24 Must-Visit Destinations for Your Road Trip Near Manila

Jay Pagkatotohan

Jay Pagkatotohan

Last updated May 27, 2022

It’s been two years since the pandemic confined everyone to their homes. While cooped up, may people discovered that they could dance, sing, and act (thanks, TikTok). Some realized that their hands could do wonders in the kitchen, as proven by the popularity of sourdough, ube cheese pandesal, and dalgona coffee.

Despite these new interests, nothing could ever top the joy of hitting the road, meeting new faces, and exploring hidden gems. Thankfully, things are slowly going back to normal, which means that you can travel again.

But in case you’re testing the waters and prefer not to travel far yet, we’ve curated a list of summer destinations for your next road trip near Manila.

24 Destinations for Your Road Trip Near Manila

Just for a change, the list doesn’t Baguio, Tagaytay, or Subic. Nevertheless, each of these road trip destinations near Manila will give you a good time.

1. Seven Lakes of San Pablo (San Pablo, Laguna)

road trip near Manila - Seven Lakes of San Pablo
Photo by diosa marie aguila via Wikimedia Commons

The city of San Pablo in Laguna is famous for its seven crater lakes,[1] namely Bunot, Calibato, Mohicap, Palakpakin, Pandin, Sampaloc, and Yambo. These enchanting lakes are located in San Pablo Volcanic Field located between Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Makiling.

Just a 2-hour drive from Manila (via SLEX Calamba Exit), the Seven Lakes of San Pablo is one of the must-visit summer destinations for people who love nature and adventure. You can go sightseeing, biking, swimming, rafting, trekking, and more. Take Insta-worthy shots as well!

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2. Liwliwa Beach (San Felipe, Zambales)

road trip near Manila - liwliwa
Instagram photo by @swellsurflodge

There's a hidden gem in Zambales that's accessible from Manila for 3 to 4 hours (via NLEX and SCTEX): the captivating beach in Liwliwa. It's got waves powerful enough for surfing. When the water's tranquil, you can either swim or just take a long walk and marvel at the stunning sunrise or sunset. Don't forget to try the local food and drinks as well!

3. Katungkulan Beach Resort (Ternate, Cavite)

Traveled to Tagaytay a gazillion times already? Time to explore other exciting summer destinations in Cavite!

In just 2 to 3 hours, you can get to Katungkulan Beach Resort, formerly called Boracay de Cavite because of its fine white sand. Because it's inside a military base, the resort implements quite many restrictions (no bonfire, no littering, no overnight stay, etc.).

There are also nearby tourist attractions for your side trips, such as the Maragondon Church and Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit.

Katungkulan Beach Resort location: General Gregorio Lim Marine Base, Sitio Calumpang, Sapang 1, Ternate, Cavite (via CAVITEX)

4. Beach Resorts in Isla Verde, Batangas

road trip near Manila - Isla Verde
Photo by @nicko.stark from Discover Batangas Facebook page

When it comes to Batangas beaches, what easily comes to mind are crowded resorts. Well, that's the case for the more popular beach destinations like Anilao, Nasugbu, and Laiya.

But there are lesser-known beach resorts in Batangas that are worth visiting. Many of them can be found in Isla Verde (also called Verde Island), a secluded island known for its diverse marine life.[2] The island's perfect for exploring the depths of the sea through diving or snorkeling.

5. Hilltop View Deck (Norzagaray, Bulacan)

road trip near Manila - Hilltop View Deck Norzagaray
Instagram photo by @jeric_del_rosario

As a tourist destination, Bulacan is famous for its historical sites, old churches, and crispy chicharon. But unknown to many travelers, the province near Manila is also home to some stunning natural wonders.

The "Baguio of Bulacan," locally known as Hilltop, is among the little-known summer destinations in Norzagaray. No need to drive for 6 hours to Baguio, as you can drive for just a few hours from Manila to Barangay San Lorenzo, Norzagaray via NLEX. Revel in the chilly weather and cool, fresh air with a picturesque view of the Sierra Madre mountain range, Angat Dam, and Ipo Dam.

