Cloud rivers and cozy cafés: Why Rizal is called ‘Tagaytay of the north’

Antipolo and Tanay hit the sweet spot between cooler climes, good food, scenic hikes and chill B&Bs.

With traffic rapidly amping up to worse than pre-pandemic levels, the thought of a long drive just to get away can put one in a state of panic. Everyone is keeping an eye out for somewhere near enough but evoking the same feels of a weekend away.

Fortunately for us Manila folk, there is Rizal province—specifically Antipolo and Tanay—where you find that sweet spot between cooler climes, good food, scenic hikes, and quaint B&Bs. Some even say it’s the Tagaytay of the north—and it’s just a quick 45-minute drive from the city center.

While Tagaytay boasts majestic views of Taal Volcano and steaming hot bowls of bulalo, Rizal has lush mountains and scenic hiking trails.

While Tagaytay boasts majestic views of Taal Volcano and steaming hot bowls of bulalo, Rizal has lush mountains and scenic hiking trails. What they do have in common is the cool climate that starts crisp in the morning, and turns brisk by day’s end. At the height of summer, the promise of a gentle breeze is all that Manileños need to go for a drive.

Once you get there, what’s there to do? Well, it all really depends on what you’re in the mood for.

In an adventurous mood?

Mt. Mataripis Hiking Trail

Spanning 8.4 km, the beginner-friendly yet still challenging hike takes approximately three to four hours to complete, starting and ending at the same point. Deriving its name from “taripis” or river shrimp, it’s a must to take a souvenir photo of the giant river shrimp marker at the peak as proof!

Some paths are steep and rocky, requiring the use of a hiking stick, but the payoff at the top is worth it. There are a number of waterfalls on the way down, which are perfect for a relaxing swim before heading back down to reality. There is an option to make arrangements for overnight camping.

Mt. Mataripis is located in San Andres, Tanay, Rizal

Mt. Maynuba, Mt. Cayabu, 8 Wonderfalls Trail

Collectively known as the Maynuba Loop circuit, this area is among the best hiking destinations in Tanay, Rizal. The eight-kilometer hike takes you through a combination of nature trails and rugged paths, but rewards the brave ones with a view of the Sierra Madre mountain range while surrounded by a sea of clouds.

While Mt. Cayabu may be a bit more challenging, one can opt to stick to Mt. Maynuba’s path for an easier hike. During clear weather, a stop along the eight waterfalls for a breather and a quick swim completes the experience.

ATV Adventures Rizal

Now this is not for the faint of heart! ATV Adventures Rizal offers exciting drives through the Sierra Madre mountains in and around Antipolo and Tanay. There are short trails that are perfect for beginners, giving them a feel of wrangling an ATV. More experienced riders can level it up with longer off-road rides, an eight-hour jungle trail, or a ride through the forest. For those who want to cap off their day-long ride with a view of the stars, overnight camping trips can be arranged for groups of at least two persons.  

For hikes in and around the Tanay and Antiplo areas, there are various groups offering experienced guides for both big and small groups. Just remember to pack enough water and light snacks to keep you going through the day. Also, insect repellent is a must if you are sensitive to bugs. A hat, small towel, and sunglasses will also come in handy. Remember to breathe in deep, take in the view, and be in the moment.

In a nature-tripping mood?

Masungi Georeserve

The Masungi Georeserve is a popular hiking spot especially for young people looking for a fun bonding activity with friends. Tucked within the rainforests of Rizal, the protected area features a rustic rock garden, limestone formations, and nature walks. Their Discovery Trail is its most popular offering, taking three to four hours to complete. Park rangers can guide guests through the trek, while also providing information about the area. Masungi is a great way to learn more about the value of protecting our eco-system.

Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa

First opened in 2014, Luljetta’s is the only Hanging Gardens Spa in the Philippines. It’s focused on spa and wellness activities, set against the backdrop of the mountains of Rizal. The swimming pools are ensconced by nature, while the infinity pool features views of the Manila skyline and Laguna Lake. With a focus on wellness, stress is but a memory with a massage at the spa. A weekend away in this peaceful setting is all one needs to recharge for another busy week.

