There is still so much to discover about the Philippines outside its crowded island destinations. Here we’ve compiled the off-the-beaten places in the Philippines you should visit on your trip!
1. Port Barton, Palawan
It’s true that Palawan is the top destination in the Philippines, but majority of the tourists go only to Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, or Coron. Most neglect the other areas in Palawan including the quiet seaside town of Port Barton.
Port Barton has an idyllic beach where you can beach bum & relax for days. There are eateries and beachside bars where you can buy cheap food & beer. If you’re looking for activities, there’s a nearby falls you can visit and boat tours available that can take you to nearby islands and snorkeling spots.
To get here, from Puerto Princesa City take a bus or van to Port Barton. Travel time is only 3-4 hours.
2. Gigantes Islands, Iloilo
Gigantes Islands is an island chain tucked away in Carles, Iloilo. It’s divided into 2 big islands (Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur) where resorts are located and several smaller islands which you can visit for island hopping.
Here you can see one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines — Cabugao Gamay Island. Cabugao Gamay features white-sand shores in between limestone cliffs. There is a viewdeck that offers an overlooking view of the island. Other notable spots you can visit include Antonia Island, Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, and Balubadiang Sand Bar.
Aside from island hopping, another thing that you can do here is eating cheap seafood! Carles is famous for is 1 peso scallops. Resorts and tour packages often include buffet meals in their offers and you can also buy them fresh from locals.
To get here, from Iloilo City head to Bancal Port where there are public or private boats to take you to Gigantes Islands.
Dumaguete is a laid-back coastal city in Negros Oriental. This is a great place to visit if you just want to chill in a city, but do not want the noise of Manila or Cebu.
One of the things you can do in Dumaguete is food tripping. It’s famous for a dessert called silvanas and seafood dishes as well. You can also go on a day trip to the nearby Apo Island, which is known as a snorkeling & diving spot. Or Manjuyod, which is famous for its sand bar and sightings of dolphins.
Dumaguete serves as gateway for other provinces in the region as well, including Siquijor and many others.
Dumaguete has its own airport so it is easy to travel to.
Siquijor is an island province in the Visayan Region. It’s isn’t visited as often as other provinces in the area since it has no direct flight. You will need to go via Dumaguete Province.
Interestingly, Siquijor was widely known for its witchcraft. You can still meet traditional healers living on the mountainside offering their services for a fee.
You will need to take a motorbike to explore the island. You can visit Cambugahay Falls and other lesser-known waterfalls, visit the Salagdoong Beach Resort for its cliff jumping boards, and stay in a homestay or resort facing one of its laid-back beaches.
To get here, take a local flight to Dumaguete and then a passenger boat to Siquijor.
Camiguin is a beautiful island province in Mindanao. It’s a great place to relax and also engage in fun adventure activities.
Camiguin is best known for diving. Beginner-friendly spots include Mantigue Island and Sunken Cemetery. These places are also accessible for snorkelers and divers. Advanced divers meanwhile can head to Old Volcano, Burias Shoal, among others.
Other things you can do is visiting the Giant Clam Sanctuary which is home to over a thousand giant clams, trekking to the top of the Old Walkway, and swimming in waterfalls such as Katibawasan Falls.
There are many options for accommodations in Camiguin. There are lodgings and beachside resorts in the capital of Mambajao and also mountainside resorts that offer a view of Mount Hibok-Hibok, an active volcano in the island.
Camiguin has its own airport, although flights are limited. You can also get here from Cagayan de Oro Airport by taking a bus or van to Balingoan Port and then a passenger boat to Camiguin.
6. Maligcong, Mountain Province
One of the best sights you can see in the Philippines are rice terraces. The most famous one is Banaue in Ifugao, but there are also “secret” areas where you can enjoy this view.
Maligcong is a quiet mountain town located in the Mountain Province. There are various homestays in Maligcong, some of which offer a direct view of the surrounding Maligcong Rice Terraces.
Once in the town, try mingling with the locals, tasting authentic Bontoc dishes, and trekking to explore the rice terraces. You can also trek the nearby mountains of Kofafey and Fato, charter a vehicle to get to the hot spring, or discover waterfalls hidden in the area.
To get here you will need to take an overnight bus from Manila to Bontoc and then ride a local jeepney to the town.
Quirino is a land-locked province in Luzon. It’s one of the emerging eco-adventure destinations in the country. However, due to lack of public transport, only a limited number of tourists go here.
