Top 20 Must-Visit Luzon Philippines Tourist Spots: Manila City, Palawan Island, Baguio Highlands

Top 20 Must-Visit Luzon Philippines Tourist Spots: Manila City, Palawan Island, Baguio Highlands

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Hiker looks at Mayon Volcano in the distance

The Philippines is home to picturesque views, historical landmarks, mouth-watering Filipino dishes and some of the best beaches in the world. Each of its thousands of islands is blessed with a variety of natural and man-made attractions.

The country is divided into three main regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. If it's your first time exploring the Philippines, you will most likely be landing in the capital city of Manila, located on the island of Luzon.

Luzon is the country's largest island, roughly divided into four sections: Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and the National Capital Region. These regions are accessible from Manila by flights and land vehicles like buses and private vehicles. 

To help you plan a Philippine travel itinerary, we listed down 20 of the must-see Luzon island attractions. Places on this list vary in terms of accessibility. For instance, Palawan and Batanes are within an hour's trip or two by plane from Manila.

Meanwhile, the highlands of Tagaytay is barely 70 km away from the metro, making it a popular go-to weekend destination in Luzon for locals. Some may take you on a 4- to 6-hour road trip from Manila. But you don't have to travel far when choosing where to travel in Luzon. We've also included a few tourist spots in and near Manila, some of which are right in the heart of the metro. 

Buckle up and let us take you for a ride with these top Luzon tourist spots.

20. Donsol Whale Sharks

Diver swims near whale shark in Donsol

In Donsol, Sorsogon in the Bicol Region, you can swim with whale sharks. If you love the sea and the majestic creatures that inhabit it, then Donsol whale shark tours are a must-try for you. One of the best Bicol tourist spots, Donsol will give you the chance to observe whale sharks in their natural habitat.

With stern rules and practices in place, the Donsol Whale Shark program provides tourists with an exhilarating experience without compromising the safety of both tourists and wildlife. The local tourism boasts its protected tourist spot as the most heavily visited waters for whale sharks. There's no guarantee on how many sharks will be visible at any given time, but it's best to book from January to May when they are known to be in the area.

You can try this once-in-a-lifetime experience by booking a flight to Legazpi from Manila. Once landed, there's an hour-and-a-half land trip to get to Donsol. You can also arrange for private Bicol tours with transfers. Alternatively, you can take a 13-hour bus ride straight from Manila to Donsol. This is a great alternative to another activity, Oslob whale shark watching in Cebu.

19. Binondo Chinatown

The iconic gates of Binondo's Chinatown

Barely an hour away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) or Manila Airport sits the oldest Chinatown in the world. Discover one of the best Manila tourist spots, Binondo, situated right in the heart of the country's city capital.

Binondo, also known as Chinatown District, is one of the top historical spots in the Philippines, serving as the center of commerce during the American occupation. Today, its old-timey charm, lively energy, and golden food finds continue to surprise the modern world.

There are a lot of Bindondo tours for you to enjoy. Walking tours, Manila Chinatown food tours, and bike tours are just some of the ways you can explore this small yet inexplicably large space. There are tons to discover in Binondo; whether you're on the lookout for delicious food in Binondo restaurants or old churches, there's no shortage of activities for you to do.

One of the best times to visit Binondo Chinatown is during February, in time for Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival. There are plenty of festivities and tikoy rice cakes around this time! If you're looking for a more artsy vibe, walk to Escolta, one of the popular streets in Manila, and see how young local artists revived the street and gave it a new life.

18. Sabang Beach, Baler

View of Sabang Beach's shoreline

Baler is considered one of the top surfing spots in the Philippines. It captivates its visitors with its chill surfer vibes and splendid view of the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

The travel time to reach Baler, which is about 270 km from Manila, is roughly 5 to 6 hours. You can either drive via the Manila-Cabanatuan-Baler route or hop on a bus that will take you straight to Baler without stopovers. 

Don't miss your chance to catch some waves during your visit. Whether you're a complete novice or a pro, you have a whole lot of options along the shore for surfboard rentals and tutors.

