Home to over 7,000 tropical islands, you’ll never be short of choice when it comes to exploring the Philippines. Filled with extraordinary landscapes, turquoise waters and happy-go-lucky people, there’s an island for everyone to appreciate. Pukaar Magazine’s Jessica Challoner-Sterland explores the wonders of this Southeast Asian gem.
If you’re visiting the popular island of Palawan, swimming in the crystal clear water of Lake Kayangan is a must! There are plenty of tours from Coron Island that will take you to this beautiful spot nestled in the walls of a mountain. Although the lake is only accessible by a steep 10-minute climb, the views and refreshing water make it all worthwhile. Many of the tours also include a freshly prepared lunch.
The laid back, the tropical island vibe of El Nido in Palawan is a firm favourite amongst tourists. Alongside its beautiful landscapes and beaches, this island is an ideal destination for adrenaline junkies. From cliff diving and surfing to scuba diving and kitesurfing, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
A trip to the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan will leave you in awe. This protected area of the Philippines, which represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation, features a remarkable limestone karst landscape with an underground river. Take the incredible boat journey through the cave and witness sights such as the 20 million-year-old fossil, waterfalls, and a tiny rock passage that leads to a room of glimmering crystals.
Pay a visit to Bohol’s iconic Chocolate Hills in the country’s Central Visayas region. Labelled as one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the Philippines, the site is home to more than 1,000 green-brown hills, there are also many legends surrounding how this majestic, geological formation began.
Whilst in Bohol, you can also pay a visit to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. These cute, big-eyed mammals, measuring around 85mm to 160mm, are one of the smallest primates in the world but are quickly becoming an endangered species. The sanctuary helps to protect the tarsier and its habitat from extinction through increased environmental awareness and fundamental research.
The Banaue Rice Terraces of Ifugao, situated in the north of the Philippines, are most certainly a sight to behold. The famed terraces were carved into the mountains of Ifugao by the ancestors of the indigenous people, and the locals still to this day grow rice and vegetables there. It’s a great spot for trekking, and of course, stunning photos.
Famed for its untouched beauty and awesome waves, the island of Siargao is a surfer’s paradise. Situated southeast of Manila, the island boasts great spots for intermediate to pro surfers which include Stimpy’s, Cloud 9, Pacifico, Tuason Point and Rock Island.
If you want both unspoilt beaches and vibrant nightlife, Boracay is your island. The picture-perfect stretch of white sand is backed by lush palm trees, resorts, shops, bars and endless restaurants. If you want to escape the crowds, the island also offers tours to more secluded spots such as Puka Shell Beach, Tambisaan Beach, Mount Luho and Crocodile Island.
For something a little more contemporary, Gallery by Chele in the capital’s Metro Manila might just tickle your fancy. With its fusion of local flavours and modern techniques, the restaurant offers tasting menus and a la carte options to allow customers a fun and memorable dining experience. Sample everything from tomato mochi to tropical crab and beef curry.
If you’re after food that’s healthy, sustainable and of course, delicious, a visit to Nonie’s in Boracay is a must. Quality is imperative, and the restaurant works closely with family-owned farms and uses only the freshest local ingredients. On the menu you’ll find hearty dishes including fluffy Pandan Pineapple Pancakes, Chicken Longganisa grain bowl and nutritious smoothies.
Serving Filipino comfort food, Tambok’s El Nido is a firm favourite. The cosy and authentic restaurant focuses on time tested recipes with a twist; signature dishes include their barbeque meat and fish, chicken inasal, pancit buko and leche flan.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, why not try some of the Filipino street food delicacies such as Balut (developing bird embryo), Sisig (made from parts of pig head and chicken liver) and not forgetting Halo-halo, a popular cold dessert which is a combination of crushed ice, evaporated milk and other ingredients including purple yam, sweetened beans and rice.
Located at the heart of Manila’s liveliest districts in Makati, and just a short stroll away from the city’s shopping, dining and entertainment options, the City Garden Grand Hotel offers luxurious and spacious accommodation complete with a rooftop pool, spa and gym.
Situated on Boracay Island’s vibrant beachfront, the Henann Crystal Sands Resort provides a relaxing and tranquil retreat. This modern and lavish hotel boasts 188 world-class rooms, two swimming pools and one upper deck pool overlooking the white sand and blue sea.
If you’re heading to Cebu, the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa won’t disappoint. It features one of the world’s largest privately-owned lagoons and offers 5-star amenities, free scheduled 2-way airport transfers, a variety of activities and a private beach. Enjoy fine dining at the resort’s five outstanding restaurants.