Why Bolinao, Pangasinan Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

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When you hear about Pangasinan, what is the top thing that comes to your mind? My bet is you probably think, “Hundred Islands” or “bangus,” as these are the things this province is mostly known for.

In my recent travel with my family though, I learned that Pangasinan, the third largest province in the Philippines, offers so much more. One of these is what I consider to be its hidden gem, Bolinao.

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Bolinao is a third class municipality located at the northernmost tip of western Pangasinan, hence, I like to call it, Nguso ng Pinas. This is where I took my family for a relaxing retreat this June. We left Manila at 6:30 AM via Victory Liner in Cubao. This is the only scheduled trip of the said bus liner to Bolinao. Bus fare is ₱460 and travel time takes 6-7 hours with two stopovers in Tarlac and in Alaminos. The roads are in good condition up until we reached the town proper.

Bolinao Town Hall, Pangasinan

Bolinao Town Hall, Pangasinan

Unlike other famous tourist destinations in the country where you can see easily spot a number of bars, restaurants, café, and fast food chains, the establishments in Pangasinan are limited. In fact, we had our lunch in one of the carinderias (eateries) near the bus terminal.

We didn’t have a chance to tour around the town proper but I suspect that there is none. Nonetheless, the eateries in Bolinao serve decent and affordable food. I can therefore recommend this place to budget travelers.

We booked a family room at Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast via Agoda which, in my opinion is a resort that gives you the best value for money in Bolinao Province.

Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast

Patar Rd., Brgy. Estanza
Bolinao Pangasinan

+63 917 555 9128 / +63 922 858 8455

casaalmarenzo.com

Agoda

Touring the province is easy and affordable. You can rent a tricycle good for 4-5 people with a standard rate of ₱1,200. The driver will bring you to some tourist spots in the area. Make sure to start your trip as early as possible to make the most out of your day tour.

Where to go and what to do in Bolinao?

Swim and Cliff Dive at Bolinao Falls 2

Our first destination is the Bolinao Falls 2, just an hour away from the town proper. During the first half of the trip, you’ll notice that the road is in good condition; the other half though, is a different story. If you find yourself sitting inside the tricycle during the trip, consider yourself lucky, but if you happen to be seated on the outside section of the tricycle… I wish you the best of luck!

Nevertheless, I assure you that the clear turquoise green water of the falls is worth the trip. There is an entrance fee of ₱50, cottage rental is ₱200, and parking fee for the tricycle is ₱20. There is a smaller natural pool above the main falls, an ideal for swimming spot for kids.

Bolinao Falls 2, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Bolinao Falls 2, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Do swim with caution though because the stones are slippery. Because I am not exactly afraid of heights, I did one of the best activities that you can do in the falls: cliff diving. My guesstimate of the falls’ height is about 15 to 20 feet high. As per our guide, the water is 18 feet deep.

My only concern about the place is the cleanliness of the cottage area. I think we should all be responsible enough to help maintain the cleanliness of the place while enjoying the natural beauty of the fall. Remember to leave no trace whenever you travel.

Visit Saint James the Great Parish Church

Built in the 16th century by the Augustinian friars, Saint James the Great Parish Church has become one of the attractions in Bolinao. The church, which is of the High Renaissance style, is made of black coral stones.

Saint James the Great Parish Church, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Saint James the Great Parish Church, Bolinao, Pangasinan

The façade of the church looks centuries-old but it has undergone several renovations over the years due to some calamities, such as the 1788 earthquake, the 1819 fire incident, and Typhoon Emong in 2009. I am not sure but I somehow got an impression that the structure inside the church is already a re-creation of the original.

Relax inside the Wonderful Cave

The Wonderful Cave is like a smaller version of Ogtong Cave in Bantayan Island. Entrance fee is ₱100 plus a parking fee of ₱20. It’s a cool place for swimming and a nice place to relax. For a short time, my family and I had a chance to have it all to ourselves. The water inside the cave is crystal clear and the deepest part could be less than 6 ft. If you want to explore the cave, it is recommended to bring aqua-shoes because the floor is rocky and rough.