When you get hungry after surfing, you can take your pick along the shore for a hearty meal at Baler restaurants. There is no shortage of food options, chill cafes, and artsy places for you to fill up and rest. There are also historical and natural Baler tourist spots that you can check out aside from surfing. Baler hotels and resorts are available for longer stays.

17. Rizal Park

Rizal monument in Rizal Park, Manila

If you're not up for a long drive, then take a short trip from Manila Airport and visit the most iconic place in the capital, Rizal Park. Also known as Luneta Park, this staple in Manila tours covers approximately 140 acres of land surrounding the Rizal Monument, near some of the best hotels in Manila. It is a place built to pay homage to the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal.

Rizal Park has three sections: The northeastern section where you can find the National Museum Complex, the central section where the monument stands along with the Open-Air Auditorium, and the southwestern section that covers the Quirino Grandstand and the Manila Ocean Park.

Rizal Park offers a multitude of explorable areas and things to do in Manila for local and international tourists to enjoy. Catch a performance at the Open-Air Auditorium, or be treated to a captivating light show at the Rizal Park Dancing Fountain. Walk through its many gardens, each with its signature characteristic. Stroll through the Noli Me Tangere Garden or take a breather at the Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, showcasing part of the Philippines's rich orchid species.

If you're traveling with kids, Rizal Park has a unique Children's Playground, too! Fun fact: Just across the Rizal monument is the Luneta Kilometer Zero marker, which serves as a reference point of distance in Luzon and is a great addition to your Manila itinerary.

16. Sumaguing Cave

Travelers inside Sumaguing Cave

Photo by Department of Tourism

Head up north to the highlands of Luzon for an adventure at one of Sagada's best natural attractions, Sumaguing Cave. Known to be one of the deepest caves in the Philippines with the nickname "The Big Cave," it holds within its caverns wondrous rock formations created over thousands of years.

Revel in the beauty of the underground in this breathtaking activity. While the local guides would allow newbies to take part, it's not for the faint of heart. You will be crawling through tight crevices, getting drenched in ice-cold cave water, and scrambling in the dark.

If you're up for an adventure, then a visit to the Sumaguing Cave, one of the top Sagada tourist spots, is a must-try for you. Just remember to wear the right clothes, bring an extra outfit and waterproof everything before you start your ascent!

Spelunking inside Sumaguing Cave can take about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your pace. If you're wondering how to go to Sagada, you will have to take an 11-hour bus ride to Sagada from Manila and another 30-minute tricycle ride to the cave, so be sure to properly plan your trip.

15. Masungi Georeserve

Woman hikes in Masungi Georeserve, Rizal

Tucked in the east of Manila in the mountains of Sierra Madre is an award-winning conservation project and one of the top hiking spots in the Philippines, the Masungi Georeserve. 

Masungi Georeserve has a strict no-reservation-no-entry policy. This is an effort to manage the amount of foot traffic that walks through the reserve. Once you've booked and confirmed your preferred date, ready yourself to be treated to an abundance of flora, fauna, wildlife, and glorious rock formations.

There are carefully placed pathways and amazing rope sections installed with minimal impact on nature without compromising safety. Wear comfortable and stable footwear, light and breathable clothes, and sunscreen protection. Don't forget to bring your camera or charge your phone to capture the magnificent 360-degree views.

14. Mt. Pinatubo

Panoramic view of Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake

From one of the biggest natural disasters in the 1990s to one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Philippines, Mt. Pinatubo has become a definite must-try adventure destination in Luzon and one of the best places to visit in Pampanga.

Just a few hours away from the metro and often included in Pampanga day tour packages, Mt. Pinatubo is all about a fun-filled adventure. Book Mt. Pinatubo tours to ride a 4x4 on ashen terrain, trek up to the mountain's crater, and be greeted by the lake's sparkling turquoise waters. Be sure to wear ample protection from the heat of the sun, wear comfortable hiking clothes, and bring lots of water too! It's definitely going to be a hot hike, but the reward is well worth it.

The Mt. Pinatubo trek can be enjoyed by novice or seasoned hikers alike. Climb difficulty is rated at 2/9 but take that with a grain of salt. Near the base of the volcano is a must-try hot spring spa that uses volcanic ash believed to have healing properties, perfect for aching muscles after a tiring hike and a must-add to your Pampanga itinerary.

13. Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano during sunset

Take a short drive to Tagaytay, another one of the top places to visit in South Luzon, and treat yourself to cold weather, good food, and scenic views of Taal Volcano and Lake. Taal Volcano is famous for being the smallest active volcano in the world.

Though trips to the active volcano are not allowed, viewing the  “island within a lake, inside a volcano,” dining at Tagaytay restaurants, enjoying the cool breeze at parks, sipping hot coffee at Tagaytay coffee shops, and staying at the best hotels in Tagaytay are part of the experience when traveling here. It's best to book a Tagaytay staycation at hotels with a Taal view.

If you're traveling with kids and looking for things to do in Tagaytay, you'll never go wrong with Sky Ranch. Even grownups will enjoy it! If you want a place to chill and buy trinkets as a remembrance, Picnic Grove is for you. If you're on the lookout for goodies to bring home, head to Rowena's Pasalubong Center. There are Tagaytay tours and Tagaytay tour packages with hotels that you can book to help you experience the most on your visit.

Tagaytay might be small, but it is packed with well-loved tourist spots like Bag of Beans, Puzzle Mansion, and Sonya's Garden, making it easy to fill up your Tagaytay itinerary.

12. Bangui Windmills

Bangui Windmills lined on a beach in Ilocos Norte

Standing tall on the northwest tip of Luzon are the Bangui Windmills in Bangui, Ilocos Norte. These 230-foot windmills line up in a 9-kilometer stretch along the Bangui Bay facing the West Philippine Sea, and is one of the best Ilocos tourist spots.

To visit and marvel at the sheer size of these turbines, you have to travel roughly 438 km from Manila. You have several options to get there: you can do it via land travel either with a private vehicle or a bus, which will take 11 to 14 hours with several stopovers.

You can cut significant travel time if you book a flight to Laoag and then take a bus going to Bangui or Pagudpud. There are also Ilocos tours and Pagudpud tours that offer a hassle-free trip to these picturesque windmills. 

The travel time is well worth the trip when you lay your eyes upon this sustainable source of energy. While you're there, it's best to visit the many tourist spots nearby to make the most out of your trip.

You can rent a vehicle or commute from one place to another. To avoid any hassle, book Ilocos tour packages that cover this tourist sites, along with other stops in your Ilocos itinerary

11. Mt. Pulag

Woman hikes up Mt. Pulag

This Luzon tourist spots list will not be complete without the island's highest peak and one of the top three highest mountains in the Philippines, Mt. Pulag. Towering 2,922 meters above sea level, Mt. Pulag is a protected national park that is famous for hiking tours. Expect strict implementation of rules and guidelines when you visit. Be sure to check announcements from park officials before you go.

Hiking Mt. Pulag is no easy feat, although it offers a trail for beginners. Still, ample preparation is a must to reach the summit safely. Apart from the usual precautions for any climb, know that since temperatures here can reach sub-zero levels, you'd have to layer up and wear appropriate heat-control clothes, gloves, socks, and warm clothing when you go.

Several trails lead to the elusive sea of clouds. There's Ambangeg, which is perfect for beginners with a steady yet gentle incline. The Akiki trail is for the more experienced hikers. Several other trails will excite the most seasoned climbers. Mt. Pulag is famous for its sea of clouds that you can view when you reach the peak. 

To get to Mt. Pulag, you will first make your way to Baguio, which is about 4 to 6 hours away by bus or car from Manila. From Baguio, you can arrange for a private vehicle or hop on a jeepney, top load style, to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office for the briefing. Then make your way to the Rangers' Station. You can also book Mt. Pulag hiking tours for a hassle-free experience. 

10. Mayon Volcano

View of Mayon Volcano's smoking peak in Bicol

Located in Albay province of the Bicol region rests the fabled volcano with the perfect cone, Mt. Mayon or Mayon Volcano. The 2,462-meter-high volcano is a sight to behold from Albay tourist spots in Legazpi City and other towns. 

