Let’s admit it, running can sometimes be dreadfully boring! But it doesn’t always have to, especially if you’re running on picturesque locations. I believe that the best way to explore a place is on foot, and here are some of the most scenic places I’ve seen through running.
Nuvali is located just south of Metro Manila and quickly became popular with trail running. It covers quite a huge area that it can accommodate even ultramarathon distance routes. It features wide grasslands, mountain ranges, and a majestic view of Laguna Lake in some places.
After running you can eat among the several restaurant and food joints in the area, do some shopping, or visit the lagoon to feed the fishes or do boating. There’s even a wakeboard park if you’re in for some watersports! Or if you prefer some cool weather, Tagaytay is just a short drive away.
With the recent opening of the Kaybiang Tunnel in Ternate-Nasugbu Highway, Hamilo Coast is now just around an hour and a half from Metro Manila. Hamilo Coast had quickly become triathletes’ playground due to its sea and mountain features that isn’t so easily found this close to the Metro. A calm beach nestled in a cove matched with a variety of challenging trails and some really stunning view makes this one of my favorite places in the country.
Because of its sea to mountain terrain expect to share the facilities with triathletes so be wary of crossing roads! Aside from swimming in the beach or in the clubhouse, eating is a good activity here with excellent food being served at Pico Sands Hotel and Sun Coral Café.
Mt. Pinatubo and its lahar fields
Mt. Pinatubo’s Crater Lake is easily just one of the most beautiful sights in the world and the lahar trails going down the mountain is just as scenic! A lot of the trails are covered in sand-like lahar and are mostly flat but goes steeper and more challenging as you go up the mountain. Even the rocks get bigger as you climb up, from pebbles on the lowlands to boulders bigger than houses! And as you reach the summit, your efforts are rewarded.
Sadly, there aren’t really much races that ply this route. The lahar fields were used by Columbia Eco Trail Run, Explorac Invitational Trail Run, and a past edition of TNF100, while only PAU Mt. Pinatubo (ultramarathon) reaches the Crater Lake.
There is actually a spa on top of Mt. Pinatubo, just before you reach the summit. This spa is unique because they “bury” you under lahar sands. The Crater Lake on the other hand would require you to go down some flights of stairs so make sure to reserve your energy for that. You may be able to swim in the lake but it is strongly discouraged because of its volcanic nature and depth (who knows if it reaches all the way to the center of the earth!). And about that lahar, it may take several washes to get them off your clothes so pick your shoes carefully.
Baguio City is a great place to run because of the cool weather, high altitude, and challenging terrain but in this case I’m referring to the mountains that surround the city. Being at the rooftop of Luzon, the views of the mountains here seem to go on forever.
A lot of races are held in this city, but to truly enjoy its trails it is best to join races like TNF100.
After enjoying the trail, there are so many tourist spots you can visit and so many good food to try. Picking strawberries is a nice activity, but in case it’s out of season you may try the best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted which is being sold around the strawberry farm.
Ilocos Norte is the most remote location (from Metro Manila) on this list, being at the northern end of the island of Luzon. From Manila it is less than an hour by plane but about 10 hours by land. Despite the long commute, I still find this province a worthwhile visit because of a lot of things you can see, do, and eat here.
An ultramarathon like PAU Ilocos Norte provides the best tour as it covers a lot of major tourist spots, but a lot of local races are held in its capital, Laoag City, so there’s always a good excuse to visit.
The sand dunes of Laoag City is a popular destination because during summer it looks like you’re in the middle of a desert. You can even do sandboarding here! Head north to visit the beaches of Pagudpud and the Patapat Viaduct. Head south to visit the World Heritage Site city of Vigan. Don’t forget to try their local dishes like Empanada, Poque-poque, and Dinakdakan!
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You may notice that this list is entirely based on the island of Luzon, the country’s largest out of 7,107. I had intended to include locations all over the country but then I realized that I haven’t seen enough to make recommendations! (Note to self: need to travel more! :D) Eventually I had to revert to places I’ve been to more than once and had a race held in.
The Philippines is such a beautiful country that picking five scenic spots, even in just one of its islands, is such a daunting task! And of course beauty is subjective so we may not all agree what counts as ordinary and what’s not. If you’re tired of your usual running spots, this list is for you!
Do you have your own list of scenic spots for running? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 🙂