The Philippines is sizzling. This comes after Manila had two days of rainy/cloudy weather in the middle of “Pinoy summer” a few weeks back. This happened the week after swarms of Filipinos flocked to different beach destinations across the country during the Holy Week break. The Philippines being a tropical and archipelagic country has a long list of beach spots to discover and explore. It is safe to say that we will never run out of beach spots to quench the sizzling heat at this time of the year.
However, the Philippines is more than just sea and sand. We also have great destinations that is beyond the usual. These spots are good vacation alternatives if you are not a beach person or if you simply want to avoid the crowd at this time of the year. Here are 7 destinations where you can enjoy the “heat” that ain’t the beach.
Batanes is the northernmost province of the country and is probably on the travel bucket list of most Filipinos. The dramatic landscape and the thriving Batan culture is the reason why this destination is a hot pick among local and international travelers. Visiting the islands of the province is like being transported to a different world that will make you want to stay and live surrounded by its natural beauty.
The province is surrounded by often times rough waters of the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine sea. It has beach spots however its main pull are the rugged terrains meeting the blue waters of its channels. The high winds blowing into the island refreshes and cools you down as you enjoy the views rugged land forms jutting out from the sea with its famous lighthouses in the foreground. This gives Batanes an out of this world beauty that is best appreciated from the vantage point of its rolling hills.
Batanes is a great summer destination because you get to enjoy the sea breeze as it blows over the islands. You get to be grounded to a unique culture of simple living, resilience, and integrity. This is a destination where you really get to immerse in their way of life and makes you appreciate simple living surrounded by natural beauty. On this summer spot, you get to enjoy the sea from a view like a picture handpainted by God.
You can read about my Batanes adventures here: Batanes (Part 1) / Batanes (Part 2) / Batanes (Part 3)
The City of Pines is a staple of the Philippines’ dry season, after all, it is the highest city when we speak about elevation in the country. Its location along the ridges of the Cordilleras give it a more cooler temperature. History has been a mute witness on how the city has become a summer escape since the American occupation. Even to this day, it is THE preferred summer spot in Luzon that ain’t a beach.
The city is a UNESCO Creative City so you get to enjoy the many creative expressions in the city - art pieces, street performers, visual artists, and local handicrafts. Session Road has gone from a popular city street to a Sunday flea market and a center for creative expression. Foodies will also get a fill of the different gastronomic experiences in the city - from value meals to fine dining. The city has something to offer for any kind of traveler who want a “cooler” travel experience to beat the heat.
The city has undergone a lot of development over the years. From a city with pine and parks, the city continuous to re-invent itself, always offering something new to its guests. You get to enjoy the outdoors while breathing in its cold air. You can go and paddle a boat, hike the woods, explore its gardens, or simply shop for pasalubong without breaking a sweat. Baguio is a city that lets you breath.
You can read about my Baguio adventures here: Baguio City
Lake Mapanuepe, Zambales
Lake Mapanuepe is a good destination to detach and unwind. This beauty was born from the devastation of Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the 90’s. Lahar flow inundated communities and villages that resulted to loss of life and properties. In the case of Lake Mapanuepe, lahar blocked the flow of the river, trapping water like a reservoir, and submerged communities. The event altered the landscape of Zambales and created the beauty of Lake Mapanuepe.
The lake is a popular weekend camping destination. It is a no frills back-to-basic spot where you get to enjoy the sight and smell of nature minus the technology. The lake gives you the opportunity to detach and enjoy the company of your family and friends as you explore the place, enjoy the views, and chill down. Swimming in the lake is not yet allowed as its depth still needs to be mapped. With nothing much to do, Lake Mapanuepe makes sure that you get to enjoy the company you are with surrounded by nature’s tranquility.
Lake Mapanuepe is proof of nature’s birth - destruction cycle. Its wrath gives birth a to a new beauty. The birth of the lake gave us an alternative summer spot where you get to enjoy the basics of life. The best things in life are free.
You can read about my Lake Mapanuepe adventures here: Lake Mapanuepe
Tibiao is a bucolic and relaxing destination. The mountainside is a great spot to detach from modern day living and reconnect with nature. Similar to Lake Mapanuepe, you wake up to a simple rural life of morning sounds of nature and going to sleep with the evening songs of nature. This is my best version, so far, of living the provincial life. I enjoyed that the resorts are the no-frills kind with nature cradling you in its arms.
