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23 Best Things To Do In The Philippines [Ultimate Bucket List!]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
April 2, 2020
Seeking a little inspiration for the beautiful Philippines? Look for further, check out my awesome guide to the best things to do in the Philippines ...
best things to do in The Philippines
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The Philippines is definitely one of my favourite countries in the world.

Why?

Because there is simply so much to do there!

It’s got everything you could possibly want: stunning beaches, amazing snorkelling spots, friendly people, cheap rum and SO much more. 

Best of all, it’s not expensive and is far from being over-touristy!

Making it the perfect backpacking destination no matter what your budget.

We visited for 4 amazing months and got to do so many amazing experiences, and wanted to share with you what we believe to be the best things to do in The Philippines.

And hopefully this Philippines travel guide will help you plan your own unforgettable trip with the best Philippines attractions.

First up ...

nacpan beach

Getting around The Philippines

If you want to experience all of the incredible sites below, then you’re going to need to know how to get around!

Well, you’ll need to use a combination of …

  • Ferries
  • Flights 
  • Ground transfers

For example, spots like Coron and El Nido in Palawan are just a few short hours by ferry, and it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get across.

However, Siargao is on the other side of The Philippines and you’ll need to catch an internal flight.

But don’t worry, AirAsia offers cheap flights between most islands, so long as you book at least a few weeks in advance.

When you’re out exploring the individual islands in The Philippines, your best bet is to hire a moped to help you get around.

I recommend searching with 12GoAsia to find the cheapest transfers between destinations in The Philippines.

They offer up the best prices on all means of transport, so you can use that to decide which is best for you.

boats in the philippines

Sorting accommodation in The Philippines

Typically speaking, it’s easy to find affordable accommodation in The Philippines.

In fact, there really is something for everybody no matter where you choose to visit.

If you're backpacking The Philippines on a budget, then you’ll find cheap hostels and homestays everywhere you go.

But if you’re happy to spend a little more, then there is the chance to splash out on some really incredible hotels, with sea views.

Possibly the best place to stay is on Paolyn Houseboats in Coron (scroll down to number 3 below to learn more …).

For help booking the best accommodation, we’ve put together some useful guides on where to stay, check them out here …

23 Best things to do in The Philippines

Without further ado, let’s get stuck into what to do in The Philippines!

First up ...

1. Go island hopping

The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands; so island hopping is the best way to explore what this unique country has to offer. 

When it comes to island hopping, you’ve got opportunities everywhere, and I’ll highlight some of my favourite island hopping trips in The Philippines. 

Siargao Island Hopping 

This was my favourite island hopping trip in all of The Philippines, and the biggest highlight was Guyam Island. 

This means “small” island; and while it’s small, it’s incredibly beautiful. 

In fact, if I could own any island, then this would be it!

It’s surrounded by stunning clear water, there are two natural swimming pools and it’s packed with coconut trees ... 

What’s not to love!? 

You’ll also get to visit Naked Island & Daku Island on every Siargao island hopping adventure.

guyam siargao

El Nido Island Hopping 

El Nido is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in The Philippines and you'll be overwhelmed with choice for different island hopping tours. Island hopping is one of the most popular things to do in El Nido. 

There are 4 main trips to choose from, but Bradley and I did tour A, and it was epic! 

You get to discover the stunning Seven Commandos Beach, kayak in Big Lagoon, have lunch on a secret island and so much more.

el nido palawan

Coron Island Hopping 

Coron was another of my top island hopping choices in The Philippines, and I think it’s because we had a private tour. 

We got to see some of the most famous sights such as Kayangan Lake and the Twin Lagoons; with no one else around! 

Truly unforgettable. 

Of course, there are other amazing island hopping opportunities on all The Philippines islands you visit, so make sure you find time for at least one.

coron palawan

2. Discover The Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills in Bohol are definitely one of the more unique things to see in The Philippines. 

They are also one of the most famous and popular Bohol tourist spots.

These are natural phenomena and they are basically large mounds that have formed to look like hills. 

They stretch for more than 4 km and are brown in colour during the dry season, which gives them their name of Chocolate Hills.

If you visit in the wet season, they’ll be green. 

I’ve heard people online claim they were disappointed when visiting because they thought the hills would be actual chocolate. 

To avoid disappointment, I’m here to tell you, there is no actual chocolate!

The drive to the Chocolate Hills is pretty beautiful and this area of the island is very jungle like, which is a cool contrast to the many water-based activities that The Philippines tends to offer. 

There are a bunch of different viewpoints and areas to see the hills from, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. 

