The Philippines is a stunning country to explore that’s filled with thousands of tropical islands, stunning beaches and a heap of amazing cities. And that’s the thing, with so many islands you’re almost guaranteed to find some of the best places in the Philippines to explore.
Now, I have no hesitation in saying that you won’t be able to see the whole of the Philippines on one trip. Heck, I doubt you’ll even see it all if you spent a decade here. That’s why, when we visited, we had to prioritise some of the sites we knew we’d love.
From the stunning bays of El Nido to the beautiful island of Bohol, there’s a little slice of the Philippines that I’m sure you’ll love.
Take a look, below, at some of the best places in the Philippines to visit. You’ll have a great time! 🇵🇭
Perched in the region of Mimaropa, the islands of Palawan are one of the best places in the Philippines to explore.
With the lost Crystal clear turquoise water I’ve seen, and a history spanning over 50,000 years, it’s an idyllic place to explore on your trip. Whilst in Palawan, make sure to visit El Nido which is perched on the most easterly part of the main island.
Once here, make sure to wander around El Nido town and hire your own boat (whilst making sure to barter) to visit the stunning Bacuit archipelago. Each island in the Bacuit archipelago features the most imposing karst cliffs and clear waters that I’ve ever seen. There’s also ample spots for snorkelling too.
Now, to get here, either take one of the larger planes from Manila (or Bohol etc) to Puerto Princesa and then drive around 5-6 hours (depending on how crazily fast your driver goes) to get to El Nido itself. Alternatively, fly straight to El Nido on a smaller plane with Air Swift that flies from Manila.
Alternatively, if El Nido doesn’t take your fancy, pop over to the Palawanese island of Coron that’s around 60-80km from El Nido.
Now, it’s best to get to Coron via the ferry or with Air Swift (which only takes 25 minutes).
Home to beach resorts and dive sites to boot the island of Cebu is an outdoor lovers playground. It really is one of the best places in the Philippines if you’re a bit of a water baby.
Now, we didn’t go snorkelling with Whale Sharks whilst here as we’d heard some stories about how the Whale Sharks are fed on the tours themselves. Apparently, this actually means that the Whale Sharks don’t actually leave the area (which they naturally do) and end up not reproducing. This all means that numbers dwindle as the whale sharks become used to being fed by humans.
Keep this to mind when thinking of going on a tour and ask as many questions as you need to. Reckless feeding actually ends up killing the long-term survival of the species.
Now, in the south-west of Cebu is the stunning Kawasan Falls, which is honestly one of the best places in the Philippines to see. Just make sure to take some waterproof shoes you can wear for a swim, the area can get rocky and quite slippy.
Right down near the southern tip of Cebu, Tumalog waterfall is another great spot to visit if you’re in the south of the island. Just make sure to take some pesos for entrance fees.
3.) South Cotabato
South Cotabato is known by the locals as the “land of the dream weavers and is a great stop-off before venturing off to the more remote islands. It really is one of the best places in the Philippines to visit during a festival week, too. These run on multiple dates throughout the year and celebrate culture, music and island life. All with lots of street food and plenty of energy.
Also, don’t forget to visit Lake Sebu, too. Explore the lakes edges on foot, hop aboard a boat or fly above it on a zip line through the sky. Head to Seven Falls viewpoint to admire the waterfalls and jump on-board the zip line.
To sample the best of the local seafood make sure you head to Gusteau’s Crab Hauz for dinner. You’ll have to be rolled out after all the food!
With loads of white-sand beaches, crumbling caves and epic waterfalls, the region of Bicol is one of the best places in the Philippines to explore.
That being said, the biggest attraction is the nearby Catanduanes Mountains, these beautiful formations rise from the ground and break into the sky, creating an iconic landscape. Especially around the Mayon Volcano.
Oh and for a good cup of coffee, head to Pallet House just off Bicol’s Rizal Street.
Boracay is a relatively small island but has quickly become one of the best places in the Philippines to visit. That being said, recently, the government had to shut the island off from all visitors for over 6-months due rebuild the infrastructure on the island. Thankfully, the island has now reopened but there’s a number of measures that are now in place to manage visitor numbers more sustainably.