From the Bicol International Airport, you will already be treated to the majesty of this must-visit Bicol tourist spot. To get an even better view, hop on an ATV in Mayon Volcano tours and drive past rocky and muddy terrain, climb up the lava wall, and take in the breathtaking view as you stand close to the foot of the volcano. An ATV in Bicol Albay tour is a must-do when you're in this part of Luzon.

Aside from Mayon ATV tours, be sure to check out the other nearby sights in Legazpi, such as the Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga Church, and Sumlang Lake, all of which have a unique unobstructed view of Mayon's perfect cone.

9. Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa

Boats docked in Honda Bay, Palawan

Cool off in the clear blue waters of Puerto Princesa's Honda Bay. This Palawan tourist spot has some of the most pristine beaches that are home to diverse marine life, numerous picturesque islands, and a hearty seafood spread.

You can book Honda Bay island-hopping tours to have an amazing time on the island, minus the hassle. You will explore Honda Bay's famous spots: Luli, Cowrie, and Starfish islands, all of which make for a fun snorkeling and swimming experience in the Philippines.

There are daily direct flights to Puerto Princesa from Manila. Alternatively, you can travel by sea, but note that this route would take you over a day to get there. Upon arrival, you can arrange for a local transfer to Honda Bay via tricycle, which will take an additional 30-minute journey.

8. Kayangan Lake, Coron

Wide shot of Kayangan Lake, Palawan

Also found in the southern tip of Luzon is Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan, one of the best summer destinations in Luzon. The emerald-like beauty of Coron's waters is famous all around the world.

One of the top tourist spots included in Coron island-hopping tours is Kayangan Lake, locally known as "the blue lagoon." Hidden within marble-esque limestone formations, you'll find its crystal-clear waters truly inviting.

Kayangan Lake Coron tour also features a view deck that is 150 steps high up, giving you a 360-degree view of the surroundings. Just remember to protect yourself from the sun, pack light, and bring ample drinking water to quench your thirst after a long day of exploring.

7. Tubbataha Reef

Diver sees school of fish in Tubbataha Reef

The diving site Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a part of the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. This hidden paradise in Luzon is regarded as one of the best diving spots in the Philippines, serving as a sanctuary for marine biodiversity. Located at the center of the Sulu Sea, the Tubbataha Reef sits quietly in between the Visayan region and the island of Palawan.

If you wish to see the immaculate beauty of this underwater world, it's best to join diving tours during the dry months of March to mid-June, when the waters are more still. There are flights and ferries from Manila that can take you to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, which is approximately 594 km away.

From the Puerto Princesa wharf, you can book a liveaboard which will take you to Tubbataha Reef diving, about 10 hours away from the city. These liveaboards are available for pre-booking and sail on a weekly basis.

As with any sanctuary, the Tubbataha Reef has strict diving protocols to follow. It's a small thing to do compared to the awe and jaw-dropping beauty that it will give you. 

6. Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes

Cows on the Vayang Rolling Hills, Batanes

Great things come in small packages, and that rings true for the island province of Batanes, one of the best provinces to visit in Luzon. Located on the northernmost part of Luzon and accessible only by plane with limited flights from Manila, the province of Batanes holds some of the most breathtaking scenic views the country has to offer.

One of the notable Batanes tourist spots, and one of the favorites in Batanes tours, is the Vayang Rolling Hills. Here you’ll have an unobstructed view of Mt. Iraya as well as the three main islands of Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. The gentle green slopes of Vayang paint a vibrant complement to the bright blue waters of the West Philippine Sea.

Once on the windy island, the best way to get around and be blown away (literally and figuratively) is by renting a bike or walking.

5. Big Lagoon, El Nido 

People kayaking in Big Lagoon, Palawan

Beaches in the Philippines are plentiful, and some of the most beautiful ones can be found in El Nido, Palawan, making it a top choice for couples who want to have their honeymoon in the Philippines. Go on El Nido island-hopping tours that will take you to not just one but multiple islands, hidden El Nido beaches, and lagoons. One of the most enchanting destinations in Luzon is the Big Lagoon. 

