With thousands of islands, mountains, beaches, and cities to choose from, creating your local travel list for the entire year may be a tough decision to make. Twenty-six top Filipino bloggers, Instagram personalities, and local travelers helped me narrow down the choices for you.
1. CULION ISLAND
At first glance, Culion Island in Palawan looks like your typical provincial town. There’s a church on top of a hill, a plaza next to it, and a statue of a town hero standing nearby. But its history tells a tale that is unique, dark, and hopeful. In 1904, an Executive Order was issued to create the world’s largest leper colony in Culion, shutting it from the rest of the world. A century later, Culion has transformed from an isolated town to a rising tourist destination. Leprosy has been cured, but the structures that sheltered the patients and health workers remain standing. Read more.
Words and photo by Yoshke Dimen, The Poor Traveler
See for yourself the beauty of lighthouses and rolling hills, appreciate the famous good nature and kindness of the Ivatans, and have a taste of their delicious cuisine. Pose under uniquely shaped rocks, admire the vista of cliffs meeting the coast, and swim in their white sand beaches. If you have enough time, you can visit all three inhabited islands of Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. With proper planning, it is possible to travel cheap in Batanes, one of the picture-perfect provinces of the Philippines. Read more.
Words by Aleah Taboclaon, Solitary Wanderer
3. BURIAS ISLAND
With more than one hundred islands and islets that make up the province, it’s quite surprising that Masbate is still generally out of the usual tourist radar when, in fact, the province harbors many amazing natural wonders that are mostly in their raw state. On the northern shore of Burias Island alone, what beckons are pristine white sand island beaches and sandbars, vivid coral gardens, and sublime azure water, all in the backdrop of the majestic Mayon Volcano on the distant horizon. Read more.
Words and Photo by Angel Juarez, Lakwatsero
4. CALAGUAS ISLANDS
The Calaguas group of islands in the Bicol peninsula is home to one of the country’s finest beaches. If Boracay is a lively getaway with great white shores plus the party scene, and Caramoan is a thriller in waves and rock formations, Calaguas is a quiet stunner. Its beauty remains unspoiled even years after it was introduced to the public. Mahabang Buhangin, the long stretch of white sand in Tinaga Island, is nestled in a peaceful spot in the Pacific Ocean. It serves as a perfect location to relax, rekindle the bonds of friendship and family, and reconnect with nature. A stay in a cabana at Waling-Waling Eco Resort is an added comfort during your visit. Before heading back home, explore the town of Paracale and take a side trip to Bagasbas Beach, the surfing hotspot in Camarines Norte. Read more.
Words by ArisMape, D’yan lang.
5. SIPALAY CITY
For the past few years, after the mineral mining boom has ended, local and foreign travelers have been quietly emerging in this coastal city south of Negros Occidental. The attractions to visit in the expanse of 17 villages are the laid-back Sugar Beach, the serene Lat-asan Cove (where Tinagong Dagat is), the exciting Campomanes Bay, the abandoned Maricalum Mines and the white sand beach of Punta Ballo. Read more.
Words by Karl Acepcion, Turista Trails
6. MT PULAG
The third highest peak in Philippines, Mt Pulag has three unique features: the pine tree forest which is the base of the mountain, the mossy forest that resembles a cauliflower from afar, and the grassland where only dwarf bamboos grow (hence, the name Pulag which means bald). Pulag is the perfect destination for those who want to trek miles while being treated to awe-inspiring sceneries, camp under the stars and constellation in that clear midnight sky, and get captivated by the sea of clouds on sunrise. The sheer fulfillment of reaching the top, surpassing the freezing night and the long hours of trek is an experience one would cherish and be proud of for a lifetime. Read more.
Words by Mario Ban, @doctoban
7. EL NIDO
El Nido, Palawan is undeniably one of the best vacation spots in the Philippines. If you’re skilled enough, you can go cliff-climbing if you want to see a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful El Nido town and the famous Bacuit Bay. If you’re not into extreme adventure, you can just do island hopping, swimming, kayaking, and cave-exploring. If that’s not enough, Bacuit Bay is also known for being a marine sanctuary, so get your snorkeling gear ready and discover the marine paradise in the island of Palawan. Read more.
Words by Melo Villareal, Out of Town Blog
8. KIOKONG WHITE ROCK WALL
If you want to experience a brand-new, ultimate, extreme adventure, head out to this rock wall in Quezon, Bukidnon. Feel the adrenaline rush as you climb a gigantic 550-foot limestone cliff for five hours using a single rope. Spend the night on a narrow, rocky ledge hundreds of feet off the ground, with a gaping abyss just in front of your feet, and enjoy incredible vistas of Bukidnon and the neighboring provinces. To get back on the ground, you need to rappel down from that immense height. The vertical bivouac adventure, which is organized by Adventure Technology Outfitters, is the only one of its kind in the Philippines and, possibly, in Southeast Asia. Read more.
