12 Hidden Gems in Manila for an Adventure Off the Beaten Path

12 Hidden Gems Around Manila for an Adventure Off the Beaten Path

Discover the best-kept secrets in and near the Philippines’ capital!

Beyond Metro Manila’s touristy spots and iconic landmarks lies a treasure trove of underrated places and hidden gems that promise unique experiences. Here’s an idea for your trip to the Philippines’ capital: Break free from usual paths and set foot onto the roads less travelled. If you’re curious to see what to do in and near Manila off the beaten path, then look no further. 

Here, we list some of the best-kept secrets and hidden gems in and near Manila! From urban parks and heritage houses to scenic cafes and farms, there’s quite a lot to discover.

Also read: 13 Airbnb Homes & Vacation Rentals in Manila For a Well-Deserved Staycation

Where to stay in Metro Manila

Hidden gems abound in Manila. But before setting out on your urban explorations, you better find a comfortable base to rest at the end of the day. If you’re looking to call the metro home, it’s hard to beat Seda Residences Makati, a winner of the 2023 Travel Excellence Awards by TripZilla — Serviced Residence Star

Live the hotel lifestyle while enjoying the comforts of a home. Whether you pick one of the tastefully designed studios or the more premium three-bedroom apartments with panoramic city views, you can look forward to high-quality furnishings, elegant decor, and modern amenities. Enjoy vacation perks like a swimming pool and gym facilities while relaxing in plush accommodations between daytime adventures. Plus, it’s close to the city’s best dining and shopping spots. Expect the best of all worlds in Seda Residences Makati!

Underrated places in Metro Manila you might not have heard of yet

1. Arroceros Urban Forest Park

hidden gems in manila - Arroceros

Image credit: Ganmatthew

Situated in the central district of Ermita in the City of Manila, this charming pocket of nature stands as a peaceful and verdant sanctuary amidst the urban landscape. Nicknamed the Last Lung of Manila, Arroceros Urban Forest Park has persistently shown its ability to lessen the city’s notorious air pollution. 

As one of the few green spaces in the metro, it offers visitors a quiet respite from the city’s noise and clamour. Admire its lush canopy of trees, explore its winding walkways, and enjoy its serene ambience. On one end of the park, you’ll find the Pasig River, which connects Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay.

Location: 659 A Antonio Villegas St, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Also read: 13 Nature Parks in Metro Manila for Chill Day Trips

2. Manila Hidden Garden

What was once a mere dumping ground and parking lot has now transformed into one of the most precious underrated places in Manila. Sitting adjacent to the Andres Bonifacio Shrine is the Manila Hidden Garden, a one-hectare, open-air green space. It features a series of pocket gardens and lots of spots to chill and stroll around. Not to mention, it also houses a cosy yet modern coffee shop for a quick afternoon snack! 

Location: HXVH+HR2, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

3. Bahay Nakpil-Bautista

Image credit: Dasig.studio

If you looking for hidden gems in Manila that give you a dose of rich history and heritage, Bahay Nakpil-Bautista is worthy of your attention. More than just a nationally significant historical site, it is also recognised as an architectural masterpiece. Built in 1914, this ancestral bahay na bato (stone house) features design elements typical of its time. Today, it holds artefacts and memorabilia of the revolutionary society of the Katipuneros

Location: 432 A. Bautista, Quiapo, Maynila, 1001 Metro Manila 

Also read: 20 Must-Visit Historical Buildings & Heritage Houses in the Philippines

4. Calvo Building Museum

Image credit (L-R):  Judgefloro; Patrick Roque

Nestled along Escolta Street aka The Queen of the Streets, Calvo Building Museum stands as a portal into the life of Pinoys from a bygone era. Here, you’ll spot tons of fascinating Old Manila memorabilia: from old newspapers, and postcards to vintage bottles and movie posters. Fun fact: Calvo Building is one of the few remaining architectural gems in Manila from the early 20th century!

Location: HXWH+W6G, Mlle. Del Banco Nacional, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila

5. Ronac Art Center

Nestled near the ever-so-busy Greenhills Shopping Center, this state-of-the-art building combines an interesting blend of establishments. Ronac Art Center unveils itself as a haven of contemporary art, fashion, and design for urban wanderers. Often overlooked by tourists visiting the Metro, it’s definitely one of those hidden gems in Manila for curious travellers who want to see beyond the typical tourist spots. Explore and get inspired by its in-house art gallery, apparel stores, and chill dining spots. 

Location: Ronac Art Center, #424 Ortigas Ave, San Juan, 1500 Metro Manila

6. San Sebastian Church

Image credit (L-R): SeamanWell; Arnell Gilberto Bercero

As the one and only all-steel church in Asia, the San Sebastian Basilica is notable for its stunning Gothic-inspired facade. In comparison to more popular churches like the Manila Cathedral or Baclaran Church, it remains an underrated gem, concealed within the busy streets of Quiapo. On your venture off the beaten path in Manila, San Sebastian offers a sanctuary where faith, culture, and architectural craftsmanship come together in harmony. 