Once here, make sure to visit Willy’s Rock, relax at White Beach and Nonie’s for one of the best bites to eat on the island.
If you’re travelling on a long-haul flight to the Philippines, it’s likely you’ll first fly into the capital city, Manila. Now, Manila is a thriving (and pretty huge) metropolis that’s got everything from shiny skyscrapers, quirky Dessert Museums and plenty of history.
Whilst you’re here, make sure you visit the lush gardens of Fort Santiago, ride a jeepney and pop into Jollibee’s for some spicy chicken. It’s not fancy in the slightest but I swear the chicken is addictive.
If you want to stay in the more shiny part of Manila, book a hotel in Makati. We stayed at the Fairmont Makati which was ideal!
7.) Siargao & Guyam Island
Siagro Island is home to some of the best swell in the world so, naturally, surfing is big deal here. Though, If you’re not a surfer, fear not, as the island has plenty of white sand beaches and coral lagoons to explore, snorkel or just laze about in.
Alternatively, hire a boat and spend the day at Guyam Island that almost looks too perfect. It really is paradise and one of the best places in the Philippines to see.
Plus, Siargao Island has some of the freshest seafood around. Head to La Carinderia and order the grilled prawns, you won’t be disappointed.
8.) Bohol & Panglao Island
Bohol was an island I’d always wanted to visit and I’m so glad we got to spend 6 days here on our last trip to the Philippines.
Once here, make sure to spend some time at the Chocolate Hills (which formed from dead coral, millions of years ago). Pop over to Hinagdanan Cave which is stunning to see (just make sure to take your swimming trunks) and hire a boat to take you to Balicasag to see the wild turtles and amazing coral.
We also rented our own boat (and captain) to ride up the Loboc River. Now, you can join a larger boat with food onboard but we really wanted to pop on a smaller boat to ourselves.
9.) Panay Island
If you’re wanting to learn more about the Spanish colonial history, then Iloilo city (on Panay) is one of the best places in the Philippines to explore. Perched on Panay Island, make sure to explore the Jaro Cathedral and Nelly’s Garden, too.
There’s also a budding nightlife, and you can spend your evening enjoying the warm Philippino evenings right at the seafront. For a fancier affair head to Straight Up Bar, a rooftop bar with excellent views over the city. Oh, and try and time your visit around the Dinagyang festival, too… it’s amazing!
If that’s not your thing, pop over to Guimaras Island (that’s about 2km from the city).
10.) Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island is post-card perfection and one of the pristine and best places in the Philippines to see.
Hike up to a volcano, trek through the jungle or scuba dive off the coast, all before retiring to the beach to watch the sunset over the horizon. When it comes to dining, head to Casa Roca Inn and enjoy hearty portions of pan-Asian cuisine.
Batanes is a small province in the very north of the Philippines that looks more like it belongs on the south coast of England (it almost reminds me of the Jurassic Coast).
The rolling off-green hills and extensive cliffs make for great walking, especially around Chamantad Tiñan Cove (on Sabtang island). Make sure you visit the Honesty Coffee Shop while in town, it has some epic Philippino coffee.
12.) Luzon Island
Based further north from Manila, is the stunning Cordillera Rice Terraces that are stunning to see. UNESCO World Heritage protected, this stunning area of Luzon is one of the best places in the Philippines to explore. Now, there are quite a few spots that are included in this protected list, so make sure to visit these.
Places like; Batad Rice Terraces (in Banaue, Ifugao), Mayoyao Rice Terraces (in Mayoyao, Ifugao), Nagacadan Rice Terraces (in Kiangan, Ifugao), Hungduan Rice Terraces (in Hungduan, Ifugao) and Bangaan Rice Terraces (in Banaue, Ifugao) are all stunning examples. Though, don’t fret if you can’t see these ones… there are about 30-40 more that aren’t on the list.
Alternatively, pop over to Vigan city that’s on the north-west coast of Luzon. It’s a city that’s filled with cobbled streets, Spanish and Philippino architecture and Plaza Burgos which has the best street food.