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Philippines Travel Bucket List: 15 Best Places to Go

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If you’re compiling your Philippines travel bucket list and seeking the best places to go, you’re in for a treat. The Philippines offers a diverse array of enchanting destinations that cater to every type of traveler. From stunning beaches to vibrant cities, lush rainforests to cultural treasures, this archipelago nation is brimming with experiences that will leave you in awe. In this guide, we’ll unveil 15 must-visit Philippines travel destinations that will undoubtedly ignite your wanderlust and leave you eager to explore the beauty and wonders of this Southeast Asian gem.

1. Batanes: A Northern Paradise with Breathtaking Views

Batanes, the Philippines’ northernmost and smallest province, spans just 203.22 square kilometers and houses a population of 18,831. Within the Cagayan Valley region, Batanes is an archipelago of ten islands, with only three—Batan, Itbayat, and Sabtang—being inhabited. It’s celebrated for its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and tranquil lifestyle. The province has earned the nicknames “Home of the Winds” due to its breezy climate and the “Scotland of the East” for its rolling hills and stone houses. Additionally, Batanes finds itself on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List, recognizing its cultural landscape and heritage.

In Batanes, you’ll encounter attractions like the Basco Lighthouse, providing stunning vistas of Basco town and the sea, Vayang Hills with sweeping views of the West Philippine Sea and Sabtang Island, Marlboro Hills’ lush green hills and cliffs reminiscent of Marlboro Country, Morong Beach’s pristine sands featuring the iconic Nakabuang Arch, and Chavayan Village, an enclave of traditional Ivatan stone houses topped with cogon roofs, along with a thriving local weaving industry.

Philippines Batanes Basco Lighthouse
Basco Lighthouse in Batanes

2. Coron: Exploring Palawan's Underwater Wonders

Coron, a picturesque town in Palawan, Philippines, known for its natural beauty and rich history, offers a multitude of attractions. With white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, serene lakes, hot springs, and wildlife sanctuaries, it beckons tourists with diverse interests. The town’s claim to fame lies in its shipwreck diving sites, showcasing remnants of Japanese vessels from World War II. Notable sites include the Akitsushima, Okikawa Maru, Olympia Maru, Kogyo Maru, and East Tangat Gunboat. Above water, Coron boasts clear waters and stunning rock formations, highlighted by the iconic Kayangan Lake and the enigmatic Twin Lagoon, where water colors shift with tides and sunlight, making it a must-visit destination.

Philippines Shipwreck Diving in Coron
Shipwreck Diving in Coron

3. Manila: Uncovering History and Culture in the Capital

Manila, the Philippines’ capital and second-most populous city, is home to over 1.8 million residents and serves as the nation’s economic, political, and cultural nucleus. Nestled on Luzon Island’s eastern shore along Manila Bay, it pulsates with activity.

Within the heart of Manila lies the historic Intramuros district, an enclosed space known as “within the walls” in Spanish. This area, once the seat of Spanish colonial rule, is a treasure trove of history and culture. Notable attractions include San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to 1589, with its enduring Baroque architecture and religious art; Rizal Park, a sprawling urban oasis commemorating the national hero Jose Rizal, featuring monuments, gardens, and museums; and Fort Santiago, a 16th-century citadel guarding the city from foreign threats, later serving as a prison and torture site, now open for exploration with echoes of Rizal’s final steps to his execution.

Philippines Manila Rizal Park
Rizal Park in Manila

4. El Nido: Island-Hopping in Palawan's Tropical Haven

El Nido, a quaint town perched on the northern edge of Palawan island in the Philippines, has earned its fame thanks to its breathtaking natural beauty and diverse ecosystem, particularly showcased in the Bacuit Archipelago. This cluster of islands captivates visitors with its awe-inspiring limestone formations, secluded lagoons, and pristine beaches. El Nido is also a haven for a wide array of wildlife, including swiftlets, sea turtles, dolphins, and vibrant coral reefs.

For travelers seeking adventure and relaxation alike, El Nido presents an array of enticing activities. Island hopping, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, hiking, and unwinding on the sandy shores are among the options. Notable highlights encompass the expansive Big Lagoon, the intimate Small Lagoon, the enigmatic Secret Beach, the secluded Hidden Beach, and the historic Matinloc Shrine.

El Nido Shimizu Island
An Aerial view of Shimizu Island in El Nido

5. Siargao: Surfing and Adventure in Mindanao's Gem

Siargao, shaped like a teardrop and situated in the Philippine Sea, lies about 196 kilometers southeast of Tacloban. Covering an area of approximately 437 square kilometers, Siargao comprises eight municipalities: Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, San Benito, Pilar, San Isidro, and Santa Monica.

