By Mikka Wee
Planning to explore the Philippine’s hidden wonders and enchanting getaway destinations? May this ultimate Philippine travel bucket list help you fill up your check list:
1. Check Out the Scenic Rock Formations at Biri Island
Biri Island in Samar is known for its breathtaking landscape thanks to the intricately shaped rock formations sculpted by the waves. Truly an idyllic sight to behold, the view from here immediately transports you to the rock formations in Tanah Lot, Bali, where you can just sit calmly and watch the sea from a distance.
When to Visit: The best time to visit Biri Island is during dry months (March – May). It may get hot, but a little heat is better than the prospect of getting stranded on the island during -ber months!
Pro-Tip: Make sure to fully charge your batteries and cameras! This place is too scenic that you wouldn’t want to stop taking photos.
2. Sailing from El Nido to Coron
One of the best ways to get around Palawan, specifically from El Nido to Coron is by sailboat. This island tour will get you acquainted with the numerous islands of Palawan, as well as the various water activities in store. Expect to be consumed by beauty in one of the most gorgeous islands in the world.
When to Visit: Ideally November, when the crowds aren’t as prevalent so you can enjoy the activities better.
Pro-Tip: You can book boats through Airbnb and hotel booking sites, just filter the accommodation type and select boat. Sailing doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. This Airbnb listing from Le Voyage D’Ilo costs approximately P8,000 per person/night for 6pax, all in, and includes your own chef!
3. Canoeing at Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Lake Sebu, home to a few indigenous tribes, is also known as an up-and-coming adventure destination in Southern Mindanao. The jungle-esque view of the place is notable for its lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and springs. While there are numerous activities to do in Lake Sebu such as trekking and going on culinary trips, one of the best ways to explore your surroundings is by taking a canoe ride that allows you to soak in the tranquility of the place—you can also fish with the locals and have your catch for dinner.
When to Go: Visit Lake Sebu and South Cotabato during the summer and from November to February to appreciate the waters at their stillest.
Pro-Tip: Make the most out of Lake Sebu while it is still considered as an “off-the-radar” tourist destination. There are also a number of homestays and resorts around the area, and you also have the option to stay with the locals for a richer experience.
4. Helicopter Ride to Banaue
Banaue is one of the most iconic sights to see in the Philippines. Known for the Ifugao Rice Terraces, which are collectively known as one of the country’s national treasures, they are expressions of the Ifugao tribe’s traditions and social customs. While the most common form of transportation to reach these mountainous landscapes is by bus, take a helicopter for a change and witness this sight from its aerial view. This great beauty is a breathtaking sight from the top as you marvel at the mountainous contours whose art has been passed down from generations.
When to Go: The ideal time to do the helicopter tour is during the summer, around March to June, to get the best view of the mountains. Going during the -ber months is also a good option, but the fog might obscure the view.
Pro-Tip: A great helicopter service provider is PhilJets, which allows you the option to view Metro Manila from an aerial view as well. The Airbus Helicopter EC130 T2 provides comfortable seating to up to six passengers and noise-canceling aviation headphones to give you the best experience.
5. Swimming in Panglao During a Sardine Run
Panglao is a haven for all divers and water enthusiast alike, being a destination in the Philippines known for its pristine waters and marine wildlife. Catching a sardine run while underwater is truly one of the most amazing sights in the island. A fleet of fish comes swimming towards a single direction make for a marvelous experience while under the sea.
When to Go: The best time to visit Panglao is during October as the water is cooler and most marine animals start migrating, allowing for more opportunities to witness a sardine run.
Pro-Tip: Hire a local to take you around as the packaged tour rates are usually jacked up. The Internet carries a treasure trove of locals in the area that you can get in touch with to set up your trip.
6. Firefly Boat Ride in Siquijor
Known for its air of mystery and shamans, Siquijor during the day is heavily visited by tourists for its beaches and shores. Due to the mystic traditions and aura of the island, there is not much to do in the evening except to stay indoors. But in fact, there are some resorts in the island that offer firefly boat rides that lead up to a delicious seafood dinner at the end of the tour. Ride a small boat and you are immediately whisked away into a mesmerizing world of darkness illuminated by the fireflies that abound in Siquijor.
When to Go: October to November are the best months to catch the fireflies. Apart from that, you’ll also get to enjoy the chilly breeze in the evening.
Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to chat up the locals and learn more about the history of Siquijor for a better appreciation of the place!
7. Get Inked by Whang-Od in Buscalan
Known as the last tribal tattoo artist in the Philippines, Whang-Od creates ancestral tattoos made with soot and thorns. Residing in Buscalan, Mountain Province, she is frequented by travelers and historians alike because of her unique craft.
When to Go: It’s best to avoid tourists as Whang-Od is of old age, so the ideal time to go would probably be during December.
Pro-Tip: Look for a local guide from Buscalan to take you to Whang-Od and stay in one of the homestays there to get a richer experience of the tribal community.
8. Stargaze in Guimaras
While the island of Guimaras may be known widely for its mangoes and beaches, it also contains a lot of valleys and hills that make for perfect spots for stargazing. Off the horizon is Negros Occidental, and its city lights glimmer. At night, the brightest of stars can be seen from the clear skies, as the cool breeze blows towards you.
When to Go: The -ber months are perfect for visiting Guimaras if you’re after the stars. The chilly breeze makes camping out not so difficult and campfires more enjoyable.
