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The Philippines is rapidly becoming one of the world’s hottest destinations for backpackers and travellers, both young and old.
Because it is possibly the most beautiful country in the world!
I’ve said a few times now how magnificent the waters are in the Philippines, and this makes for some of the best snorkelling and diving opportunities on the planet.
But there are so many other things to do in The Philippines that make it such a great place to visit; including meeting friendly locals, eating great food, drinking cheap booze and discovering scenic waterfalls.
There’s a lot (LOT) more as well, but we’re not here to talk about how much I love the Philippines.
We’re here instead to talk about the best places to visit in the Philippines and which islands you should consider adding to your own Philippines itinerary.
Well, after 4 weeks spent discovering numerous islands, I’ve whitled my personal Philippines bucket list down to these 7 places.
I’ve left out a few stops that I don’t think stacked up; and by visiting each of these 7 Philippines destinations, you will have ample chance to see all of the country’s best sights and to uncover your own love for this nation made up of more than 7,000 islands.
So, in reverse order, here’s what I believe to be the 7 best places to visit in the Philippines this year ....
Based on our experience backpacking The Philippines, it seems, though Port Barton is quite up and coming, it is still one of the most undiscovered beautiful places in The Philippines.
Despite being just a few hours south of El Nido, it has remained for years a relatively unknown spot.
I’m not sure why it’s suddenly started getting more popular, perhaps new roads have recently been built which have made it accessible.
Either way, there are new resorts, and homestays cropping up every month in order to cope with the sudden growth in tourists.
They have also recently just got 24 hour electricity at the end of 2018, though WiFi is still far from stable (even by Philippines standards!)
Here, you’ll discover a quaint little town, filled mostly with small wood-built houses and a gorgeous beach area; perfect for swimming, relaxing and enjoying sunsets.
Port Barton is perfectly situated, close to a number of sand bars, small islands and coral reefs, meaning it offers wonderful day trips.
What we loved about Port Barton compared to other places in Palawan is how relatively less busy it is and how much more pristine the reefs are.
You also have the chance to swim with turtles.
Just be aware that, as of May 2019, they still didn’t have ATMs in Port Barton and few places accept cards, so you’ll need to take plenty of cash with you.
As Port Barton is still very much up and coming, new accommodation is constantly being built and you’ll find plenty of new homestays and resorts to stay at each and every month.
We stayed at Eashanti's Place and I would highly recommend it, as it was clean, well-priced and the staff were very friendly.
It’s just a very short walk into town and the air conditioning is decent.
Though Badian is small, it is one of the best cities to visit in The Philippines and is well situated close to a number of the best things to see and do on Cebu.
In particular, a whole string of incredible waterfalls, with the pinnacle being Kawasan Falls.
These are some of the nicest falls anywhere in The Philippines and truly are Instagram-worthy with their pure blue pool at the base.
However, all around the area you’ll find other lovely waterfalls and the most popular tours here are canyoneering tours where a guide takes you further and further down through a string of waterfalls and allows you to climb and jump in a number of them.
The second best reason to visit Badian is to head to nearby Moalboal where you can participate in The Sardine Run.
For some reason it is here, just off the coast, that hundreds of thousands of sardines gather in great shoals.
All you need is a snorkel and fins and you can swim a dozen metres out and swim amongst this great hoard of sardines.
Most travellers seem to stay in Moalboal, which is a lot better developed than the Badian region and has more choices.
However, what makes Badian nice is that it’s far less crowded and you are much closer to Kawasan Falls, which you should get to nice and early.
We stayed at “TGH” The Guest House Badian and I would highly recommend them.
There is little other choice for accommodation nearby and these guys had clean rooms, very good WiFi and great food!
They also helped us out by hiring a moped and sorting our transport across to Cebu City.
Of course, if you’re looking for a livelier area and the chance to meet more people, then Moalboal would be a better shout.
El Nido has been a popular place to visit in the Philippines for a long time, perhaps the MOST popular tourist spot in The Philippines.
