With budget airlines offering promo fares throughout the year, there’s no reason not to see more of the Philippines. Here is our list of top local destinations.
Boracay is still one of, if not the most popular destination for local and foreign tourists. It feels more crowded with each visit, with new establishments sprouting every time, but that doesn’t dissuade visitors from island hopping, diving, kite boarding, windsurfing or simply lounging around and catching the sunset at White Beach.
Tourists are spoiled for choice, from the capital Puerto Princesa to the pristine waters of Coron and its neighbor Busuanga, the resorts of El Nido (Lagen, Miniloc, Apulit and Pangulasian), the relatively unexplored San Vicente and the exclusive Amanpulo, among others.
This members-only island club in Quezon’s Polillo Island is built on a 500-hectare property accessed via private aircraft 25 minutes from Manila. It boasts seven theme villages offering activities not strictly water-related: horseback riding, archery, KTV, billiards, mahjong, poker, etc. There’s a spa, as well as several restaurants and bars to cater to the whims and tastes of the rich and famous.
Sagada has kept its small town charm. Trips to Sumaguing Cave, the hanging coffins, and Bomod-ok Falls should be on your list.
Vigan was recently declared one of the New Seven Wonder Cities. Visitors always head to Calle Crisologo for its cobblestone street and bahay na bato. Why not set your alarm at dawn to capture this famous street in the early morning light? They say it’s like you traveled through time.
Laoag City and the nearby towns of Ilocos Norte are now easier to visit with regular flights to and from Laoag International Airport. Aside from feasting on local delicacies and body surfing in Pagudpud, there are plans to put up a water sports complex near Paoay Lake.
Lately, tourists have been drawn from the city to the previously unexplored islands of Malapascua, Moalboal and Bantayan for diving and simply baking under the sun, and whale shark watching in Oslob.
No earthquake can stop tourists from looking for the famous Chocolate Hills and the tarsier sanctuary, as well as a cruise on the Loboc river. There’s dolphin watching in Pamilacan Island. In Panglao are top resorts including Amorita, Eskaya, and the new Bellevue.
Fun seekers have found new activities in recent years here, like zip-lining and bouncing inside a zorb, a giant plastic ball. Laid-back options include a trip to the Malagos Garden Resort and its sister company, where the famous Malagos cheeses are made. There’s always beach adventure in the just-renovated Pearl Farm.
Cagayan de Oro
Zip lines, white-water rafting, a bridge suspended 120 feet from the ground, ATV rides, and rappelling are among the activities for thrill seekers who venture out to this lovely city in Mindanao.
Balmy Tagaytay has some of the best restaurants outside Manila, spas, as well as resort hotels. The view of Taal Volcano is always a come-on.
The American reality TV show “Survivor” has filmed one season on the remote island of Palaui in the town of Sta. Ana. Palaui itself was named No. 10 in CNN’s 100 Best Beaches list of 2013. Spelunking enthusiasts are drawn to Callao Caves in Peñablanca and lesser-known ones in Gattaran and Lal-lo. Thrill seekers enjoy white-water rafting, rappelling and rock climbing. Marian devotees flock to the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat.
There are other things to do for nonsurfers like island hopping to Daku Island and Naked Island, visiting the Sohoton Cave, and swimming at the Magpupungko Tidal Pools.
Surigao del Sur
Hinatuan River is now known as the Enchanted River because of its crystal-clear waters and noontime ritual. Schools of fish come out for feeding and then disappear soon after.
Unpredictable weather is a minor deterrent for those who want to visit one of the country’s most magical places. From its verdant valleys to its breathtaking coastlines, the faraway province of Batanes is as enchanting as the photos show.
The majestic Mayon Volcano, the ruins of Cagsawa, the wakeboarding complex in Camsur, the breathtaking Caramoan, the resort getaway on Misibis Bay, the fiery dish that is Bicol Express, and swimming with butanding in Donsol.
Asia’s oldest American-founded university in Asia is in Silliman. It is also the entry point for other destinations in Negros Oriental province like Bais City (for dolphin and whale watching), as well as the famous Apo Island, a paradise for divers and marine enthusiasts.
Is Baguio regaining its glory days? Commercialization and the corollary overcrowding, pollution and Manila-like traffic have been a turnoff for tourists in the city of pines. But if social media posts are any indication, Filipinos seem to be rediscovering the country’s summer capital.
They make the trip not just for the annual Panagbenga Festival, but also weekend getaways that include visits to National Artist BenCab’s gallery and museum and Tam-Awan Village.