15 Ridiculously Beautiful Places to Visit in the Philippines
Are you trying to decide where to go in the Philippines?
You’ve probably heard of the more famous destinations like Boracay, El Nido, and Coron.
But you’re not sure what other stops to add to your itinerary. In this blog post, I’m going to share with you the 15 most beautiful and amazing places to visit in the Philippines.
I’ve divided these 15 places into 5 categories based on the geography of the Philippines. Just jump to the area you’re most interested in or read all the way straight through.
For all of my guides to this ridiculously beautiful country, visit my Philippines travel guide.
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THE NORTH: NORTHERN LUZON
Let’s start with the north.
Not many foreign travelers go to this part of the Philippines.
But they should.
Northern Luzon is the ideal place for those looking for culture, natural beauty, history, architecture, and adventure.
The three top destinations here are…
I suggest adding at least one of these places to your Philippines itinerary. Any of them will make for a nice change of pace from the islands to the south.
1. Rice Terrace of Ifugao Province
You will never forget your visit to the rice terraces in Ifugao province. Located along the slopes of the Cordillera Mountains, these terraces were built more than 2,000 years ago.
There are rice terraces sprinkled throughout the province. Some can be done on your own while others require guides.
Banaue is the easiest rice terrace to get to, but Batad, Bagaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan, and Nagacadan are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
You can visit several rice terraces in one trip by hiking from one to the other.
If you’re into photography and hiking, then making the 9-hour bus ride from Manila will be worth it.
This next must-visit place in the Philippines is BOTH very weird BUT ALSO quite wonderful. It’s the backpacker haven of Sagada.
Located about 13 hours by bus from Manila, this rather eerie destination is famous for its creepy hanging coffins, thrilling caves, and beautiful waterfalls. It’s ideal for those with more adventurous spirits or those seeking a bit of traditional Filipino culture.
The most important stop in Sagada is the Echo Valley Hanging Coffins. For those who like adventure, do the Cave Connection, an underground passage that connects Sumaging Cave with Lumiang Cave (more creepy coffins). You can also hike to Bomod-ok Falls, Mt. Sipitan, Mt. Kiltepan, or Marlboro Hill.
Sagada is one of the top destinations in the Philippines for those who want to get off the beaten track.
Vigan is one of the best places in the Philippines for those of you who love history and architecture. Being one of the oldest towns in the Philippines, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with fairy-tale-like old colonial houses that mix Spanish and Chinese architectural styles.
Vigan’s heritage still exists because it’s one of the few places in the Philippines that wasn’t destroyed during World War II.
You can get from Manila to this northwestern coastal town by taking a 9-hour bus ride. A long ride, but well worth it!
Spend most of your time wandering around the Mestizo District, the heritage area of Vigan, exploring the unique and beautiful architecture from the Spanish colonial era. Walk down pedestrian-only Crisologo Street especially at dusk when the sky is not quite dark yet but the lamps and lights in the shops and cafes are turned on. You can also tour the interior of some of the old mansions like Quema House and Syquia Mansion.
Vigan is another one of the top destinations in the Philippines for those who want to get off the usual backpacker trail.
THE WEST: PALAWAN.
Palawan has become one of the most popular places to visit in the Philippines in recent years.
And it truly deserves it. These islands have more to offer travelers than any other part of the Philippines.
These are the 3 must-stop destinations in Palawan:
Located in the northern part of Palawan, Coron is part of a group of islands called the Calamian Islands. Everyone calls the whole area Coron.
The whole area is a diver’s paradise. There are over 20 Japanese shipwrecks in the waters around the islands.
For everyone else, the area is just simply drop-dead gorgeous. Like everywhere in the Philippines, you’ll find white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water. But you’ll also find these unique craggy rock formations and these stunning hidden lakes with water as clear as glass.
You’ll have a boatload of island-hopping tours to choose from when you’re in Coron.
The popular places to visit on these tours are Twin Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Malcapuya Island, Ditaytayan Sand Bar, and Coconut Beach. You can also customize your own tour by hiring your own private boat.
Kayaking around the islands and Coron Bay is also popular.
Don’t miss out on climbing up Mt. Tapyas at sunset for stunning views of the bay and then finishing your evening with a stop at Maquinit Hot Springs.
As you can see there are countless reasons why you should add Coron to your Philippines itinerary.
5. El Nido
There is a reason why El Nido has become one of the top travel destinations in the Philippines over the last few years. The limestone islands dotting Bacuit Bay are blindingly gorgeous. The bay is similar to the limestone islands of Halong Bay in Vietnam and the limestone hills of Lijiang in China.
