If there’s one attraction the Philippines is really famous for, it’s the beaches. Postcard perfect, idyllic, tropical paradise… words can’t explain just how beautiful the islands really are. As an archipelago with over 7,100 islands, beach junkies can choose from several dozen islands and beaches to visit during a trip to the Philippines, each of them with its own unique character.
In fact the country gained worldwide acclaim when Boracay Island was named as one of the world’s best several times over.
This award-winning island sits in the heart of the Visayas region and its powdery fine white sand and turquoise beaches are so iconic that its pictures have been used in postcards to depict the entire country.
Likened by many as the Ibiza of the Philippines, Boracay Island has a pulse that comes alive when the sun goes down.
Partygoers revel in the thriving nightlife scene. However, it is also a world-famous honeymoon, adventure, and family holiday destination simply because Boracay has so much to offer.
The island is a world-renowned kite boarding destination in Asia. Even though Boracay is quite developed, there are still several pockets of quiet beaches where travelers can get away for some solitude. You can also find very easily a Budget-Friendly iSUP.
For the traveler in need of some soul-searching, look no further than the islands and beaches of Palawan. Hailed as the last frontier in the Philippines, Palawan remains largely undeveloped compared to Boracay with many of the small towns keeping its rustic, provincial vibe.
Palawan is a haven for artists, soul searchers, yogis, and just about anyone who is looking to commune with nature. You’ll be able to disconnect from the commercialization and urban life.
Puerto Princesa town is the gateway to Palawan, from where you can continue your journey to the most famous beach destinations in the region: Coron and El Nido. Both have their own unique charms, although El Nido is the more remote and bucolic of the two. While both are slowly undergoing development it’s best to visit now while travelers can still experience the rustic tropical charm of Palawan.
Diving is highly recommended while traveling in the Philippines. It is much more affordable compared to other countries, making it ideal for novices. However, the world-class diving attracts advanced divers from all around the globe who come back again and again to experience the thriving, colorful marine life. In the Philippines, Cebu is hailed as a top diving destination and must not be missed. Moalboal is renowned for the unique sardine run among the other underwater attractions.
Sometimes, we travelers just want to go someplace beautiful and quiet. Ideally, a low-key scenic beach where you can spend hours relaxing. If this is your kind of scene, head over to Bantayan Island in Cebu.
You’ll find miles of white-sand beaches and you can look out onto an azure horizon.
Admittedly, there isn’t much to do in Bantayan unlike other beaches; not much to be said about nightlife and there isn’t any diving. But that’s actually the charm of it all – on this island you can come for pure, unadulterated rest and relaxation. It’s just a few hours away from Cebu and perfect for that “get away from it all” trip.
Many travelers understand that the Philippines is a gastronomic destination. The local delicacies have been featured in countless television shows and travel magazines. Dining is an integral part of the Filipino culture, all families see each meal as an important time to gather with friends, loved ones, and strangers alike.
This is evident all over the country and applies from breakfast to midnight snacks.
The food in the Philippines is diverse; much of the cuisine represents its historical influences. Geography plays a role too; as islands usually have their own flavors and specialties. Local cuisine has evolved over several centuries and the wide range of dishes found in the country has Malay, Spanish, American, Latin, and Asian influences integrated into the wide assortment of mouthwatering dishes you’ll encounter all over the country.
Vinegar is present in every Filipino home and is widely used for authentic dishes. Historically, vinegar was a highly valued condiment not just for its ability to enhance flavor but also for its preservative qualities which were needed by locals long before refrigerators made their way to the country.
Other popular condiments include soy sauce and fish sauce, oftentimes mixed with chili peppers and added as a flavoring. Many Filipino dishes also have sour notes thanks to the calamansi, a local citrus fruit. Some of these dishes include the hearty sinigang soup. Among all the local dishes, Filipinos are most proud of its adobo, served in chicken or pork varieties. More than a dish, adobo is also a way of cooking and it can be applied to vegetables too.
Being an archipelagic country, it’s no surprise that seafood makes up an important part of the Filipino diet. If you love seafood you’re in luck: in the Philippines it’s cheap and abundant.
Ceviche, milkfish, grilled squid, and shellfish are just some of the common varieties of seafood you can order in just about any Filipino restaurant. In coastal towns, island destinations, and provinces such as Boracay, Cebu, and Palawan, just about anyone can visit a wet market and obtain fresh sea food and request to have it cooked the way you want.
However, what’s truly notable is the Filipinos’ love for pork. It is an important source of protein and easily accessible; several kinds of dishes can be made just from one animal. These include the famous lechon, lechon kawali, sisig, pork belly, crispy pata, and many others that are available in almost every Filipino restaurant across the country.
Cebu became famous worldwide when Anthony Bourdain exclaimed that the best pork he’s ever tried was from there. So when you visit Cebu, you know the first thing to do. When it comes to dining out in the Philippines, the best advice I have to tell you is to approach it with an open mind. If you aren’t that adventurous, not to worry as every town has restaurants serving Western dishes.
For those that want to try something different, savor the local favorites available in each town. And if you love seafood you’re in luck: seafood is abundant and extremely cheap all over the Philippines.
Anyone who loves a great bargain will have an enjoyable time shopping. It is true that you can find almost all the international labels you love from back home in Manila’s glitzy malls, there are still many bargains to be had.
Seasoned shoppers know to head over to Manila’s market stalls which are famous for excellent bargains. In these places, particularly at the Fort’s Market and Greenhills Shopping Center, you’ll be able to find clothing, jewelry, furniture, toys, and house ware at a fraction of the cost you’d pay for them in malls. Some of the clothing are overruns or surplus but don’t be fooled because these are in very good quality. These places are great starting points if you want to shop for yourself or loved ones back home.
The best part is that you can haggle in market stalls. It’s easy to find local handicrafts made out of shells, mother of pearl, and other native products. Whether you are in Manila, Cebu, Boracay, or Palawan, souvenir shops are ubiquitous and you’ll be able to find what you need.
Filipinos enjoy having a good time – this is something you will notice wherever you go in the country. It is one of the largest consumers of beer in the world which says something about the people.
They will drink during good times and bad times. Budget travelers will be happy to know that nightlife in the Philippines can be fun without spending much. Ice-cold $1 beers are common, unless of course you venture into the luxury clubs where bottles of vodka are $300 a pop. Unique and tasty cocktails at speakeasies and bars are $3 up. In my guide I’ve listed down in detail bars and restaurants in the most popular tourist destinations in the country where you can savor quality drinks on the cheap.
Now that you know what the Philippines has to offer, the only thing left to do is to book your ticket. Booking your plane ticket ahead is always recommended although when it comes to accommodations, choices for the budget traveler are a dime a dozen. Travelers can comfortably stay in cozy hostels or mid-range accommodations that won’t break the bank.
There are several establishments to choose from in Manila, Boracay, Cebu and Palawan and you will surely be able to find something to suit your needs. It will take a lifetime to visit all the Philippines’ islands, so take my advice and go for the best ones. These well-known islands aren’t considered tourists spots for nothing.