The Philippines, an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands, offer a lot of beautiful places and more than one can imagine. Up north, the country has mountains and Spanish colonial structures, down south, there are all sorts of beaches and venues for water sports, and in every corner, there is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
Planning a trip to the Philippines? Let this list help you choose which province or island to visit depending on your preferences and interests!
1. Pick strawberries in Benguet
Located 30 minutes away from Baguio city proper, La Trinidad Strawberry Farm in Benguet is a frequent side trip included in Baguio tours. The farm offers a unique experience that allows guests to pick fresh strawberries, which you can either bring home or consume right away. If you’re lucky, you might even get to meet the farmers taking care of the plantation and learn some harvesting techniques straight from them. Tip: the best months for strawberry picking are from November to May.
2. Eat lechon in Cebu city
American television host and chef Anthony Bourdain already said it: Cebu’s lechon is “the best pig ever.” Roasted for hours to perfection, lechon is a popular pork dish in the Philippines that is often served during big gatherings and parties. In Cebu, however, where there are lots of restaurants and food outlets serving lechon, even an ordinary day of sightseeing can be turned into a delicious feast. Don’t forget to have your lechon with a local sauce made of liver spread and spices!
3. See Spanish colonial structures in Vigan
Vigan is a 16th-century Spanish colonial town located in the province of Ilocos Sur. Recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features charming cobblestone streets, old mansions, and shops selling antiques. You can explore by foot, but a quick tour of the whole place can be done aboard a horse-drawn carriage. The town also has two plazas, the Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos, where you will find fountain light shows and street food stalls. Another nearby landmark is the Vigan Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church with a Baroque-style structure.
4. Watch the sea of clouds in Sagada
It takes 10 hours of a bumpy bus ride from Manila and a few minutes of trekking up Mt. Kiltepan, but the wonderful view of a sea of clouds is more than enough reason to visit Sagada. Such a spectacle is only visible in the morning, which is why some tourists wake up as early as four in the morning to head to get a good spot at the viewing point. After watching the cinematic sunrise, you can grab some coffee from the nearby cafeteria or try other activities such as caving and spelunking (cave exploration).
5. Check out the Chocolate Hills of Bohol
Aptly named because of its color, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol is composed of more than a thousand brown mounds spread in a 50-square-kilometer (19.3-square-miles) land area. There’s a local legend that says this geological gem was formed when two giants fought and threw boulders at each other. Another myth says that hills were formed from the tears of a giant who fell in love with a mortal. You’ll hear more of these interesting stories when you visit the Chocolate Hills yourself. The original viewing station is located in the town of Carmen.
6. Experience island hopping in El Nido
Breathtaking seascapes await you in El Nido, a popular coastal town situated in Palawan. The best way to explore the area is by an island-hopping day tour. Such excursions take guests to attractions such as Miniloc Island, where you can kayak or try an aqua bike, and Shimizu Island, which is a perfect place for snorkeling. Meanwhile, if you are into diving, make sure you visit Dilumacad Island. For those who have longer days to spare, overnight island tours are recommended.
7. Marvel at the lush rice terraces of Banaue
The 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces is an intricate network of rice paddies that has its own irrigation system coming from the rainforest. A look at this ingenious creation would make one think that massive and modern equipment was used in carving the paddies from the mountains, but locals claim that these are made by hand and using only a few primitive tools. Trekking tours are the most popular way of exploring the rice terraces, which are usually led by locals who know the place by heart.
8. Visit Davao’s Crocodile Park
One of the most-visited attractions in the city of Davao is the Crocodile Park, home to saltwater crocodiles, Philippine crocodiles, and other animals such as tigers and deers. It is a kid-friendly destination, featuring animal shows and petting areas. Meanwhile, for adults looking for a unique experience, you can try an array of exotic food in the park’s restaurant. Their menu includes dishes with crocodile meat. If that’s too much for you, go for the crocodile ice cream instead. It is made from unhatched crocodile eggs!
9. Bike around Batanes
Batanes is the northernmost province of the Philippines, located near Taiwan. Here, you will find beautiful rolling hills, vast seascapes and limestone houses. Many hotels and inns can arrange a bike rental service for you. If you wish to join a group, you can join a biking tour with a guide. You need to be an experienced biker to endure the difficult and winding trails, but the gorgeous views makes the ride rewarding. If you will be cycling in Ivana, don’t forget to drop by the Honesty Store. It is an unmanned cafe where guests are trusted to pay the right amount even when no one is looking at them.
