Top Experiences to Do in the Philippines: Must-Add Activities to Your Itinerary
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The Philippines, being an archipelago, offers countless destinations to see, adventures to experience, and activities to do. The country is blessed with a rich environment of lush forests, tropical islands, white sand beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains, and friendly, artistic, and hardworking people who are always happy to welcome visitors and friends.
When you come for a visit, be sure to stay for a long time so that you can enjoy the different exciting experiences that the country has in store for you. Here is a list of the top 10 things to do in the Philippines to help you plan and maximize your stay. Do all ten for a unique and complete travel experience, and a guaranteed unforgettable vacation
SEE some sights:
The Philippines boasts a beautiful environment and skilled people whose hands created some of the most magnificent man-made structures in the world.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Banaue Rice Terraces and the well-preserved Spanish-style architecture in the Historic town of Vigan.
Marvel at the Baroque-style centuries-old churches, including San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and the Nuestra Senora De La Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur.
Discover natural wonders like Taal Volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world, and the uniquely shaped Chocolate Hills in Bohol.
Don’t miss the volcano with the most perfect cone, Mt Mayon in Legazpi, Albay.
GO on a beach holiday
The Philippines is a tropical country with one of the longest coastlines in Asia, measuring 36,289 kilometers. It has numerous beaches, most with fine, powdery white sand and clean, clear, and cool blue waters. Be sure to bask in the warm tropical sun and get the perfect tan that will be the envy of your friends back home.
Top beach locations include Boracay, El Nido, Cebu, Puerto Galera, and Bohol.
DIVE in Asia’s best reefs
The Philippines is known as Asia’s Dive Capital. If you are a diving enthusiast, amateur or professional, or someone looking for an underwater experience of a lifetime, then the Philippines is a must-visit destination. The country has the highest density of coral species in the world, making Philippine seas the most bio-diverse and marine-rich waters on the planet.
Amateur divers can train and obtain their licenses at any diving training centers located in diving spots in Puerto Galera and Boracay. Once done with training, they can dive side-by-side with professional divers in the country’s other must-see diving spots in Palawan, including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tubbataha Reef and Coron, which is well-known for its wreck diving sites.
Other spectacular diving destinations include Verde Island in Mindoro Oriental, Apo Reef National Park on Mindoro Occidental, the largest atoll-like reef in the Philippines, the Apo Island Marine Reserve & Fish Sanctuary in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands in Bohol, and Malapascua and Moalboal/Pescador Islands in Cebu. Subic Bay in Zambales, known for wreck diving, is only three hours or less travel time from Manila.
ENGAGE in your favorite outdoor sport or activity
The Philippines offers a wide variety of sports adventures. Different locations cater to specific activities. You can play a few rounds of golf in the various courses around the country designed by some of the most famous golf celebrities in the world.
You can also snorkel and interact with the “gentle giants,” the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon.
If you love surfing, you can go to Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte, Baler, Aurora, and Daet, Camarines Sur.
You can climb the country’s highest peak at 9,689 feet – Mt. Apo in Davao City, Davao, trek Mt. Pinatubo, or explore Callao Cave in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.
For adventure seekers, you can go white river rafting in Cagayan De Oro River, kayaking in El Nido Palawan, windsurfing in Lake Caliraya or in Taal Lake, and wakeboarding in Pili, Camarines Sur.
Kitesurfing is a popular activity in both El Nido and Boracay, two of the most beautiful beach destinations in the Philippines. The constant wind and clear waters make these locations ideal for beginners and advanced kiteboarders alike.
RELAX in a spa or have a traditional massage
There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying the traditional Filipino “healing” massage or touch therapy called Hilot. The soothing touch of this massage relaxes and heals tired muscles and aching joints.
You can try this and other spa treatments at the Nature Spa in Tagaytay, Mandala Spa in Boracay, Sanctuario Spa in Manila, Chi Spa Village in Shangri-La Mactan Hotel and Resort in Cebu, and The Farm at San Benito in Batangas.
FEAST on unique culinary specialties
Be ready to put on a few extra pounds as you satisfy your cravings by indulging in a Filipino feast.
Some dishes to try include Lechon, a split-roast whole pig served with liver sauce; Adobo, which can be made with pork or chicken or a combination of both marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, and stewed until tender; Kare-Kare, meat and vegetables cooked with peanut sauce served with shrimp paste; Sinigang, which can be made with pork or seafood in Tamarind soup; or the freshest seafood such as fish, squid, shrimp, and lobster grilled to perfection.
For the more adventurous, you should try Balut, which are boiled duck eggs containing a partially formed embryo, and Dinuguan, the pork blood stew eaten with steamed rice or Puto, rice cakes. Throughout the country, there are restaurants offering different cuisines from American to Chinese, from Indian to Greek, and from Japanese to Italian.
SHOPPING in world class malls and bargain centers
Shopping in the Philippines is an experience that offers both bargains and variety. Most shopping malls in Manila, Makati, Cebu, and Davao virtually have everything that you will need, from designer Western brands to items specially designed for the tourist market.
