A list of the best places to visit in The Philippines is always sure to draw envy and awe from readers because this country is simply full to the brim of beach-side paradises, incredible diving locations and tropical climates year round. I made The Philippines my home for a while back in 2010-2011 when I lived and worked in Manila and made many trips back there for years afterwards.
Because I was working when I lived in The Philippines, I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked. So, I’ve managed to assemble an awesome bunch of travel bloggers who also love the country to share their tips on the best places to visit in The Philippines.
Manila might seem a strange choice for a list of the best places to visit in The Philippines. Visitors don’t flock to this part of the world to see a concrete jungle with terrible traffic, but for me Manila feels like home. In the years between 2010 and 2015 I spent a lot of time visiting and living in this city and whilst it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly has pockets of charm and oodles of fun to spare.
Manila is a sprawling metropolis full of great shopping. For a high-end experience, definitely head to the Greenbelt complex in Makati for alfresco dining and retail therapy. To complete the luxe experience, stop in for a relaxing massage at The Spa in Greenbelt 1.
Watching the sunset over Manila Bay is also a really nice way to close out the day. Visit the enormous Mall of Asia for some more shopping during the day and then find a bar along the Manila Bay promenade to watch the sun disappear on the horizon as the sky is lit up with hues of pink.
Panglao is a very small – and often overlooked – island just south of Bohol. It’s also one of the few islands that doesn’t require a boot to access. You can simply cross one of the bridges that are connecting the Panglao island with Bohol and you’re good to go! Even if you don’t stay on the islands, it’s a great destination for a day trip by scooter.
Panglao is small enough to drive round in just on day and even though the island is not as activity packed as Bohol, there are a few places you certainly don’t want to miss. The Hinahdanan cave is one of them. After walking down some really slippery stairs into the darkness, you reach an underground pool of crystal-clear water. The atmosphere is a bit scary, but you can take a swim. We did and we can assure you that we didn’t encounter any weird creatures. Don’t forget your swim wear!
Panglao has also some really beautiful beaches. The most famous one is Alona Beach. It’s the hotspot on Panglao with plenty of restaurants, bars, stores and water sport options – but the prettiest one is definitely Dumaluan Beach Even though there are a few resorts, the beach has more of a local vibe. The water is very shallow and it’s a great place to hang out and relax.
Contributed by Lena from Salut from Paris
If you’re looking for postcard-worthy beaches and paradise vibes, it’s hard to beat Siargao. Like many of the islands in the Philippines, it has no shortage of white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and chilled out vibes. Beyond the usual suspects, though, is a compact island with a lot to offer every type of traveller. Siargao has something for everyone yet is still relatively unknown.
As the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao has plenty to offer for wave lovers – but don’t be put off if surfing isn’t your thing. Siargao has a lot to offer for non-surfers, too. From healthy cafés serving up smoothie bowls, vegan treats and every cuisine you could ask for, foodies won’t struggle to find places to eat in Siargao. Adventurers will love hiring a scooter, hitting the desolate coconut tree-ridden roads and getting lost among the island’s villages. Responsible travellers can enjoy a worry-free trip since plastic straws and plastic bags are banned on the island.
Contributed by Jodie from A La Jode
Only an hour flight away from Manila, lies the relatively unexplored city of Legazpi. Although popular amongst Filipinos (as it is home to the country’s most active volcano; Mount Mayon), the city remains fairly unknown to international tourists. The perfect conical shape of the Mayon features on the Philippines 100 peso bill and is visible from nearly every corner of Legazpi.
Popular activities in the region include zip lining from the base of the volcano for 5 USD or visiting one of the many free viewpoints to capture an unobstructed panoramic view of Mayon. Such as Legazpi boulevard, Sumlang lake, Lingon Hill or Mayon Volcano observatory (ideal times are early mornings or late evenings when the volcano is less likely to be obscured by clouds).
Due to the lack of foreign tourism, accommodation and street food are incredibly affordable compared to some of the better known hotspots in the country, and any visitor has to sample the signature Chilli ice cream that Legazpi is famous for.
Contributed by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within
Boracay Island is one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. It’s one of the most popular destinations and it was closed for 6 months in 2018 for a clean up. They reopened the island in November 2018 and the results were amazing. They added many rules to keep it clean and still a few hotels and restaurants didn’t get the permits to open because they don’t meet the requirements.
