Authored by Diane Wuthrich (Contributor)
The Philippines is known for some of the most captivating white sand beaches in Asia. But that’s not all there is to this stunning archipelago; the country is blessed with dozens of destinations scattered throughout 7,000 islands that will take your breath away, and you’ll be instantly falling in love with the Philippines.
There is plenty to get about with the popular tourist destination of Asia, from gorgeous seascapes to lush mountains, and there is a holiday for everyone, from couples looking for fun ideas in the Philippines, solo travellers seeking an adventure or families seeking a getaway in the tropics.
These 20 magnificent Philippines destinations are the ideal location where you’ll find the perfect holiday in this incredible Southeast Asian destination.
20 Magnificent Philippines Destinations for all tourists to visit
The northernmost tip of the Philippines, close to Taiwan, is where you’ll find an enchanting island known as the Batanes. The rolling hills and verdant mountains here have earned it the moniker of “Marlboro Country”.
Here, you’ll get to experience a dramatically different side of the Philippines since Batanes is untouched by development. It’s composed of 10 islands spread throughout the Luzon Strait, all of which are volcanic in origin and mostly mountainous. It’s also the only place in the Philippines that experiences four seasons.
2. El Nido
Once you visit El Nido in Palawan, you’ll realise that it’s the postcard-perfect definition of a tropical paradise. There are crystal clear waters, majestic limestone formations, coconut-tree fringed coastlines, and secret lagoons; it’s no secret that El Nido possesses one of the most stunning seascapes in the country.
El Nido is surrounded by several jaw-dropping tropical islands which can be explored by taking one of the several island-hopping tours available.
The second-largest city in the Philippines is a great place to start exploring the country. It has a little of everything: a bustling metropolis, rich history, world-class diving, and white sand beaches. Cebu is also home to the legendary “lechon”, or suckling pig, which has earned a reputation among foodies worldwide.
Cebu alone has numerous destinations to discover, enough for several weeks’ worth of exploration. Start with Cebu City, then head over to the beaches of Bantayan, Moalboal, Malapascua, and the Camotes Islands, to name a few.
No place in the Philippines will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time more than Vigan. A UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Vigan’s cobblestone streets and colourful history tell many stories of a life gone past. Spanish colonial homes dot the alleys, and its old-world charm is just hard to resist.
A must-visit for history buffs. The cuisine in Vigan is also worth a try; it’s known for its longganisa, empanadas, and kankanen which can be found in stalls and restaurants in the town centre. However, pinakbet, a vegetarian dish, is perhaps Vigan’s most crucial contribution to Filipino cuisine.
Bohol is filled with tons of beautiful natural attractions. The most famous of these is the Chocolate Hills, a surreal landscape aptly named because the uniform hilly mounds turn a shade of chocolate brown in the dry season while they are green during the rest of the year.
The Chocolate Hills is one of the most iconic landmarks of the country and should not be missed while in Bohol. This beautiful island is also home to pristine white sand beaches, emerald green rivers, diverse wildlife, and excellent diving.
6. Legazpi City
Legazpi is well-known for the legendary Mayon Volcano, a photographer’s delight and geographical wonder. Mayon Volcano is a perfectly-shaped cone that makes a terrific backdrop to your photos. When you visit the volcano, make a side trip to see the historic Daraga and St. Raphael churches.
From here, take a day trip to Sorsogon where you can swim with majestic whale sharks in their natural habitat. Don’t leave without trying the famous fiery cuisine that this province is known for if you have the guts.
Known as the “Island Born of Fire”, Camiguin is a tiny island in Mindanao famed for its several volcanoes. This island has the most number of volcanoes found in every square kilometre. The lush areas around the volcanoes are teeming with diverse flora and fauna which you may encounter during a trek.
Aside from the volcanoes, Camiguin is home to several spectacular natural attractions including cold and hot springs, majestic waterfalls, a sunken cemetery, and a powdery white sand bar that disappears with the high tide. Try to visit during the famous Lanzones festival and join in the fun with the locals.
Another gem in Palawan, Coron is a unique tropical paradise with lots of islands and beaches to explore. Just like El Nido, Coron also has its fair share of towering limestone karsts and pristine isles; as well as a natural hot spring, sunken shipwrecks fantastic diving, and freshwater lakes.
It attracts divers from all over the world who come to dive with not just the shipwrecks but the precious, colourful marine life. Even if you don’t dive, you’ll love tropical beaches, Coron has lots to offer on that front too.
No “best destinations in the Philippines” list would ever be complete without mentioning Boracay, the number 1 tourist destination in the country for many years now. The island has received accolades for being the most beautiful beach in the world, by tourism authority’s worldwide.
We can’t blame them: you will be hard-pressed to find a beach with the same quality and characteristics of Boracay. There’s the fine ivory-white sand, mesmerising turquoise waters, friendly locals, exciting water sports, and nightlife that can put Ibiza to shame.
The summer capital of the Philippines has cool weather all year round, no matter how sweltering the heat gets in other parts of the country. This is what makes Baguio such a popular holiday destination for locals, but it has so much more to offer than pine-scented fresh air. Baguio’s rich history is still very much alive today, evident in the many historical attractions that have been well-preserved such as Camp John Hay, Wright Park, Mines View Park, and so much more.
There are also dozens of places to visit for art enthusiasts, foodies, or anyone who wants to take in spectacular mountain views. It’s an excellent destination for the whole family, and no matter when you go or how many times you’ve been, there will always be something new and worthwhile to enjoy.