For this reason you’ll discover a well developed tourist industry, with the main attraction being a selection of day long island hopping tours (like this one).
You have the chance to sail deep into the ocean, discovering snorkel points, wide canyons and truly breathtaking surroundings.
In the port, there are literally dozens of boats that go out every day and tours are all still relatively cheap.
You also get to enjoy a freshly made Philippino BBQ for lunch.
There really are so many great things to do in El Nido, including visiting Nacpan Beach, believed by many to be the best beach in Asia.
The only issue I had with El Nido is that there doesn’t seem to be very much to care for the corals, much less so than in Port Barton or Coron.
They senselessly let their anchors drag along the corals, and with dozens of ships doing this constantly every day, you can see that at many of the points, corals are all but dead near the shores.
We stayed in 2 places in El Nido, and as we left it late for choosing accommodation, we were very limited in choice.
That being said, the first place we stayed in, Mountain Side Inn, was superb!
They had fast WiFi (fast enough to stream the final season of Game of Thrones), really friendly staff and nice rooms.
It’s nothing fancy but is very affordable and well located close to town.
If you’re booking further in advance, then you will be able to find a much wider variety of hotels and other accommodation on Booking.com.
El Nido has long been one of the Philippines most popular places to visit so there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from.
Read Also: Our Epic 4 Week Philippines Itinerary
Siquijor is the furthest south of theses places to visit in the Philippines and a destination that you really can’t miss!
It is a relatively small island, meaning you can drive it and see many of Siquijor’s best attractions in less than a day.
Which is perfect, as it gives you plenty of time to slow down, relax and enjoy the stunning beaches.
Many people who visit go snorkeling and diving off the coast, however, by far the best attraction in Siquijor is Cambugahay Falls.
These are now my favorite waterfalls from anywhere in the world, and are a series of beautiful milky blue pools in sequence.
Gorgeous falls flow into each one, but what makes Cambugahay so unique is that the locals have built bungee rope swings into them!
In the main pool there are 2 large swings, and I had hours of fun doing flips and tricks into them.
It is basically a massive playground and you will also see perhaps a dozen local children playing there every day.
On the island, you’ll also find some other nice waterfalls, though if you visit in the dry season (like we did) a lot of these will be dried up!
My other favourite thing to do in Siquijor is to go diving in the ocean from platforms built into the rocks at Lugnason Falls.
Once again, we were very happy with where we stayed in Siquijor and AMK Traveller’s Hub ended up being well-located, offering great rooms and with very friendly owners.
It also backs onto a local playground/community area where you can play basketball with the locals.
Siquijor is apparently still growing in popularity and new choices are cropping up every year.
We met an Italian guy when we were there who was staying a few months and looking for land upon which to build his own hostel.
You’ll find loads of affordable accommodation in Siquijor through Booking.com.
Read Also: Our 3 day Siquijor itinerary
Compared to El Nido, Coron is still relatively new, despite being just a short ferry ride around.
Perhaps it was because we stayed on Paolyn Houseboats (more on that below), but I really fell in love with Coron.
It is home to a number of beautiful snorkelling spots and lakes, with nearby Kayangan Lake supposedly the clearest and cleanest of any lake in the world.
To visit these, you go on a day long island hopping tour (like this one).
During the middle of the day, a number of these spots get very busy, so it’s good to go on a tour that leaves early and allows you to escape the hordes (again, more on this below).
Once again, you get to enjoy a fresh BBQ lunch on a pristine beach and there are endless chances to swim and enjoy the beauty of Coron.
100%, the best place to stay in Coron has to be Paolyn Houseboats.
Simply put, nowhere else ever has the chance to compare, as Paolyn Houseboats is entirely unique and one of a kind.
They are the only place that has the legal right to offer accommodation on the water so close to Coron Island, as the island and surrounding water is owned by the indigenous tribes that occupy it.
Here, you have the opportunity to completely escape the masses and stay in a secluded, paradise-like cove complete with your own private snorkelling, paddleboarding and kayaking opportunities.
