With over 7,000 island to visit figuring out the best places to visit in the Philippines is a difficult task – there’s just so many destinations to cover!

But with the country becoming more and more popular on the South East Asia Backpacker trail and it being one of my favourite places to explore I wanted to figure out which locations should make it onto my next itinerary!

 

The Best Places To Visit In The Philippines

Despite having visited the Philippines on 4 separate occasions now I’ve barely scrapped the surface on discovering what every part of the country has to offer – so I reached out to my fellow travel bloggers to see where they’d recommend as the best places to visit in the Philippines.

…get ready to add a few places and activities to your travel bucket list, I certainly have!

 

Apo Island

As recommended by Hannah of Eat Sleep Breathe Travel

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholIf your heart lies in the sea, then Apo Island is a must visit. A tiny island located on the south side of Negros, Apo Island’s biggest draw is the fact that the area around the island is a dedicated marine sanctuary. The waters around the island boast over 600 species of fish and 400 of the 450 species of coral found in the Philippines.

The biggest draw, however, is the population of sea turtles that call this area home. Sea turtles are pretty much a guaranteed sighting for anyone visiting, and while touching and chasing is not allowed, it’s easy to get close to, and even swim beside, these amazing creatures. If you are lucky, you may also see thresher sharks, whales, and manta rays. It’s an underwater wonderland perfect for scuba divers of all levels and snorkelers.

Want to go? Visitors can either stay on Apo Island itself, or do day trips from the nearby towns of Dauin or Dumaguete on Negros island. It is possible to visit year round, depending on the weather. Please note that there is a tourist fee for all visitors coming to the marine sanctuary with proceeds going to protect the area.

Banaue

As recommended by Sarah of Live, Dream, Discover

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholThe Philippines is a stunningly beautiful country known for it’s gorgeous beaches and world class diving so it’s understandable that for many, those are the reasons to visit and beach destinations are also voted the best places to visit in The Philippines. However, nine hours north and inland from Manila lies a magical place that has remained much unchanged for the past 2,000 years.

In the Ifuego region of the Philippines you will find the spectacle of the Banaue rice terraces along with several other lesser known, but equally impressive, terraces. The area is considered to be an Eighth Wonder of the World and a couple of the terraces are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

It is not easy to reach Banaue but the incredible collaboration between man and nature is well worth the effort. These amazing terraces were carved by hand and are still cultivated and harvested in the same way by the ancestors of these artists centuries later. It is truly one of those places that you need to see to fully believe and appreciate.

 

Bohol

As recommended by Margherita of the Crowded Planet

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholIf I were to choose only one Philippines island to visit, I’d say Bohol. The reason is very simple – there are so many things to do in Bohol related to nature! It’s the Philippines after all, so obviously beaches are amazing. We stayed in Panglao, which is effectively a separate island but it’s linked to Bohol with a bridge, and the beaches were truly spectacular. The best beach is the one of Bohol Beach Club, a wonderful (and not too pricey) resort where we spent two nights. Alternatively, Alona beach is located a short distance away and it’s also great!
What sets Bohol apart from other Philippines islands is the amount of things to see and do  in Bohol away from the beach. You can visit the Tarsier sanctuary (make sure you head to the one in Corella, as it’s the only legitimate sanctuary!), see the stunning Chocolate Hills, visit the Loboc River at night to see the fireflies or during the day for a stand-up paddleboarding tour. There’s so much in Bohol that a week is definitely not enough!

Ilocos Region: Vigan, Paoay, and Pagudpud

As recommended by Kisty from Lets Go Wander

There are too many beautiful places to visit in the Philippines and the Ilocos province is one of them. Located in the northern part of Luzon, Ilocos boasts the historic town of Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sand dunes in Paoay, and the pristine white sands and stunning blue water of Pagudpud. You can reach the Ilocos region either by plane or land. It takes about 8 hours of driving if you pick the latter, and you can even have stopovers to other popular destinations (i.e. Pampanga and La Union).
One of the places I liked in Ilocos is Vigan because aside from the famous Calle Crisologo and delicious Crispy Bagnet, you also get to see old churches that survived during the war and even have the opportunity to do pottery making and loom weaving.

Caramoan Peninsula

As recommended by Joe of Best Of World Travel

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholCaramoan peninsula is a hidden gem for tourists that love the sea. You can eat freshly cooked sea foods for a very low price as well. Tent pitchers or hotel goers are very much welcomed in this tourist spot.

Caramoan is one of my favorites because it is an all-in-one tourist spot. It can give you the ambiance of the creamy white and pinkish sands of Boracay, the staggering limestones of El Nido and the spectacular Batanes-like scene near the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Do not also forget the island coves and strong waves just like in Zambales where tourists can enjoy snorkeling, and island hopping — or maybe surfing! Also, the popular TV show Survivor Series has been shooting some of their favorite episodes right there in Caramoan.

