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Home Travel Guide Philippines Travel Guide 12 Best Things to Do in the Philippines

12 Best Things to Do in the Philippines

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If you’re seeking adventure, culture, and natural beauty, you’ve come to the right place. The Philippines is a stunning archipelago that offers an array of incredible experiences. In this guide, we’ll take you through the 12 best things to do in the Philippines, providing you with a diverse list of activities that will make your visit to this tropical paradise unforgettable. From pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs to vibrant festivals and delicious cuisine, the Philippines offers a wide range of options for travelers looking for memorable things to do in the Philippines.

1. Discover Water Adventures and More at Boracay's White Beach

Explore Boracay’s White Beach, a world-renowned tropical paradise with a 4-kilometer stretch of pristine white sands and sparkling turquoise waters. White Beach is celebrated globally, consistently ranked among the world’s top beaches. This beach, divided into three sections, offers diverse experiences, from upscale resorts in Station 1 to the bustling nightlife and activity hub of Station 2, to the quieter relaxation of Station 3. Daytime activities include swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, snorkeling, and sailing, while nights come alive with fire dancers, live music, and cocktails.

For adventure, enjoy thrilling ziplining above the stunning Boracay landscape, parasailing for panoramic island views, or dive into the azure sea with cliff diving at Ariel’s Point, or engage in underwater exploration with helmet diving, allowing close encounters with vibrant marine life and hand-feeding fish.

Philippines Boracay
Boracay's azure seawater and white beaches

2. Uncover Manila's Historic and Cultural Gem: Intramuros and Its Treasures

Manila, the Philippines’ capital, is a bustling city where history and culture intersect. This city was once the hub of Spanish colonial rule in Asia, and its influence still resonates in its architecture, religious traditions, and customs. The best way to explore Manila’s rich history and culture is by taking a guided tour of Intramuros, the oldest district and the heart of its colonial heritage.

Intramuros, meaning “within the walls” in Spanish, is a fortified city established by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi in 1571. It served as the core of Spanish governance, Catholicism, and high society for over three centuries, witnessing pivotal battles. Fort Santiago, an integral part of Intramuros, is well-known for its association with the imprisonment and execution of national hero José Rizal in 1896, and it now operates as a museum dedicated to his life. San Agustin Church, the Philippines’ oldest church, showcases remarkable baroque architecture and houses a museum displaying religious relics, vestments, paintings, and furniture spanning different historical periods. The iconic Manila Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, features a neo-Romanesque design since 1958, celebrated for its stained glass windows, mosaic tiles, bronze carvings, and an impressive pipe organ.

Philippines Intramuros
Intramuros, a fortified city

3. Dive into Enthralling Shipwreck Experiences in Coron, Palawan

Experience the thrill of shipwreck diving in Coron, Palawan, uncovering the history and underwater marvels beneath. Discover sunken Japanese ships from World War II, resting as vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life.

Top Coron shipwreck diving sites include:

  • Lusong Gunboat: Ideal for snorkelers and beginners, this shallow site showcases a gunboat adorned with colorful corals and bustling with parrotfish, stonefish, and more.
  • East Tangat Wreck: Explore a small ship resting upright amid coral reefs, home to clownfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish.
  • Morazán / Olympia Maru: Delve into a large cargo ship with openings for penetration, adorned with soft and hard corals, sponges, and vibrant marine life like sharks, barracudas, and mantas.
Philippines Shipwreck Diving in Coron
Shipwreck Diving in Coron

4. Witness the Majesty of Mayon Volcano and Cagsawa Ruins

Experience the awe-inspiring Mayon Volcano in Albay, a perfectly symmetrical and highly active stratovolcano, renowned worldwide. Rising to a height of 2,463 meters with a base circumference of 80 kilometers, this natural wonder has erupted over 50 times since 1616, unleashing lava flows, pyroclastic surges, ash plumes, and mudflows. Its most catastrophic eruption in 1814 buried the town of Cagsawa, claiming over 1,200 lives.

Explore Cagsawa Ruins Park, where remnants of a 16th-century Franciscan church, initially built in 1587 but repeatedly ravaged by forces of nature and Dutch pirates, bear testament to resilience and unwavering faith. The sole survivor, the belfry, remains as a poignant symbol. The park, offering panoramic vistas of Mayon Volcano, was designated a national park in 1938 and a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2016, safeguarding its enchanting landscape.

Philippines Mayon Volcano
Mayon Volcano

5. Roam Through the Enchanting Chocolate Hills and Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol

Don’t miss the amazing Chocolate Hills in Bohol, consisting of over 1,200 limestone hills spanning more than 50 square kilometers. Rainwater erosion and tectonic forces have shaped these grass-covered mounds, turning brown during the dry season, resembling chocolate kisses. For a panoramic view, head to observation decks like the one in Carmen town.

Another must-see in Bohol is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, a protected zone dedicated to preserving the tiny Philippine tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates. These nocturnal creatures boast big eyes, long fingers, and a flexible tail. Be sure to remain quiet and respectful when visiting the sanctuary to observe these shy and sensitive animals in their natural habitat, guided by experts, and explore more about them at the visitor center.

Philippines Bohol Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills in Bohol

6. Embark on an Enchanting Underground River Tour in Puerto Princesa

If you seek an adventure that leads to one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders, consider an underground river tour in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. This tour lets you explore the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

The Puerto Princesa Underground River spans 8.2 kilometers, flowing beneath a limestone karst mountain range. It stands as the world’s longest navigable underground river, featuring awe-inspiring rock formations like stalactites, stalagmites, columns, flowstones, and helictites. The river also boasts a diverse range of plant and animal species, including unique birds, bats, reptiles, and mammals.

