We all heard stories of what Thailand used to be like 20 years ago, before it was spoiled by the hordes of drunk tourists flocking its islands. Just 3 hours flight away, there is still a place who maintains that exotic, virgin charm – the Philippines. To add to that, the beaches and scenery are even more beautiful, and everything is cheaper.
The fact most potential tourists tend to overlook the Philippines while planning their tropical getaway does come with a price though. The country isn’t a tourist mecca like Thailand is, so getting around and finding out what to do can be a bit of a hassle. There is a lot of confusion and bad information found online. That is why we decided to try and make sense of it for you, and present the best places to visit in the Philippines. We are sure it will convince you to make the Philippines your next travel destination!
Best Places to Visit in the Philippines
Considered one of the best islands in the world, Palawan is the number one place to visit in the Philippines. Palawan offers a great mix of popular, crowded beaches and private island resorts such as Pamalican and Minoloc. The island is one of the best value for money destinations in the world since even the high end resorts are still relatively cheap.
Those who wish to venture off the beaten track should head out to Coron. This less developed area hosts some of the best beaches in the Philippines, and is considered a world class diving site.
Accommodation is more basic, but in exchange you get to enjoy the feeling of being on a truly exotic island. In any case, make sure you spend at least one night in the Provincial capital Puerto Princesa, so you could visit the famous underground river national park.
Boracay, and especially the white beach area, is the most popular tourist spot in the country. Boracay is a very small island, so it can easily get crowded there especially in the high season. The island is the Filipino version of Thailand’s wild party islands such as Samui and Phangan. The 4km long beach area is packed with bars, nightclubs and restaurants so you can always find something to do.
During the day, the best thing to do is just lay back and relax at one of Boracay’s stunning beaches. White beach has been voted best beach in the world for a reason – the azure water and white sandy beach are simply breathtaking. For that reason, the island is also a great place for swimming and snorkeling.
If Boracay is paradise for singles and party lovers, then Bohol is the best place for couples and families with small children. It doesn’t mean there is no nightlife there – Panglao’s Alona beach is actually considered one of the best party spots in the Philippines, second only to Boracay. Bohol, however, offers much more than just parties to its visitors. Dozens of secluded beaches and islands are scattered everywhere and the amount of attractions is just endless.
No description of Bohol could be complete without mentioning the famous Chocolate hills, a truly one of a kind geological formation. The hills are by far the most popular attraction in Bohol, but by no means the only one. Diving with dolphins and taking a cruise down the tropical Loboc river are also highly recommended. The island is really one of the best places to experience the country’s diverse wildlife and nature.
The greatest thing about Bohol is how close it is to so many other beautiful destinations, including Boracay. It will be really easy for you to include in your travel plan, and it’s definitely worth it spend a few days there and see everything the place has to offer. A mix of beautiful relaxing beaches with exciting adventure is the essence of a vacation in the Philippines, and Bohol catches that essence perfectly.
Sagada rice terraces
Sagada is a great alternative to the more traditional island destinations mentioned above. Don’t expect luxury resorts or exciting nightlife, because Sagada is mostly about tradition and nature. The Cordillera mountain province is home to Igorot tribe, the native people of the Philippines who keep the old traditions alive. Combine that with the scenic mountain view, and you’ll understand why Sagada is a great place to visit.
One of these traditions, dating back over 2000 years, is the use of the man made rice terraces of Banaue. Banaue is just a short ride from Sagada, and we recommend staying at Sagada because it is much more tourist friendly and welcoming, and closer to many other local attractions. The Cordillera rice terraces are many, but the most beautiful ones are located near the village of Batad. The Batad rice terraces have been declared an UNESCO world heritage site, so definitely a place you can’t afford to visit.
Getting to Sagada or Banaue can be a bit tricky, since there are no commercial flights available. The only possible way to get there is to take a bus from Manila, or hire a private van. It is really better to consult with a local travel agency while planning a trip to Sagada, because it will help you save a lot of precious time and avoid making any mistakes.
Many tourists overlook this amazing city and just pass through it on their way to the islands. Don’t be one of those, and make sure you enjoy everything Manila has to offer. What makes Manila a great place is the truly special mixture of cultures and the stark contrast between old and new. With anything from old forts and churches to some of the world’s largest and busiest shopping malls, it really has something to offer everyone.
Especially recommended is the old city Intramuros. The area was originally a fort founded by the Spaniards upon their arrival, and now serves as the old city and is full of stunning buildings and interesting museums. Nearby, north of the Pasig river, lies the world’s oldest Chinatown. Named Binondo, this Chinatown is especially fascinating because of the unique blend between Filipino-Hispanic culture and the Chinese one. This mixture is best witnessed by visiting the district’s remarkable pagoda bell tower.
Manila is also surrounded by many magnificent locations, some of which are among the country’s most beautiful. A mere few hours by bus you can find anything your heart desires – beautiful secluded beaches or tropical volcanoes perfect for hiking or camping outdoors. Puerto Galera is the obvious choice for a beach getaway near Manila, but if you are looking to get away from the tourists you should consider the Batangas beaches instead. Laiya beach is especially recommended.