When in El Nido, you should go on at least one island-hopping tour that’ll take you to Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Hidden Lagoon, Hidden Beach, Seven Commando’s Beach, Helicopter Island, or Snake Island. Make sure to schedule some time for relaxing on the area’s beautiful beaches like Nacpan, Las Cabanas, and Lio.
You can get a detailed and easy-to-follow itinerary guide for El Nido here.
PRO TIP: Here's a list of essential items to pack for all of your island-hopping tours while in the Philippines:
- Dry bag - You're going to get wet while in the boat and your things will get wet if you don't have a dry bag. Leave your backpack at your hotel.
- Waterproof bag or pouch for your cell phone especially for your visit to such places as the Big Lagoon and the Secret Lagoon in El Nido.
- Water shoes - It's important to have a pair because sometimes you'll need to be walking on rocks to get to your destination. You'll thank me later for bringing them.
- Sunscreen - Make sure to put it on 30 minutes before being in the sun and/or water. Banana Boat worked the best for me. You can buy it in the Philippines, too, but it's pricey (500 - 700 pesos depending on the store--shop around!)
- Mask and snorkel - OPTIONAL - Most tour companies provide you with a mask and snorkel, but if you want to bring your own, I highly recommend the full face mask and snorkel. It's ideal for those who aren't confident swimmers.
6. An Island-Hopping Cruise from El Nido to Coron
Everyone who’s taken one of the island-hopping cruises from El Nido to Coron has said that it is the best thing they’ve done in the Philippines.
These cruises are expensive (over US$300 -$500) but well worth it. Just be warned that once you do one of these multi-day tours, any other island-hopping tour after that just won’t cut it.
The most famous and the most highly-reviewed tour company is Tao Expeditions. They have both 3-day and 5-day tours through the remote Linapacan and Culian Islands. Other companies do similar routes.
You don’t necessarily have to book before arriving in the Philippines. I met people who booked theirs after getting to El Nido.
With most tours, you get to sleep on the beach. Some provide tents, while others provide rustic wooden structures. You’ll spend your days sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, drinking, eating, and well, you get the picture.
THE CENTER: THE VISAYAS
The center of the Philippines is dominated by the Visayas: a group of islands that are jampacked with paradise-like destinations.
The Visayas contain the largest number of destinations on this list of must-see places to visit in the Philippines.
If you’ve got 2 weeks, you can easily and satisfyingly limit your stay to this part of the Philippines.
7. Bantayan Island
When people ask themselves where to go in the Philippines, rarely does Bantayan come up. It’s not as famous as Boracay or Palawan.
However, it should be. Located off the coast of Cebu, Bantayan has some of the BEST beaches with the whitest and softest sand in the Philippines. It’s perfect for being incredibly lazy and not doing much of anything. Plus, it’s not anywhere near as touristy as its more famous cousins.
The best beaches on the island are Paradise Beach—a long white sand beach with crystal clear water and not many other tourists. Along with Santa Fe Beach, it’s also a great place to watch the sunset.
You can go on an island-hopping tour to Virgin Island and Hilantagaan Island. Make sure to add St. Peter and Paul church to your Philippines itinerary. The outside isn’t that great, but the inside makes it the most interesting Spanish colonial church to visit in the Philippines.
Unlike Bantayan, Bohol is one island that travelers do automatically think of when they’re planning where to go in the Philippines.
It’s not surprising, though. Bohol has so much going for it. It’s got not ONLY white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, but it also has lots of opportunities to spot wild animals, swim in waterfalls, view unique scenery like rice terraces and the Chocolate Hills, standup paddleboard down jungle-clad rivers, and kayak through mangroves buzzing with fireflies.
Another added bonus is that it’s just a two-hour ferry ride from Cebu City.
Bohol is also a premier diving and snorkeling destination with its colorful and healthy coral reefs and abundant sea turtles. You can go on some fun island-hopping tours to the Balicasag or Pamilacan Islands.
The best beaches in Bohol are Dumaluan Beach, White Beach, and the beaches in Anda.
PRO TIP: Make sure to buy water shoes for your trip to the Philippines. The bottom of the ocean and beach can be full of sharp and painful rocks or even glass. They’re also good to wear to prevent your feet from getting hookworms. I met a traveler in Malapascua who got a hookworm in his foot from walking barefoot on the beach. Unfortunately, he was having a hard time finding the necessary medicine in the pharmacies around Malapascua.