Read more in Bradley’s guide on the best things to do in Bohol.

bohol chocolate hills

3. Stay on your very own paradise houseboat

This was one of the major highlights of our thrilling adventure in the Philippines and it was an activity that we actually stumbled upon pretty randomly. 

When you search for accommodation in Coron, you’ll soon discover it’s all on the Coron mainland, not on or near “Coron Island”. 

Well, that’s all but one: the epic and unique Paolyn House Boat

Because it’s a floating structure, it isn’t breaking any rules, and is currently the only form of accommodation allowed permanently in the waters right next to Coron Island. 

We had the chance to stay on this houseboat and it was truly amazing. 

You’re nestled in a small cove on the main island and have access to stunning waters, coral and nature, as soon as you step out from your bedroom door! 

Another awesome thing about staying here is that you can get to all the famous sights on a typical Coron Island Hopping tour, before the first tourist boat even docks

We had Kayangan Lake all to ourselves, and we could kayak to Twin Lagoon from our accommodation!

You also have pristine snorkelling spots that are only accessible by those staying on the houseboat.

The staff can even arrange for you to meet the local indigenous tribes who live on Coron Island, which would be a pretty unique experience. 

Do not hesitate to book a stay here

It’s one of the most epic experiences of our lives and truly one of the best things to do in The Philippines. 

paolyn houseboat in coron

4. Explore the wonderful island of Siargao

It’s really hard to pick the best island in The Philippines, but I get pretty close to choosing Siargao! 

It is bursting with things to see and do and it’s no surprise that some backpackers end up staying here months because they fall in love with the island. 

Siargao was actually voted as one of the most beautiful islands in all of Asia and it’s in part thanks to the thousands of coconuts trees that are all over the island. 

We spent 4 nights on Siargao and saw so much of the best Siargao tourist spots. 

Including a trip to the beautiful Sugba Lagoon.

Bradley also swang at the Insta-famous Maasin bridge, we got awesome pictures at Coconut ViewPoint, did an epic island hopping tour (that I mentioned above) among many other amazing things. 

Siargao is also a really awesome island if you want to meet other backpackers. 

It’s got a Bali-like vibe to it with its street lined with restaurants, bars and cool shops; plus it’s a surfers dream. 

Some of the biggest surf competitions are actually held here in October, and it’s a great place to learn how to surf too. 

If you’ve only got time to visit a select few islands in The Philippines, then I suggest you make Siargao a top priority. 

sugba lagoon
maasin bridge swing

5. Visit breathtaking waterfalls

I’m sure you’re aware that The Philippines is home to some pretty epic waterfalls. 

They’re all over Pinterest and Instagram and it’s no surprise why. 

Brad and I have seen A LOT of waterfalls since we started travelling, so it takes a lot for us to be impressed by one now. 

Well, we were impressed by many of the waterfalls in The Philippines for various reasons. 

I’ll take you through my top 3 that should definitely make your Philippines itinerary. 

1. Cambugahay Falls In Siquijor 

This waterfall is Bradley’s favourite, simply because it’s so much fun! 

This is a three tiered cascading waterfall with various levels, that’s honestly very picturesque (especially with a drone from above); but the reason people love Cambugahay Falls is thanks to the swings. 

You can swing and jump to your heart's content into these waterfalls and for adrenaline lovers, this is a perfect spot. 

Bradley and so much fun swinging into the water, that he went to this waterfall twice when we were on Siquijor island!

waterfalls in siquijor

2. Kawasan Falls In Cebu 

This is one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of The Philippines and it’s very popular thanks to Instagram. 

It’s famous for its pure blue water which honestly looks really cool. 

But, another reason Kawasan Falls is so popular is due to it’s canyoneering adventures. 

You can jump from various levels of waterfalls during a jungle trek and your final destination will be Kawasan Falls. 

This one of the most popular things to do in Cebu, so if you want to visit this waterfall without the crowds, you need to be the first one at the ticket desk. 

kawasan falls

3. Dagaman Falls in Bohol 

Bohol island is bursting with waterfalls and I’m pretty sure visitors are discovering new ones every year!

Well this waterfall was shown to us by a local, which made the experience even more unique. 

If you’re looking for a waterfall that requires a scenic walk through the jungle, offers stunning views and places to swim, AND gives you the chance to jump from a height, then this should make your list of epic things to do in The Philippines. 

Other great waterfalls in The Philippines that deserve a space on your bucket list include ...

