The Visayas Island group is located in the central area of the Philippine archipelago. Seven large islands belong to the Visayan Islands. These are Cebu, Bohol, Masbate, Negros, Samar, and Panay. The region also consists of hundreds of smaller islands.
It also has a long history that dates back to when the Malay people came to settle on the islands. It is in the Visayas where the explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed after crossing the Pacific Ocean from Spain. In consequence, Visayas has many cultural and historic sites, a number of them are colonial structures.
You can easily reach the Visayas as key destinations like Boracay and Bacolod have domestic airports. But the main transport hub in this region is Cebu airport, which operates both domestic and international flights. From Cebu, you can easily hop on a ferry and visit neighboring islands like Bohol and Dumaguete.
The Visayas has tons of attractions but here are the top 15 Visayas tourist spots that you should consider visiting when in the Philippines.
The Ruins refers to a large family mansion located at the heart of an old 440-hectare sugarcane plantation. It used to be a luxurious architectural masterpiece and is often called the Taj Mahal of the Philippines.
Although it is not a tomb, this massive building was built as a reminder that love never dies. Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson commissioned the construction of the original mansion in the 1900s. He did it to honor his late wife, Maria Braga Lacson, who died during labor.
During the Japanese Occupation in the early 1940s, Filipino rebels set the mansion on fire to stop the Japanese army from using it. The fire lasted for three days and was responsible for how the mansion looks today. What remains of this once grand building is its framework and the original tiles.
Even today, the mansion still has intricate details that show the sugar baron’s love for his wife. For example, the remaining building posts are engraved with the letters MS, which stands for Maria and Mariano.
Visitors joining The Ruins tours will also appreciate its grounds, made beautiful by manicured lanes, gardens, and arches. Though it’s not a grand mansion anymore, The Ruins remains to be one of the most photographed Bacolod tourist spots.
Kansalakan Enchanted River sits deep within the forests of Negros Oriental. People describe Kansalakan as enchanted because of its consistent deep greenish color, something that is rare to find.
People visit the Kansalakan Enchanted River for its incredible beauty and serene atmosphere. The main thing to do here is to bathe in its fresh and clean water. The river is decorated with small streams and circular rock formations that serve as small natural pools. The most prominent natural water hole is fondly called “ The Eye” by locals.
Parts of the Kansalakan Enchanted River are so deep that you could not see the bottom. This is why the river has become a popular cliff diving site among locals and visitors. The deepest sections of the river are also calm so you can have a relaxing swim without thinking about the usual strong river current.
You can find Kansalakan in between Banwague and Balogo, which are villages in the highland area of Guihulngan City. Once you reach Guihulngan, this river is quite accessible as it is right beside the road. Guihulngan City is less than 145 kilometers away from other notable Dumaguete tourist spots.
Bohol’s Hinagdanan Cave is one of the main attractions on the island. The Cebuano word Hinagdanan means “laddered”. This name pertains to the stairs that you need to use to go down this wonderful cave.
Hinagdanan is a limestone karst cave that was accidentally discovered by a local. It was used as a hideout by Filipino trying to escape from the Japanese army during World War II.
The entrance to Hinagdanan only fits one person at a time. The space within the cave is less than 100 meters long. Thus, the number of people in the cave is restricted to only 50 at a given time. Some parts of the ground are smooth and moist due to the natural droplets from the cave.
While inside, you will see several stalactite and stalagmite rock formations and a freshwater lagoon. Visitors usually love to swim in this lagoon, which is approximately 10 meters deep. Just outside the cave entrance lies many restaurants and souvenir shops, which cater to the growing number of tourists visiting Hinagdanan.
Hinagdanan Cave is located in Bingag, Dauis. It is usually a stop of the usual popular tour itineraries offered to Bohol tourists.
Biri Island is one of the natural wonders of the Samar region. It is situated off the northwestern tip of Samar Island. Biri’s surroundings remain unspoiled and it is widely known for its stunning and unique rock formations.
The rock formations are in different locations. They are quite fascinating as it took thousands of years for nature to make them. The formations were made due to strong waves pushing through the island surfaces. These formations are a photographer’s dream come true. Make sure to have your camera ready to capture this natural beauty.
