by Julia Escano
The Philippines is gorgeous, no argument there. Because of that, it’s not hard to get overwhelmed when planning for trips – especially when it involves picking a spot amongst 7,107 beautiful islands and the logistics that involves. Between that, busy workdays, and limited time, sometimes we arrive at our destination more tired about the journey than excited to be there. But what if we told you that you didn’t have to go through all the headaches of trip-planning just to see some of the iconic spots in the country?
If you have limited time or a limited budget, but just want to go out there and explore, there are great spots near Manila that more than just suffice. Thanks to these spots, you can experience some of the most iconic Philippine destinations, just two or three hours away. Perfect for weekend warriors and budget adventurers!
Bangui Wind Farm, Ilocos Norte vs. Pililla Wind Farm, Rizal
Where Ilocos Norte’s famous windmills stand in line the ocean, Rizal’s counterpart bores down on you from tall ridges of winding hills and sprawling earth. Located in Barangay Halayhayin, Pililla, Rizal, these 27 wind turbines are segmented into three clusters throughout a loop accessible via Manila East Road or Barangay Sampaloc, in Tanay, Rizal. The whole loop was only opened in turbines are segmented into three clusters throughout a loop accessible via Manila East Road or Barangay Sampaloc, in Tanay, Rizal. The whole loop was only opened in September 2015 when construction of the turbines was completed. While these windmills are set in a different landscape from those of Bangui, it’s still pretty cool to see the towering structures lined up against the sky. It’s a two-hour drive from Manila though it’s also becoming a popular route for biking.
Paoay, Ilocos Norte 4×4 vs. Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales 4×4
Do you like rough rides? The sand dunes of Paoay and La Paz, Ilocos Norte, are famous for unique adventures only the desert can give, like sand-boarding. But one of the favorite tourist activities in this area – 4×4 rides – is also doable a mere 2 hours or less from the metro. Mt. Pinatubo is perhaps one of the country’s most popular adventure destinations near Manila. Of course, the 4×4 rides on Mt Pinatubo are usually packaged with a hike to the crater, so you better be prepared for some physical work as well. The Pinatubo 4×4 journey is also rougher, thanks to giant boulders, crossing streams, and the ever-changing lahar. But we think that only makes it more exciting.
Calaguas Island vs. Cagbalete Island, Quezon
Between all of the country’s islands, there is no shortage of white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. But while many feel the need to fly to the likes of Gigantes Island, Iloilo or Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte, there are countless hidden gems lying just two to three hours from Manila in the province of Quezon. Cagbalete Island is one such gem. It’s a privately owned island with its own stretch of pristine shores and gorgeous waters. Like Calaguas, it’s also a great spot for camping and roughing it a little. It also offers more activities than just beach bumming. Cagbalete is also a great spot for hiking, horseback riding, and even bird watching. The best part is, thanks to its remote location, it’s a white sand beach near Manila that still isn’t getting a throng of tourists – making it a truly great escape.
Balicasag, Bohol diving vs. Apo Reef, Mindoro
Both Balicasag, Bohol and Apo Reef, Mindoro are world-famous dive spots where SCUBA enthusiasts the world over flock to experience vast coral reefs and rich wildlife. The main advantage of Apo Reef if you’re a Manileño is that you don’t need to fly to get there. Compared to Bohol, Mindoro – where Apo Reef is located – is a destination near Manila enough to make it a weekend getaway. It may take a few more hours than Bohol’s plane ride, but it will certainly save you a lot of cash you can use on your diving instead. Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous coral reef system in the world, and is a great spot to see pawikan, sting rays, sharks, and other pelagics apart from beautiful coral reefs.
Vigan Heritage Town, Ilocos Sur vs. Taal Heritage Town, Batangas
Vigan is a town in Ilocos Sur famous for its beautifully preserved Spanish colonial houses and buildings, mostly centered around Calle Crisologo. Many love to travel here to get a feel for our heritage and get in touch with the old world. But what many do not know is that this can be experienced just two hours from Manila, in Taal, Batangas. Taal may be a small town, but its old Spanish houses are well-preserved as well. Taking a walk through its narrow streets, lined with historic houses can take you back in time. Also, many of Taal’s residents were patriots and revolutionaries who took part in creating our republic. Thus touring Taal isn’t just a walk back in time, but a way to get in touch with our heroes as well.