It’s been a tough year, and the urge to just go and rent a place with similarly exhausted friends to take a breather is something I’ve had too often the past few months. I’ve watched enough TikToks of people doing just that—renting a castle, or a cottagecore chalet—to know it isn’t just me. We’re all collectively losing our minds, and I don’t fault you for seeking some form of respite.
For better or worse, tourism has long been the backbone of our economy, although the industry understandably took a hard left turn when the pandemic hit. But with the holidays coming up, you might be looking for places where you can finally, finally take a break (we lost our summer! It’s long overdue). We’ve listed a number of socially-distant vacay spots that are accessible via a leisurely drive from Manila. Just making it clear, though: This is not an endorsement of superspreader beach parties. These are places you can drive to for a day trip with your quarantine bubble, like your family or your roommates. If you’re going out-of-town, do it responsibly and take the proper precautions.
Lake Caliraya, Laguna
Lake Caliraya is a man-made mountain lake about a hundred kilometers from Manila, about a two- to three-hour drive. Pre-pandemic, people usually took boat rides and tours around the lake, but honestly, I think it’s a serene enough environment that can give you a breather just being near it. There are a number of spots at the lake where you can stay in, like The Lake House at Caliraya where you can rent an entire solar-powered lodge, or Balai Kubo where you can rent a nipa house-styled cabin.
Calatagan is one of the lesser-known beach spots in Batangas. While it’s certainly not obscure, it’s not the first place that comes to mind when you think of going on a holiday staycation in Batangas or Tagaytay. It’s a three- to four-hour drive from Manila, and there are a number of beach resorts like the White House that have the local government’s go-ahead to operate again.
Mt. Mariveles, Bataan
Mt. Mariveles, which is a two- to three-hour drive from Manila, is the highest altitude in Bataan. It’s a popular hiking site, especially one of its peaks, Tarak Ridge. People regularly camp there, either near the small Papaya River or at the base of the ridge itself.
El Kabayo Stables, Subic
If you want to live out your horse girl fantasy, you can check out El Kabayo Stables in Subic, which is approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manila. TBH, a lot of stables feel exploitative towards their animals and I wouldn’t really recommend them, but this is managed by Wildlife In Need, a non-governmental organization that rescues and rehabilitates animals.
If you’re ready to make the drive to these spots, make sure that you’re driving a reliable car, too. Take Toyota’s refreshed Wigo, a practical hatchback that provides an easy and exciting driving experience. All three of its variants (TRD S, G, and E) offer fun and functional features, which are all convenient for going on a road trip. All variants are also equipped with sensible features like anti-lock brake system, back sonar, and SRS airbags to keep you safe, which are obviously extremely important when you and your family or friends are on the road. The TRD S model has Apple Carplay and Android Auto, too, so you can use your phone to open the map or play your fave road trip jams without actually using your phone.
Art by Jan Cardasto
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