Biri Island has a collection of resorts, restaurants, and diving facilities so it’s possible to stay on the island for a couple of days. The main mode of transport here is the habal-habal - a reconstructed motorcycle with a seating capacity of up to 3 people.
To reach Biri Island, you will need to take a local boat(banca) from Catarman port. The boat ride usually lasts for an hour depending on weather conditions. Once on the island, you will need to register with the Tourism Office to join the tours to its wonderful rock formations.
Cambugahay Falls in Siquijor is often regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Philippines. It is located in the eastern part of Siquijor Island and is one of the most-visited attractions in Siquijor tours. Cambugahay has three tiers and is widely known for its unique clear turquoise water and lush surroundings.
Visitors love to swim the bottom tier of the as the water is clean and refreshing. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also jump off from the top of the falls to the gorgeous natural pool below. Locals set up a rope on this tier to entice visitors to swing from it and fall into the water.
Aside from swimming in the bottom tiers of Cambugahay, you can also hike up through the jungle to reach its other levels. The upper levels also have rock pools and cliff jumping spots.
From the access road, you need to climb down stone stairs to reach the waterfalls. You can rent one of the basic huts around the falls if you need some shelter from the sun. There are local vendors around the waterfalls that sell drinks and snacks. Take note that this site does not have a proper toilet/shower facility or restaurant.
The Manjuyod White Sandbar often described a magnificent strip of powdery white sand surrounded by crystal clear water. This is why Majuyod is fondly called the Maldives of the Philippines. This sandbar stretches to 600 hectares and is located off the coast of Bais City, Negros Oriental.
The sandbar is submerged in the water during high tide but emerges during low tide. Native wooden houses on stilts are scattered across the sandbar. During high tide, the houses seem to be floating on the water. The combination of the white sand, clear water, and blue sky make Manjuyod Sandbar a spectacular natural attraction.
Manjuyod is a usual stop of a day trip itinerary that also involves island hopping and dolphin watching. It is common for boats full of tourists to hover around the sandbar area and wait for low tide. Local vendors on boats come to sell snacks, drinks, and seafood to waiting tourists.
You also have the option to stay overnight on this famous sandbar by renting one of the wooden houses in Manjuyod Sandbar tours. An overnight stay gives you the experience of living in the middle of the open sea. You will need to take a 15-minutes boat ride from Bais City to reach Manjuyod Sandbar.
Islas de Gigantes is a group of islands situated off the coast of the northeastern Iloilo towns of Estancia and Carles. It is one of the top Iloilo tourist spots because of its wide range of natural attractions. Islas de Gigantes is home to beautiful lagoons, rock formations, caves, and white sandy beaches.
This island group’s name means “Land of the Giants”. This is because large human skeletons were discovered on these islands. At that time, many people believed that these skeletons belonged to giants.
Giants don't actually live on these islands. But what you will find here are gorgeous lagoons, white sandy beaches, fascinating caves, and rock formations. These attractions made Islas de Gigantes a prime tourist destination in the Iloilo region.
Iloilo tours to Islas de Gigantes highlight many wonderful attractions. Some of these are Tangle Lagoon, known as a cliff-diving site, and Cabugao Gamay, the most famous island of Gigantes.
Cabugao Gamay deserves such popularity because of clear turquoise water and powdery white sand beach. Other notable attractions included in Islas de Gigantes tours are Bantigue Sandbar, Antonia Island, and Lantangan Beach.
If you are interested in diving in the Philippines then Monad Shoal makes an excellent destination. The island of Malapascua, Cebu is the home of this popular dive site. Monad Shoal, Malapascua diving is also well-known in the international diving community as it’s the best place in the world to see the rare Thresher Sharks.
Monad Shoal, also called Shark Point, is composed of a sunken coral plateau that reaches a depth of about 20 meters. This is the site that made Malapascua famous around the world. Diving here gives you the best chance to spot Thresher Sharks as these creatures use this area as a cleaning station.
Aside from Thresher Sharks, Manta Rays are also a regular sight in Monad Shoal. The shoal is also home to small marine life like Mantis Shrimps, Pygmy Seahorses, and Nudibranchs.
Visibility conditions in Monad Shoal are consistently good, about 10 - 15 meters. However, you may have to deal with strong currents. Thus, you will most likely be comfortable diving here if you are at a PADI Open Water Advanced level.
