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Biking to Daraitan Again

Biking and Hiking Daraitan

Imaginary album cover by an imaginary rock band

Sometimes a place is so beautiful, one visit just isn’t enough. El Nido is like that. Sagada is like that too. Batanes is very high on that list. And now, I must add Daraitan to that rundown.

I visited Daraitan three years ago in one of the best 21k trail runs I had ever done. A year later I visited it again on a solo mountain bike ride. This year, I visited it yet again with my significant other and some mountain biker friends.

While climbing down some of the huge limestone boulders that dotted the landscape, even my jaded travel blogging ex-girlfriend agreed: Daraitan is a special place. It’s got that otherworldly charm that recalls fantasy novels and bygone eras from which epic sagas are forged.

Biking and Hiking Daraitan

The cleanest river in the region, and it’s bikeable

Our group was originally planning to meet up at Shell Marcos highway, and then do a padyakoldaway bikepacking trip through Marilaque to Daraitan while lugging along tents, cooksets, food, beer, sleeping bags and other camping equipment. The plan was to stay overnight at Daraitan on Maundy Thursday, and then pedal back to mundane civilization on Good Friday.

But I remembered what a guide told me a year ago about Daraitan: Ang dami pong tao dito pag mahal na raw ser!


God’s country

I had visions of people getting packed as tight as a rush hour MRT train, all the while wailing karaoke in their most godawful gin-addled voices. Alarm bells immediately started ringing in my head. That was not exactly my idea of a relaxing commune with nature, so I scrapped the camping idea. We were just going to do a day-visit.

Biking Marilaque Highway

A relaxing downhill ride from Cafe Katerina

Since it was just a day visit, I advised my companions to skip the long ride from Marcos highway in Antipolo and just drive to someplace nearer Tanay. This way we would have more time to explore Daraitan and relish the vibe of the place. I knew from experience that it was going to take us the whole day to get to the famous Tinipak rocks if we started at Shell Marcos highway.

So instead, we parked our cars at Café Katerina in Sampaloc, Tanay assembled our bikes, and proceeded to pedal to Daraitan.

The nice thing about the Sierra Madre mountains is that if you arrive early enough in the morning, you can be sure that the air will be crisp and cool. While Metro Manila was getting microwaved and broiled under the April sun, it still felt like December that morning at Cafe Katerina.

Biking Marilaque Highway

Cool and green, I’ll never get tired of riding this highway

Biking Marilaque Highway

Windmills visible from the highway

It was a nice and easy downhill ride from there to the Sampaloc junction where we encountered a bit of traffic from thousands of people who were making a pilgrimage to the Regina Rica shrine.

Bike Ride to Daraitan

The obligatory wheelie for Daraitan

But after about an hour or so of weaving through the pilgrim traffic, we arrived at Daraitan road.

The last time I went to Daraitan, I hardly had enough time to appreciate the place. I was tired, and it was getting late in the day, and I needed to get back to my car in a land far far away before it got too dark and dangerous on the Sierra Madre highway.

This time, I had come back much wiser. I and my companions had more time to soak in the awesomeness of this slice of unspoiled nature.

Bike Ride to Daraitan

Thanks to my companions, I got saved from falling down a bottomless ravine :p

JM, who used to be a climbing instructor at PowerUp marveled at the quality of the boulders and cliffs of Daraitan. We both agreed that we should bring some of the PowerUp people here soon so they can better scout the area for climbing and bouldering.

A few things had changed here since my last visit. There was now a visitor center complete with a tindahan at the General Nakar side of the river. It was cool to be able to buy cold drinks in that area. The guide also told us that the Dumagats had already built bridges across the trickier river crossings.

Daraitan Cliffs

These limestone cliffs may just see some climbing bolts soon


We used to have to clamber over these boulders


Pwede kaya bike dito?

Biking and Hiking in DaraitanWhile hiking towards the Daraitan cave, I regretted my decision to cancel the camping trip. Apparently, the word “crowded” here does not have the same meaning as “crowded” in Wawa, Montalban.


The entrance to the cave is guarded by this huge Balete tree


The cavern is not huge, but it’s spectacular nonetheless

After an hour or so of hiking, we finally reached the cave. There was blood on one of the rocks at the entrance. I thought someone had an accident there, but our guide simply said that someone had sacrificed a chicken to placate the spirits of the area.

The cave is easily one of the most beautiful caverns you can explore near Manila. Unlike many caves near Metro Manila which have gotten vandalized and trashed, Daraitan cave is still relatively untouched and pristine.

