There are so many amazing and underrated places to visit in Philippines, that it is truly shocking that it is not more of a backpacker destination. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate much fewer crowds than Bali or Thailand, but still, surprising.
I had heard how amazing some of the islands and nature and attractions were in Philippines from true travelers, so I eventually went to check it out. What I discovered made me fall in love with this country, and I have now made it my home base, and have been here over a year.
Although I still travel in and out, I always return home to Cebu where I belong. During that year I have been able to discover not just the main attractions of Philippines, but lesser known gems as well. This list highlights all of these great places I have been, and many more that I still need to see.
Basically, this list is every travelers dream bucket-list for Philippines.
62 Best Places to Visit in Philippines
1. Tubbataha Marine Sanctuary
This highly protected underwater UNESCO World Heritage site might not be fully appreciated if you are not a scuba diver, but if you are it is one of the best sites you will ever dive. Not only the best scuba diving in Philippines, which is saying a lot, but one of the best sites in the world.
You will definitely find Tubbataha reef on our list of top 100 dive locations.
Siquijor is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but is surprisingly relatively undiscovered. The beautiful white sand beaches, water falls, jungle treks, and voodoo culture in Siquijor makes it a place any traveler will love. Better get there quick, I have a feeling it wont stay a secret for long.
3. Barracuda Lake
I love scuba diving in weird and beautiful locations, and that’s exactly what I found in Barracuda Lake, offshore from Coron in Palawan. It is a beautiful lake formed in the middle of a tiny island, surrounded by rock cliffs, but what made it unique for diving is that it is hot! The waters are heated by thermal vents, and diving in it was very weird. It really needs to be experienced to fully understand.
4. Siargao Island
Siargao is definitely a favorite destination for travelers that are looking for great beaches and a remote tropical island setting, as an alternative to Boracay or any other super touristy and over crowded place. It is even more popular for surfing, as it has some great waves. When you get there be sure to take the island tour that takes you to 3 tiny sandbars/islands, and lets you play “Castaway” for a day.
5. Sugba Lagoon
Sugba Lagoon is one of the most popular day trips to take from Siargo. This spectacular lagoon is surrounded by mangroves and mountains. While it’s one of the most popular places, visitors are pleased to find that it isn’t over-crowded. This is because Sugba Lagoon is a 4000-acre sanctuary with plenty of room to swim and rent SUPs or rafts.
Leyte is one of the islands in the Visayas group of the Philippines. It was the site of WWII naval battles and today is considered to be a scuba diving hotspot. The island fell victim to Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 but much of it has since recovered and it has bounced back as an exciting tourist destination in the Philippines.
7 . Port Barton
A village on the north-west coast of the famous island of Palawan, Port Barton is considered to be a smaller and quieter version of the ever popular El Nido. It’s a popular pick for backpackers looking to kayak and island hop on the cheap.
8. Sudlon National Park
Sudlon National Park part of an area that is now more commonly known as CCPL; Central Cebu Protected Landscape. It’s located in central Cebu, in the mountains and drainage basins of the island. The CCPL is home to a number of Cebu’s endemic and indigenous species as well as several threatened species.
9. Banaue Rice Terraces
Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Banaue Rice Terraces are carved into the Ifugao Mountains, likely by hand, by the local indigenous people. These rice terraces are 1500m above sea level and are believed to be over 2000 years old.
10. Chocolate Hills in Carmen
We all know about these famous hills in Bohol that look like Hersey Kisses, but what kind of list would this be if I didn’t give them a mention? There are plenty of great things to see while you are in Bohol, and this is one of the more scenic.
11. Ship wrecks of Coron
Since I already mentioned diving in Barracuda Lake, I would be remise if I didn’t also mention a unique opportunity for divers to be able to explore countless WW2 Japanese and American shipwrecks in the bays around Coron. An entire fleet was sunk here during the war, along with lots of the planes doing the bombing, giving us the chance to explore perfectly preserved time capsules from this dark period. If you are into wreck diving, you will have plenty to keep you busy in Coron.
Check out our Guide to Scuba Diving Coron
12. Even more wrecks in Subic Bay
You must really be a wreck diving nerd if you are looking for even more ship wrecks than the dozens around Coron, but don’t worry, I got just the place for you. Subic Bay also has it’s share of WW2 wrecks, and is probably even easier to get to than Coron, and less popular with tourists. It is only a few hours drive north from Manila, and definitely worth a Visit.