Drive a bit further to get to the Bitbit Bridge where you can take a short trail to Bitbit River. You can go for a quick, refreshing swim in the river before driving back home.

Alternatively, explore the Angat Rainforest and Eco Park located just across the Bitbit Bridge.

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6. Governor's Rapids (Maddela, Quirino)

Governor’s Rapids, which forms part of the Cagayan River, is being developed by the Quirino provincial government as one of its primary tourist attractions.

Because of its crystal-clear waters and towering limestone formations, Governor’s Rapids is comparable to El Nido and Coron in Palawan, as well as Halong Bay in Vietnam.

Activities include swimming, kayaking, boating, and river tubing, which is the most recommended way to enjoy the rapids. For adventure junkies, the place is also great for white water rafting and cliff jumping.

Governor’s Rapids is one of the cheap summer destinations in Luzon, with an entrance fee of ₱10 and a boat ride/river tubing fee of ₱80 per person. It's a long seven-hour drive via NLEX and SCTEX, but it will be surely worth it.

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7. Anawangin Cove (San Antonio, Zambales)

road trip near Manila - anawangin
Photo from Anawangin Cove Facebook page

A different kind of beach experience awaits you and your group in San Antonio, Zambales, specifically at Anawangin. This is because the sands of this cove are actually volcanic ash, which came directly from Mount Pinatubo.

Bask in the cool and clear waters while appreciating the scenic views of the green mountains surrounding you. Or you can wait for the magnificent sunset at dusk.

Anawangin is actually part of the mainland, but getting there by land means that you’ll need to hike and trek. The fastest way to reach the cove is via boat (which may cost around ₱1,200 and above). If you have the time, you can explore other destinations nearby, such as Nagsasa Cove, Talisayen Cove, and Capones Island.

Just a reminder: there are no hotels or homestays in Anawangin. You may choose to go on a day trip or have an overnight stay provided that you have a tent (there are some rentals, though).

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8. Cagbalete Island (Mauban, Quezon)

About 40 minutes from the port town of Mauban, Quezon lies Cagbalete Island, a place with pristine and cream-colored beaches. This quiet getaway will make you realize that you don’t need to fly just to find a beautiful beach. Cagbalete Island is as rural as it gets, as there are no loud bars and over-the-top nightlife here.

Other than swimming, beach hopping, and snorkeling, you can enjoy activities, such as bird watching and horseback riding. One interesting spot to visit is the Bonsai Island, which is an islet that only appears during low tide—and when it does, you’ll see small mangroves and dead corals.

Cagbalete Island's among the beaches near Manila that you can reach via car. You can drive to Mauban, find a pay park area near the port, and then ride an island-bound boat.

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9. Paete, Laguna

road trip near Manila - paete
Instagram photo by @theonesinag

If you’re after a road trip near Manila, Laguna has a wealth of destinations waiting for you. For those wanting a different pace, Paete's worth visiting. While this quaint town's under the radar, you’ll definitely find interesting spots here that excite culture vultures and artists at heart.

As it's often dubbed the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines, you’ll find different artisanal shops that sell wood carvings and sculptures. There are also some stores that offer finely crafted hammocks, straw hats, and rocking chairs.

Complete your culture trip by visiting the Saint James the Apostle Parish, a 300-year-old architectural marvel, which houses century-old paintings and wooden depictions of saints.

If you’re up for some trekking adventure, visit Tatlong Krus. After taking 500 steps uphill, you’ll be treated to a scenic view of the town and Laguna Lake. Not far from Tatlong Krus is Matabungca Falls where you can refresh yourself with some cool and clean water.

10. Resorts in Pansol, Calamba, Laguna

A hot spring vacation in summer? That may sound counterintuitive, but you’ll be surprised by the number of people flocking to Pansol during the sunny season. The thermal waters in the Resort Capital of the Country can relax your muscles and take your stress away.

But if you’re looking for a cold pool, you’ll still find it here. Resorts and vacation houses actually have hot and cold pool options, and you can make certain arrangements with the owner before going there.