7. Delve into the Tradition of Hanging Coffins in Sagada

The hanging coffins in Sagada offer a captivating glimpse into the unique traditions of the Igorot people, who have thrived in the Cordillera’s mountainous terrain for generations. Comprising distinct ethnic groups like the Bontoc, Kankanaey, and Ifugao, each with their own languages and customs, the Igorots have a distinctive practice of suspending their deceased loved ones on cliffs or depositing them in caves, deviating from conventional ground burials.

These hanging coffins, often handcrafted by the elderly themselves before their passing, require family members to assist if necessary. After preparation, they embark on a challenging journey to the burial location, traversing steep and narrow trails for hours. Once they reach the cliffs, the coffins are secured by either nailing or tying them to the rock face or by positioning them on wooden beams extending from the cliffs, all based on the belief that this brings the deceased closer to ancestral spirits while providing protection from natural elements and grave robbers.

Philippines Hanging Coffins in Sagada
Philippines Hanging Coffins in Sagada

8. Hop Across the Best Islands on a Philippines Island Hopping Adventure

Island hopping in the Philippines is a fantastic way to explore the country’s diverse natural beauty. You can discover some of the most breathtaking islands and beaches, each with its own unique charm and attractions.

  • Explore the hidden gems of El Nido’s Bacuit Archipelago, including Big and Small Lagoons, Secret Beach, and Entalula Island.
  • In Coron, marvel at the wonders of Kayangan Lake, Malcapuya Island, Barracuda Lake, and the sunken Japanese shipwrecks.
  • Siargao offers not only world-class surfing but also pristine islands like Daku, Guyam, and Naked, each with its own appeal.
  • Gigantes and Sicogon in Iloilo boast rustic charm, caves, lighthouses, rock formations, and delectable seafood.
  • In Cebu, embark on island hopping adventures to Bantayan, Malapascua, Camotes, Mactan, Sumilon, and Moalboal, each offering a unique experience, from serene beaches to vibrant coral gardens.
Philippines El Nido Helicopter Island
Helicopter Island in El Nido

9. Kayak Amidst Spectacular Sardine Swirls at Panagsama Beach

Kayaking at Panagsama Beach in Moalboal, Cebu, offers a unique opportunity to witness a mesmerizing natural phenomenon in the ocean. Panagsama Beach is renowned for its vibrant marine life and breathtaking coral reefs, and it’s a gathering place for millions of sardines that create an immense bait ball just a stone’s throw from the shore. This captivating spectacle attracts divers and snorkelers worldwide who come to observe the sardines twirl and frolic in the water.

What’s more, you don’t even have to dive in; renting a kayak allows you to paddle along the coast and witness the sardines from above. As you gaze at the ever-changing size and shape of the bait ball, a captivating display of unity among the sardines, keep an eye out for other marine wonders like sea turtles, dolphins, and whale sharks, which are frequent visitors to the area.

10. Rejuvenate with Traditional Filipino Spa Treatments

Discover the essence of relaxation in the Philippines through traditional spa therapies. The country, rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, offers a diverse range of spa experiences, whether you seek a luxurious resort, a peaceful retreat, or a cozy village hideaway.

Among the standout Filipino spa treatments, the ‘hilot’ stands out—a traditional healing practice encompassing massage, chiropractic manipulation, herbal medicine, and energy balancing. Skilled practitioners known as ‘manghihilot’ diagnose and address various ailments by understanding the body’s energy flow. Hilot sessions are renowned for their stress relief and alleviation of pain and inflammation.

For a truly authentic Filipino spa experience, consider the ‘Mayumi Coconut Body Polish.’ This treatment employs fresh coconut meat and milk to exfoliate and moisturize the skin, followed by a ‘Manggang Yakap Body Wrap’ using ripe mangoes for nourishment and hydration. The experience culminates in an ‘Aruga Body Massage,’ featuring calming strokes and a blend of essential oils to induce relaxation and tranquility.

Philippines Traditional Filipino Spa Hilot
Traditional Filipino Spa - Hilot

11. Marvel at the Wonders of the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan

Situated in northern Luzon’s Pangasinan province, the Hundred Islands National Park is a captivating tourist destination. Comprising 124 islands at low tide and 123 at high tide, these islets grace the Lingayen Gulf. These islands, primarily formed from ancient corals revealed during sea level changes, offer unique features such as caves, coral reefs, sandbars, and rock formations.

Embarking on a Hundred Islands adventure is as simple as renting a boat from Lucap Wharf in Alaminos City, your gateway to this breathtaking park. Rental rates vary based on the number of passengers and the duration of the tour. Visitors can explore seven major developed islands within the park:

  • Governor Island provides panoramic views from its deck;
  • Quezon Island offers various amenities and activities, including cottages, restrooms, grilling areas, and souvenir shops;
  • Marcos Island has an inviting cave and an exhilarating cliff-jumping spot;
  • Children’s Island is perfect for families with its shallow, kid-friendly waters;
  • Virgin Island reveals a stunning white sand beach and a connecting sandbar at low tide; Scout Island thrills visitors with a zipline offering breathtaking water views;
  • Pilgrimage Island showcases a colossal Jesus Christ statue that visitors can climb to appreciate.

12. Unveil the Charms of Batanes: a Northern Philippine Paradise

Batanes, a Philippine province on the northernmost edge of the archipelago near Taiwan, boasts stunning landscapes, including rolling hills, rugged cliffs, and rocky shores, set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea. Its cool, breezy climate makes it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Notable attractions include four lighthouses offering panoramic views and the distinctive stone houses of the Ivatan people, designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. The Ivatan’s rich culture and history, linked to Austronesian ethnic groups and characterized by a unique social organization, oral traditions, and renowned honesty and hospitality, add to the province’s charm.

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