For more information check out our Guide to Scuba Diving Subic Bay
Malapascua is one of my favorite places to visit in Philippines, especially for diving. But if you aren’t a diver, this is still an amazing place to visit, with its incredible beaches and island life vibe. You wont find crowds here either. This is also a great launching point for people wanting to explore some of the most incredible and remote islands in southeast Philippines, such as Kalanggaman and Leyte. Of course as a diver don’t miss Gato Island, or the incredible thresher sharks.
For more information read our Guide to Scuba Diving Malapascua
14. The Historical City of Vigan
Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and noted for being the best-reserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in all of Asia. It is located on the main island of Luzon and was created with a mixture of European, Filippino, and Chinese influence to create a unique culture and town.
15. Kalanggaman Island
Well since I just mentioned it as a great place to visit from Malapascua, I should probably also list it here. Kalanggaman Island is a beautiful while sand beach island, and a popular day trip from Malapascua. If you thought Malapascua was beautiful and uncrowded with tourists, wait until you see Kalanggaman!
A popular city for a summer escape thanks to cooler temperatures, Baguio is a mountain resort city that is nicknamed The City of Pines. It’s an urban city with plenty of local festivals and the opportunity for outdoor experiences. Baguio was named as one of the top 25 destinations in Asia in the 2011 Traveller’s Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor
Sagada is a small town in the Cordillera Mountains and it is best known for the strange funerary practices that can be found in the nearby cliffs and caves in Echo Valley. Hanging coffins can be found dangling from the cliffs while ancient coffins, hundreds of years old, have been stacked in the caves. While this is a traditional way to be buried, there are several requirements that need to be met before someone can be buried this way. Requirements include having been married and having had grandchildren.
18. Mount Apo
Mount Apo is a stratovolcano located in Mindanao. It’s the highest mountain in the Philippines at 2954m and is potentially active. It was declared a national park back in 1936 and is a popular climbing and hiking destination.
19. Ugong Rock
An ancient dwelling place for the indigenous people of the area, Ugong Rock today is a popular tourist destination for ziplining, caving, and more. Funnily enough, Ugong Rock gets its name from the sound made when knocking on the rock formations.
20. Subterranean River National Park
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the most popular tourist spots in Palawan and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the underwater river by boat though it is advised to book in advance as there is a limit on the number of daily visitors.
21. Mausonoan Island
To the south of Palawan, these islands are said to have some of the clearest waters in the world. Turquoise waters, white sandy, and amazing visibility make it a popular spot for snorkeling tours.
22. Bulusan Volcano National Park
This national park stretches 3673 hectares and encompasses rainforest, Bulusan Lake, the volcano, and two other mountains. It’s a resource for the local communities and also acts as natural protection from floods and typhoons. There are a number of different species living on these grounds including some endangered species of lizards, frogs, and bats.
23. Bonbon Beach
Located on Romblon Islands, Bonbon beach is known to be one of the most beautiful sandy stretches in the world. It is a privately owned beach though visitors are allowed so long as they follow the owner’s rules (the big one being no littering). One of the highlights here is the sandbar that connects Romblon to Bang-og Island during low tide.
24. Danjugan Island
Danjugan Island is a 43-hectare area comprising of rainforest and marine sanctuary. Due to the fact that it is a protected area, fishing is prohibited meaning that the area is teeming with life. Tourists are welcome, however, all visits must be pre-arranged.
25. Samal Island
Samal, on Davao, is a small is one of the most unusual tourist spots in the Philippines. This island is home to the largest population of rousette fruit bats in the world. The sanctuary came about thanks to Ms. Norma Monfort, aka ‘mama bat’ who, after finding local children looking over dead bats, acquired the land where they were found to ensure the species’ safety. The rousette fruit bats are the biggest pollinators of durian fruit, which is why Davao is known for having the best durian.
26. Niludhan Falls
The Philippines has no shortage of waterfalls but Niludhan Falls are pretty spectacular. Located near Bayawan City, these falls can be tricky and time consuming to get to but the reward is worth it. The name, Nilduhan, means ‘kneeling’ and is associated with a local legend of water buffalos who, when crossing the top of the falls, had to kneel because of the rough path.
27. Panguan Island
A small island on the Philippine- Malaysian border, it was actually a hideout of a known terror group until April 2017.
28. The Codcod Rice Terraces
Stunning rice terraces in Negros, the Codcod Rice Terraces are surrounded by misty hills and mountains adding to their allure. It’s a great place to photograph and explore a bit by foot
29. The Kiokong White Rock Wall
If you are into rock climbing, then the Kiokong White Rock Wall is a must for your visit to the Philippines. Located in Quezon, this rock face has been turned into an eco-tourism project and is fast becoming a popular tourist attraction. There are plenty of climbing sections of different heights and difficulties for different levels of experience.
