If tropical islands, mind-blowing landscapes, and unending adventure are in your bucket list for a holiday trip, then you have found a gem of a destination with the Philippines.
The Philippines has over 7,000 islands is just waiting to be discovered, visited, and explored some more. From paradise-like beaches and idyllic islands with turquoise waters, to the world’s most perfect cone volcano and the smallest primate, to a surfing mecca and century-old Spanish fortresses — there are unlimited surprises waiting for every traveler who will visit the Philippines.
It will definitely be a challenge putting up a Philippines itinerary, but we have listed down the best places to visit in the Philippines, especially for those going for the first time.
Read on to get a glimpse of which top tourist spots you should definitely not miss on this trip of a lifetime!
Travel back in time as you stroll along the streets of Calle Crisologo in Vigan. This 16th-century town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, quietly boasts of old-world charm and Spanish colonial architecture and is the top attraction in Vigan, Ilocos tours.
The town has successfully managed to preserve the historic district where you can still find calesas (horse-drawn carriages). Sample the famous and delicious Ilocos empanada, and walk along cobbled streets lined up with souvenir shops selling pottery and Abel Iloko weaves, among the many things to see and do when in Vigan.
The best time to visit for Calle Crisologo excursions is during the first week of May when the town celebrates the Vigan Festival of the Arts.
As if the lagoons and beaches of El Nido in Palawan is most famous for its paradise-like islands and lagoons but a 45-minute ride away through a land tour from its main town takes you to another idyllic destination: Nacpan Beach.
Island hopping escapades in El Nido cannot be missed but after a jam-packed day of visiting coves, white-sand beach pockets, limestone cliffs, a trip to Nacpan Beach is still highly recommended and deserves a spot in your itinerary of things to see and do in El Nido.
The main attraction here is its 4-kilometer shoreline with golden sand and endless palm trees lining up, perfect for just bumming around. Calitang Beach sits on the other side, and the two form what is now popularly known as the Twin Beaches of El Nido.
Visitors are not advised to swim far away from shore in Nacpan as currents tend to become strong and rough with little warning.
Tubbataha Reef is regarded as one of the top diving spots in the Philippines. The only way to get to this marine sanctuary at the heart of the Sulu Sea, the geographic center of marine biodiversity in the whole world, is through a live-aboard vessel from Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
The access is challenging but it is probably what is keeping the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park beating with some of the most pristine underwater life in the world. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was nominated as part of the “New Seven Wonders of the Natural World”.
Among the species that call Tubbataha home include reef sharks, manta rays, Napoleon wrasses, and half of all the coral species in the world. One of its islets is also a breeding site for birds and marine turtles.
Visits to the natural park require months or even years of planning, but its staggering wealth underneath is more than worth it.
As soon as your flight lands at the airport in Legazpi City, the world’s most perfect cone and the most active volcano in the Philippines greets you with its majesty. Mayon Volcano is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Philippines and is a top attraction in tours of Bicol region.
Its sheer beauty (the name Mayon comes from the Bicolano word ‘magayon’ which means beautiful) hides a violent core, with past eruptions that flattened several towns.
It is already a wonderful experience seeing the volcano from afar. But if you are an adrenaline junkie, you can soak up all its beauty while gliding through a zipline in Lignon Hill. Visit the Cagsawa Ruins, another viewing point of the Mayon Volcano.
While in Legazpi, take a side trip to Donsol, where you can see whale sharks peacefully basking in their natural habitat.
Take a stroll through history lane at the walled city of Intramuros in Manila. This 64-hectare Spanish fortress was erected by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and was destructed by the end of World War II.
However, the ruins remain very alive today with Intramuros tours and the area has become home to several universities and establishments and where you can find century-old churches like the grand Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, the oldest church in the Philippines.
Inside Intramuros lies Fort Santiago, a citadel which served as headquarters for armies and foreign powers. But it is most notable for being the site of national hero’s Jose Rizal’s imprisonment shortly before he was executed.
Cap off your trip with a meal or drink at some of the finest Filipino restaurants inside like Barbara’s where you’ll also be treated to a cultural show.
Locals and visitors of Manila take a quick escape from the megacity and make their way down south to Tagaytay, a retreat and relaxation town famous for its cool weather and fresh air.
This is also where you can take a full view of the Taal Volcano and Lake located in Batangas, the world’s smallest active volcano. The volcano sits on an island within a lake within an island, and if that is not interesting enough, you can actually visit the actual volcano crater with excursions to Taal Volcano.
An outrigger boat first takes you to a 15-minute ride to Volcano Island and from there, you can do a 35—minute hike or hop on a horse’s back going all the way to the main crater.
While in Tagaytay and Batangas, heat up your trip with a delectable bowl of Bulalo, a clear broth with beef shanks, bone marrow, and corn swimming in all its golden glory.
If you like jumping into or swimming in cool cascading waters, Kawasan Falls in Cebu hits the sweet spot. It is a multi-layered waterfalls in the town of Badian and it is best known for its turquoise waters.
The first cascade, with a height of 40 meters, is where most visitors stay, swim, and enjoy a natural water massage on board a bamboo raft. A 10-minute trek takes you up to the quieter second cascade.
Kawasan Falls is also the endpoint of the popular adventure activity, the canyoneering adventure. It starts in Kanlaob River in the town of Alegria and you make your way to Kawasan swimming along streams, rappelling through natural rock walls, and jumping off mini-waterfalls.
Undoubtedly one of the most photographed and iconic destinations in the Philippines is the Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan. Its lagoon is a dreamy mix of blues and greens glistening on a bright, sunny day.