Words and photo by Gian & Sheila, Adrenaline Romance
Many people don’t really pay much attention to discover the capital and its hidden gems. Travel back in time while visiting Intramuros, the old capital of the Philippines during the Spanish occupation. Visit and go on a food trip in the China Town in Binondo or the food trip hotspot in Maginhawa, and shop until you drop in the bargain hub of the metro, Divisoria. You can also visit the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church in Intramuros and be amazed with the beautiful al frescos and ornaments. Your trip to Manila is not complete without visiting the Rizal Park and dropping by Manila Bay to enjoy one of the world’s best sunsets. Read more.
Words by Ryazan Tristram, Two Monkeys Travel Group
10. OLANGO ISLAND
Just twenty minutes from mainland Mactan, Cebu is the sleepy little island of Olango. Considered one of the seven stops for migratory birds, the island is also home to pristine beaches, a protected marine sanctuary, and some of the most down-to-earth Cebuanos you will ever meet. Early mornings in Olango are awesome. Quietly observing island life from under the shade of a mangrove tree, you’ll soon realize how people here value time and hard work the same way that they value generosity and friendship. Late afternoons in Olango are even more breath-taking. As city dwellers scurry to get things done before dusk, Olango locals take their sweet time by exploring the island’s beautiful mudflats, chit-chating over tuba and kinilaw, or watching the world on the other side slowly start to sparkle. Read more.
Words by Leylan Romarate, My Cebu Photoblog
11. CUYO ISLAND
Cuyo islands lies halfway along the ferry route between Iloilo City and Puerto Princesa in the middle of the Sulu Sea. The 16th century Spanish-era fortress in Cuyo town is an imposing sight with a unique layout. Its massive coral stone walls surround the church, convent and adoration chapel, harking back to a time when this faraway outpost was the first colonial settlement of Palawan and one of the province’s former capitals. A number of capiz-windowed ancestral houses also dot the sleepy town, while on the even quieter eastern side of the island in Magsaysay town are the crumbling ruins of an unfinished second fortress, as well as the last remaining traditional cogon-roofed Cuyonon houses. Read more.
Words by Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap, Easytraveler
12. MT ROMELO
Mt. Romelo in Siniloan, Laguna has seven waterfalls in the vicinity of the mountain. Enjoy the long trek and the muddy trails, climb the rocky edges of the mountains by holding on vines, or get bitten by a fire ant–all these experiences will make a thrilling adventure rewarded by the sight of the falls. Batya-Batya Falls, my favorite, has fresh unpolluted raging water that makes you feel the power of nature. The most enchanting, however, is the Twin Falls. You will feel and see the beauty of nature once you get close to the falls, and then on the side, there are three floors of connecting caves where you can swim and enjoy the view.
Words and photo by Curt Torres, @thecurtoonnetwork
13. QUITINDAY HILLS
The past years have seen a lively tourism activity in the Albay, thanks to the push from the local government led by Governor Joey Salceda. Now, there’s increased awareness among locals that they have other things to offer visitors aside from the staples: pili nuts, laing, pinangat, and the picturesque Mt Mayon. In the town of Camalig, a good starting point to exploring the rest of the province, Sumlang Lake has gone some facelift with the addition of rafts for selfie-loving tourists. Take a photo with the volcano in the background. A short ride from the town are the rolling hills of Quitinday, which are reminiscent of Bohol’s Chocolate Hills. Fly a kite, take photos, or just lie on the grass and enjoy the moment. Read more
Words and photo by ArisMape, D’yan lang.
14. KALANGGAMAN ISLAND
Kalanggaman Island in Leyte boasts of a long white shoreline that has captivated the hearts of many. The place is not crowded, a perfect destination to relax and spend quite moments with nature. In 2013, the island started getting attention after MV Europa, a German luxury cruise ship, made a stopover and brought hundreds of tourists to see the island. Later on, Kalanggaman becomes a regular destination of other cruise ships, and started making noise among local travelers. The island was devastated by the supertyphoon Yolanda on November 2013, but the local government of Palompon has been steadfast in the rehabilitation and conservation efforts to protect one of the most beautiful sandbars in the world.
Words by Jon Espina, Jon to the World
15. PALAUI ISLAND
The beach bum will surely love a trip to the edge of Cagayan Valley. In the municipality of Sta Ana is the beautiful Anguib Beach. South of Palaui is an island that has baffled many: the Crocodile Island. This massive boulder in the middle of the ocean got its name from the reptile, which is what the island looks like from a distance. A short trek in the hills is an adventure you shouldn’t miss. Besides having a great view of the lush green mountains and the deep blue sea, you also get a nice dose of the Pacific wind whistling in your ears. At the top of the hills is Farol de Cabo Engaño, where you can get the best view of Cape Engaño. Read more.
Words and photo by ArisMape, D’yan lang.
16. D’YAN LANG
Did we miss your dream destination? That’s why we left this spot for you. The Philippines has got just plenty of fantastic destinations–from Babuyan to Tawi-Tawi, Tubbataha to Samar–it’s not fair to narrow it down to a list this short! So, leave a comment below and let us know where we can find you this year.