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I just finished my 13 day Philippines Island explorer with Andri and Kells (for half ...” Read More

1. DIVE IN THE REEFS OF TUBBATHA

Diver swimming with a school of trevally fishes.
Swim with a school of trevally fishes on your diving expedition to Tubbatha.

If you are looking for an unforgettable underwater adventure, scuba diving at Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park should be on the top of your list. Located in the heart of the Sulu Sea, this Unesco World Heritage Site is renowned for its incredible biodiversity, pristine coral reefs, and crystal-clear waters. Tubbataha’s remote location and protected status ensure that its reefs remain among the healthiest and most diverse in the world. See white-tip reef sharks lounging around at Shark Airport, admire colorful corals and sponges along the steep walls of Amos Rock, and swim with manta rays at Black Rock.

Alternative destinations:

  • Apo Reef Natural Park: Another incredible spot for diving is Apo Reef Natural Park. Located off the coast of Occidental Mindoro, the park is the largest contiguous coral reef system in the Philippines and the second largest in the world. Its remote location ensures minimal human impact, resulting in pristine dive conditions and thriving marine life.
  • Malapascua Island: Situated off the northern tip of Cebu, Malapascua Island is famous for its regular sightings of the elusive thresher shark around the sunken island of Monad Shoal. You can also explore underwater tunnels and caves off Gato Island and see bobtail squid at the Lighthouse Reef.

Best time: Dry season from November to May brings calm seas and high underwater visibility. Peak conditions are from December to February when the weather is cooler. Top dive sites like Tubbataha Reef are accessible from mid-March to mid-June. 

Insider tip: 
Tubbatha has a limited diving season (March to June), which helps preserve the site's pristine condition. Liveaboards trips to Tubbataha fill up quickly, so book at least a year in advance to secure your spot.

2. HIKE THE RICE TERRACES OF CORDILLERA

A Pakhayo mother and son duo cultivating rice in Cordillera.
Join the Pakhayo locals in the Philippines for a hands-on experience in rice cultivation or harvesting year-round.

Hiking the Philippine Cordillera is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the Philippines. Carved into the mountains by the Ifugao people over 2,000 years ago, these ancient rice terraces boast a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure. Explore indigenous villages, meet local people, and take in some of the world’s most breathtaking views.

Alternative destinations:

  • Mount Kanlaon: Located on Negros Island, Mount Kanlaon is an active stratovolcano and the highest peak in the Visayas. Rising over 2,400 meters, this challenging yet rewarding hike offers a mix of steep ascents, dense forests, and open ridges through diverse ecosystems.
  • Mount Guiting-Guiting: Standing on Sibuyan Island in Romblon province, Mount Guiting-Guiting is considered one of the Philippines' most challenging and technical hikes. Known as ‘G2’ by local mountaineers, it features rugged terrain, sharp ridges, and steep inclines.

Best time: The best time for hiking in the Philippines is during the dry season from November to May. December to February has cooler temperatures, making for more comfortable hikes.

Insider tip: 
For the most spectacular vistas, hike the Cordillera terraces during planting (June to July) or the harvest season (October to November), when the vibrant green and golden hues make it one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Philippines.

3. EXPLORE THE SPANISH COLONIAL TOWN OF VIGAN

The famous half-built Spanish colonial building dating back to the 1960s.
When in the Cebu Island, be sure to sightsee some Spanish architecture dating back to 1960s, one of which is the partially completed building that was supposed to house the Spanish troops.

Step back in time to when you visit the historic Spanish colonial town of Vigan in the Ilocos Sur province. This Unesco World Heritage Site is one of the best-preserved examples of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia, making it one of the top tourist attractions in the Philippines. Established as a trading post in the 16th century, Vigan boasts quaint cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved Spanish-era buildings. Taking a ride in a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) is a must-do.

Alternative destinations:

  • Taal, Batangas: Known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and heritage houses, Taal is also famous for its hand-embroidered barong Tagalog and balisong (butterfly knife) craftsmanship.
  • Silay, Negros Occidental: Often referred to as the ‘Paris of Negros’ due to its rich cultural heritage, Silay boasts many ancestral houses, including the Balay Negrense Museum and Hofilena Ancestral House. The town’s charming streets and vibrant artistic scene make it a delightful place to visit.