The peninsula is consisted of beaches, islands and caves where tourists can access by riding a boat. A two day trip was not enough for us to experience everything in the Caramoan group of islands. Future goers must at least book a three day trip to explore everything in the vicinity. Be sure to ready your snorkeling and swimming gears as well as your sun protections since you’ll most probably be drenched in a lot of sea water and extreme sunlight.

 

Tagaytay

As recommended by Ruben from Gamin Traveler

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholOur favorite place to visit in The Philippines is Tagaytay. There are many plans to do in Tagaytay. First thing in the morning, you definitely need to witness the sunrise as it reveals the amazing views of the Taal Crater Lake volcano. Get a good view and see the fog and clouds swimming over the crater lake, as the sun rises to start the day. We are foodies and we love enjoying local gastronomy.

Tagaytay is famous for its Bulalo, a Filipino beef soup cooked with fresh vegetables, Barako coffee (local ground coffee) and Buko (coconut) pie. Make sure you get a taste of all 3! If you want adventure, the best plan is to hike Taal Volcano and enjoy the top views from the crater. It’s a very easy hike, around 3 hours and you can even ride a horse if you don´t feel like walking. At the end of the day, make sure that you find a great spot to watch the sunset.  Also, have a nice walk around at night since the weather is refreshing in Tagaytay, very breezy without it being too cold.

 

Borocay

As recommended by Nathan of Foodie Flashpacker

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholI know many people are quick to hate on Boracay, instead choosing to seek out lesser visited islands. And I get it, Boracay is definitely touristic – but it’s also noted as one of the best places to visit in The Philippines for good reason. The beach is literally the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. White sand that seems to go on forever and the water is the turquoise and deep blue colors you assume are Photoshopped when you see them in magazines. That’s not Photoshop- that’s actually the color of the water in Boracay.

When White Beach gets to be a bit too much for you make your way to either Puka Beach, which is considerably less crowded or Baling Hai. Baling Hai is a resort with a private stretch of beach. For an entry fee equivalent to $10 USD (which you get back in the form of a food/drink credit) you can spend the day on their private beach. Both times we visited we ended up having the beach to ourselves.
The number one thing can’t miss activity during your time on the island is to jump on one of the small sail boats as they’re launching just before sunset and sail out on a sunset cruise. The colors are insane.

Moalboal

As recommended by Lisa of Flip Flop Globe Trotters

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholMoalboal is a relaxed little town on the island of Cebu. It is known as one of the best places to visit in the Philippines for scuba diving. There’s a great diversity of dives sites – lots of slopes and drop-offs, often with little grotto’s, overhangs and canyons. The reefs are still pristine, undamaged by dynamite fishing and underwater live is abundant and healthy. Of course the famous sardine run should be on your to see list.
Although diving is the main attraction at Moalboal, White Beach is nice beach to spend the day and a visit to Kawasan Falls is definitely worth it.
If you want to go diving, Panagsama Beach is the area to stay. There’s not much of a beach, but it’s an attractive area with lots of small restaurants and dive centers. We did our dives with Cebu Dive Center. O Loved their personal approach and their competitive pricing – it’s no wonder they’re no. 1 in Tripadvisor. There are lots of bungalow type resorts in Moalboal, but if you’re on a budget we would recommend staying at Sisters Inn – no frills and no pool, but comfortable and clean rooms and lovely people. 

Siquijor

As recommended by Gabor of Surfing The Planet

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholSiquijor was one of our favorite islands in the Philippines. We planed to stay only a couple of days, but we spent there a week instead, and would have stayed more – which is why it makes the cut for our best places to visit in The Philippines. The beaches in Siquijor are not the most spectacular in the country, and probably this is the main reason why it is so not popular amongst tourists, which makes it a calm and relaxing island. We spent most of the time in our “private” beach in front of our homestay enjoying the sea, eating the fish we bought in the market and cooked for ourselves, and every day we sat out to see the sunset, which was pretty amazing most of the time.

If you want to explore the island, you can rent a motorbike, and there are many things to see. You can visit the spectacular waterfalls of Lugnasos and Cambugahay, and you can swim under the waterfall in both places. Siquijor is a quite religious island, so you will find several nice Catholic churches. You can get to Siquijor by ferry from Dumaguete, which is accessible by bus from Cebu International Airport.

