There’s more to the Philippines than idyllic tropical beaches. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a simple backpacker like us, you’ll appreciate this list of top outdoor adventures in the Philippines!
(If you’re doing the 81 Province Challenge, make sure to add these outdoor activities to your must-do’s too!)
- 1. Skydiving in Zambales
- 2. Vertical bivouac adventure in Bukidnon
- 3. Rock climbing in Atimonan, Quezon
- 4. Underground river tour in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
- 5. Island hopping using a kayak in El Nido, Palawan
- 6. Exploring the remote islands in Palawan
- 7. Scuba diving in WWII shipwrecks in Coron, Palawan
- 8. Snorkeling in Apo Island, Negros Oriental
- 9. Scuba diving in Balicasag Island, Bohol
- 10. Diving with thresher sharks in Malapascua, Cebu
- 11. Firefly kayaking in Abatan River, Bohol
- 12. White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro
- 13. Ultralight flying in Mati, Davao
- 14. Surfing in Siargao
- 15. Chasing waterfalls in Cebu
- 16. Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu
- 17. Sand boarding in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
- 18. Trekking Batad, Ifugao
- 19. Hiking Mount Pulag, Mountain Province
- 20. Caving in Sagada, Mountain Province
- 21. Spelunking in Hundred Caves in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
1. Skydiving in Zambales
Skydiving is the ultimate conquer-your-fear challenge. Once you’ve skydived, you can do pretty much anything else.
In a beach in Iba, Zambales, you can choose between a solo skydive or tandem skydive. The solo skydive entails you jumping out of a small plane about 3500-4000 feet high while an instructor oversees and assists you using a radio. A tandem skydive is deemed by many as the less nerve-wracking choice since an instructor will jump with you, but take note that the altitude for the jump will be much higher at 10000 feet above.
Whatever your choice is, both require orientation, practice and safety procedures for all participants. Skydiving in Zambales costs P12,500 for solo and P17,000 for a tandem jump.
Aside from Zambales, other skydive locations in the country include Vigan in Ilocos and Cebu.
2. Vertical bivouac adventure in Bukidnon
By Adrenaline Romance
You tried camping at the beach, established campsites or mountain ridges. It’s fun and exciting. But what about camping on a narrow ledge thousands of feet up on a gigantic limestone cliff? Now that’s a real adventure. And you can experience that with Adventure Technology Outfitter’s Vertical Bivouac adventure in Quezon, Bukidnon. This is the only one of its kind in the Philippines!
Basically, you climb up a single flimsy rope using SRT technique on a huge cliff that literally blocks your vision. Your goal is to reach a narrow ledge — your campsite — at almost 500 feet up. Since no rope is 500 feet long, you need to switch ropes midway, clinging at the edge of the cliff.
Once you reach your camp area, your only protection against falling into the dark, yawning abyss is a harness clipped to a safety line. Up at 500 feet, you chat with friends, eat a delicious dinner, share ghost stories and sleep under the stars.
The adrenaline rush of the Vertical Bivouac adventure is just indescribable! Try out this one-of-a-kind climbing, camping, and rappelling experience.
3. Rock climbing in Atimonan, Quezon
By Traveling Light
Anyone who loves adventures in the outdoors should try rock climbing at least once in their lives. There is a distinct rush of exhilaration that comes when you face that towering rock head on and aim to reach for the top. It also takes an element of trust, as you have faith your belayer — the one who holds the ropes that secure your weight while you climb — will catch you should you fall.
In Atimonan, Quezon Province, there is Tinandog Wall, a rock face perfect both for beginners and the experienced rock climbers. Costs may vary, but usually, for a budget of less than P2000 you can travel to the wall, rent climbing equipment, have a reliable belayer and indulge in a hearty meal. For the adventurous, rock climbing in Atimonan is indeed a must-try.
4. Underground river tour in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
By Red Around the World
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in Sabang in Palawan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a new 77 wonders of nature, a national park, and was thought to be the world’s longest underground river until 2007 when one was found in Mexico.
To see the underground river, you’ll go into it in a small boat with a guide. Once you’re in the cave, the guide will tell you about the cave and its formations. You need the headset to keep from having all the guides in there at once talking and disturbing the bats. You spend about an hour in the cave, while you learn about its environment.
The underground river is easy to visit. If you’re visiting from Puerto Princesa, a tour will be the most efficient way to see it. If you’re visiting from Sabang, you can go on a tour or on your own which I would recommend. It’s a lot cheaper and extremely easy. It costs about P560.