White Beach is 5 kilometers long with white sand and perfect blue water. There are 3 stations in White Beach. Station 1 where luxury resorts are and it’s calm and quiet. Station 2 where most of the bars and restaurants are. And Station 3 where you will find the cheapest accommodation in Boracay.
The colors in the sunset are amazing in White Beach and you can see boats sailing at that time. Apart from relaxing on the beach during the day, Boracay Island is famous because of restaurants and nightlife. For us, it is one of the best destinations in the Philippines.
Contributed by Ruben from Gamin Traveler
With so many islands in the Philippines, it’s hard to decide where to visit. If you ask me, I would definitely recommend adding Bohol to your itinerary. The island, together with nearby Panglao connected by a bridge, offers much of what the Philippines are famous for – including paradise beaches, diving opportunities, colonial history and wild nature.
Out of all the many things to do in Bohol, we definitely recommend spending checking out the Loboc River – most people go on lunch cruises, but it’s also possible to go paddleboarding with locals in the afternoon, when most of the boats have left.
Other than that, it’s fun to roam around by scooter, visiting iconic Bohol places like the Man-Made Forest, Chocolate Hills and – naturally – the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary! Just make sure you choose the legit one and not the copycat place next door, which is a for-profit enterprise. Then, spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach in Panglao, or going on a boat tour to nearby islands.
Contributed by Margherita from The Crowded Planet
The Philippines is riddled with incredible places worth exploring. After having recently returned to this beautiful country – this time for two months – we had the pleasure of ticking quite a few places off our list. We had heard about Moalboal prior to arriving but originally wrote it off as nothing more than a diver’s destination. We couldn’t have been more wrong!
Moalboal, a beach town in the southern part of Cebu, is an amazing destination worth visiting. This town is the adventure hub of the Philippines and should not be missed! To make the most of your stay, rent a scooter and explore the region of South Cebu for yourself.
Numerous waterfalls in the area, such as Kawasan, Aguinid and Cambais Falls, provide canyoneering and cliff jumping opportunities with incredible Gatorade blue water. If you are looking for incredible landscapes paired with a little bit of exercise, then the unique rolling hills of Osmeña Peak and Casino Peak are a couple of short and sweet hikes. Moalboal is also home to a couple of beautiful beaches, White Beach and Lambug Beach, and some incredible snorkelling opportunities.
Be sure to include this incredible adventure destination in your next trip to the Philippines!
Contributed by Roxy & Luke from The Coastal Campaign
Malcapuya Island is possibly the ultimate island paradise, and one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. With crystal clear turquoise water and fine white sand it meets all the standards for an idyllic island escape.
Most people visit Malcapuya Island on a day boat trip from Coron, and pair it with a visit to Banana Island and Bulog Dos sand bar. While these stops are pretty, the highlight in my opinion is definitely Malcapuya. It takes about one hour to get to Malcapuya from Coron. It’s a bit long compared to other island hopping trips around Coron but it’s well worth it! Just lay back, relax and enjoy the sun as the boat cruises on to Malcapuya!
When you first arrive at Malcapuya Island you will have to cross a little palm tree grove. The tour boats dock on one side of the island and the main beach is on the other side, so that you can swim undisturbed by the coming and going of the boats. You will walk amongst the palm trees and emerge on the pristine beach, with little wooden huts lined along it.
We spent our time there snorkelling, swimming in the clear water and just chilling on the white sand beach. Malcapuya Island is a must add to any Philippines bucket list.
Contributed by Greta from Greta’s Travels
Blink and you’ll miss this tiny island, but animal lovers and adventure seekers should definitely include Apo Island on their itinerary. Located just seven kilometers off mainland Negros Island it’s a little off the main tourist route, but it’s well worth the effort.
On Apo island you can swim with sea turtles and help support a responsible tourism activity at the same time. Originally hunting the sea turtles for meat and trade, the local fisherman now work as guides for enthusiastic tourists visiting the islands. After sea turtles numbers dwindled the local government developed much of the western side of Apo Island into a protected sea turtle marine reserve. Now the island runs snorkeling tours where you can swim amongst the turtles as they leisurely feed on the seaweed and glide through the water.
