Planning a vacation to anywhere can be very difficult, and the Philippines is not different. We want to help you understand how to tackle this problem, and even suggest some itineraries you might find suitable, or get inspired by.
You will first have to realize what it is you want to see and do on your vacation. Do you want to relax on the beach, dive, climb mountains, go caving, eco-tourism… what is your idea of fun? Then you will have to figure out how much time are you going to have, and what are the best places to visit during your time there.
Making this research is crucial for a successful trip. Just keep in mind that you’re not alone, and there are many travel forums you can ask for advice. You can also consult travel agencies who are experts to the Philippines, who’ll help you build the best vacation package for you. Doing that will ensure you will not have these moments you’re lost and just wasting your time.
Popular activities in the Philippines
The thing we’re most known for here in the Philippines is of course the beautiful islands and beaches, known to be the best in the world. So any long vacation should have some involved. The beach experience in here usually offers diving, snorkeling, island hopping and sometimes surfing. Those activities are good for novices and experts alike, as there are diving and surfing spots suitable for all levels.
Nonetheless the breathtaking nature of the Philippines isn’t restricted to its coastlines and waters. The Philippines is a mountainous country, with mountains mostly covered with tropical rainforests, and there are many famous volcanos like Mt. Mayon, or Mt. Pinatubo. The mountains is also where most of the indigenous communities in the Philippines live. The UNESCO rice terraces are to be found in Banaue and the Igorots in Sagada are a great example for that.
Even though, ecotourism – traveling with awareness of the environment and local communities, can be found and felt not only in the mountains, but in many places of the Philippines, like Batanes, and even the most touristy spots like Bohol.
Just decide how you’re experience is going to be like. In our opinion, a good mix is the best. Diversity in the attractions you’re going to do will leave the best impression on you, and make your vacation very memorable. Don’t be afraid to try things you’ve never done before, if you never dived in your life, give it a try, if you want to learn how to surf, why not? It is your vacation, maximize your fun!
Is it your kind of place?
Now that you figured out what you’d like to experience on you vacation, it’s time to find out what are the best places for you to visit. Do you want a relaxed quiet place, or a vibrant party destination? Do you like big cities, restaurants, bars clubs and so on, or do you want to visit the more secluded and remote places in the Philippines.
How much time do you want to spend in the city? Traveling in the Philippines you are most likely to go through either Manila or Cebu City. Sometimes you’ll be compelled to spend some time in them, and sometimes you’ll have to choose whether to spend time there or not at all. Both are very good when it comes to culinary experiences, especially Manila. You will find tons of restaurants and bars of very good quality, of all sorts of cuisines. Nightlife in Manila and Cebu is also better than you’ll find anywhere in the country, with many nightclubs and parties.
For those who love a vibrant atmosphere, the more touristy islands will be perfect. Boracay for instance is the island with the best nightlife in the country, with so many beach parties. It is true that Boracay is more expensive than most other destinations in the Philippines, but you can find deals and promotions from time to time, and there is a wider selection of hotels and resorts for all budgets. So we think that it’s highly advised to do the proper research and even book a personalized Boracay package for the best deals and maximum fit.
On the more lively islands list there is Bohol, which very popular among tourists of all types including families, Puerto Galera which is known for its gorgeous white beach and great dives, and Siargao – the surfing capital of the Philippines. As a rule of thumb, it is safe to assume that most of the touristy and frequently visited islands in the Philippines are in the Visayas Islands. Straying away from them will bring you, usually, to rustic and off the beaten path places.
Now if you’re looking for a quiet and romantic place the islands of the Philippines will not fail you. Being an archipelago of 7,107 islands, there are so many quiet spots that are just paradise. You’ve got El Nido and Coron, always appearing on the top of the lists of the best islands in the world, you’ve got Caramoan, Siquijor, Malapascua and so on. Those might be just names to you right now, but besides of the research you’ll have to do for yourself, the suggested itinerary below will hopefully shed some light on some of them.
The mountain provinces of the Philippines, as well as many destinations in peripheral Philippines are the most secluded. The tourism there is many times in the shape of ecotourism, the hotels drop in standards, prices also go down, and commuting becomes more difficult and slower. Those are the places where you have the chance to witness some of the local culture first handedly. It’s off the beaten path that you’ll find that the food, language, customs and beliefs are different from place to place, and you can truly realize how diverse this country really is. Famous spots in this category are the Cordillera and Mountain Province, northern Luzon, many parts of Palawan, most of Mindanao and Mindoro.
