My earliest impression of Antipolo is of a place to enjoy the view of Metro Manila’s skyline, either from a restaurant or from a retreat house. Years later, though, that impression would expand to include art galleries, mountainside spas, waterfalls, quiet old churches, and more – even moreso when I experienced the privilege of being toured around by a local who is passionate to call Antipolo his home.
While Antipolo is less than an hour away from Metro Manila, and arguably a taken-for-granted destination because of its proximity, I found myself pleasantly surprised in my last few visits.
Below is a list of where I have been to in Antipolo and which I would recommend to first-timers, or those on a return visit. This is a list in progress, as I might add more when I visit again.
Pinto Art Museum
I fell in love with this place the first time I visited here several years ago, even as many of the galleries were still being built. If there was a perfect combination of nature, art, and architecture, this would be it. Pinto Art Museum’s arched white structures are landscaped with lush gardens.
At Pinto Art Museum are galleries with artworks by famous Filipino artists, including the likes of National Artists like BenCab. Outside the galleries are thick green bamboos and a bamboo platform with a hut where I prefer to just sit and take all the surroundings in.
I usually devote a whole day to Pinto Art Museum and I would recommend it for a leisurely exploration; I would say half a day is the minimum.
Boso-Boso is old Antipolo, our friend and local tour guide told our group during my last Antipolo visit on July. Indeed, Boso-Boso somehow feels rural, with the lush greenery, the arresting view of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and the nipa and bamboo huts on the road.
I did not expect this side of Antipolo. It was quiet, a quiet that transported me into another world entirely different from the bustle of city life. It was a quiet that I felt settle deep on my bones.
Boso-Boso Church is the embodiment of that quiet. Its architecture may not be as majestic as other old Spanish churches, but its simple, charming architecture and its silence amid the greenery surrounding it can make you pause to breathe it all in.
Boso-Boso Highlands Resort
After spending some solemn time in Boso-Boso Church, I would recommend chilling and enjoying the view at Boso-Boso Highlands Resort, whose main draw I believe is the generous view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. I could not wrap my head around the fact that this place and Boso-Boso Church are just a little over an hour away from Manila. Sitting on the swing and looking out at the view, I again felt that beautiful quiet.
Boso-Boso Highlands Resort is also a family resort. They have a playground-inspired kiddie pool that made the kid in me smile, and accommodations good for families and groups of friends.
It would be nice to spend a leisurely day or overnight here at Boso-Boso Highlands Resort, with a side trip to Boso-Boso Church.
Secret Garden of Doris
This is another refreshing nature stop in Antipolo. The Secret Garden of Doris, so named after the owner, is indeed a garden of fruit-bearing trees and plants. It is a family property that the owner, together with her husband, poured her love into by planting one tree on each of her birthdays. She also plants fruit-bearing trees for selling.
Her passion for planting things beautiful is infectious, and she easily had our group smiling and laughing over sips of ternate tea, an herbal tea from the blue flower ternate.
Hinulugang Taktak Falls
Antipolo has long been synoymous with the Hinulugang Taktak Falls, which is named, according to legend, after a bell that was dropped by the priest on the river. Its name literally means, “where the bell was dropped.”
Its beauty was wasted away by decades of pollution, but its rehabilitation over the past years has made it beautiful again. While it is not yet advisable for swimming, visitors can now get a closer view of its torrential waters.
Long before many spas and spa resorts were built in Antipolo, Callospa already stood, a true pioneer. It is a tried-and-tested spa for many of its patrons.
Our group stopped by here and was welcomed with refreshing lemongrass juice freshly made just that morning before we took a tour. I love their floating hut. And, the jacuzzi bath tubs look tempting!
Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa
A close neighbor to Callospa and just built last 2013, Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa is by far one of my favorite places in Antipolo, and arguably the whole of Rizal. It is a spa carved in the mountainside – and said to be the only hanging gardens and spa in the Philippines! – offering a view of both Metro Manila’s skyline and Rizal’s mountains. And, these views can be enjoyed while lounging in one of Luljetta’s many pools! My favorite is the infinity pool, though I think some would like the massage pool.
Luljetta’s also breathes relaxation everywhere, with many inspirational and meditative sayings all around the spa.
(Read about my experience and what to expect, and see more photos of Luljetta’s on my blog post).
Loreland Farm Resort
One of Antipolo’s oldest and well-known resorts with many different pools, Loreland Farm Resort is a staple among families and groups of friends for nearby out-of-town trips. Guests here can also have a spa day at Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa if they like, as the spa is inside the Loreland property.
Camp Tipolo Adventureland
For those into outdoor adventures and games, especially to bond with friends, Camp Tipolo Adventureland is perfect, with activities like tightrope walking, Tarzan jump crossing, spiderweb climbing, and more. I would also recommend Camp Tipolo for team building activities.
The camp is also connected to Loreland and Luljetta’s, and is accessible via a 10- to 15-minute walk down for the adventurous, or via vehicle for those who would like to save their energy for the camp activities.
My memory of Cloud 9 is of a place to eat, drink, and chill, while looking at Metro Manila’s twinkling city lights. In my most recent visit, though, I happily discovered an art gallery and a hanging bridge! The latter is perfect for a quick outdoor adventure.
Where to eat in Antipolo
I have only tried a few places in Antipolo, and I loved them all! In the future I might write a separate blog post if I get to try more places.
Kampai Sushi Bar
Craving for Japanese cuisine in Antipolo, the owner Michelle Lucas set out to build a restaurant that she herself would love. The result is Kampai Sushi Bar. Their makis and sushis are definitely worth trying! Kampai Sushi Bar is in Robinsons Antipolo.
I love paella, and Casa Nieves’ version does not disappoint, with its generous ingredients and saffron-laden rice. Our group asked for seconds during our lunch there!
Casa Nieves also has other dishes aside from Spanish. What stood out for me is their kare-kare, with just the right crunchiness of vegetables and the peanut-y goodness.
Costa Coffee is not just about coffee but also art. Our group watched as the barista made coffee and traced patterns on top.
I am sure there is still so much more to experience in Antipolo that I have not included in this blog post. Having been toured by a local on my last two visits, this city is starting to grow on me, and I know I will be returning again one day.
Thanks to Bienvenido Tours, who toured me and my friends to most of the places on this list! Its owner is a local who is truly passionate about promoting the beauty of his home city and the rest of Rizal. Expect insider knowledge and the warmth of a local when you avail of their tours! Check them out today on their last day at the Philippine Travel Mart at SMX Convention Center in Mall of Asia to avail of discounted packages, or visit bienvenidotours.com.