1) Learn to dive – The Philippines is home to some of the most diverse coral reefs and marine life on the planet. With a coastline of over 36 km, there’s an endless number of islands to base yourself on, when earning your PADI diving certificate. Don’t fancy going deep under the waves? Don’t worry the waters around the Philippines are just as good for snorkelers too and you don’t even have to go on a boat – just snorkel off shore.
2) Go trekking on the Banaue Rice Terraces – The Philippines are not all about beaches (although they do have some of the best in the world). Located in northern Luzon, in the Cordillera Mountain range, sit hundreds of miles of terraces carved into the sides of the mountains. The terraces are over 2000 years old and have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Trek the ancient walls alongside emerald green rice paddies to see the villages of the Ifugo tribes.
3) Marvel at the view of the Chocolate Hills – The Chocolate Hills of Bohol are quite a sight to behold – over 1,200 perfectly formed hills dot the landscape in shades of green and chocolate brown. The hills vary from 30 – 50 metres high and are thought to be made from weathered marine limestone on top of impermeable layers of clay. Legend has it that a young giant named Argo fell in love with a mortal girl called Aloya. When she died he cried and his tears turned into the hills – lasting proof of his grief.
4) Go for a spot of retail therapy at the world’s third largest shopping mall – You can’t go to Metro Manila without visiting one of its mega malls, some of the biggest in the world. The SM City North EDSA mall is the largest mall in the Philippines and third largest in the world, covering 424,691 square metres. Here you can choose from over 700 stores, 170 restaurants and 48 different food stalls. There are also 12 different cinemas including an IMAX.
5) Eat lunch in a waterfall at Villa Escudero – Imagine sitting eating lunch at a table that is in the middle of a waterfall? At Villa Escudero, a typical Filipino colonial coconut plantation, you can do just that. Learn about typical Filipino culture, then take off your shoes and socks and wade into the waterfall where you will enjoy typical Filipino dishes such as pancit noodles, grilled tilapia, garlic fried rice and puchero – beef with bananas and tomato sauce.
6) Visit a deserted island – The Philippines is home to over 7,100 islands, so finding one that’s deserted and uninhabited is not hard to do. Hire a bonka boat and local driver to go exploring with. Their knowledge of the best beaches and most secluded islands will be invaluable.
7) Try a halo halo in Manila – Halo Halos along with buko pies (fresh coconut pies) have to be the Filipino’s favourite dessert, consisting of crushed ice, evaporated milk, boiled sweets, beans, corn, fruit and sometimes ice cream. It is served in a tall glass much like an ice cream sundae. You’ll find them in many of Manila’s ice cream parlours and shopping malls.
8) Swim at the top of Mt Pinatubo volcano – Mt Pinatubo is the famous Filipino volcano that erupted on June 15 1991 killing over 800 people. It was one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century. Today, the crater has become a sparkling sapphire blue lake. A two hour hike to the top takes you through stunning scenery and you are rewarded with a lovely swim at the top.
9) Travel the Puerto Princessa Underground River – Take a boat ride down the world’s longest underground river on the island of Palawan. Recently named as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the underground part of the river 8.2km long and it is navigable up to 4km.
10) Visit El Nido beach – One of the most stunning and untouched beaches in the Philippines (although there are many) is El Nido, located on the northern tip of Palawan here you’ll find turquoise waters fringed by white sands and jade green foliage. Don’t leave before you’ve explored nearby Bacuit Bay, made up of 45 unique islands and islets.
By Esme Fox
Esme is a travel writer for various travel publications. She has travelled to over 40 different countries and lived five different countries on four different continents, including the Philippines.