30. Tablas Island
Tablas Island is the largest island in the Romblon province. It’s not considered to be a big tourist spot in comparison to other islands in the Philippines, so it’s a great pick for intrepid travellers looking for a more local experience. Waterfalls, lakes, beaches, and wildlife are the main attraction here.
31. Cambais Falls
Located on Cebu island, Cambais Falls are almost a hidden secret since Kawasan Falls get most of the attention. It’s a great spot for those interested in trekking and swimming in the pools. It can be tricky to find, so if you are driving there on your own make sure to map it out ahead of time and get some help from locals.
32. Cabgan Islet
Cabgan Islet, located in the municipality of Barobo in Surigao del Sur is a tiny island that seems to have escaped the attention of most tourists. It’s rustic- bring your own food, water, and anything else you may need, but offers pristine white beaches and beautiful clear waters for swimming.
33. Alibijaban Island
Located at the southern tip of Quezon, Alibijaban Island is an island paradise; clear waters studded with starfish, mangroves, and soft sandy beaches. If you are feeling adventurous you can rent a tent to spend the night, or there are a couple spots that offer rooms.
34. Panampangan Island
Panampangan Island is a tiny island located inside the Basibui Shoal (in the municipality of Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi). It’s best known for its huge sandbar which extends 3,128.37 meters long, making it the longest sandbar in the Philippines.
35. Kayangan Lake
This popular lagoon is a favourite among tourists. The crystal clear waters are located in the mountains, giving the underwater landscape an almost moon-type look. It’s great for swimming, but try to come early to skip the boatloads of tourist that arrive around noon.
36. Pinacanauan River
Pinacanauan River is considered to be one of the most scenic places in the Philippines. This river runs through the Penablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape which includes karst rock formations, underground chambers, forest, and wildlife. It’s a popular spot for rafting and kayaking. Pinacanauan River is located in the Cagayan province.
37. Maligcong Rice Terraces
Another great pick when it comes to rice terraces in the Philippines is the Maligcong Rice Terraces. These differ from other popular rice terraces, including Banaue, because they use rock walls making them safer to walk on and less at risk of erosion. They are also less busy, which is a definite perk if for those looking to escape the big crowds.
38. Casino and Kandungaw Peaks
Another great mountain destination in the Philippines are the mountains of Dalaguete, about three hours or so from the Cebu City. The two main peaks to climb here are Casino and Kandungaw. Casino is much easier, but both offer some pretty stunning scenery that make them worth the climb
39. Callao Cave
One of the ‘show caves’ in Cagayan province, Callao Cave is considered to be one of the best natural attractions in the province. Callao Cave is one of 300 limestone caves in the area and has seven chambers that can be explored.
40. Camiguin Island
Camiguin is one of the most tranquil islands in the Philippines because it has been mainly untouched by large-scale tourism. However, it’s also one of the most interesting as t was more volcanoes per square kilometer than any other island in the whole world. Volcano climbing, jungle treks, diving, and snorkeling are the top activities here.
Itbayat is one of the least visited places in the Philippines. In fact, it is almost considered to be a ‘last frontier’ as, compared to other islands, it seems as if mankind has barely touched this place. Itbayat is known for the wild horses, a vast cave system, and the original inhabitants of the island, the Ivatan, a population of only about 3000.
42. Pinipisakan Falls & Sulpan Cave
Another stunning waterfall, Pinipisakan Falls is a popular spit for photographers and adventure seekers. You can join a tour and climb the falls to discover Sulpan Cave at the top. Sulpan Cave is nearly hidden in the jungle. It is a wet/dry cave with cathedral-esque ceilings and lots to explore.
43. Sikulan Island
Sikulan Island, also known as Salung, is the southernmost island in the Philippines. It’s more local than meant for tourists, so if you plan on visiting you will need to get in touch with the tourism office to make arrangements for accommodation. Small quiet towns and beautiful beaches make it a quiet and tranquil island to visit.
44. Tinuy-an falls
This stunning multi-tiered waterfall is located in Buslig, Surigao del Sur. The falls are 95 meters wide and 55 meters high and nicknamed as ‘Little Niagara Falls of the Philippines’. Between 9 and 11 am, there is a rainbow making it the most popular time of day to visit. Visitors can also board rafts to get close to the falls for a water massage.
45. Sambauan Island
Sambauan Island, also spelled Sambawan Island, is located off the coast of Leyte and is a popular getaway for Filipinos. There isn’t a ton to do activity wise, but there are beautiful lookouts and beaches making it a good spot to relax for a couple of days.
