6 quick getaways outside of Manila

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A couple of hours away from Manila lies stunning landscapes, rich historical spots, and offbeat destinations. A vast landscape of Sierra Madre’s mountain range is rewarded to those who climb Mt. Balagbag, located a mere 2 hours away from Manila. Photo by TERENCE CO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — For the 9 to 5 employees whose weekdays are dedicated to work, weekend travels serve as a breath of fresh air, and quite literally so. For the entrepreneurs and freelancers who have more flexible schedules, quick excursions provide that mental reset that allow them to perform better afterwards. With the advent of social media came a booming tourism industry, resulting in travel destinations climbing everyone’s bucket lists. Travelling is at the tip of everyone’s tongues lately, and has even become part and parcel of restoring one’s mental health.

But when you’re in Manila, you don't need to look far beyond the island of Luzon for that wondrous getaway, may it be a vast mountain range, a pristine beach, or a charming historical spot. There is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered, and from the swarming city of Manila, many of these locations are accessible via short bus rides or quick road trips.

Here are some noteworthy locations that are well worth spending a day trip at.

Mt. Balagbag, Rizal

Conquering mountains is a daunting task undertaken by many in exchange for spectacular views. Fortunately for fledgling trekkers, Mt. Balagbag’s peak offers a landscape so glorious it’s as if a long, grueling hike was needed to reach it. One of the easiest trails in Rizal’s mountain range, Mt. Balagbag is highly recommended for novice hikers and those looking to immerse in nature without the commitment of a difficult journey. The peak of Mt. Balagbag boasts a stunning landscape of Sierra Madre’s mountain range, and if you decide to camp out at night, you can marvel at a starry view and stunning perspective of scenic city lights. Since its trail doesn’t provide any shade from towering trees, be prepared for when the heat is scorching.

Travel travel time from Manila: 2 hours

How to get there: To commute, go to Cubao and take a bus to Tungko. From Tungko, take a jeep to Licao-Licao then ride a tricycle or walk by foot going to Barangay Balagbag. To travel there using private transportation, head to Rodriguez, Rizal using Payatas Road. Once you’ve reached Barangay Macabud, take the uphill road leading to Licao-Licao. If your vehicle can handle rough roads, drive to Barangay Balagbag and if not, walk or ride a tricycle there instead.

1 Prado Farms.jpg With its silent atmosphere, delicious selection of organic food, and spaces for recreational activities and contemplation, Prado Farms allows guests to experience the slow-paced lifestyle that’s highly sought-after in this day and age. Photos by DANNA PEÑA

Prado Farms, Pampanga


If you’re looking to unwind and eat healthy while you’re at it, Prado Farms is right up your alley. Located in the province of Lubao, Pampanga, Prado Farms is an eco-resort that instills mindfulness and eco-friendliness to its guests. Five hectares of its family-owned land is home to an organic farm, an eco-lodge, a church venue, a retreat center, a swimming pool, a repurposed art installation, and a spacious area for biking and strolling. Uniquely known for its charming and laid-back setting lined up with colorful Hispanic-inspired houses, the rustic location has been a favorite for prenuptial shoots, banquets, and company retreats. Most notably, spending a day trip or an overnight trip allows you to grab a taste of Prado Farms’ delicious, organically-grown Kapampangan food. The farm is also a pet-friendly space with limited wifi-covered areas.

Travel time from Manila: 2 hours

How to get there: To commute, go to Cubao or Pasay and take a bus bound for Mariveles, Bataan. Ask to be dropped off along Lubao Highway across Pradera Wake Park, where Prado Farms is located. To travel there using a private vehicle, drive to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), take the San Fernando exit, and keep going straight in Jose Abad Santos Avenue until you reach Prado Farms.

3 Hulugan Falls-1.jpg Hulugan Falls’ monumental size and relatively cool temperature give visitors an invigorating excursion. Photo by DANNA PEÑA

Hulugan Falls, Laguna

Laguna is well-known for its many hidden waterfalls and springs that are great alternatives to longer drives to the beach. A favorite of weekend warriors, it’s one of the nearest provinces from Manila that provides quick and refreshing getaways. One of its many treasures is Hulugan Falls, an immense waterfall that was opened to the public in late 2016. Although it is still less popular than the famous Pagsanjan Falls and Taytay Falls, it has been steadily gaining traction because of its formidable beauty and accessibility.

Since its townsfolk saw Hulugan Fall’s potential as a popular tourist spot, a road has been paved to get to its jump-off point, a system for tourists has been set in place, and jobs have been created for the waterfall’s custodians. After conquering the 30 to 40-minute hike to the waterfall, take a dip in its chilly waters while admiring the spectacular view.

