Hi. I’m Kara Santos, a freelance writer and photographer based in Manila, Philippines. My blog Travel Up is my online journal, where I write mostly about local and international travel destinations, extreme adventures, motorcycling and food trips.

I’ve traveled around the Philippines from the northernmost inhabited island (Itbayat, Batanes) to the southernmost province (Tawi-Tawi) and through several countries from Jordan to New Zealand for work and personal trips. I’m currently trying to visit all 81 provinces of the Philippines, and have explored 60 of 81.

I’m active in the motorcycle travel scene in the country. I’ve been riding since 2011, the same time I started this blog. I currently have two bikes: Chocobo, a Yamaha Mio Fino scooter and Fenrir, a Suzuki Thunder 125 scrambler custom bike. Whenever I travel to other places for work and have free time, I always try to rent either a motorcycle or bicycle to explore differently.

Over the last five years, my blog Travel Up has gained online recognition as one of the Top Travel Blogs in the Philippines. My Facebook Fan page has grown over 100,000 fans organically, ensuring a wide reach and high engagement on social media.

Since I started freelancing in 2008, my work has been published in various local and international publications including broadsheets, print, lifestyle, in-flight magazines & online media. As a freelance writer, I’m always on the lookout for new destinations and activities to feature. I can ensure mainstream media coverage for partner establishments, sponsors and clients beyond my blog.

View Print portfolio & magazine tear sheets here.


TRAVEL UP kara santos profileThe name of my blog is inspired by the video game concept of leveling up, gaining experience points, exploring new areas, meeting new people, and attaining higher levels by completing tasks and challenges.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve embarked on several travel-related sidequests including collecting (photos of) hotel room keys and beer I’ve tried. When I’m not on the road, I can usually be found at home playing video games. I’m a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, RPGs & puzzle platformers.


I am open to advertisers and sponsored content related to travel, adventure, tourism and the outdoors. For advertising inquiries and collaborations, please email me at kara.m.santos@gmail.com. You can also find me on the following social media channels:

66 thoughts on “About

  1. Kara, I just read your post on the 5 destinations on a motorcycle, and wanted to share with you our ride to Infanta, Quezon via Tanay. The road is new and incredibly beautiful. Though there are 4 sections covered in mud and soil, light motorbikes and dual purpose bikes can easily navigate these areas without any problems.

    I recommend that you try this road soon, before the rainy season sets in.

    • Hi Wawel. Thanks for the tip! We tried riding to Infanta earlier this year, but got caught in the rain and some parts of the road were hard to navigate because of mud. (Check out my post “New Year Ride.” Glad to hear the roads are better now. We’ll check it out again soon 🙂

  2. Hi there, glad to see this site. I have read the recent article here (5 places to motorcycle) from the Inquirer just the other day, i was looking at it and thought that I read it somewhere, stupid me not realizing it was the same author. lol.
    I love bein on the road, and am thankful for articles and blogs like yours. They give good insights and guidelines for travelers.
    My photographer friend and I might be going around the country visiting places for a certain project, I am sure that what I have read from your articles would help a lot.

    More power to you and hope to see more of your road trips!

  3. Wew, you sound like my idea travel buddy. Took up journalism too, but never really worked as one. There’s still this itch though to share stories through words and photos. 🙂 Will definitely visit your blog more often. Added you to my blog list too. 🙂

    • Hi Cedric. Wow, joining PTB has really brought in a lot of traffic to this blog 🙂 I still practice straight journalism (though I admit it can get pretty serious and boring sometimes). Travel stories and photos are more fun to do. Will check out your blog. Nice market shot in your banner.

  4. Great articles on the mam-eh festival, Kara.
    Think you grasped the essence of it all very well!
    BTW, the International Society for Ethnobiology (ISE) has put a link on their website to your article in the Inquirer. (Under ‘member news’ or something like that.
    Will let you know when next we have something very special – here or elsewhere in Asia….

