The province of Pangasinan has a lot to offer. Located on the western area of the island of Luzon along the Lingayen Gulf and South China Sea, it’s best known as being the home of the Hundred Islands National Park. But that’s not all it has. As the biggest province of the Ilocos Region in terms of land area, Pangasinan has lots of natural attractions that will appeal adventure-seekers looking for a getaway relatively near Manila. Here are 10 exciting activities you can do here.
Cover of North Bound Magazine Issue 15. Photo by Martin San Diego.
1. Go Island-Hopping around the Hundred Islands
The Hundred Islands National Park is a protected area made up of 124 islands and islets (123 at high tide). The jump-off point to the National Park can be found in Lucap wharf in Alaminos. This Tourism Information Center serves as the port and entry where you can find boats bound for the islands docked near the Wharf. The fee ranges from P1,000 to P4,500 depending on the size and type of the boat and length of stay.
If you’re in a big group, you can charter the boat called “The Adventure,” a large double-decker boat that has its own kitchen, television set and karaoke machine on board. Enjoy live music and a feast of fresh seafood and grilled specialties for lunch on your way to the islands.
There are three major islands developed for tourism: Governor’s Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island. You can also stop by smaller islands like Sulpot Island, Monkey Island, Abad Santos Island and Hernandez Island.
2. Zipline over the water
Get an amazing vantage point for the hundred plus islands as you zip from one island to another over the sea. To do this, you need to climb up 250 steps up to the view deck of the Governor’s Island. Then, you get strapped into a harness and helmet and hoisted on the 546-meter long cable connecting the Governor’s Island to the Virgin Island. After zipping, you have to go back to the main island by walking on a sandbar connecting the two islands. You can also arrange for a boat ride or kayak to get back if the tide is too high. There’s also a shorter 120-meter long zipline located in the Quezon Island beachfront.
3. Try Helmet Diving
Also known as reef walking, helmet diving allows visitors to walk on the ocean floor aided by helmets made of glass plates. It’s a popular activity in Boracay and prior to my visit, I didn’t know that they offered it in Pangasinan as well. It’s offered aboard a boat raft near Governor’s Island for just P300/head. After an orientation on the safety procedures and how to equalize under water, you don the helmet, climb climb down a ladder to reach the sea bed and you can marvel at the abundance of tropical fish and giant clams!
4. Go Cliff-Jumping
Cliff-jumping or cliff-diving is basically jumping from some a platform or cliff to a body of water below. Usually, there’s no equipment involved and no special training required. While extreme jumpers often dive from dizzying heights, some spots in the Philippines are low enough to be ideal for first-timers who want to get a taste of the adrenaline rush.
Marcos Island in the Hundred Islands is a good spot to try it out. A short winding pathway on the rocks leads to Imelda’s Cave, where a natural cave hole opens up into a pool below. There are different points where you can try to jump from – from twelve feet to twenty feet high. After jumping into the water, you can snorkel or swim out of the cave and swim back to the beach’s shore.
5. Bum at the Beach in Bolinao
Bolinao is a hidden gem within the province, located at the northernmost tip of western Pangasinan. You can enjoy the fine sand at Patar Beach, visit Cape Bolinao Lighthouse (one of the tallest lighthouses in the country) or hike to Bolinao Falls.
Some of the resorts here offer a stunning view of the coast from rock formations.
6. Explore Caves
One of the more popular and easily accessible caves in Bolinao is Enchanted Cave, which has a natural spring pool where locals like to swim.
For a more extreme caving adventure, there’s Cacupangan Cave in Mabini, Pangasinan. This river has waters which flow out into the Balincaguing River.
7. Visit a Salt Farm
Pangasinan is home to the 500-hectare Pacific Salt Farms, the largest salt producer in the Philippines. Take an eco-tour to learn all about salt harvesting and production. You can ride an old locomotive here through the farm, take a selfie with a salt mountain and even try harvesting salt yourself.
8. Go kayaking or ride an ATV
Lingayen, the capital town of Pangasinan, is home to historic sites including the most beautiful Provincial Capitol in the country. Lingayen Beach has an expansive shoreline with fine sand, clear water and cool breeze.
Yet unlike many beachfront areas, it doesn’t get that crowded. You can enjoy swimming and kayaking on the waters. The wide beach is also perfect for ATV rides and landboarding, a new sport similar to kitesurfing but is done on land.
9. Get your fill of local delicacies
Pangasinan is both a coastal and agricultural province, so you can expect a lot of great seafood dishes and those made with rich farm ingredients. Must-eats around the province include bangus (milkfish) from Dagupan, dried fish, pigar-pigar (a stir-fried beef dish), anything with bagoong and longganisa (sausage) from Alaminos and Binalonan.
For dessert or merienda, try Puto Calasiao, Romana’s Peanut Brittle, tupig (a rice cake made out of ground glutinous rice and coconuts strips wrapped in banana leaves then cooked over charcoal) and Binungey (sticky coconut rice cake cooked inside bamboo tubes) from Bolinao.
10. Get an aerial tour aboard a two-seater plane
If all of those still sound a little too tame for you, how about getting an aerial view of the Hundred Islands? WCC Aeronautical and Technological College (www.wccaviation.com/), one of the leading aviation schools in the country based in Binalonan, offers amazing aerial tours of the Hundred Islands aboard a two-seater Cessna 152 and 4-seater Cessna 172 plane.
From above, you can get a bird’s eye view of the hundred islands scattered like beautifully cut gem stones on the blue-green waters of the Lingayen Gulf and the surrounding coastal towns of Pangasinan. If you think ziplining is fun, try boarding a light aircraft! It’s a bucket-list worthy experience.
NOTE: Photos of zipline, cliff-diving and spelunking by Martin San Diego for North Bound Magazine. A version of this article first appeared in Enrich Magazine August 2016 issue.