The Philippines is the best destination for island hopping in the Southeast Asia; its 7,000 islands have enough stunning beaches to explore for several trips. You can find more islands only in Indonesia, but the traveling in the Philippines is much easier.
In the Philippines, travelers are rewarded with stunning beaches, UNESCO-listed coral reefs and stunning surf waves. You can snorkel with whale sharks and dolphins, hike up volcanoes and drink cheap San Miguel beer until the sunrise.
However, it is the cheerful Filipinos who make their country a truly unique destination. The local culture is an exhilarating mixture of Asian and Latino influences, and almost everybody speaks good English. The Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia where you can chat with almost anyone.
As a travel destination the Philippines is still far from the popularity of Thailand or Malaysia, so you don’t need to worry about traveling into a tourist trap.
In the Philippines everyone can still find their own island paradise.
Best Destinations in the Philippines
The Philippines is divided into four geographical areas: Luzon, the Visayas Archipelago, Palawan, and Mindanao, all of which are described in more detail below.
As a rule of thumb, Luzon is the best destination for admiring world heritage sights such as Banaue Rice Terraces, whereas Visayas is best suited for island hopping. Palawan’s crown jewels are the fantastic looking islets of El Nido, which are getting increasingly crowded, though.
Travelers looking to get off the beaten path should consider Mindanao, which has some of the most dramatic sceneries in the whole country, and where tourism is still taking its first baby steps.
Luzon – the Main Island is Best for Sightseeing
Philippines’ capital Manila is located in Luzon, which is considered as the “main island” of the Philippines. Although the capital lacks world-class attractions, Manila is a fascinating destination for those who get excited about the frantic pulse of chaotic metropolises.
Beside Manila the biggest reason to travel to Luzon are the spectacular rice terraces of Banaue, a UNESCO world heritage site. The rice terraces are a real world-class sight: in the ancient times, the Ifugao tribe cut almost the whole Cordillero Mountain range into rice terraces that look like gigantic steps to heaven. You can get there from Manila by night bus.
Another top-notch site is Vigan, the only Spanish colonial era town that has survived intact in the Philippines. It also rates as one of the best preserved old towns in Asia.
Luzon has some beaches too, but they are not among the best in the Philippines. The nearest famous beach resort from Manila is Puerto Galera, located on the island of Mindoro off Luzon.
Visayas – Best for Island-Hopping
Visayas archipelago is the main island-hopping hub of the Philippines, home to the world-famous island Boracay.
Whereas Boracay has some of the most stunning bright white sand beaches you can find anywhere, Bohol lures visitors with its curious looking Chocolate hills, beautiful coral reefs and The Philippines’ cutest inhabitant, tarsier, a minuscule primate with some serious superpowers.
Some other notable islands in the Visayas are Malapascua, famous for its elusive thresher sharks, and Siquijor, the home of Philippines last masters of black magic.
Best way to travel to the Visayas is via Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. Cebu has good flight and ferry connections around the Philippines. Cebu has also plenty of flights from outside the Philippines, making it a good alternative gateway to the country.
Palawan – the Most Beautiful Islands in the Philippines
Palawan is a long and narrow island that points like a finger towards Malaysia’s Borneo. The main reason to travel all the way to Palawan is El Nido, a small beach town blessed with some of the most beautiful small islands in the world. The scenery is truly unforgettable. Limestone islands rise from the sea just like in Thailand’s Krabi, but even more beautiful.
Mindanao – the Best Adventure Destination in the Philippines
Of all areas of the Philippines, Mindanao has the least tourists. The huge island is best suited for adventure minded travelers looking for unexplored trails.
As for now Mindanao has only one famous travel destination, Siargao, known for its surf waves, the best in the country. It has also becoming increasingly popular with backpackers looking for a mellow place to chill-out.
Mindanao has much more potential, however. Next to Siargao is Surigao, a small town with uncrowded pebble-beaches from where you can swim with dolphins and explore the magnificent, secret island paradise of Dinagat.
Further away, close to the big city Davao, is majestic Mount Apo, home of the Philippine Eagle. The wingspan of the world’s biggest flying bird can reach up to two meters.
Travel to the Philippines
The biggest airports are in Manila and Cebu. From either of them you can take domestic flights around the country.
Being less chaotic than the capital but every bit as fun, Cebu is a good option to start you journey in the Philippines.