Part 2 of our North Luzon loop was heading down to see the UNESCO world heritage site of the famous rice terraces of the mountain province coming from Sagada. Sagada offered picturesque rice terraces as well and the drive going to Ifugao also gave us a scenic view on these man made wonders. We were able to stay in an authentic Native Ifugao Hut and discovered Ifugao’s culture, traditions and beliefs in Hiwang Village. Updated April 2016
Banaue view deck
Bangaan rice terraces
Sagada hanging coffins
From our previous visit to Sagada in part 1 of this Northern Luzon road trip, we then planned our next stop towards Ifugao province to see the magnificent man made marvel of the UNESCO world heritage site of the rice terraces. Ifugao has many rice terraces and you can view them while travelling the roads towards Banaue. It is a 2 1/2 hr drive from Sagada to Banaue rice terraces (google maps coordinate).
Banaue Rice Terraces: UNESCO World Heritage Site
In this view deck you to get capture the post card perfect shot of Banaue rice terraces and also use the backdrop with a photo opportunity with the locals wearing native costumes. You can go down a few steps for a better view and rent the native costumes.
photo op with natives
costume rental at the view deck
rice terraces backdrop
The Terraces: As captured in the old 1000 peso bill
The other view deck just down a few meters away is the site where Red Bull made its famous wake boarding video down the terraces. You can also frame a picture of the old 1000 peso bill photo of the terraces.
Finding a place to stay after being trigger happy with the camera’s shutter, we searched for accommodations that make us experience living in Ifugao huts. So we asked around town where we can find one and the seller of souvenirs pointed us to a native house stay in Hiwang Village (google maps coordinates). The village preserved authentic Ifugao Huts and even had 2 Huts occupied for a museum like display of Ifugao artefacts depicting their culture, traditions and beliefs. One night stay at this authentic Ifugao house is about 1500 Php so we stayed for 2 nights. The view was also spectacular with a wide horizon overlooking the terraces and the environment was so cold especially at night. We also did a survivor style living, camped out, cooked our own food and put up a bonfire at night.
overlooking the terraces
stairs to the hut
a big roof
authentic Ifugao House
authentic Ifugao Hut
We had a peek at the spooky Ifugao Hut that houses some native artifacts, idols and even animal and human skulls. This Native village is a must place to visit for a day (25 Php entrance) when you are in Banaue and more especially if you want to experience living in an Ifugao house.
idols and images
Ifugao House Inside
Bangaan Rice Terraces: a hidden valley
We had a quick check at Banaue tourism office to see which other sites are interesting to visit and picked the Bangaan rice terraces which was not so popularly visited. Even finding the site was tricky since it is like a hidden valley (google maps coordinates) only accessible to a small passage way down the village. If you opt to have a tour guide with you it may cost you around 500-800 Php and if you have enough time you can go also to Batad rice terraces near the area. So we choose to find the place by ourselves as we mostly do a DIY style of trip.
stairway down the village
village down the terraces
The trek down the village will take you around 20-30 minutes and in the center of it is the village where you can also get refreshments and rent a costume for a photo opportunity with the rice terraces backdrop.
The following day before heading back to Manila, he had a quick stop at Banaue Museum (google maps coordinates). Entrance to the museum is 50 Php, it is small museum display of Ifugao culture and unfortunately you could not take pictures inside.
Driving back to Manila took us around 8 hrs travel time with some quick stops along Cabanatuan for coffee break arriving Manila very late at night. Indeed our trip towards the rice terraces of the North was worth the long drive.
Part 1: La Union, Sagada and Ifugao are towns far off the northern part of luzon and a great destination to those who want to seek real adventure and discover majestic places. Nature at its finest is waiting to be explored with caves, waterfalls, rice terraces and you also get to see the culture of the people living in these places. Updated April 2016
Bomit-og hanged coffin, the father of our tour guide
Entrance to Sumaguing Cave
Banaue rice terraces
Bangaan rice terraces
So we had an opportunity to have a week long road trip towards North Luzon and decided to try another loop traversing the mountanous ranges with a magestic view of the terraces of the North. Our drive took us about 5 hrs to our first stop in San Juan, La Union thanks to the extension of TPLEX which gave us a seamless ride from Manila to Pangasinan via NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX express way. We had already been to the northern tip of Luzon and have done a La Union-Ilocos-Pagudpud road trip so we tried the other route sidewards taking the challenging drive of the mountain ranges while exploring the scenic view of the rice fields.
First Stop: San Juan, La Union
We stayed at this newly opened Resort Villas Buenavista coming from a long haul drive from Manila. The resort is quiet big and situated in San Juan fronting the beach and has a nice swimming pool. The rooms are a bit expensive but you get what you pay for. Resort can be searched in google maps and has a facebook account.
Surfing Lessons are available in the area depending on your chosen package. The beach is a good learning environment for beginners and you can opt to have a board rental for one hour with an instructor present for a rate of 400 Php. A lot of good restaurants at a good price are also packed in the highway street near the surfing area.
