If I was planning my next trip to Asia, the Philippines would be at the top of my list. Not only is it a gorgeous country full of beautiful cities, shorelines and culture, I have some family connections there too. My aunt and two cousins are from Manila, and I always hoped to visit to see where they grew up. I also wouldn’t mind learning a little bit of the Tagalog language!
With this said, I’ve put together a mini dream itinerary I hope to fulfill someday through research, tips from friends and fellow travel writers. If YOU’VE been to the Philippines do let me know your favorite things about the islands too.
When we dip a toe into a new destination, we often like to have something organized for us an as introduction to the place. An El Nido tour package would make the most sense if visiting the Philippines for the first time. This is especially true if in a group with kiddos in tow, and if you want to focus on the islands.
Getting to the Philippines
Flying to the capital of Manila is most likely your best bet when traveling from any other destination with a crew. Philippine Airlines is a great option for international and domestic flying, but there’s lots of carriers to choose from. Due to the islands all offering different experiences, traveling by boat or small plane works well when wanting to see several different spots. And of course, try the fun and colorful transport in the Philippines via tuk tuk or jeepney.
Start in the capital city
There’s a bunch to see and do in Manila before you hit the beach!
History buffs will enjoy a visit to the 16th century San Agustin Church and museum, dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or, check out the famous Fort Santiago, built in 1571. Have a stroll down scenic Manila Bay. Or, take a break from the hubbub and see Rizal Park, which is also where the Philippines officially declared independence. Grab a few more essentials at one of the mega malls or markets scattered throughout the city too.
Eat your way around the islands
OK one more mention before the beaches. Filipino food is fantastic, fresh and full of flavor. While traveling there, I can’t wait to sample some specialties. The cuisine is a famous take on fusion, garnering inspiration and tradition from former America, and Spanish occupation as well as Chinese immigration.
Lumpia is popular everywhere as a crispy spring roll, as well as rolls made with plantains and bananas. Classic adobo is stewed meat with soy sauce and vinegar over rice. And it would be great to try lechon, or roasted pig.
Filipinos do dessert well too, from creamy coconut pie to halo-halo. Halo-Halo is hard to describe. Oftentimes, it includes a ton of yummy ingredients, including kidney beans, jackfruit, tapioca, ice cream, shaved ice and more!
Time to seize the sun
There are literally thousands of islands that make up the Philippines; many of which aren’t occupied or named. I found it almost impossible to choose which ones to see on one trip, because there’s dozens of choices for idyllic escapes.
If I was to finally learn how to surf, I’d make a beeline to Siargao. Known fun waves and a laid-back surf style. Non-surfers though will like the resorts, restaurants and waterfalls as well to find all over the island.
Palawan is one of the most beautiful islands in the country. Actually, it was even voted one of the most gorgeous islands in all of Asia. Perfect blue waters, cozy lagoons and limestone cliffs make for ideal scenery around every corner.
Even though I’m feeling a little old for party islands, I’d still like to check out the scene in Boracay someday. Its craziness has (fortunately) toned down in recent years to preserve its natural beauty. But it’s still a chic and luxurious place to unwind.
Seasonal Philippines wishlist
Not only is the food and destinations divine, the Philippines also throws some amazing annual parties I’d love to experience someday with my family. In January there is the colorful Ati-Atihan festival In Kalibo and the more religious Sinulog festival in Cebu. In April, there’s also a wild mango eating challenge and street dancing in Zambales. This is only a few of the dozens of yearly festivals to take part in across the country.
Have you been to the Philippines? Tell us!