11. UP Los Baños, Laguna

road trip near Manila - UP Los Banos
Facebook photo from Bernardine Buenaventura

You can’t deny that UP campuses are treasure troves of Instagrammable spots. But if you want to commune with nature, UP Los Baños or UPLB is the perfect spot for you!

Once you get there, you’ll immediately get the impression that the university is housed within a massive park. Every nook and cranny is filled with lush foliage, towering trees, and pretty flowers.

You can visit the university’s most iconic spots, such as the Oblation Park and Carabao Park. Don’t miss Freedom Park (it’s not hard to miss!) where you can watch people jog or simply lie on the grass, taking their idle time.

While you’re here, spot the Fertility Tree, the university’s biggest acacia tree. Adjacent to it is the Carillon Tower, the tallest building on the campus, which seriously has a Tower of Sauron appeal.

You can also visit the upper campus and be in the company of super tall trees. If you have all day for your tour, try to spend some time at the Makiling Botanic Gardens (in case it’s already open to the public) or visit the National Arts Center. Don’t forget to pick up some freshly baked buko pies or cassava cakes on your way home!

12. Villa Escudero Plantation (Tiaong, Quezon)

A lot of us have dreamt of being a haciendero or haciendera. Well, it’s not too late to live that dream at Villa Escudero Plantation in Quezon Province.

This lavish plantation has not only a resort but also a museum and a chapel. It also treats you to an enchanting view of the pristine river flowing from Mount Banahaw. You can enjoy a wide range of activities, such as biking, carabao cart riding, rafting, and swimming. There are also cultural shows to look forward to.

The plantation's also made for foodies. One of its iconic offerings is the lunch buffet at the foot of the man-made waterfalls. After a filling meal, you may enjoy the rest of the afternoon at a leisurely pace by riding a bamboo raft at Labasin Lake or strolling around the coconut farm.

During the summer months (March to May), the plantation’s day tour package costs ₱1,450 (Monday to Wednesday) or ₱1,600 (Thursday to Sunday and holidays). This is already inclusive of the following: museum tour, carabao car ride, waterfall lunch, and use of outdoor recreational facilities.

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13. Corregidor Island, Cavite

road trip near Manila - Corregidor Island, Cavite
Photo from Corregidor Now Facebook page

In the southern of Bataan lies a historic island named Corregidor (note that this is part of Cavite City). This island played an important role during the Second World War, and the remnants will show you that. History buffs or those who want to escape the metro’s hustle and bustle will get to marvel at the bare ruins of the military barracks and the eeriness of tunnels.

Because the attractions are resting at an elevated point, you’ll get to view the serene sea and some parts of the island. Don’t forget to take pictures of the Corregidor sunset (in case you decide to book an overnight package)!

The prices of day tour packages may range from ₱2,500 to ₱2,700 depending on the day of the week. The package includes ferry transfers, buffet lunch, island tour, and guide fees. You may need to leave home a little earlier than usual, as the ferry departs from Manila at 7 a.m.

14. Taal Heritage Town, Batangas

Vigan is the first place that may pop into your mind when it comes to old houses and Spanish aesthetics. But you don’t have to endure a 12-hour car ride just to enjoy such sights. A great similar road trip destination near Manila is the Taal Heritage Town.

The ancestral houses in this picturesque town are well-preserved. Just looking at them will make you imagine the town’s opulence during the Spanish era. Good thing, some houses can be toured for a fee. So be a Don or Doña for a day at Casa Villavicencio or Casa V.

If you have spare time, you can visit the Villavicencio Wedding Gift House, which is just a few steps from Casa V. Walk around the casa to appreciate the ingenious marriage of European aesthetics and Pinoy sensibilities.

One of the main attractions in the town is the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours,[3] also known as the Taal Basilica. Built in 1572, it's said to be the largest Catholic church in the Philippines and in Asia. Its architecture is simply stunning. But wait until you get inside, as the interiors will remind you of the ornate churches in the Vatican.