Daraitan Cave

A pool inside a cave! How cool is that?

The best thing about it is that at the end, there’s a shallow pool where you can take a dip and refresh yourself. I had been to several caves before, but this was the first time I had ever taken a swim inside a cave. When you just let yourself float on the water and close your eyes, there’s a magical kind of silence that takes over the mind. When you open your eyes and see darkness of the cavern, you realize that it’s not the frightening kind of darkness but something akin to unburdened peaceful sleep.

Daraitan Cave

Can you spot the creepy skull?

Daraitan Cave

It’s a vertical climb in and out of the cave

Daraitan Cave

If you’re into bouldering, there’s lots of cool boulders in Daraitan

The only downside to a bike trip to Daraitan is ironically… its upside. We had to climb back to the Marilaque highway, back to our parked cars which were more than 2 hours away. To cut a long story short: it was an agonizing uphill trip on bikes.

Daraitan Cave

Mt. Daraitan in the background. That’s gonna be our next target

Fortunately, we had great accommodations at Camp Explore in Antipolo. But this camp deserves a piece all to itself.

Anyway, Daraitan really is a special place. Next time we come here, I’ll make sure to bring a tent. Maybe we’ll do a sidetrip to the Laiban Dam too. And if there’s time, climb Mt. Daraitan itself.

If you want to organize your own bike ride to Daraitan, or if you plan to go there via public or private transpo, check out this article by traveling-up.com. It’s got info on directions, fees, and useful tips.


I just love this place

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  • Rodel Calumpiano

    June 4, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    HI sir Art, magkano po yung singil sa inyo ng guide? And what other expenses? Environmental fee? use of bridge?

    • outsideslacker

      June 5, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Hey bro, I updated the article with a link to a piece written by traveling-up.com
      It’s got all the info you need 🙂

      • I would like to ask your opinion about bike. I am also a newbie biker, and I dont know any good brand or components of bike, no idea at all. Im planning to buy a bike during my vacation in Philippines. My purpose is mostly for touring around, running errands and do some trail also but not to the extreme. My budget is from 10K-15K, and I need your help on this one and if your going to assemble a bike for me what would be the components for that given budget, I’m 5’10”? So that I have comparison to the shops I am planning to call or visit like Glorious, Paulinas’s and King’s.

        I have a bike here in Korea, I think its a local brand and pretty descent one, converted to persos,its only 5K pesos plus

        • outsideslacker

          June 19, 2015 at 12:54 pm

          hey bro, a 15k budget is likely to get you an alloy frame, suntour xcm forks, shimano altus components. a size 17 or 18 frame will probably fit you. that should be good enough for some light trail duties and road touring for a newbie. don’t forget to include a helmet in your purchase. some destinations, like timberland, require a helmet before they let you in

  • Errol Joseph Lachica

    July 15, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Hi Sir. Is it safe to go to Daraitan during the monsoon season?

    • outsideslacker

      July 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      safe naman basta huwag ondoy/habagat level ang ulan? kelan nyo balak pumunta? 🙂

      • Errol Joseph Lachica

        July 20, 2015 at 7:09 am

        Planning palang but probably will do balagbag via licao trails first. Hope you’d join.;)

  • Errol Joseph Lachica

    July 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Wow, paplanuhin namin. Soon. May kakilala kami na taga Sampaloc na pwede dun na ang rideout hehehe… Will keep you posted

  • Hi Sir!

    Nice article po. Question po, if mag-bike kami sa Daraitan (lets say 10 persons) magbabayad po ba kami ng Tour Guide?

    Di naman kami newbie pero ilang oras papadyakin kapag galing ka ng Shell Marcos Highway papuntang Daraitan sir?

    Hanggang Palo Alto pa lang po kasi ang narating namin 😀


    • hi daryl. yup, kailangan magbayad ng guide. kasama na kasi sa rules and regulations ng daraitan yun.
      from cafe katerina, inabaot na kami ng almost 2 hours nun. from shell marcos hiway, cafe katerina would probably be 3-4 hours away pa at a non-mamaw pace.
      so kung patw kayo, i suggest agahan nyo ang alis, mga 4 or 5am para makapaligo kayo at makapag-caving sa daraitan.
      sigurado gagabihin kayo sa daan kaya magbaon na rin kayo ng bike lights. damihan nyo na rin ang tubig dahil wala mabibilan sa daan pag gabi na.