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The Philippines is a nation comprised of 7,000 enchanting islands. It beckons adventurous travelers seeking an alluring destination brimming with vibrant culture and pristine natural wonders. So, let’s discover this tropical paradise that offers abundant exhilarating experiences in this complete Philippines travel guide.
The country’s marine life stands out as one of its most captivating treasures. It boasts an array of stunning underwater environments. And it appeals to both avid divers and ocean admirers alike.
The Philippines’ breathtaking coral reefs and marine biodiversity have earned it a reputation as one of the best scuba diving destinations. And visitors can immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the underwater world.
With so many activities and destinations to explore, organizing a Philippines travel itinerary can be overwhelming. But fear not, as we present a comprehensive Philippines travel guide. It is designed to help visitors maximize their trip to the fullest, ensuring an unforgettable travel experience.
- Best Things to Do in Philippines
- 1. Boracay
- 2. Bacolod
- 3. Explore the Bustling Capital City of Manila
- 4. Discover the captivating island of Palawan
- 5. Visit Queen City of the South, Cebu City
- 6. Marvel at Banau Rice Terraces
- 7. Discover Mayon Volcano
- 8. Explore Chocolate Hills and the island of Bohol
- Where to Stay in the Philippines
- How to Get Around in Philippines
- Jeepneys and Tricycles
- Travel Tips for Visiting The Philippines
- Prepare for the Weather
- Research Your Destination
- Respect the Environment
- Respect the Local Culture
- Embrace Novel Experiences
Best Things to Do in Philippines
Boracay Island is a favourite among travellers looking for a laid-back, tropical paradise. Boracay is home to the island’s only airport and has a number of resorts and hotels to choose from.
Boracay is home to a number of small villages, and the island is dotted with beautiful and secluded beaches. Visitors can also enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, boating, kayaking and hiking.
See Related: Cheapest Islands To Visit For Vacation
Bacolod is located near the Philippines’ western coast and sits on the island of Negros. The city is famous for its white sand beaches and has a number of beautiful beaches.
The city is also well known for its rich colonial buildings and a number of historical places, including the Bacolod Cathedral, the St. Joseph Church, the Negros Oriental Provincial Capitol and the Bacolod Light.
The city’s nightlife is lively and a number of bars and clubs host live music events for local and international audiences.
3. Explore the Bustling Capital City of Manila
Manila, the bustling metropolis and capital city of the Philippines, is an enthralling destination for the curious traveler seeking to experience the vivacity of Southeast Asia. With its fascinating and diverse culture, rich history, and delectable cuisine, Manila offers an unparalleled and unforgettable travel experience.
Manila Bay, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, is a natural harbor that has played a significant role in the country’s history. The bay offers a breathtaking view of sunsets. And it provides visitors with a perfect spot to soak in the tranquil sea breeze.
Tourists can also take a bay cruise to witness historical landmarks such as Fort Santiago and the Cultural Center of the Philippines from the waters.
Apart from the stunning natural scenery, Manila is a melting pot of Filipino culture. Visitors can fully immerse themselves in the local traditions by exploring the city’s numerous museums and galleries.
The National Museum of the Philippines is one such institution that boasts an extensive collection of art and artifacts that depict the country’s rich heritage. The Intramuros, a walled city that once served as the center of Spanish colonial power in the Philippines, is another must-visit attraction. It provides a guided tour of the city’s intriguing history, particularly during World War II.
No visit to Manila would be complete without indulging in the city’s mouth-watering Filipino cuisine. Filipino food is a delightful and flavorful fusion of various cultural influences that results in a unique and satisfying culinary experience.
Visitors can sample a wide range of traditional dishes, such as adobo, a delectable and savory stew made with soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. And sisig, a scrumptious and sizzling plate of chopped pork face and ears mixed with spices and lime juice.
For those with a sweet tooth, Filipino desserts such as halo-halo, a delectable shaved ice dessert with various toppings, and bibingka, a type of rice cake, are sure to satisfy and leave a lasting impression.