Also, it’s perfectly located next to many of the best things to do in Coron, so you get to all of the busiest spots before tourists do.
It also helps that they are able to offer tours starting at least 2 hours earlier than those from Coron town.
Of course, it is a bit pricey and not everyone can afford it; if not then we found that the best way to find half decent and affordable places in Coron town was through Airbnb.
Read Also: Our In-Depth Review of Paolyn Houseboats
So, my second favourite place to visit in the Philippines is Bohol.
This fairly large island needs at least a few days spent there if you wish to get out of the main touristy area of Panglao.
Here, inland you will discover a strange phenomenon known as the Chocolate Hills.
Literally hundreds of large brown hills that cover the landscape in all directions.
As well as this, you have all the other things you’ve come to know and love in the Philippines, including white sandy beaches, hidden waterfalls, rice terraces, gorgeous rivers and day trips to other islands.
You also have the chance to see dolphins, swim in cave pools, have lunch sailing down Loboc River and possibly even swim with sardines!
It’s too much to talk about right now, but I recommend you check out my guide on the best things to do in Bohol to learn more about why I loved Bohol so much!
In Bohol, the majority of people stay in the southwest of the island in an area called Panglao.
We stayed for 3 nights in Palm Rise Resort and it was a great choice, away from the hectic nature of town and with modern rooms and an awesome swimming pool.
All around this area, Booking.com has loads of great hostel and hotel deals.
However, if you read my 3 day Bohol itinerary post, you’ll see that I think the best way to visit Bohol is to stay in a few different locations across the island.
This saves you a lot of time driving and gives you a better chance to experience all of the island.
That being said, if you are there to party and meet lots of young people, then yes staying solely in Panglao would be your better choice
Okay, it was pretty tough choosing my number one favourite place in the Philippines, but Siargao just squeaked the victory!
For a few reasons.
Number one is that it is home to some of the world’s best surf locations.
Located on the far western edge of The Philippines, you have the chance to surf here at locations suited for beginners right through to expert surfers.
They even host professional surf competitions here every year because the waves get big enough.
I really enjoyed our island hopping day trip here as well, because the islands nearby are simply stunning, as are the snorkelling spots.
Plus, I think the 6 or 7 rum and limes we had on the boat probably helped!
Back on Siargao, you have the chance to do a number of day trips around the island, where you’ll find untouched beaches, snorkel spots and endless bamboo forests.
There are some cool clubs in the main town area, as well as restaurants and bars, making this a cool spot to party and meet people as well.
With so many adventurous and exciting things to do, Siargao really does have it all (almost!).
Check out my guide on island hopping in Siargao to book the perfect tour.
Once again, there is a particular area in Siargao that everyone stays, and this is called General Luna.
As Siargao is a relatively small island, you can easily do a day trip of the entire island without being on a moped for hours on end.
So it’s best to find somewhere to stay here.
The latter of which I would recommend more as it’s much closer to the action and still in a fairly secluded and beautiful part of the island.
What’s great is that there's a “fixed” rate for taxis around town, so getting to clubs, bars and restaurants is pretty cheap no matter where in town you stay.
Bonus tip! There is a shortage of mopeds and helmets in Siargao, so I advise booking at least a couple weeks in advance and then messaging your chosen property and asking them to reserve you a moped and helmet.
Read Also: Our 4 Day Siargao Itinerary
Luckily for you, Cazzy and I have gone ahead and put together some awesome, in-depth guides on all of the best places to visit in the Philippines for couples, families and solo travellers alike.
In each one, we offer up the best things to do, as well as added tips like itineraries and how to get there.
They are as follows:
If you have any more questions with planning where to go in The Philippines, just drop a comment below and I will help however I can.
Similarly, if you’ve visited The Philippines and think I’ve missed anywhere then let me know.
We will definitely be returning one day and I’d be happy to find more places to visit.
Need help planning your trip?
Our Philippines backpacking guide will help!