When thinking of an adventure trip, we face different constraints usually time and money. In this article, I will guide you to both cheap travel adventure and breathtaking scenery that can be done in a day and a few hours away from Metro Manila – Biak-na-Bato National Park.
When To Go
Located in San Miguel, Bulacan, the area has fair weather all year round. June to October is the rainy season and might not be the best time for some of the activities in the national park. The rest of the months are sunnier and is, therefore, a better time to go. But it can be visited all year round, just make sure to go on a sunny day to have that bright and lush sight of its nature.
How to Get There
It can be reached by driving a car and there is parking within the national park’s proper. If commuting, take a bus to Cabanatuan via Gapan (don’t take the one with SC Tex as it will not pass by San Miguel, Bulacan) in Cubao, Quezon City. The fare is Php 128. Get-off at Barangay Kamias and take a tricycle to Sitio Madlum where Biak-na-Bato National Park is located. Tricycle ride costs Php 400 for a group of 4 in one vehicle and Php 440 for 4 in two vehicles (or two persons per tricycle). You can haggle of course!
Things To Do and Fees
Before arriving at Biak-na-Bato National Park’s proper, visitors need to stop by a small booth (which actually is located in a house) and pay an entrance fee of Php 20 per person. Then upon arriving, visitors need to register and pay Php 10 environmental fee. From here, you will be given a guide. Guide fee varies depending on the activities you will do.
Hike Mount Manalmon
At 196 meters above sea level, Mt. Manalmon is a pretty easy hike that can be completed within an hour or less. You’ll have to pass at a Madlum River with stunning and humongous rocks and clear waters. The way up to the peak is covered with lush shrubberies. The peak is a picture perfect steep huge chunk of rock and has 360 views of greeneries and Mt. Gola which stands just across.
Hike Mt. Gola
Add another 45 minutes from Mt. Manalmon to go across to this mountain. This mountain is harder to climb and has a much steeper trail. The way up to the peak has sharper rock surfaces, make sure to be extra careful. You might even need to crawl to go up to the peak of this mountain to have that another breathtaking view of San. Miguel and nearby places.
Spelunking in Bayukbok Caves 1 & 2 (Madlum Cave)
Madlum has two caves open for tour, Bayukbok Caves 1 and 2. Bayukbok Cave 1 is much famous and has sharper edgy rock formation. It has more differing heights that need rappelling and ladder. It also features a constricted passage in a cliff which with one wrong step, you’ll fall off into sharp surfaces limestones. Bayukbok Cave 2 has a lot of tiny passage and smoother limestone surfaces. There’s a compartment inside this cave local’s call “music room” as you can create rhythmic sound by tapping on some of its limestone surfaces. Cave 2 is much difficult compared to Cave 1 (at least for me) and less popular but both are equally fun and a must for an adventurous soul.
Swim in Madlum River
There’s nothing more good to do after a hike than a dip in the cold waters of Madlum River. This body of water is mostly ankle deep but there are parts which are pretty good for a swim. Most visitors stay at the riverbanks of Madlum River just before the jump-off point of the hike to Mt. Manalmon. This part of the river is the busiest, widest and deepest (at least for the part that open to tourists.)
Monkey Bridge and Kayaking
Monkey bridge is another thing to do. Located at the jump-off point to Mt. Manalmon. Feel the adrenaline rush as you cross the cable bridge that stretches for over 25 meters. Kayak is also available for rent priced at Php 150 but bamboo rafters are more popular and are just floated for free.
Where to Stay
Camping is allowed in Biak-na-Bato if you want to be more connected with nature. There are toilets around owned by residents and using it will cost from Php 5 to 20 according to what you will do. The area is pretty easy to visit and although there are budget hotels and inns around the town proper of San Miguel, you don’t need to stay in the area as there are buses up that goes to Manila 24 hours. See bus schedule here.
Where To Eat
There are small eateries owned by locals located at the jump-off point. Prices vary from Php 60 to 100 or more a meal. For example, in one eatery, a cup of rice and a bowl of sinigang na baboy (pork soup) costs Php 75 and halo-halo (shaved ice dessert) costs Php 30. Alcoholic drinks are also available around the area and are allowed. Water refill for a liter costs Php 10 also available at eateries so better bring your own water bottle to save money and lessen the use of disposable plastic bottles.
For a day-trip from Manila (Cubao) to Biak-na-Bato that includes decent meal and snack, hike in both Mt. Manalmon and Goal and spelunking in both Bayukbok Caves 1 & 2, expect to spend around Php 900 per person if you’re in a group of four. Lesser of course if you’re only doing a mountain and a cave. If you are going alone, better to wait for some visitors and join them to save money.
Experiencing nature doesn’t have to be complicated and costly. You can always find a place that is cheap yet pleasing to senses, and Biak-na-Bato is an example. Biak-na-Bato Natural Park is an excellent choice for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life that is not budget-draining and very satisfying.