Bangkong Kahoy Valley with kids
Just got back from a fabulous 2-day, 1-night trip to Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Dolores, Quezon Province. 2 1/2 hours away from Manila.
It was just the outdoor, nature experience we were in need of.
Why we loved it:
1) You can PICK WILD RASPBERRIES there!!! Called Sampinit in Tagalog. Season is from Jan-March. The temperatures here are as cool as Baguio. The low at night was 21C and the high during the day was 26C (in Feb). It was so exciting to come across a blogpost a few months ago about these berries, and then to go and find them at BK Valley, and even better, to find that they weren't out of stock! Lots of berries for the kids to pick. If you're just picking handfuls, it's free. If you're picking a lot, it's PHP400 for 1 1kg. (Note: sampinit bushes are found near the parking lot of the camping site, and in another area which is down the road from the restaurant but tricky to find, better ask one of the employees there. Sapinit are also found higher up in the mountains, the workers of the farm go up there, they said it was too far away for us to go. I saw a man come back with two grocery bagfuls of raspberries from there!). The wild raspberries have a tougher skin than normal raspberries, are a little crunchier, more seedy and not as sweet. They are a glorious red color and were such a delight to pick and eat!
2) Nature, nature, nature. Bangkong Kahoy Valley is located between Mount Banahaw and Mount Cristobal. This farm is huge! So much space to be free! The kids got to run in an open field, ride a horse, run in open soccer fields (equal to 4 of them, in fact), dink around at a pond, and hang in hammocks scattered around the farm. We also enjoyed the views and went on a great trek in the jungle. (Note: while there were a lot of signs for trails, it was hard to get the info on where they really started. Best to ask an employee.)
Update FEB 2018: Kids can take horse rides with Whitie the horse at BK for 90 pesos a ride (a tour of about 7 min).
3) It was a perfect balance of being out in nature, and yet having the amenities we needed at hand. We felt completely free at the farm. We went on a Friday-Saturday. Friday there weren't any other guests. While it takes a lot of people to run the farm, and while we did encounter workers who were all so nice and helpful, we felt on our own and free to roam enjoy the grounds of the whole farm. As meals were taken care of and at a set price (see below), I didn't have to worry about what food we were going to eat next. We met the caretaker of BK valley, Dion Pullan. He is an environmentalist at heart and genuinely wants people to take care of and enjoy the benefits of nature. And that's what we felt at BK Valley, a place to enjoy nature freely, and yet have the amenities close by. At BK Valley, you can camp in a tent that you bring, stay in an open cottage (I wish we were adventurous enough to stay here- they looked really fun and airy), stay in a basic, but clean, villa which sleeps 4-6 people, or stay in a lodge room that has TV, hot water, wifi and a more comfortable set-up. Photos and prices below. We stayed in a villa, and the rusticity of it was just right to match our outdoorsy experience at BK Valley.
Open cottages range from PHP 2000-3000 depending on the size. The one in the two photos at the top are of Antonio's cottage which has a bed in the loft as well, for PHP2800. We stayed in a villa (Dio's villa. pictures in the two photos at the bottom) which cost PHP3500 for a queen bed and 2 sets of bunk beds.
There are also comfortable lodge rooms for PHP6000.
See BK valley's website for more info on the rooms, and you can book by texting 0929 149 6458.
If you are interested in camping at BK, I have a post with camping info here.
4) The food set-up and the food itself. All meals are at an open, airy Robinson Crusoe-type structure. Before coming to BK valley, you can pre-arrange which meals you will be eating there. We had lunch, afternoon merienda, dinner, breakfast the next morning, and morning merienda at BK valley. Before coming, they asked us what kinds of meals we might be wanting (I told them adobo, pancit and vegetable dishes, as I had heard these were their specialties). When we did arrive, they had a lunch ready for us. They also asked us what we might want for the kids for dinner- they offered fried chicken and rice, which sounded great. For the meals and meriendas, they charged us a flat rate per person (see price breakdown below) and served all the food family-style. The food was simple but diverse and plentiful, and very much based on vegetables that are grown on the farm (organically). Here's a list of what we ate. If you go, I recommend giving them an idea of which meals and what you would like to eat, because they need to know beforehand to prepare. All of the food was fresh and tasted amazing in the outdoors.
-Lunch (PHP1000 for 4 people, that's what they charged us for our family of 6): Vegetable nilaga (broth w/ sayote and string beans), breaded fried fish (two kinds), shitake mushrooms and carrot dish, rice, and watermelon.
-Afternoon merienda (PHP360 for 4): mushroom burgers (their specialty, they were good! Maybe ask to be able to put on your own mayo and mustard), kamote (sweet potato) fries, and hot chocolate.
-Dinner (PHP1000 for 4): Chopsuey, fried chicken, corn and carrot soup, coleslaw (which was delicious), fried oyster mushrooms (another farm specialty), and fruit cocktail.
-Breakfast (PHP800 for 4): Fried eggs, longanisa, hot dogs, cabbage omelets, rice, fried rice, and hot chocolate.
-Morning merienda (ended up being complimentary): Taro pizza (more like a pancake), fried sweet potato slices, and fried plantains. And beautiful dishes of wild raspberries!
Next to the restaurant, there is an honesty store which sells produce from the farm and you choose your produce, weigh it, calculate how much you owe and leave your money in a box. They also sell other products there like wild raspberry jam and coconut syrup.
UPDATE FEB 2018: Meals during busy times consist of buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner which cost 250 pesos or 125 pesos for kids 7yo and below. The buffets are simple but tasty, balanced with lots of vegetables, and hearty).
Update FEB 2018. The owner of Bangkong Kahoy has also opened a restaurant, Cafe de Dolores, in the town of Dolores which is the last town you pass before going up the mountain to BK. This is a good option for eating a meal before you go up or when you come down. They have the same mushroom burgers and kamote fries that they have at BK, but also some rice meals that they don't have at BK. The sweet and sour chicken and black bean sauce beef were delicious and inexpensive at only 105 pesos. They have delicious fruit shakes and rapsberry juice too. This restaurant was opened to have a gathering place and events center for the town of Dolores.
5) The staff family. They were all so cheerful and helpful, and happy when serving our meals, arranging for us to ride horses, or finding raspberries for us to pick.
All in all, Bangkong Kahoy Valley was a wonderful place to go as a family and to be free in nature. We went with family friends and this is a great place to enjoy in a group as there is lots accommodation (and for all budgets), food is taken care of, and there is so much space and so much to enjoy in the outdoors. It could be done as a daytrip or as an overnight trip. Who knew there was a place with cool temperatures just 2 1/2 hours away!
Here are the two blogposts where I learned about BK valley:
And here is an article about the wild raspberries of Quezon province: