Photo (left) by @rafsworldtravel on Instagram
When planning a vacation in the Philippines, an itinerary to the beach immediately comes to mind. But while exploring the Philippines' best beaches and island-hopping are fun, there are also enchanting lakes in the Philippines that await outdoor water enthusiasts. These lakes are the ideal spot for aquatic activities in the Philippines like swimming, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
Apart from the beautiful crater lakes in the Philippines that were created by past volcanic activities (the most famous ones include Taal Lake, Lake Balinsasayao, Lake Pandin & Yambo, Lake Apo, and Mt. Pinatubo tours), we've listed some of the best lakes that you can pay a visit during your trip to the country.
If you’re on the lookout for pristine lakes for swimming or the best place to kayak in the Philippines, here are ten of the most beautiful lakes to add to your itinerary:
10. Lake Dapao (Lanao del Sur)
With a surface area of more than 1,000 hectares and a maximum depth of 120 meters, Lake Dapao is one of the deepest lakes in the Philippines. Located in the province of Lanao del Sur, its ecologically diverse surroundings and rich aquatic resources make this national park one of the top tourist spots in Mindanao. It has one of the clearest water in the Philippines hailed for its natural high quality even during the rainy season.
Lake Dapao is known for its scenic lake views and verdant surroundings, bordering gently sloping hills and plateaus. The lake faces Mount Baya on the east and lush forests on the west. The park is home to many bird species and wild animals like deer and monkeys, while the lake is ideal for swimming, sports fishing, and other water sports activities.
9. Paoay Lake (Ilocos Norte)
Paoay Lake is one of the most famous lakes in the Philippines and the largest lake in the province of Ilocos Norte. The 386-hectare freshwater lake is a national park that borders Laoag City and stands roughly 3KM away from the sea.
It is one of the top tourist spots in Luzon, surrounded by other famous structures such as the Malacanang ti Amianan, a historic house museum built by former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Other attractions girding the lake include an 18-hole golf course, a 77-hectare 5-star resort and casino, and a 100-room, 3-star hotel called the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center.
8. Sumlang Lake (Albay)
Best known as an enchanting foreground to marvel at the majestic cone-shaped Mount Mayon volcano, Lake Sumlang in Camalig, Albay is one of the fastest-growing tourist spots in Luzon. The 14-hectare lake is less than 460 km south of Metro Manila and is accessible by driving through the Maharlika Highway.
Visitors have an array of activities to enjoy their time at the lake. Some of the facilities for rent include kayaks, paddleboards, aqua-bikes, and floating cottages. They offer balsa tours on bamboo rafts where boatmen deftly wend their way across the peaceful pond.
The ideal time to visit is either in the wee hours of the morning at dawn or late afternoon to catch the sunset where the lake frames Mount Mayon beautifully. At the so-called golden hour, visitors witness the best view in the Philippines.
7. Lake Balanan (Negros Oriental)
Photo by Negros Oriental Provincial Tourism Unit
What sets Lake Balanan apart from other equally famous lakes in the Philippines is its meandering appearance, forming a number eight (8) shape. The point of intersection is the narrowest, whittling down to just 90 meters across the two main sections of the lake. This unique-figured lake has a serene, peaceful quality that makes it the perfect eco-tourist spot to unwind in nature.
Just 60 km away from Dumaguete City and nestled in the mountains of Siaton, Negros Oriental, Lake Balanan is one of the best Visayas tourist spots to visit for anyone looking for lush forests filled with century-old trees. This lake and its surrounding area are perfect for outdoor activities such as kayaking, trekking, zip-lining, or riding a banca (dugout canoe) across the lake.
6. Caliraya Lake (Laguna)
A man-made lake created in 1939, Caliraya Lake covers several municipalities in Laguna and is accessible by driving 115 km south of Metro Metro Manila. It is one of the most famous lakes in the Philippines, a sought-after holiday spot surrounded by resorts and vacation homes. The verdant hills, pine trees, and scenic views attract many tourists and water sports enthusiasts every year.
- Read our article on the best Laguna resorts
Located in the Sierra Madre Mountains 1,200 feet above sea level, the lake enjoys a cool mountain breeze throughout the year. It's a popular place for aquatic activities in the Philippines and is perfect for windsurfing, kiteboarding, jet skiing, boating, and fishing. Golf courses are bordering its perimeter, while campers regularly pitch tents near the lake in the summer.
