The Philippines is composed of over 7000 islands. If it’s your first time visiting the country, you might feel overwhelmed about which places to include in your itinerary. Here I’ve compiled the best places you can visit in the Philippines!
If you’re a local tourist, this list is also a good guide in exploring your local neighborhood.
This guide is based on my experience and knowledge of traveling in the Philippines. In writing this guide, I have considered not only the beauty of the places but also activities, ease of access & travel, and other factors.
1. El Nido, Palawan
If there is one place you should visit in the Philippines, it’s the province of Palawan. This boasts the best nature spots — particularly El Nido and Coron.
El Nido is located at the northern tip of the province. It’s known for its gorgeous turquoise waters surrounded by karst cliffs. Here you can go on a boat tour to explore white-sand beaches, kayak in Small Lagoon or Big Lagoon, or snorkel in Matinloc Shrine or Shimizu Island. You can also book a dive in its numerous coral reef sites.
At the end of the day, enjoy a dinner in one of the restaurants along El Nido Bay.
2. Coron, Palawan
Coron is another tourist spot in Palawan. Its features bear similarities with that in El Nido, but it also has unique spots.
The best way to explore Coron is by chartering a private boat or joining a boat tour. You can go to Kayangan Lake and take a selfie in its viewdeck featuring the iconic Coron Bay, snorkel in WWII shipwrecks and coral reef spots, and swim in Malcapuya Island and other white-sand beaches. To relax after a day of activities, head to a hot spring to soothe your muscles.
Coron is the perfect blend of urban and rural living. Up to this day, the tourist attractions in Coron are managed and preserved by the Tagbanua tribe.
3. Siargao, Surigao del Sur
Siargao is a laid-back tropical island where you can surf, swim, and enjoy the good life.
Siargao is located in Surigao del Sur. It is the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. It has over 20 surf breaks with varying difficulties, which are ideal for new or pro surfers. Every year, it also hosts an annual surfing competition that attracts hundreds of surfers from all over the world.
Aside from surfing, you can explore the island with a motorbike or with a local tour. Some of the places you should see are Magpupungko Pool, Maasin River, and the three islands: Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island. You can also visit the nearby Sohoton Cove, which is an amazing nature park with white shores, underwater caves, and lush islets.
Siargao is the kind of place that’s so endearing you won’t mind visiting it again and again.
4. Batad, Ifugao
Batad is one of the best places to see rice terraces in the Philippines. It’s considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Batad Rice Terraces was hand-carved by the locals 2000 years ago and to this day it’s being tended to by local villagers.
Here you can relax in a homestay overlooking the rice terraces. You can also explore the village and trek to Tappiya Fals or Awa View Deck.
Batad requires lots of trekking. It’s ideal for adventurers or tourists who are looking for an authentic cultural experience in a small village in the Philippines.
You can start your itinerary in Matnog where you can go on an island hopping tour to see the Juag Lagoon Marine Sanctuary and the pinkish-sand beaches of Subic Beach and Tikling Beach. Then head to Bulusan National Park to kayak around the emerald-green lake located at the foot of Mount Bulusan. Afterwards, head to Gubat for surfing and Irosin for its hot spring resorts!
Another place you can visit in Sorsogon is Donsol. The main activity here is whale shark watching. The whale sharks visit the area to feed and breed on selected months, so you can safely see them in their natural habitat.
6. Badian, Cebu
Just several minutes from Moalboal is the town of Badian, Cebu. This is the home of Kawasan Falls, one of the most recognizable attractions in the country.
Kawasan Falls is a three-tiered waterfall with bluish basin. It’s hugely popular so expect it to be crowded, even on weekdays. You can go here for a cool swim or you can sign up for a canyoneering activity upstream, where you need to cliff jump along a series of waterfalls along the canyon.
7. Boracay Island, Aklan
Boracay is one of the top beach destinations in the Philippines. It’s a love-it or hate-it type: Some people avoid Boracay in favor of less-developed areas, while some visit here for the ease of vacation and stunning beaches.
The famous beach in Boracay is the White Beach. It stretches 3 kilometers long, with fine white sand that’s difficult to find elsewhere. White Beach is the main beach in the island and home to various resorts, restaurants, and other stores.
