Things To Do in the Philippines

Things to do in the Philippines

 

The Philippines, with its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural landscapes, offers a wide array of activities for travelers. 

In bustling cities like Manila and Cebu, you can explore historical landmarks such as Intramuros, Rizal Park, and Magellan's Cross. Don't miss out on shopping in local markets, dining in a variety of restaurants, and enjoying the lively nightlife.

The Philippines is home to countless natural wonders. You can explore the stunning Banaue Rice Terraces, swim with whale sharks in Oslob, dive in the world-renowned Tubbataha Reefs, and explore the underground river in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Regarding activities and experiences, the Philippines is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. From stunning natural wonders to cultural attractions, the country offers an incredible variety of things to do that suit anyone's interests.

1. What Are Some Must-See Natural Wonders?

If you’re headed to the Philippines, you shouldn’t miss the following spots: 

Palawan

Palawan, the Last Frontier of the Philippines, boasts a harmonious blend of lush landscapes and crystal-clear waters. It’s in the western part of the country, stretching about 450 miles from Mindoro. Some of the key attractions you shouldn’t miss during your trip: 

  • Palawan Underground River: A UNESCO World Heritage Site near Puerto Princesa, this natural wonder is one of the world's longest navigable underground rivers. The guided boat tours through the extensive cave system offer a glimpse into a hidden world of geological formations and unique ecosystems.
  • El Nido: Known for its dramatic limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, and snorkeling spots, El Nido is a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Popular activities include island hopping, diving, and kayaking.
  • Coron: Famous for its world-class wreck diving opportunities, Coron is a diver's paradise. The area is home to several sunken Japanese warships from World War II. Besides diving, Coron also offers beautiful lakes, hot springs, and viewpoints.
  • Port Barton: This less crowded alternative to El Nido offers a more laid-back vibe with equally stunning beaches and snorkeling opportunities. It's an excellent spot for those looking to escape the crowds and enjoy a serene beach holiday.

The best time to visit is from November to May. 

Bohol

The Chocolate Hills in Bohol are a geological marvel and one of the most iconic landscapes in the Philippines. Comprising around 1,268 individual hills, these unusual formations offer a surreal panorama that feels almost otherworldly. They are called “Chocolate Hills” because the grass that covers these hills turns chocolate brown during the dry season, making them resemble giant mounds of chocolate. During the wet season, the hills are a lush green, creating a stark contrast to their dry season appearance.

Each of these conical hills varies in size, with heights ranging from 30 to 50 meters. While the formation of these hills is still a subject of scientific research, they are generally believed to be the result of marine limestone weathering over thousands of years. The hills are a visual spectacle and have significance in local folklore, often featuring in tales and legends that imbue the landscape with a sense of mystique.

For tourists, the Chocolate Hills offer several vantage points and viewing decks from which to take in the breathtaking vistas. The most popular of these is the Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen, which provides an elevated 360-degree view of the surrounding area. For the more adventurous, there's also the option of ATV tours that take you closer to the individual hills, allowing for a more intimate experience with this geological wonder.

Taal Volcano in Batangas

One of the world's smallest active volcanoes is located within a lake.

In conjunction with its surrounding lake, Taal, typically recognized as Taal Volcano, ranks among the Philippines' natural wonders. Expatriates and tourists are drawn to its exceptional allure and distinctive geological features. Snugly nestled in a caldera, Taal Volcano is an active stratovolcano that boasts a stunning sight: a lake right within its main crater, creating a truly mesmerizing and captivating view. Taal, situated only a short drive from Manila, allows expats to break away from the bustling city and fully embrace the serenity of nature. Adventurous spirits can embark on a trek to the volcano's summit, rewarded with panoramic views of the picturesque landscape. Taal has a magical charm that attracts expats seeking a home in the Philippines. 

Mount Mayon in Albay

Known for its near-perfect cone shape, it's a popular spot for trekking and photography.

Mount Mayon, an iconic natural wonder in the Philippines, should be at the top of any expat's must-see list. Famous for its perfectly shaped cone, Mount Mayon is truly one of the most breathtaking volcanoes on Earth. Located in the province of Albay, Mount Mayon offers expats an awe-inspiring, thrilling, and captivating sight. Adventurous souls can hike its slopes to witness breathtaking vistas of lush landscapes and the surrounding countryside. However, when the volcano sporadically unleashes its raw power, it constantly reminds us of nature's might.  Expats residing in the Philippines don't merely see Mount Mayon as a scenic view; they view it as a symbol of the country's strength and captivating natural charm. 

