Summer destinations SUV

Summertime’s almost up, but before it completely exits, why not take a much-needed break from the chaotic mess of the city? There are plenty of destinations in the Philippines and most of them can be reached by driving – some can even be reached with your normal city car.

However, there are other places in Luzon that you’re better off driving with a 5- or even a 7-seater SUV/crossover. These places have steep inclines, rough roads, and crazy winding paths (or a combination of all 3) that you would need a powerful engine and higher space from the ground to pull you through. Also, with 5 to 12 hours of driving time, it would be nice if you have more than enough wiggle room inside the car.

So, if you own an SUV and you’re planning to go on a road trip soon, these are the places we recommend.

Dinadiawan Beach (Aurora)

The Dinadiawan Beach can be found in the eastern coast of Luzon, just north of Baler. Unlike the mentioned surfing paradise, Dinadiawan has a calm coast with fine, white sand. It’s like Boracay 20 years back – unspoiled by commercial establishments and noise pollution.

Downside is, food can only be bought through the resorts. However, what you can do is to buy fresh goods at Baler Market before heading towards Dinadiawan. The resorts allow cooking in their premises.

Moreover, the road to this paradise is full of uphill climbs and sharp corners. There are some dilapidated roads as well, but they won’t be an issue if you’re driving an SUV. To reach Dinadiawan, you need to go to Baler first then proceed to a 1-hour drive to Dipaculao, making the total travel time from Manila 6-7 hours. The Dinadiawan Beach is located within Dipaculao – just make sure to not miss those road signs.

Tip: Don’t hesitate to stop by the road and take pictures. The sceneries are astounding.

Baguio City (Benguet)

Baguio City is one of the go-to places for friends and families whenever summer comes, which made it earn the moniker ‘Summer Capital of the Philippines.’ With just 5-6 hours on the road, you will be able reach this cold city and visit the basics such as Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, Mines View Park, and Strawberry Farm. 

However, other spots that you need to experience are the exquisite artworks at the BenCab Museum, the unique and homegrown beers at the Baguio Craft Brewery, and the spiritual (and hair-raising) aura of the abandoned Diplomat Hotel.

All these places are easy to locate and drive to, however, with the steep uphill streets of Baguio, driving with an SUV will make it much easier. In addition, the road to Baguio itself is full of inclines and winding roads.

Tip: Play the Jurassic Park theme on your radio while driving along Kennon Road or Marcos Highway. Trust us – you and your friends will have fun with it.

Jungle Base (Rizal)

If going to the beach or chilling in the cold climate aren’t your thing, then you can try the Jungle Base in Tanay, Rizal. It’s situated in the mountains of Sierra Madre and an off-roading paradise for 4x4 SUV owners. They have basic trails for beginners, while those who are more adept in off-roading can choose the intermediate and expert path.

In addition, you can bask under the sun by the river banks and dip into the cold water from the Sierra Madre. They also have picnic tables where you can ihaw-ihaw your well-deserved meal after the nerve-wrecking off-road stint.  

So, if you’re willing to embark your 4x4 SUV into a dirty adventure, then this is the place you need to visit. 

Tip: You can reach Jungle Base here for reservations.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Pagudpud (Ilocos Norte)

If Baguio isn’t enough north for you, you have another option – Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte. It’s located at almost the topmost part of Luzon, facing the neighboring Chinese countries. In fact, it’s too close to Taiwan, you will be able to get a view of their city skyline from its shores.

Anyway, there are many places to visit in Pagudpud and most of them are close to bodies of water. One of the best spots there is the Blue Lagoon. Its name is from the fact that the sea stays blue the entire year, which is a perfect match to its white sand. Next is the Bangui Windmills, where you greet the fans with a huge smile and feel like a celebrity (pun intended). Other attractions include the Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, and Kapurpurawan Rock Formations.

The only problem with Pagudpud is its distance from Metro Manila. It’s a 10- to 12-hour one-way drive. Nevertheless, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the trip with the sceneries you’ll see along the road.

Tip: If you have plenty of time, take a side trip and visit the historical Vigan in Ilocos Sur where you can buy delicious empanadas and wander along Spanish-inspired houses along Calle Crisologo.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

Real (Quezon)

Another golden spot you need to try are the coasts of Real in the province of Quezon. It’s in the southeastern part of Luzon, with two 5- to 6-hour routes to take – via Laguna or Rizal. Either way, the roads to Real aren’t easy, just like in Dinadiawan. But, we were able to conquer them using the SsangYong Korando compact crossover.

Upon reaching Real, there are a number of resorts lined-up that you can try. One that we can recommend is Real Surf. If you’re the type who likes to post pictures on Instagram, it’s the perfect place for you. The designer of the place knew how to make an IG-ready resort.

The only problem with this place is the price of the food, which can reach up to P500 for a meal for 2 (with fruit shakes). Also, the beach wasn’t that fine, with some small rocks present. 

Tip: The glorious view of sunrise in this Pacific coast is a must-see.

The fact is, the places mentioned above are reachable even with a small city car. (Well, except for the Jungle Base, unless you want to go off-road with a sedan. Your call.) It’s just that, your drive would be more comfortable if you’ll drive with an SUV. With its realtively high ground clearance, rigid suspension, and ample space inside the vehicle, the unpredictable roads will just be a breeze for you. 

Have a safe trip!

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