46. Limasawa Island
Located south of Leyte, Limasawa is a small island that is famous among the locals as it is believed to be the site of the first mass in the Philippines on Easter Sunday in 1521. This has led to the belief that it is the ‘cradle of Christianity’in Asia. There are some beautiful beaches here as well and the locals are known to be especially friendly to tourists.
47. Asik-Asik Falls
Asik-Asik Falls, located in North Cotabato, are tricky to get to, but if you are a waterfall chaser then they won’t disappoint. A rough 90-minute motorbike ride from Midsayap and a climb up 376 steps will reward you with beautiful waterfall views. These falls can be visited year round.
48. Bojo River
Located in southern Cebu, Bojo River is a popular attraction among tourists who come to take the river cruises. Beautiful blue water surrounded by lush mangroves offer a stunningly picturesque cruise.
Located in the province of Aurora, Dingalan is known for its hiking, viewpoints, and caves. The rough shores of the area are also popular for surfing adding to the allure among adventure seekers.
50. Bucas Grande Islands
Bucas Grande Island is truly a tropical paradise. Caves, coves and caverns are hidden in lush forest landscapes. Stunning viewpoints and crystal clear waters known for the hundreds of non-stinging jellyfish that you can safely swim with. Bucas Grande Island offers the tropical escape you have been looking for.
There really is nothing to do in Anilao (although I am told they make great goat meat there), unless you are a scuba divers. If you area diver, this is the place you need to go for chances to see amazing marine life. From blue ring octopus to rhinopias to electric clams, you are going to see everything on your critter bucketlist.
Be sure to check out our Guide to Scuba Diving Anilao
Panglao is a small island just off of Bohol, that offers some great beaches, diving and expat living. Be sure to make it one of your stops while visiting Bohol and the rest of it’s sites.
Also read our guide to scuba diving Bohol
53. Apo Island
The reef and marine life if so great around Apo Island, that the Chicago aquarium was modeled after it. It is easiest to get to from Dauin, or you can go with dive shops out of Siquijor as well. You don’t have to be a diver either, you are still going to see countless turtles and reef.
Dauin is one of my favorite places in the world to scuba dive, and is a underwater photographer’s dream. The dives here, except for Apo, are all muck dives, with countless rare species. Look out for various frogfish species, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ring and mimik octopus, ornate ghost pipefish and much much more.
Check out a video I made on just one of our trips to Dauin HERE.
Moalboal, located in the souther end of Cebu, is famous for the sardine run. The sardine run is right off of the beach, where divers and snorkelers can be immersed in a GIANT ball of tiny sardines, watching it dive and dodge barracuda and even sharks. If you are a diver, don’t miss incredible dive sites around the area, starting with Pescador Island.
Check out our Guide to Scuba Diving Moalboal
56. El Nido
El Nido is the most popular destination in Palawan, and for good reason. It has incredible beaches and scuba diving, but maybe most memorable of it all is the three island tours on offer, that take you out to some of the most beautiful islands in the world, with their sheer cliffs and white beaches and pillars jutting out of the water. It’s incredible.
Also read out Guide to Scuba Diving El Nido
Manila is not a good representation of Philippines, and certainly not the highlight, but as it is the gateway and you are bound to visit, you might as well check out the sites. There are actually plenty of cultural and historical things to experience in the nation’s capital, so give them a go.
Here is our list of top 40 Things to do in Manila
Bantayan is in the north of Cebu, just before Malapascua, and is a popular beach getaway destination fro locals. If you want the whitest and most pristine beaches in the world, you”ll find them here. Also check out Virgin Island and it’s beaches.
Not many know this, but in Donsol you have a chance to see whale sharks in their natural environment. Divers call Donsol an alternative to the Oslob whale sharks which are baited in and very touristy. So check that out for a sweet nature experience.
60. Sibuyan Island
Sibuyan is known as the ‘Galapagos of Asia’. It has a unique ecosystem with plenty of interesting flora and fauna making it one of the most interesting places to visit in the Philippines. The island also has stunning natural attractions perfect for exploring both on land and by water.
Located in the heart of Philippines, Romblon is completely over looked by most tourists. It offers a huge amount of great views and scenery, diving and snorkeling, and white sand beaches. Make sure to check out the Agpanabat Turtle Sanctuary and the hidden paradise of Bonbon Beach.
With over 7000 islands, there is no shortage of things to do in the Philippines. From pristine beaches perfect for island hopping to jungles filled with wildlife and waterfalls and crystal clear waters teeming with marine life, the Philippines truly is an incredible travel destination. Your hardest decision will be where to visit first.