10. Bask in the beaches of Boracay
Boracay, a tropical destination in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, is a haven for beach-lovers and watersport enthusiasts. Its beaches, characterized by white sand and cool blue waters, are compared to those in Thailand and even those in the Caribbean. Some of the water activities you can choose from include jetskiing, diving, sailing, snorkeling, and windsurfing. You can also ride a native sailboat called a paraw for a day cruise. At night, the fun continues in Boracay with bars and restaurants open until dawn.
11. See the Taal Volcano from Tagaytay
A two-hour drive from Manila, the city of Tagaytay is a popular destination among locals for a quick weekend getaway. Aside from the cool climate, it is known as being the best viewpoint of the smallest active volcano in the country, the Taal Volcano, which is located within a lake of the same name. There are restaurants with viewing decks spread throughout Tagaytay, where you can marvel at the great views of the volcano while eating a hot bowl of a local version of beef stew, called bulalo. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can join a trekking tour or a boat tour to get a closer glimpse of the volcano.
12. Ride a boat through an underground river in Puerto Princesa
Over the years, the city of Puerto Princesa has already become synonymous with its magnificent underground river, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the St. Paul Mountain Range. Most tourists come here as a part of a tour, riding on boats with local guides. Some of the things you might see in the underground river include stalactites, stalagmites, and deep water holes. Considered a model of biodiversity, the 8.2-kilometer (5-mile) underground river is home to 800 plant species, 195 bird species, and eight bat species. A significant number of birds, mammals, and reptiles are also found in the area.
13. Experience cliff diving at Fortune Island in Batangas
Often compared to Santorini in Greece, Fortune Island in Batangas is where many local cliff divers usually go for a trip. The 27-hectare (66.7-acre) island was once a membership-only resort, but today, the public can enjoy its beauty with a minimal entrance fee. Aside from cliff diving, it is also an ideal place for snorkeling and casual swimming. For photography enthusiasts, Fortune Island has a Greek-inspired structure, similar to the Acropolis of Athens, and an old lighthouse. If you wish to stay longer, you can bring a tent and camp under the stars.
14. See The Ruins in Bacolod
There is a heartbreaking story behind Talisay’s most famous structure, or the remains of it. During the Spanish colonial era, there was a young bachelor named Mariano Ledesma Lacson who fell in love with Maria Braga, a Portuguese lady. They got married and had ten children. They had an almost perfect life until the woman died when she was pregnant with what would have been their 11th child. The man then coped with his sadness by building a mansion dedicated to the love of his life. During World War II, this mansion was set on fire. Luckily, its Italian-inspired foundations and neo-Romanesque columns remained intact and this is what you will see at the site today.
15. Feel the thrill of river rafting in Cagayan de Oro
Thrillseekers, make sure you put Cagayan de Oro on your priority list. It is one of the Philippines’ best white-water rafting destinations, particularly the Kalambaguasasahan River commonly known as the Cagayan River. It has a total of 21 rapids of varying difficulties. The first few sections are for beginners, while up ahead are rapids for more experienced rafters. Another thing that makes the Cagayan River so special is that it is surrounded by beautiful trees, lush greens, and wildlife species. You will enjoy the thrill while having a glimpse of nature at the same time!
16. Explore Coron by snorkeling
Coron, alongside Puerto Princesa and El Nido, is one of Palawan’s most-visited destinations. It is popular for its wreck diving sites, clean lakes, and abundant mangroves. An island-hopping boat tour is the best way to explore Coron’s beauty. It can take guests to attractions such as Kayangan Lake, Siete Pecados, Culion Island, Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, and Twin Lagoon. Meanwhile, if you are looking for other activities, you can also try trekking up Mount Tapyas for great panoramic views of the island or take a dip in Maquinit Hot Springs in case you want to loosen up after a tiring day of sightseeing.