Travel time from Manila: 3 hours

How to get there: To commute, go to Cubao or Taft and ride a bus to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. From Sta. Cruz, Laguna, ride a jeepney going to Lucena or Lucban and tell the driver to drop you off at San Salvador, where you will find a sign of Hulugan Falls. To travel there using private transportation, take the South-Luzon Expressway (SLEX), exit in Calamba, keep going straight on the highway, turn right to Cavinti-Luisiana Road, and look out for a San Salvador/Hulugan Falls signage at your right side.

4 Las casas.jpg Every corner of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is laced with romance, charm, and a nostalgic aura that conjures vivid backstories. Photos by DANNA PEÑA

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bataan

Immerse in Old Manila’s charm by visiting Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, the only heritage site and resort destination in Bataan. From the charming architecture of the restored Spanish-Filipino houses to the vintage-inspired uniforms of its accommodating staff, stepping foot in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar instantly transports you back to pre-20th century Philippines. Take their heritage tour that allows you to explore the casas and unravel the stories behind each of them. Leisurely stroll the brick pavements of its vast area and behold a view of horse-drawn carriages, an infinity pool, and a selection of quaint restaurants you can dine in. Indeed, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is an ardent homage to the rich Filipino heritage of the past for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

Travel time from Manila: 3.5 to 4 hours

How to get there: To commute, take a bus from Cubao to Balanga, Bataan. From the Bataan Transport Terminal, transfer to a bus bound for Bagac and then ride a tricycle to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. By private vehicle, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), exit at San Fernando, and take the westbound side of Jose Abad Santos Avenue. Once you reach Dinalupihan, turn left at Roman Superhighway. Upon reaching Balanga City, turn right at Gov. J.J. Linao National Road and keep driving straight until you reach the town of Bagac. Follow the signs that point to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

6 MAD Travel.jpg Chieftain Erese, the leader of the Aeta community of Sitio Yangil in Zambales, freshens up the carabao in the grueling heat. Carabaos are well taken care of and are considered blessings by the tribe as they help in transporting goods and resources. Photo by DANNA PEÑA

Tribes & Treks Tour, Zambales

Zambales is known for its pristine beaches and surf spots, but it’s also home to a different kind of travel experience that aims to make a difference to its Aeta community in Sitio Yangil. This socially responsible travel tour was made into existence by MAD Travel, a local social enterprise that creates socially impactful and eco-friendly travel tours in different parts of the Philippines. Take part of their Tribes & Treks tour in San Felipe, Zambales, where you can immerse in Aeta culture for a day or two and help them live sustainably by engaging in their reforestation projects and cultural activities. Some of the tour’s activities include trekking, swimming, tree-planting, archery lessons, singing, dancing, and eating homegrown organic food. Not only will you be surrounded by a bucolic setting, but you can also help the Aeta community in need, gain new friends, and expose yourself to eye-opening perspectives.

Travel time from Manila: 4 to 5 hours

How to get there: To join the Tribes & Treks Tour in Zambales, reserve a slot from MAD Travel’s official website. Coordinate your mode of transportation with MAD Travel.

5 Sepoc Beach by The Poor Traveler Blog.jpg Sepoc Beach is more secluded than your typical well-known beach in Batangas. Its rich marine life makes it a favored destination of divers. Photo courtesy of THE POOR TRAVELER BLOG

Sepoc Beach, Batangas

Although the Philippines’ weather can be unpredictable, one thing is certain: In the Philippines, it’s always summer somewhere. For those looking for a tropical paradise just a few hours away from Manila, the beaches in Batangas are a crowd favorite. Sepoc Beach, accessible by means of a short 15 to 20-minute boat ride from Eagle Point Resort in Batangas, is a less-crowded and equally stunning beach as its nearby counterparts like Sombrero Island and Masasa Beach. A top pick for team buildings and company outings, it’s also perfect for divers, snorkeling enthusiasts, and those who simply enjoy basking by the sea. While exploring the beach, make sure to climb its small hill to gaze at the panoramic view of Tingloy’s vast seascape.

Travel time from Manila: 3.5 to 4 hours

How to get there: Take a bus to Batangas from Buendia or Kamias. From the Batangas Grand Terminal, take a jeepney to Anilao, then ride a tricycle to Eagle Point Resort. From there, board a boat to Sepoc Beach. Advance reservations are required for boat transfers from Eagle Point Resort.


Photo of Sepoc Beach courtesy of The Poor Traveler Blog.