While you’re in town, go on a mini food adventure and try tapang Taal and tawilis for lunch. End the meal on a sweet note with suman con tsokolate, which is rice cake served with chocolate sauce.

15. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

road trip near Manila - Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Since the last few destinations in this list are all about history, let’s go all the way with Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.[4] Stepping into this sprawling estate will make you think of two things: you’re transported back in time and you’re inside a larger-than-life museum.

Las Casas is actually a hotel complex that features heritage houses. All the ancestral houses here are restored Spanish-Filipino houses, which showcase the architectural geniuses coming from different parts of the country. Historical structures, such as Hotel de Oriente and Casa Bizantina, were either transferred or resurrected here.

But Las Casas is not just about sightseeing. There are also a lot of activities here such as watching cultural shows, playing heritage games, dining, souvenir shopping, swimming, wakeboarding, and banana boat riding.

If you want to go full-on with your experience, you may schedule a photoshoot with the hotel’s in-house photographer where you’ll wear traditional costumes.

16. Pinto Art Museum (Antipolo, Rizal)

If you’re in the mood for contemporary art, there’s no better place than the Pinto Art Museum. Located in Antipolo, this museum houses the works of veteran and emerging artists.

What makes this place unique and special is the fact that it doesn’t look like your typical museum. Walking into Pinto feels like wandering the mansion of an opulent art collector―which is accurate since it’s founded by Dr. Joven Cuanang, a Harvard-trained neurologist.

The pieces at Pinto are not only stunning but also intriguing and unorthodox. From “The Hollow Man” by Alab Pagarigan to Costantino Zicarelli’s typographical art that says “We are the kids that your parents warned you about,” it’s easy to see why the museum's popular among millennials and Gen Zers.

17. Mount Daraitan (Tanay, Rizal)

Whether you’re planning to take hiking seriously or you’re just curious about its thrill, Mount Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal makes a good road trip near Manila. After the hike, you can proudly tell your friends that you’ve climbed Sierra Madre―well, technically, since Mount Daraitan’s part of the said mountain range.

The adventure doesn’t stop at the summit. On your way down, you may have a stopover at the Tinipak River. With its almost emerald-green waters and surrounding rock formations, the river's nothing short of photogenic.

18. Pililla Wind Farm (Pililla, Rizal)

You don’t have to fly to Ilocos Norte to see the gigantic windmills of Bangui. Still in Rizal, you’ll find the wind farm of Pililla. Perched atop the verdant sloping hill are the towering wind turbines that capture the strong gusts of wind. Make it a point to visit this place if you want a good view of the Laguna de Bay.

The Pililla Wind Farm also makes a good destination if you’re a cyclist. The road leading there offers an uninterrupted view of grasslands, rolling hills, and the lake.

19. Baler, Aurora

road trip near Manila - baler

The untamed waves of the Pacific are a roller coaster ride for surfers. If you want to experience these wild waters, come to Baler! This humble town welcomes not only surfers but also holidaymakers who want to escape the heat of the city. If you’re not into surfing, you can simply bathe in the sea or take a stroll along the boardwalk. Want to hike? A small trek to Ditumabo or Mother Falls will satisfy your craving for an adventure.

In case you’re interested in local history, head over to the town center and visit Museo de Baler. Not far from it are other historical landmarks, such as Doña Aurora House and Baler Church.

20. San Juan, La Union

You may consider San Juan, La Union as Baler’s archrival when it comes to reputation as a surf town. But if you’ve been to these two places, you’ll easily see that each of them has its own charm. For San Juan, it’s the laid-back yet party-driven attitude of the place.

If you want an invigorating road trip near Manila, San Juan lets you surf all you want and drink beer by the beach. Come late in the afternoon―the sunset turns the West Philippines Sea into an otherworldly spectacle as it paints the sky orange. San Juan’s nightlife is also very much alive. Just go to Flotsam and Jetsam to see what it’s like.

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21. Mount Pinatubo, Zambales

road trip near Manila - mt pinatubo

Just three hours away from Manila, the majestic Mount Pinatubo sits proudly in Zambales. After its eruption in 1991, the volcano remained calm. Its beauty then flourished, attracting tourists from different places.