Best time: The dry season, which runs from November to May, has sunny weather, cool temperatures, and minimal rainfall—ideal for exploring.

Insider tip: 
Plan your trip around the Vigan City Fiesta (January) or the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts (May), which showcases the town’s cultural heritage through parades, traditional dances, and craft fairs.

4. SAIL ALONG PUERTO PRINCESA UNDERGROUND RIVER

Sailboats and a man in El Nido.
Experience the adventure of a lifetime sailing in El Nido's crystal-clear waters and breathtaking limestone cliffs.

Sailing along the Puerto Princesa Underground River is one of the most popular activities to do in the Philippines. Winding through the limestone hills of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, this Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature promises an unforgettable adventure. Marvel at intricate formations of stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling and stalagmites rising from the cave floor, crafted over thousands of years.

Alternative destinations:

  • El Nido, Palawan:  Famous for its spectacular limestone cliffs and crystal-clear waters, El Nido is a fantastic spot for sailing. Explore hidden lagoons, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs.
  • Bohol’s Loboc River: Experience a tranquil river cruise along the Loboc River, where you can enjoy lush scenery, local music, and cultural performances in floating restaurants.

Best time: November to May (the dry season) is the perfect time to set sail. Calm seas and favorable wind provide consistent and pleasant sailing conditions, particularly between December and February. 

Insider tip: 
To preserve the site, the number of daily visitors is limited, so book your tour well in advance to secure your spot.

5. LOUNGE ON BORACAY BEACH

An exotic resort on Borocay Island.
When staying near any of the seventeen beaches in the Borocay Island, you'll be able to lounge in the best of the exostic resorts located right on the sandy shores.

Spending the day on one of the Philippines’ picture-postcard beaches is a quintessential experience, and Boracay Beach is the place to be. Renowned for its powdery white sand and turquoise waters, Boracay Beach is lined with luxury resorts, laid-back beach cafés and plenty of activities. Head to Bulabog Beach for kiteboarding and windsurfing, take a photo of the iconic statue of the Virgin Mary at Willy's Rock, and watch the sunset from Diniwid Beach.

Alternative destinations:

  • El Nido, Palawan: You’ll find dramatic limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, and clear waters at El Nido Beach in Palawan. Kayak past towering limestone formations on the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, one of the Philippines’ top tourist spots, and go snorkeling at Secret Beach.
  • Siargao Island: Known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao is a must if you love catching waves. Swim in natural tidal pools at the Magpupungko Rock Pools and enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking at the Sugba Lagoon.

Best time: Sunny weather, very little rainfall, and comfortable temperatures from November to May are perfect for lounging in the sun and enjoying beach activities.

Insider tip: 
To enjoy Boracay's beauty without the crowds, plan your visit during the off-peak months, such as June or September. The weather is still pleasant, and you’ll have more space to explore.

6. DISCOVER THE HORRORS OF WAR ON CORREGIDOR

The remnant of an artillery displayed on Corregidor Island.
Be sure to take a guided tour of Battery Grubbs in Corregidor Island exhibiting remnants of war-era equipment.

If you’re a history buff, a visit to the island of Corregidor is a must! Lying 40 kilometers southwest of Manila, the tadpole-shaped isle was the location of several battles during the Second World War and boasts bunkers, barracks, hideouts, and secret tunnels left behind. After being abandoned post-war, the living museum was reclaimed from the jungle and transformed into a national shrine. To explore the island, book a guided day trip from Manila.

