Heading to the Philippines? This tropical country in Southeast Asia has taken a strong buzz in recent years. With its more than 7,000 islands, you might find hard to decide what to do.
Spending at least a week in the Philippines is a good start to fully grasp what traveling in the country really is. From the capital of Manila to its stunning beaches, here is our travel guide for you.
Day 1: Manila
Where to stay in Manila:
The Bayleaf (Muralla corner Victoria Streets | Intramuros, Manila, Luzon 1002, Philippines)
White Knight Hotel Intramuros (Plaza San Luis Complex General Luna Street corner Urdaneta Street | Intramuros, Manila, Luzon 1002, Philippines)
Pan Pacific Manila (M. Adriatico corner General Malvar Streets | Malate, Manila, Luzon 1004, Philippines)
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila (CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Luzon 1300, Philippines)
The best place for visitors to enjoy Manila is to go to the Walled City of Intramuros. In Intramuros, you get a sense of the cultural side of the capital city most from the Spanish Era with forts and bastions, complete with cannons.
Manila Cathedral is a beautiful church along with San Agustin Church (General Luna St, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines; tel:+63 2 527 4060) that belongs to the group of baroque churches in the Philippines listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
A must see is Fort Santiago – contrasting quietness to the rest of the city (Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines; tel:+63 2 525 2000). Ride the horse-driven carriage called kalesa or sign up for a guided tour to learn more about Spanish colonization in the Philippines.
From Intramuros, you can drop by Rizal Park (Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines; tel:+63 2 302 7381), the biggest park in the country and homage to the country’s national hero – Jose Rizal (he was a Filipino nationalist, novelist, poet, ophthalmologist, journalist, and revolutionary).
In the evening, prepare for a trip north to Sagada, leaving Manila at 10pm. You can either take a bus (not suggested) or hire a local driver to take you to Sagada. You can find a list of drivers and tour agencies on Tripadvisor.
Day 2: Manila to Sagada
There are two routes going to Sagada, to see more in less time, take the Manila-Banaue-Sagada route. This route will give you the view of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces and if there are no issues on the road, you should be in Sagada by 7am the next morning.
Where to stay in Sagada:
Dubbed as “ Philippines’ Shangri-La”, Sagada will take you to the country’s most serene spots with locals still practicing their indigenous culture. For first time visitors, must-visits include Sugong Hanging Coffins and Sumaguing Cave. Hike or just enjoy the misty fog sipping hot coffee. It is the perfect respite for the soul.
Day 3: Sagada to Baguio
Wake up to a beautiful day in Sagada. If you wish to explore more, there are falls and burial caves. Hike to Echo Valley, enjoy local food and interact with the locals. In the afternoon, travel to Baguio (either by bus or if you used a private driver to Sagada you can negotiate extending the trip to Baguio). Built by the Americans as a vacation spot to escape from the hot climate in Manila, the “Summer Capital of the Philippines” has changed into a massive urban city in the northern and mountainous area of the Philippines. Enjoy the park and the lovely nightlife at Session Road. Then take a bus ride to Manila.
Tip: You can find detailed bus routes and prices of how to get to Manila from Baguio on Rome2Rio.
Day 4: To the World’s Best Island
Arrive in Manila from Baguio early morning. There are many breakfast venues in the capital or go straight to the airport to fly to Boracay (round trip tickets cost around 180 USD and Cebu Pacific Air flies directly from Manila to Borocay six times a day). After about an hour, you will arrive in Caticlan Airport in the province of Aklan. Take a 10-minute ride to the Port that will bring you to Boracay.
Where to stay in Boracay:
Cool Stay Inn (Bulabog Street | Near Iglesia Ni Cristo Church, In Front of Island Girl Building, Boracay Island, Aklan Province 5608, Philippines)
Shangri-La’s Boravay Resort and Spa (Barangay Yapak, Aklan Province 5608, Philippines)
Villa Caemilla Beach Boutique Hotel (Beachfront of Station 3, Sitio Angol, Brgy. Manoc-Manoc, Aklan Province 5608, Philippines)
Argonauta Boracay (272 Balinghai Road | Hagdan, Aklan Province 5608, Philippines)
After long-hail travels and hiking, spread your mat or look for a sun lounge. Just lie down and relax. Or better yet, ask for a massage by the beach for 500 pesos (4.50 USD). Catch the stunning sunset that the island is known for. Boracay is a party-island; at night enjoy your favorite drinks, jive to the island music and meet fellow travelers.
Day 5: The Party continues
After breakfast, sign up for island tours that will take you to famous islands with snorkeling and smaller beaches in Boracay like Puka Beach. If you want some extreme sports go to the other side of White Beach in Bulabog Beach and enjoy kite surfing.
Reward yourself with a cold beer. Enjoy the breeze and take a nap under the coconut tree. In the afternoon, walk along the 7 kilometer white sand beach of Boracay – its most famous feature- before enjoy seafood fiesta in Boracay for dinner.
Day 6: To the Queen City of the South
From Caticlan fly to Cebu, one of the Philippines’ main cities and top destination for beaches and culture travel. The airport is located in Mactan Island where many luxurious resorts are located. You can go to the city center and visit the Santo Niño Basilica (Santo Nino Chapel Ln, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines), Magellan’s Cross, and Fort San Pedro – a look at Spanish times in the Philippines and Cebu as the stronghold of Catholic faith in the country.
You can kill time at its many malls or savoring Cebuano dishes starting with lechon – roasted pig. At night, go to Tops or enjoy dinner in Busay, to give you stunning view of the city.
Where to stay in Cebu:
The Granada Beach House (Cebu South Road | South Granada, Boljoon, Philippines)
Abaca Boutique Resort (Punta Engano Road, Lapu Lapu, Philippines)
Radisson Blu Cebu (Brg. Atabay | 6023 Alcoy, Alcoy 6023, Philippines)
Ocean Vida Beach & Dive Resort (Bounty Beach, 6013, Philippines)
Amihan Beach Cabanas (A. Batobalonos Street, 6047, Philippines)
Day 7: Swim with the Giants
Cebu is famous for its Whale Shark tours (find more info at http://divescover.com/dive-sites/philippines/cebu). Leave at the crack of dawn from Cebu City to the southern town of Oslob and experience some National Geographic adventure with whale sharks. Underwater cameras can be rented and you will have a souvenir photo of you swimming with one of the biggest animals in the planet. End your tremendous experience with whale sharks in Oslob with a cool shower at the famous Tulamog Falls.
From there, you can travel back to Cebu. Cebu has many international flights or travel back to Manila.
Philippines definitely has more to offer starting with the famous Palawan and Coron and the idyllic group of Island in Batanes. This guide will give you a taste of what Philippine travel is all about telling you that indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines.
Have you been to the Philippines? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.