This is a great responsible tourism activity to engage in because the official island tours have strict no touching and interacting regulations, which means the sea turtles aren’t bothered by tourists. Choosing tours like this are just one way that you can help reduce your impact while traveling.
Contributed by Jules from Don’t Forget To Move
Vigan is hailed as the best example of a colonial city in Asia, and, even though it cannot compare with the great Spanish cities of Latin America, that’s still a pretty accurate description. Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and when you stroll down cobble-stoned Calle Crisologo, you can almost imagine the conquistadores doing the same thing 500 years ago (minus the antique souvenir shops).
In 1572 it was settled by Spanish conquistadores. Now an interesting mix of Spanish and Asian culture. Some traditions of Spanish origin are still maintained to this day, such as the Semana Santa festival during Easter Week.
The pace of life feels much slower here than in other Filipino cities, and it’s a perfect place to put your feet up for a few days and relax in a colonial hotel. The most interesting part of town is the mestizo district, where the streets are lined with ancestral homes built mostly by Chinese traders in a mix of Asian and Spanish architectural styles.
An architectural highlight is St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral, built around 1790 in a unique style that has come to be known as “earthquake baroque”, due to the design elements used to prevent earthquake damage.
Contributed by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Siquijor Island is often overshadowed by the nearby islands of Bohol and Cebu, but it is definitely a destination that should be on your Philippines bucket list.
A relatively small island, Siquijor is easy to navigate and you can drive its entire circumference in just a day. But don’t let it’s small size fool you, there are loads of fun adventures to be had there. First on your list should be Salagdoong Beach for cliff jumping and beach lounging. Locals and tourists line up to dive into the crystal clear ocean water from the two diving platforms – one is 7 meters high and the other 10 meters.
Next up is swimming under Siquijor’s waterfalls. Cambugahay Falls is the most popular (and most photogenic) on the island. It’s a 3-tier turquoise blue waterfall with large swimming holes beneath each tier. Lugnason Falls is less popular but every bit as beautiful. Both waterfalls have rope swings if you’re feeling adventurous.
End your day by watching the sunset at Tubod Beach in front of Coco Grove Beach Resort. And if you happen to be visiting Siquijor on a weekend, don’t miss the wild jungle party that takes place every Friday at Czar’s Place!
Contributed by Nick from Wandering Wheatleys
Kalanggaman is a tiny paradise island located about 40 minute boat ride from the city of Palompon, in the province of Leyte.
The islet is made up of a long sand bar, with the heart of it beautifully covered in coconut trees. The water is turquoise, the beaches feature white powdery sand… it’s a heaven on Earth.
The number of visitors going every day to Kalanggaman is limited, so as not to overwhelm the small space. Everyone must also behave sustainably and collect their own trash. That’s how the island manages to stay pristine.
It’s a welcome change to when cruise ships used to stop at the island a few years ago and crowded the little piece of land.
There are no animals on the island, not even mosquitoes! At the time of my visit, there were no facilities whatsoever, but that has changed and currently even a few huts have been put up to spend a night in. Also more sand was added to the side of the island to create an even longer sandbar.
Contributed by Veronica from Travel Geekery
We are big fans of the Philippines, and if you’re heading to the country soon, we recommend checking out El Nido Palawan. This cluster of 45 small islands are just off the tip of Palawan Island. There are plenty of lodging options too, from hotels, huts and beachfront Airbnbs. You’re guaranteed to see some of the most beautiful scenery, between their dramatic rock formations and bright blue waters!
Trust us, you won’t run out of things to do and see in El Nido. The #1 thing on your itinerary should be to swim through the hole to Secret Lagoon – it definitely lives up to the hype. Another must-stop is Secret Beach, hidden from sight by large limestone cliffs. And since there are 45 islands to choose from, we recommend checking out Snake Island and Simizu Island. Besides taking in all of the majestic scenery, make sure to try some Filipino cuisine, like Balut Egg.
If El Nido Palawan isn’t on your bucket list yet, make sure to add it.
Contributed by Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
Located approximately halfway between Puerto Princesa City and El Nido in the northern part of Palawan, San Vicente isn’t nearly as well known as popular tourism hotspots like El Nido or Coron.
