For those who live in the metro looking for a quick day-trip getaway relatively near Manila, Antipolo is a popular choice. The city of Antipolo is approximately just 16 miles east of Manila, making it accessible especially for those who live in the North. Antipolo sits on a plateau at a higher elevation and offers a scenic overlooking view of the rest of Metro Manila.
Though the city has become highly urbanized and developed and the traffic going in and out of Antipolo can be a bit of a turn-off, for those who prefer natural attractions to city sights, you can still find beautiful scenic spots and hidden gems in and near Antipolo. Here are just a few activities that you may not have known you can do in Antipolo.
1. Appreciate art and nature at the Pinto Art Museum
If you have a day to spare in Manila and want to get a taste of both modern and native art, Pinto Art Museum is one of the best museums you can visit. The Pinto Art Museum displays contemporary Filipino paintings and sculptures in galleries spread apart among tropical gardens and whitewashed, Mediterranean-style villas.
The Museum of Indigenous Art, located in the lower gardens, showcases the richness of Filipino culture particularly Cordillera. It contains functional and ritual objects, textiles, jewelry and other beautiful indigenous artwork. The museum also has a chapel and in-house cafes where you can stop for refreshments.
2. Visit Churches
Since Antipolo is known primarily as a pilgrimage city, locals make it a point to visit the churches in the area. The “Virgin of Antipolo” (also known as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) is believed to give blessings to keep people safe in any voyage, any journey, any pilgrimage or trip. During Holy Week, thousands of devotees from Metro Manila customarily perform the Alay Lakad, where they spend the night travelling on foot to Antipolo.
Another historic church you can visit in Antipolo is the Boso-Boso Church. Only the small chapel is used today for worship, but the church was built back in 1578, which makes it the oldest church in this area of the country. In fact, the original stonework on the structure remains part of the building today.
3. Ride around Mt. Maarat
Mt. Maarat in San Mateo, Rizal is a regular training ground for trail runners, mountaineers, and mountain bikers. Bikers coming from the metro usually pass through Marikina and San Mateo, Rizal and ascend through The Wall to access the main entrance of Timberland Heights, one of the top biking destinations near the metro. But bikers can also pass the back route coming from Antipolo through Marcos Highway going to Pintong Bukawe along Sapinit Road which is geographically still part of Antipolo according to Googlemaps.
From here, you can bike around off-road trails around Mt. Maarat, Timberland’s Basic Trail and Roxas Loop and places like Philip’s Sanctuary (Pestano’s Farm) and Basekamp Biker’s Pit Stop, which have their own classic cross-country trails and challenging downhill and free-ride trails, established mountain bike courses as well as camping grounds and team-building facilities.
For riders looking to level up their skills, there’s also the KRB Off-Road Track, a 36-hectare natural park in Antipolo that offers a technical course and controlled environment for training for mountain bikers and motocross riders. The park also has a separate track and enduro park for ATVs and 4x4s.
Another option for weekend warriors who don’t know how to bike or ride a motorcycle but still want to experience the thrill of off-road trails, is to ride an ATV or all-terrain vehicle.
ATV Adventures Rizal offers ATV tours in the area giving guests a chance to ride through forest and river trails in the mountains. The headquarters and jump-off point of ATV Adventures Rizal is located along Sapinit Road, just 50 metres from Bikers’ Camp, Antipolo.
5. Go on a Food Trip
Though you can find lots of restaurants in malls around Antipolo, most tourists would opt to enjoy the view at restaurants overlooking the city like Cloud 9, Padi’s Point or Cafe Lupe. This is a good choice around sunset and at night.
For breakfast and lunch, Antipolo is also home to many hidden gems and cafes ideal for family-friendly getaways or dates including Eggs for Breakfast Cafe, Yellow Lantern Cafe, Vieux Chalet Swiss Restaurant and Crescent Moon Cafe & Studio Pottery.
I’ve heard that a brewhouse based in Antipolo will be making their beers available to the public by December. Santiago Brewery & Malthouse posted a teaser photo of their beers including Habagat Red Ale, Buhawi Imperial Stout, Ipu-Ipu Indian Pale Ale and Amihan Pale Ale on their FB page. I haven’t tried this myself, but am looking forward to checking this out once they’re available.
Photo from Santiago Brewery & Malthouse FB Page
6. Chill out at Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens & Spa
For those who prefer to just chill out with a good view, Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa is one of the top getaways in Antipolo.
This famous mountain resort is said to be the first and only hanging garden and spa in the Philippines. The unique Asian-inspired getaway provides a scenic view of Laguna De Bay and Metro Manila. Guests can take a dip at one of their three infinity pools, enjoy a massage at one of their Filipino inspired massage cabins or enjoy gastronomic delights overlooking Metro Manila at Luljetta’s Cafe.
7. Enjoy a staycation
Though Antipolo is really near Manila, the travel time because of the traffic just getting in and out can make it seem really far. For those who want to maximize their stay and have more time to go around, staying overnight in Antipolo is a good option. There are a lot of hotels, rest-houses and private resorts with their own swimming pools and facilities in Antipolo to choose from depending on your budget.
Renting a private rest-house outfitted with a full kitchen, bedrooms, WiFi, air conditioning, patios and private pools is ideal for large groups, barkadas, team-building sessions or extended family celebrations. One of the more charming places to stay in Antipolo that I’ve come across is the Grounds Resort, with its rustic Hobbit-inspired lodge. Located in Herbal Park, The Grounds Resort is a cozy space for those who want to escape the crowded city life. The space also caters to events like weddings, maternity shoots, pre-nuptials shoots and birthdays. They can accommodate up to 30 guests.
- Luljetta’s Place Garden Suites. San Roque, Antipolo
- Le Blanc Hotel & Resort. Antipolo, Rizal
- Cafe Lupe Bed & Breakfast. Antipolo
- Eugenio Lopez Center
- Loreland Farm Resort
8. Buy unique souvenirs
The most popular souvenir food item from Antipolo is roasted cashew nuts or kasuy, which comes in “binusa” (dry roasted), “inadobo” (deep fried with garlic) or raw varieties. You can also buy suman sa ibus, kalamay, religious items, and pottery products at Crescent Moon Gallery. For an affordable and unique treat, look out for Domalaon Bakery, an unassuming roadside sari-sari store which sells these cute animal-shaped bread, which comes in shapes like lechon, crocodiles, turtles and more.
9. Get into the Christmas spirit at Casa Santa
If you really love Christmas, you can enjoy it all-year around at Casa Santa, a museum of sorts that contains a vast collection of Santa Claus memorabilia, ranging from life-sized, singing Santas to Santa themed plates and mugs, candles, plush toys, dolls, and figurines. Casa Santa is located in the grounds of events venue Jardin de Miramar.
10. Stop by Hinulugang Taktak
Hinulugang Taktak is one of the nearest and most accessible waterfalls you can visit from Manila that doesn’t require hiking to get to. This 12-meter high waterfall and its surrounding has been designated as a national park and is one of Antipolo’s most famous attractions.
Visitors used to be able to swim in the basin of the falls, but because of the rapid urbanization and pollution, swimming here is no longer recommended for visitors. The park was recently renovated with a viewdeck, gazebos and swimming pools for locals to enjoy. Compared to some of the beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen around the country, this is a bit depressing, but if you’re in the area, you might as well stop by for a bit of sightseeing.
Antipolo may seem too near the metro to plan a trip, but if you don’t have anything to do on a weekend, hopefully this will give you an idea of some of the more interesting and unique activities that you can do there. Tara na sa Antipolo!