Wonderful Cave, Bolinao

Wonderful Cave, Bolinao, Pangasinan

The cave is decorated with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formations. They say you can see shapes and images in these rock formations with the help of your imagination. Unfortunately, mine didn’t seem to be working at that time because I saw nothing. Further into the cave, there is a small hidden entrance going to the other side. I saw some local kids go inside for a swim. I couldn’t help but be amazed that they are brave enough to swim in the dark.

Enjoy the fine sand of Patar Beach

Others consider the sand in Patar beach as white, but upon closer inspection, I think the sand is more of a golden brown. There is no major development within the beach area except for some bahay kubo (traditional nipa hut) built for an overnight or day trip. We rented a cottage for ₱200 and spent most of the time swimming. I admit that I was a bit disappointed with some visitors who just left their waste and garbage inside the cottages.

Patar Beach, Bolinao

Patar Beach, Bolinao

If given a chance, I’d love to place a banner in there to remind people about responsible tourism or ecotourism, probably one with a message that says, “Take only photographs. Leave only footprints.” Apart from this sad fact though, the beach area is generally clean. With its turquoise-colored water, fine sand, calm waves, and small crowd, I can say that this is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been.

Rent a small boat and visit the nearby province of Bani

One boatman approached us and offered a tour to a more private beach in Bani. He offered his standard rate of ₱500 for 10 people. We negotiated the rate with him since we were just a group of five. Instantly, he gave us a discount.

In less than 30 minutes, we were treated to the amazing view of the untouched golden coastline and lush trees. The beach is so private, even local people don’t know its name. Most people who go there are local children, out for a swim. Like Patar beach, the water in Bani is crystal clear and the seashore is covered by fine, golden brown sand. Because it’s secluded, I expected that the area would be a lot cleaner than Patar, sadly, I was wrong.

Bani, Pangasinan

Bani, Pangasinan

My guess is that the place might have been visited by some irresponsible tourists who camped in the area and left their trash as they departed from the island. Because it’s a secluded area, I think no one is really taking care of the beach. It’s just sad that a place like this, which is full of potential, is slowly dying because of some careless visitors.

Have “selfie” or “groupfie” with one of the tallest lighthouses in the Philippines

Aside from my fascination with century-old churches, I also have a fair share of admiration for lighthouses. There’s just something about a lighthouse that looks very dramatic. If only they could talk, I bet they’d have a thousand stories to share.

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, Bolinao, Pangasinan

In Bolinao, there is a lighthouse that is considered to be as one of tallest in the country. Cape Bolinao Lighthouse was built on top of the hill of Punta Piedra Point in 1905 by American, British, and Filipino engineers. It’s about 351 feet above the sea level, while the lighthouse itself stands at 101 feet. For over a decade, this lighthouse served as a guide to ships and boats traversing the sea. This is a recommended place to catch the sunset.

Our tour guide offered more places to visit but we politely declined since we were traveling with my two-year old baby sister.

Where to eat?

Aside from some carinderias that we tried in the town, you may want to try Bicol Express Restaurant. It is the only eatery in Patar beach that serves affordable delicious food. Their seafood Kare-Kare and Bicol Express are delightful. Also, don’t forget to dine at Giant Taklobo.

All the food that we tried here tasted so good that we went there for dinner twice. Their Inihaw na Sungayan is one of the best grilled fish dishes I’ve ever tasted. Moreover, the couple who owns the place is very generous, they even gave us sweet mangoes fresh from their backyard when we dined there.

Grilled Sungayan, Bolinao, Pangasinan

Grilled Sungayan

I have high hopes that one day Bolinao will be one of the top tourist destinations not only in Luzon but in the entire country. I believe that this can easily be achieved if the local government of Pangasinan becomes more active promoting their province.

