Are you fed up of Manila’s chaos and need a quick, easy weekend getaway? Do you have a few days to spend in Manila with no itinerary? Would you prefer to hit the road and explore beautiful places to visit in Luzon rather than waste time and money flying?
There are some amazing things to do in Luzon – don’t miss out on the island’s much-overlooked beautiful natural landscapes. If you’re in Manila and none of the cultural city activities appeal to you, my honest recommendation would be to head out into the nearby wilds!
Between you and I, Manila is not my favourite place in the Philippines. The traffic jams and pollution frustrated me to no end when I was working there daily. How did I keep sane, you ask? Weekend escapes kept me sane!
Luzon has world class, world famous oceans, beaches and volcanoes only 1 to 6 hours away from Manila by car. (Depending on traffic, of course. Eugh.)
I’ve picked out my personal top 5 favourite weekend getaways near Manila. To get there, you can drive, carpool, rent a car with a driver, hop on a cheap and cheerful bus, or take a van shuttle. Let’s jump in!
1. Tagaytay (Taal Volcano), Batangas
How to get to Tagaytay from Manila (2-3 hour drive)
Tagaytay and the stunning Taal Lake is a beautifully hilly holiday escape in Cavite. Driving there from Manila usually takes around two hours (traffic depending) from Alabang in Manila.
As the world was made aware in January 2020, Taal’s explosion left the area ravaged by ashfall and earthquakes. I have since visited Tagaytay and tourism is still thriving, but the area is slowly recovering.
Where to Stay in Tagaytay
Tagaytay is a very popular weekend destination among locals and tourists so book your hotel in advance.
- Budget: Hotel Monticello offers affordable accommodation with great views of Taal Volcano. The rooms are spacious and clean, and the staff are friendly and accommodating.
- Mid-Range: The Lake Hotel Tagaytay is a great mid-range option that offers stunning views of Taal Lake. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food.
- Luxury: Taal Vista Hotel is a luxurious hotel that boasts stunning views of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool, a spa, and several restaurants.
What To Do in Tagaytay
Tagaytay is known for its wooden crafts, sweet local pineapples, delicious coffee, breezy mountainous air, cooler temperatures, and – best of all – Taal Volcano Island, the world’s smallest active volcano, surrounded by Taal Lake. It is utterly, fabulously gorgeous.
Because of its proximity to the capital, Tagaytay is a very popular weekend destination for those based in Manila. Sometimes it can get downright crowded in peak season and on Saturdays. But it’s always worth it for those insane lake views.
I recommend hiring a boat or Taal tour, and hiking up the mountain (about 1-1.5 hours on foot – I don’t condone using the horses!) to see some exquisite views and smell the eggy sulphur in the crater! I’d also do this in monsoon season or before noon before the sun breaks. You can get dehydrated very quickly if it’s hot!
2. Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
How to get to Anilao from Manila (2-3 hour drive)
Batangas, where Tagaytay is situated, is a gorgeous province filled with world-class marine life. Anilao is a 2 to 3 hour drive from Manila, situated along the coastline curve.
Where to Stay in Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
Anilao is a small coastal town in Batangas that is known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs. Whether you love scuba or not, here are three great options for accommodation where you can relax and go diving:
- Budget: The Coral Beach Club is a budget-friendly option that offers direct access to the beach. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food.
- Mid-Range: Bentrina Diving Resort is a great mid-range option that offers access to Ligaya Beach. The rooms are comfortable and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant with good food.
- Luxury: Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort is a luxurious resort that boasts stunning views of the ocean. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the resort also has an outdoor pool, a spa, and a restaurant that serves delicious food.
What To Do in Anilao, Mabini
Scuba divers and snorkelers, this one’s for you. I spent almost every other weekend in Anilao after passing my scuba diving licenses – and for good reason. Beautiful weather, crystal clear water, unbelievable sunsets!
There are all sorts of snorkelling and diving spots – Cathedral, Casino, Tinggloy, Mabini – in the area accessible by boat. You’ll see turtles, clownfish and more. It’s s famous especially for its macro marine life.
If you don’t dive or swim, that’s fine. There are PLENTY of other places in the region to explore – including hills for hiking and beautiful mountain chalets, such as Cortija del Charro, a private safari lodge with a pool at the top of a mountain, overlooking the sea.
If you’re going to Anilao, I recommend Acacia Resort – that’s where I stayed every time with Manila Dive Academy. Great food, great views, great hospitality. Unfortunately branches of their acacia tree got damaged in a recent storm. Read more about My First Dive in Anilao or Sunset in Batangas.
3. Subic Bay, Zambales
How to get to Subic Bay from Manila (3-6 hour drive)
Subic (a former US naval base) is a mountainous coastal area in Zambales province that’s about 3 to 6 hours from Manila by car. Zambales is full of mountains, islands and the famous Mount Pinatubo volcano. Subic Bay, a beautiful picturesque bay of water in the heart of Zambales, has everything a family or person could want in a weekend getaway: nature, water, and plenty of opportunities for adventurous activities.
Where to Stay in Subic Bay
Subic Bay is a former US naval base that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination, so there are plenty of great places to stay in Subic that offer up beaches, water sports, and outdoor activities:
- Budget: Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel is a budget-friendly option that offers comfortable accommodation. The rooms are clean and spacious, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4-star rating.
- Mid-Range: White Rock Waterpark and Beach Hotel is a great mid-range option that offers direct access to the beach. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a water park that guests can enjoy. It has a 4-star rating.
