway. Learn about the country’s biggest basilica, take tours of the ancestral homes of historic figures, and buy high-quality textiles at a reasonable price. If you’re lucky, you might even see big studios filming a period piece as you wander around town.
Crystal Beach, Zambales
For those who want all the fun of a good surf spot, without have to trek too far from the city, try Crystal Beach in Zambales. This earthy resort is perfect for low-maintenance travelers who don’t mind showering outdoors and camping out in a tent. And surfing isn’t the only fun activity to do around here. You can play volleyball, swim comfortably, and the resort even offers island hopping and a waterfalls tour.
Mount Pinatubo, Pampanga
There are a variety of ways to get to the crater lake of the legendary Mount Pinatubo. You can either get dropped off close to the top and take a short hike, or, if you want a challenge, take a longer, more scenic hike to it. Less than three hours from Manila, you can make this a day trip, or spend a long weekend taking in the local sights and sounds.
Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija
Perfect for a group of friends, Minalungao—which is just four hours from Manila—has a lot of fun activities to offer. You can rent an all-terrain vehicle and enjoy the thrill of the zipline. Or, for the less adventurous, you can spend the day having a picnic in a shaded raft, as you gently float down the river. Our tip: wear comfortable shoes, and bring a bathing suit!
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