  5. I would really like to travel and see the sights locally…unfortuntely i dont have that much friends who would like to join me…they have thier own reasons why they cnt make it….have been to the common places like, i have been to boracay 3x this year and sick and tire dof it…i would like to go see other places…could you recommend a group to me who loves to travel…i would really appreciate it…tnx in advance

    • Hi Sonny. My advice is not to rely on your friends just to travel. A lot of people don’t travel much because they think it’s too expensive or they don’t have time. I find Boracay overrated, and people go there just to party. There are so many places in the country worth exploring. But it doesn’t always have to be an out of town trip. Where to go and who to go with really depends on what kind of travel you like to do – backpacking, food trip, etc.

      Why not trying to go to places you’ve never been to in Manila? Check out this post of the places you can go to just in Manila: http://www.lakwatsero.com/spots/manila-in-focus/

      A lot of people also enjoy traveling solo. At least you can choose what you really want to do and your adventure is not dictated on pakikisama with a group. If you’re not ready for that, you could also join arranged group tours like those found here and meet new people: http://www.oldmanilawalks.com/tours.htm

      I also suggest that you check add this page on FB: http://www.facebook.com/FilipinoTravelBloggers, where a lot of travel bloggers post their latest adventures. You may just find a place you’d be interested to visit there 🙂 Hope this helps!

  6. Pingback: Mt. Isarog Trek by Kara Santos | WHERE Webzine

    • Hi Doms, thanks for your comment. Have a bunch of motorcycle trips that I haven’t written about. Will try and post more about these trips more regularly this coming year. Please check out Motorcycle World Magazine as well! 🙂

  7. Good morning Ms. Kara Santos!
    This is Raymond Bermeo, Program Researcher from Motorcycle Diaries ni Jay Taruc on GMA News TV Channel 11. Currently, may ginagawa po kaming documentary about Philippine Photography. One of the elements that we would like to include is about a professional photographer and at the same time motorcycle rider/enthusiast.
    Ang treatment po kasi ng segment is magmomotor sila ni Sir Jay Taruc papunta sa isang na lugar (na choice ng mai-invite naming photographer na malapit lang po sa Manila) tapos kukuha po sila ng mga litrato and they will have an interview about photography and everything.

    Regarding that Maam, okay lang po ba na ma-invite naming kayo na ma-feature sa aming show on Monday morning po para sa shoot. Yung qualifications (based on my research) niyo po kasi ay fit dun sa hinahanap namin.
    I hope Maam okay lang po. May hinahabol po kasi kaming deadline.
    If you have further inquiries, please feel free po to contact me in my number 0926.664.0744 or email me at raymondbermeo@gmail.com.
    Thank you very much Maam Kara! Godbless!
    Raymond Bermeo (EM)
    Program Researcher
    Motorcycle Diaries

  8. Hi, Kara! I chanced in your blog while looking for drinking spots along Maginhawa. I also saw you in Tomato kick eating seafood pesto and it looked sumptuous while you were eating it. Soo, I ate the same thing and i loved it. Haha not a stalker :p

    • Hi Ochi. Tomato Kick’s Seafood Pasta is my go-to meal after every trip! Had it again the other day. The Fajitas and Wedges are great too. See you around if you live in the area 🙂

  9. Hi Kara. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog from Journeying James. I got hooked.

    Thank you for promoting our beloved city.

    This is beautiful, well written blog- is it okay to put your webpage in my link?

  10. Hi Kara,
    Good to see you have now added share buttons to the blog. Can i also suggest that you make all external links open in a new window. Currently the links you have open in same window and therefore take your readers away from your website/blog, so you are in affect losing them.
    This also applies to the logos in the sidebar.If you need the extra bit of code to do this with the logo/banners just let me know. you can contact me on my email address.

  11. Hi Kara!

    I am a 19 year old student from De La Salle University. I’m taking up photography under photo journalist, Rem Zamora. One of our assignments for our final requirements is to meet up with any of the Photo Journalists we find on the Photo Journalists’ Center of the Philippines’ website. I had decided to choose you because you of your concept of “Traveling Up” — being able to explore and widen your grasp in experiencing new things. It is quite inspiring for it challenges me to embrace the new things that come my way as well. Our task is to meet up with the Photo Journalist and immerse ourselves with his/her work. I need to be able to take a photo of you while at work and observe how photography is done.

