Philippines Travel Guide – The Best Places to Go
With more than seven thousand islands, there’s never a bad time to plan your trip to the Philippines. It’s easy to fall in love with this humble island country. Located in Southeast Asia, it’s a relatively easy destination to travel to as English is widely spoken. Not to mention the carefree vibe of the country, making it welcoming to visitors.
You can expect to find lots of beautiful beaches, with vast stretches of sand. Expect to find happy people, fresh fruit, rice fields, and volcanoes.
If you’re a serious beach bum, then you will find yourself in paradise. And if you love being outdoors, there is the opportunity for surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, and trekking. It is also known for zip-lining adventures.
Find our travel guide to the best places to visit in the Philippines below:
Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, and the center of industry, culture, government, economy, and education. It is the most populous region of the country and also the gateway for international travelers flying into the Philippines.
When people say ‘Manila’ they might be referring to the city of Manila, or they can be referring to the entire metro area – consisting of cities like Manila, Pasay, and Quezon City.
It’s a mix of colonial churches, museums, malls, and street life that makes it a great vacation destination.
Things to do in Manila: If you’re looking to see incredible sites visit Casa Manila or Fort Santiago. For some history, you can head to the Museum of the Filipino people. For a bite to eat, enjoy a freshly made lumpia wrapper. For those that are looking for some entertainment, head to the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds or you can dance the night away at clubs like Valkyrie or Revel.
Where to stay in Manila: If you are looking for the best hotels in Manila, these are the top three hotels on TripAdvisor: 1. Grand Hyatt Manila, 2. Savoy Hotel Manila and 3. Belmont Hotel Manila.
Best time to go to Manila: There is both the dry and rainy season. The dry season is from December to May. The rainy season is from June to November. From March to May is the hottest and most humid time of the year. At this time temperatures can exceed 40°C. The wettest months are from July to September. We think the best time to visit Manila is from December to February since the temperatures are the coolest.
Cebu City is the capital of the Southern Philippines and is a busy metro. It may appear a bit gritty, but thanks to a growing English-language school industry and well-regarded universities it is relatively cosmopolitan.
Things to do in Cebu City: There aren’t that many historical sites here, although you can find some colonial-era buildings. The energy of this city is infectious making the bar and club scene exciting and dining out enjoyable.
Your trip to Cebu isn’t complete without exploring Colon Street. Here you can find markets selling jewelry and delicious street food. And if you want a bit of adventure, you can always go diving with whale sharks. Considered the biggest fish in the world, they are called “sharks”. If you are traveling with kids, then Mountain View Nature Park is a fun place with shallow pools, a jungle gym, and lush greenery.
Where to stay in Cebu City: If you’re looking for the best hotels in Cebu City, these are the top three on TripAdvisor: 1. Crimson Resort and Spa, Mactan, 2. Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu Resort and Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark.
Best time to go to Cebu City: We think the best time to visit Cebu City is from November to May. This is the busiest time and considered peak season. This is because it’s the dry season. It’s also the best time to see the whale sharks. The rainy season is from June to October and at this time there is a lot of rain and humidity.
Puerto Princesa is the bustling capital of Palawan and also a gateway to the beaches of the west coast. With an international airport, you can get to famous paradise-like destinations in Palawan such as El Nido and San Vicente.
If you are passing through to go elsewhere, there is enough here to stay a day or two. There is a growing food scene, nightlife along Rizal Avenue as well as many boutique hotels which make it an appealing place to stay.
Things to do in Puerto Princesa: Puerto Princesa is most famous for its UNESCO-listed underground river in Sabang. This is 37 miles (60 km) to the northwest and lies within the city limits. Here you can explore a cave that due to its sheer size, is like an underground cathedral. We recommend starting your river trip from Sabang, as the day trips out of Puerto are expensive.
Where to stay in Puerto Princesa: If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Puerto Princesa, here are the top-rated hotels on TripAdvisor: 1. Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa, 2. Blue Palawan and 3. Microtel by Wyndham Puerto Princesa.
Best time to go to Puerto Princesa: Just like the other destinations in the Philippines, Puerto Princesa has both a wet and dry season. We think the best time to go is during the summer, the months from April to June. In August and October, there are heavy rains. However, if you are looking for discounts on hotels and flights you can get as much as 50% during the off-peak season.
Referred to as ‘Heaven on Earth’ El Nido sits on the northern tip of Palawan Island. This is about 420 kilometers southwest of Manila. It is part of the Sunda tectonic place which makes the geology on El Nido unique to anywhere else found in the Philippines.
El Nido is one of the most popular locations to visit in the Philippines. You can easily spend 3 to 5 days here.
It isn’t the easiest location to access, but once you get there you will be rewarded with some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet. Here you can see the coast of limestone formations, caves, secrete lagoons and beaches, and stunning islands with white sand and blue water.
Going inland, you can find hiking trails, waterfalls, and Filipino villages where you can sample authentic cuisine.
Things to do in El Nido: If you’re looking for incredible beaches, this is the perfect place for you to vacation. Kayaking is a great way to witness the scenery and popular spots like Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and Miniloc Island. Many tour agencies allow you to rent the kayaks and will provide maps so you know where to go. You can also hire a guide to help show you around.
The Big Lagoon has towering walls of jagged rock and an inlet with bright seafoam green water. There is also a small beach to enjoy. Big Lagoon is best enjoyed by hiring a boat or exploring on a kayak.
The Small Lagoon is a narrow gap in-between two huge rocks. This lagoon feels very secret which adds to the appeal. Here you can find delicate corals and the water is quite warm as well.
North of El Nido you can find the Twin Beaches, made up of Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach. Nacpan Beach is a 4-kilometer stretch. The waves can get strong here so it’s recommended to swim near the volleyball courts where the water is calm. Calitang beach is smaller and offers a viewpoint to climb and look down on the area.
Other places to visit include Nagkalit-Kalit Falls, Las Cabanas Beach, Cathedral Caves, Snake Island, and Hidden Beach
Where to stay in El Nido: From budget to boutique, there are all different kinds of accommodation to be found. From hostels to glamping, resorts, and treehouses. If you’re looking for the best places to stay in El Nido here are the top three hotels on TripAdvisor: 1. Sea Cocoon Hotel, Cauayan Island Resort, and 3. Seda Lo.
Best time to go to El Nido: If you want to enjoy the pleasant weather and avoid the rainy season, we think that November to May is the best time to visit El Nido. The driest months are March, April, and May with temperatures up to 41°C.
What is the best month to visit the Philippines?
The best months to visit the Philippines are from December to February. This is when the temperatures are around 24°C-31°C. The country is fully accessible at this time, including many of the beautiful islands and remote areas to explore.
Advice for travelers visiting the Philippines from the UK or the USA?
Traveling to the Philippines from the UK: For all information regarding travel to the Philippines in front of the UK, we recommend visiting Gov.uk. You can also find Philippines visa requirements for UK citizens here.
Traveling to the Philippines from the USA: For information regarding travel to the Philippines from the USA, we recommend visiting Travel.state.gov for up-to-date information.
Is the Philippines expensive to travel to?
The Philippines is a cheap travel destination. You will always come across some hotels that are more expensive than you would like. Food is very cheap and this is particularly if you dine at local restaurants. Overall, it’s a very affordable place to travel.
Is the Philippines safe for tourists?
The US Department of State does not recommend travel to the Philippines due to COVID-19. They also recommend exercising increased caution due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping. For more details on Philippines travel and the best places to avoid in the Philippines, please visit the Philippines Travel Advisory page here.