Teeming with textbook definitions of a tropical paradise the Philippines indulge and astound. Yet with over 7,000 islands to choose from, finding the best things to do in the Philippines can be a little overwhelming.
This fascinating country brimming with friendly locals and quirky traditions, is divided into three main island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Ranging from serene mountainscapes to buzzing cities, and cobbled colonial streets to sleepy villages overlooking turquoise lagoons – the Philippines are an explorer’s dream.
Don’t know where to begin your adventure? Check our list of the best things to do in the Philippines to help get you started.
The history of Cebu City
This modern-day port is awash with stories of the islands’ colonial past. Begin your journey into the city’s history by heading to the Cebu Heritage Monument. The structure is an amalgamation of churches, crosses, and key historical figures steeped in tales of yesteryear. We suggest hiring a local guide to help give you a breakdown of each fascinating detail. After, stroll past monuments of Spanish occupation such as the Basílica del Santo Niño (Basilica of the Holy Child), la cruz de Magallanes (Magellan’s cross), and the fuerte de San Pedro (the fort of Saint Peter).
Next, further your tour by walking to Colon street. At first glance, this street may seem a little boring; however, it’s peppered with street vendors and food stalls dishing out treats such as mango with shrimp paste and tempura fish balls. Feeling adventurous? This area also sells Balut, a hard boiled duck egg with a twist; the egg is fertilized and left for around 16-20 days before being cooked. Ok, it might not sound appetising – yet locals go crazy for them.
Swim with giants
The coast of Cebu is home to the biggest fish in the world: the whale shark. Although they are called “sharks”, these gentle giants couldn’t be less like their more dangerous cousins.
In the last few years local fisherman have started to feed these huge creatures, which in turn keep them near the coast. As a result, going diving and seeing a whale shark is almost a guarantee. Alongside whale sharks, the crystal-clear waters are filled with turtles and schools of tropical fish.
The Culinary delights of Nacpan Beach
A trip to Nacpan Beach is unmissable; some even claim that it’s the most beautiful beach in the world. Ok, a day topping up you tan on this mesmerising coastline is alone one of the best things to do in the Philippines, but it also famed for its outstanding gastronomy. Enjoy this lively paradise, before indulging in one of the many stellar restaurants lining the shore.
The beauty of Batad
Batad’s bright green rice fields weaving through rolling hills is a must-see. In fact, its exceptional beauty was enough to attract the attention of UNESCO, which added this region to its World Heritage Site list in 1995. Getting to the best viewing points is experience in itself; one of the only ways to arrive is by hitching a ride on a delightfully kitsch jeepney, from the town of Banaue. Once you’ve arrived, gaze at the layered rice paddies dotted with traditional houses to marvel at this landscape that has remained relatively unchanged for over 2,000 years.
The lagoons of El Nido
El Nido is a stunning lagoon located on the northern tip of Palawan. This dramatic coastline lapped by serene turquoise waters and with sandy coves is a hotspot for explorers and beach lovers alike. Due to its dramatic rock formations, and array of hidden caves, we suggest exploring by kayak. First and foremost, it lets you find the hidden gems lacing the shores at your own pace; secondly, its lack of noise allows you to hear the birdsong of thousands of swifts nesting in the area.
The chocolate hills of Bohol
Visible from the town of Carmen, the 1,200 chocolate hills of Bohol are truly bizarre. Covering over 18 square miles, the normally green hills dry up over summer and turn into what seem like gigantic molehills, thus giving the hills their name. Although it’s no mean feat, we suggest hiking up the 214 steps of the Carmen town viewing deck for the best vantage point.
If the chocolate hills have whetted your appetite for hilly adventures, go one step further with a trek up the slopes of Hibok-Hibok. Yet beware: this volcano is still active. Forming part of the Ring of Fire, this natural wonder boasts six hot springs and grand lakes. In dry weather, it’s possible to climb the volcano, but it’s a demanding three- to four-hour rocky ascent, so you need to be in relatively good shape. Yet, if you feel up to the task, the stellar view of the surrounding islands is more than worth the slog.
These highlights are but a few of the many wonders that these intriguing islands have to offer. Book your adventure today to discover the wonders of this enchanting country.