Looking for awesome things to do in the Philippines?
We’ve got you covered with this mouthwatering list!
I’m heading to the Philippines later this year but have only got two weeks in which to get a feel for the country. I don’t want to spend every minute travelling but I do want to experience the diversity of the country. With this in mind, I enlisted the help of the travel blogging community to come up with some suggestions for top things to do for those on a tight schedule. Now that is what I call crowdsourcing your vacation!
I asked intrepid travellers to focus on Boracay, Luzon (where Manila is located) and Palawan but with flexibility to suggest other options if they felt that the location was sufficiently easy to reach and extra special. So here goes, hopefully this collection will inspire your holiday plans too. The hardest part for me is going to be deciding the final itinerary!
Mt. Pinatubo – Re of Her Report
About a two and a half hour drive outside Manila is Mt. Pinatubo, an active stratovolcano in the Cabusilan Mountains on the island of Luzon. There was a massive eruption in 1991 (the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century), and today its crater is home to a beautiful blue lake worth checking out. The trek is a long one, but relatively easy even if you’re on a budget. The best way is to schedule a tour with Pinatubo Tours which will cost about $45 USD for the whole trip.
They’ll bus you from Manila to the base camp in Capas, Tarlac, about 17 miles from the lake. You’ll hop into a 4×4 that’ll take you the rest of the way and then a local guide will lead your hike up. Make sure to check the weather, eat a big meal that’ll sit well (the 4×4 ride takes about an hour and a half, and is VERY bumpy), wear sunscreen as you’ll be in open Ashland terrains and massive, sunny lahar canyons, and if you’re bringing along a hat, sunglasses or camera, make sure they’re strapped to you so they don’t fly off along the 4×4 ride!
Anne: this definitely sounds like one for the itinerary. Love the sound of the lake!
Batad, Ifugao by Carlo of Travelosyo
Someone traveling the Philippines should not miss the Mountainous Province of Luzon. If the southern part of the country is famous for white beaches, crystal clear waters and a breathtaking underwater world, the north is renowned for marvelous rice terraces.
Approximately 10 hours away from Manila via public bus, apart from visiting the world-renowned Banaue Rice Terraces, I highly recommend seeing another UNESCO world heritage site which is known for its amphitheater view of rice terraces, none other than Batad.
One of my favourite places, it doesn’t offer rides and live entertainment shows. Instead, it offers a connection to nature, people and culture. Experience a simple life away from social media, breathe in fresher air, taste natural food, trek to thousands of terraces and be awestruck by magnificent falls after a two-hour trek to the rice fields.
Anne: I desperately want to visit the rice terraces but really don’t know if my husband will forgive me the ten hour journey to get there!
Manila, Intramuros by Maya of Maya The Explorer
Every trip to Manila should come with a Carlos Celdran tour. He is one of the most controversial figures in Manila and his tours manage to give you a highly entertaining overview of Manila history and culture while touring the most famous part of the city. You can easily hail a taxi and head to Intramuros, the oldest part of the city, for this tour. Book ahead though, as they do sell out.
Every tourist should also visit Greenhills Shopping Center. Not into shopping? No problem. One could easily people watch for hours as the merchants try to wheel and deal everything from real high quality pearls to very fake Louis Vuitton bags. Watch as they celebrate a sale by rubbing the newly acquired money all over the remaining merchandise. Besides people watching, Greenhills is also an excellent place to buy authentic handcrafted Filipino souvenirs.
Fort Bonifacio is a great up and coming area of Manila to stay. It has a range of hotels and lots of dining and shopping options. It’s also centrally located and is a very safe area. You can do anything from run a 5k in Fort Bonifacio to dance the night away in one of its many clubs.
Anne: Manila seems to be bathed in mystery and rumour. My husband thinks we should bypass it all together as we allegedly need a bodyguard. How funny!
Frankly I don’t think anyone would want to kidnap me as I would likely talk them to death! I certainly love the idea of Intramuros as I love colonial cities and it reminds me of Mexico City.
Calaguas Island by Julie Cao of Always on the Way
Calaguas Island is an uninhabited island in Luzon’s southernmost region of Camarines Norte. The island is only accessible by two-hour Bangka boat transfer from Vinzon and Paracale. It offers cyan waters, diverse marine creatures, and white-sand beaches that stretch for miles. It is a south Luzon version of Boracay, free of commercial activities and tourists.
The main and most visited island on Calaguas is Tinaga Island, where the famous Mahabang Buhangin (long beach) is located complete with volcanic rocks. Malacubo and Quinamanucan Island are both a short boat ride from Tinaga and have wonderful places for snorkeling and scuba diving.
A visit to Calaguas Island offers a chance to reconnect with nature as the islands offer limited access to water and electricity, there are no restaurants, no concrete accommodations (camping or beach huts are your only options), and no cell phone or internet service. Here, you will not see people checking their phones and looking at Facebook updates. Instead, visitors bond with their friends, eat outdoors, party around the bonfire, get loose under the cool ocean breeze, and sleep under the stars.
If you do decide to visit Calaguas, it is best to avoid traveling during the monsoon season (June to September) as the Bangka transfer is likely to be delayed or cancelled, bring cash as it is the only acceptable form of payment, a flashlight (it will be pitch black at night!) and leave a message with family and friends to let them know where you are going.