See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World to Visit
4. Discover the captivating island of Palawan
Palawan is a mesmerizing collection of remote islands in the Philippines. With its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and verdant forests, Palawan is a destination that promises to whisk visitors away to a paradise unlike any other.
One of the crown jewels of Palawan is the Underground River, a natural wonder nestled in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. This awe-inspiring underground river meanders through limestone caves, carving out an ethereal subterranean world that will take your breath away.
Embark on a guided boat tour of the river to explore its mysterious depths and marvel at the dazzling rock formations that line its winding path.
For those enamored with the island life, Palawan boasts over 1,700 islands to choose from, each with its unique charm and allure. Among these, El Nido stands out as a must-visit destination. Visitors can bask in the tranquil atmosphere of secluded beaches and majestic limestone cliffs.
Take a boat ride around the islands’ national park to discover hidden lagoons, secret beaches, and picturesque snorkeling spots. And you can also go on island hopping tours to discover hidden tropical island gems.
Palawan is also a diver’s paradise, with many world-class diving sites offering unforgettable experiences for novice and seasoned divers. Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts an incredible diversity of marine life. It includes whale sharks, turtles, and a kaleidoscope of colorful corals.
Other popular dive sites include the hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks of Coron Island. And the breathtaking coral gardens and underwater rock formations of the Bacuit Archipelago.
But Palawan’s splendor isn’t limited to its underwater wonders. The region also boasts some of the most stunning white sand beaches and beautiful palm trees, such as the unspoiled Nacpan Beach. With its pristine white sand, crystalline waters, and spectacular views of the sea and mountains, Nacpan Beach is a tranquil oasis perfect for lounging, swimming, or taking a stroll along the shore.
To immerse yourself in local island life, head to Puerto Princesa, the vibrant capital city of Palawan. Here, visitors can sample delicious local cuisine, shop for souvenirs at bustling markets, and explore the city’s rich history and culture.
Tour the city’s many attractions, including the grand Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the Palawan Museum, and the Plaza Cuartel. It is a former military fort that now serves as a serene park.
Don’t miss the chance to try some of Palawan’s signature dishes, such as the tangy seafood kinilaw or the exotic Tamilok. It is a type of woodworm that is considered a delicacy in Palawan.
5. Visit Queen City of the South, Cebu City
Cebu City is a dynamic and culturally enriched metropolis situated in the heart of the Philippines. Referred to as the “Queen City of the South,” Cebu has earned its reputation as the oldest city in the nation. And it is steeped in a vibrant tapestry of Philippine culture and history.
Its exceptional religious history is among the many exciting facets of Cebu’s heritage. The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia. And Cebu played a vital role in the country’s conversion to Christianity.
The Basilica del Santo Niño, the country’s oldest Catholic church, is situated in this city. It houses a statue of the Child Jesus, which Spanish explorers brought to the Philippines in the 16th century.
Every January, Cebu City reverberates with the spectacular Feast of the Santo Niño. This colorful and boisterous festival attracts thousands of visitors from across the nation. And celebrate faith and culture with street parties, parades, and religious processions.
The grand finale is the Sinulog Grand Parade, where performers garbed in vibrant costumes sway to traditional music. The city’s streets come to life with the lively revelry of the festival, rendering it a must-see event for any visitor to the city.
The Simala Church, also known as the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, is a well-known pilgrimage spot in Sibonga. And it is two hours away from Cebu City.
The church is famed for its miraculous image of Our Lady of Lindogon. And it is known for its healing properties. People come from all over the country to pay their respects and seek divine intervention.
Apart from its religious significance, the Simala Church is an awe-inspiring work of architecture. Its Gothic-inspired style and intricate details render it an excellent example of religious architecture in the Philippines.
Cebu City offers numerous other attractions for visitors to explore. The city’s downtown area features a rich history and provides opportunities to stroll along its historic streets and visit the iconic Magellan’s Cross.
Adventurers can embark on island-hopping excursions to nearby destinations such as Mactan Island and Malapascua Island, known for their picturesque beaches and breathtaking sceneries.