2. Can I Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling?

Expats and tourists can go scuba diving and snorkeling in the Philippines. Many people love going to the Philippines for water sports like diving and snorkeling. It has beautiful coral reefs, the wide variety of marine creatures you can find there, and amazingly clear waters. Whether living abroad or just passing through, you can partake in these activities at multiple destinations nationwide.

Among the Philippines' premier scuba diving and snorkeling spots are:

Palawan

Palawan is celebrated for its underwater splendor, boasting exceptional diving and snorkeling sites in destinations like El Nido and Coron. There are also many vibrant coral gardens and shipwrecks in these areas.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Located in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reefs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its pristine coral reefs and rich marine biodiversity. 

Apo Reef

This is the world's second-largest contiguous coral reef system in Mindoro. This protected marine park features an excellent area for diving and snorkeling.

Moalboal, Cebu

Moalboal is famous for its sardine run, where you can witness massive schools of sardines. The area also offers great opportunities for coral reef exploration.

Dumaguete and Dauin

These areas in Negros Oriental are known for their muck diving, which allows divers to encounter unique and often bizarre underwater critters.

Anilao, Batangas

Anilao is a popular diving destination near Manila, known for its macro photography opportunities and diverse marine life.

Bohol

Panglao Island and the surrounding areas in Bohol offer excellent diving and snorkeling spots, including the famous Balicasag Island.

When scuba diving or snorkeling in the Philippines, make sure to follow safety guidelines, choose reputable dive operators or snorkeling tour providers, and know the local regulations for protecting the marine environment. It is also crucial to possess the required certifications and undergo proper training if you intend to engage in scuba diving, with safety in the water always being the top priority.

3. Are There Opportunities for Hiking and Trekking?

Expats and tourists can enjoy fantastic hiking and trekking opportunities in the Philippines. The Philippines has incredibly beautiful natural landscapes, tall mountains, active volcanoes, lush forests, and stunning coastlines. Here are some popular trekking destinations in the Philippines:

Mt. Apo

Located in Mindanao, Mt. Apo is the highest peak in the Philippines. The trekking routes here can be quite challenging, but reaching the summit is truly rewarding as it gives you awe-inspiring views and a great sense of accomplishment.

Mt. Pulag

Found in Luzon, Mt. Pulag is popular for its stunning “sea of clouds” view. There are also numerous trekking trails designed to accommodate various skill levels.

Taal Volcano

Located near Manila, Taal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. You can hike to its crater rim and take in panoramic vistas of Taal Lake and the nearby surroundings.

Banaue Rice Terraces

While not a traditional trekking experience, the Banaue Rice Terraces in Luzon offer stunning hikes through the terraces, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich cultural landscape of the Ifugao people.

Chocolate Hills of Bohol

Trekking in the Chocolate Hills of Bohol promises an enchanting adventure. You'll find trails leading to elevated viewpoints where you can relish the sight of these unique geological formations known as the “chocolate” hills.

Sagada

Sagada, in Luzon, is known for its scenic landscapes, caves, and hanging coffins. There are many places to go to, such as the Echo Valley and the underground caves.

Palawan

The island of Palawan is renowned for its natural beauty, including the Puerto Princesa Underground River and El Nido's limestone karst formations, which offer trekking opportunities and scenic hikes.

Siargao

While Siargao is famous for its surfing spots, it also has beautiful jungle areas and hiking trails, such as the trek to the Magpupungko Rock Pools.

Davao Region

Apart from Mt. Apo, the Davao region offers several other trekking opportunities in its lush forests and mountains.

Negros Oriental

The province has hiking trails that lead to waterfalls and hot springs, making it a rewarding destination for trekkers.

When trekking in the Philippines, it's advisable to check local regulations and weather conditions, especially during the rainy season. If you're not very experienced or if the trail seems challenging, it's a good idea to consider hiring a local guide. They can ensure your trek is safe and fun. The Philippines is a diverse and beautiful country for outdoor enthusiasts, including expats looking to explore its natural wonders.

4. What Cultural Experiences Should I Not Miss?

As an expat in the Philippines, there are several cultural experiences you should not miss to immerse yourself in the local culture and heritage fully. Here are some noteworthy ones:

Festivals: Attend traditional Philippine festivals like Sinulog in Cebu, Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, or the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio. These festivals feature vibrant parades, music, dance, and a display of colorful costumes and customs.

Barrio Fiesta: Join a local barrio fiesta (village festival), where you can savor traditional Filipino dishes, enjoy live music, and witness cultural performances.

