Home of the sea urchins, Bolinao is a relatively underdeveloped area on the island of Luzon that makes for intimate connections with the environment, and locals. You aren’t going to find big malls and cinemas in this neck of the woods, but you will find some awesome food, interesting caves, pristine waterfalls, and plenty of beaches to keep your curious traveling mind awake.
You won’t find as much English spoken in Bolinao as you would in other areas of Luzon and the Philippines, but you will find plenty of locals who know enough to get by and are happy to practice with you. Consider stopping by one of the schools to volunteer an English class or to play some games with the kids. They’ll certainly be surprised to see you.
Keep in mind that the rainy season is from May to October, which can make these nature explorations a bit tricky!
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bolinao:
1. St. James Church
Built by Augustinians in 1609, it’s a wonder that St. James Church is still standing. This Spanish colonial masterpiece has been through some tough times including a fierce earthquake in 1788, a fire in 1819, and a significant typhoon in 2009.
The weathered building looks like something out of a thriller movie yet is still the happy gathering place of religious Filipinos who come for Sunday mass.
While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for vendors in front of the church selling binongey, a popular rice delicacy in Bolinao made of sticky rice and coconut milk, served in a bamboo shoot.
2. Bolinao Falls 1
Insanely gorgeous! Bolinao Falls is one of the only waterfalls in Luzon with a glowing turquoise pool of water! The falls jet down from 2-stories high into an expansive swimming pool below where you can play all day. There are varying depths to this large pool that will suit all swimming levels, including a partially submerged rock platform and even steps to climb into the pool.
To reach the falls, enjoy a quick and easy 5-10 minute hike.
3. Bolinao Falls 2
Despite having come in second place with its name, Bolinao Falls 2 is number one in terms of pure awesomeness. This natural waterfall and swimming pool looks more like an outdoor waterpark than an act of nature.
The main waterfall is huge both in height and length. The pools are deep so go ahead and cliff dive from above! There are mini rock islands all throughout the pool where you can climb- some even have their own little waterfalls.
There are lots of picnic cabanas surrounding Bolinao Falls 2 where you can get some shade and enjoy some snacks. Bring the whole gang.
4. Tara Falls
Come to Tara Falls during the week in the morning and you will most likely have the entire place to yourself. This picturesque waterfall oasis in the middle of the jungle is so serene and peaceful- especially when it’s just you and your sweetheart
The pool is deep enough for you to jump off the cliff and the water is cool enough to give you a refreshing break from the summer sun. Better yet, it is only 15 minutes from town and there is no entrance fee!
There are little areas around the fall where you can have a picnic, play some card games, or take a rest from the pool.
5. Cruise the Balingasay River
Dubbed “the cleanest river in Luzon”, the Balingasay River is an environmental community project for the local government. They want to ensure that wild animal species living here, including lots of migratory birds, thrive and that pollution doesn’t affect the ecosystem.
This protected river has 15 hectares of century old and new growth mangroves and 30 hectares of wild ferns, Nipa palms, and trees hanging into the water. The river is also teeming with fish, shrimp, crab and more food sources for the locals.
Your river cruise will be educational, informational, and of course, sensational! Take photos, ask questions, and enjoy the ride.
6. Patar White Beach
The most beautiful beach in Bolinao can be found in Pangasinan. Beach. With uninterrupted space and views, Patar White beach is the perfect place to have a racy photo-shoot, go for a run, take a serene swim, or sprawl out in the sand. You won’t find fancy resorts or bungalows here. You won’t even find restaurants. So, bring your own grills and have an evening BBQ on the beach.
Just be prepared for handfuls of small Filipino kids who hawking their handmade trinkets and souvenirs.
7. Cape Bolinao lighthouse
Close by Patar White Beach is Cape Bolinao Lighthouse. Surrounded by blossoming red bushes and set with the sea in the background, it’s no wonder why this lighthouse is the location of choice for engagement photos and romantic gestures.
There is a 140-stepped spiral staircase that leads to the light room 76.2 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, you cannot climb these rickety old stairs. You’ll have to settle for the raised observation deck below that still offers some beautiful views of the sea!
