Scenic outdoor getaways near Manila worth the drive

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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.

It’s been almost a year since the pandemic forced us all to stay indoors for months. Most people are really looking for any change of scenery, the chance to breathe fresh air, and any excuse to go on a long drive just to get away from the four corners of their home for a little while.

While many indoor places in cities still pose a high risk, outdoor and well-ventilated areas like natural hiking trails, countryside bed and breakfasts, and open-air public parks offer possible places for families to visit with members of their own household.

After months of enforced closures, tourist spots have found ways to step up health and safety measures and increase sanitation to ensure that guests have an enjoyable and safe time during their visits.

Here are just five scenic outdoor getaways near Metro Manila that have gotten the stamp of approval from the Department of Tourism (DOT) ideal for weekend drives.

Masungi Georeserve

Masungi Georeserve, a conservation area and karst rock garden hidden in the southern Sierra Madre range in Baras has been one of the most popular hiking destinations even before the pandemic.

The 1 to 1.5 hour long drive from Metro Manila getting to Masungi Georeserve along the Marilaque highway always offers a scenic ride, and is very pleasant and peaceful during weekdays. However, driving through the area may feel a bit congested with cars, motorcycle riders, and recreational cyclists during weekends.

This must-visit destination for nature and adventure lovers, currently has three different trails to choose from including the regular 3-4 hour long Discovery Trail, where you can climb over spider web view decks over rocks, relax in a giant rope hammock, and traverse hanging bridges.

The easier 1.5 hour long Family Trail brings visitors through the grounds at Liwasan – a rest stop hidden in between two towering rock peaks inside the Discovery Trail.

In the 3-4 hour long Legacy Trail, small groups can hang out in treehouses set amidst pine tree forest and help reforestation efforts by planting trees.

Even if you’re not up for hiking, you can still visit for a special meal with a refreshing view. Masungi Georeserve also runs Silayan, a private sustainable dining destination that features seasonal menus.

  • Masungi Georeserve, Kilometer 47 Marcos Highway, Baras, Rizal
  • All trail hikes and restaurant visits must be pre-booked, which can be done through their website: https://www.masungigeoreserve.com/
  • Discovery Trail: Php 1,800 per guest on weekends/Php 1,500 per guest on weekdays. Legacy Trail Php 1,500 per guest on weekends and weekdays
  • Facebook page: Masungi Georeserve

Pinto Art Museum

Since Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo reopened its doors last September 2020, it has become one of the go-to spots for Metro Manila folk to visit.

Located only 45 minutes away from Quezon City, this contemporary museum offers the perfect “doorway” to daytrips and leisurely drives just beyond the metro. The secluded museum hidden inside a private village may just be a short drive away, but stepping foot here always makes you feel like you’ve traveled far from the city.

Pinto Art Museum has sprawling grounds and gardens spread in between well-ventilated galleries, making this one of the few safe museums near Manila where you can enjoy art and nature in the same space.

The museum also contains a romantic al fresco cafe that serves a wide range of dishes including salads, appetizers, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, main courses and desserts.

  • Pinto Art Museum, 1 Sierra Madre St, Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal
  • Open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays.
  • Admission Fee: P250 for adults, P200 for Senior Citizens/PWDs with ID, P125 for Students with ID, FREE: 3 y/o and below.
  • Facebook page: Pinto Art Museum

Casa San Pablo

Casa San Pablo is a homey Bed & Breakfast lodging and country inn surrounded by pine trees, sprawling lawns, and flowering plants roughly 2.5 to 3 hours drive from Manila.

A popular venue for destination weddings and prenup photoshoots, this rustic getaway is also an ideal place for couples and families looking for a refreshing change of scenery from the city and a creative break. It’s also great for foodies looking for a unique gastronomic experience.

Casa San Pablo serves breakfast all-day along with hearty meals of mostly Southern Tagalog delicacies. They sometimes hold cooking demos of the best dishes San Pablo has to offer.

  • Casa San Pablo, Colago Avenue, Barrio San Roque, San Pablo City, Laguna
  • The Café is open daily from 8AM to 8PM. Overnight stays can be booked via https://casasanpablo.com/rooms/ or send them a DM through their FB page for inquiries.
  • Facebook page: Casa San Pablo

Patis Tito Garden Cafe

Patis Tito Garden Café and Bed & Breakfast is another charming private dining and lodging experience in the idyllic town of San Pablo, Laguna that’s about a 3-hour drive from Metro Manila.

Located within the creative retreat of Filipiniana textile artist and heritage advocate Patis Pamintuan Tesoro, this beautiful and artsy space is known for offering slow-cooked Filipino favorites using fresh and locally sourced ingredients.

Guests can opt to stay the night in the artistic lodgings such as a 1930’s room with high ceilings and classic ventanillas, visit the curated art gallery, and just walk around the mosaic-tiled space surrounded by lush greenery.

  • Address: 285 Brgy. Sta. Cruz (Putol), San Pablo City, Laguna
  • The cafe is currently offering a dining-by-reservation menu for al fresco lunch. For reservations, contact 09171265182
  • Facebook page: Patis Tito Garden Cafe

Intramuros

Three key tourism sites in Intramuros, recently reopened to the public, giving Metro Manila folk an excuse to plan a quick city drive to the Old Manila area.

Even if you’ve already been to Fort Santiago, Casa Baluarte and Casa Manila before, there’s nothing wrong with revisiting the same destinations to see them in a new light light, especially now that safety protocols have been put in place.

You might just be surprised at how different Manila looks these days, with all the improvements done during the pandemic-enforced closures and more green spaces in the city. The trendy new Kapetolyo Cafe at the Bonifacio Shrine, which has both indoor and outdoor seating, has also been drawing coffee lovers to revisit the area.

One of the most unique things you can do in the Intramuros area is to try riding a Bambike to explore the city’s photogenic buildings and historic landmarks.

Before the pandemic hit, Intramuros was often crawling with international tourists and full of vehicles parked along the tight alleys. With international borders still closed, now may just be the perfect time to appreciate what Manila has to offer.

(Additional photos from the establishment’s FB pages)

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