In Travel

A Primer On Island-Hopping Through The Philippines

A different island for each travel style.

While Southeast Asia has always been popular with Aussies looking for an amazing holiday destination, the Philippines and its 7,500-plus islands are quickly becoming the next ‘must see’ destination.

From jaw dropping UNESCO World Heritage Sites to some of the best diving locations, tropical beaches, incredible cuisine and all kinds of shopping, there’s something to offer every style of traveller. Need help choosing which island is best for you? Here are seven incredible ones to get your started. Can’t pick just one? Luckily, these islands are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive to travel among.

For shopping: Manila

Manila Photo: Eric-Beltran

This central city mixes the capital’s historic Spanish influence with plenty of modern urban developments. Manila is the gateway to all other islands and it a great spot to start or finish your holiday. Full of cultural attractions and nightlife options, it’s one of the best places to discover Filipino cuisine at iconic restaurants such as Abe serving up local favourites (there’s a few around the city).

If shopping is your thing, Manila is arguably Asia’s most inexpensive luxury shopping. Full of mega-malls, the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay is more than a kilometre long and includes an Olympic sized ice-skating rink and enough shops to keep you browsing the entire day. Manila also offers plenty of markets for bargain hunters too. History buffs will love the medieval walled city of Intramuros where a horse and cart can transport you down streets leading to historic churches, dungeons and ruins.

For beaches: Boracay

Boracay Island Photo: Philippines

It might be a small island, but Boracay packs a punch in the tropical paradise department. By day, there’s a chilled out barefoot vibe where activities such as windsurfing, sailing, snorkelling, kayaking, beach barbecues and cocktail drinking are sure to keep you busy. By night, the beach bumming steps it up with plenty of party hopping, clubbing and countless opportunities to dance the night away.

Even with it’s party island reputation, Boracay is kid-friendly with plenty of activities for kids including banana boat rides, coconut boat regattas and even hermit crab races.

For exploring: Cebu

This island province is the country’s oldest city and likely the second only to Manila when it comes to urban buzz. Cebu offers an abundance of historical attractions, cultural experiences and nightlife options, but what you’ll also find here is some of the most famous diving grounds you’ll get anywhere in the world. Full of underwater ship wrecks to explore, the sites of Mactan, Malapascua, Moalboal, Pescador and Badian are undoubtedly on every diver’s wish lists.

For naturalist: Palawan

Coron Island in Palawan Photo: Nelson Corbett

A natural wonderland, this archipelago is made up of more than 1,780 little islands and inlets. Everything about Palawan is extraordinary, from its contrasting landscape of rugged mountains to lush forests, mangrove swamps to its white sandy beaches. It’s also here you’ll find a menagerie of wildlife that you’d expect to find on an African safari. Here you’ll find giraffes and zebras happily existing alongside civets and anteaters.

Not to mention the abundance of sea life waiting to be explored on World Heritage reefs and a bird sanctuary where a wide host of colourful species take refuge. What’s even more remarkable about Palawan are the Tabon Caves. With their series of chambers, here is where the 22,000-year-old Tabon Man and stone age artefacts were discovered. Exploring or spelunking at Ugong Rock is a must- do!

For adventure: Bicol

Whaleshark Swim in Bicol Photo: Supplied

Up for an itinerary full of something exciting every day? If you’re the type who simply can’t sit still, the Bicol region is perfect for you. Here you can climb the majestic and volcanic Mount Mayon, investigate an underwater Spanish Galleon wreck off Santo Domingo Albay, win Instagram with the world’s best selfies at any of the waterfalls you’ll find here.

There’s zip lining, helicopter sightseeing, world-renowned surfing spots, incredible snorkelling locations and it one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with the whale shark when you can swim with them from February until May.

For culture: Baguio & Banaue

With a cooler climate, the northern mountain areas of this area are bursting with all kinds of spectacular scenery (think rugged pine forests and rice terraces sitting next to tumbling waterfalls and you get the idea). It’s also the perfect place to explore museums such as the BenCab Museum owned by Benedicto Cabrera, one of the areas most well known artists.

The Bontoc museum has a remarkable collection of tribal artefacts and a cave with Kabayan mummies. Who said museums were boring?

For thrillseeking: Davao

Zip lining in Davao Photo: Rudy Liwanag

This region is certain to get your adrenaline pumping with everything from climbing, biking, caving, ziplining, white water rafting and so much more. You can zipline ay Outland Adventure Camp, with its kilometre long zipline 60 metres above group, the longest and fastest in Asia, all with Mt Apo (the highest mountain in the Philippines) as your backdrop.

No matter what type of travel itinerary you choose, you’ll be finishing each day feeling it was time well spent. My suggestion is doing it all over a well-earned beer which is only (roughly) 1AUD.

Published 07 March, 2018