Kayangan Lake tours will take you to the jagged limestone cliffs and islets surrounding it add up to a more dramatic view, best seen from a 10-minute climb up a hill.
Funnily, this view is not of the actual Kayangan Lake but the area where the tour boats park but it is still breathtaking nonetheless).
As spectacular as the views from above ground are what is hiding underneath the actual lake’s glass-like waters. Rock formations and schools of fish abound, making the area a favorite snorkeling and free-diving spot for a lot of visitors.
Hustle and bustle aside, Manila features a lot of tourist spots of historical importance. One of which is the Rizal Park, or more commonly known as Luneta.
This 60-hectare urban park is where you will see the Rizal Monument, marking the execution site of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Manila Bay’s breeze keeps the Philippine flag waving from a 46-meter flagpole fronting his monument.
The park also features manicured gardens, ponds, and a wide water fountain that lights up and dances to Filipino tunes by sunset. The park area is also home to a network of National Museums that you can visit.
Sit atop a colorful jeepney as it cruises along winding roads in Banaue and views of dramatic mud-walled rice terraces leave you in awe.
The Ifugao people were highly skilled in carving both wood and mountainsides. The Banaue Rice Terraces is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it offers spectacular views of emerald hues during the rice-growing seasons of April-May and October-November.
Banaue may pack a lot of tourists so you can make your way further to quieter Batad Rice Terraces and take a quick dip at its mighty Tappiya waterfalls. You can also explore nearby Baguio City or pick fresh strawberries in La Trinidad, Benguet.
Cebu has been recently awarded as part of UNESCO’s Network of Creative Cities but its main treasure lies deep down. The island draws over two million foreign travelers every year, greeted by rich waters teeming with abundant marine life.
Cebu boasts some of the best diving spots in the entire country and even the world, featuring underwater caves, shallow shipwrecks, and marine sanctuaries.
White sand beaches of Cebu await visitors of Mactan, Camotes, and Bantayan Island. Off the northernmost tip of Cebu, tiny Malapascua Island packs a lot of surprises, including diving with thresher sharks. Check out other Cebu tours that you can add to your itinerary.
Siargao’s inclusion to the top tourist spots in the Philippines is nothing short of meteoric. Once a sleepy island in Surigao del Norte, it has become one of the most favorite destinations and playgrounds for travelers, and it is primarily because of one activity: surfing.
It is now known as the surfing capital of the Philippines and some even regard it as the surfing mecca of Asia.
Surfers are drawn to Cloud 9, the most famous wave in the entire country. From November until April, all is well with Cloud 9’s thick tubes, making it a perfect place to get stoked (note: it is recommended for advanced surfers only).
But you do not need to be riding the waves to enjoy this island destination as there are also other fun Siargao activities and beautiful attractions like rock pools, waterfalls, and the nearby Sohoton Lagoon where you can swim with thousands of non-sting jellyfish.
Find other Siargao experiences that you can add to your travel plans.
The gateway to Philippine’s Last Frontier, Palawan, is its capital Puerto Princesa. It is here that you can find the world’s longest navigable underground river and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Puerto Princesa Underground River or the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
Paddleboats of the Puerto Princesa underground river tour cruise through scenic limestone cliffs as it makes its way through the 1.5-kilometer underground river cave.
The park is also teeming with wildlife like crab-eating monkeys, monitor lizards, and bats. Island hopping escapades in Honda Bay and a visit to the Crocodile Farm are also highly recommended among the many things to do in Puerto Princesa.
Check out other Puerto Princesa activities that you can do aside from cruising in the underground river.
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage Natural Monuments list, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol are a geomorphic wonder and truly a sight to behold. It is one of the best places in the Philippines to offer a unique landscape, with its 1,268 cone-shaped hills that turn chocolatey brown during the dry season, hence its name.
The limestone hills vary in size but almost look similar in shape and range from 30 to 120 meters in height. It’s a must-add in any itinerary for Bohol trips.
Make your way to the town of Carmen, where the Chocolate Hills Main Viewpoint can be found. Aside from the Chocolate Hills, there is also a treasure chest of natural wonders and other fun things to do and places to see in Bohol.
Long hailed as one of the best beaches in the entire world, Boracay’s claim to fame is its 4-kilometer stretch of pure white, powdery sand.
Cliche as it sounds, but White Beach is truly postcard-perfect, with tall coconut trees lined up and crystal-clear calm waters rounding up its unmatched beauty making it a top attraction in Boracay trips.
Its prominence in global publications has drawn in an influx of tourists over the last decades and there is no shortage of hotels, restaurants, and bars in the entire island
As its gorgeous sunsets (the skies turn from mellow pink to fiery red) come to an end, this tiny island comes alive with its busy nightlife, earning a reputation of being a party destination where you can also join pub crawl tours.
Other spots like Puka Beach and Diniwid Beach offer a quiet respite and some of the best relaxing vibes during the daytime. Other top things to do in Boracay include White Beach tours and activities like parasailing, helmet diving, banana boat ride, paddleboarding, and paraw sailing.
It is impossible to visit all these famous tourist spots in the Philippines in one go unless you have all the time in the world. But carefully planning out your Philippines itinerary will surely take you to some of the most unforgettable landscapes and fun-filled adventures you will ever see and experience.
Aside from its spectacular views, the Philippines is also home to one of the most hospitable, warm, and free-spirited people you will ever meet. Read more of our Philippines travel guides to help you plan the ultimate escape.