What to do in Manila without costing you a fortune? Need a break from the city? Do you have the need to just get away and recharge, even for just the weekend? Have you been dreaming of a weekend getaway near Manila but don’t know where to start? Read our list below to find your perfect budget day trip within Metro Manila.
We all know the feeling… On bad days, driving from Quezon City to Parañaque City can take almost 3 hours. When you’re stuck in traffic, it feels like you’ve spent your whole day (life) on the road. Spending 3-5 hours stuck in bumper to bumper traffic is not enjoyable at all… But do you know what else takes 3 hours to travel from Manila? Three hours from Metro Manila can also get you to a number of beautiful resorts in Batangas, Tagaytay, Antipolo, Laguna, and so on. Which would you prefer to be driving to?
The various destinations below are intended for weekenders or day trips. If you are budget conscious we have calculated that with P200 per person for meals, a spending budget of around P1500 for two people per night should cover it. Of course, if you add shopping trips and excursions then the price will increase accordingly. So here are some budget-friendly things to do around Manila.
Recharge at the Makiling Botanic Gardens in Los Baños, Laguna
Nothing like ancient trees and forest sounds like bird calls and crickets to take you away from the city. Walk around the Makiling Botanic Gardens with your family or friends and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Let the towering trees shelter you from the sun (believe me, some at least 100 years old). Nice place to wander around for an hour or so, lots of plants and paths to explore, so down by the river, although a little bit run down now.
We spent several hours walking around the botanical park and listening to the birds and we even tried to spot the birds flitting from tree to tree. If you’re lucky you will see eagles and other rare birds. Most of the trees are tagged with their scientific names including the common names. It was fascinating to be able to know the names of many native trees which I have seen around but did not know their names.
Makiling Botanic garden offers a safe and beautiful hike through the forest of Mount Maquiling. The longer trails offer a challenging hike with many ups and downs and stream beds. The trees are old and full of epiphytes. Don’t go too fast or you’ll miss the giant millipedes, birds, and reptiles that you’re sure to see. For younger or less adventurous types, you can hike along the stream, climb paved stairs (careful for the broken, rusty handrails), and have a picnic on the picnic benches.
How to get to Makiling Botanic Gardens:
Take Sta. Cruz bus from Buendia corner Taft or from EDSA. Fare is about P99 from Buendia, or a bit more depending on where you are coming from along EDSA. Tell the conductor that you will be getting off College. From there, ride a jeep (P8) to UPLB. Ask the driver if the jeep will be going up to Forestry, which is walking distance from Makiling Botanic Gardens.
Take a dip at the hot springs in Pansol, Calamba, Laguna
Allow your stress to evaporate with a trip to the hot springs in Bagong Kalsada, Calamba, Laguna. Calamba local Jinkee Umali especially swears by Laguna Hot Spring, where the spring is all-natural (no chlorine). The spring water coming from the mountain is really warm. It has a volcanic cinder flooring that gives the feet’s sensitive light and ticky massage while the warm, soothing, continuous flow of spring water brings all the therapeutic benefits of cinder and spring water.
For dining, there are eateries in Pansol like Ihaw-ihaw ni Aling Tessie, beside Laguna Hot Spring where grilled items are on the menu. If you want to dine at restaurants or cafés, there are also many options in Calamba’s commercial areas.
How to get to Pansol:
Ride a Calamba-bound bus or a bus passing by Calamba like Sta. Cruz from Buendia-Taft or EDSA. Fare is less than P100. From Calamba, ride a jeep to Pansol, for about P10.
Go boating and chill in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna
Tired of the smoke, congestion, and pollution of Metro Manila? Then hie off to Nuvali in Santa Rosa, Laguna, about an hour’s leisurely drive from Manila, a sanctuary for the harassed and the stressed. There, you have wide, green spaces with lots of shops and food establishments to choose from. You can also bring your own picnic basket and spread out a blanket on a long stretch of grass and trees where you can enjoy your lunch and even a siesta thereafter.
The property has a man-made lake where you can go boating (fee is P30 per head). You can also rent a bike (P60 per hour) to go around the lake. This is actually a very nice place to hang-out, just chill and walk around. The only thing ruining this place is that some undisciplined people leave their trash right where they had their picnic. Seriously, there are clearly marked garbage cans, but no, some people just don’t care. This is a free public space for the whole family to enjoy, it is our responsibility to keep it that way.
There’s a lot of fun activities around Nuvali, water taxi, koi fishes feeding, biking, and a lot more!
How to get to Nuvali:
Ride a Balibago-bound bus from Buendia-Taft or EDSA. The bus fare is Php61 from Buendia and can be more from EDSA. From Balibago, take a Tagaytay-bound jeep (Php14) which passes by Nuvali or ride a trike (Php16 per head, if you wait for the tricycle to be full)
Explore art and architecture at Pinto Arts Garden in Antipolo, Rizal
I went to Pinto Museum in Antipolo with my cousin and a friend for a day trip. It stands out as the most visited museum in Rizal. What makes the Museum so unique is that it offers a vision that combines archaeology, history, art history, and contemporary Filipino art.
Their Open Galleries is a cluster of Mediterranean- inspired villas sprawled inside its 1.3-hectare property owned by Dr. Joven Cuanang houses the museum’s collections. This makes it one of the best places to take amazing photos for Instagram feeds. This unique setup allows Pinto to showcase objects, an extraordinary treasure trove of art collected since the 1960s that features both permanent and rotating exhibitions.
Upon entering the museum’s gate, there is a painting gallery and a souvenir shop. A set of steps splits at a landing, leading to a mini chapel and the landscaped garden. To the left of the chapel in the middle section of the garden lies a big art gallery that features giant murals such as the “Karnabal” (carnival).
Turning in the front direction to the right of the chapel leads to a wishing well, a cluster of villas with rounded arches and ornate columns. There is a roof deck that allows visitors to take in the sun with a good view of Pinto’s landscaped garden and treetops of Antipolo.
Pinto Arts garden is the central walkway that acts as a visual focal point for Pinto. It gives visual access to the whole Pinto Art Museum garden. There are intimate outdoor spaces in Pinto Art Museum’s open-air design which make it feel more like a destination rather than a big, open space. There are antique white iron beds and chairs along the pathways.
The courtyard functions as an outdoor living room. There were statues plus several simple stone bowl fountains. The existing large trees around the garden create a temperate climate suitable for shade dwellers. Below and around the trees grow flowering perennials leading to a lush garden with lots of shade. There are wide plant beds that slide down between low retaining walls. Pathways are paved with sandstone and walls are coated with stucco.
Spending time in Pinto Art Museum galleries is a breathtaking experience indeed! ART EVERYWHERE. You can find art not only in the galleries but also in the streets of Angono.
Address: 1 Sierra Madre St, Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, Philippines
Open Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (9 am – 6 pm) except Monday
How to get there: A tricycle rides away from the museum, though (along the Antipolo church area) will also take you to streets lined with restaurants.
Discover the Oldest Rock Art at Angono Petroglyphs
You may also want to stop by the Angono Petroglyphs (entrance fee: Php10), to see some of the oldest artwork in the Philippines in the form of carvings on the rock walls in the location. Chartering a tricycle will cost you about P300, one-way.
How to get there:
From Crossing or Cubao, ride an FX to Angono (estimated fare at P45) or any FX passing by Angono. You can then take a tricycle (minimum fare of P8) to get around the town proper, where the galleries and restaurants are. The tricycle ride to Laguna de Bay may be a bit expensive (around P10 or P15)
That some of the budget-friendly things to do around Manila. So, what are you waiting for?