5. Lake Danao (Leyte)
Lake Danao is one of several popular Visayas tourist spots in Leyte, an island facing the Pacific coast best known as the site of the largest naval battle in the second world war. Perched high up in the mountains of Ormoc City at 650 meters above sea level, the violin-shaped lake’s surrounding enjoys temperate weather that inspires cozy get-togethers along its scenic fringes. The 148-hectare lake is at the center of the 2,000-acre Lake Danao Natural Park.
Locally known as a lover’s lake, it is a source of potable water that provides an adequate supply to nearby townships. This eco-tourist park is the perfect spot for outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, biking, horseback riding. Along the lake’s perimeter are cottages and huts that visitors may rent during their stay.
4. Lake Bababu (Dinagat Islands)
Photo by @rafsworldtravel on Instagram
An off-the-beaten-track destination for outdoorsy, adventurous types, Lake Bababu is in the Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, an eco-tourism site in northern Mindanao. It is one of the most beautiful lakes in the country and is reachable by trekking through a 700-meter path with a steep, rocky trail in an unspoiled jungle. Two features set it apart from other lakes.
The first is that it is meromictic, meaning the lake comprises both fresh and saltwater without mixing, remaining separate all year round. The Philippines has only ten lakes of this type, and Lake Bababu is one of them. The second feature that makes it unique is its 650-meter underwater cave, one of the longest in the country. Divers enter from the lakeside on one end and then emerge to the saltwater sea on the other.
3. Barracuda Lake (Coron)
As one of the most famous lakes in the Philippines, Barracuda Lake on the northern coast of Coron island is a permanent fixture in many Coron tour packages. With its pristine blue water set against imposing karst formations, it cuts a striking image that draws tourists in Coron tours all year round. Locally referred to as Luluyuan Lake, visitors reach the water’s edge by walking through a wooden walkway suspended over the lake.
- Read our article on the best resorts in Coron
The lake is named after a barracuda skeleton, although sightings of the fish are scanty. Instead, divers are after the abrupt water temperature change between the upper and lower gradient in what is known as a thermocline. The top of the lake starts from 28 degrees Celsius and then drastically drops to 38 degrees upon reaching the 14-meter mark. It is also a halocline lake where the water changes from freshwater to saltwater near the bottom.
2. Kayangan Lake (Coron)
Another popular tourist site featured in many Coron private tour packages, Kayangan Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Philippines. And as one of the most famous lakes in the Philippines, tourists join the Kayangan Lake Coron tour to see its towering limestone cliffs and immaculate turquoise blue water. It is an enchanting sight to behold, one that has inspired many picture-perfect postcards, although nothing beats seeing it first hand.
- Plan your trip with our best tourist spots in Coron guide
The famous viewpoint shows a breathtaking vista of Coron bay and its imposing rock formations. Swim beneath its pristine water and see the limestone cliffs from a different vantage point, or enter the narrow entrance of a nearby cave for another view of the lake. Bring snorkeling gear to see the marine life underwater. If you'd rather not swim, you can still see some of it because the water is so clear it's visible from the surface.
1. Lake Sebu (South Cotabato)
This prime ecotourism destination is in South Cotabato, a mystical island in the southern part of Mindanao. Tucked within a 42,450-hectare forest, Lake Sebu has lush agricultural land and an aquaculture plant where tilapia thrive in the tranquil lake.
It is known as the land of dream weavers, named after the resident T’boli women who create handwoven native cloth patterns called T'nalak that appear in their dreams. The highly regarded T'nalak pattern is unique, with no two ever alike.
Nearby are seven majestic waterfalls aptly named Seven Falls. The best way to see it is by riding a zipline, one of the highest in Southeast Asia. Visitors who prefer to stay near the ground may opt to go on a laidback cruise across the lake onboard a traditional ‘owong’, a dugout canoe made of hollowed tree trunks used by the T’boli people.
Visit the Most Beautiful Lakes in the Philippines
The best places to visit in the Philippines are its natural attractions, and the country’s freshwater lakes are no exception. They offer scenic views, rich aquatic life, and lush forests that refresh the mind and soul. Whether reached through rough roads or domestic flights, exploring these bodies of water is well worth the trip.
There are many available Philippine tour packages to these lakeside attractions. It is best to join all-inclusive vacation packages with airfare and accommodations bundled into itineraries for a hassle-free experience and to have all the requirements for a domestic flight in the Philippines ready before your trip.
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