by Julia Escano
When you cross out all the mountains and hiking trails nearby, and had your fill with food trips, where do you go next? Sure, there’s always something to discover in the dozens of towns and cities surrounding Manila. But at some point all of them start to look the same and you crave for something different. What then?
One yet-to-be habitual destination for city dwellers are the lakes near Manila. While some are already famous, there are others waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. These lakes near Manila are perfect for weekend getaways and daytrips; where you and your family or barkada can while away the day swimming or having picnics.
So if your gang is looking for a different escape, check out these scenic lakes near Manila for your next weekend getaway.
Taal Lake, Batangas
With the ever-increasing traffic jams going to Tagaytay these days, the thought of relaxing in the scenic ridge city is becoming more and more stressful. Instead of getting caught with the throng, why not escape to nearby Taal Lake and the smaller Crater Lake. While the rest merely enjoy the view, you can enjoy everything else this famous destination has to offer.
Resorts like Club Balai Isabel and Taal Lake Yacht Club offer tours to these spots. Packages usually start with a boat ride through Taal Lake to Volcano Island. Once on the island, you can have an easy trek or a short ride on horseback to the peak, where the Crater Lake can be seen. There are 3 trails to the crater: the regular tourist route taken by the majority; a “private” route via Talisay, which isn’t as scenic but is cooler thanks to its overhanging trees; and the secret route, which takes you straight to the banks of the Crater Lake. The water in Volcano Island’s crater is good for swimming, while huts are available for picnics and hanging out.
If you still want more lake action, Taal Lake Yacht Club also offers sailing lessons. Reservations are recommended if you’re sure you can make your appointment, though walk-ins are accepted as well. For something more chill, Filisup offers stand-up paddle boarding lessons and tours in Taal Lake. Be sure to reserve in advance as their instructors have to come all the way from Manila.
Taal Lake Yacht Club contact info: (+632) 811-3283, (+632) 811-3183
Filisup contact info: (+63) 917-7906352
Club Balai Isabel contact info: (+632) 897 0229, (+63) 906-5185491
Yambo and Pandin Lakes, Laguna
Lakes Yambo and Pandin in San Pablo, Laguna are part of the city’s famous 7 lakes. These two are considered “twin lakes” because they sit side by side and are only separated by a narrow strip of land. Unlike the other lakes in San Pablo, Pandin and Yambo Lakes have a perfect balance of convenience and serenity. They are not as overridden with tourists as Sampaloc Lake, or crowded by fish pens like Mohikap Lake. However, they have amenities that tourists would find very convenient.
Pandin Lake, for instance, has available rafts for rent which come with lunch packages. Groups of 2 cost Php500 per head, groups of 3 cost Php400 per head, and groups of 4 or more cost Php360 per head. You can take these rafts to the middle of the lake and enjoy the placid waters while filling yourself with a hearty home-cooked meal prepared by the cooperative of local women.
More adventurous spirits can also do a vine swing at the end of the lake or swim through its currents. From Pandin, you can also go on a short hike to Yambo Lake, where there are even less people. It’s perfect for tourists looking for some peace and quiet, while enjoying nature in comfort.
It’s best to book your trip ahead of time to assure that you can be accommodated.
Contact info: (+63) 929-9789565 (Ate Siony)
Calibato Lake, Laguna
As lakes near Manila go, Calibato Lake is what every city-dwelling outdoorsman is looking for. It is another of the 7 lakes of San Pablo, located in the Barangay of Sto. Angel. It is said to be the most peaceful of the 7, perhaps thanks to the extra work needed to get there. A substantial hike through creeks and jungle is required to access the lake, making it perfect for people looking for some physical activity. Maybe because of this, there are also not many tourists in the area.
The lake itself is largely populated by fishermen and their bamboo rafts. Since it’s very rich, it supplies fish for many neighboring barangays. Swimming is not advisable in the lake because of the presence of fish pens but boatmen can be hired to take you around. You can also try borrowing the narrow bamboo rafts of fishermen for a truly authentic experience and some interesting photo ops. A visit in Calibato Lake isn’t just an escape, it’s an authentic glimpse of a different way of life.
Lake Mapanuepe , Zambales
Thirty years ago, Mapanuepe Lake of San Marcelino, Zambales was nonexistent. Instead, the Mapanuepe Valley occupied its area, where a small, peaceful community resided. Then the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo happened, and everything changed its course. The eruption led to the blockage of the natural drainages of Mapanuepe River. When the water had nowhere to go, the valley was gradually drowned until it eventually became a lake.
These days, all that remains of the valley is the church steeple jutting out from the heart of Mapanuepe Lake. All other structures are submerged deep in the water. It’s quite chilling, boating over its calm waters, knowing a whole town is lying in decay beneath. Thankfully there were no reports of casualties, which make things a little better. Chilling or not though, the green mountains surrounding the lake and the wide beach make it a spot for camping and enjoying the fresh, clean waters. Because it’s not yet as mainstream, it’s also one of the lakes near Manila you can enjoy away from tourists and noisy crowds.
Pantabangan Lake, Nueva Ecija
Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija is perhaps one of the most progressive cities in Luzon today. With more and more services for hospitality, its tourism is also fast-growing – and rightly so. Pantabangan is rich in natural resources. The main highlights in the municipality are the Pantabangan Lake and Pantabangan Dam. The dam was built in 1974 and remains as one of the cleanest reservoirs in the country. It is proudly all-Filipino made, a testament our local engineers’ skills and expertise.
Right by the dam sits Pantabangan Lake. It is largely enjoyed by families for picnics, fun boat rides, and the stellar view. These days however, it’s also gaining popularity as a spot for sport fishing. It turns out, sport fishermen from across Asia and the world come here for the bass, among other things. Whether you’re into fishing or not, Pantabangan Lake is definitely worth a visit for its beautiful landscape and warm people.