Monad Shoal is about a 30-minute boat ride to Malapascua Island. The dive usually starts at 6 am as it’s the time when the sharks gather at Monad Shoal. Thresher Shark diving at Monad Shoal can be done all year round.
Kalanggaman Island is often referred to as “The Crown Jewel of Leyte” This island is one of the top island-hopping tourist spots in the Philippines due to its powdery white sand, stunning sandbars, and clear water. Kalanggaman stretches for more than 750 meters and has remained uninhabited. Its most prominent feature is its surrounding sandbar, which is one of the longest in the country.
Visitors who join Kalanggaman Island tours love the vibe here as it is serene, safe, and relaxing. It is not overdeveloped and often not too crowded. While here, you can relax under the palm trees and admire the scenery. If you wish to be more active, you can also engage in activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving on your visit to this island.
The small island of Kalanggaman sits between the bigger islands of Leyte and Cebu. The town of Palompon is the usual jumping point to Kalanggaman. From Palompon, you need to take a 1.5-hour boat ride to reach Kalanggaman.
Kalanggaman is home to a small resort called Jeter Resort. You can also camp overnight if you have a tent. However, the local authority restricts the number of visitors coming to Kalanggaman. This rule aims to preserve the beauty of the island by stopping over-tourism.
The Moalboal Sardine Run is one of the most amazing underwater events you can experience in the Cebu region of Visayas, Philippines.
This activity refers to the experience of swimming through schools of sardines. These schools comprised millions of sardine fish. Fishermen don't lure these schools to congregate. The sardine run is completely a natural occurrence! These sardines come from the deep end of the ocean to the shallow end to feed on the planktons that are abundant in the area.
Moalboal Sardine Run diving packages are widely popular not just within the Philippines but also abroad. It is comparable to the famous sardine run in South Africa. Although the South African version is on a larger scale, the Moalboal version is more accessible and consistent.
The Moalboal sardine run occurs in a spot just about 20 meters from the shore of Panagsama Beach. You don’t need fancy diving equipment or travel far on a boat to witness this phenomenon. You can just swim to the spot.
This sardine run happens almost every single day of the year. This gives visitors a lot of chances to witness this natural phenomenon during their visit.
Loboc River is one of the main attractions on the island of Bohol. This famous river is known for its surrounding rich tropical landscape and cleanliness. It is also one of the cleanest rivers in the country. The main activity on the Loboc River cruise tours is that takes guests across from one end of the river to another.
Loboc River boats consist of a covered platform sitting on top of two combined outrigger boats. People refer to these cruisers as floating restaurants as they usually offer a buffet meal to guests on top of showcasing the river’s lush scenery. The Loboc River cruises last for about an hour and terminate at Busay Falls.
These cruises also offer guests onboard entertainment in the form of singing, dancing, or cultural shows. If you do not wish to dine, you also have the choice to rent a small motorized boat (banca) and a local boatman to take you through the river.
Loboc River is located in the Municipality of Loboc, about 24 kilometers from Bohol capital called Tagbilaran City. The river cruises can start either from the town of Poblacion or the neighboring town of Loay.
Apo Island is situated off the southern tip of the larger Negros Island of Visayas, Philippines. The island has 70 hectares of land and 106 hectares of coral reef belonging to more than 400 species. The large number of corals around Apo makes it one of the most popular Visayas diving spots. It is also well-known among the international diving communities.
Diving and snorkeling are the main things to do in Apo Island tours. Its underwater scenery includes deep canyons, steep walls, and hundreds of corals. There are plenty of opportunities to see a wide range of marine creatures in action.
Green turtles, hawksbill turtles, groupers, fusiliers, and jackfish are regular sightings. Apo Island's underwater has excellent visibility, making it an ideal spot for diving expeditions. Other activities that you can enjoy while visiting the island include trekking, swimming, and beach hopping.
The main jumping point to Apo is the village of Malatapay, Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental. The boat ride from Malatapay to Apo lasts about 30 minutes. Visitors usually access Malatapay village from Dumaguete, which is about 24 kilometers away. Thus, you can easily arrange Dumaguete tours that include an excursion to Apo Island.
Kawasan Falls is the magnificent set of cascades that draw thousands of visitors to Cebu Island. Kawasan is one of the top Cebu tourist spots because of its lush surroundings and striking turquoise water.