Summer's the best time to go to Mount Pinatubo since hiking is much safer during this season. While the volcano looks imposing, it’s actually a relatively easy climb. So, if you’re a newbie, you’ll definitely find it enjoyable. When you reach the crater, you’ll be rewarded with a fjord-like view; the water's turquoise and the surrounding walls of rock are lush.

An interesting and exciting part of the trip is the 4x4 ride to the hike’s jump-off point. You’ll take the wide yet rocky and dusty trail full of lahar.

22. Minalungao National Park (General Tinio, Nueva Ecija)

road trip near Manila - Minalungao National Park (General Tinio, Nueva Ecija)

Nueva Ecija is more than just rice fields! If you’re a nature lover who’s on the lookout for underrated tourist spots in the Philippines, drive to this province and you’ll find the Minalungao National Park. This paradise has a turquoise-colored water bounded by walls of limestone.

You can ride a raft and swim in your chosen spot on the river. You can also have a picnic or try cliff diving. Get up to the hanging bridge if you want to have a better view of the river and the rock formations.

23. Silang, Cavite

Silang is often overshadowed by Tagaytay. But it’s just as refreshing and cool as its sibling city, so make sure to consider this for your road trip near Manila. It has an assortment of farms that gives visitors a peek at how vegetables and fruits are cultivated. Some of them even double as a grocery of fresh produce.

The most popular ones are Gourmet Farms, Ilog Maria, and Teofely Nature Farm. There are also a lot of quaint cafés and restaurants that make for those IG-worthy posts. These include Café Agapita, Concha’s Garden Café, and Balinsasayaw Restaurant.

You can also visit two iconic churches in Silang. If you’re interested in 16th century artworks and sculpture, go to the Our Lady of Candelaria Parish Church which houses pieces that are 300 hundred years old. The other must-visit church is San Antonio de Padua, which is a popular wedding church.  

Silang's also a shopping haven, as proven by the presence of Acienda Designer Outlet. There, you can score designer items with huge discounts.

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24. Pagsanjan and Lumban, Laguna

Pagsanjan is known for its falls (although they’re located in Cavinti), but there are other interesting things to do in this town. Have your selfies taken at the Arco Real, which is the town’s welcoming arch. This structure was completed in 1880, as evidenced by its rustic appearance.

You can also visit the historic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. If you’re going here for a weekend getaway, you’ll find lavish villas, with some of them giving a great view of the Pagsanjan River.

Since you’re in Pagsanjan, why not visit its neighboring town? Jump to Lumban in case you’re in need of a Barong Tagalog. If you’re a cyclist, pedal your way to Lake Caliraya. You may also find your zen at the Japanese Garden. Tip: Go to the hilltop to get a good view of the Lake Caliraya.  

Health and Safety Reminders Before Your Road Trip Near Manila

road trip near Manila - health and safety reminders

Vacations and travels are much safer now compared to before. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be lenient with your actions. You need to continue being careful.

Here are some reminders:

  • Before your road trip near Manila, know the possible health requirements of your destination.
  • Bring your vaccination card or your vaccination certificate,[5] as well as your new normal essentials: face mask, alcohol, sanitizer, and disinfectant.
  • Disinfect or wash your hands every time you touch something.
  • Observe social distancing.
  • Stay updated on changes in travel rules and restrictions as they may change without prior notice.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there's more to a road trip near Manila than the go-to summer destinations like Baguio, Tagaytay, and Subic. Our country has so many natural wonders to offer. Plenty of marvelous places await tourists who crave new experiences and adventures with their loved ones. Consider these underrated summer destinations when you plan your next road trip!

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Jay is a marketing communications professional who specializes in short-form and long-form content. He has written ads for TV, radio, print, and digital. He has also produced corporate blogs, magazine features, white papers, product listings, reviews, and press releases for clients here and abroad. When he’s not writing, Jay plays the piano or takes pictures for his visual diary. Follow Jay on LinkedIn.