Bolinao has of late rivaled Alaminos (both are towns of Pangasinan in Northern Luzon), in becoming one of the must-go-to destinations in the province. While Alaminos has the Hundred Islands, Bolinao has Patar beach, falls, caves and the destroyed Bolinao lighthouse.
Bolinao faces the Lingayen Gulf and is located on the northernmost tip of Pangasinan, thus the lighthouse was built by the Americans in 1903 to guide ships, ferries and boats. The lighthouse, however, was also destroyed by a strong typhoon a few years back.
The coast guard has since abandoned the lighthouse and its barracks and has relocated nearby, to still be able to send signals to marine vessels and small boats in the area. When the cape was still functional, the signal was said to have reached the other end of the Lingayen Gulf – Poro Point in La Union.
The Bolinao Lighthouse stands tall at 351 feet above sea level, second only to Cape Bojeador in Ilocos, which I also happened to visit in 2012.
It is really close to the Patar Beach (people often call it “white beach” but it’s more creamy than white to me, like Boracay-cream. Also probably why it’s called the Boracay of the North), and there are two stores selling souvenir items such as ref magnet, key chain, shirt, and the famous locally-made suman sa kawayan.
Most Pinoys know suman, a rice cake wrapped in palm leaves, usually sweetened by sugar or latik. This one is exactly like that, except it’s inside a bamboo! It was featured by GMA and other local travel shows in the country. It is more commonly called “binunguey” by locals.
Larger bamboos cost PhP 50 (a little over a dollar), and the thinner ones are 3 for a hundred pesos. Mary and I downed the larger suman during the trip. It can last up to 3 days.
Patar beach has nipa huts for rent for the day, while some wooden huts with locks can be renter for a night. There are stores selling pretty much anything you need – softdrinks, water, beer, snacks – and eateries serving you with grilled tuna, liempo, squid, and the like.
We got our meal for only PhP 170 (2 slices of liempo, 1 rice, one small bottle of soda) for two people, at one of the eateries outside the beach, along the road leading to the poblacion.
The waves were strong when we went there and so just played like kids at the shore, enough to get wet, get whipped and a little tanned.
We brought along our Gopro, a beach lounger (which I had to back-ride on a bike to get enough air to it by the way), a beach ball (which we weren’t able to use as it was too windy), some snacks, water and tripod. We didn’t stay long because it was evident the waves won’t be tamed anytime soon.
We went to the Enchanted Cave and that’s where we stayed longer. On the way to the cave entrance, you would see huge clam shells and reefs that have dried out through the decades, which is said to be proof that Bolinao used to be submerged into the sea a long, long time ago.
The deepest part of the cave is about 8 feet (although I suspect it’s much deeper), which has an entrance fee of PhP 150 per person plus PhP 20 for parking fee. There is a picnic area outside of the cave for those who want to stay longer and eat there.
Life jackets can be rented, along with some swim shorts, at a store inside the compound, for PhP 30. A lifeguard is always present, sometimes even swimming with tourists. It opens at 8am and closes at 6pm. It is well-lighted and there’s a rope that non-swimmers can hold on to if they want to go to other parts of the cave.
There are three other falls in the area that we didn’t go to since it had been raining for 2 weeks and the water there would be murky according to our local guide. In the summer months, it would be best to go there.
I must tell you that once you get to the town center, you have to get everything you need because Patar beach is really far. A tricycle ride can cost PhP 100 one-way, PhP 150 round-trip. There is also no reliable ATM in the town, so bring cash or withdraw from Alaminos.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Take any of the buses that head to Bolinao, Pangasinan (Victory, Five Star) from Cubao and pay PhP 450 per person.
Alternatively, you can also take a bus to Alaminos at about PhP 420 per person, stop over or maybe head to the Hundred Islands first, and then take a van going to Bolinao for PhP 50 per person.
You can also take the 5-hour drive by following this direction from Google.
Tour (Patar beach, lighthouse, enchanted cave, church) – PhP 700 (whole day)
**Tour (above tour plus the three falls) – PhP 1200 (whole day)
Enchanted Cave entrance plus parking fee – PhP 320
Meal (Patar Beach) plus 1L of bottled water – PhP 220
Suman sa Kawayan – PhP 50
***Did not include the accommodation and RT fare Cubao-Bolinao-Cubao since we stayed 2 days
Should you need a local guide (up to 3 pax per tricycle), please contact Eugene at 09079619318.
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