Anne: This place sounds idyllic so it may make it onto the itinerary!
Boracay by Anna of Adventure In You
Boracay is undoubtedly one of the best islands to visit while planning a trip around the Philippines. Between it’s pristine white sand beaches, vibrant nightlife, and unreal sunsets, a visit here is a MUST do! I lived in the Boracay for three years and those were some of the best years of my life! Not only is it a big tourist hotspot but there are also a lot of very cool locals who live on the island.
A must see recommendation is a visit to Puka beach. Hire a paraw (sailboat) and spend the day here. Bring some food for a picnic, some beers or a bottle of rum and “tadaaah”, you instantly have the best beach day ever. The sunsets in Boracay are some of the best that i’ve seen in the world and nothing beats watching it while you’re floating in the sea.
We recently compiled a guide on The Best Places to Stay in Boracay as we commonly get asked where to stay. Here, we listed our personal favorites and top picks!
Anne: That is truly a stunning sunset and has me scrambling to check out flights.
If you are also a keen diver and want to see the very best dive sites that the Philippines has to offer, then check out the best Philippines liveaboard too. It had me seriously drooling!
Bantayan Island by Bob of Traveling Fool
I have traveled to the Philippines several times visiting both major cities and little out of the way places. One of my favorite places is Bantayan Island off the northwest coast of Cebu.
With the exception of holy week, beginning on Palm Sunday, the island is generally free of a lot of tourists. There are three towns on the island with Sante Fe being where the hotels and resorts are located.
The main town of Bantayan is a great place to explore with a historic church, market and port facilities. The beaches are beautiful, the water is calm and clear and it is a great place to relax. There is even the remains of an old Spanish fort.
Since the island is only about 45 square miles it is easy to rent a scooter and take in the entire island, exploring all the towns and countryside, in one day.
In order to get to the island, take a bus from Cebu to Hagnaya Port in the town of San Remigio and take the ferry to Sante Fe.
Anne: I’m starting to realise that there A LOT of incredible beaches in the Philippines. The problem is how do I choose?!
El Nido by Tom of Travelling Tom
For me, El Nido is not only the best place to visit in Palawan, but in the Philippines. Despite the 5 hour bus ride to get there, it is definitely worth it. When you arrive, you will be greeted by towering limestone cliffs, golden beaches and blue seas. The views from all corners of El Nido are incredible and you have to do one of the many boat tours while you are here to truly appreciate it.
One thing to bear in mind is that there are no ATMs here. So, be sure to withdraw enough money before you leave. Perhaps that is one of the reasons El Nido is known as the final frontier!
Napcan beach by Carolin of Breathing Travel
El Nido in the north of the island is not easily accessible unless you take a direct plane to the tiny airport just outside of El Nido. Otherwise it is a windy bus ride from Puerto Princesa. The journey can be a killer but is definitely worth it.
El Nido itself is not overly exciting hosting just a few small streets but be sure to head to my favourite place to have a cocktail in the evening – Pukka Bar right on the beach. Once the sun rises, head out on one of the many island hopping tours (Tour A and C are the most popular) or if you have a few extra dollars, consider joining up with a few friends and get a private boat as you will have the boat to yourself (great for some amazing photos!) and escape the crowds.
The water is warm and an amazing colour and there are many hidden beaches, caves and cliffs to discover, so even if you stay around for a few days you won’t be bored.
If you don’t want to jump on a boat, I recommend visiting Nacpan Beach reached by tri-cycle in about 30 minutes from El Nido. It is a huge stretch of beach perfect for walking, sunbathing and a exploring and if you come back there will be mango shakes waiting for you in the hammock.
Nagtabon Beach by Heather of Travelationship
One of our favorite locations on Palawan island was Nagtabon Beach located about 45 minutes northwest of Puerto Princesa airport. The beach cradles a beautiful, calm, crystal clear bay of turquoise water. The sand is white and soft making it a perfect location for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun. The beach tends to be less crowded, and few tourists visit because the entry road is quite steep and rocky.
Attempts are being made to pave the way and once completed Nagtabon Beach will become a tourist haven with direct transportation to/from the beach. Until then, I highly recommend renting a motorbike or car and getting yourself to Nagtabon Beach to enjoy its natural splendor as soon as possible.
Anne: oh wow this reminds me of tiny beaches we found in Brazil. El Nido is definitely going on my list as it looks incredible! I will be spoiled for choice with beautiful beaches.
Dos Palmas Island Resort by Andrew of Dishourtown
The two of them have known each other their whole lives. Few can say they have spent as much time with each other as they have. They went to the same school, have eaten at the same table more often than not, and were forced to share the likes of toys and candy, much to their dismay. They’re cousins, but closer than most siblings.
Their arguments are legendary; but in the serenity of the morning and the calm of the sea beneath them, as they sat on the big floating raft, they watched the fish under their feet and shared a quiet moment. This is Dos Palmas Island Resort, Palawan. Quiet, beautiful, and a place to catch moments.
Anne: if I didn’t need more tempting this may just have clinched the deal!
Have your say
So there you have it. What a great collection of ideas!
Of course the difficulty is going to be in choosing which suggestions to act upon. In the interests of crowdsourcing though, I’m going to have a little fun and open up the floor to you guys and let you decide. I’m only going to pick three to four destinations subject to time constraints so where do you think I should go?
Have your say in the comments below.
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