Pro-Tip: Find a local to guide you through the hills and valleys of the island. Don’t forget to enjoy the tasty offerings that island has to offer as well! Seafood is bountiful here and the produce is delicious.
9. Eat Freshly-Caught Uni in Camiguin
The C-shaped White Island of Camiguin is a slice of paradise to beach lovers. There is no form of modern architecture here—no eateries, no bars, just a wide stretch of powdery sand. There are fishermen, though, whom you will spot carrying buckets that are loaded with freshly-caught uni. At PHP 20 a pop, they are the freshest batch of sea urchin—briny and loaded with umami flavor that’s truly a simple yet extremely satisfying gastronomic experience.
When to Go: Summer is the best season for traveling to Camiguin. Make sure that you don’t visit during the rainy weather as the boat ride might be dangerous because of the strong winds.
Pro-Tip: Bring rice, soy sauce, and some nori when heading here. You would want to make the most out of the cheap and delicious uni here that’s of premium quality.
10. Jump Off Tangadan Falls in La Union
While La Union is becoming a prime surfing spot in the Philippines that’s easily accessible, most travelers who flock here are unaware of Tangadan Falls’ existence. Cool, fresh waters that you can drink after the trek, this spot has been a favorite of locals and daredevils who have a penchant for cliff diving.
When to Go: Anytime of the year as long as there isn’t a storm brewing. This makes the slopes and the trail muddy and slippery.
Pro-Tip: There are a lot of activities to do in La Union. Aside from visiting Tangadan Falls, check out one of the surf spots in San Juan and have a good time at Flotsam and Jetsam’s iconic beachfront bar.
11. Snorkel in the Danjugan Lagoons
There are so many reasons to fall in love with Danjugan Island. Nature lovers will be spoiled by the wide array of activities to choose from. From clear seas to lush greenery, one thing that a lot of travelers keep coming back for is the snorkeling experience. Marine life is extremely abundant here, flashing snorkelers and divers with a spectrum of colors and an array of eels, sea turtles, and even sharks. The beauty of this island is simply unspoiled and beholds every traveler in wonder.
When to Go: The best time to visit Danjugan is during the summer when the waters are calm and are best for snorkeling and diving.
Pro-Tip: There are numerous things to do in Danjugan such as beach hopping and spelunking. It’s a true haven for adventure lovers or for those who simply want a peaceful break.
12. Sunbathe Along Long Beach in San Vincente, Palawan
Travelers should make this a destination in 2016 as there are rumors of an airport in the works. A stretch of fine, powdery sand awaits beach lovers in this virgin island in Palawan.
When to Go: As soon as possible! This beauty won’t be the way it is for long as big shot hotels are eyeing it for construction soon!
Pro-Tip: This is an ideal place for solo-traveling or soul-searching, so bring a book or just laze around under the sun. This also makes an ideal spot for small groups traveling together.
13. Private Lunch at Pamalican Island
Nestled between Palawan and Panay, amongst the Cuyo Islands in the Sulu Sea, is Pamalican Island, a gorgeous, secluded escape that’s accessible via a small boat from Amanpulo Resort. By request, you can have a private lunch or dinner setup for you on the smooth sand as you gaze over the beautiful cerulean and turquoise waters.
When to Go: The best time to enjoy the island is during the northern monsoon season, November to May, where the breeze is at its best.
Pro-Tip: Aside from the dining experience, windsurfing and diving activities such as coral viewing, snorkeling, and encounters with giant turtles are also available. Don’t forget to catch the sunset, too, for an incredible view of the sky.
14. Swimming with Stingless Jellyfish at Tojoman Lake
Apart from getting a tan and swimming in the clear waters of Siargao, appreciating nature at its finest is also possible at Sohotan Cave National Park. Located in Bucas Grande Islands, this picturesque haven clad with limestone karst islands is also home to stingless golden jellyfish at Tojoman Lagoon. Yup, you heard that right. You can swim with these surreal-looking creatures of the sea without fear of getting stung.
When to Go: The best time of the year to visit the stingless jellyfish sanctuary at Tojoman Lagoon is during June, which is jellyfish mating season.
Pro-Tip: There are also other activities available at the Bucas Grande Islands such as spelunking, lagoon hopping, and cliff jumping. Plan your itinerary in the area as there are lots of beautiful nature sights to explore.
15. Fly an Airplane in Angeles, Pampanga
Not for the faint of heart, daredevils can fly with an open cockpit in the city of Angeles, Pampanga. Don’t worry, because safety is really of importance in the Angeles City Flying Club. Soar through great heights and land softly on your toes. This experience will literally take your breath away.
When to Visit: It’s best to consult the Angeles City Flying Club so they can give you an accurate forecast of the weather and the breeze.
Pro-Tip: It’s best to spend a full day in Angeles City because there are a lot of sights and attractions to visit. It is also home to a number of dining destinations that will definitely leave you satisfied.
16. Spot Dugongs in Dahican Beach
This diving spot in Mati, Davao, is known for the marine wildlife, specifically the Dugong and Pawikan sightings that are an absolute treat for divers and nature enthusiasts alike.
When to Visit: Anytime from September to June.
Pro-Tip: There are a lot of activities to do also in Dahican Beach. Skimboarding and windsurfing are just a few that are available all year round.