  • Cambais Falls, Cebu 
  • Ingkumhan Falls, Bohol 
  • Lugnason Falls & Zodiac Falls, Siqiujor 
  • Nagkalit Waterfall, El Nido 

6. Explore some of the world’s most picturesque beaches

With over 7,000 epic islands, you would expect The Philippines to have some pretty amazing beaches … well the good news is, they do! 

The beaches in The Philippines are some of the best I’ve ever come across on my travels so far. 

There’s an epic beach seemingly around almost every corner, but to help narrow down your search, I’ll recommend a couple of my favourites beaches in The Philippines that should make your list.

Salagdoong beach, Siqiujor 

Not only is the water super clear and blue, and the beach clean and comfortable, this beach is famous for its dive board. 

It’s pretty high up and not for the faint hearted (i.e me), but Bradley had great fun jumping off into the beautiful water. 

There was once a slide that actually went into the water too, but this is no longer in use; I would definitely have used the slide!

beaches in siquijor

Nacpan Beach, El Nido 

Nacpan beach is without doubt one of my favourite places to visit in The Philippines and this is regarded as one of the top beaches in El Nido. 

It’s commonly regarded as the most beautiful beach in Asia, and honestly, it is. 

This beach stretches for 4 km lined with golden sand and palm trees. 

The water is warm, clean and clear and it’s an stunning place to enjoy sunset followed by a romantic beach dinner. 

You can even go glamping on the beach here, which looks amazing. 

Just writing about Nacpan beach makes me want to return! 

Some other beaches that I think are worth mentioning are the beaches on Coron mainland that often get overlooked. 

Coron island is packed with stunning beaches that you’ll discover on your island hopping adventures, so don’t miss out on Cabo beach and Bali beach on Coron mainland.

nacpan beach el nido

7. Learn to surf

Before visiting The Philippines, I really never thought of it as a surfing destination. 

When you think of surfing in Asia, my mind often wanders to Bali, Japan, or even Sri Lanka, but The Philippines is also home to some great surf, and some awesome surf competitions. 

The most popular tourist area to catch some waves is on the island of Siargao and you could spend weeks in Siargao surfing in all the different areas. 

But, it’s not the only surf destination in The Philippines, although the only one Brad surfed at. 

Other places include Surigao Del Sur, Guiuan and Calicoan Island, among others. 

You can discover even more surf locations in The Philippines right here

8. Go hiking

When most people think of The Philippines, they think of water and water based activities.

However, hiking is a popular activity all over The Philippines; and on some islands you can even hike up volcanoes! 

I’ll admit, Brad and I didn’t do too much volcano hiking on our Philippines adventure, but we still managed a few notable hikes.

One notable short hike we did was up to the Coron Hollywood sign which is located on Mount Tapyas. 

This offers a really cool viewpoint of the island, a great place to drone and it’s a unique location to catch a beautiful sunset! 

9. Relax in hot springs

Due to the location of The Philippines on the equator, it’s home to volcanoes; which results in some pretty cool hot springs. 

I actually love hot springs and if I know they’re in a country, I’ll hunt them down! 

There are hot springs in various locations across The Philippines, however some are actually too hot for people to bathe in, such as the ones located in El Nido. 

However, one set of really cool hot springs you can visit is the Manquit Hot Springs located on Coron mainland. 

These have been turned into a resort type destination which means they’re very well maintained.

They’re also VERY warm, so when it’s warm outside and warm in the springs, you can be sure you’re going to sweat! 

But this is definitely one of the more unique things to do in The Philippines and you should definitely make sure you visit when in Coron. 

manquit hot springs

10. Go snorkelling over untouched reefs

Without a doubt, the most popular thing to do in The Philippines is to go snorkelling. 

Before we went on our Philippines adventure, I was actually terrified of fish, but I’d always wanted to swim and see the coral and eventually learn to dive one day. 

So, I knew when I went to The Philippines I’d have to try. 

Well, by the end of the 4 weeks, I didn’t want to get out of the water and I am so happy I overcame my fear; because honestly, snorkelling in The Philippines is unbelieve and a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

There are so many chances to practice snorkelling, that I couldn’t possibly list, or visit them all in this lifetime! 

But, I will mention my favourites that allowed me to see amazing fish and sealife. 