 

El Nido

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholAs recommended by Hannah Of Getting Stamped

If you are traveling the Philippines it would be a sin not to visit El Nido – it’s widely regarded as one of the best places to visit in the Philippines – if not THE best!. El Nido looks straight out of this world, no other place will ever compare. There are tons of things to do in El Nido but the day trips to the surrounding islands are the best. The best day tours are tour A and tour C, but if you stay a whole week try and do them all. Some of the islands even have accommodation, so if you’re up for some beach camping and an adventure it would be an unforgettable place to rest your head.
El Nido town itself is growing fast. When I first visited in 2014 they wasn’t any ATM’s and power was limited to 2pm-6am but that has since changed. Some would say such a change is for the worse…I still love El Nido the landscapes and scenery on the day trips are what make it my favorite place in the Philippines.

 

Puerto Princesa

As recommended by Alice from Teacake Travels 

It’s highly likely to be where you land or take off when you hit Palawan (the island is voted amongst the best islands in the world – not just amongst the best places to visit in the Philippines!) but I encourage you to stay a couple of days in Puerto Princesa before you head off for the infamous El Nido! Puerto Princesa is renowned for having the tastiest food on the island, an underground river, a stunning Baywalk and (by far my most favourite)…an all-female run brewery.
For the perfect 2 days, hang out in Puerto Princesa town first. Eat at Kalui restaurant, go see the cathedral, walk along the Bayfront, grab a pint with the Palaweno Brewery chicks then get down with the kick ass rock bands at night.
On your second day, head out to Sabang Mangrove forest, visit the Underground River and zipline across the sea if you so wish(!). Loving Puerto Princesa? Stay just one more day to go island hopping around Honda Bay.
It’s perfect for seeing Palawan’s islands if you’re short on time and can’t make it up to the north!

Coron

As recommended by Lina of Divergent Travelers

Hands down Coron is our pick to add to the best places visit in the Philippines. While most people fly into Coron Town, spend a day in town and a day visiting Coron Island, they truly miss out on the real experience of this area, and that is why I love it.

While most people are busy doing the above, there is rustic wilderness to be explored in the interior of Busuanga Island and remote islands that see little to no visitors. They offer up white sand beaches and healthy coral reefs to explore. You truly get the sense of being alone, unlike so many other places in the world today. While staying in Coron Town is nice for the first couple days, we recommend heading up the shore of Busuanga and staying in the more remote areas. another great option is heading off on a kayak trip, supported by Banca boat, and spend your time camping on islands.

Kalanggaman Island

As recommended by Jules and Christine of Don’t Forget To Move

the best places to visit in the philippines backpacker gap year south east asia siargao el nido coron boholNo trip to the Philippines is complete without a trip to the unbelievably gorgeous Kalanggaman Island and it’s our top pick for the best places to visit in the Philippines. Located off the western coast of the Leyte province, this stunning island epitomizes everything you would hope to find in a Philippines island. Long stretches of soft white sand give way to calm crystal blue waters as far as the eye can see.

Palm trees sway lazily in the afternoon breeze; giving you some much needed shade from the hot days. Making your way to Kalanggaman Island is a little bit of a mission, but the end goal is definitely worth it. First it’s a trip out to Leyte province and the city of Palompon, where you’ll take a ferry another couple of hours out to this island paradise.

Accommodation options are slim pickings, with camping being the only option, but you can be guaranteed you’ll be the only person on the island overnight. If you plan on traveling to Kalanggaman Island, be sure to pack a hammock and a good book, and just laze the day away!

Siargao Island

top travel experiences the philippines siargao

It’s not hard to see why I love Siargao!

As recommend by me – Chris from Backpacker Banter!

I’m sure this recommendation from me will come as no surprise – I freaking LOVE Siargao! In fact Siargao is one of my favourite places on the planet!

The mixture of empty, beautiful beaches, palm tree forests and clear warm water make it the perfect place to kick back on island time!

And then of course there’s the surf – Siargao has some world class waves and I’ve returned again and again (staying at Kermit Siargao Surf Camp) for some epic board short sessions – so whether you already surf or want to learn to surf Siargao has plenty of waves on offer.

It’s not all about the waves though, there are some awesome day trips to be had – including island hopping, rock pools and the lagoons, just make sure you have your GoPro ready to capture the beauty of this place!

You can view my complete guide to Siargao here.

 

When Are You Heading To The Philippines?

Like a lot of Asia you don’t need a huge budget to travel in the Philippines which makes it a perfect addition to any South East Asia backpacker trip! Hopefully this list has inspired you to explore more of what this amazing country has to offer and added a few things to your bucket list!

And if you’re busy planning you trip use the map below to locate all the spot mentioned in the post!

 

Have you travelled the Philippines yet?

Where would you recommend as some of the best places to visit in the Philippines?

 

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2 Responses

    • Chris

      Indeed it’s well worth checking out Noi – and you can get some great flight deals from Bangkok!

      Reply

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