Boracay offers various activities including island hopping, helmet diving, parasailing, and other watersports. Another must-do activity here is sunset watching — it’s said to have one of the best sunsets in the Philippines.
This idyllic island province is ideal for everyone — casual tourists who are looking for a relaxing vacation, adventure junkies, and even families with kids. Here you can take a boat trip to Mantigue Island for swimming and snorkeling or the Giant Clam Sanctuary to see giant clams up to 4 feet in length. You can also explore waterfalls, hot & cold springs, and white-sand beaches. Finally, you can challenge yourself by trekking to the summit of Mount Hibok-Hibok which is an active volcano.
Bohol is one of the places you should visit in the Philippines especially if it’s your first time. It’s home to the world-famous Chocolate Hills, a cluster of over a thousand hills covered in green grass that turns brown (like chocolate) during summer. Other places you can visit include old heritage churches, sanctuary where you can see the endangered species of tarsier, and white-sand beaches.
Bohol is a family-friendly destination. You can stay in an inland resort or book in Panglao Island, which is an ideal place for beach bumming, snorkeling, and diving.
10. Kalinga, Mountain Province
Kalinga is a great place to visit if you like nature adventure and cultural immersion. Most people go here to visit Apo Whang-od or other mambabatoks to get a traditional hand-tapped tattoo.
From Manila, it’s possible to commute to Kalinga. Simply hop on a bus to Bontoc and then transfer to a jeep to Buscalan. From the drop-off point, you need to trek to Buscalan Village. You will be greeted by an amazing view of mountains and surrounding rice terraces along the way.
Once you get into the village, sign up in the queue list and check out the tattoo handbook for available designs. The designs are based on the tribe’s art and comes with special meanings. Apo Whang-Od is the oldest mambabatok in the area but the tradition has been passed down to other villagers as well, so you’re guaranteed to have your mark before you leave the mountain village.
11. Apo Island, Negros Oriental
Apo Island is a great place if you like snorkeling and diving.
This small volcanic island is located at the southern tip of Negros Oriental Province. Its surrounding marine area is considered a marine reserve and here you can see hundreds species of corals and fishes. It’s also home to sea turtles.
You can go on a day trip to visit the snorkeling areas in Apo Island and swim with the sea turtles in the island. The turtles are comfortable with the presence of humans, but of course you still have respect them and keep your distance! If you want to stay longer, there are dive resorts in Zamboanguita or Dauin, which is close to Apo Island by boat.
12. Balabac, Palawan
Balabac is a remote destination on the southern tip of Palawan Province. It isn’t as visited or developed as El Nido or Coron. In fact, it is mostly occupied by residential communities and there are limited accommodations such as a modest rooms, cottages, and tents.
Balabac is composed of several islands. Patawan Island has gorgeous white sands and turquoise water. Candaraman and Mansalangan have sand bars that look perfect in the camera. Lastly, Onuk Island is a private island surrounded by clear, pale-turquoise water — which some say is incomparable in the world.
To explore the islands in Balabac, you need to charter a private boat or join a group tour.
13. Zamboanga City
Zamboanga City is a great city to visit when you’re in Mindanao. Also known as Asia’s Latin City, this locals here speak Filipino and Chavacano which is a Spanish creole.
You can explore the city by foot to check its Spanish-era heritage buildings and century-old trees. You can also go on a day trip to the Great Sta. Cruz Island which is known as a pink-sand beach or island hop in Once Islas, an eco-cultural destination composed of 11 islands.
Another thing that you should do in Zamboanga is eat! It offers different cuisines, from typical Filipino favorites to Spanish, Malay/Indo, or regional dishes. Try out the famous curacha crab served in alavar sauce, latal plate, and knickerbocker for dessert.
14. Roxas City, Capiz
There’s one reason you should visit Roxas City in Capiz — seafood! It’s the Seafood Capital of the Philippines. It has an 80 kilometer long coastline along with lands converted into fish ponds.
Here you can find various types of local fishes, crabs, prawns and shrimps, oysters, scallops, seaweed, and more. The best thing about it is that the abundance of seafood makes it cheap on the budget.