5. Island hopping using a kayak in El Nido, Palawan
By The Adventurous Flashpacker
Keen to avoid the island-hopping crowds on boat tours in El Nido, Palawan? If you’re up for a challenge, explore the tropical waters, white beaches and limestone islands by kayak instead!
Hire a kayak on El Nido’s Marimegmeg beach (about P500 per half day) and set off towards Seven Commandos Beach. Kayak over the top of turtles and schools of tropical fish and stop off the pretty Papaya Beach along the way. (Warning: You can also stop at Lapus Lapus Beach, but it’s private so you may get moved on!) Aim to arrive at Seven Commandos Beach either early or late morning to avoid the mid-morning boat tours.
If you’re pretty fit and the oceans are calm, you can continue around the bay or even further to some of the smaller islands. Make sure you leave time to kayak back and have a casual meal and sunset drink at beautiful Marimegmeg Beach.
6. Exploring the remote islands in Palawan
By Explore with Lora
One of the best outdoor tours to do in the Philippines is TAO Experience Palawan, which runs boat tours through the remote islands of Northern Palawan.
In 2018, I completed the 5-day boat tour between El Nido and Coron, which was the highlight of my time in the Philippines. There is no itinerary, plan or set destinations for the tour. We spent our days swimming in turquoise waters, snorkeling through colorful coral reefs, chilling on secluded beaches and fishing off the back of the boat. TAO has 13 base camps throughout Palawan and each day the team decides where to sleep that night. Accommodations are in gorgeous bamboo huts overlooking the ocean. They serve you three delicious meals each day, which usually involves fresh seafood caught just before it’s served.
What I love about TAO is that they are more than just a regular tour company, it’s a social enterprise. They use tourism as a tool to build resilient communities throughout Palawan. The cost of the tour is P29,000 ($545) but well worth every penny. TAO Philippines is one of the most unique tours I’ve ever done and a great example of responsible tourism.
P.S. Looking for other remote areas in Palawan? Check out Balabac.
7. Scuba diving in WWII shipwrecks in Coron, Palawan
By Universo Viajero
One of the main outdoor activities in Coron is diving. This amazing place in the Philippines has an amazing undersea life with lots of fishes, lagoons with thermoclines, beautiful corals and more. But what makes this place truly special is diving in one of the 12 shipwrecks from the World War II that were sunk by the Americans in 1944. They are in excellent condition and don’t reach more than 40 meters of deep, so it’s a perfect way to enjoy the underwater life of Coron.
There are a lot of diving schools in the city that you can choose to do a day tour to 2 or 3 of the wrecks. To go inside the wrecks, an Advance Open Water license is required and, if you don’t have it, you can get it there and use the wreck divings as practice. The cost of the tour goes from P6500 to P8500 per person depending on the number of immersions.
8. Snorkeling in Apo Island, Negros Oriental
The Philippines is blessed with rich marine life, and one of the best places to see it is in Apo Island in Negros Oriental.
Apo Island is a declared marine reserve, and it’s located within the Coral Triangle, which is an area in the world with the highest marine diversity. The island boasts 450 species of corals and 650 species of fish. Moreover, there are decades-old sea turtles that you can spot in the wild. In fact, this is one of the best eco-tourist sites where you can swim with turtles.
A snorkeling tour in Apo Island can be done in a day. You can rent a boat on your own or go on a joiner tour. A joiner tour costs P1200.
9. Scuba diving in Balicasag Island, Bohol
By Lena On the Move
The Philippines is known for their incredible diving, offering exciting dive sites for both novices and professional divers. After diving in many different reefs around the country, I have found the small island of Balicasag to be a true diving gem. The island is surrounded by a coral reef that’s home to a great variety of marine life, both big swimmers (lots of sea turtles, travelly, grouper) and macro life (nudibranch, school of reef fish). To keep the sites in a healthy condition, the area was declared a marine sanctuary a couple of years ago.
The dive sites around Balicasag are heaven for both divers and snorkelers, who come over on a day trip from nearby Panglao Island. Depending on the dive center you choose, prices are around P1500 per dive. Most dive shops also offer a full-day package that includes lunch, boat transfer and different stops around Balicasag.
10. Diving with thresher sharks in Malapascua, Cebu
Scuba diving in the Philippines is a unique experience on its own, but swimming with thresher sharks is something absolutely mind-blowing. The diving site Monad Shoal can be accessed by a 45-minute boat ride at the crack of dawn from Malapascua, off the coast of Cebu. It is one of the only places on Earth where you’re almost guaranteed to see thresher sharks. This magical spot offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch this mesmerizing species of shark, which boasts a tail nearly the same length as its body, while it visits a “natural” cleaning station.