Where to go and when
Weather in the Philippines is a huge factor on where you should travel, and when we say weather, we mean rain. In general there are two season in the Philippines, the dry season from December to June, and the wet season from July to November. The ideal time to visit is of course the dry season, where you can visit anywhere you want. The wet season makes many destinations unreachable and dangerous because of landslides, like most of the mountain provinces, and many other
places unenjoyable. Just imagine being in El Nido when it’s raining non-stop, with no ability to go island hopping, enjoy the beach or anything at all.
But the rainy season has its merits too. Mindanao and southern Visayas are hardly affected by the typhoons of the rainy season, and it’s actually a very good time to visit these areas. You can get rain every now and then but the cloudy sky will keep you from burning, making the temperature a lot cooler and enjoyable. So whenever you get to travel the Philippines, you will have many great places to visit.
1st day – starting point is Cebu City: visit the city’s historical landmarks – Fort San Pedro, Museo Sugbo for pre and post-colonial collections.you can also visit the Taoist temple, a beautiful site that shows the deep Chinese roots in Cebu. After lunch catch a bus heading to Moalboal and check in in your resort of choice. White Beach is the classy option, but if you are looking for budget accommodation Panangsama is the place to go.
2nd day – after a light breakfast start the Kawasan Falls canyoneering tour, which will take the whole day. Kawasan Falls canyoneering is among the most famouse in the country. You will jump, rappel down waterfalls, and end up in the beautiful turquoise Kawasan falls.
3rd day – island hopping and snorkeling tour. Snorkeling in Moalboal is famous for the shoals of sardines that inhabit the waters of Panangsama. There are millions of them swimming in the water, and drawing lots of marine life. Turtles and dolphins are frequent guests to the waters of Moalboal. At night take a bus to Oslob, and check-in you resort.
4th day – snorkel with the whale sharks in Oslob. Be sure to be there early as it is less crowded and therefore much more pleasant. We advose you do that before breakfast, and eat later. After breakfast you can ride a boat to Sumilon Island and enjoy the beach, but think it’s better to head back to Cebu City, and you should be there just in time for lunch if you do that. After lunch head to the port and choose between Siquijor and Bohol.
Siquijor is great for its beautiful secluded white beaches, its many waterfalls and caves, and for the old churches. It is famous for being a place of witchcraft and mystique, but we find it romantic and enchanting. You could easily spend 2 nights there and you’ll love it, but for our itinerary we pick Bohol. So take a ferry going there and check-in Alona Beach.
5th day – start the time in Bohol by island hopping. It is among the best island hopping tours in the Philippines, and you’ll visit Virgin and Balicasag islands. While snorkeling you will see many types of fish, corals, and plenty of turtles. You’ll even get to see dolphins if you’re lucky. When back spend some time on Alona beach.
6th day – go diving in Bohol. It is among the top places in the country and in the world to do so. If you’re not a certified diver, consider trying a one or two fun dives. The dive clubs in Bohol have a very good reputation for being very professional, so you’ll be in good hands. In the afternoon take a tour to Chocolate hills, the most iconic spot in Bohol.
7th day – leave Bohol and head back to Cebu. According to your flight to Boracay spend some time in the city. If you get there early enough, append some time on the beach and get ready for partying tonight!
8th-9th days – island hopping! Crocodile Island, Puka Beach, and Crystal Cove are among the sites you’ll visit on your tour. Go and explore Ariel’s point, a small island great for snorkeling and kayaking, and for cliff jumping! Other activities for you to try are helmet diving, kite surfing, banana boats, jet-skis, wakeboarding and more. Don’t forget to try paraw-sailing across the beach while the sun is setting down, it’s so beautiful to watch.
10th day – fly back home and start dreaming about your next vacation.
This schedule is just a suggestion, and can be altered in many ways to suit you personally. You can change the order, add and skip parts of it. If your trip is more diving oriented, you can spend more time diving in each destination, and add Malapascua. If you want to try surfing, Siargao is also great this time of the year, and flight take off from Cebu Airport.
The changes you can make are many, so do your research about the tourist destinations the Philippines has to offer, and make the best trip you can!