  • Balicasag Island, Bohol: The Coral here was amazing, I saw thousands of fish, big and small and I even got to see the amazing nemo fish (real name, Clownfish!) 
  • Coron Island: I have to suggest Coron island as a whole for snorkelling spots, because the whole area is bursting with beautiful coral; some notable areas include the Twin reefs & Coral Gardens. 
  • Port Barton, Palawan: Brad and I swam with giant turtles here and it was bloody amazing! They’re such awesome creatures and having the chance to swim alongside them was a true bucket list experience. 
snorkelling in the philippines
starfish in port barton

11. Swim with a giant shoal of sardines

This is definitely one of the more adventurous things to see in The Philippines and it’s one of those random things created by nature that we get to enjoy. 

In Moalboal, Cebu, you can do the Sardine Run, which means you’ll be swimming with thousands and thousands of sardines.

Bradley did this, as it didn’t totally appeal to me, but he said it was really cool! 

We actually don’t have any great photos of it, because we stupidly didn’t bring our GoPro to The Philippines (honestly, one of our biggest regrets, don’t make our mistake), but there is a picture below which will show what it looks like!

Bradley also got to swim alongside 4 or 5 turtles when he was swimming underwater too! 

12. Go cave swimming

On the island of Bohol (and popular many of the other Philippines islands), you’ve got the opportunity to go swimming in caves. 

The water is clear, but it’s so deep that the idea of what’s underneath, scares me. 

We visited Cabagnow Cave Pool which was actually closed for swimming as they removed the ladder to help you climb out. 

I’m not sure if it’s back in business yet, but not to worry, there are a couple of other caves in the area that you can swim in as well, including Tibaw Cave Pool and Hinagdanan cave pool.

cave swimming in bohol

13. Take a river cruise

If you fancy a romantic or scenic experience in The Philippines, then why not take a river cruise down the beautiful Loboc River in Bohol?

This is one of the most beautiful and tranquil spots in The Philippines. 

Brad and I searched for the entrance point to take a cruise, but ran out of daylight; however, we did get to view this beautiful river from various viewpoints. 

It’s truly stunning, peaceful and a great place to just slow down and relax. 

On a Loboc River cruise you can also include a package that includes your meals and drinks on board. 

river cruise in bohol

14. Go on a dolphin watch

I LOVE dolphins; I think they’re adorable, beautiful and they are so smart. 

When we went on a Bohol island hopping tour, on the boat ride to our first destination, we were suddenly greeted by beautiful dolphins swimming near the boats alongside us. 

I was very excited, and it was a wonderful way to start the day. 

You can take specific dolphin watching tours if you wish, but we were just greeted by them on route, which was cool.

There are other places you can see dolphins in the wild in The Philippines including, the Bago-Pulupandan Area, Negros Occidental and Sarangani Bay.

It’s also one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Princesa Bay.

15. Experience The Full Moon Party

If you love to party, then you’ll be happy to hear that The Philippines offers some pretty amazing spots to let loose late into the night. 

You’ll find lots of nightlife opportunities in Siargao and El Nido, where they even host Full Moon Parties. 

El Nido and Port Barton both host monthly Full Moon Parties and, whilst not as epic as the original in Thailand, they’re definitely worth checking out!

Just make sure you add another day into your El Nido itinerary to help recover. 

16. Swim in some of the purest lakes in the world

As well as stunning beaches and incredible sealife, The Philippines is home to some of the purest and most beautiful lakes and lagoons in the world. 

One of our favourite lakes is Kayangan Lake, located on Coron island. 

This is actually known as the cleanest lake in Asia and I can vouch for that statement, it’s pretty darn clean! 

It’s also super beautiful and a really cool place to free dive because of how unique it looks underwater. 

Another one of my favourite spots in all of The Philippines is the Big Lagoon in El Nido. 

This stunning body of water is so pure, and an awesome place to swim, bob along or use a kayak. 

Closeby is the not-so secret Secret Lagoon, which is accessed through a small hole in the cliff-face. 

Just be aware of the hundreds of baby jellyfish that surround you ...

They don’t sting badly, it’s more like someone constantly pinching you! 

kayagan lake

17. Learn to dive

So, who goes all the way to The Philippines, an area famous for its diving opportunities, not just for fish and sea life, but for shipwrecks and more, and doesn’t learn how to dive? 

Us.

Brad and I never factored in the time to learn how to dive, but it’s honestly one of our biggest regrets. 

Not only did we miss out on some epic spots, The Philippines is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to dive….so...jokes on us! 

Anyway, we will learn one day and we will return to The Philippines! 

Instead, we had to listen to other friends we met there telling us how incredible it was diving here, especially around famous spots in Coron that are home to WW2 planes and shipwrecks.

18. Take time to enjoy the sunset

The Philippines is home to some of the most amazing sunsets you could ever hope to see.