Alternative destinations:

  • Intramuros: One of the oldest districts in Manila, Intramuros, or the ‘Walled City,’ is a 64-hectare Spanish fortress built within the city. The Old World city features Spanish-era landmarks like the ornate Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church Museum.
  • Fort Santiago, Manila: One of the most important historical sites in Manila, Fort Santiago, is another historical gem. Guarding the entrance to the Pasig River, the citadel was built by Spanish navigator and governor Miguel López de Legazpi in 1571. Visit the Rizal Shrine, where the Philippines’ national hero, Dr José Rizal, was imprisoned in 1896 while he awaited execution. Don’t miss the beautifully restored 18th-century Spanish military barracks, Baluarte de Santa Barbara, now the Rizaliana Furniture Hall, and the macabre dungeon cell blocks.

Best time: The best time for exploring is during the dry season, which runs from November to May, when the weather is sunny and warm, with very little rainfall.

Insider tip: 
A wonderful way to explore Intramuros is on a carriage ride (calesa). Be sure to agree on an itinerary and a price with the driver before setting off.

7. VISIT THE ACTIVE VOLCANO OF MOUNT PINATUBO

Mayon Volcano eruption captured in 2018.
If you're lucky, you can witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of a volcanic eruption at one of the active volcanoes from a safe distance.

Visit an active volcano for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. One of 24 active volcanoes in the Philippines, Mount Pinatubo exploded in 1991 in one of the largest eruptions of the century. Today, the volcano’s moonlike lahar landscape and emerald-green lake are among the top tourist attractions in the country.

Alternative destinations:

  • Mount Mayon: Located on Luzon Island in the Albay province, Mount Mayon is a 2,400-meter-high stratovolcano with a perfect cone peak. The best views of the volcano are from around the base, where you can wander along nature trails and see wildlife like parakeets. Hiking permits are available, but it is a challenging trek for experienced hikers.
  • Taal Volcano: The Taal Volcano is not only famous for being the smallest active volcano in the world, but the crater lake inside its caldera is the world’s largest lake on an island within a lake on an island.

Best time: The best time to visit active volcanoes in the Philippines is during the dry season, which lasts from November to May. 

Insider tip: 
Independent hikes to the top of Mount Pinatubo are not permitted, but organized trips to the volcano leave from the small town of Santa Juliana.

8. GO WATERFALL SWIMMING IN KAWASAN

A Filipino hill tribe woman spotted in a waterfall.
As you explore the pristine waterfalls of Philippines, you will encounter several hill tribe locals with whom you can interact and exchange cultures with.

The Philippines is home to some of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, from towering mountainside falls to terraced cascades surrounded by jungle. Kawasan Falls takes the top spot for its picturesque setting and clear turquoise water. Surrounded by lush jungle and sheer limestone walls, the first fall of the two-tier cascade drops 40 meters into a deep pool, creating a beautiful, natural swimming pool.

Alternative destinations:

  • Cambughay Falls: Located on Siquijor Island, the three-tiered Cambugahay Falls are renowned for their strikingly blue waters, which come from natural mountainside springs. Each tier has natural lagoons, and the bottom tier has a deep natural pool perfect for swimming.
  • Pagsanjan Falls: Famous for being the location for the final scenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1975 classic Apocalypse Now, Pagsanjan Falls is not just popular for its Hollywood nostalgia value. Here you can also take an exhilarating ‘Shooting the Rapids’ kayaking adventure from the falls and back on the Bumbungan River.

Best time: The dry season from November to May is the best time to visit the Philippines’ waterfalls. Sunny weather, little rainfall, and comfortable temperatures are perfect for lounging in the sun and enjoying the water.

Insider tip: 
For a fun adventure, grab some snacks and rent a bamboo raft to get closer to the base of the Cambugahay Falls, where you can have a picnic on the water.

The Philippines’ beautiful landscapes, ancient history, and rich culture offer endless adventures and experiences. Whether sailing through the enchanting Puerto Princesa Underground River, lounging on the pristine beaches of Boracay, or diving in the vibrant coral gardens of Palawan, this Southeast Asian country promises unforgettable memories.

To experience these incredible destinations in the Philippines and more, contact one of our experts, who can help you create a customized trip to the Philippines.

For more information, please go through our Philippines travel guide.

Philippines Tours
Published by Supriya Rayamajhi, updated on June 5, 2024
Plan a custom-made trip to PhilippinesWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Philippines.
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