Visitors from all over visit Kawasan to enjoy its raw beauty and serene landscape. It is a great spot for swimming as the water is remarkably clean and refreshing. The water that flows through the waterfalls is part of the Matutinao River System. This system is highly regarded for having the cleaner inland body of water in the Philippine Islands.
The waterfall has two main tiers, which feature natural pools perfect for swimming. The first tier stands at about 40 meters. The second tier is only around 20 meters and is often less visited because people need to trek for 10 minutes from the first cascade to reach it.
Kawasan Falls is a favorite destination for Cebu tours. Aside from swimming and relaxing around Kawasan, another popular activity among tourists is canyoneering. The landscape around Kawasan Falls is stunning, filled with tropical plants, canyon, trees, and animals.
Canyoneering during Kawasan Falls tours is the ultimate outdoor adventure that includes descending through canyons, swinging on ropes, and jumping into crystal clear water.
Kawasan is in Barangay Matutinao, Badian Municipality. It is nestled at the foot of Mantalongon Mountain Range.
The Chocolate Hills is one of the beloved attractions in Bohol. This site is world-famous and is often one of the natural wonders of the world. This group of hills is extraordinary because of their sheer number, symmetry, and color.
Joining Chocolate Hills tours will let you get a glimpse of more than 1700 hills scattered around a 50 square kilometer land area. Green grass usually covers these hills. But during the dry season, the grass turns brown and gives the hills their famous chocolate brown color.
The hills come in different sizes, but from afar, they appear to be almost symmetrical. This symmetry is what adds to the site's remarkable appearance. They seemed artificial because they possess precise shapes.
According to local legends, ancient giants were responsible for the creation of such hills. Scientists believe that decades of natural weathering of marine limestone on a clay layer give the hills their appearance today.
The Chocolate Hills mostly stand in the town territories of Batuan, Sagbayan, and Carmen. To view the hills, you can go to the Chocolate Hills Complex viewing station in Carmen. Carmen is about 47 kilometers from Bohol’s capital Tagbilaran City. You also can head to the Sagbayan Peak, in Sagbayan to admire the famous hills.
White Beach is one of the top Boracay tourist spots and the most popular among Visayas beaches. It is 4 kilometers long and features very fine white sand and clear blue waters. White Beach is simply stunning and is the reason why Boracay has become famous around the world.
This beach is the main accommodation area, dining, and entertainment area for tourists visiting Boracay. The majority of Boracay resorts are on White Beach. This beach is also lined with numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.
White Beach is also the main jumpoff point to many Boracay tours. Its surrounding water is normally full of people doing White Beach activities like banana boat riding, sailing, jet-skiing, and helmet diving in Boracay.
Despite being the tourist hub, White Beach does not fail to impress. A concrete pavement separates the business structures from the main sandy area. This separation creates plenty of space for people to relax on the soft, powdery sand.
White Beach has three sections called stations. These stations are geographical markers to help people locate business establishments.
White Beach is also well-loved for offering the best sunset scenery on the island. Boracay Island belongs to Aklan Province. The jumpoff points to the island are Caticlan and Kalibo. You need to take a short boat ride to reach Boracay Island and White Beach from both places.
Explore the Pristine Islands of Visayas
Travelers can easily access the Visayas region because of its efficient transport network. Key destinations like Leyte, Samar, Iloilo, Bohol, and Cebu maintain airports that facilitate daily flights from Manila. Many ferry companies offer trips from the nation's capital region to several locations in the Visayas.
The Visayas usually receives more domestic tourists during the summer months of March until May. However, it is possible to avail of Visayas tour packages for most months of the year. Some areas may experience typhoons during certain months, so make sure to check weather reports before visiting a particular spot.
Many domestic and international tourists plan their Visayas tours around top Filipino festivals like the Ati-atihan in Aklan, Dinagyang in Iloilo, and Sinulog Festival in Cebu.
The Visayas is home to some of the best beaches in the Philippines and some of the best tourist spots in the Philippines. Destinations like Cebu and Boracay are the most familiar to international visitors. However, Visayas Islands has other wonderful spots worth visiting. The region has a long history and rich culture. Visayas diving is undeniably world-class as well. Its high mountains, pristine islands, and lush surroundings will make any nature-loving visitor quite satisfied.