Bolinao has premiere beaches to offer, affordable tours and accommodation — even delicious food. As for interesting places to visit, they also have plenty of them: from having one of the cleanest rivers in the Philippines to a number of beautiful falls and to even having a centuries-old church and lighthouse. Truly, Bolinao has all the makings to be at par with the rest of the famous tourist spots in the Philippines.

Do you know the only thing that is missing in Bolinao? It’s YOU! Visit now! Visit #BoliNOW.

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About Author

Cai Dominguez

Cai Dominguez is an ambitious travel blogger whose goal is to travel 100 or more places in the Philippines before he reaches the age of 30. A part-time backpacker who loves to do solo wandering. He is a highly patriotic guy who keeps his faith that in his own way of blogging about the Philippines he will be able to promote and invite both local and foreign to discover more about his country.

  • Filipinas Rojo

    Yes, indeed there are many beautiful sights in Bolinao! You are the first person I know who has shared about this place and I thank you for this!

    • Cai

      I appreciate that Filipinas 🙂

  • michisolee

    We’ve been to Bolinao last summer when we visited my in laws but since it was just a day trip, we haven’t visited the falls and other beaches. Maybe on our next visit, makapagsidetrip ulit.

    • Cai

      Balik kayo ulit, there’s more to see 😉

  • I’ve never been to Pangasinan but I have always found it beautiful! I’d love to go here with the kids someday and just tour their lovely sights!

    • Cai

      Looking forward to see you here 🙂

  • One I saw the view from the Bed and Breakfast, I was sold! It only got better, waterfalls have my heart and I have to head there soon for the grilled fish. Thank you for revealing this hidden gem!

    • Cai

      Welcome 🙂

  • Chloe

    In my opinion, the much-advertised and much-lauded Patar beach is overpopulated. I don’t understand the hype about it. The shore is also littered with garbage left by irresponsible visitors. You will see things like green mango pits on a stick, junk food wrappers, broken beer bottles, and–would you believe?…dirty baby diapers!!! The broken beer bottles are sometimes under the sand, so it can be quite dangerous for anyone sunbathing or walking barefoot. Other garbage can also be found under the sand, as visitors find it easier to bury their waste than do the mature and responsible thing and dispose of it properly. I even saw some people washing their calderos in the ocean! Patar beach was definitely a huge disappointment after all the build-up I read in the past. You can see that it was once a beautiful place, but development and tourists have ruined it. There’s even one resort that destroyed a big chunk of a tall natural rock formation just to build a bridge from the hotel to the ocean. Imagine? I’m not even sure if what they did was legal.

    If you are planning a trip to Pangasinan, stick to Hundred Islands. Though Bolinao is a quaint, small town, its beaches are too heavily populated—by people and by garbage.

    • Cai

      Hi Chloe,

      I have to agree on some of your points regarding the cleanliness of the area. But I would like to know when was your last visit? Yes, there are some garbage left within the cottage area but I didn’t notice any in the shore. You also mentioned that Patar is overpopulated but it might depend on the season you visit. Populated beaches are usual scene during summer. Looking at the Picture it was early June and obviously not over populated.

      I also would like to know why are you disappointed with the beach? The sand was fined and golden brown. The water was clear and clean. Hope you help us understand your disappointment.

      It sadden me to know that there was a resort who did that. I hope that the local government of Bolinao would be more serious in taking care of their municipality.

      • Chloe

        Hi Cai! We went before during Holy Week. And, unfortunately, it really was crowded and chaotic. Yes, there was also garbage on the shore and a bit in the ocean (I suppose from the shore garbage washed in, though it could also be from the people eating while taking a dip). Did you walk the entire stretch of the beach from end to end? Maybe it was just clean where you were at. We walked from Treasures of Bolinao Resort up to the very end of the shoreline.
        There is no question that the beach possesses natural beauty; It’s just been spoiled by the hand of man. There are other more pristine beaches in Pangasinan. Try Alaminos and Sual.
        In any case, I found your article to be informative and well thought out. I agree that Bolinao has many attractions and is a place worth exploring. Additional points of interest are the UP Marine Biology center and the Balingasay River. Cheers and Happy Trails!