Going on El Nido tours will seem like you’ve been transported to an ethereal fantasy world, but you’re only gazing at one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. Swim in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon, or rent a kayak for a memorable experience.

There are other beaches and lagoons you can visit in a day for your El Nido itinerary. Island-hopping here usually includes visits to other El Nido tourist spots like Secret Lagoon, Payong-Payong Beach, and Seven Commandos Beach. 

4. Calle Crisologo, Vigan

Kalesa strolling along Calle Crisologo in Vigan

Some of the best tourist spots and beautiful places in Luzon will either transport you to another world or at another time. The latter is the case for our next destination, Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

Known for its cobblestone streets, old-timey charm, and preserved Spanish-era architecture, Calle Crisologo defies the test of time and is one of the most visited places in North Luzon and a must-add to any Ilocos itinerary. It is usually included in most Vigan tours.

About over 400 km away from Manila, Calle Crisologo holds a rich history of politics and love along its cobblestone path. Shops selling loads of trinkets, souvenirs, and antiques line the street, making it one of the most visited Vigan tourist spots. Some of the best hotels in Vigan are just a stone's throw away from Calle Crisologo. Explore the many hole-in-the-wall type Vigan restaurants that offer local delicacies for you to enjoy.

3. Intramuros

Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

One of the top historical places in Manila is the walled city of Intramuros, nestled right in the heart of the city. This tourist spot in Luzon is one of the most budget-friendly, accessible, and beautiful places in the region.

While you can walk around and discover Intramuros on your own, several Intramuros tours can take you around the walled city to better appreciate the history that is hidden in its walls. Take a peek at the heritage that Intramuros holds while riding a horse-drawn carriage or kalesa, or you can also book an Intramuros Manila bamboo bike tour to go around.  

Also inside this walled district are iconic restaurants inluding The Bayleaf’s Sky Deck View Bar. Just a stone’s throw away are other historical landmarks, such as Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, and Baluarte de San Diego, all of which you can visit in a day.

2. Batad Banaue Rice Terraces

The Banaue Rice Terraces in Batad

The next spot requires an exhilarating and challenging hike up a 1500-meter-high attraction. The Batad Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, Cordillera Region, which is more than 600 km from Manila, is a man-made, stair-like rice paddy that follows the steep slopes of the mountainside. It was also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

The intricate irrigation system of the Batad Rice Terraces allows it to still be used up to this day. To see the beauty of this old-time human ingenuity, you will have to go on an hour-long hike up to the village of Batad. The panoramic views of pristine, unsoiled forestry will greet you next.

1. Puerto Princesa Underground River

Tourists ride a boat to Puerto Princesa Underground River

Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River or the Puerto Princesa Underground River is a New 7 Wonders of Nature holder and is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a consistent placer in many travelers’ bucket lists, too.  

The 8.2-kilometer-long Puerto Princesa Underground River is known for its cave formations, stunning limestone cliffs, and pristine waters. Here, you’ll feast your eyes on stunning sights while cruising on a paddleboat. Once you reach the caves, you’ll be in the company of stalactites, stalagmites, birds, bats, and fish that inhabit the Underground River’s ecosystem.

Explore this jaw-dropping, breathtaking beauty by joining Puerto Princesa Underground River tours. Book your Puerto Princesa tours in advance because this sought-after tourist spot in Palawan has a long line of eager visitors to witness its beauty. It’s also highly recommended to schedule your trip during the dry season and consistently check weather updates from time to time.

From Manila, you can get to Puerto Princesa via air or sea travel. Then you’ll make your way to Sabang via land transfers. Once in Sabang Wharf, you're just a few moments away from the exquisite allure of the Underground River. 

Remember to waterproof your things, wear light clothes, and follow guidelines that will ensure the conservation of this unique attraction for younger generations to witness, too.

Plan Your Trip Around Luzon in the Philippines

Wide shot of Banaue Rice Terraces in Batad

These are just 20 of the many unique tourist spots worthy of discovery in the islands within Luzon. It has everything for people looking for extreme activities on land and underwater. On the flip side, it also offers places where you can loosen up, sit back, relax, and just chill in its tranquil destinations.

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