17. Conquer the sand dunes of Laoag
Sand dunes are not common in the Philippines due to its natural topography, making the La Paz Sand Dunes in Laoag a must-visit. Here, you can rent a 4x4 vehicle with a driver who will take you up and down the dunes. Alternatively, you can walk on your own or stay in a specific section of the dunes where sand boarding is allowed. Compared to other sand dunes in the world, these are easy to navigate and are suitable for beginners. The best time to come here is either at sunrise or sunset. As much as possible, try to avoid coming at noon because it can get too hot.
18. Swim in the crystal clear waters of Siargao
Siargao is not as popular as its Palawan and Boracay counterparts, but the island is worth noting for its quiet atmosphere and clear blue waters. It also has beautiful coral reefs and sandbars, as well as a large mangrove forest reserve. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for some action, come to Siargao’s Cloud 9 Beach during September and witness, or participate in, a surfing competition organized by the World Surf League. Another emerging destination in Siargao is the Sohoton Lagoon, an eco-reserve where you can watch jellyfish and experience board diving.
19. Visit an open-air museum and heritage park in Bataan
Imagine what the Philippines was like during the Spanish colonial period when you visit the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in the province of Bataan. The heritage park and resort features restored colonial houses, which were disassembled from their respective locations from all over the country and then restructured to create a beautiful landscape. It gives guests an opportunity to learn more about the country’s history and also to appreciate colonial architecture. Las Casas became popular when it was used as one of the venues of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting.
20. Go surfing in Baler
Another popular surfing destination in the Philippines is the province of Baler, located on the east coast of the country. Some of the nicest beach breaks are along Sabang Beach. There’s also Charlie’s Point, where some scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now was filmed. You can bring your own boards, but you can also rent from one of the surf shops. Not yet a surfing expert? That’s alright because you can take surfing lessons which start from 150 PHP (approximately 3.2 USD) per hour.
21. Catch a glimpse of Mayon Volcano in Albay
Mayon Volcano, an active stratovolcano situated in the province of Albay, is renowned for its symmetric conical shape. You will see it from almost anywhere in the province, but the best places to view the volcano are from Ligñon Hill and the Cagsawa Ruins Park. There’s also a mall in the city of Legazpi, which is called Embarcadero, where you can dine and shop with the Mayon Volcano as your backdrop. For adventure-seekers, you can join an ATV tour and get even more closer to the volcano. However, children 12 years old and below are not allowed to ride an ATV in Legazpi.
22. Trek up Mount Pinatubo
The Philippines has its fair share of mountains and volcanoes. In Northern Luzon, there’s Mount Pinatubo, where you can experience both trekking and riding an off-road vehicle to reach the summit. The first half of most Mount Pinatubo tours is a 4x4 vehicle ride, which takes approximately an hour and a half. Then, visitors need to climb for around an hour to reach the crater itself. December to May would be the best time to visit. From June to November, it is the country’s rainy season and some parts of the trail might be impassable.
23. Try museum-hopping in Manila
Of course, a trip to the Philippines wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of its capital: Manila. The city has a high concentration of museums that can introduce you to the country’s history and arts, even when you are pressed for time and you only have one day to spare. First, there’s the National Museum, where 125 artifacts are on display. Some of the most famous items you will find here include Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and Napoleon Abueva’s Mother and Child. Another must-see is the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, containing both hispanic and modern art. Meanwhile, for kids, there is an interactive museum along Roxas Boulevard called the Museo Pambata.
24. Taste fresh mangoes of Guimaras
Mangoes are popular anywhere in the Philippines, but if you want a taste of the freshest and biggest ones, the place to go is Guimaras. The island province is home to approximately 50,000 mango trees, some of which are more than 100 years old. If you want to witness festivities dedicated to the rich harvest of mangoes, come to Guimaras during the third week of April for the Manggahan Festival. Meanwhile, those who are interested in learning about mango production can visit the Mango Research Center in the town of Jordan.
25. See whale sharks in Oslob
Oslob, a three-hour bus ride away from Cebu city proper, is well-known locally for the whale sharks that frequent the area. If you want to experience this for yourself, come during early morning because that’s when the gentle giants are most visible. Oslob boat tours can take you to the spots for whale shark watching. You can swim with them if you wish, or simply catch a glimpse of them from the vessel. However, please take note that guests are not allowed to ride or step on the whale sharks. You should also refrain from touching them.
Once you’ve bought your tickets and packed your bags, there’s only one thing left to do: be a responsible traveler. Enjoy the Philippines!
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