- Luxury: The Lighthouse Marina Resort is a luxurious hotel that offers stunning views of Subic Bay. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool, a spa, and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4.5-star rating! I’ve stayed here and the hotel is genuinely beautiful.
What to Do in Subic Bay
I took a friend horse riding in Subic at the beautifully maintained El Kabayo stables, then we rented kayaks (we did the Mangrove Reef kayaking tour) from Camayan Beach Resort, which offers paddleboarding too.
We got to kayak into gorgeous wild mangroves, peer down into a shipwreck, and then – AND THEN – as the sun was setting, we paddled next to a dolphin enclosure and watched baby dolphins flipping out of the water during sunset. IT. WAS. AMAZING. If you’re familiar with my past blog posts, under no circumstances do I condone beautiful wild marine animals locked up in a park for profit, but there’s Subic Ocean Adventure Park where you can watch dolphin shows, swim and dive with dolphins, see all kinds of baby dolphins, sharks, turtles, and more. It kinda sucks because these beautiful creatures are right beside the ocean.
Highly recommend Subic. Island hopping around Zambales is great too! Just less convenient.
4. Baler, Aurora
How to get to Baler from Manila (3-5 hour drive)
Baler, famous for being the birthplace of Philippine surf culture (thanks to the iconic Hollywood film Apocalypse Now), is a 3 to 5 hour drive from Manila, perfect for some seaside rest and relaxation.
Where to Stay in Baler
No matter where you stay in the small town of Baler, you’ll get to experience its beautiful beaches and laid-back vibe. Here are three great places to stay in Baler:
- Budget: Bayler View Hotel is a budget-friendly option that offers comfortable accommodation. The rooms are clean and spacious, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4-star rating.
- Mid-Range: Casa Herminia Baler is a lovely boutique hotel. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 5-star rating and is deemed ‘Superb’ on Booking.com. It’s far from the beach though!
- Mid-Range/Luxe: Costa Pacifica Resort is a great mid-range option that offers direct access to Sabang Beach. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the resort also has an outdoor pool, a spa, and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4-star rating. Such good food and vibes, I really love this place! Here’s my review of the beautiful Costa Pacifica Resort!
What To Do in Baler
Surfer, non-surfer, general human. There’s so much in Baler for you to do. There are a handful of resorts, hotels and hostels and a super strong entrepreneurial culture of local shops cropping up in Baler.
Baler is seriously chilled, and all the locals are lovely. You can rent surfboards, have surf lessons on the cheap, rent a scooter, check out some nearby waterfalls, hike a hill, climb a century-old Balete tree, and just chill out beach-side. There are beautiful mangroves around there and lots of ‘hidden jewels’ of nature waiting to be explored. Plus, the misty golden morning sunrise is, genuinely, something out of this world. Go, go, go.
If you’re keen to visit Baler, check out my Things To Do in Baler Guide (Insider’s Tips)!
5. Baguio City, Benguet
How to get to Baguio from Manila (3-6 hour drive)
Baguio, a breezy and artsy mountain town in the northern Philippines, is a popular holiday and resort destination near Manila. The drive from Manila is about 3 to 6 hours away depending on traffic.
Baguio is highly popular in summer season because of its cool weather. It’s also the main rest stop for travellers heading up to rice terrace heaven in Sagada, Banaue, and Kalinga, about 8 to 10 hours away from Manila.
Where to Stay in Baguio City
As a mountain resort town in the Northern Philippines, Baguio has a whole host of accommodation options to suit every budget. Ready for a cool climate, pine trees and some outdoorsy fun? Here’s where to stay:
- Budget: Paladin Hotel is a budget-friendly option that offers comfortable accommodation. The rooms are clean and spacious, and the hotel also has a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4-star rating on Booking.com.
- Mid-Range: Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre is a great mid-range option that offers stunning views of the mountains. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel also has an indoor pool and a restaurant that serves delicious food. It has a 4-star rating on Booking.com.
- Luxury: The Manor at Camp John Hay is a luxurious hotel that offers stunning views of the mountains and pine trees. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the hotel also has an outdoor pool, a spa, and a restaurant that serves delicious food. I’ve stayed here multiple times as a guest and for a wedding, and it always delivers. The chocolate soufflé is next level! It has a 5-star rating.
What To Do in Baguio City
Despite getting more commercialised and traffic clogged, Baguio remains famous for its cultural scene.
Baguio has vintage clothing bazaars (the ukay-ukay), a night market selling all sorts of weird and wonderful local delicacies, horse riding, strawberry picking, art museums, golf and spa resorts such as Baguio Country Club and Camp John Hay, and Good Shepherd Convent, a mountain convent that produces its local range of jams and spreads.
My mum’s family used to own a cabin here and they’d holiday there frequently. Sadly, they sold the cabin, but the good memories live on. There’s plenty to do here! I’d highly recommend visiting Baguio.
Lesser Known Places to Visit Near Manila
There are no doubt many other exciting destinations to escape near Manila, and I may put together a more comprehensive list in future – but these would be my top 5 escapes. Number 6 on the list would include La Union Beach, San Juan and number 7 would be Pundaquit Beach, Zambales.
All of these trips can be done either on a shoestring budget, or in total luxury. That’s why I’ve included a mix of options for each destination. That’s my favourite thing about the Philippines: the country caters to everyone and anyone. So these would be my best weekend escapes near Manila, because I’ve been to them over and over again. They never fail to bring me joy, views, and crazy beautiful sunsets when the city becomes too much.
Do you have any other recommendations? Let me know!
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