In fact, the laid-back beach town is largely devoid of any of the traditional luxury trappings that earned Palawan the “Best Island in the World” designation from Travel + Leisure several years running. Instead, this tranquil tropical getaway offers peace, serenity, and relaxation, not to mention the stunning natural beauty for which Palawan has become world renowned.
You won’t find many posh Palawan resorts here. But you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines (especially the 9.1-mile Long Beach), gorgeous waterfalls, fertile coral reefs teeming with marine life, and verdant forests filled with an array of endemic wildlife.
For a great day of adventure, take an island-hopping tour with a local guide, which will give you chances to do some incredible snorkeling, especially near Inaladelan Island, Twin Reef, Starfish Island, and Capsalay Island. Afterwards, you’ll understand why some folks are referring to San Vicente as the next big thing in Palawan.
Contributed by Bret & Mary from Green Global Travel
Balabac is one of the emerging destinations in the Philippines. It’s basically a group of islands located on the southern tip of Palawan, just hours away from neighboring Sabah.
The islands in Balabac can be visited via boat tour. The most popular one is Onuk Island, a private island with an out-of-this-world beach. It’s surrounded by a giant clam garden and is near an ocean reef as well, so it’s great for snorkelers and freedivers.
There are several other must-visit islands in Balabac. Patawan Island has an amazing fine-sand beach as well. Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island has an polvoron-like white-sand beach, which is said to be the softest in the area. Candaraman Island has a sand bar which gets filled with starfishes on a specific season.
The accommodations in Balabac are rudimentary at best. You can pitch tents in islands, set up hammocks, or stay in the mainland which features basic resorts and inns.
To get to Balabac, take a local flight to Puerto Princesa. From there, get on a van to either Buliluyan Port or Rio Tuba Port. From there, you can get on a boat to Balabac.
Contributed by Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere
Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park
Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park is situated in Samar in the Eastern Visayas. It is a great day trip from Tacloban to escape the busy city life. You can get there by bus or tuk-tuk. The highlight in the park is a boat tour to the Panhulugan Cave where you can observe incredible rock formations followed by a kayak tour to the Sohoton Natural Bridge. You will have a guide both for the cave visit and for the kayaking.
The kayak tour leaves from the cave and takes you along the calm river between rough limestone walls covered in lush green jungle. The scenery is incredible the whole way. Once you get to the natural bridge, you will be mesmerized by the beauty of the limestone arch you kayak through to get into the natural pool in the middle.
Surrounded by tall limestone walls you can go for a refreshing swim and immerge yourself in this natural wonder before kayaking back again.
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
If you love off-the-beaten-path adventures, you should consider Jomalig Island. It’s not easy to go there but once you arrive and explore the island you will tell yourself not to leave or at least extend your stay.
Jomalig Island is located in the province of Quezon, Philippines. From Manila, you should ride a bus for 4-5 hours and a boat for 5 hours. The best time to visit is during the summer where the waves are not that big compared to the rainy season. There is no luxurious accommodation so expect to stay in a small hut or stay in the home of a local family.
To fully enjoy your visit, explore the island via habal-habal or a motorcycle which cost around 600 PHP (11 USD). Your driver will tour you around beautiful beaches around the island such as Kanaway Beach, Lingayen Cove, Alog White Sand Beach, Salibungot Beach and more!
Contributed by Rizanoia from Rizanoia.com
A region in the Calabrazon region filled with many beautiful beaches, Batangas is one of the more popular tourist destinations near Metro Manila. It offers something that many places in the Philippines cannot. Due to its close proximity to Manila, it is fairly easy to get to and it is possible to enjoy great weather and amazing beaches without having to book a flight or planning far in advance.
It is most well-known for excellent diving spots including Anilao in Mabini, and Sombrero Island in Tingloy. The region is the birthplace of the Tagalog culture and is also a popular destination for pilgrimages with its large number of Roman Catholic churches as well as various other pilgrimage sites.
Due to its popularity, there are plenty of accommodation options and I would recommend staying at one of the many beach resorts in Batangas around Nasugbu.
Contributed by Rai from A Rai of Light
So there you have it. The Philippines is truly a varied and special archipelago of islands that hold many treasures. One trip to this country is simply not enough to see all the best places to visit in The Philippines.