If you’re looking for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, might as well consider visiting the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (CALABARZON).
An area known for its variety of physical features ranging from coastal areas to highlands and for being home to prominent Philippine historical figures like Jose Rizal, it’s no surprise that the region is rich in tourist attractions.
Any of these places could easily be your next best destination, regardless if you’re a nature lover, artsy, deeply interested in history, or game for adventure.
From scenic islands, unique art galleries, historical sites, beautiful beaches and dive spots, the region has it all—and it’s only a few kilometers away from the city. Take your pick from these attractions and activities.
Scuba Diving in Batangas for Ocean Lovers
Batangas is home to some of the best diving spots not just locally, but also internationally.
In fact, thanks to the province’s dive hubs in Anilao—along with other world-renowned sites such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Apo Reef Natural Park in Mindoro, and Apo Island—the Philippines has been hailed as the World’s Leading Dive Destination from the prestigious World Travel Awards. It bested the likes of Bora Bora, Maldives, Great Barrier Reef, among others.
As Luzon’s prime diving destination, Anilao—a mere three-hour drive from Manila— offers a number of resorts for ocean lovers seeking a dive experience where there’s crystal clear waters and rich marine biodiversity. Its most popular dive resorts include the Acacia Dive Resort, Anilao Awari Bay Resort, Arthur’s Place Dive Resort, and Pier Uno.
Depending on the resort of choice, dive rates range from Php950 to Php2,900. You can also choose from a variety of courses, such as PADI, which teaches the basics of diving, and NAUI, which provides fundamental skills needed in underwater search, rescue, and recovery operations.
Just don’t forget to bring your own diving gear, as it is part of the safety guidelines for diving establishments in the new normal.
How to get there: For public commuters, ride a bus from Cubao, Alabang, or Buendia going to Batangas City. Depending on your point of origin, transportation fare can range from Php 120-Php 180. Once you reach the Mabini Multi-Purpose Port, ride a boat going to Anilao. The trip will take about 40 minutes and costs Php 37. Hail a tricycle and ask the driver to take you to your resort.
For private vehicles, enter SLEX and drive all the way to STAR Tollway then exit at Diversion Road in Balagtas. Head straight to Bolbok and turn right under the flyover. Make a left turn at Manghinao Bridge and go straight to Mabini’s New Tourism Triangle. There, turn right to Anilao.
Water Sports in Quezon for Adventure Seekers
For fun and thrilling water activities, adventure seekers can check out the province of Quezon. The town of Real, despite its small size, is big on water sports—and it’s only three to five hours away from Manila.
As a coastal town, you can experience surfing in the water waves and swells of the Pacific Ocean. The best time to visit is right when the surf season starts every October and ends in May. For beginners, however, any time between October and February is ideal.
At Real Surf and Coast, one of the many surf camps in the area, surfing lessons with a licensed local instructor—booked via Facebook or email at email@example.com—costs Php 500 for an hour of coaching inclusive of the board. You can also rent a surfboard for Php 200 per hour or bring your own if you want to be extra careful.
If a more adrenaline-pumping adventure is what you came for, you can opt for white water rafting at the Tanauan-Tignoan River.
At Php 500 per head, you can brave the streams, rapids, and rocky encounters of the five-kilometer river on a bamboo-framed raft, complete with safety gear and rescue-trained lifeguards on both ends.
It’s best to try it from early November until late February when water tides are high in the river, so reach out to Real’s tourism office through Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org ahead of these months to secure your best experience of the adventure sport.
How to get there: From the Raymond Transportation Bus Terminal in Sampaloc, Manila, take a bus going to Infanta, Quezon, then alight at Poblacion 1 Real. There’s one stopover during the trip so don’t worry about food or bathroom breaks.
For private vehicles, take the Antipolo-Teresa-Tanay-Sinaloan route. At a junction of the Manila East Road in Sinaloan, turn left to Real-Infanta.
Hiking in Rizal for Nature Lovers
A half an hour away from Manila, Rizal is a province popular for its hiking spots with breathtaking, Instagram-worthy views. It’s rich in trails for both beginners and seasoned mountaineers.
In Tanay alone, hikers can bask in nature’s beauty atop mountains. The peak of Fresno Agro-Forestry and Eco Tourist Camp Site, for instance, offers majestic views of the Sierra Madre mountain range. On a particularly special day, it’s enveloped in a sea of clouds.
For an entrance fee of Php 200 and an additional Php 500 for a tour guide per five people, you can explore the site and enjoy views from the Heart Peak, where there’s a heart-shaped bamboo bench, and Noah’s Ark, where there are limestones to sit on. Simply message their Facebook account or visit their website to set an appointment.
Also in the lush mountains of Tanay is the Nagpatong Rock Formation. It has two large limestones facing each other.
It requires a three-kilometer hike, a walk up to an elevated trail, before a final climb up a steep ladder. The cliffs are made of stacked rocks, hence the name nagpatong. It’s unknown how this formation was formed, but its peak offers views of the province’s mountain ranges and makes for an epic hiking photo.
Just don’t forget to schedule your visit by registering at the Barangay Cuyambay Hall or coordinating with Tanay’s tourism office. While you’re at it, arrange for a tour guide for a safe hike.