Because of the maximum depth of the dive site registering at 30 meters, most dive centers require that you have an advanced open water certification or that you complete a module for deep-water diving. Price is around P2000 for one dive including fees for equipment rental in a dive center.
11. Firefly kayaking in Abatan River, Bohol
By Mum on the Move
Seeing the fireflies by kayak in Bohol is a magical experience. Many people choose the Loboc River for this, but for the best chance to see fireflies in abundance, you need to head to the Abatan River, which is just a 15-minute driver from Tagbilaran (45 minutes drive from the Loboc River).
We began our tour by checking out a tunnel of mangrove trees. Here we drifted serenely beneath more than 20 species of ancient mangrove trees, learning more about our surroundings and searching for mudskippers on the banks. But the real highlight comes after dark, when the fireflies appear. Nothing can prepare you for how magical this is.
We came across around 10 different firefly trees, all glowing in the night like the most beautiful Christmas trees you’ve ever seen. With the river to ourselves, we simply drifted silently under the trees and stared in awe, mesmerized by the synchronized blinking of the fireflies that made it seem like the entire tree was pulsating and oscillating as one.
A firefly kayaking tour costs P2450 per person.
12. White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro
Brace yourself and prepare to get wet on a white water rafting experience in Cagayan River! This activity is exciting, fast paced and ideal even for those who haven’t tried white water rafting before.
White water rafting includes riding an inflatable raft and navigating through the river. You’ll pass by rough sections of the river and survive through wild rapids. Don’t worry though, as guides will be with you in this adventure and will help maneuver the raft for safety.
There are other white water rafting places in the country, but Cagayan de Oro is the most popular. White water rafting is usually offered as a package. It costs P1200 for a beginner course and P1800 for an advanced course. A minimum of 5-6 people is required for each raft.
13. Ultralight flying in Mati, Davao
Ever wonder what it feels like to see the world from above?
Ultralight flying involves riding a 2-seater ultralight aircraft, with a certified pilot. It’s a 15-minute ride that will give you a captivating tour of the coastline and land areas in Mati.
There are basically 2 options for aircraft: an open and closed one. An open aircraft is recommended for a more thrilling ride, not to mention that it’s cheaper and gives an unobstructed view for the passengers.
Once you’re in an ultraflight aircraft, make sure to use your action camera to capture the exhilarating experience. If you aren’t carrying one, you can rent a unit for an additional fee.
Ultralight flying costs P2700-3200 per person. The best time for this activity is the morning, when the winds are still calm.
14. Surfing in Siargao
If you’re an adventure lover, then you shouldn’t miss out visiting Siargao Island in the southern part of the country. This tear-shaped island is considered the Surfing Capital of the Philippines and is patronized by local and international surfers alike.
Cloud 9 is the most famous surfing location in Siargao and the boardwalk here also serves as Siargao’s unofficial icon. The beach here is good for beginners and professionals. There are several other surf breaks in the island, more than 20 actually, with some requiring you to hire a local boat before being dropped off in the offshore surf break.
The best months to go surfing is from September to November. The annual surfing competition in Siargao is also held every September.
Surfboard rental costs P500 and a 1 hour practice session costs P500 as well.
15. Chasing waterfalls in Cebu
Chasing waterfalls in Cebu is an amazing way to spend a day. Some of our favorites are Kawasan, Inambakan and Dao falls.
Start the day at Kawasan Falls. It is the most famous waterfall in Cebu, so get here just after sunrise to have it to yourself. It is a short walk along the crystal-clear river to the main waterfall. Make sure to check out the other falls further up river. A small path will lead to several areas with incredible photo opportunities.
Next, head to Inambakan Falls, which was our favorite. It is a short and clear path to the waterfall. The gatorade-blue water is out of this world and a perfect place for a swim.
Last, check out Dao Falls. This waterfall requires a guide and requires a section wadding in knee-deep water through a beautiful gorge. At the end of the 45-minute walk is this amazing waterfall.
There are various entrance fees to these waterfalls ranging from P20 to P50, along with necessary guide fees.
16. Canyoneering in Badian, Cebu
Following an adventure trail via trekking and jumping off waterfalls in Badian, Cebu, is an experience you shouldn’t missed!
