Road trips near Manila in the time of COVID (excluding Tagaytay)

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Kara Santos
Kara Santos
Kara Santos is a freelance writer and rider based in Manila. She writes about travel, motorcycling, biking, food trips, video games, and more on her blog www.traveling-up.com.

As the world’s longest lockdown drags on in the Philippines, more people based in the metro are eager to break out of their quarantine routine. Going on a road trip to destinations that have reopened just for a quick change of scenery is one of the things you can do.

These days, Tagaytay has become the top getaway spot among local travelers looking for spontaneous road trips. The cooler climate, restaurants, and hotels that no longer require medical certificates or travel passes for visitors, has made it one of the most sought-after escapes from the city.

But for those who want to avoid the traffic getting into Tagaytay, where else can you go? Here are a few tried-and-tested road trip destinations near Manila that you can still visit even with quarantine restrictions. Don’t forget to bring your face mask and face shield to enter establishments!

Antipolo

Antipolo, the capital of Rizal is one of the most accessible options especially for those who live in the Northern and Eastern cities of Metro Manila. Antipolo sits on a plateau at a higher elevation and is best known for offering a scenic overlooking view of the rest of the city.

Crescent Moon Cafe Antipolo

There are currently no more checkpoints or extra requirements needed to enter the city. While some tourist spots like Hinulugang Taktak still remain closed, most restaurants along the ridge, popular lookout point Cloud 9, Pinto Art Museum, and resorts like Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa have reopened.

Cloud 9 Antipolo

Road trippers can also hunt down hidden garden restaurants like Crescent Moon Cafe, The Burrow or Maura’s Place for al fresco and socially distanced dining. Some restos accept guests by reservation only, though there are still plenty of places where you can just walk-in to eat with no problem.

Angono & Binangonan

Angono, known as the “Art Capital of the Philippines” and neighboring town Binangonan in the province of Rizal are other destinations you can visit for unique art, food and nature tours near the metro.

Home to the famed Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs (the oldest known work of art in the country), quirky folk art museums, restaurants serving native and exotic cuisine, and thriving fishing villages facing the Laguna de Bay, these two towns offer a simple and laid-back getaway for weekend trips.

Restaurant in Angono

Angono is pretty underrated compared to other popular foodie towns like Tagaytay and Pampanga. But if you’re into folk art and food, Angono can be an interesting place to visit, with side trips to serene lakeside areas, hilltop views and artistic landmarks.

Balaw-Balaw, one of the most famous restaurants in Angono, has reopened to the public for dine-in, though visits to the museum area is still restricted.

Art Sector Gallery and Chimney Rooftop 360 in Binangonan’s Eastridge Executive Village, offers a relaxing view of the surrounding cities and mountains from its roofdeck cafe. This art space remains open to visitors even during quarantine by reservation.

Baras and Tanay

The Marilaque highway, which passes through towns of Baras and Tanay in Rizal is another very popular spot for weekend road trips.

Masungi Georeserve, a premier eco-tourism destination in the town of Baras, reopened last November to the public, after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The attraction known for its sprawling limestone landscape, unique nature trails and Instagram-worthy view decks, is open to visits by reservation.

Pop-up cafe in Baras

Lately, local entrepreneurs have been setting up pop-up cafes right along the roadside, in overlooking spots, for cyclists and road trippers who just want to enjoy a cup of good coffee and street food with nature views.

As of this writing, the checkpoints in Tanay still remain restrictive, especially during weekends and peak hours. While those managing the border control seem to be lenient towards cyclists, they tend to turn away those on cars and motorcycles who don’t have the proper travel documents.

Baras, Rizal

Road trippers may be asked to show travel passes and medical certificates to visit the restaurants like Paseo Rizal Mayagay and camping grounds like 3 Mountain Springs Resort which have reopened for overnight stays.

Pililla, Rizal

While major tourist spots, such as the Wind Farm in Pililla, remain closed, restaurants and other destinations in some lakeside towns of Rizal are accessible. Road trippers and motorcycle riders can still enjoy the view of the towering wind turbines in the mountains from the main highway. Vendors selling pinwheels and food souvenirs who used to be stationed inside the wind farm complex have relocated their stalls right along the road.

Laguna

Those going on road trips can also stop by Bulawan Floating Restaurant, where guests can dine in native-style huts surrounded by fishponds. Guests can try their hand catching fresh water fish like tilapia and catfish while dining.

Lumban, Laguna

Some hotels, resorts and camping grounds along the shores of Caliraya Lake have also reopened, including those located on small islets and remote areas, where guests can enjoy nature views away from the crowds.

Batangas

For those living in Southern towns of the metro, aside from Tagaytay, the province of Batangas is another great option for road trips. The province of Batangas has reopened to local travelers from GCQ and MGCQ areas, particularly those looking for a nearby staycation spot and recreational diving destination.

Guests staying for several days are required to pre-book and dive only at DOT-accredited establishments, while some hotels require negative COVID test result or medical certificates prior to arrival.

Those who plan to just go on day trips may still visit some restaurants or resorts with prior arrangements. According to motorcycle riders based in the South, there are no checkpoints or travel requirements to enter towns like Lipa, Balete, Batangas City, Nasugbu, Lian, Talisay, Bauan, San Luis, Balayan and other towns.

One new spot in Batangas that has been gaining popularity for road trip trips because of its iconic large red barn and idyllic natural surrounding is Old Grove Farmstead in Lipa. Take note that the resort is open for dine-in, photo shoots, and staycations strictly by reservation and they do not accept visitors for day tours.

Cintai Coritos, a Balinese-style garden sanctuary in the town of Balete, has also reopened to dine-in and photoshoots by reservation.

Be sure to check for any travel or other COVID-specific restrictions or rules in the areas you will be travelling through before you go on your road trip. Rules can change rapidly and new restrictions may come up depending on the situation.

For updates on which destinations have reopened to the domestic tourists, visit https://philippines.travel/safetrip

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