Up at the northern part of the Philippines, there is a perfect overnight getaway for those adventure junkie who don’t want to take some leave off their work. Yes, you read that right. Pangasinan is just merely 5 to 6 hours drive away from the bustling streets of Manila and there is a perfect escape apart from the well-known gem that is Hundred Islands – Bolinao. Bolinao is a third class municipality in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines. There are many things to do in Bolinao – from the adrenaline rush cliff jumping to relaxed beach bumming – that everyone will surely love, adventure junkie or not.
How to get there from Manila
Public Transportation – Ride a bus bound for Bolinao, Pangasinan via Victory Liner on Cubao and Caloocan Terminal or Five Star Bus liner in Pasay City. There are tricycles that can get you around the tourist destinations for the whole day.
Private Transportation – Take the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) route and exit at Paniqui all the way to Tarlac-Pangasinan Road.
Where to go and what to do
We left Manila at around 2 o’clock in the morning and reached the town proper of Bolinao at around 8 in the morning because we’ve decided to have our breakfast along the way. Our first agenda was to visit the waterfalls of Bolinao. It was surprising that Bolinao has not one but two to three waterfalls within the locale. The road going to the waterfalls is bumpy and rough, it is not advisable to bring small cars but we managed somehow and it took us almost an hour to get to the main entrance. Alternatively, you may opt to leave your car in the parking area and hire a tricycle going to the falls for 400php back and forth.
We went first at Bolinao Falls 1 and there’s an entry fee of 50php per person. The falls was stunning though the current was not at its best when we went there. The water is cold and refreshing, perfect for the hot scorching summer heat and is really great for swimming. There were cottages available near the falls if you wanted to leave your things to go for a swim or have some picnic after dipping in the cold water. For those who wanted to have a little adventure, try the bamboo rafting under or through the waterfalls and have some waterfall massage. What I loved about the area were those pink dragonflies that were flying around, like seriously, they were all pink! I didn’t know where they came from but they were very unique. I haven’t seen such pink dragonflies before and I realized that moment that I was in love with the place.
Bolinao Falls 2 is not that far from Bolinao Falls 1 but we rented a tricycle going there because we don’t want to waste time walking. Bolinao Falls 2, I must say, is a lot better than Bolinao Falls 1. The water is also cold and refreshing but clearer, deeper and has a stronger current. Falls 1 is higher but Falls 2 is the better place for cliff jumping. There were life vests and lifebuoys available for rent for 50php each and an entry fee of 50php each. There were also cottages available if you want to have some picnic. Bolinao Falls 2 is famous for its cliff jumping activity.
After resting a little bit at our hotel, we went straight to our next destination – Enchanted Cave. There are three caves along Patar Road – Wonderful Cave, Cindy’s Cave and the Enchanted Cave – we chose to visit enchanted cave out of curiosity as to why it was called enchanted. Enchanted Cave is a refreshing natural underground pool located along Patar Road, Bolinao. Enchanted cave is open from 8am to 5pm only for the safety of the travelers and there’s an entry fee of 150php each. Bringing of foods are not allowed but you can buy from a variety store inside. Upon entering the premises, you will notice that there are many coral fossils inside and is believed to be thousand years of age.
A little trivia: The tour guide told us that Patar was once located at the bottom of the ocean and as time went by, the water from the ocean subsided thus revealing a large body of land that is Patar now. That fact is obviously supported by evidences of giant “taklobo” or clam and coral fossils everywhere, mostly inside the premises of the enchanted cave.
There’s a series of stairs going down to the natural underground pool and one must observe a proper swimwear. Upon plunging myself into the crystal clear water, I understood instantly why it was called “enchanted” – the water was so pure and beguiling – I felt that my soul has been revitalized. Its depth is estimated to be around 6ft and there are certain restricted areas where the cave management authorities will prohibit you to enter.
After enjoying the rejuvenating water of the enchanted cave, we went to the famous lighthouse at Bolinao. Cape Bolinao Lighthouse is towering from a 250-foot hill above the sea of Patar. It is considered as the tourism icon of Bolinao and is a must see tourist destination when in Bolinao. The century-old lighthouse is an example of well-preserved heritage and is one of the five major lighthouses in the Philippines. We arrived there a moment before sunset and the lighthouse prevails the stunning sunset-orangey sky. It was really a breathtaking view as you can see the sun above slowly taking its way down below the ocean horizon to reveal the darkness of the night. What a pleasant experience.
Before the sun made it way down below the ocean horizon, we went straight to Patar White Beach not just to swim but to witness the most magical moment of the day – the sunset. I am always fascinated by the beauty of the sunset and everywhere I go, it is my most anticipated time of day. Patar White Beach is a stretch of creamy off-white sand beach along Patar Road and is considered to be the hidden gem of the north. The beach is almost untouched and very far from the bustle and hustle of city life – serene and tranquil. The perfect place to behold the most-awaited magical time of the day – the sunset.
Where to stay
As the heaven went dark and reveal the night sky, we’ve decided to get back to our hotel and took a well-deserved rest. Early morning the following day we woke up in an attempt to watch the sunrise but we were kind of unfortunate because it was cloudy and the weather was a bit gloomy. We’ve just decided to stay at the hotel and plunge ourselves in the pool. There are many hotels and resorts near the beach but I personally recommend Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast. The hotel was nice and the people were very accommodating, we really had a great stay considering that it is not pricey.
Where to eat
On the first day, we had our lunch at Giant Taklobo Resto Grill and ordered one of the famous local delicacies of Bolinao: “Inihaw na Sungayan” or grilled unicorn fish.
On the second day and to end our quick overnight getaway at Bolinao, we had our lunch at the famous Sungayan Grill Floating Restaurant. It is a floating restaurant located at Balingasay River. Balingasay River is considered as one of the cleanest rivers in the Philippines. They serve local Filipino foods at a very affordable price. You may even request to have a tour of the river while eating – one of the most unique and worth it experiences when visiting Bolinao.
Overall, we enjoyed our short stay at Bolinao, Pangasinan and I will probably go back here to visit the other places we haven’t explored like churches and the rock formation. Bolinao is indeed one of the best escapes from the bustle and hustle of city life.