You can go on an early morning hike to the three-tiered cascade of Bugtong Bato Falls and enjoy the view of the farmlands along the trail. Get refreshed by dipping your feet into cold spring waters at the base of the falls and then follow it up with an adrenaline-pumping river tubing run at Tibiao River. This will make your summer a wet and wild adventure, leaving you with a smile on your face.
A visit to Tibiao will not be complete without enjoying their kawa bath experience. This relaxing bath experience originated from here where large pots, locally called “kawa”, are filled with water and warmed by fire underneath the kawa. Herbs, leaves, and flowers are added to give you that aromatic smell as the warm waters soothe and relax your muscles. This is how you cap off an activity-filled day in Tibiao.
You can read about my Tibiao adventures here: Tibiao, Antique
Kawasan Falls, Cebu
Cebu is a province that has a wide range of activities and attractions to enjoy. From the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea, it has something to offer to any kind of traveler. It is a province where you get to enjoy the urban vibe with the rustic attractions with a few hours of land travel.
Kawasan Falls is a sure-fire destination that will get your adrenaline pumping as you enjoy the beauty of its rugged mountainside. It makes you excitingly uncomfortable as you face your fear of heights and water as you trek through the riverbank trails of the Kawasan gorge. You get to jump in and tumble in the raging waters of Kawasan River. You get to enjoy the views of its forest covers. What will captivate you the most is the aquamarine colors of the river’s water.
The whole river traverse takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The final jump and the view of Kawasan Falls marks the end of the trail. Make sure to get a picture with the falls as a souvenir for your successful Kawasan adventure. The activity may be tiring but the memories you bring home is worth the jumps and splashes.
You can read about my Kawasan Falls adventures here: Kawasan Falls
Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring, Cagayan de Oro
The development of Cagayan de Oro has lead to the discovery of new natural attractions in the outskirts of the city. The Cagayan de Oro River is pivotal in its history and as an attraction. It was the river that secured the city’s spot in the list of adrenaline-pumping tourist activities in the country.
Sinulom Falls is an addition to the list. Located along the boundary of Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, this natural attraction features 28 waterfalls cascading into the mighty Cagayan de Oro River. From the vantage point in Tignapoloaon, it would seem that the mountainside of Talakag is shedding tears into the river. One can choose to go on a day trip or spend a night to enjoy the calming sights and sounds of Sinulom Falls.
Further upstream is the Bolao Cold Spring. This spring resort is a series of rock pools that collect the cold mountain spring waters into furbished basins where one can enjoy a nice cold dip. The place is also surrounded by picnic huts making it a great place to spend time with family and friends. Bolao Cold Spring is a perfect way to escape the heat of the dry season.
You can read about my Sinulom Falls adventures here: Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring
Lake S’bu, South Cotabato
Lake S’bu is a laidback destination in Mindanao that gives you that rustic provincial vibe. It is a destination that is rich in natural beauty and culture. It is a perfect destination for those looking to get a closer look at the colorful traditions of one of the ethnolinguistic groups in Mindanao - the T’bolis.
The main tourism draw of Lake S’bu is the blooming of the lotus on its lake. Part of the lake glows in a sea of pink flowers as the morning sun breaks in. This creates that mystical vibe on the lake as the morning mist drifts above the placid lake as it glows in pink. You need to catch the view only during the mornings. You can also add a little more drama with your pictures by wearing the traditional attire of the T’boli but please you need to wear it with pride and respect.
This South Cotabato destination is also a gem for how it merges their cultural beliefs and its natural attractions. Apart from the lake, you can also enjoy exploring its natural beauty. You can view it from the top or you can also check it up close and personal or both. The great thing about Lake S’bu is how they can weave their stories and how they live in harmony with their surroundings on their popular fabric - the T’nalak. It is a destination that fuses nature, traditions, and beauty in one elegant story.
You can read about my Lake S’bu adventures here: Lake S'bu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
When the Philippines heats up during the dry season, it is not all about the sun, sand, or sea. There are a lot of destinations that you can explore that offers the same excitement and thrill, and it ain’t a beach. The Philippines is a multi-faceted destination that has a lot to offer for any kind of traveler and mood. Each spot has something unique to offer with the same serving of Filipino hospitality.
Pinoy summer is not just about the beach. It really depends on your taste and preference on what activities to do. Although most people would choose the sea under the blue skies, there are those who would want to explore beyond the usual. This doesn’t mean that such choice is less than the other destinations. It does tell us that you get to #DefineYourSummer!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.