Cebu City’s cuisine is a feast for the senses, characterized by a blend of Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino influences. Visitors are encouraged to try the city’s signature dish, the lechon (roast pig), which has garnered worldwide recognition for its tantalizing flavors.
6. Marvel at Banau Rice Terraces
Nestled in the heart of the Philippine Cordillera Mountains lies a true testament to human ingenuity and resourcefulness – the Banau Rice Terraces. It is built over 2,000 years ago by the indigenous Ifugao people.
These terraces were designed to cultivate rice in the steep mountainous terrain. And have since become an iconic symbol of the region’s cultural heritage.
It stretches over 10,000 square kilometers and comprises thousands of hand-built terraces. The Banau Rice Terraces is not only an impressive feat of engineering but also a breathtaking sight to behold. These terraces, with their level fields carved into the mountain slopes, are a marvel and testament to the Ifugao people’s deep connection to the land.
The Banau Rice Terraces have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It recognizes their importance as a living cultural landscape that continues to be actively cultivated and maintained by the local communities.
As such, visitors to the terraces are not only treated to stunning views of the mountains and lush green fields but also to a rich cultural experience that highlights the traditional agricultural practices of the Ifugao people.
A visit to the Banau Terraces offers the opportunity to take guided tours or hike along the terraces. And take in the stunning views of the mountains and the lush green rice fields. Visitors can learn about the Ifugao people’s traditional agricultural practices and the terraces’ history.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the full experience, the planting season, which takes place between April and May, is the perfect time to visit. During this time, visitors can witness the local farmers preparing the fields for planting. And also flood the terraces and plant the rice seedlings by hand.
A visit to the Banau Rice Terraces should be a top priority for anyone visiting the Philippines—marvel at the awe-inspiring ingenuity and cultural significance of this ancient wonder. And take in the natural beauty of the mountains and rice fields. It’s an experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
7. Discover Mayon Volcano
Mayon Volcano is undoubtedly one of the most captivating natural wonders the Philippines offers. It stands tall at a lofty 2,400 meters above sea level. This majestic volcano is renowned globally as one of the most active and explosive volcanoes on the planet.
Nevertheless, this fact has not deterred nature enthusiasts, hikers, and adventurers from around the world from visiting Mayon Volcano.
Nestled in the province of Albay, Mayon Volcano is surrounded by a lush forest canopy, pristine beaches, and a thriving local culture. Visitors are treated to an array of natural splendor, mouth-watering delicacies, and a glimpse into the region’s unique history.
Scaling Mayon Volcano is an unforgettable experience. It allows climbers to revel in awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding landscape. And get a glimpse into the volcano’s storied past and present.
Generally speaking, climbing enthusiasts have an array of options to choose from. It includes easy trails for novice hikers to more challenging routes that will push seasoned climbers to their limits.
For brave adventurers up for a grueling but rewarding challenge, the traditional trail to the summit is the most sought-after route. The hike typically spans two days and requires a moderate level of fitness. The trail traverses through verdant forests and rocky terrain and culminates in an ascent to the volcano’s summit.
At the summit, climbers are greeted by panoramic views of the Albay Gulf and Legazpi City, among other breathtaking sights. Additionally, the summit provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the power and splendor of an active volcano up close.
For those who prefer a less strenuous adventure, the area surrounding the volcano offers plenty of options. Visitors can drive around the base or explore nearby attractions like the Cagsawa Ruins. It is a historical site ravaged by a volcanic eruption in 1814.
However, exploring an active volcano necessitates caution at all times. Visitors are obliged to heed the instructions of local authorities and comply with safety protocols to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience.
Mayon Volcano is a must-see destination for those seeking adventure and natural beauty. The region proffers something for everyone, from summiting the peak to exploring the base and nearby attractions. Despite the volcano’s turbulent past, with proper preparation and guidance, visitors can safely discover the grandeur of this active volcano.