This remarkable island has earned the title of the Philippines’ surfing capital and was even crowned the Best Island in Asia in the 2021 Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Awards. Its claim to fame stems from a plethora of world-renowned surfing spots, with the Cloud 9 wave being a particular magnet for surf enthusiasts from across the globe. Beyond the waves, Siargao offers a diverse range of attractions, including kayaking amid lush mangroves, swimming with stingless jellyfish, island hopping adventures, snorkeling and diving escapades, and the opportunity to try your hand at fishing.

Philippines Siargao
An island in Siargao

6. Boracay: White Beach and Nightlife Extravaganza

Boracay, a small island in the Philippines’ Western Visayas region, has earned global recognition for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife. Among its famed features is White Beach, spanning four kilometers along the west coast and divided into Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3. Station 1 exudes luxury with upscale resorts and the iconic Willy’s Rock, while Station 2 bustles with shops, bars, and water sports. Station 3 offers a laid-back, budget-friendly atmosphere with cozy guesthouses and tranquil beachfronts.

Beyond White Beach, Boracay boasts secluded Yapak Beach, cliff diving at Ariel’s Point, snorkeling at Crystal Cove Island, panoramic views from Mount Luho, water sports at Bulabog Beach, the serene Ilig Iligan Beach, and the enriching Motag Living Museum, showcasing local farmers’ traditional lifestyle.

Philippines Boracay
White Beach in Boracay

7. Cebu: History, Beaches, and Diving Adventures

Cebu, a province in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, offers a rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Boasting a main island and an archipelago of 167 surrounding islands and islets, it’s celebrated as the country’s oldest capital and stands out for its thriving economy and vibrant tourism. With monikers like the “Queen City of the South” and the “Cradle of Christianity in Asia,” Cebu showcases a heritage that includes Magellan’s Cross, commemorating a pivotal moment in history, the ancient Basilica del Santo Niño, and the centuries-old Fort San Pedro.

Cebu’s allure extends beyond its historical treasures to natural wonders and recreation. Mactan Island entices with its white sandy shores and underwater treasures, Malapascua Island beckons divers with its remarkable marine life, and Bantayan Island offers tranquility amidst unspoiled beaches and timeless charm. These are just a few of Cebu’s gems, making it a captivating destination for those seeking a rich tapestry of experiences.

Philippines Cebu Temple of Leah
Temple of Leah in Cebu

8. Surigao del Norte: Surfing, Kayaking, and More

Surigao del Norte, a haven for adventure enthusiasts, boasts Siargao Island as the Philippines’ surfing mecca, featuring renowned surf spots like Cloud 9, drawing surfers from worldwide. The province also offers idyllic white sand beaches along General Luna, and you can explore nearby gems such as Daku Island, Guyam Island, and Naked Island by boat. Surigao del Norte’s natural treasure, the Sohoton Caves, accessible by boat, comprises enchanting lagoons, caves, and rock formations, with the added thrill of swimming alongside stingless jellyfish and cliff jumping. The friendly locals warmly welcome visitors, inviting cultural exchanges, karaoke singalongs, and jungle discos. Beyond surfing and beach adventures, the province beckons with snorkeling, diving, waterfall and lagoon exploration, and scenic road trips through coconut palm-lined landscapes.

Philippines Surigao del Norte Sohoton Caves
Sohoton Caves in Surigao del Norte

9. Puerto Galera: Relaxation and Adventure on Oriental Mindoro's Shores

Puerto Galera, a coastal gem in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, is a must-visit for several compelling reasons. Recognized by UNESCO as a Man and Biosphere Reserve, it boasts rich biodiversity and cultural diversity. Moreover, it has earned the prestigious title of being one of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World, offering stunning scenery and a vibrant community. The Verde Island Passage, situated here, is celebrated as the epicenter of marine shore fish diversity globally, making it a paradise for snorkelers and divers.

Puerto Galera also offers a variety of beaches like White Beach, Talipanan Beach, Sabang Beach, and Pebble Beach, catering to diverse preferences. Adventurers can explore numerous waterfalls, including Tamaraw Falls, Tukuran Falls, Aninuan Falls, and Talipanan Falls, accessible via hikes or traditional carabao cart rides. Exciting activities like island hopping, sailing, surfing, kayaking, and jet skiing await, and don’t miss the chance to savor the local delight, the Mindoro Sling, a cocktail infused with rum and fruit juices. Accommodation choices range from luxurious hotels and mid-range resorts to charming beachfront cottages and mountain hideaways, ensuring a perfect stay for every budget and style.

