I have one rule for every foreigner who asks me about the best places in Philippines for vacation : stay away from Manila.
Don’t get me wrong, Manila has its charm, but if you really want a restful vacation, I have 10 recommendations below that you can consider.
As a frequent traveler, I have seen a lot of beautiful spots in the Philippines. Although I’m a local, my jaw still drops on every island, beach, or mountain I get to visit. Philippines is a paradise, but only if you know where to go.
How I choose these vacation spots
Each person has his or her own preferences when it comes to ‘vacations’. Personally, I’m a beach type of guy, so I always look forward to a beach experience for every out-of-town trips I make.
But to encapsulate the soul of the Philippine vacation spots, I considered the following criteria:
Tourist appeal. One of the major considerations of which place goes to this list is its appeal to tourists. The Philippines accepts millions of tourists a year. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, Philippines welcomed more than 2.2 million international visitors. The places that get the most visits from the international crowd says a lot about its potential as a vacation spot.
Commercial establishments. Unless you’re the backpacker, nature-tripping kind of person, you’d likely prefer an urbanized vacation spot. I highly consider the hotel, dining, leisure, and amenity options on the places I listed here.
Navigability. Going to a secluded island is exciting, but it may not be very comfortable for a long vacation. I made sure that the places I listed here are well-connected to airports and other major modes of transportation.
Closeness to nature. What’s the point of a vacation if you’re not going to appreciate the beauty of nature? I personally think that vacations are an excellent opportunity to connect to nature and recharge our tired souls. This is why I really considered this factor in choosing vacation spots.
Something unique. Lastly, I looked for something unique in each place I listed. I want you to experience or see something you can’t find on other spots in the Philippines.
My top 10 best places in the Philippines for vacation
If there’s one spot in the Philippines where you can find dozens of foreign tourists at a time, it would be none other than the island of Boracay. It’s considered as the beach capital of the country, with 12 beaches gracing its shoreline.
Boracay is just a tiny island in the Visayas island group, but it has gained international acclaim with its fine white sand, azure waters, and spectacular sceneries. Regardless if you’re on a budget vacation or planning to splurge, Boracay will be your host.
Moreover, Boracay is divided into Stations 1, 2, and 3. Station 1 is where you’ll find all the luxurious offerings, including hotels, restaurants, and whatnots. Meanwhile, Station 2 is for shopping and partying. This is also a good spot for budget travelers, but it can get really packed during peak season. Lastly is Station 3, which is the farthest point. It’s small but also the least crowded spot on the island with good prices, tranquility, and equally picturesque vistas.
For those who don’t want to go too far from Manila, Tagaytay is the place to be. This highland vacation spot offers the majestic view of the Taal Volcano. Although the topography of the volcano changed after the recent eruption, it’s still one spectacle to behold.
Take note that this place can be pricey, especially if you’re aiming for a room with the best views. If you want peace and quiet, you can book luxury accommodation on the slopes of the city.
Tagaytay is a family-friendly vacation spot since it’s home to Sky Ranch, Picnic Grove, and People’s Park in the Sky. But if you want the ultimate relaxation, you shouldn’t miss the Bathhouse at Qiwellness Living. You can soak on a hot tub here with the perfect view of the Taal Volcano. You can also order a glass of wine to pamper yourself.
3.El Nido, Palawan
The Philippines is blessed with natural wonders, with El Nido as proof. Like Boracay, El Nido can both be cheap and expensive, depending on the bookings you will make. But if you’re a foreigner, this place won’t bore a hole in your pocket.
A vacation in El Nido is about swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and doing more water sports. It has an unspoiled beauty, though the influx of tourists is starting to impact its pristine areas.
If you are on vacation in El Nido, make sure that you visit the Big Lagoon. It has the most picturesque vistas in El Nido, with rock formations that looked Photoshopped. The water in the Big Lagoon looks like it’s glowing, and it’s so clear you’ll see everything beneath – sea urchins, small fishes, and more marine life.
El Nido is a paradise where you wouldn’t wish to leave.
Northeast of El Nido is another paradise for your vacation: Coron. It’s the quieter and more pristine version of El Nido that’s equally teeming with natural wonders. You can explore reefs, swim on hidden lagoons, and bum on beaches with baby powder-like sand.
In Palawan, tourism only boomed a few years ago, so places outside of El Nido are almost untouched. The highlight of this place is Coron Bay. It’s like a spot straight from a postcard with its blue waters and majestic limestone cliffs that looks like a dream. There are also shipwrecks and reefs to discover here.
If you’re vacationing with your special someone, you should visit the Banana Island. It’s known to be a hotspot for lovers who can cuddle up in the nooks surrounding the coastline.
For the adventurists, a dive in Busuanga Island will satisfy your cravings for natural beauty. Overall, Coron is the place I won’t get tired of visiting each year.
Bohol is known for its Chocolate Hills, but this beautiful province is more than just this natural wonder. This island in the Visayas island group is the best place for jungle life. It’s a paradise for those who want to be close to nature during their vacation.