8. Explore Chocolate Hills and the island of Bohol
Bohol Island in the Philippines is a land of natural wonders that fascinates travelers from all over the world. Among its many attractions is the world-renowned geological formation, the Chocolate Hills, a sight to behold for any nature lover.
The Chocolate Hills is a collection of over 1,200 limestone mounds, which stand majestically across the towns of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan. These unusual formations are made up of cone-shaped hills that are made of limestone and covered with grass.
During the dry season, the hills turn brown. And their appearance resembles chocolate kisses, giving them their name. Rising 30 to 50 meters high, the Chocolate Hills offer breathtaking panoramic views. Visitors can climb the observation deck in Carmen or Sagbayan or take a scenic drive along the winding roads that crisscross the hills to enjoy the view.
Besides the magnificent hills, Bohol Island offers other attractions showcasing its natural wonders and cultural richness. One of them is the charming Panglao island.
It is accessible via a bridge, which boasts pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. And it has vibrant marine life, making it a haven for beach lovers, snorkelers, and divers.
Alona Beach stands out among the island’s beaches with its powdery white sand, turquoise waters, and lively ambiance. Visitors can relax, play beach volleyball, swim, or rent a sunbed and soak up the tropical atmosphere. Local fishermen catch fresh seafood daily, and beachfront restaurants and bars offer delicious grilled fish, squid, and shrimp.
Bohol’s tarsier sanctuary is another must-see attraction. The sanctuary in Corella, Bohol, is home to the world’s smallest primates, the tarsiers. These adorable creatures, about the size of a human hand, are endemic to the Philippines and are considered endangered species.
The sanctuary provides a natural habitat for the tarsiers and allows visitors to observe them up close without disturbing their behavior. Knowledgeable guides are available to offer insightful information about the tarsiers and their conservation efforts.
Bohol is a remarkable destination that offers visitors a glimpse of the Philippines’ natural beauty and rich culture. Whether exploring the Chocolate Hills or relaxing on a stunning beach, this island paradise is a must-visit for anyone seeking an unforgettable experience.
Where to Stay in the Philippines
The Philippines is a captivating country that boasts a myriad of natural wonders. It has a vibrant culture and welcoming locals who embody the essence of hospitality.
The Philippines is a place of endless adventure and discovery, from the beautiful beaches that boast tropical climates to the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Chocolate Hills and towering mountains.
However, with such a diverse array of breathtaking destinations, choosing the perfect place to stay can be daunting. So, let us show you some of the most exceptional accommodations this country offers, ranging from luxurious resorts to charming hostels.
- Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa – Boracay
- Fairmont Makati – Makati
- Okada Manila – Manila
- The Farm at San Benito – Batangas
- El Nido Resorts Lagen Island – Palawan
- Misibis Bay Resort – Albay
- Radisson Blu Cebu – Cebu
- Tropical Temple Resort – Siargao
- Banaue Evergreen Hostel and Restaurant – Banaue
- Henann Resort Alona Beach – Bohol
See Related: Best All-Inclusive Resorts Without a Passport
How to Get Around in Philippines
The Philippines is a beautiful country with diverse landscapes and vibrant culture. To immerse yourself in the local experience, it’s essential to know the different modes of transportation available. The Philippines offers a range of transportation options to suit every traveler’s needs.
With its diverse landscapes and rich culture, exploring this country by different modes of transportation will surely make your travel experience unforgettable.
Jeepneys and Tricycles
Convenient and Affordable Options for Short TripsJeepneys and tricycles have become the symbolic modes of transportation in the Philippines for short-distance travel. The vividly colorful, open-air Jeepneys can accommodate up to 20 passengers.
While tricycles are three-wheeled motorbikes that can carry up to three passengers with the help of a sidecar, these options are budget-friendly, but they might not be comfortable for passengers with lots of luggage or those seeking more space.
A Comfortable Option for Longer DistancesFor longer journeys, taxis provide a more comfortable option for commuting around the Philippines.
Taxis usually follow a metered system, which means that one can avoid the hassle of negotiating fares. However, ensuring the meter runs before the ride commences is advisable to avoid any unwarranted issues.
