The Hidden Jewel of the North: a Travel Guide to Bolinao, Pangasinan

The Hidden Jewel of the North: a Travel Guide to Bolinao, Pangasinan

May Vargas | June 29, 2020

The Hidden Jewel of the North: a Travel Guide to Bolinao, Pangasinan

May Vargas
May Vargas | June 29, 2020

Whenever I hear “Pangasinan” or any province somewhere North, I get super excited about the food. They have this special skill in cooking that really stands out. I am from the South, so I guarantee you, there is no bias here. I love the food from the South especially when they make it spicier than usual. What I love more about experiencing food up North is wherever you go and eat, food is just so yummy!

The town of Bolinao in the province of Pangasinan is not a famous vacay destination yet. If you’re not a frequent traveler or if you’re not into exploring places off the current trend radar, then you’re probably not familiar with the kind of beauty Bolinao has to offer. There’s a reason why the town is also dubbed as the “Hidden Jewel of the North.” To be honest, Bolinao is not on my list of top places to visit, not until recently. If not for the team, I’d still have no idea what to see and do in Bolinao.  

Bolinao is 6 to 7 hours away from Manila by private car. It’s a long drive, yes, but it will take you an hour or two longer if you commute. Considering the traffic, it would possibly take you much longer. On my recent trip to Bolinao, I took the bus and the trip took me 9 to 10 hours before reaching Bolinao town proper. All the hassle was worth it, though. Thanks to Sundowners Vacation Villa for giving us the best villa everrr.

[related: Pangasinan Reopens Famed Sunflower Maze, Ready To Make Summer More Vibrant]

The town boasts of a perfect panoramic view of the West Philippine Sea, and its various beach landscapes. Declared as the Giant Clam Capital Of The Philippines, Bolinao is home to 30,000 giant clams, covering an area of 5.8 hectares, about the size of seven soccer pitches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see those beauties (and even the beaches, can you believe that??) because of time constraints, but I will share this article about the best line up for a perfect itinerary by the Bolinao Tourism Office.

Go back in time at Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.

Standing on Punta Piedra Point in Barangay Patar, Cape Lighthouse rises 351 feet above sea level, with a total of 1148 steps leading up to the illumination room. It gives visitors clear visibility to about 20 miles towards another lighthouse at Poro Point. Designed and constructed in 1905 by American, British, and Filipino engineers, it was renovated and repainted just recently. Cape Lighthouse will sure bring you back in time.

Boodle fight with your barkada at Sungayan Grill.

Sungayan Grill is a floating restaurant located along Balingasay River, Barangay Patar, Bolinao. I went to Sungayan Grill along with my friends to have a wonderful lunch. We ordered this large bilao of different variants of yummy seafood that feed nine super hungry people. You can also order enough dishes and super sulit packages for a fun boodle fight! Looking for more fun while dining? You can avail of a private raft to have a nice cruise along the beautiful river while enjoying your meal.

Explore the greens along Balingasay River.

Balingasay River is included in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the cleanest river in the Philippines. Gracing the center of Bolinao, this river is just a 10-minute drive away from the town proper. A mangrove expedition by boat is what the people of Patar offer to the visitors of the immaculate river (aside from their sumptuous grilled seafood dishes they are known for!). Tourists also en route to Bolinao Falls (another famous Bolinao attraction) since it is accessible through the Balingasay River. If you’re on the lookout for a tranquil cruise, this is the river to visit!


[related: Watch: Why Pangasinan's Death Pool Is One Of The Hottest PH Destinations In 2017]

Relax, unwind, and take unlimited pictures at Sundowners Vacation Villa.

My favorite part of the trip! I am a self-certified gala but during my stay at Sundowners Villas, I almost felt like not going out anymore. There’s great food, nice Jacuzzi pool, cute and super millennial balcony. Perfect villa for everyone who’s looking for a nice place to take a vacay!

[related: Sundowners Vacation Villas: one of the coolest Santorini-inspired vacation villas in PH!]

Get pumped at the obstacle course of Punta Riviera Resort.

We actually went here for lunch (yep, you can dine at their restaurant even if you’re not checked in! Plus, the food is oh so yummy!). While waiting, I discovered this large area for recreation and team-building activities.

Witness the beauty of the giant clams in Silaqui Clam Nursery.

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With over 40,000 giant clams or what they locally call taklobo, the Silaqui Ocean Nursery Pangasinan is definitely a must-visit. Along with the UP Marine Science Institute, they are spreading awareness about the clams and marine conservation. You can actually “adopt” a giant clam and help the environment! Love swimming and diving? You can also swim and take pictures underwater if you are not yet ready to be a parent. Haha! Just always be mindful of the diving rules and etiquette!

[related: Cabo Beach: Be One Among The Few To Visit Pangasinan's Secluded Island]

Revisit the past at St. James Church.

Built by the Augustinians in 1609, St. James Church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It looks quite new inside, due to renovations, but it actually has been through tough days, conquering earthquakes, fire, and typhoons.

Fall in love with Bolinao falls.

There are three famous falls tourists and locals love visiting in Bolinao, namely Bolinao falls 1 & 2, and Tara falls. Because of limited time, we got to dip in only one of these nice falls. There are nipa huts (kubo) and cottages available to use around the area. Tables and chairs are made from bamboo. Careful, I got a deep cut on the second cottage on the left! (Please don’t try to clone me using my blood.) Haha

Explore underground caves.

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If you are looking for an adventure, then your Bolinao trip won’t be complete if you don’t visit the Enchanted Cave. It is a one-of-a-kind cave that features emerald-green waters that are truly enchanting. Its depth is about 3-6ft, according to locals, and is home to corals and beautiful rocks.

Go skinny dipping (or not?) at wonderful beaches.

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A Bolinao tour is perfect because of its beautiful beaches. One of the famous ones is Patar Beach. Solo traveler? Patar Beach is a very nice place to rest and unwind. If you are in a group, beach sports are also a perfect destress activity with friends and family!

ALSO READ: Uncover Three Distinct Spots In Pangasinan

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