One of the things you can do in Quirino is rafting in Governor’s Rapids or Siitan Park, which are both part of Cagayan River. You can also chase waterfalls in different towns — including the 100-feet-high Ganano Falls. Quirino also has caves open for exploration, such as Aglipay Cave and Diamond Cave.
If you like cultural immersion, you can visit tribes in various ancestral villages scattered around the province.
The easiest way to get to and around Quirino is by chartering a private vehicle.
8. Lake Holon, South Cotabato
Lake Holon is also called the Crown Jewel of the South. This is a great place to visit for trekking, adventure, and cultural immersion activities.
One of the best ways to experience this place is by camping beside the lake. Wake up in a foggy morning, take a morning dip in the cold water or take a kayak, or trek up the viewpoint.
Also make sure to visit the T’boli Cultural Village and get to know the T’boli tribe. Here you can sleep in a traditional long house (called Gono Bong), taste native dishes such as native chicken cooked inside a bamboo paired with local Arabica coffee served in bamboo mug, and watch children perform dances.
There is no nearby airport in Lake Holon. To get here, take a local flight to Davao City or General Santos City. Ride a bus or van to Marbel and then another van to T’boli. Register at the tourism office and then trek for 3-4 hours to reach Lake Holon.
9. Tablas, Romblon
Tablas is the largest island in the province of Romblon. It’s one of the best off-the-beaten destinations in the Philippines with its pristine shores and other nature attractions.
Once there, spend several days to island hop so you can visit nice beaches such as Tinagong Dagat and Binucot Beach and snorkeling & diving points such as the Blue Hole. There are also untouched waterfalls you can explore.
To get to Tablas, you can either take a ferry from Batangas or take a direct local flight from Manila to Tablas Airport.
10. Mati City, Davao Oriental
Mati City isn’t talked about as much as other places in Davao, but it’s a great place to visit in Mindanao.
Mati City is famous for Dahican Beach, a 7-kilometer-long stretch of beach surrounded by palm trees. Dahican Beach has powerful waves which are ideal for surfing and skimboarding, particularly in the months of October to March.
Aside from this, you can also visit the Sleeping Dinosaur and island hop in Pujada and Waniban.
To get here, take a local flight to Davao City. Then take a bus bound for Mati.
11. Balabac, Palawan
Balabac is another off-beaten-track destination in Palawan. Its composed of mainland Balabac and several islands, most of which have virginal shores.
The main activity in Balabac is island hopping. Visit the powdery white sand of Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island, the beautiful beach of Patawan Island, and the picturesque sand bars in Candaraman and Mansalangan. Finally, camp overnight in Onuk Island, a privately owned island surrounded by light-turquoise water home to sea turtles and other reef fishes.
To get here, take a local flight to Puerto Princesa Airport. From there, ride a van to either Rio Tuba or Buliluyan Port. From there, arrange a boat to take you island hopping in Balabac.
Tawi-Tawi is one of the least-visited provinces in the Philippines — even among locals! The reason is that is has suffered from security stigma which is common in the Mindanao Region.
Contrary to what people believe, Tawi-Tawi is safe to visit. What’s more is that it’s one of the places that remains untouched by commercialism. You definitely won’t find any Starbucks here, just local regular eateries and coffee shops!
You can stay in Bongao where there are homestays or beachside resorts. Get to know the locals, eat unlimited seafood, and go on adventures such as mountain trekking, island hopping, or snorkeling in certain spots around the island. You can also stroll along the market or visit the barter trade at the nearby Panglima Sugala.
Tawi-Tawi is accessible via passenger boat or local flight (Zamboanga City to Bongao Airport).
13. Dinagat Islands
Dinagat Islands is a group of islands in the CARAGA Region. It used to be part of Surigao del Norte, but is now constituted as its own province.
If you’re looking for a place that’s similar to El Nido in landscape features but without the crowd, then head to Dinagat Islands. It has pristine shores, an island lake, and a beautiful natural tidal pool.
The easiest way to explore Dinagat Islands is via island hopping tours. You can go on a day trip but it’s ideal to stay 3 days or longer so you can visit even inaccessible areas including virgin snorkeling spots.
To get here, take a local flight to Surigao Airport. Make your way to Surigao Port and then ride a passenger boat to San Jose or ask your resort to a boat arrangement to fetch you.
Did we miss anything? Do you have other suggestions on what to include in this list of off-the-beaten destinations in the Philippines? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).