    Is it okay if we can meet up on Monday? 🙂

  12. Hi Kara,

    Thank you so much for posting a blog and sharing your experiences!:)

    I just like to seek your suggestion for the best places for a team building?
    I am currently organizing a one-night overnight team-building experience for 30 pax in our company’s department and looking for a venue that is about 2 to 4 hours (max) from Manila. That is, if you’re not too busy to answer my questions. Haha

    God Bless and cheers to more travel and posting!!

  13. sis , nice blog me n my bf also does mc and hike to mt. like u ive been to mt. etc several trips abroad.ty more power

  14. your website is now my new best friend.

    in my efforts to re-acquaint myself with the country — having been away for nearly half a decade — i have been looking for places (new or old) to visit and see for myself that it is, indeed, more fun in the philippines.

    thank you for bloggers like you who write with purpose.

    all the best.


    • Hi Wade. Right now, I just ride a scooter, but am saving up to upgrade to a better bike. Hopefully, this year! 🙂 Enjoy your ride to Jariel’s. Much cooler weather there than in Manila.

  15. Hi maam. Bicolano ka man po ata I assume. Gusto mo po maam ma try ang 5 falls in a day na na experience ko with my mountaineering group last sunday lang po. Kung dai ka po busy and okay lang saimo. Ingat po and God Bless! More Power!

  16. Hello Kara!

    I soooooooooo love your Blog site!!!!!!! I’m from Antipolo City and I frequent the Marilaque area. Thanks for the reviews.

  17. Hi Ms. Kara. This is Allan Semana of A Different Story . We are the producer of the show ” Something To Chew On” – a travel food show airing over CNN Philippines. We would like to invite you to be our guest on the show as we are featuring Quezon City. We hope to have your contact number so we can discuss details and concerns for the shoot.

    Allan Semana
    Production Manager
    A Different Story Productions
    Something to Chew On- Season 4
    CNN Philippines
    office number: 8932232- 8932240

  18. Hey kara, i am so glad that i found your blog! I am passionate about driving motorbikes as well and love to explore the phils that way. I am from germany an will be there in january. First i was not sure about the possibilities exploring some spots by bike. Now i definitely am. Thanks! Maybe we meet in the road 🙂 Vanessa

  19. Hi Kara,

    I have read most of your blogs and it really inspired me. I love to travel, though I don’t have the luxury to travel for many days since I’m a father and too busy at work. But I do find time to ride and go to different places I haven’t been yet.

    I have started to make my own blog and hoping to share my travels and adventure like you did

    More power to you and to Travel Up

    • Hi Gerald, Thank you very much for the comment. It’s always great to hear from readers and fellow riders. Traveling doesn’t always to have be to exotic far-off destinations. I’m just glad that there are a lot of relatively near destinations where I live which are good for weekend rides. I’ll check out your blog for ideas. I’ve also been wanting to explore the Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas area more. Ride safe! 🙂

  20. Hi Kara! 🙂

    Just want to ask your rate for an advertisement link/space or a social media campaign for a promo package tour of a travel agency (name of travel agency to follow). Hope you can get back to me as soon as possible.

    Thank you so much! 🙂


  21. Hello,
    Planning to take a trip to Caramoan soon. Tanong ko lang po kung alam nyo kung safe iwanan ang private vehicle sa sabang port for a couple of days?

    Salamat po

    • Hi Gani, we hired a van to bring us and pick us up from Sabang Port to avoid that problem, but I heard there are secure places to park near the Sabang port for a fee of P50 a day. I’m not sure if it’s a restaurant or resort nearby where you can park, but I wouldn’t recommend you leave your car at the port because it’s open.

  22. Hi Kara!

    I bumped into your blog looking for itinerary for my trips as well. And honestly, I was hooked with all your published post 🙂
    Just recently started my own travel blog and I wish to hear some advise how to grow my own page as yours :))

    Keep on doing adventures 🙂 to more places to see.

    • Thanks, Nathalie. When I started my blog in 2011, I just wanted to share my travel experiences and interests. There are a lot of blogs out there that offer travel guide type lists and itineraries (and I still do those list type articles once in a while) but I guess you just have to offer something different to stand out. I get the most satisfaction about writing experiential posts from personal motorcycling trips, which I think no other blog offers. I guess you can just try to find your niche and focus writing about things that will help other people with similar interests. I don’t know. Still learning, actually. 🙂

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