A Weekend in Bolinao

Beach, tents, trees, chill area, acoustic band - what else can you ask for a weekend?

It’s been quite a while since I last blogged about my personal experience, because my blog has somehow unexpectedly turned into an entertainment website. But today, I’ve thought of writing a personal adventure again because of my recent Holy Weekend trip with my family. Hours after I’ve uploaded our photos in Facebook, I surprisingly received lots of messages asking me about our Bolinao trip – where we stayed, who created our itinerary, did we hire a tour guide, etc.

It has become a yearly tradition for our family to spend the Holy Weekend somewhere far from home, and this year is no different. The only difference is the number of attendees. We were relatively few this year as compared to the previous trips because this year’s adventure was also not as planned as the previous ones. The titos and titas decided to take a break this year due to each one’s personal circumstances, but the teens couldn’t be stopped.

It was only the night before the Holy Saturday when we’ve finally decided to go somewhere, and the majority decided to go to Bolinao. I’ve been to Bolinao a few times already, but I never had the chance to tour around the place – usually, it was just a quick swim and a basic R&R in front of Patar Beach. I also realized that I was always with friends whenever I go to Bolinao.

Guys, this was Holy Week. It was crazy and I was a bit hopeless because our choices were all fully-booked. So, we’re off to the second option – camping. Problem: we don’t have enough tents for all of us. Then I asked my tour guide friend, Joel, if he knows someone and he instantly gave me a list of registered establishments in Bolinao. Tried to call every phone number on the list, but all were fully-booked. Fortunately, he also gave me the contact number of the president of Bolinao Tourism Office.

It was the Bolinao Tourism Office who has recommended Bolinao Glamping (for some reason, I couldn’t find them on Google, but they were actually on Facebook!) Lucky enough, Bolinao Glamping gladly accommodated us! They gave us a good deal and told us that it’s actually a perfect timing because there will be an acoustic act during our scheduled stay. It was past 10pm when I closed the deal with Bolinao Glamping. I immediately did some research and blog-hopping about everything Bolinao, and asked some information from Joel to confirm that the details I’ve read about are still true, and to ask some guidance on my DIY itinerary.

So, let me share with you our itinerary and budget guide. More details and a quick and honest review of the tourist spots of our personal experience when you scroll further. 

* This was my itinerary prior the actual trip and we didn't stick to this order.
* We traveled from Mapandan, Pangasinan. 

Well, as expected, we didn’t leave our house on time so we had some adjustments. We decided to stop by at 7-Eleven and grab ourselves some breakfast instead.

We’ve reached St. James the Great Parish at past 9:00 AM. The church compound, which was also located near the public market, was very crowded and we couldn’t find a parking slot so we decided to skip this. 

Bolinao Glamping

Enchanted Cave

Entrance fees:
  • Viewing – Php 150; Swimming – Php 200
  • Parking – Php 20
  • Viewing of the South China Sea on top of the giant cross – Php 50

To be honest, we didn’t enjoy this. I think it’s just a Php50-worthy attraction. Or maybe, it was just bad timing. We went there with lots of people and I think it’s better if you come there on a regular weekend, not the holiday long weekend. 

You only need a few steps to go under and see the cave. You don’t need that much energy. It’s a resort. It has little swimming pools. It has natural giant rocks, which were believed to be once part of the ocean. It has landscapes with the blossoming flowers, man-made waterfalls, etc.

There’s also a pavement going to the giant cross overlooking the ocean. I'm not sure if I can consider that a trek. If you want to climb up the top of the cross through a spiral staircase (behind the cross itself), you have to pay another Php 50. 

Going to the cave, you are required to wear the hard-hat. The cave is not a gigantic cave so they limit the number of persons inside the cave and they give a time duration of your stay inside (depending on the number of visitors). So, it’s not practical to pay for the swimming fee if the place is crowded. Also, due to their limited hard-hat, I was a bit shocked when they handed me the hard-hat worn by the person who just stepped out of the cave. It’s like borrowing a totally random stranger’s hat. It’s not at all hygienic since it was really hot. If you’re going to do that, at least spray some alcohol or something, or at least don’t let me see it being handed over by some random tourist. (Arte?) I also worried about the next user of the hat after me because my head was really covered in sweat. Pawis sa pawis ang labanan, men!

Since we were disappointed by the Enchanted Cave, and we were already out of the time frame of my itinerary, we decided to skip Wonderful Cave. Another cave that you guys might want to consider is Cindy’s Cave. (Due to our disappointment on the Enchanted Cave, which was supposed to be the nicest according to friends, we didn't bother check out the other caves. But again, maybe it's a different experience if it's not that crowded.)

Inside the cave. The water area inside the cave was too crowded I couldn't take a decent photo. It's not that big, btw.

Just a random landscape at the Enchanted Cave area.

Way to the cross.

The cross.

Those are my cousins up there.

The largest pool at the Enchanted Cave

Sungayan Grill and Balingasay River Cruise

The river cruise along the Balingasay River, Luzon’s cleanest river, is being officiated by Sungayan Grill and is offered to the customers of Sungayan Grill. 

Sungayan Grill have buffet and non-buffet options and their staff are friendly and accommodating. But again, due to the number of tourists, we have to patiently join the queue. We waited for our turn (almost 2 hours) even if everyone's already starving. Thankfully though, there are "binungey" vendors in the area, so we can have at least something in our tummy. We already skipped the caves, so we can't dare skip this. 

Also known as 'bamboo cake', Binungey is a mixture of sticky rice, coconut milk,
coconut meat, and water slowly cooked inside a bamboo shell.