Boracay is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Located off the coast of Panay Island, Boracay is a thin (500 meters) and long (7 km) island. People go to this island for its powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.
White Beach with its killer sunsets is probably the best beach in the Philippines. Popular activities include sailing trips, island-hopping tours, and kitesurfing.
Boracay has a tumultuous history as a tourist destination. It got so popular several years ago that the island became an environmental disaster. The government forced the island to shut the island down for six months in order to clean it up.
They then put in new laws to prevent tourism from destroying the island again. This was right before the pandemic.
PRO TIP: Download these apps onto your phone for your trip to any country in Asia. They will make your life so much easier!
- Grab: - Grab is the ride-sharing service that people use in Southeast Asia. It's a must-have for getting around Manila, Hanoi, Singapore etc. It's not so necessary on the smaller islands.
- Klook - Klook is a tour-booking website used by lots of travelers in Asia. You're more likely to book with an honest tour company through Klook than through anyone else.
- WhatsApp: What's App is the best service to use for getting in touch with other travelers, tour guides, and businesses in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.
- Booking.com: I think Booking.com is the best website to use for booking accommodations in Asia.
- MAPS.ME & Google Maps: I have both of these apps on my phone. Sometimes MAPS.ME works better than Google Maps and vice versa. Make sure to download your maps to your phone before you start your adventure so you can view them offline. If you switch SIM cards, you might lose your downloaded maps.
10. Malapascua + Kalanggaman
Malapascua is one of the premier diving spots in the Philippines. It is THE place to dive with thresher sharks!
However, I didn’t go to Malapascua to dive. Instead, I went in search of the PERFECT island. This would be the tiny spec of an island called Kalanggaman–a short boat ride from Malapascua.
I can attest that Kalanggaman Island was probably the most beautiful island I’d been to with the most beautiful sand bar I’d ever seen. I have just one huge regret—I didn’t camp overnight on the island.
There are other things to do around Malapascua as well. You can rent a private boat that’ll take you to some great snorkeling spots, spend the day on the nearly empty and beautiful North Beach, and end the evening with a meal of fresh and affordable seafood from the local market.
Check out this detailed travel guide on how to visit both Malapascua and Kalanggaman!
One of the most unforgettable things I saw in the Philippines was at Moalboal. It was seeing a sardine run up close. Not only can you experience a wall of a million sardines swimming by you by diving but you can also see it by snorkeling a few hundred meters off a beach in Moalboal.
Another reason Moalboal is one of the top places to visit in the Philippines is that some of the BEST waterfalls in Southeast Asia can be found nearby
A popular activity in Moalboal is to go canyoneering off (jumping) of Kawasan Waterfalls. You can also grab a scooter or motorcycle and search for other waterfalls like Dao Falls, Binalayan Falls, and Aguinid Falls.
PRO TIP: When you arrive in the Philippines, you can buy a SIM card at the airport. There are 2 companies used throughout the Philippines: Globe and Smart. Each of them gives you 10 or 12 GB of memory for 30 days for 1,000 pesos (US$20). I used 2 GB in 30 days.
If you have to "add load" (add minutes or data) for some reason, you can do it at a convenience store around the Philippines. Tell them you want to "add load". You need to give the clerk your phone # to complete the transaction (I usually store my SIM card # in my Contact List).
BUT that's not it. You then need to register your phone. If you have Globe, dial *143#. I usually have the store clerk or someone at my hostel or hotel help me complete the registration. If you don't register after every time you add data to your phone, the minutes and data disappear.
12. Siquijor + Apo Island
A small island located between Negros, Cebu, and Bohol islands, Siquijor (pronounced seekeehor) is a mysterious island famous for its shamans and sorcerers.
Another unique feature of the island is its marine sanctuaries which are filled with healthy coral and teeming with fish. Getting to these reefs is super easy. Just walk right off the beach and into the water. You can also take a boat to Apo Island and snorkel or dive with giant and friendly sea turtles the size of a dining room table.
The most popular place to visit in Siquijor is Cambugahay Falls—a waterfall with multiple levels of pools.
Its two best beaches are Paliton Beach and Tubod Beach. Because of Siquijior’s placid waters and healthy coral, it’s a great place to go snorkeling. You can also go cliff diving, hiking, and spelunking.
You can read my comprehensive and detailed itinerary guide for Siquijor here.
THE SOUTH: MINDANAO
Now we’re heading further south to the island of Mindanao. Here the Philippines is becoming harder to get to. As a result, Siargao and Camiguin weren’t on the travelers’ radar as much as those destinations in the Visayas until now.