The best places to eat seafood in Roxas City are in Baybay Seafood Grills, Cafe Pubelo, and Palina Greenbelt Ecopark.
15. Tibiao, Antique
Tibiao is a rural town in Antique Province that offers eco-adventure activities for nature lovers.
One of the charms of Tibiao is its modest accommodations. You can book native cottages on the mountain or riverside, so you can relax and unwind. You can also trek to the Bugtong Bato Falls; head to Tibiao River to swim, kayak, or raft; or sign up for activities such as pottery making and lambaklad fishing. If you like trekking, you can explore the Antique Rice Terraces which covers different barangays. There you will the rice terraces and it cultivation up close, mingle with locals, and experience sleeping overnight in a homestay.
16. Moalboal, Cebu
Moalboal is one of the best diving destinations in Cebu Province.
It has numerous dive spots where you can see corals, fishes, and various species of shark. There is also an island hopping tour which is a convenient option for day trippers: you can visit Pescador Island which is surrounded by shallow reef, Panagsama Reef, and Turtle Spot which is home to sea turtles.
You can also just snap your snorkels on and swim right off Panagsama Beach to see the famous sardine run. The sardine run a diver/freediver’s dream since you can get amazing underwater shots surrounded by or swimming across a ball of fishes.
17. Malapascua Island, Cebu
Malapascua Island is another great diving destination in Cebu. Aside from its coral reef spots, the island is also 30-45 minutes away from Monad Shoal — one of the few places in the world where you are guaranteed to see thresher sharks.
Thresher sharks live deep in the ocean so they are not normally seen during dives. Monad Shoal is a cleaning station for the thresher sharks, so they go here everyday. Here you can see them up close. This is considered an advanced dive and only available for those with open water certification.
Tawi-Tawi is one of the least-visited provinces in the Philippines due to stigma. Few people know that it is actually safe!
The easiest way to get to Tawi-Tawi is via local flight from Zamboanga City to Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao. Once in Bonga, you can stay in a homestay or beachside resorts.
The great thing about Bongao is it’s a laid-back town. You don’t need an itinerary to explore this place. You can head to the market to buy local food and outrageously cheap seafood such as fishes, crabs, and squid. Or drop by the Badjao Village to buy traditional woven mats. You can also arrange a trip to Panglima Sugala and experience the barter between the Badjao and locals in the mainland.
Biliran is a small island in the Visayan Region. Despite its size, it has amazing spots you should visit.
Start your day in Biliran chasing waterfalls. You will discover the majestic Ulan-Ulan Falls which is tucked in the middle of a mountain forest and the more-known Tinago Falls.
The following day, go on an island hopping tour to see several islandsincluding Sambawan Island — one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines. Sambawan Island has white-sand shores and a viewdeck that offers a lovely view of the whole island. You can beach bum, snorkel in the surrounding shore or book a dive tour, and do astrophotography at night.
Siquijor is one of the off-beaten places in the Philippines. Although it’s known by locals, few foreign tourists go here as it remains overshadowed by popular destinations in the region such as Bohol and Cebu.
You can rent a motorbike to explore the waterfalls in the island, including Cambugahay Falls. You can also visit several interesting spots such as Salagdoong Beach with its cliff diving spots and turquoise water, old churches, and the century-old balete tree. Interestingly, Siquijor is known as an island of witchcraft so you can still see stores selling love potions and locals offering traditional healing.
Siquijor is generally quiet and laid-back. It’s ideal for those who are looking for remote places to spend a few days in.
21. Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
Kalanggaman Island is one of the top tourist attractions in Leyte. It’s a small, bird-shaped island with a long sand bar featuring whitish sand, surrounded by the gorgeous blue ocean.
You can pitch a camping tent here or stay in one of the modest cottages. Aside from swimming and taking endless selfies in the sand bar, you can also snorkel or do stand-up paddleboarding. Just be careful because the current here can be strong — there are designated areas for said activities.
Has this Guide to the Best Places in the Philippines been helpful to you? If you have further suggestions, let us know in the comments section below.
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