Se-bay beach front
Next Stop: That thing called Sagada
The following morning we headed up for another long drive towards Sagada via Tagudin-Cervantes Road for a long and winding 4-5 hr drive.
When you use google maps, your point of destination would be Sagada Municipal Tourist Center where all the tours are also organised. The tourism office serves as the registration and starting point for your guided tours. You need to register and log your visit with the tourism office and acquire a guided tour package (by group).
Here are some of the tour packages you can book at the tourism office
Sumaguing Cave: for the explorer in you
Upon our arrival we immediately book a guided tour for our family for a short course exploration of Sumaguing Cave. For a group of four, we pay 500 Php for the tour guide. The entrance to the cave is a bit far to walk so we took our car with the Tour guide going to site, otherwise you may need transportation going there.
Things to Prepare:
Wear comfortable clothes and expect to get wet, sandals or flip-flops are okay (you will remove them anyway once you traverse the slippery rocks.
Bring a waterproof camera if you want to take pictures, you can bring SLR but make sure you have a dry bag with you.
Bring also waterproof lighting/ flash lights, although the guide also has his lantern with him for the group.
Leave your gadgets and any valuable belongings before taking this tour. They will get wet or maybe lost when you do your “spiderman” moves going up and down the trail.
Bring a bottle of water, it may take you hours to come back from the trail and make sure you have gone to the toilet before entering the cave.
I can recommend this for kids above 6 y.o. but this tour is not for senior citizens and the faint hearted.
stairs going down
The tour took 2.5 hours to traverse from descending to climbing back up again. Last entrance to the cave is at 4pm so when we came back it was already dark at night. It was one of the most challenging cave explorations we’ve done and i got a little scared for my kids when we went down on waist deep cold waters of the cave.
You have to wake up early to catch the sunrise at Kiltepan View and if you are luck enough you may even see the “sea of clouds” below the the rising sun. For us, we were already there at 4:30 AM waiting for sunrise taking some hot choco and coffee with us but was not lucky enough to have a postcard photo of the sunrise. The cold breeze of the early morning wind was refreshing for us and you could this environment elsewhere in the city. We were only able to catch a glimpse of the risen sun covered with a shadow of clouds.
bright morning sun
terraces seen below
Echo Valley Tour
After our Kiltepan early morning call, we headed over to see the echo village tour where the famous hanging coffins of Sagada lies. Since we are quiet early, we headed directly to Eco Valley without having reserved a tour from the tourism office. Fortunately there was a tour guide available at the entrance to the tour so we just got him and gave 250 Php for the short tour. Our guide was also a native of the land and his father who in 2005 was one of last who was buried in the hanging coffin (coffin labelled Bomit-Og)
Bomit-og hanged coffin, the father of our tour guide
Trekking: Bomod-Ok Falls and the traversing the rice terraces
The next day, we headed over for a cold swim in Bomod-Ok falls where you can also see the majestic view of Sagada’s very own rice terraces. For this trek you need a tour guide which is also available when you reach the end of the road to the starting point of the trail. You pay the tour guide a fee of 500 Php which will lead your group thru the 30 minute trail traversing the village and rice terraces. You can get wooden sticks in the starting point to help you trek the up and down trail. Make sure to pack lite, wear comfortable trekking footwear and carry enough water with you.
Anilao, a tourist spot known to many divers for its diverse corals and abundant habitation of fishes, situated in the south Luzon, Mabini Batangas. There is also a side trip short trek to Mt. Gulugod Baboy. Updated May 2016
Anilao is the drop off point for divers where its beauty lies hidden underneath the sea. It is accessible via land travel around 2-3 hrs by vehicle and a lot of resorts/hotels offer a shoreline access to snorkelling area just a few steps away.
The shoreline of Anilao don’t have white beaches but you’ve got to see the amazing environment below. We opted to explore by snorkelling the shoreline of Anilao without costing us a fortune from dive packages just to see its beauty .
school of fishes
snorkelling using Tribord face mask
After a two and half hr drive down SLEX and STAR Toll ways to Anilao, we stayed at King Solomon Resort where they have an open access to the shore which is already a snorkelling area a few meters away.
Side trip: Trek to Mt. Gulugod-Baboy
Before heading to discover Anilao underneath, we planned our early morning adventure for a Trek to Gulugod Baboy (easy trek for beginners). There are 2 entry point trails going to the summit.
There are quiet a few other choices to explore the shoreline like Eagle’s Point Resort, Anilao Beach Club, and King Solomon Resort. We booked a room online for less than 2000 Php at King Solomon. There is nothing much to do in Anilao but to dive and snorkel. We entered the shore of the resort and just swimming just few a strokes away is a diverse array of corals beneath. We even found a sea turtle hiding behind these corals.
school of fishes
If you are adventurous enough you can swim farther away to get to the larger corals where you can find more schools of fishes
coral sea bed
coral sea bed
school of fishes
Camping Adventure to the Island of Maricaban
We headed to the island of Maricaban to see the riches that lies below which only a few may have known. It is an unspoiled beach that doesn’t have all the amenities for a relaxing getaway but you get to enjoy its sights diving the corals beneath.
