The Philippines is a destination that is easy to visit multiple times because of its more than 7,000 islands. The most difficult decision you make as a traveler is choosing which island to visit first. The Philippines is divided into three main island groups Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao representing different regions in the country.
The landscape in each region of the Philippines ranges from mountainous and tropical to metropolitan. You can enjoy a day walking the historic colonial streets of Manila’s capital or catch a rare glimpse of small, more muscular monkeys at a private sanctuary on the island of Bohol. The steep, gentle mountains offer unforgettable hiking experiences, and since you are surrounded by the Pacific the diving and beaches are among the best in the world.
There is a reason Boracay Island is considered the beach capital of the Philippines because there are more than 12 beaches. This small island in the western Visayas region is ideal for beachgoers looking for simple relaxation in the sun or water activities. White Beachon the west side of the island, is one of the most popular beaches, with a lively reputation. Puka Shell Beach is located on the tip of the island and is a favorite spot for shell collectors. Cagban Beach is a quiet place with caves nearby that are said to still contain treasure chests. Diniwid Beach is a small beach at the northern end of White Beach with the best view of the island from a platform rock located there. This island is known for its many resorts, so finding a place to stay is easy. For panoramic views of the island, take a day trip to Mount Luhothe highest point.
The island of Bohol in the Philippines’ Central Visayas region is a slower pace, and it’s a destination that showcases the country’s natural beauty. One of the most unique natural wonders on the island is the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. This UNESCO-Protected site is a collection of 1,200 geological formations that turn brown in the dry season, resembling a landscape of chocolate chip cookies. Bohol is home to a family-run sanctuary for the little ones Tarsier primate, known for its large captivating eyes. For a small fee you can take an intimate walk through the grounds and get within inches of the small nocturnal creature. The showcase of Bohol is the beach.
The island of Cebu, in the central Visayas region, is considered the haven for some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Philippines. If you are an underwater enthusiast, Cebu is one of your best options for excursions that will take you up close to whale sharks, coral reefs, and sea turtles. Some of the most spectacular waterscapes near Cebu are the sea caves that attract photographers and outdoor enthusiasts looking for unique diving and snorkeling spots. The Sudlon National Park, about an hour’s drive from Cebu City, is a breathtaking park to explore and stroll. While Cebu’s biggest draw is its water, Cebu city is a metropolitan area, with tourist attractions such as museums and cathedrals that will interest history buffs.
The Banaue Rice Terraces are one of the most striking things to see in the Philippines. The emerald green terraces are an agricultural wonder in this area. Your most impressive view of the terraces is at sunrise, when clouds and mist rise from the mountain to reveal the intricate landscape of the terraces. The Batad rice terraces and the Bangaan Rice Terraces are protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For a deeper taste of this region, take a stroll through the Banaue Ethnic Village or the Hiwang Village to mingle with the indigenous people who farm the rice terraces.
The historic city of Vigan in the northern Philippines is one of the most charming cities to visit in the Luzon region. The culture is a fusion of Chinese and Spanish influences that came from settlers in the area. Take a horse-drawn kalesa ride through the streets and admire the colonial architecture, courtesy of the Spanish who colonized the area in the 18th century. Vigan is a city with many nuances to discover. The best view of the area is from the Bantay Bell Tower, which is also a well-known landmark in the area. The Calle Crisologo historic district is a walkable district, where you’ll encounter many local artisans and see historic architecture. A visit to the St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral is breathtaking and a perfect place to sit and people watch while taking in the local culture.
The Philippines’ capital of Manila, on the island of Luzon, is a bustling city with non-stop activities. Hop aboard one of the colorful jeepneys, the main form of public transportation, to get a taste of local life. Usually packed with locals, the bumpy ride through the streets on the iconic and kitschy jeep/bus hybrid vehicles will be one of the highlights of your visit. Plan stops to the big park in town, Rizal Parkand the historical San Agustin Church that was built in the 16th century. Buy local fruits and handmade gifts at the public market Quiapo Churchwhere you’ll likely see several thousand people showing up for worship on Fridays.
7 Davao City
For a cityscape outside of Manila, head to Davao City, which has a large urban area. Davao City is the main city in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. Despite its shopping centers and large population, Davao City has many natural features, including the Eden Nature Park, Philippine Eagle Centerand the Davao Baywalk close to the sea. One of the must-visit places in Davao City is Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. Davao City is an excellent location for shopping as there are several major shopping centers including Abreeza Mall and SM Lanang Premier Mall. For a glimpse into Davao City history and culture, the little Davao Museum of History and Ethnography is worth a visit.
Hanging coffins of Sagada
One of the most unique experiences you can have in the Philippines is in the Northern Tribal Region in Sagada. Located in the rough and at a distance Cordillera Mountains are tribes that embrace the occasional visitor. This area is a paradise for avid outdoor enthusiasts. The steep mountains and high altitudes enhance the thrill and skill level required for outdoor adventures. One of the must-sees in this region are the hanging coffins that hide deep in the mountains. It is best to connect with a local guide to take you to this incredible site as this is not a tourist area, but rather an authentic tribal region that offers an experience worth bragging about. Hiking is popular in Sagada, especially to Mount Ampacowhich has the highest peak in the region or by Echo Valleywith a steep and rugged terrain.
9 Corona Island
One of the best diving destinations in the world, Coron Island is a tropical paradise, with electric blue and green waters that seem almost unreal. The mountainous island is located at the tip of Palawan Island, the westernmost part of the islands in the Philippines. The island is popular for diving because of the many wrecks here. Many of the preserved shipwrecks are located in depths ranging from shallow water to just three meters of water to 42 meters. Some wrecks take more than one dive to explore due to their size, but you can easily spend a week diving in this area. For non-shipwreck diving, check out Barracuda Lake, a former volcano with many unusual rock formations and fish.
Baguio is a city hidden in a mountainous area on the island of Luzon. Although it is a city, Baguio is intimate and reminiscent of a cottage-like environment. Baguio is called the City of Pines for the rich pine forests and colder temperatures surrounding it. You can explore one of the many hiking and biking trails or play golf at one of the area’s resorts. Baguio is unique from other destinations in the Philippines because the city is surrounded by trees and no water. Parks like View mines and Burnham allows you to enjoy some of the flora and fauna special to this region. Make sure you spend some time Session gonewhich is the main road through Baguio, where you can see a slice of local life.
11 Puerto Princesa
The rock islands, caves and nature parks of Palawan Island are the hidden paradise of the Philippines. The coastal town of Puerto Princesa is where to base yourself to explore some of the country’s natural gems. The Subterranean River National Park is a great first stop to see a 10km underground river and impressive limestone caves. The UNESCO World Heritage has boat trips that take you through the national park. Other must-see places in Puerto Princesa are Honda Baywhich is popular for snorkeling, and Ugong Rockwhere you can try ziplining and caving.
On Samal Island, also called Garden City of Samal, hiking, diving and kayaking are a way of life. One of the best things to do on Samal Island, besides relaxing on the beach, is to visit the Monfort Bat Sanctuary, where millions of bats live in the caves. A nice day trip away from the beach is to Hagimit Falls, where you can hike the nature trails and cool off in one of the pools beneath the tropical waterfalls. Samal Island is a short distance from Davao City, which is a great change when you want a more metropolitan scene or a wider range of dining options.