Location: Pasaje del Carmen St, Quiapo, Manila, 1001 Metro Manila

Also read: 10 Stunning Churches in the Philippines Every Pinoy Must Visit

7. Seng Guan Temple

hidden gems in manila - seng guan temple

Image credit: SwarmCheng

Located along the unassuming Narra Street within the culturally diverse district of Tondo, you’ll find the beautiful Seng Guan Temple. As the first Buddhist temple in the Philippines, this place of worship carries a significant piece of Manila and the country’s history. 

When viewed from the outside, its facade is adorned with oriental markings, intricate carvings, and a quintessentially Chinese gable-and-hip roof. Inside, you’ll immediately be welcomed into the temple’s main shrine. 

Location: JX5F+3V5, Narra St, Tondo, Manila, Metro Manila

8. Lilac Street in Marikina City

No trip to Manila will ever be complete without embarking on a gastronomic adventure! Now, you’ve probably heard of the top food havens like Tomas Morato in Quezon City, Poblacion in Makati, and Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world. For a delightful neighbourhood dining experience, enter Lilac Street in Marikina City, the Shoe Capital of the Philippines!

This under-the-radar foodie hotspot lies within Marikina’s second district; although, it stretches a little over to Antipolo in the Province of Rizal. Whether it’s for brunch, lunch, or dinner, you can get your fill of delicious eats with its diverse selection of homegrown restaurants and cafes. Some must-visit dining spots here include Kalinaw Coffee Co. for delicious local brews and Miguel & Mari for comfort Filipino-American fare.

Location: Lilac St., Marikina, 1800 Metro Manila 

Hidden gems near Manila that are worth the day trip

9. Burrow Cafe at Antipolo Beehouse

As its name suggests, Burrow Cafe is an underground dining spot built amidst refreshing sights and sounds of nature. So, it’s quite literally one of the hidden gems near Manila you can’t miss! 

Upon entering the cafe, you’ll be greeted by homey, rustic interiors: cosy seating, warm lighting, and glass windows that overlook a forest and a tranquil river. Menu-wise, it features all-day breakfast, brunch, and lunch options to choose from. Additionally, it offers a small but growing selection of vegan choices.  

Location: 113 Beverly Hills Ave., Beverly Hills Subdivision, Taytay, 1920 Rizal

Also read: 20 Picturesque Cafes Worth the Road Trip from Manila

10. Caiña Ranch

Nicknamed the Nami Island of the Philippines, Caiña Ranch in Baras, Rizal lets you live out your K-drama moments! It boasts a scenic lane of mahogany trees that look straight out of a movie, tons of IG-worthy spots, and offers stunning views of Laguna de Bay. What’s more? It also has an al fresco restaurant that serves up delectable seafood dishes, which are Baras’ culinary specialities.

Location: National Road Brgy. Evangelista, Baras, Rizal 

11. Mount Purro Nature Reserve

The Province of Rizal teems with beautiful natural wonders that never fail to mesmerise tourists and locals alike. Its landscape comprises a captivating blend of rolling hills, majestic peaks, and tranquil lakes and rivers. Besides its popular tourist spots like Hinulugang Taktak National Park and Pinto Art Museum, it also provides underrated gems that are worthy of your attention. 

Escape to the picturesque oasis of Mount Purro Nature Reserve for a breathtaking respite in nature! Situated in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, this family-owned eco-park is home to lush forest trails that lead to a waterfall, swimming holes, recreational spots, and cosy kubo-style accommodations. If you’re seeking a secluded retreat that’s not too far away from the metro, this is just the place to be!

Location: Barangay Calawis, Antipolo, Rizal 

Also read: 10 Waterfalls Near Manila for Day Trips & Long Weekends

12. Hidden Valley Springs

After your fill of sightseeing and fun adventures, why not wind down and take it slow? The hot springs of Laguna might be what you’re looking for! Nestled in a lush tropical rainforest, Hidden Valley Springs treats visitors to a secluded and tranquil retreat in nature. With its crystalline water overflowing from Mount Makiling and its natural pools, relaxation is certainly inevitable. Fortunately, it only takes a two-hour drive from Manila to get reach this hidden pocket of nature! 

Location: Barangay Perez, Calauan, Laguna 

Also read: 10 Exciting Things to Do and Places to Visit in Manila at Night

There you have it: our list of underrated places and hidden gems in Manila! This barely scratches the surface of the metro’s best-kept secrets. Have you heard of these less-trodden paths? Perhaps you’d like to share your own discoveries! Tag us in your travel snapshots @tripzillamag and use the #TripZillaShare to be featured on our page. 

Featured image credit: Ganmatthew | Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Andrea Larice Yap
Andrea Larice Yap

Andrea is a writer and creative individual based in Manila. This tiny human runs on iced coffee, music and films. You’ll probably catch her daydreaming in a park or jotting down random words to to put in a song. Otherwise, expect her taking a dive in the pool of uncertainty called “life.”