5 of the best trips for the semester break

We've rounded up some of the best short breaks for young travelers, from a beach holiday in Aurora to culinary stops and thrill rides in Pampanga

By Celia Nachura

1 Surf and enjoy the beach life in Casiguran, Aurora



A photo posted by Angel Perido (@angelainaleigh) on

Aurora province in Luzon has become quite known for its surfing spot, Baler, but not many know of Casiguran, a little further north of Aurora, where the the beaches are "way better than Baler," according to Jonalyn Fortuna, travel writer for Business Mirror's Locale. Some of the beaches to check out are Casapsapan Beach, a pristine and often empty stretch of white sandy shore and Motyong Beach, a brown sandy beach. For surfers, there's a little-known break in San Ildefonso Beach and a mini lagoon. Beyond beaches, waterfalls in the area like the Ditinagyan Falls are cleaner and quieter in Casiguran than many better-known ones.

How to get there
From the Genesis Bus Terminal on EDSA corner New York Ave., Cubao, ride a bus headed to Baler, Aurora. Travel time is about five hours. At the bus terminal in Baler, take a tricycle to the van terminal at Baler Central Terminal where there are regular shuttles to Casiguran, about a four-hour travel. The same drop-off in Casiguran will get you back to Baler or EDSA.

Where to stay
Casapsapan Beach Resort has rustic native-style cottages right on the white sand beach.

2 Climb the mountains of Tanay, Rizal

Tanay in Rizal offers an ideal short break, just about 55km from Manila. Climb Mt. Daraitan for a breathtaking view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It's well-known not just for the views and gruelling hike, but also for the traverse down to the equally stunning Tinipak River with its crystal clear waters and towering bleach-white limestone rocks. Camping is allowed along the river. Mt. Maynoba which was opened to the public early this year. Mt. Maynoba is a relatively easy climb - although it has its steep sections - and the descent takes you to eight different waterfalls. Other mountains in Rizal include Mt. Paliparan in Tanay and Mt. Pamitinan in Rodriguez. For those not quite up to the challenge of climbing mountains, blogger Janelle Almosara recommends a trip to the Masungi Georeserve.

Trail Adventours offers hiking trips to the mountains in Rizal. Trail visits to the Masungi Georeserve has to be booked at least three days in advance, with rates from P1,400 (US$29) per person for a minimum of seven people in a group.

Masungi Georeserve. Photo by Paolo Cuarteron

3 Culinary delights and thrill rides in Pampanga

Pampanga, home of one of the Philippines' favorite dishes, sisig (chopped pig's face) and exotic fares like crickets and frogs, is a foodie traveler's favorite destination. Most of the province's popular restaurants are located in Angeles City. Aling Lucing's Sisig at the Railroad Crossing on Henson Street has been making sisig for more than 10 years now and it's got the nod of approval from American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. For kamaru (crickets) and batute (frogs) and other authentic Kapampangan dishes, head to Everybody's Café. It has two branches: the original on Mc Arthur Highway, San Fernando City and a second one at BPI Arcade, Nepo Mart, Angeles City. For outdoor adventure with friends and family, the SandBox at Alviera in Porac, Pampanga, has several exciting thrill rides, from the Giant Swing to the country's first roller coaster zipline, the Avatar One.

How to get there
Ride a Victory Liner bus from the terminal in Cubao to Angeles City, Pampanga. From the drop-off in Angeles City, it's easy to get around the city via tricycle.

4 Soak up the surf culture in San Juan, La Union

San Juan, La Union, is a mecca for both beginner and experienced surfers. Most of the surfing action can be found on Urbiztondo Beach, offering a friendly beach break for beginner surfers, and the reef break at Mona Liza Point (or simply The Point, for regulars) which offers a longer ride and bigger waves for advanced surfers.

If you're not into surfing La Union is still a relaxing break, and a good spot to party. Almosara recommends Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel for live music performances and parties. And the food is good. The action starts at dinner time until late. Come early to grab a good seat. For good coffee, try El Union Coffee.

How to get there
From Manila, head to Partas Transport terminal on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao to catch a bus to Urbiztondo, La Union. Book your bus seat up to six months in advance on Biyaheroes. Tell the driver to drop you off at your resort along Urbiztondo; they're familiar with most of the major places to stay along this stretch. Tourists may also get off at Sebay resort, where there's a tricycle stop. Tricycles are the popular way of getting around the province.

Where to stay
Flotsam & Jetsam Hostel has rooms from P680 with breakfast and free Wi-Fi. San Juan Surf Resort has rooms from P1,980.

Photo by Joel H. Garcia

5 Eco adventures in Quirino


Governor's Rapid emerald green waters! ???????? MADELLA QUIRINO, PHILIPPINES

A photo posted by Oyeen (@oyeendv) on

Land-locked Quirino, 374km northeast of Manila and part of Cagayan Valley, is quite the underdog in the tourism department with no beaches, but it has eco-destinations like the limestone formations at the Governor's Rapids and Caves in Maddela, sports hotspots like the Motocross Mountain Track and the Wakeboarding Complex in Cabarroguis. This province is ideal for groups who want to keep moving throughout their vacation. Beyond the better-known Maddela and Cabarroguis towns are also neighboring Diffun and Aglipay which has caves and waterfalls.

How to get there
Take a Florida Bus Line bus headed for Maddela, Quirino, from its terminal in Cubao or Sampaloc.

Where to stay
Book a room at Abrasa MPC in Cabarroguis with rooms from about P700 or at Villa Caridad Hotel & Resort (+63917 574 3322) with family rooms for P1,500. 

About our insiders
Jonalyn Fortuna is a travel writer for Business Mirror's upcoming Locale magazine.
Janelle Almosara is a travel and lifestyle blogger for The Wild Flower.

Cover photo is by Paolo Cuarteron, runner up in the Family category of the Archipelago Readers’ Travel Photo Competition.

Published October 2016