With over 7000 islands, there is no shortage of idyllic beaches and turquoise waters in the Philippines. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Located in The Visayas, Boracay is perhaps the most ‘developed’ tourist island in the Philippines. It may be renowned for its beach bars and party scene, but you can still find your own tranquil spot on this island. With fabulous resorts and its world famous White Beach, Boracay is the ideal hedonistic escape.
The archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes with its white powder beaches, subterranean rivers, diverse marine life and luxury beach cottages. An undoubted highlight is the otherworldly setting of Bacuit Bay which rivals Halong Bay in natural beauty, but is far less visited. Explore its hidden coves, lagoons, white sand beaches and underwater coral gardens.
Sat on the northeastern tip of Mindanao, Dedon Island is just around the corner from the legendary surfing wave, Cloud 9. If surfing is not your style, there is ample opportunity to unwind on the pristine beaches, swim in the azure sea or explore the thick mangroves that surround the luxurious villas which integrate seamlessly with their environment.
Bicol in southeast Luzon is known for serving up the best cuisine in the country. Sample regional delicacies like Bicol express which are chillies stuffed with ground meat cooked in coconut milk and fill your plate with pinangat, pieces of fish wrapped up in taro leaves. Eat food from banana leaf plates and taste Bicol’s renowned sili (chilli) ice cream in the shadow of the formidable Mount Mayon. With the liberal use of coconut milk and chillies, Bicol certainly adds flavour and spice to Filipino food.
With a host of fine dining options also available in Manila’s Makati District, & fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood in abundance, we are sure you will agree that the Philippines can be just as exciting as its Asian neighbours when it comes to food.
The main entry point to the Philippines, Manila can seem a typical chaotic capital. However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find plenty of noteworthy historical sights.
Intramuros (half-day tour)
Built in 1571 and enclosing government buildings, churches and schools, the ruins of this once imposing fortress serve as a reminder of Spanish domination in the Philippines. You can walk along the 4.5km-long ramparts and most of the walls and gates are still accessible.
Corregidor Island (full day tour)
A 1-hour ferry ride from Manila Bay, Corregidor Island saw two fierce battles between the US and Japan during WWII. Your guide will take you to Malinta Tunnel, Battery Way, the Pacific War Memorial and the Spanish Lighthouse, and recount WWII life in the tunnels.
Located along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, volcanoes of all shapes and sizes dot the Philippines’ landscape.
Mount Taal (North Luzon)
Located close to Manila in the small town of Tagaytay, Lake Taal sits within the crater of Mount Taal, which itself sits within the crater lake of a prehistoric super volcano! Boat trips can be taken to Mount Taal so you can admire ‘Volcano Island’ at close quarters
Mount Pinatubo (North Luzon)
Also close to Manila, take the jeep across the moon-like terrain of Crow Valley, through the indigenous Aeta village, where you can trek to the summit of Pinatubo. Enjoy sublime views of the crater lake before heading back to Pinatubo spa town for a reinvigorating shower and hearty meal.
Mount Mayon (South Luzon)
Dubbed the ‘most perfect conical’ volcano in the world, perpetually smoking Mount Mayon provides a formidable backdrop to Legazpi City. You can trek through forests, grasslands and boulders, bathe in natural springs and camp on Mayon’s symmetrical slopes. You can also take an ATV (all-terrainvehicle) through rocky rivers and walk up to one of the lava walls created when it erupted in 2006.
There are numerous other trekking options available in the Philippines. Contact us for more information and suggested itineraries.
Diving and Snorkelling
Perhaps it is no surprise that the Philippines’ archipelago of 7107 islands lends itself to some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. You can expect warm clear waters, technicolour marine life, astounding coral gardens and World War II wrecks. Of the hundreds of world-class diving spots, some highlights are indicated below.
Donsol Bay (Southeast Luzon)
Get up close and personal with whale sharks, the gentle giants of the water! From November to June whale sharks come in great numbers to feed on nutrients. Slip on a vest and snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures which span up to 12m in length with mouths as wide as 2m! Only snorkelling is allowed in Donsol Bay
Coron Bay (Palawan)
Few places rival Coron for wreck-diving, where a submerged Japanese fleet of warships and merchant ships can be seen teeming with aquatic life. The wrecks can be found in both shallow and deep waters, so divers of all levels can observe these historical vessels close up. Diving courses (PADI/SSI) can also be arranged.
The largest island of the Philippines and one of the largest islands in the world, Luzon is lined with soaring mountains, alive with bubbling volcanoes and thick with tropical rainforest. While the north is regarded as the most ethnic and religiously diverse part of the Philippines, the south is known for its striking scenery, an ironic by-product of many turbulent natural disasters. Enjoy a glass of tapuy with the welcoming hill tribes of the emerald Cordillera rice terraces in Banaue, or be stunned into silence with panoramic views of the legendary Mount Mayon in the Bicol region.