Mount Purro Nature Reserve 

It all started as an advocacy project of Toto Malvar and his wife Baby, inspired by his mother and grandfather who were both environmentalists. He embarked on a strategy for reforestation and watershed rehabilitation. He also enlisted the help of the Dumagat Tribe who lived in the area, giving them a source of livelihood.

The eco-park and nature reserve offers a swimming pool, nature trails, overnight accommodations(with no AC!), river walks, bonfires, and other group activities. Encouraging guests to #DisconnectToConnect, they do not have WiFi, and has limited mobile connectivity. It is the ideal place, as they put it, to “bond, eat, just be.”

Mount Purro Nature Reserve is located at Purok 5, Barangay Calawis 1870, Antipolo

In the mood for art and history?

Pintô Art Museum

Dr. Joven Cuanang has long been a patron of Filipino artists. They were his inspiration when he opened Pintô (door in Tagalog) in 2010 as an exhibition space and a contemporary art museum in Antipolo. The space was created to highlight the role that art plays in bringing people and world views together.

The two-hectare area—featuring a botanical garden and rustic architecture for the museum—is said to be among the most instagrammed museums in the world. Among the artists’ works on display are Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Jose John Santos III, Emmanuel Garibay, Rodel Tapaya, Geraldine Javier, Marina Cruz, Joy Mallari and Antonio Leaño.

Pinto Art Museum is located at 1 Sierra Madre St, Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal

Casa Santa Museum

Every day is Christmas over at the Casa Santa Museum! One of the main attractions within Jardin de Miramar, it holds 3,700 Christmas and Santa Claus-themed items from all over the world. Kids can visit Santa’s Toy Factory shows how toys are made by Santa’s elves, and also participate in arts and crafts. The Balay Belen exhibit features a private collection of nativity scenes, complementing the Christmas display.

Casa Santa Museum is located at the Jardin de Miramar, 276 San Jose Extension, Brgy. San Isidro, Antipolo.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

Probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in Antipolo, many believers up for personal pilgrimages and a variety of intentions. Referred to by locals as “Simbahan ng Antipolo,” it enshrines the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Pilgrimage season, which kicks off with the Alay Lakad at the Quiapo Church in April, draws millions through its doors annually. 

Antipolo Church is located at P. Oliveros Street, Antipolo, Rizal.

In the mood for a feast?

The Bistro Pop-Up Café

This little gem of a restaurant is a popular go-to for early morning bikers and joggers who crave Bistro Pop-ups breakfast fare, which include Bacon Eggs Benedict, and Pinoy classic Tapsilog, Tosilog, etc. Heartier dishes like Sisig or Buffalo chicken poutine, Philly Style Roast Beef sandwich, Peppers and Pepperoni Pizza are make it all worth the drive up. Pick a seat in the al fresco area to take advantage of the cool breeze and sunshine.

The Bistro Pop-Up Café is located at the LeBlanc Hotel, 3 Taktak Road, Antipolo, Rizal

The Burrow Café at Antipolo Beehouse

As the name implies, Burrow Café is located underground, some 95 steps down from the entrance of Antipolo Beehouse. The charming restaurant was built by Vitty Gutierrez, featuring large panel windows that open up the space to the lush greenery outdoors. The natural ambiance complements the seasonal menu, which includes some vegan options, served up by Chef Danilo Puga II. Just 15 minutes away from the Pinto Art Gallery, it is the perfect pit stop after a day of art and culture.

The Burrow Café is located at 113 Beverly Hills Ave., Beverly Hills Subdivision, Antipolo

The Crescent Moon Cafe and Studio Pottery

The quaint café is the brainchild of renowned potter Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, and her husband Bey Fernando, a lawyer. She had opened her studio in a corner of Bey’s family farm, and when friends would come up, he would cook up family favorites for their guests.

Before long, people headed up for both the pottery and the food. Thus, Crescent Moon Café and Pottery was opened in 1997 as a restaurant, pottery store, and art space. Since Bey passed away in 1998, the café continues his culinary vision, serving as a backdrop for delicious food, Lanelle’s stoneware creations, and a place to make memories with family and friends.

The Crescent Moon Café and Studio Pottery is located at Sapang Buho Road, Antipolo City.

The new lifestyle.