San Pablo is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines and one of the largest in the province of Laguna. It has seven lakes: Sampaloc, Bunot, Muhikap, Pandin, Yambo, Palakpakin and Calibato. One of the commercialized cities in the province, San Pablo is not only the location of numerous attractions but also some establishments and universities as well.
San Pablo's lakes are some of its attractions. The largest is Sampaloc Lake, visited by tourists for a stroll or a picnic on its lakeside park. It also has restaurants where you can enjoy a sumptuous meal and a stunning view of the lake. There are also bamboo raft rides and fishing equipment available for rent in Lake Pandin. And if you want really amazing pictures, the most scenic of the lakes are said to be Palakpakin and Muhikap.
Another attraction that you also shouldn't miss in San Pablo is Villa Escudero, a plantation turned into one of the most popular resorts in the city. It has a memorial museum, a lake, and a venue for cultural shows. It also has a buffet restaurant located at the foot of a man-made waterfall.
Every first week of January, the people of San Pablo celebrate the Coconut Festival to honor its patron St. Paul the Hermit, and as thanksgiving for the city's main agricultural product. Colorful parades, street dances and various competitions are the highlights of the event. The Coconut Festival is a weeklong celebration and has been awarded multiple times by the Department of Tourism.
By Land San Pablo City is only two to three hours away from Metro Manila by bus. Just hop on a Lucena-bound bus like JAM Liner or JAC Liner and tell the conductor to drop you off at San Pablo City. The terminals for these bus lines are located along Buendia Avenue in Pasay City.
Meanwhile, if you're going to drive, your trip will be shortened to only two hours if you take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
How to Get Around By Jeep
Jeepneys are the most common means of transportation in San Pablo City. These vehicles ply the roads daily and can take you to some destinations around the city.
For short distances, tricycles are also available in San Pablo.
What to See Landmarks
San Pablo City is considered one of the oldest cities in the country. It is home to some historical sites that will truly please history buffs. One of them is the San Pablo Cathedral.
Saint Paul the First Hermit Cathedral is San Pablo City's parish church. Constructed in the late 1500s, the centuries-old church is a usual stop for Catholic locals and tourists seeking spiritual guidance for their trip. Visitors will be greeted with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus fronting the church.
The Fule-Malvar Mansion is another must-see historical attraction in San Pablo. Dubbed as the White Mansion of San Pablo, Laguna, this ancestral house was owned by Dr. Potenciano Malvar, a former governor of Laguna and the brother of General Miguel Malvar, a hero of the Philippine revolution and the last general of the Philippine Republic to surrender to the Americans. This grand residence was constructed in 1912 in the Beaux Arts Style of Architecture. At present, it functions as an office for an insurance company. Some parts may have been renovated but it still bears its original grandiosity.
The Seven Lakes of San Pablo are the city's most famous tourist draws. These crater lakes were naturally formed from a volcanic eruption. In contrast to their violent formations, the lakes themselves are peaceful and are ideal places for relaxing and unwinding from the hustle and bustle of the metro.
Sampaloc Lake is the largest among the seven lakes and arguably the most visited because of its accessibility to town. This vast body of water has fish pens teeming with tilapia and bangus (milkfish). Locals love to have peaceful walks along the boardwalk; there also bicycles that you can rent. Don't forget to snap a photo of the iconic Tilapia Monument.
The twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo can be reached after a short trek. These placid lakes are ideal for swimming, rafting, and picnics. You can choose to bring your own lunch or avail of a packaged tour which includes a meal aboard a raft or balsa itself. Other lakes you can visit include Mojicap Lake, Palakpakin Cave, Bunot Lake, and Calibato Lake.
Mountaineers can also conquer the mountains in San Pablo like Mt. Cristobal and Mt. Mabilog.
Bato Springs Resort is the perfect place to relax in San Pablo City. Located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, the resort has several pools with natural spring water from the mountains. The resort is also surrounded by lush greens, making it the ideal spot to commuune with nature.
Events and Festivals
San Pablo City celebrates its annual Coconut Festival every first to second week of January. The feast is held in honor of the city's patron saint, St. Paul the Hermit. This week-long event is highlighted by a parade, street dances, and many competitions and pageants.
Where to Eat Restaurants
San Pablo City is home to several restaurants that offer sumptuous meals for tourists. One of the best known is Sulyap Gallery Cafe.
Sulyap Gallery Cafe is Sulyap Bed and Breakfast's in-house restaurant. The rustic joint serves Filipino comfort food such as kare-kare and sinigang na sugpo that complements with the native Filipino theme of the restaurant.
Another popular restaurant is Suki Alfresco Restaurant, a Japanese restaurant that serves pocket-friendly Japanese dishes like sushi, sashimi, and tempura. It also offers Filipino dishes for guests who prefer local delicacies.
Si Christina Gateau Sans Rival, on the other hand, offers Western dishes like steaks, nachos, and pastas. Their yummy pastries are perfect pasalubong for friends and family. Don't forget to order a slice of their yummy sans rival cake for dessert.
Where to Shop Malls
Shopaholics can get their shopping fix at SM City San Pablo. The mall has several shops as well as entertainment and recreation options.
Swing by Kalahi Bakery and order a box of their famous yema cake or their chocolate cake. There are also other pastries that you can buy for pasalubong.
There is also a branch of Collette's in San Pablo if you want to bring home their famous buko pie.
Street vendors in San Pablo sell all kinds of kakanin, but their ube or halaya is popular among tourists.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are many banks and ATMs in San Pablo City. Likewise, you'll find a few money changers and remittance shops.
Fare: PHP 150.00
The bus fare from Metro Manila to San Pablo City costs less than PHP 150.00.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 300.00
San Pablo City has both affordable and upscale dining choices so no matter what your budget is, you are sure to enjoy delicious meals while there.
Shopping: PHP 100.00 to PHP 200.00
Three packs of halaya are sold at street stalls for around PHP 100.00. Meanwhile, the price for a box of Collette's Buko Pie starts at PHP 150.00. Meanwhile, a whole cake from Kalahi Bakery costs more or less PHP 200.00.
Accommodation: PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 3,000.00
San Pablo City has varied accommodations for all sorts of travelers. Choose from hotels, resorts, and inns for your accommodation.
Activities: PHP 70.00 to PHP 500.00
The rates for tours to the Pandin and Yambo lakes depend on the size of your group, but PHP 500.00 per person would be a safe bet. This already includes lunch meals.
Meanwhile, the admission fee to Bato Springs Resort costs PHP 70.00 to PHP 80.00. PHP 125.00 is the overnight rate. There are also accommodations available for overnight stays.