Local Markets: Explore bustling local markets like the Quiapo Market in Manila or the Carbon Market in Cebu. These markets offer a glimpse into daily Filipino life, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts.

Visiting Historical Sites: Explore historic sites like Intramuros in Manila, Fort Santiago, and the Magellan's Cross in Cebu to learn about the Philippines' colonial history.

Traditional Dance and Music: Attend performances of traditional Filipino dances like tinikling and singkil, and enjoy the melodious sounds of local musical instruments like the kulintang and bamboo organ.

Try Local Cuisine: Sample Filipino dishes such as adobo, sinigang, lechon, and balut. Don't forget to indulge in local sweets like halo-halo and bibingka.

Participate in Bayanihan: Embrace the Filipino spirit of bayanihan by participating in community activities or helping neighbors during local events and celebrations.

Language and Culture Classes: Consider taking language and cultural classes to learn Tagalog or another local language. Learning the language will enable you to form deeper connections with the locals.

Visiting Indigenous Communities: If possible, visit indigenous communities like the Igorots in the Cordilleras or the Aetas in Zambales to learn about their unique traditions and way of life.

Religious Celebrations: Take part in significant religious observances like Christmas, Holy Week, and the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which holds profound significance in Filipino culture and faith.

Art and Crafts: Explore local art galleries and workshops to appreciate Filipino artistry in various forms, including painting, weaving, and woodcarving.

Cultural Workshops: Enroll in workshops to learn traditional crafts like making parols (lanterns) or weaving into baskets.

Attend a Filipino Wedding: If invited, attending a Filipino wedding is a wonderful way to witness traditional customs, ceremonies, and the warm hospitality of the locals.

Community Celebrations: Participate in community clean-up drives, outreach programs, and charity events to connect with the Filipino community and give back.

These cultural activities will help you bond with the local community and learn more about Filipino culture.

5. Can I Enjoy Water Sports?

Yes, as an expat in the Philippines, you can definitely enjoy a wide range of water sports. The Philippines' stunning beaches, clear waters, and rich marine life create a well-known water sports paradise among enthusiasts. Here are some popular water sports activities you can enjoy:

Scuba Diving: The Philippines is renowned for its world-class dive sites. Explore coral reefs, underwater caves, and a diverse marine ecosystem. Popular diving spots include Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Apo Reef, and Anilao.

Snorkeling: Snorkelers can enjoy vibrant coral gardens and marine life in shallow waters. Snorkeling is accessible even for beginners and is available in many beach destinations.

Surfing: Try surfing in popular spots like Siargao, Baler, La Union, and Zambales. Surfers of all skill levels, whether beginners or advanced, can find excellent waves in the Philippines.

Kiteboarding and Windsurfing: Boracay and other windy destinations are ideal for kiteboarding and windsurfing. Lessons and equipment rentals are readily available.

Kayaking: Explore calm coastal areas, rivers, and lagoons by kayaking. Popular kayaking spots include Palawan, Bohol, and Siargao.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP): SUP is gaining popularity in the Philippines, especially in serene and clear waters like those found in Palawan and Cebu.

Island Hopping: Discover secluded beaches, hidden coves, and pristine islands by going on island-hopping tours.

Parasailing: Enjoy breathtaking views as you soar above the water while tethered to a parasail pulled by a speedboat. Boracay is a popular destination for parasailing.

Jet Skiing: Rent jet skis and zip across the waters in various beach destinations.

Fishing: Fishing in the Philippines is a fantastic experience, with abundant deep-sea and sport fishing opportunities. You can easily join fishing charters in numerous coastal areas.

Whale Watching: Certain regions, such as Donsol in Luzon, offer the chance to spot gentle giants like whale sharks.

White Water Rafting: In areas like Cagayan de Oro, you can experience exhilarating white water rafting adventures through river rapids.

Canyoneering: Explore canyons, waterfalls, and natural pools by doing canyoneering activities in places like Kawasan Falls in Cebu.

Boating and Sailing: Whether sailing on a traditional Filipino outrigger boat (banca) or chartering a yacht, there are opportunities to enjoy leisurely boating and sailing.

Always make sure to review local rules, safety recommendations, and current weather conditions before participating in any water sports activities. Many tourist destinations in the Philippines have experienced instructors and rental services to assist you, making it accessible and enjoyable for expats and tourists alike.

Conclusion

The Philippines is not just about beautiful beaches and natural wonders. It is a complete package offering many experiences and activities for expats and locals. Many outdoor adventures, cultural explorations, or simply relaxing by the beach exist. So pack your bags and visit the Philippines soon! Adventure awaits.

 

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