I’ve mentioned many different spots that would make great sunset spots, such as Nacpan Beach; so try to catch as many sunset spots as you possibly can when you are there. 

Some of my favourite sunset locations in all of The Philippines include: 

  • Hollywood sign, Coron 
  • Paliton Beach, Siquijor 
  • Cabo Beach, Coron 
  • Nacpan beach, El Nido 
  • Santa Monica Pier, Siargao 
  • Alona Beach, Bohol 
sunsets in philippines

19. Capture breathtaking photos and videos

The Philippines is a photographer’s dream. 

Even if you’re not a professional (like Brad and I), you can’t help but take amazing photos because everything is just so picturesque!

One thing to note is that you should absolutely invest in and take a decent camera with you to capture your adventures. 

We took a lot of our photos on our Canon G7x Mark ii, which is a really good video camera as well, but we highly suggest you bring a GoPro with you because all the underwater footage you can capture will be amazing. 

If you’ve ever considered buying a drone, or have a drone, then this is the place to bring it. 

What’s amazing about The Philippines is that they actively encourage the use of drones. 

You can even rent them out in some places! 

There are endless, stunning droning opportunities all across the islands and you’ll witness some jaw dropping footage! 

Some of our favourite islands for droning included El Nido and it’s awesome island hopping opportunities, Coron, Siargao & Siquijor. 

port barton

20. Try the local cuisines

Filipino cuisine isn’t overly “fancy” and involves a lot of rice and beans; however, one thing that they do VERY well, is the epic Filipino beach BBQ.

If you go on any sort of island hopping tour in The Philippines, then chances are, your Filipino BBQ lunch is going to be included in the price. 

These are always freshly cooked with fresh fish, different meats, vegetables, rice, noodles and delicious fresh fruit. 

It’s truly wonderful and we loved each and every one of them! 

Also, Filipinos produce the best rum, ever. 

The rum in The Philippines is probably my favourite rum in the world and since it’s local, it’s very, very cheap! 

If you drink alcohol, make sure you try Filipono rum; we even had it free flowing on our Siargao island hopping tour!

filipino beach bbq

21. Get a beach massage

There’s nothing more relaxing than lying on the beach as the sun goes down and getting a massage. 

The great thing about massages in The Philippines is that they’re very cheap and usually very good! 

We did a beach massage on Port Barton that was super relaxing and great value, and I’ve seen them offered on Alona beach in Bohol, Nacpan beach in El Nido and many others. 

We even had one at the airport when our flight was delayed!

“350 PHP for a 1 hour massage, while we wait for our flight?” Hell yeah!

22. Swim with turtles

Swimming with turtles has been on my bucket list for years, and The Philippines provides ample opportunities for that. 

We swam with turtles in Port Barton (among other places), but in Port Barton it was the first time and it was epic. 

The turtles are giant, much bigger than I expected, but swimming alongside them was such a cool experience that I recommend to everyone. 

One of the most unforgettable moments we had in The Philippines. 

Bradley also spotted turtles in Cebu and our guide found some (but we couldn’t swim quick enough to see them) in Bohol; so there will be opportunities to swim with turtles all across The Philippines. 

snorkelling with turtles in port barton

23. Get to know the locals

Filipinos have a reputation for being friendly, and they totally lived up to that. 

They are some of the most friendly people you could ever wish to meet, always smiling and happy to help when they can. 

We chatted to lots of brilliant locals and on more than one occasion I was offered rum (one time it was mid-afternoon, I still said yes). 

As you travel through The Philippines, you’ll soon discover that they love their basketball and there will always be children playing basketball somewhere. 

Well, when we were visiting Siquijor, we spotted some kids next to our accommodation playing basketball and we decided to join in! 

We were nowhere near as good as them, but we had a lot of fun just messing around!

So don’t be afraid to get involved and have a chat.

locals in the philippines

Planning the perfect Philippines itinerary

If you want to fit in all of these incredible things to do in The Philippines, then you’re going to need an itinerary to follow.

Especially if you only have two or three weeks and want to squeeze in as much as possible!

Well, luckily for you, we have already put together an in-depth guide on how to spend 4 weeks in The Philippines.

our 4 week Philippines itinerary

In there, we give you the exact route we followed that took us to all of the sites above (plus more!).

We also offer a few suggestions on how to cut your route a little shorter if you have less than 4 weeks, but how to cram in as much as possible.

So there you have it, my ultimate Philippines bucket list!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it’s made you super excited to visit. 

If you have any more questions or suggestions on what to see in The Philippines, just drop me a comment below!

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