These days local tourists can be in one place today and in another destination the next. The booming air travel industry and progressive commute routes are helping a lot of local travels to be more frequent and exciting.

The prospect of visiting nearby provinces is always a stress-reliever, but what if Metro Manila residents can't afford the pricey airfare or have no time to spare out of their hectic schedule?

I recently tested a few day trips for their enjoyment, ease of travel, and encore factors that city dwelling residents of Metro Manila can appreciate. The result is a set of three destinations that I'm recommending to be worth one's repeat visits.

Sonya's Garden
Location: Barangay Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite 
Approximately 2 hours from Metro Manila
Famous as a multipurpose garden hideaway, Sonya's Garden is a back-to-nature property where guests can walk in to do sight-seeing of an array of scented and non-scented plants and flowers, sample organic meals and bread or indulge in mild spa treatments that use natural scents and oils.
Tests: I did the necessary stroll in the sprawling garden property and the experience left my eyes refreshed with so much mesmerizing greenery. I also sampled two spa treatments -- the scalp massage and facial -- that left me feeling rested after my stroll of the place. Before going home, I purchased from the garden's bakery a dozen pandan-laced pan de coco.
A hot dalandan tea after the massage
Advisable Length of Stay: 3-4 hours
Commute: Balibago-bound Jam Liner >> Tagaytay-bound jeepney >> any Nasugbu, Batangas-bound bus >> 3-minute tricycle ride
Entrance Fee: None.
Sierra Madre Hotel & Resort
Location: Km 58 Marcos Highway, Brgy. Mayagay, Tanay, Rizal
Approximately an hour and a half from Metro Manila
Tanay, Rizal may be infamous for peddlers of faith healing and sympathizers of NPA (New People's Army) rebels, but the highway that passes through it is well-made that it's also a favored route of bicycle and motorcycle enthusiasts. The bonus view of the splendid Sierra Madre is quite an eye candy.
Tests: My sight-seeing started on my space inside the jeepney ride from Cogeo. The wonderful view of the Rizal mountainside was breathtaking and a real boredom killer. I had my vantage view of the Sierra Madre from the Sierra Madre Hotel & Resort's viewing deck where I also had my brunch. The cool breeze and the scenic view of nearby Quezon Province allowed me to enjoy nature without having to commute by bus for more than 3 hours.
The mountainside from the viewing deck
Advisable Length of Stay: 4-5 hours
Commute: Cogeo-bound FX or jeepney >> Sampaloc-Tanay-bound jeepney (get dropped off at the resort entrance)
Entrance Fee: P50; P100 for access to swimming pool
88 Hot Spring Resort & Spa
Location: #9601 National Highway, Bagong Kalsada, Calamba City, Laguna
Less than 2 hours from Metro Manila
I grew up knowing Calamba, Laguna to be famous for its hot spring because it's also where Mount Makiling is. I've seen lots of small and medium-scale resorts in the area but did not find anything impressive until I spotted online images of 88 Hot Spring Resort & Spa. The vast property of various hot spring jacuzzis and two main swimming pools made me visit the place. I did not expect to see more than that.
Tests: My simple stroll of the place was remarkable. The well-manicured garden areas were quite charming. The man-made lagoon next to Mount Makiling added to the wonderful experience. I tested one of the main pools and found its lukewarm water and surrounding layout of villas similar to experiencing Acuatico in Batangas. My dip in the resort's two hot spring jacuzzis proved to be educational as a signage per jacuzzi informed me what the assigned hot temperature was for. 
One of the 2 jacuzzis that I tried
Advisable Length of Stay: 6-7 hours
Commute: Sta. Cruz, Laguna-bound HM Transport bus (get dropped off at the resort entrance)
Entrance Fee: P500 is the day trip fee that lets you access all pools, including the garden, a locker and bathrooms.
3 Points To Consider For Fun Day Trips:
• Enjoyment Factor

The destination should offer more than one activity to do so that the day trip will be memorable and worth the effort.
• Ease of Travel
A day trip must not eat your commute schedule. If you can't reach the destination by lunch time when you left your house in Metro Manila at 7:00am, the trip is worth an overnight accommodation.
• Encore Potential
Your initial visit of the destination should be shared with loved ones. The opportunity for them to experience it with you can be during your repeat visit of the destination.

Day Trip Locations Covered
Click to enlarge

Commute Tip:
Always consider your commute back to the city. The quality of road traffic that you'll experience will be dependent on the time of your departure from the destination. It's always best to just repeat the route that you took going to your target location than experimenting with another route that you did not plan ahead for.

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    T R A V E L   A D V I S E R

    Karl Ace is a University of Santo Tomas (UST) graduate of Fine Arts and a certified Odesk Online Article and Blog Writer. He's a work-from-home consultant on weekdays and a local tourist on weekends. As an advocate of point-and-shoot photography, he always ascertains that the less intrusion on the subject, the better.  See his snap shots.


    March 2013
    February 2013