The River Cruise lasted for an hour, I think. Food were served before the boat starts moving. The boat is exclusive to you - no waiters, no staff, no one - so make sure to check your order's complete before the boat leaves. They also provide a gallon of water for every boat trip. 

The boat ride is priced per trip depending on the boat size. The PHP 1500-boat can accommodate up to 15 people. Not bad, right? Please take note that the PHP 1500 is on top of your bill for the food. The bigger boat is priced at PHP 2000, and can accommodate up to 25 people. 

The experience of enjoying a sumptuous meal while riding the boat cruising the river is really satisfying. It was very relaxing to enjoy the serene waters surrounded by the untouched trees. You know that feeling when you're tummy is full, and you just want to take a good rest? This is perfect. Just feel the fresh breeze and enjoy the sound of water. 

A portion of our lunch.

The much-awaited lunch by the river.

That's the boat pulling our "nipa" boat. 

Such a relaxing view.

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

The Cape Bolinao Lighthouse is one of the most recognizable attraction in Bolinao. Nothing really special with the lighthouse since tourists are not allowed to climb up. Just like all other lighthouses, it gives you a panoramic view of the sea - in this case, South China Sea / Western Philippine Sea. Just be creative with your shots for your IG-worthy photos. 

No entrance fee here, just a parking fee.

The lighthouse

The view from the lighthouse area.

Lighthouse Ruins

Patar Rock Formation

There's a minimal fee of PHP 70 per head to go to the area (environmental fee, I think). It's a sight to behold, but you have to be really careful here. The rocks are so big and have uneven formation so be extra cautious when stepping onto them. The waves are really strong and unpredictable so you have to watch out for that as well. There are areas where you can bath, but not really "swim" because of the rocks. You can relax by the shore and watch the gigantic waves crash into the giant rocks. 

Insert Daddy, as usual.

At the cliff.

Bolinao Glamping

After being on the road for the entire day, we finally arrived at our accommodation. Bolinao Glamping is fairly new, but their service is awesome. They have friendly staff and they are very attentive to your needs. I don't really prefer camping when on vacation, because I want to relax, but glamping is different. Glamping means glamorous camping, so you don't have to do the tasks as in the usual camping. 

We rented 2 tents - one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen. The tents were really pretty. Inside the tents are mattresses to accommodate all of us. It has also a balcony-like space inside the tent, so you don't have to worry about the annoying beach sands when you lay down on your sleeping area. 

Rechargeable fans are also provided. They provide one fan per tent, but they are always ready to give a replacement if the battery gets drained. 

They also have the cooking and grilling area. So no need for you to look for firewood. If you ran out of ingredients, some are available at their store (reception area), and if not, well, there are lots of sari-sari stores nearby. 

Comfort rooms and shower rooms are also clean and well-maintained, with adequate supply of water. 

They also have a chill area, if you just wanna sit down and relax or bond with your company. You can also borrow their volleyball and play if you want, with no additional charge. Just be mindful of others who want to play as well, of course. 

At night, they also have bonfire (but unfortunately, the wind is so strong when we were there so it's not safe to light a bonfire). All good.

The acoustic band during the night gave an additional relaxing beach vibe. You can bring your drink on the chill area, or you can choose to drink and stay near your tent. It's all good because Bolinao Glamping is perfectly lit for that beach vibe. 

A 24-hour security is also on stand-by so you are assured of your safety. All in all, I loved my stay at the Bolinao Glamping

The lounge area - you can eat and drink here.

Hammocks are also available at the Bolinao Glamping area.

One of our tents. This tent can accommodate 5.

We had plenty of time to enjoy beach volleyball.
Played until sunset.
Our group just chillin' near our tents.
Acoustic band by the beach

Bolinao Falls 1, 2 and 3

On the second day, we have all the waterfalls on our schedule. I'm not really sure and I'm kinda confused on the names of the waterfalls and tried to ask around from the locals, but they seem to be unsure of the names of the waterfalls as well. They're so used to calling them Falls 1, Falls 2 and Falls 3. 

These falls are located near each other so you can easily transfer if you want to visit all three of them. Each fall requires a PHP 50 entrance fee per head. 

Just like other falls in the country, you can cliff jump and enjoy the cold and fresh water coming from the top of the mountain. They will also require you to wear the safety jacket. These falls are surrounded by rocks so of course, as always, you have to be careful on stepping on these rocks. 

Cottages are provided for a reasonable price and common rest rooms are available as well.

(Some of us went to see Falls 3, but there's not much of a difference from the other falls and it's also crowded, so we decided to enjoy the rest of our time in Falls 2. Got my phone battery drained this time, so I wasn't able to take pictures of Falls 3. Sorry.)

Falls 1

Falls 2

The cottages at Falls 2

St. James the Great Parish Church

Before leaving Bolinao, we decided to drop by and pay a visit to this old, historic church. Luckily, there are available parking space this time. It was a nice church despite how old it is. It's amazing how it is well-maintained and is still possessing the its old, colonial features.  

Why it's historical.

Adora's Restaurant

I expected much since this restaurant is the most suggested when you search for a place to dine in Bolinao. It was good, but nothing special. It's just a carinderia with ready-made dishes, and special made-to-order menu. I guess it's hype is perhaps because of its strategic location - it's just across the St. James the Great Parish Church. I didn't take photos of the restaurant because it was so crowded.

It was overall an amazing trip with my family. With the variety of the destinations that Bolinao has to offer - from caves, to lighthouse, to river cruise, to waterfalls, to the marvelous sunset, to amazing beach, to acoustic nights by the beach, and to glamping, it was indeed my favorite Bolinao Trip so far. 

As with every travel, who you travel with can be more important than your destination. And amazingly for this trip, I have a set of wonderful tourist attractions and wonderful people combined.  

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