This activity goes on for about 4 hours. First, tourists are required to attend a short briefing where they are given instructions and precautions about licensed tour guides. The track starts on a cliff where you have to jump off a deep pool and then go through other streams, going along Kanlaob River, until reaching Kawasan Falls. Here, you can choose to simply swim the falls or jump through other spots surrounding the area.
Canyoneering not only offers an adrenaline-pumping experience, it also allows you to view picturesque waterfalls and lakes in the area.
Children below 12 years are not allowed to go canyoneering. Price per head is typically P1500-2000.
17. Sand boarding in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte has a long stretch of sand dunes covering Currimao, La Paz and Paoay. The last is the most popular one and currently the hotspot for sand boarding enthusiasts.
Sand boarding is fairly simple. You slide down the sand dunes using a concave board. A guide will instruct you on what to do. Beginners can start off sitting then proceed to standing up when you’re more confident. Don’t worry if you fall at first, you’ll soon get the hang of it!
Sand boarding is part of a package offered in Paoay, which also includes a 4×4 ride. It costs P2500 for 4-5 people. The best time to go sand boarding is early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid getting sunburned.
18. Trekking Batad, Ifugao
Batad offers one of the most picturesque scenery in the Philippines. Trekking in Batad is not only a test for your leg muscles, it’s also a cultural trip.
To get here, you need to go to Banaue and from thereon ride a jeepney to the Saddle. It’s then a 20-minute trek down to the village, where there are homestays offering rooms as well as native cottages as accommodation. To explore Batad, you need to trek across the rice terraces. It’s more exhausting than regular trek in the mountain because climbing requires higher leg lifts.
There are two spots you can visit in Batad. Tappiyah Falls, with its brave stream, requires 1-1.5 hour of trekking each way. The Awa View Deck, a passageway used by locals between Batad and Sitio Patpat, is 2-2.5 hours of trekking each way and is considered a more difficult climb.
Expenses including transportation, accommodation and food for an overnight trip are about P3000-4000 per person, depending whether you’re solo or in a group.
19. Hiking Mount Pulag, Mountain Province
Undoubtedly there are more treks in the country that are more challenging or stunningly beautiful, but even today Mount Pulag remains a classic trek for casual or professional climbers alike. Mount Pulag, considered the third highest in the country, is located in Mountain Province and labeled as “The Playground of the Gods.” It is famous for the sea of clouds, seen early in the morning.
The most popular route in Mount Pulag is via the Ambangeg-Ambangeg trail, which can be done in 1-2 days. More difficult trails include Akiki, Tawangan and Ambaguio, which can be accessed from other provinces.
There are full travel packages offering 2-day hikes to Mount Pulag. The standard rate is around P4500 per person.
20. Caving in Sagada, Mountain Province
By Cheeky Passports
Adventures were plentiful during our two-month trip around the Philippines, but exploring the caves of Sagada was probably the most exhilarating of all. Sagada is a little hill town in the Mountain Province of North Luzon in the Philippines. It is mostly known for its peculiar hanging coffins and also for the multitude of caves and waterfalls found in the region.
One of the most exciting adventures in Sagada is easily exploring a cave system known as the Cave Connection. The 3-4-hour hike starts in Lumiang Cave and ends in Sumaguing Cave. The spelunking tour is not for the faint of heart! You will be challenged to enter dark holes and wade through icy-cold water. Health and safety standards are almost non-existent, and the potential for accidents is rather high. Still, we thought that the adrenaline rush made it all worthwhile!
A local guide is absolutely essential when exploring the Cave Connection. The activity costs P800 for 2 people, and can be booked at the Sagada Tourist Office in town.
21. Spelunking in Hundred Caves in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Hundred Caves is a village-run caving system located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. This multi-level cave-system carved into the epic limestone scenery is one of the most fantastic cave systems in the Philippines. And that is saying a lot considering it is just a short drive from the UNESCO World Wonder Puerto Princesa Underground River.
But it’s not just the incredible cave system that makes Hundred Caves so incredible. It has barely been noticed by the tourism industry yet. So Hundred Caves is nearly tourist free and practically unspoiled. The cave system is run by the local village and runs guided tours of the cave when visitors arrive. This gives visitors a unique experience from other local cave attractions such as Ugong Rock adventures that have a far more touristy approach.
Hundred Caves might require a bit of asking around to find, but it’s worth it if you do. Cave fee is about P400 per person.
Thanks everyone for contributing to this round-up of best outdoor adventures in the Philippines! What other activities do you think should make it to this list?
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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!).