8. Rock View Beach Resort
Get up early and wander on over to Rock View Beach Resort for stunning sunrise views and low tide or stroll over in the evening for a gorgeous sunset.
The huge rocky cliffs, which are scattered in the sea and make this site so unique, are actually massive collections of corals thousands of years old. You’ve never seen anything like it.
Although it’s a really lovely experience, you don’t have to stay at this resort to visit Rock View Beach. Entry is Php75 and is worth every penny for the views, photos, and serene environment.
9. Santiago Island
Take a day trip to Santiago Island, which lies just off the coast of Bolinao. This island has a rich ecosystem home to mangroves, many species of migratory birds, and lots of coral reefs.
You can arrange a private fishing trip with a boat captain who will supply the fishing poles and bait. Whatever fish you manage to catch, the boat captain will help you grill them up back on shore. Your most likely catch will be Bangus or milkfish, the two species that most heavily frequent these waters.
If fishing isn’t your cup of tea, go on a snorkel trip where you can dive in and get at glimpse at the underwater world of Bolinao. In between snorkel dives, you can chill out on the white sand beaches of Santiago Island.
10. Sungayan Grill
Picture this: a seafood spread where all of the best seafood such as crab, grilled fish, shrimp, and squid are laid out on a huge banana leaf with a big portion of rice and sauces in the middle. Pair that with a fresh coconut and a couple cold beers, and you have the most incredible feast at your fingertips!
Oh, and did I mention that the restaurant will be floating down the river? Sungayan Grill is actually a river cruise that slowly guides you on the winding water where you can spot some birds, see some locals and take in your surroundings. This cruise also gives you plenty of time to enjoy your meal with your friends.
11. Treasures Resort
If you’re looking for luxury in Bolinao, Treasures Resort is it. Set with a backdrop of emerald green pastures and tall palm trees, Treasures gives you that tropical feeling all around.
The accommodation here is very comfortable with cozy rooms and obliging staff. The pool is grand with little nooks to relax, a pool bar for cocktails, and lounge chairs where you can soak up some rays. There is also a spa and a gym for guests. The restaurant serves quality food and the wine bar has an amazing selection.
Nearby you’ll find a UNESCO World heritage site, Sukhothai Historical Park, as well as, a national museum, Sangkhaloke village, and more.
12. Enchanted Cave
Hire a tour guide when you visit the Enchanted Cave. This complex underground system is so mysterious that you’ll need a local there to answer all your burning questions. As you’ll learn, the Enchanted Cave was once totally underwater some few million years ago. Today, it stands as one of the main attractions in Bolinao city.
For an extra Php20, you can take a dip in the underground swimming hole surrounded by hanging cave rock.
Tip: Go early! The Enchanted Cave tends to get very crowded!
13. Wonderful Cave
This cave really is wonderful! While it’s smaller than the others caves in Bolinao, it still offers quite the adventure. This cave has such detail on the ceiling with thousands of spikey formations formed from coral and limestone. Exploring this dark space is very safe with sturdy handrails and steps built in for easy access, so don’t hesitate to bring the whole family.
There is a cool pool with crystal waters inside the cave where you can swim and listen to the echoing sounds of the splashing water reverberating off the cave walls.
14. Cindy’s Cave
Cindy’s Cave is a cool spot to visit not only to experience the underworld of crazy rock formations and the clear swimming pool in what feels like Mars on Earth, but also for the nature and features that surround the cave.
You’ll find mango trees, jackfruit trees, and unfamiliar plants and flowers. There is also a small hand-pump well where you can rinse yourself off with more fresh water from the ground.
The cave is pretty big and less visited by other groups of tourists so it is less likely to be crowded for you and your group.
15. Adora’s Restaurant
For authentic Filipino food that is open 24-hours a day, look no further than Adora’s Restaurant. Eating here is like eating in the home of a motherly Filipina woman’s house in that the dishes are cooked with so much love and so much soul.
You’ll find dishes with deep flavor like pork steak and fried chicken that comes in generous portions! The most popular dish here is the classic Tapsilog, which is a stewed curry pork served with rice. If you’ve never had it, this is the best place to try it!
Don’t be surprised if you show up at 2am and there are other guests eating! This is the landing spot for middle of the night munchies and late-night arrivals.