Some of the Best Vacation Secrets of the Philippines
Shh, don’t tell anyone. While the Philippines is one of the largest archipelagos in the world (7,100 islands), it’s still very much the backpacking tourist’s cheap “secret” getaway vacation — with some surprisingly luxurious accommodations. Here are some awesome things you can see and do:
1. Buy organic rice from the Ifugao Rice Terraces.
Hundreds of ancestral rice-paddy terraces, some 2,000 years old, were elegantly carved into the mountains of Ifugao Province, and are still in use today. To see them, travel by bus or car from Manila to Ifugao Province and stay at the Banaue Hotel. From there you can visit the Banaue Rice Terraces, or travel to the less-visited Batad, Mayoyao, Hapao and Kiangan terraces. If you get the chance, buy some “tinawon,” a red-colored rice variety with an interesting taste and texture.
2. Fall in love with Bohol Island.
This rustic island is so charming you’ll want to move there. Bohol’s “mascot” is the Philippine tarsier, a cute nocturnal primate with large cat-like eyes. The Loboc River Cruise lets you eat lunch while leisurely winding through Tagbilaran City. A number of old churches and buildings from the Spanish era dot the landscape, adding to the ambience. You can also visit “Chocolate Hills,” curiously-shaped limestone formations that turn cocoa powder-brown in the summer. There’s also Panglao Island right off its coast, with fine white-sand beaches and hardly any other tourists to compete with. Simply pick a pretty hotel to stay in, and say goodbye to your office.
3. See a volcano and a whale shark in Albay Province.
Two of the Philippines’ "must-see" places are in Albay: Mayon Volcano and Donsol town. Mayon is the world’s most graceful and perfectly-shaped stratovolcano, visible for miles around. Meanwhile, gentle whale sharks annually feed on plankton by the shores of Donsol. The best way to enjoy both is to vacation at Misibis Bay Resort . It not only boasts a wonderful beach and great accommodations, but provides the best tours. Depending on your budget, you can take a helicopter ride over the volcano, or an all-terrain vehicle through the lava trail and main gully at Mayon's foot. Misibis Bay Resort can also arrange for a drive to Donsol (about an hour away), and a boat ride out to sea. Wait the whale sharks to come then jump in with snorkeling gear to meet them.
4. Party away at Boracay.
The Philippines’ “party island” is the only tourist-crammed beach you’ll see in the country. Boracay’s main attractions are its clear waters and "White Beach," a 4-kilometer stretch of white sand as fine as cornstarch. Accommodations range from backpackers' inns to high-end luxury hotels. Food is great and relatively cheap, from "turo-turo" seafood stalls to Filipino, Thai, Indian, Spanish, Greek or Italian restaurants. Try jogging down White Beach in your bare feet at dusk or early morning. Ride a “paraw” boat, jump off, and swim to shore. Drink local beer and take pictures as you watch the Boracay sunset (which is always gorgeous), then dance at a beach club.
5. Explore the frontiers of Palawan.
The long, narrow island of Palawan is the Philippines’ “final frontier.” Virgin forests grow on its chain of mountains, and hundreds of islands and islets with white-sand beaches and black limestone cliffs surround it. Your best plan is to fly to its capital, Puerto Princesa City, and from there travel to Tubbataha Reef or other major Palawan spots, like St. Paul’s Subterranean River, El Nido Marine Reserve Park, and Coron.