Escape the grind – Minalungao National Park, Philippines

Really excited to write about the treasure of Minalungao National Park – 3 hours drive northeast from Manila.  The area to explore itself is small and you’ll spend at most 2-4 hours here unless you plan to swim or picnic/lunch.  While there’s really nothing else except the park in this area, I thought it was well worth the extra drive to get to.  *Hint* We read in a lot of reviews to come early in the morning before the crowds of tourists – especially for weekends.  We woke up at 4:30 and reached the park by 6:00.  The road leading the park can be dirt and a little uneven for the last 5 km so it’s best to visit this park during dry season.  At the entrance of the park is a local village so be careful not to run over the turkeys!

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Reaching the park at sunrise was an amazing experience.  The warm colors reflecting against the water and the stillness of the bamboo rafts made for an easy photo op.  We read in the reviews about hiring a local guide to show you around – this is really not necessary.  From the parking lot you’ll see right away the huge limestone walls and river passing in between. The trek starts with mostly concrete stairs and you’ll easily find the entrance to a cave – it doesn’t look like the cave goes very far, but you can actually walk all the way through and come out another end.

Following the trail up the river you’ll eventually need to climb over some of the sharp limestone rocks so make sure you’re wearing proper shoes.  After a short walk you’ll reach a bend and small beach – I’d recommend to continue climbing over the rocks until you get tired just because it’s fun.  By 9:00 other loud tourists started to arrive but by then, we had already seen it all.

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By 10:00 the clouds parted and the sun appeared a full strength providing another perspective of this gorgeous place.

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The rice patty fields lining the roadside to get to the park looked like a windows XP photo- I just had to stop to take a shot.

Town we stayed in: San Leonardo (50 min drive)

Entrance Fee: Free! Arrive before 6

Parking: Free! Arrive before 6

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