Philippines Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

10. Siquijor: Mystical Island Charms and Natural Beauty

Siquijor, a captivating small island in the Philippines, beckons visitors with its charm and natural beauty. The island boasts some of the country’s most pristine beaches, featuring powdery white sands, crystal-clear waters, and swaying palm trees—ideal for relaxation, swimming, snorkeling, or diving. Siquijor’s easy-to-navigate ring road invites exploration by motorbike or scooter, allowing you to discover its diverse attractions at your own pace. Unlike busier Philippine destinations, Siquijor offers a tranquil and laid-back atmosphere, providing an authentic provincial experience away from urban noise and stress.

You can immerse yourself in the island’s mystical ambiance, shaped by folklore and healing arts, and even visit a shaman to delve deeper into local culture and history. Siquijor is also a culinary delight, offering a range of dining options from affordable local dishes to upscale seafood, grilled meats, and vegetarian choices. Moreover, its proximity to neighboring islands like Negros, Cebu, and Apo Island makes it an ideal hub for exploring additional attractions and wildlife via convenient ferry or boat trips.

Philippines Siquijor
Siquijor Islands

11. Davao: Eagles, Durian, and Mountain Peaks

Davao, renowned for its Philippine Eagle Center where you can witness the rare and endangered Philippine Eagle up close, is also famous for its unique fruits like the pungent durian, available at Bankerohan Market along with local delicacies. Surrounding Davao are natural wonders, including Mount Apo, the Philippines’ tallest peak, and scenic views of Davao Gulf and Samal Island with its inviting beaches and resorts. Davao takes pride in its status as one of the world’s safest cities, thanks to strict laws ensuring low crime rates and an excellent quality of life. It also celebrates its rich culture through various festivals, museums, and monuments, offering a glimpse into its history and heritage.

Philippine Eagle Center Davao
Philippine Eagle Center in Davao

12. Baguio: Cool Weather and Cultural Festivities

Baguio’s cool climate offers a refreshing escape, with an average temperature of around 18°C, perfect for outdoor activities and cozy nights. Explore its rich culture through indigenous experiences at Tam-Awan Village or the BenCab Museum, and admire colonial-era landmarks like Burnham Park, the Baguio Cathedral, and the Mansion House. Baguio’s vibrant arts and crafts scene presents unique souvenirs at the City Market or the Easter Weaving Room. Don’t miss the annual Panagbenga Festival, a colorful celebration of flowers and culture. Lastly, indulge in local specialties like strawberry taho, pinikpikan, and ube jam, and savor excellent coffee at places like Cafe by the Ruins or Arca’s Yard.

13. Camiguin: Sunken Cemeteries and Natural Wonders

Camiguin, the “Island Born of Fire,” boasts seven volcanoes and numerous cinder cones. Hike to their summits for stunning views. The island offers hot and cold springs, cascading waterfalls, and a sunken cemetery from a historic volcanic eruption. Camiguin’s pristine beaches like White Island and Mantigue Island, surrounded by vibrant coral reefs, are perfect for snorkeling and diving, where you can even witness sea turtle hatchlings being released. Don’t miss the Lanzones Festival celebrating the sweet lanzones fruit every October, and explore the island’s heritage at the Old Spanish Church Ruins and Moro Watchtower.

14. Sagada: Coffins, Caves, and Breathtaking Sunrises

Sagada, with its picturesque town nestled amidst mountain vistas, offers a breath of fresh air, surrounded by pine trees and remarkable rock formations. Delve into the town’s rich indigenous culture, where you can immerse yourself in the traditions of the Igorot people, exploring the unique phenomena of hanging coffins, the enlightening Ganduyan Museum, and the vibrant Panag-apoy festival. Sagada caters to adventure enthusiasts, offering opportunities for spelunking, hiking, ziplining, kayaking, and more. Visit captivating attractions like the Sumaguing Cave, Kiltepan Peak, Bomod-ok Falls, and the intriguing blue soil phenomenon. This well-organized tourist destination ensures you’ll never feel lost, with friendly locals ready to assist. Enjoy an affordable stay and savor local delights, including coffee and the delectable lemon pie.

Philippines Hanging Coffins in Sagada
Hanging Coffins in Sagada

15. Palawan: Lagoons, Beaches, and Underground Wonders

Palawan offers stunning beaches like El Nido, Coron, and Balabac for relaxation, swimming, and snorkeling, while providing kayaking, diving among coral reefs and shipwrecks, and captivating sunsets. It’s home to the awe-inspiring Puerto Princesa Underground River, one of the world’s longest navigable underground rivers with remarkable rock formations. Palawan invites a peaceful escape from modern life, allowing you to connect with nature and experience the warm hospitality of locals. Explore the indigenous culture by visiting the Batak and Tagbanua tribes, known for their harmony with nature, and taste fresh seafood and local treats like tamilok (woodworm), crocodile sisig (sizzling dish), and cashew nuts.

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