        • Reiniel Rodriguez Evangelista

          I agree that for a time, Patar beach was once neglected and resulted to it becoming less clean than it was before. BUT WE HAVE GOOD NEWS!! The municipal government of Bolinao has already taken action and strictly implemented reforms in managing and maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of the area as well as other tourist spots in bolinao. A number of long term programs with the cooperation of Bolinao Business Tourism Association (BBTOA), Inc.in partnership with the Local Government Unit of Bolinao, Barangay Council of Patar, and concerned citizens has been taken which includes aggressive clean up drive and conservation plan, including strict implementations of NO Littering policy within these areas, conservative development rules that guide the development of tourist facilities around it, beautification of the area without altering but rather enhancing its features and information drive for concerned locals in the area to take an active role in the preservation of these natural wonders are now in place to make sure this places of interest are not to be abused. The Bolinao LGU has already realized the importance of actively preserving its town’s God given wonders not just for tourism’s sake but for the greater benefit of its own locals and I can only assure you Bolinao has already seen a lot of improvements and more are to come. Please visit the town once again and see for yourself the great difference the people have made to improve this lovely town. (: Please also visit the town’s website in this link, here is where these improvements that Im talking about are shown in pictures. http://www.bolinaoguide.com/patar-beach-beautification-clean-drive/

  • I have never heard of this place, but I’ve also never planned a trip to the Philippines. It sounds lovely though. Thanks for sharing!

    • Cai

      I hope you visit us someday 😉

  • Thanks for another great tip! Have you written about this place before as the St James church looks so very familiar to me (I’ve never visited the Philippines)?

  • Bolinao really looks like a very nice place to visit. Glad to hear you are exploring Philippines first and sharing it to the world.

    • Cai

      Thanks Janz 🙂

  • Melissa Un

    Wow! I didn’t know Bolinao was so beautiful and affordable too. How many days were you there and how much did you spend all in all? Hehe. I want to plan a budget too. 🙂

    • Cai

      We stayed here for 3d2n. I believe my family spent less than 10k for everything.:)

  • MariaWent2Town

    Another reason for a roadtrip! This is a good destination for a quick summer getaway

    • Cai

      Indeed, Its close to Manila 🙂

  • WOW! Bolinao looks absolutely incredible. The scenery is something out of a dream. Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures and tips. I am so inspired to visit!

    • Cai

      Looking forward to see you here 🙂

  • Dominique Goh

    It certainly looks like an interesting and fun place to visit on vacation. Will take note of it if I do travel to the area.

    • Cai

      Thanks Dominique 🙂

  • Nilyn EC Matugas

    oh my. I am in awe of the place! I hope we can visit Bolinao in the future.♥

    • Cai

      Plan your next vacation here 🙂

  • Melgie Campbell

    I love this post! the photos are great, very informative, and truly a paradise indeed. Your right, the only missing is ME visiting Bolinao someday. Thanks for sharing:)
    http://www.sweetcuisinera.com

    • Cai

      Love to see your next photo here :0

  • Marta Cunha Grilo

    Nothing came to my mind when I read the name of the places but next time, if someone asks me that question I’ll remember your article 🙂

    • Cai

      Hahaha. Thanks Marta 🙂

  • I haven’t been to Bolinao yet but I’m taking it into consideration now. Thanks for the heads up.

  • MommyMaye

    I have been there before but it’s just a short trip. There are so much to see pala. Next time, I make sure to visit all of those great spot above. Thanks for sharing!

  • I have always wanted to visit Bolinao, thanks for your recommendations!

  • Last year our company outing is in Bolinao too. Nice place. sulit ang byahe kahit malayo.

  • Anna Plaida

    Near lang ba Bolinao in Hundred Island? We want to visit Bolinao madami daw maganda beaches here na white sand

  • I’ve never been to Bolinao but I hope we can squeeze one vacay before summer ends.