Around the country, specifically in city centers, Tiangges, or the Filipino version of flea markets, abound offering quality items at bargain prices.
In Manila, you can shop at the third-largest mall in the world, Mall of Asia, Balikbayan Handicrafts, Tutuban Center Mall, and at the San Andres Market (for fresh fruits and other produce). In Makati and its surrounding areas, you can shop at Greenbelt, Glorietta, Greenhills Shopping Center, SM Megamall, Shangri-La Mall, and at Tiendecitas.
In Cebu, check out the Ayala Center, The Gaisano Malls, Robinson’s Place, SM City, and for native delicacies, fresh produce, and fresh dried seafood, go to the Carbon and Tabo-an Markets. In Davao, you can shop at Aldevinco Shopping Center (for fabrics, batik, and carvings), Victoria Plaza, Gaisano Mall, and the New City Commercial Center Department Store.
An experience not to be missed at the flea market is the “bargaining,” where shoppers can buy items with a big discount, depending on their charm and good bargaining skills.
WATCH a performance of world-class artists
The Philippines is home to a number of world-class artists. Occasionally, the Cultural Center of the Philippines showcases performances by Ballet Philippines, the Madrigal Singers, and the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. World-renowned artists Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad, from time to time, give performances in big concert halls in Manila.
The Center of Arts in San Antonio (CASA) in San Miguel, Zambales features violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata and his Pundaquit talents, Repertory Philippines, the Loboc Children’s Choir, and the Amazing Philippines Theatre.
In the visual arts, works of world-class Filipino masters such as Juan Luna, Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, and Fabian de la Rosa, National Artists Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Francisco, Victor Edades, and Vicente Manansala, as well as other Philippine painting greats and contemporary visual artists can be viewed at the Philippines National Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Ayala Museum, and some galleries and university museums around Metro Manila.
All around the country, in simple stages, live bands and professional singers perform in clubs and music halls, showcasing Filipino talent.
EXPERIENCE the country’s rich culture
Philippine culture is best experienced through events and activities that highlight what Filipinos are passionate about – faith, love for country, family, beautiful women, and celebrations.
Filipinos love to celebrate, and there is no better way to celebrate than through festivals. The Sinulog in Cebu City and Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, held every January, are the biggest events that commemorate the feast of Santo Nino with a week-long street party. Ati-atihan dancers dressed as the aboriginal Atis, representing different communities from the city, participate in the festive weeklong street party that culminates during the feast of the patron saint. Another popular festival is Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon, celebrated every May 15. It is an annual harvest festival and feast of San Isidro Labrador where colourful Kipings (rice crisps) and other thanksgiving offerings are hung in a procession for the patron saint.
Giant papier-mache effigies also join the parade to add to the spectacle of the celebration. The Masskara Festival in Bacolod City held every October coincides with the city’s charter day celebration. The festival features carnivals, fairs and a mardi gras-style parade by costumed and masked street dancers.
There are as many festivals as there are towns in the Philippines, and when you attend and enjoy a Filipino celebration, you come closer to understanding the culture of the people.
Other unique Philippine cultural events and activities include the cultural spectacle Santacruzan, a May-time procession of Beautiful Philippine maidens staged as a re-enactment of St. Helen’s quest for the Holy Cross; the awesome display of Filipino religiosity in the frenzied Black Nazarene procession during the Quipo fiesta every January 9 in Manila; the Holy Week rituals in San Fernando, Pampanga, which are one living proof of the Filipino and Philippine culture’s deep Catholic roots; and the displays of giant Christmas lanterns, dawn masses, and noche Buena feasts that mark the Filipino celebration of Christmas.
ENJOY and unwind in the country’s unique nightlife
There are plenty of places to enjoy a night out in the Philippines. Every major city in the country has several hubs of nightlife activity, with restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, and karaoke bars all promising a good time of fun and entertainment.
In the financial district of Makati, you can find Greenbelt, Glorietta, The Fort, Jupiter St., and J.P. Rizal Street. In the capital city of Manila, the nightlife is diverse. There is something for everyone in Malate, and in the newly revitalized Roxas Boulevard and Baywalk. Quezon City is also popular among locals because the club prices are a little lower than in Makati. Most clubs are close to each other, so it’s common to bar hop. Try the establishments along Timog and Tomas Morato Avenues, Quezon Boulevard, and in Eastwood City in Libis. Outside of Metro Manila, there are several popular places to go to.
The central Philippine city of Cebu is a popular destination among tourists because its nightlife is at par if not better than in Metro Manila. Big development companies have opened up operations in the city, and major club chain operators have set up their presence. Be sure to go to Ayala Mall and the different establishments that abound Osmena Blvd.
The ultimate island-nightlife location in the Philippines is Boracay Island in the province of Aklan. The island is known for its carefree attitude, and it is home to a lot of clubs and bars on the beach, such as Bazzura, Hey Jude, D’ Mall, and the Station 2 establishments.