Bohol is the 10th largest island in the country, so just imagine how much natural wonders you’ll get to see here during your vacation.
You’ve never been to Bohol unless you have a photo with the Chocolate Hills as your backdrop. Close to the Chocolate Hills is the enchanted Loboc River where you can cruise while riding a wooden boat. There’s a waterfall at the end of the river where you can freshen up.
One of the highlights of Bohol is its centuries-old churches. It prides itself on Baclayon and Loboc Church, which were unfortunately damaged by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake back in 2013. Still, the National Museum rebuilt it for tourists to see.
6. Mactan, Cebu
Off the coast of Bohol is the island of Mactan, Cebu. Mactan played a pivotal role in Philippine history when Lapu-Lapu, a Mactan ruler, defeated expeditioner Ferdinand Magellan back in 1521.
Nowadays, Mactan is an amalgam of history and modernity, which appeals to the taste of tourists.
For starters, you can join the Three Island Tour, where you will visit the Olango Group of Islands, southeast of Mactan. You can also dive in Mactan to witness its protected marine sanctuaries, coral reefs, and underwater topography. You can even join a shark dive or ride the “Underwater Scooter”.
If you’re more into staycations, you should have a date night with your special someone at Scape Skydeck where you can dine al fresco overlooking the city lights. On the other hand, Ibiza Beach Club is the place for those who have their pockets set for a posh vacation. It’s a Mediterranean-style resort with Instagram-worthy vistas.
7. Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
If Boracay seems overrated for you, Puerto Galera might be the place for your next vacation. One thing so special about Puerto Galera is it shares the waters of the Verde Island Passage. It has one of the most diverse marine life not just in the Philippines but the whole world.
Puerto Galera isn’t new to the tourism industry. Proof to this is the dozens of luxury hotels, resorts, and restaurants that you can book here.
Your stay in Puerto Galera is mostly about bumming by the white beach. You can also go island hopping to visit nearby attractions like Talipanan Beach, Sandbar Island, Medio Island, and more.
You can book a plunge at the Coral Garden to see giant clams, coral plates, and underwater caves for avid divers.
Moreover, Puerto Galera offers a serving of every outdoor activity you can think of. Aside from the beach, this place also has interesting hiking trails, falls, and other recreational activities.
8. Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Enough of the south! Now let’s go to the north and visit Vigan City. A place to be transported to the charm of the Spanish era.
Vigan City is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre since it’s a well-preserved Spanish colonial town. A visit to Vigan won’t be complete without strolling along Calle Crisologo. You can take a calesa (horse-drawn carriage) ride on this cobblestone path at night while the yellow light illuminates from the old houses. There’s also a walking tour here where you’ll learn more about the history of the place.
Aside from the blast from the past, Vigan is also home to local craftsmanship. The best souvenir to get here is Abel-Iloko cloth weaved traditionally by the locals. There are numerous Abel shops in town selling various goods.
For families, the Baluarte Zoo is a must-visit. There are an animal museum and wildlife show at the zoo, aside from the animals you’ll see.
9. Banaue, Ifugao
South of Vigan is the mountainous town of Banaue. If there’s one thing this place is known for, it would be its rice terraces. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site in Batad that bears a stone-walled design that resembles an amphitheater.
Banaue is the perfect place if you want to know the Philippines through its humble offerings. Since Banaue is mostly mountainous, the only way to go around is walking and trekking. Also, don’t expect luxurious hotels in this humble town. It’s a hub for backpackers where transient houses, inns, and homestays are the most common forms of accommodation.
During your vacation, you can get to know the locals, trek around, and soak yourself on the beauty of nature. You can also support the local economy here during your vacation. A stay in Banaue is all about appreciating simple living and connecting to nature.
From Banaue, you can also explore Sagada up north.
10. Legazpi City, Albay
The last place on my list is located south of the Philippines in the Bicol region: Legazpi City, Albay. Legazpi City is the home of the ‘Perfect Cone’ Mayon Volcano. I’ve spent a week in Legazpi a few years back, and the place is simply stunning.
One of my favorites is the Cagsawa Ruins, the remnants of the 16th-century church that was buried during a devastating eruption of Mayon in 1814. Now, the Cagsawa Ruins Park is one of the most iconic observation points for the Mayon Volcano, gracing thousands of postcards all over the world.
For those who want some adventure, the fun begins at the Mayon Volcano National Park. Here, you can book ATV tours or jeepney tours that do rounds on the observatory. You should also visit Daraga Church for the most majestic and dramatic view of the Mayon Volcano.
You can also explore Japanese tunnels around town, which was built during the Japanese occupation in 1941. It stretches underground and is an excellent adventure for tourists.
The best places in Philippines for vacation I listed here will level up your next getaway. If you want to disconnect from the stresses of your life, pack your bags and book your itinerary. Each place here has its own charm and spots waiting for you to discover.