11. Banaue Rice Terraces
There’s something mystical and magical about the Cordillera region. Perhaps it’s the fact that ancient Filipino tribal culture is still very much alive. Maybe it’s the enigma of the vast mountains. Perhaps it’s because, as some feel, there are lots of spirits around. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: a visit to the Banaue Rice Terraces is life-changing.
These dramatic landscapes, hailed as one of the world’s wonders, were built by hand eons ago but the talented tribes that still reside there. While you’re in Banaue, stop by the equally enigmatic town of Sagada for a few nights.
Up until a few years ago, Dumaguete was still off the tourist radar. It was reserved for foreign and local retirees who came to spend their golden years in a peaceful place known for its excellent quality of life, or serious divers who only wanted the best in Philippine diving. Now, the land of gentle people is, for many, one of the best destinations in the country.
It’s home to the “Maldives of Asia”; the Manjuyod sandbar off Bais, a spellbinding natural beauty on its own. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see dolphins! Dumaguete is also where you’ll find beautiful lakes, majestic waterfalls, and several stunning beaches. There’s no traffic here, and the pace is so laid-back: it’s no surprise many ends up never leaving Dumaguete!
A world-famous surf destination, Siargao has recently seen a dramatic boom in tourist infrastructure and amenities. Aside from magnificent barrel waves, Siargao also has amazingly white-sand beaches and islands nearby.
It’s also famous for the mind-boggling Sohoton Cove National Park, where you can swim with hundreds of stingless jellyfish in emerald green waters. Siargao is also known for miles of lush coconut tree plantations and terrific seafood.
14. Tubbataha Reefs National Park
Only a few people get to visit the Tubbataha Reefs National Park each year, a 130,028-hectare large portion of the sea recognised as one of the world’s best dive sites. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is distinct as a dive destination because of its unique structure as an atoll reef possessing an extremely high density of marine life.
Located right in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the diving season here only lasts three months long. There are no hotels here due to its isolated and remote nature; to dive here, you’ll have to make prior arrangements with licensed dive shops or tour operators and spend a few nights on a live-aboard. It is the ultimate destination for diving in the Philippines, without a doubt.
This tiny island in the Visayas region may only be for the brave. A land of mystique, Siquijor has long had a reputation for being the land of witchcraft and black magic, which has been part of the culture and tradition since ancient times. Siquijor is home to various kinds of sorcerers and shamans, whom locals even from neighbouring islands are said to go to ask for help; frequently to inflict pain and seek revenge because of adultery, land disputes, theft, and other wrongdoings.
Although that may scare off some travellers, those who are courageous enough to visit will not only discover a mysterious tropical island ruled by magic but one that is also rich in amazing natural attractions. Some of the noteworthy sites here include the Cambuhagay Falls, a 400-year-old Balete Tree which is said to be enchanted, and a handful of pristine beaches. If you’re brave enough to look past the magical aspects of it, one trip here will tell you that it only adds to the charm and colourful culture of this island.
Locals, especially those who reside in and near Manila, always frequent Tagaytay. This picturesque town just an hour and a half away from Manila provide the perfect weekend destination: there’s the cool Tagaytay air, lots of fresh and delicious food, and of course, the iconic view of Taal Lake.
Many Filipinos have grown up with fond memories of excursions to Tagaytay for the weekend with family, and no matter how much it’s changed, it will always be one that is close to our hearts. For anyone visiting the Philippines for the first time, a visit to Tagaytay is highly recommended so you can see why it’s one of the most well-loved places in the country.
Located in Leyte, this strip of white sand is undoubtedly one of the most spellbinding sandbars in the country. Surrounded by crystal-clear azure waters, this sandbar is only accessible from a few nearby destinations by boat such as Leyte and Malapascua Island in Cebu.
There are no hotels here: pure, unadulterated tropical wonder. Don’t expect any tourist facilities either, but that’s what makes Kalanggaman island so unique. If you do stay overnight, you can only do so camping for a small fee.
18. Hinatuan Enchanted River
Surigao del Norte may be famous for the legendary waves in Siargao, but Surigao del Sur is known for the magical Hinatuan Enchanted River. The river comes in varying shades of blue with a maximum depth of just 80 feet. Local legend has it that the river is so clean, thanks to the fairies, spirits, and mermaids that frolic in the area to maintain its pristine quality.
It seems that compared to other destinations, Romblon will stay off the beaten path for a long time. That’s because it’s so challenging to get around from one island to another. The small towns of Romblon remain untouched by commercial development, and the local economy still largely relies on its rich marble deposits; hence its nickname of being the “Marble Capital of the Philippines.”
Travellers who are willing to brave six-hour journeys aboard ferries and days at sea on rickety outrigger boats will be significantly rewarded. Several versions of remote tropical paradises are waiting to be discovered, particularly Cresta del Gallo island and Bonbon beach.
Last but not least, the capital of the Philippines is worth spending a few days in. Although it suffers from a bad reputation due to its notorious traffic jams, pollution, and poverty; you’ll have to be creative to discover the excellent side of Manila. The city isn’t perfect, but there’s a reason why it’s a top residential area for expats, has a thriving economy, vibrant nightlife and entertainment, and a new flourishing identity.
There’s just so much to see in the Philippines! Where one trip won’t be enough. Have you visited any of these magnificent Philippines destinations yet? Let us know what your favourite place was on the popular Southeast Asian country!