The destination is 30 minute boat ride going there from the Mabini port via passenger boat going to Maricaban. Open parking is available in the port area at no cost.
A single trip cost about 70 Php per head and only leaves Mabini port once at around noontime. Upon reaching the village where you boat docks, you have to walk around 5-10 minutes going to the other side of the island. You just ask for the beach area owned by Mang Viktor.
see google maps coordinates for the beach of Mang Viktor
Entrance to Mang Viktor’s place is 250 Php per head per night. We stayed for 2 nights and got to use one of their cottages. You have to provide your own tent and food when coming to this area.
Electricity is not available in the cottage area but the owner can provide you some battery powered lighting. We brought all our camping equipment with us including LED lights and 20,000 mAH of power bank for charging our cameras, gadgets and lighting. Water is available in the owner’s house fetched from deep well source. However their toilet area is not that convenient enough which they have to improve as the owner had told us.
no electricity nearby
our 4 person tent
The Only Activity: Survive on your own and Enjoy Snorkelling
This adventure will test your survival skills so you have to come prepared. We stayed for 3 days and 2 nights and brought enough food and water with us. You can also hike for around 5 minutes to the village to buy at their stores where water, hot bread and food groceries are available. The rest of the day you enjoy swimming and snorkelling finding lots of fishes.
Make sure you have enough sunblock to protect you from the heat of the sun. All of us went home 3 shades darker. The following morning you need to be up early to catch the 7am boat ride back to Mabini port.
Calaguas Island, a powdery white sand beach called Mahabang Buhangin is the go to place of this tourist destination. Updated June 2016
It is like Boracay beach front plus a snorkelling area without the establishments 10-15 years ago. You can stay overnight and camp in the beach front with some cottages situated in the beach area or stay in some resorts. When you get there, you are disconnected with technology; electricity only available at night via generators and source of water is from deep well, no mobile signal as well.
You just get to enjoy one of the clearest beaches we have been and just a few meters away you can dive under a coral rich snorkelling area.
IL Calaguas resort
other end of the beach
How to Get there: Via Paracale Fish Port
Point of entry to the island is via Paracale or Vinzons Fish Port by small boat. We went thru Paracale which is closer to Manila compared to Vinzons and also takes less travel time by boat.
It is around 6-7 hrs by car when starting from Manila and 2 hrs by boat from Paracale.
Via Car: Road Trip w/ the aid of Google Maps
We packed our things for a 2 night stay and loaded our pick-up with all our camping gears (tent, cooking ware, snorkelling gears, ready to cook food) to Paracale fish port. Private parking is a available in the area for a fee of 200 Php. There are also tents available for rent and stores in the area that can cook food for you.
We decided to do it survivor style since we have the tools to survive for 3 days as a family. We travel as family with a 7 y.o. boy and 9 y.o. girl.
We got a small boat transport which travels to and from Mahabang Buhangin almost regularly for a cost of 500 Php per head with our contact Kuya Ely who owns the boat. Once you get to the beach front after a bumpy 2 hour sailing towards pacific, you can choose to stay in cottages that can range from 500-1000 Php for small cottages.
We got the 500 Php cottage,and pitch a tent for sleeping in the sandy beach front. We also paid an entrance fee of php 120 Php per head to the cottage owner(depends on which area you stay). We stayed with Ate Amy’s cottages, she also offers to cook food for your convenience. Stores around the area sell food and drinks at a relatively costly price. Better bring your own food and water if you can. It is expensive due to the remote location and no source of big stores and even electricity. They get their supplies from Paracale or Vinzons.
pitch a tent in the beach
Calaguas Starry night
powdery white sands
Activities: Swimming, Snorkelling, Hiking
Stepping outside the tent will greet you with powdery white sands that stretches wide to the end of the island and the crystal clear waters of the beach. Just a few meters away (make sure you have your life-vest and snorkelling gear) you can go snorkelling in about 3-5 meter deep corals with fishes like clown fish, yellow/blue tang fish and we even spotted a lion fish at night.
blue tang fish
yellow tang fish
You can also hike to the top of Calaguas on both hill sides of the island which overlooks the beach area. We hiked the right side of the island where you can see also the other side of the island. We just walked to the end of the beach and there is a trail going to the top . Posted there is an entrance fee of 25 Php (attendants and guides were not around so we sneaked in (the dog guided the way for us).
our family on top of Calaguas
the adjacent island
mahabang buhangin from top
the dog was our guide
If the attendants of the “POSO” are there, you have to pay 10 Php per bucket to use for bathing or toilet, otherwise you get the water from the pump on your own but can’t use their so called “common bathroom”
under the shade
end of the beach.
source of water
Watch our video link on Vimeo for our adventure to this beautiful island https://vimeo.com/170098747
To enjoy your visit to this beautiful island, it is better to prepare for a camping trip for an overnight stay: bring a tent, cooking ware, enough food and of course snorkelling gears with you. The view is even better when you swim under and see the corals and fishes surrounding the beach area.