How to get there: From Recto in Manila, take the LRT 2 line and alight at the Araneta-Center Cubao station. From there, ride a jeepney going to Cogeo. Ride another jeepney going to Sampaloc and ask the driver to drop you off at Sitio Maysawa. From there, begin the 20 to 30-minute walk to the campsite or ride a tricycle for Php 150.
For private vehicles, take Aurora Boulevard, the same route the LRT 2 line follows. From Katipunan, continue driving to Marikina-Infanta Highway. This long stretch of road will take you to areas leading to Sitio Maysawa in Tanay: Cogeo, Padilla, Boso-Boso, Paenaan, and Baras. Depending on traffic, the whole drive may last for two to three hours.
Museum Hopping in Cavite for Art Enthusiasts
Cavite, known as the “Historical Capital of the Philippines,” became the cradle of the Philippine Revolution, which eventually led to the declaration of independence from Spanish colonial control.
That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s home to numerous sites preserving and continuously sharing its storied past. But apart from historical exhibits, the province also has some of the country’s most unique—and globally-recognized—museums.
In the municipality of Silang, a mere two-hour drive away from Manila, there are at least three that art enthusiasts can easily visit. The Puzzle Mansion features Gina Gil Lacuna’s puzzle collection in her family’s summer house in Tagaytay. Its scale is so large—two standout pieces have at least 30,000 pieces each—that the Guinness World Records recognized Lacuna in 2012 for having the Largest Collection of Jigsaw Puzzles in the World.
Entrance fee is only Php 100, while puzzle sets you can put together yourself at home range from Php 200 to Php 10,000.
A 20-minute drive away, Museo Orlina showcases the works of internationally acclaimed and the country’s pioneer glass sculptor, Ramon Orlina. He is responsible for elevating what was largely considered a functional material into contemporary artwork.
Each level in the five-story museum has a designated purpose: a space for Orlina’s early and more recent works, a room with an interactive touch screen display system of his archive containing images, files, videos, and documents; a floor for changing exhibitions; a gallery of photos and earlier glass models; a sculpture garden; a museum shop; and roof deck where you can see the Taal Volcano.
For all of these sights, you only need to pay an entrance fee of Php 130 for adults and Php 100 for students, senior citizens, and PWD. Just book your visit online before coming to the museum.
For a unique outdoor museum experience, pay the Shambala Living Museum a visit. Also in Silang, the area is where nature meets art and culture. Its owner, Riza Matibag Muyot has turned it into a landscape that would make you feel like you’ve traveled to the Cordilleras, complete with gardens, stone sculptures and authentic Ifugao huts.
Muyot has also dedicated a gallery of indigenous art treasures and crafts at the property’s Tawid Gallery. Some of the pieces are from personal collections, while others are from exhibitions. Shambala is open to reservations, so book your visit via SMS at 0927 594 0337 or 0968 400 6949.
How to get there: Public commuters can head straight to the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) and ride any bus on Route 4, which travels via the Aguinaldo Highway. Alight at the designated bus stop of Silang. Ride a taxi to your destination.
If you’re coming via private vehicle, head to SLEX and take the ETON exit instead of Sta. Rosa to avoid heavy traffic. Continue driving to Greenfield Parkway and turn left to United Boulevard. Keep driving for about a kilometer and turn left to Laguna Boulevard before you make another left at S Main Avenue. Head to Brgy. Tibig Road, turn left to Pook, and make a right to Tubuan Bridge. Turn left to J. Rizal and you’ll arrive at Silang.
Pilgrimage Tour in Laguna for History Buffs
If you have a penchant for visiting old churches, Laguna is the province to visit.
It’s one of the first provinces that Franciscan missionaries started evangelizing in the mid-16th century, which explains why it is home to some of the country’s most significant churches, historically and culturally.
All over Laguna, only a two-hour drive away from Manila, history buffs can learn more about Catholic faith in the Philippines through the centuries while seeing these remnants of the past still standing today: the San Sebastian Parish Church in Lumban, St. John the Baptist Church in Liliw, Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish in Pakil, National Shrine and Parish of San Antonio de Padua in Pila, and the Bartholomew Parish in Nagcarlan.
The best part? Entrance is free in all of these churches.
How to get there: Riding the bus is the best option for you. Depending on the church you choose to visit, transportation fares vary. Take a Sta. Cruz, Laguna-bound bus from Cubao or Buendia and tell the driver to drop you off in the town proper, or where you can ride another jeepney to get to your destination.
For those coming to Laguna by private vehicle, your route depends on your choice of church to visit. Heading to SLEX and taking the Calamba exit is ideal if you’re looking to go to Bartholomew Parish in Nagcarlan and St. John the Baptist Church in Liliw. Meanwhile, San Sebastian Parish Church in Lumban, Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish in Pakil, and National Shrine and Parish of San Antonio de Padua in Pila are more accessible through the Manila East Road.
No matter what your preferences and interests are, all these fun activities, unique tourist attractions, and jaw-dropping historical sites can surely make your visit to CALABARZON worthwhile.
All provinces of the region are strictly implementing health and safety protocols that locals and tourists must follow. While traveling and having fun, remember to practice social distancing, wear face masks and face shields, and regularly sanitize your hands. It’s best to carry with you booking confirmations, 72-hour swab test results, and medical clearance so you can easily present it.
To check up-to-date information regarding local destinations that have reopened, as well as other safety protocols and requirements, visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.