When I was last in the Philippines, it seemed that every backpacker I spoke to was on their way to or on their way from Siargao. It seemed to be on everyone’s itinerary.
Siargao is famous for its surfing, but if you’re not a surfer, there are still plenty of things to do. You can visit stunning lagoons, nearby islands with gorgeous powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, and unique Instagram-worthy spots like Bending Palm Tree and Palm Tree Road.
There are a few really good island-hopping tours you can go on. These include one to Sugba Lagoon (bring your drone if you have one), Sohoton Cove, and Naked, Daku, and Guyan islands.
If visiting Magpupungko Rock Pools (and you should!), make sure you check whether the tide is in or out.
Located off the northern coast of Mindanao, under-the-radar Camiguin is an adventurer’s dream island.
Having more volcanos than any other island in the world, Camiguin looks more like Hawaii than the Philippines.
The island is littered with hiking trails, hot springs (and cold), and waterfalls. If you’re looking for an island destination with lots of adventure and great diving but without the hordes of tourists like in Palawan and Boracay, then add this island to your Philippines itinerary.
Visit Katibawan Falls, where you can swim in the pool at the base of the falls. Climb up Hibok Hibok Volcano for panoramic views of the island and then once you’ve climbed down, stop at Ardent Hot Springs to soak your tired muscles.
Because Camiguin is a volcanic island, the sand is dark brown. But not to worry. You can find the white powdery stuff on White Island.
Camiguin also has some unique snorkeling opportunities where you can snorkel in a giant clam sanctuary.
THE EAST: SOUTHEASTERN LUZON
Are you looking for a truly off-the-beaten-path destination in the Philippines?
Southeastern Luzon is about as under the international tourism radar as you can get in this country. There are a few good places to visit here, but I’m going to add one place to this list of the 15 best places to visit in the Philippines, and that is Mt. Mayon, an active volcano near the city of Legazpi.
15. Legazpi + Mount Mayon
Located either by a short plane ride from Manila or a 15-hour bus ride, Legazpi is famous for being at the foot of the most perfectly cone-shaped volcano in the world: Mount Mayon. Take that Mt. Fuji! If you’re looking for stunning scenery, this is an ideal stop for your Philippines vacation.
Legazpi is a typical noisy and busy Filipino City. However, the Albay District is a great place to escape its hustle and bustle. Walk up Lignon Hill or Sleeping Lion Hill to views of Mount Mayon.
But spend most of your time outside of Legazpi hiking up or part-way up Mt. Mayon, checking out the Cagsawa ruins, and driving an ATV to the foothills of Mt. Mayon.
Mount Mayon might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of where to go in the Philippines, but it should be!
Looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations?
So these are what I think to be the best places in the Philippines to visit. Now if I had only 2 or 3 weeks in this country, my top 5 (I’m having a hard time cutting it down to 5) would be the rice terraces of Ifugao province, El Nido, Boracay, Bohol, and Siargao.
What do you think?
Have you been to the Philippines? What were your favorite places?
If you’re planning to go sometime in the future, which of these Philippines destinations would you most want to visit?
If you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below!
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More Info on the Philippines:
- Learn how to take public transportation and a Grab and taxi around Manila - First-Timers Guide to Getting Around Manila
- Manila Itinerary: 2 Days Exploring the Culture and History of Manila - In this guide, you'll get a detailed step-by-step itinerary for seeing the sights in Manila.
- Port Barton Itinerary: What to do for 3 Days in Port Barton - Find out how to discover the most beautiful beach in the Philippines.
- One of my favorite experiences in the Philippines was an island-hopping tour of Sibaltan. Get the details here: Sibaltan Tour: Finding Your Secret Paradise in Palawan, Philippines
- El Nido Itinerary: An Adventure of a Lifetime - Learn where to go, what to eat, where to see, and of course, what to do in El Nido.
- Bohol Travel Guide: Exploring the Natural Wonder of the Philippines will tell you exactly what to see and do in Bohol, how to get there, where to stay, and much, much more!
- Siquijor Itinerary: Exploring the Island of Fire will give you the skinny on everything you need to know to travel to Siquijor.
- Malapascua Itinerary: Plan Now! Go Later! will help you plan your trip to Malapascua and Kalanggaman Islands.
- Find out what my 15 favorite places to visit in the Philippines are.
- Solo Travel Guide for the Philippines will give you some pointers on how to best travel solo in the Philippines cheaply and safely and still have a kick-ass time!
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