Known as the 'Sunshine City' or 'City of Lights', Laoag declares its position within Filipino cultural heritage as poignantly as the strikes heard from within the Sinking Belltower. Visit one of the many beaches, the Paoay sand dunes, or absorb the fusion of an old Spanish-Japanese town with all the advantages of modern edifices.
The rustic Spanish colonial town of Vigan has charmed all that have strolled along the cobbled streets admiring the stone bahay and wooden mansions. Originally a centre of trade for gold and beeswax amongst Chinese merchants, the town has since been under American and Japanese rule. Due to its unique environment and colonial backdrop, the town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take one of the many kalesa (horse drawn carriages) around the Old Town, or catch some sun at one of Vigan's idyllic beaches.
Often described as the 'eighth wonder of the world', the rice terraces of Banaue are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an adored national treasure. The exquisite Cordilleras were crafted by the Ifugao 'head-hunters' some 2000 years ago and have since won the acclaim of agricultural and heritage awards worldwide for their world-class landscaping. Glimpse the quirky stone bulol (rice guards) on a tour of the sculpted mountains, meet the local hill tribes who tend to the terraces, and journey to the stunning viewpoints they have to offer – the higher you go, the more beautiful it gets.
Watching thick fog roll in from mountain peaks while surrounded by hanging wooden coffins carved with fearsome lizards can be an eerie image to fathom, but not while surrounded with the hospitality of a sleepy town whose lifeblood comes from the few tourists who drop in. Add enchanting caves and waterfalls to the list and you have an experience that will be difficult to forget.
Atypical of a Southeast Asian capital, Manila is a chaotic, colourful and culturally diverse urban jungle. The rich and the poor live crudely side by side; shopping malls are neighboured by shantytowns, restaurants fronted with hawkers. However, as capitals tend to prove, scratch beneath the hardened surface and you will discover a wealth of history in places you would likely bypass. Explore the Intramuros (walled city), walk across the 16th century drawbridges and discover stately homes, churches, schools and monasteries. Make sure you experience Filipino cuisine at its finest - concoctions of Spanish, Arabic and Chinese foods – then relax and enjoy the sun sinking into the horizon of the South China Sea.
An enormous prehistoric volcanic crater contains the spectacular sights of Lake Taal and the tempestuous Mount Taal volcano within. Considered one of the world's deadliest, the volcano has claimed the lives of hundreds of local people past and present. If it's an adrenaline injection you're after, take a tour over the mirror-like Lake Taal, and climb your way up to view the pulsating yellow sulphur pool that pushes clouds over the edges of the volcano.
South Luzon (Bicol Region)
Located in the southernmost tip of Luzon, Bicol is a region famed for its craggy volcanic landscape. Home to the 'world's most perfect' cone-shaped Mount Mayon volcano, Bicol is a hot spot for lovers of scenery, diving and spicy food. Strong survivors to the sometimes extreme weather conditions, coconut trees are in abundance, and are therefore the base, along with chilli, of delicious Bicolano cuisine. Be sure to sample guinataang labong or sili ice cream, while dining in the looming shadow of Mount Mayon. From Bicol you can also dive within the Philippine Sea, where you can swim with the world's largest fish, the almighty whale shark.
As well as offering black sand beaches, ancient buildings and astounding religious architecture, Legazpi is home to the mighty Mount Mayon volcano, considered the 'world's most perfect' volcano owing to its symmetrical precision and cone-shaped appearance. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the volcano is the most active in the Philippines, whose juicy, violent lava attracts wide-eyed visitors to its National Park, where you can witness unforgettable panoramic views of Legazpi. Get an ATV to the lava wall to get a closer look at Mount Mayon.
Now known as the 'whale shark capital of the world', the town of Donsol was originally a small fishing village whose locals feared the whale shark, thinking it vicious and deadly. However, a group of scuba divers with a video camera cleared its notorious reputation in 1998, proving the fish to be docile and safe to swim with. Now considered one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, the sleepy village has grown as a tourist destination, not only boosting the incomes of the local people, but maintaining the livelihood of the once poached whale shark.
Bulusan, translating to 'where water flows', is a sight to behold with its numerous waterfalls, springs and lakes; not to mention the active volcano Mount Bulusan, stewing away at the foot of the crater-based Bulusan Lake. Hire a boat or kayak within the secluded crater lake, and discover the dotted bamboo and nipa huts, hidden grottos, endemic bird species, and many other natural gems.