Camping near Metro Manila with kids
Here's a guide to two family-friendly places to camp with kids that are close to Manila. One is North of Metro Manila, and the other South. Both are in the middle of nature, but both offer good amenities (canteen on site and clean bathrooms) and multiple activities for kids. These make for comfortable, easy trips with the kids- without compromising a great experience with nature for the whole family.
Before I dive into the camping sites, three things to discuss:
First, why camping? Reasons we love camping are: 1) Kids LOVE camping! They are happy with a fort in the living room, a tent built in the backyard, and ecstatic about putting together a place for the family to be together in the wild, away from their usual daily life. 2) It provides a budget-friendly trip. 3) It makes for extended time as a family, completely unplugged from the world. It brings bonding over setting up camp, playing in nature, eating uninterruptedly , and experiencing things like crowding around a bonfire, staring up at the stars, waking up to crisp, fresh air together.
Second, where to get camping gear? Lucky for us, Decathlon Philippines has recently opened and has all camping gear a family needs at good prices. Tents, sleeping bags (both adult and kid sizes), and even air mattresses (for us parents). Before Decathlon opened here, we got our tent on sale at True Value.
Third, what else to bring? An attitude of adventure and freedom! Camping, especially for mamas, is a hurdle to overcome. But if we can let go of the things that we usually want in order just for a night, in return we get an overflowing amount of family memories and experiences that will last years.
1. North - Mount Purro Nature Reserve, in Rizal Province.
This is located in Barangay Calawis, near Antipolo, in Rizal Province. From Makati, it's a 2-hour drive. This is a forest nature reserve started by a family to promote unplugged family time and appreciation for nature and its benefits.
Mount Purro has various accommodation possibilities for families, mostly rustic native-inspired cottages. See their website for more details. But for those who want to camp, they have a lawn for setting up tents. There are clean restrooms close by, with showers. The tent area is near their giant Pavilion, and so should it start to rain, you always have the option to move your tent under that. The giant Pavilion also has a fun slide for the kids to play on.
When we camped here in December 2017, the temperature at night was a welcome 23 degrees C. We only needed long-sleeved pajamas and thick blankets to sleep in. There are roosters in the neighborhood, so bring earplugs if you need them.
The pricing of the camping is 500 pesos per person per night.
Or you can opt for the Tree Hugger's Escape package for 1350 pesos per person (850 pesos per child 3-7yo, free for 0-2yo) which includes meals and other things as described below:
Overnight stay at the Tent Area
1 afternoon snack
2 buffet-style meals (dinner, breakfast)
Inclusive of use of facilities (swimming pool, cabanas, Asian lounge, hiking trails)
Community bonfire set-up (8 - 1030 pm)
Guided forest hike (4 scheduled trips in a day: 5:30 am / 8:00 am / 1:00 pm / 4:00 pm)
If you don't have your own camping gear, Mount Purro has them for rent. Tent rental is P500 good for 4. Rental of mattress, pillow, and blanket: P200 pesos per set.
There is only one restaurant at Mount Purro Nature Reserve, which is more like a family-style mess hall. It is a very cozy, warm place where home-cooked meals are served buffet-style (no a la carte options). Each family has a table reserved for them. The meals are mostly Filipino food and plentiful in options, so different family members will find something they like. For example, dinner was rice, a meat dish, a pasta dish, a battered fish dish with french fries, a vegetable dish and a salad option.
This arrangement for eating makes for a very hassle-free camping trip, I only had to bring small snacks for in between meals. While we brought our own water, there is water freely available at the mess hall and also coolers of water and glasses near the camping area.
S'mores time! The staff at Mount Purro build a bonfire at night at the community bonfire area and guests of the nature reserve gather around it to roast marshmallows (sticks and marshmallows provided by Mount Purro). We brought additional marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to be able to make s'mores.
1) Mount Purro has a newly built, amazing playground for kids, which they call a nature playscape- and that's what it is. Structures built for endless hours of outdoor play for kids of all ages. The mud kitchen was a highlight, with ample space for pretend endeavors and a low sink for kids with running water in it! Another favorite was the music wall- instruments attached to a wall for tinkering and making music. There is also a treehouse, obstacle courses, hobbit holes and swings.
2) The swimming pool
For more info and photos of the pool and lounging opportunities at Mount Purro, see A Momma Abroad's post.
3) Hiking. Mount Purro has several hiking trails. The most well-known one is the Forest trail that goes up to Malvar's Peak. It is good for beginners, and takes 1 hour each way (more with kids). Hikes with a guide (Mount Purro's camp master) are scheduled 4 times a day from Mount Purro.
There are two other hikes that were recommended to me from the guides at Mount Purro that are particularly child-friendly. You can inquire about these at the front desk. One is to Bunsuran falls. You take a 3-minute trike ride from Mount Purro to the jump-off point. From here it's a 15-minute hike to the falls, mostly flat with a steeper descent just at the very end. At the falls, we enjoyed the view, played in the shallow pools, caught tadpoles, and also swam in the deeper pools. You definitely want to bring swimming gear here (floaties for the little ones). While this hidden gem is wildly beautiful, unfortunately the locals don't take great care of it- despite the barangay's efforts to keep it clean. Mount Purro Nature Reserve, which has various programs to educate and teach the locals about being eco-friendly, gave us a garbage bag and asked us to to pick up any trash we saw if we wanted. We were happy to do this, and it was a good lesson for the kids about preserving nature (our guide also collected garbage with us).
The other hike is called the River trek. And it's also a trike ride from Mount Purro. You walk along the river (all flat), and then cross it (water is knee height), walk some more and walk through a mango orchard and do a loop back to where you started. It sounded fantastic but we haven't been able to do it yet. The whole walk is about 1.5 hours.
2- South. Bangkong Kahoy Nature Retreat and Field Study Center, in Quezon province.
This is a beautiful mountain retreat in a valley between Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal, a 2.5-hour drive away from Manila. It is known for the local wild raspberry which is grown and can be picked here ("sampinit"). Apart from this, there are wide open spaces as well as jungle trails for the family to play in.
Bangkong Kahoy also has various options for accommodation (open cottages, rooms and suites). For more information, please see their website. They also have a campsite are for setting up tents and the price is minimal, 50 pesos per person 8 yo and above (in addition to their 70 pesos entrance fee). Text them ahead of time (they prefer 3 days) to make a reservation- this is mostly important so they can have food available for you during your stay. I have had most success texting Bangkong Kahoy at 0906 438 1410 to reserve.
Bangkong Kahoy temperatures are cooler than at Mount Purro. When my husband and kids went in January 2017, temperature at night reached 14 degrees C and my kids used long sleeved pajamas and several thick blankets to keep warm. My husband recommends the 15 degrees C sleeping bags (available at Decathlon) for Bangkong Kahoy.
There are restrooms near the camp site, but not showers. There is a campfire area where we built a fire at night. You might want to bring camping chairs if you have them and picnic blankets.
EATING and ACTIVITIES
I actually have a whole other blogpost about the canteen (all yummy freshly farmed food) and activities at Bangkong Kahoy, which you can see here. The meals and meriendas at Bangkong Kahoy are plentiful, filling and inexpensive. Bringing a meal you make there is also an option. We did a picnic lunch one time and also for a dinner meal (hot dogs prepared on a gas stove we brought, though could have been done at the campfire).
Happy Camping! Please share any other ideas for camping nearby in the comments, I would love to know them! Thanks.
UPDATE APRIL 2019: We went camping in another location in the South, at Soloviento at Lake Caliraya, Laguna province, which I recommend. Please see my blogpost about it here.