Tagaytay: Twice the fun in two days

By Chris A. Datol

Picnic Grove

Picnic Grove

For tourists with two days to spare and a craving for a weekend out-of-town escapade, Tagaytay looms as an ideal choice for its cool mountain weather and varied selection of travelers’ pursuits.

As of late, urbanites have actually considered Tagaytay as a veritable extension of Mega Manila, because of the familiar commercial spots that have lined the ridge, but fortunately, this urbanized area still retains much of its country charm. Its location 5,700 feet above sea level contributes a lot for the city to maintain a reputation as a “summer capital” and venue for retreat.

There’s a lot to do nowadays in Tagaytay that maybe two days won’t suffice. But for a casual trip to this city, we present Cruising’s own version of the Tagaytay itinerary.

Leave early on a Saturday morning to avoid the traffic on the highway. Tagaytay is about 55 kms from Manila and travel time can take up to 90 minutes. Make sure to book your room in advance for your overnight stay, and check out the Web for the most reasonable rates and best accommodations. Among the popular hotels are Taal Vista Lodge, Days Hotel, Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay, Tagaytay Country Hotel, and the new One Tagaytay Place.

First stop would be breakfast, and for this you have two options: Sonya’s Garden or Breakfast at Antonio’s. Either venue, which used to carry the tag “secret spots” are now familiar among habitues, but their delectable cuisine are always a refreshing treat. Sonya’s has more organic selections, while Antonio’s presents an invigorating spot to sip your morning coffee while enjoying the views.

The next activity can be spent by exploring Tagaytay either in your vehicle, or to add a country flavor, do it via horseback ride! Mount a horse and spend an hour or so just observing the scenery and breathing in the fresh mountain breeze.

Before the sun peaks at noon, don’t forget to take requisite photo op sessions with the volcano and lake at the backdrop. Proceed to the Grandview Complex, a small shopping area next to the traffic circle in Tagaytay. You can park there for free and take advantage of the view from the balcony. Another option is Taal Vista Hotel, which is said to offer the best views of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake in all of Tagaytay City.

For a culinary adventure, try having lunch not just at the popular restaurants like Josephine’s, but in any of these places: Leslie’s, Joni’s, Taaleña, and The Diner (near the intersection that leads to the public market) – which all claim to serve the best bulalo in the city. For those who prefer healthier alternatives, try Mushroom Burger which serves delectable vegetarian dishes; or Viewsite Restaurant located near Josephine’s and another one on the Mendez intersection. Try the local delicacy called tawilis – a small fish caught from Taal Lake.

The sleepy lull after lunch would require a jolt to your system to keep you going – coffee will certainly do the trick! There are plenty of quaint coffeeshops in the area, but we urge you to try Bag of Beans – a cool garden café which is popular for its Coffee Alamid that has coffee connoisseurs raving. Coffee Alamid is Philippine civet coffee that comes only from the sweetest coffee cherries – finest Liberica, Exelsa, Robusta and Arabica beans. Enjoy it black and pure to savor its true taste and aroma. And to “close the pores,” order their Blueberry Cheesecake for a sweet treat.

Now that you’re up and about, you’re ready to get a closer view of Taal. Proceed to Talisay town, less than 30 minutes away from the ridge, where you can enjoy the country adventures of the lake. For more sophisticated watersports, visit Taal Lake and Yacht Club which rents out hobie cats and kayaks.

For those on a budget, they can just hire a boat from the shore of Talisay and go around the volcano island, even try out their fishing skills. Taal Lake is home to the tawilis, tilapia and other freshwater fish. If you haven’t climbed the volcano, you can get off the island and trek up all the way to the crater.

By afternoon, you must be tired from all the activity, so the best way to end the day is a trip to the spa. And Tagaytay happens to offer good ones. Nurture Spa offers an Asian-inspired venue along with signature treatments, affordable rates and quality services at par with Manila’s best spas. The rest of the popular spas are membership-only (Sanctuario Spa at Canyon Woods; Tagaytay Highlands Spa and Lodge), and Discovery Country Suites Luxury Spa which can only be availed by checked-in customers.

Have dinner with your companions, in style, at a fine dining restaurant. Again, Tagaytay boasts of unique and distinguished establishments: La Esquina at Splendido which offers Mediterranean cuisine; Café Verbenna in Tagaytay Highlands; a Manos Greek Tavern Dinner; Buon Giorno at Cliff House (Italian); or at Paul Huang’s Fire Lake Grill at Cliff House (steaks).

Cap the night with a trip back to the ridge, or if your hotel affords a view, stay at the balcony with a cold beer or wine in hand. Engage in a little banter or just sit back, relax, and enjoy the cool night breeze and the twinkling city lights.

Wake up refreshed amidst the morning mist of the mountain city. You can go jogging or brisk walking, while getting the most of the lovely mountain weather. Then head back to your hotel for a quick shower and light breakfast.

Sunday, being a church day, usually requires some form of spiritual retreat, and in Tagaytay, there are plenty of religious places to consider. If you want a retreat house cum tourist destination, try the Convent of Divine Mercy which houses the Pink Sisters. Before you leave, don’t forget to buy the sisters’ Angel Cookies for pasalubong. Other must-buys are the Good Shepherd Convent’s delicious ube (yam) and fruit jams; and Angel Hill’s retreat house beside Pink Sisters, which sells buko tarts.

Before going back to Manila, make another stop at a flower farm that abound within the area. You can get locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ornamental flowers to bring home. The largest concentration of roadside fruit vendors in Tagaytay is found near the old city market , along the road leading to Sta. Rosa City (Laguna). Among the must-buy items are the sweet pineapples, bananas (señorita variety), mangoes, rambutan, papayas and guyabanos.

If you still have space in your trunk, try to pass by the Mahogany Public Market which is home to the famous Tagaytay beef meat. The beef meat price is generally the same as anywhere else but the quality is said to be much better. The same can be said about out-of-town trips. A drive to any place outside Manila may provide a relaxing weekend, but in Tagaytay, it always comes out extra cool.

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