A budget-friendly option for Inter-City TravelBuses is a great way to travel between cities in the Philippines. Various bus companies operate nationwide, offering budget-friendly to luxurious travel options.
Non-air-conditioned buses are a great budget option for travelers. And they are priced lower than their air-conditioned counterparts.
Although flights may seem expensive, they are well worth the cost if time is of the essence and you want to avoid long bus or ferry rides.
Ferries are the go-to option for island hopping in the Philippines. Several ferry companies operate nationwide, offering a range of fast and slow ferries depending on the traveler’s needs. Booking tickets in advance, particularly during the peak season, is advisable, as ferries can fill up quickly.
For those seeking adventure, renting a motorbike can be a fun and exciting way to explore the Philippines. However, exercising caution on the roads is essential, particularly in cities where traffic can be chaotic.
Wearing a helmet is a must. And one should always prioritize safety while enjoying scenic routes. Here are some of the best tours to get you around the country that you can include on your Philippines travel itinerary:
- Walk along the walls of the famous Intramuros on a tour of Manila’s old city
- You can rent a safe and easy van transfer between Puerto Princesa and El Nido
- Enjoy a full-day island hopping activity in El Nido, Palawan
- Marvel at the stately Magellan’s Cross Pavilion and see the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in a half-day tour with shopping
- Hop on an ATV tour for a thrilling adventure through the foothills of the iconic Mayon Volcano
- Explore the Puerto Princesa Underground River and admire the natural beauty of Palawan on a full-day trip
Travel Tips for Visiting The Philippines
The Philippines is a veritable paradise for travelers seeking exotic experiences. The archipelago boasts abundant natural beauty, cultural immersion, and gastronomic delights. Nonetheless, before embarking on your journey, it is essential to heed these top travel tips for visiting the Philippines:
Prepare for the Weather
As a tropical country, the Philippines maintains a warm and humid climate year-round. However, the best time to visit is between November and April, when the weather is more relaxed and drier.
The weather can be unpredictable during the rainy season from May to October, and sudden rain showers are common. If you plan to visit during this time, pack rain gear such as a raincoat or umbrella to avoid getting caught in the rain. It’s also important to know that flight delays or cancellations are possible due to inclement weather.
It’s also worth noting that the Philippines is prone to typhoons, particularly from July to October. Before traveling, it’s advisable to check the weather forecast. And be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
Research Your Destination
The Philippines is an ethnically diverse nation comprising multiple regions and cultures. To avoid any unintentional cultural missteps, it is crucial to do your research and learn about the customs and traditions of the area you plan to visit.
For instance, if your itinerary includes the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao, be mindful of dressing modestly and respecting local customs.
Respect the Environment
The Philippines is home to some of the world’s most picturesque natural wonders. It includes white sand beaches, coral reefs, and tropical forests.
However, these environments are vulnerable and require protection. Ensure you adhere to the “leave no trace” principle, avoid littering, and refrain from causing any harm to the ecosystem.
Respect the Local Culture
When visiting the Philippines, respecting the local culture is of utmost importance. The country is predominantly Catholic, and many Filipinos practice their faith devoutly.
Hence, it is essential to be mindful of local customs. When visiting a church, dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and avoiding shorts or revealing clothing.
It’s also customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. And so be mindful of this when visiting locals or attending events.
Finally, it’s worth noting that public displays of affection are generally frowned upon in many parts of the country. It includes holding hands, kissing, or other similar actions in public.
While it’s not strictly forbidden, it’s important to respect local customs. And avoid making others uncomfortable.
Embrace Novel Experiences
The Philippines is a country of surprises and unexpected experiences. Open yourself up to novel adventures and immerse yourself in local customs. It is an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and embrace new experiences.
Attend a fiesta, learn a traditional dance, or try a new activity like snorkeling or hiking. The possibilities are endless, and you never know what fantastic experience awaits you.
With its diverse culture and natural beauty, the country offers something for everyone. By being open to new adventures and immersing yourself in the local culture, you can have a truly unforgettable trip.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.