Philippines holidays: Fun and adventure await

written by Benedict Smith
updated 11/8/2021
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Few countries offer as many opportunities for adventure as the Philippines.

With a natural landscape that provides the perfect location for everything from hiking and snorkelling to kayaking and whitewater rafting, the Philippines has long been a playground for adventurous souls.

But it’s not all about hair-raising activities – a holiday in the Philippines is an opportunity to discover a whole new culture, cuisine, and way of life, with influences as far away as Mexico and as close as Indonesia.

What’s more, with the majority of activities taking place outdoors, you’ll have all the space and fresh air you need to feel safe on your travels.

Looking to get off the beaten track? Read up on beautiful alternatives to the most famous Philippines beaches — the best undiscovered Philippines beaches.

You can take reassurance from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travel Stamp, the world’s first safety and hygiene stamp for businesses that have adopted global health standardised protocols.

If you thought holidays in the Philippines were the preserve of sun worshippers and beachgoers, think again – more fun awaits:

Mayon volcano in the Philippines © oOhyperblaster/Shutterstock

Enjoy a floating lunch down the Loboc River

Filipino food is rich and varied, with a broad range of influences from both east and west.

Asian classics can be found on the same menu as traditional Hispanic food like empanadas and seafood paella, while adobo – which has its origins in Mexico – is one of the archipelago’s most famous dishes.

One of the best ways to enjoy Filipino food in all its glory is with a floating lunch.

Taken aboard a spacious riverboat, floating lunches are the perfect way to soak in the views, discover new locations, and sample some of the country’s best cuisine.

Although various floating lunches can be found across the Philippines, the Loboc River in Bohol offers an ideal location, with its wide channel, lush green banks, and overhanging palm trees.

In addition to slowly cruising down the river, there are also stops along the way where you can join in with some traditional dancing and singing, or simply admire the beautiful surroundings.

If you’d prefer a solo adventure without the lunch, the area also attracts a veritable crowd of paddle boarders, who can be seen skillfully keeping their balance as they edge their way along the Loboc River.

Loboc riverboat © Maxim Tupikov/Shutterstock

Watch dolphins & whales off Pamilacan Island, Bohol

No holiday in the Philippines would be complete without catching a glimpse of its diverse marine life – and dolphin and whale watching comes top of the list for most.

The calm, clear waters of Pamilacan Island in Bohol provide the perfect setting, where you can spot everything from killer whales to bottlenose dolphins.

The area has transformed over the years, having historically attracted whale hunters, who sold their catch as a source of income.

Today, thanks to a focus on sustainable tourism, marine preservation laws, and community education, the whaling boats are now used for the transport of visitors to dolphin and whale hotspots.

It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by travellers of all ages, with plenty to learn from the expert guides who not only know the best spots for a sighting, but also champion marine conservation.

The beach on Pamilacan Island, Bohol © Luis Gago/Shutterstock

Kayak around the islands of El Nido

With more than 7,000 islands and islets making up the Philippines, it would take a lifetime to visit them all.

However, for the ones you do visit, a great way to explore them is in your own kayak.

Kayaks offer the freedom that a cruise doesn’t, putting you in control of the itinerary and allowing you to discover islands at your own pace.

Among the best places to explore by kayak is El Nido in Palawan, with its serene, glass-like waters, limestone coves brimming with marine life, and gorgeous, palm-tree-studded beaches.

Also known as the “Last Ecological Frontier”, it is home to more than 200 endemic species, including the endangered Calamian deer.

Motorised boats are banned from mooring in El Nido’s lagoons unless issued with a special permit, helping to maintain the serenity of the area and protect the local marine life.

El Nido © Erwin Lim

Trek through the rice terraces of Banaue

Rice is a staple of many of the most well-known Filipino dishes, from arroz caldo to chicksilog – and the majority of it comes from the country’s spectacular rice terraces.

Built more than 2,000 years ago by the indigenous Ifugao people, the rice terraces have been crucial to feeding Filipino families for centuries, while becoming one of the country’s most iconic features.

A trek through the ancient rice terraces of Banaue is not to be missed on a Philippines holiday.

Taking visitors along the rims of the terraces and the mountain forests that link them, it’s certainly an activity for the more energetic of travellers.

But the views and unique insight into an important part of Filipino culture is endlessly rewarding.

A rice terrace in Banaue © Kim David/Shutterstock

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Trek through Masungi Georeserve, Rizal

Trekking is not only a great way of getting outside and experiencing the country’s natural beauty, it’s also a fantastic way to work up an appetite for delicious Filipino food.

The sprawling landscape of the Masungi Georeserve is a haven for keen walkers, with a three-hour trek that takes visitors along the Discover Trail.

Here, you will find lush vegetation, limestone rock formations, and the Philippines’ largest lake, Laguna de Bay.

For those who want to give a little back, Masungi Georeserve also offers the opportunity to participate in reforestation efforts by planting and nurturing trees along the Legacy Trail.

This allows visitors to leave a positive mark on their trip and ensure that the area is conserved for future generations of travellers.

Masungi Georeserve © Rommel Bundalian

Canyoneer in Kawasan Falls, Cebu

The Philippines is home to arguably some of the world’s most mesmerising waterfalls, with dramatic rock faces and foamy turquoise pools.

And while admiring them from the ground is a bucket list activity in itself, canyoneering offers an exhilarating adventure you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Kawasan Falls in Cebu provides the ultimate spot for canyoneering, where you’ll find yourself walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, and swimming in rugged yet blissfully peaceful surroundings.

It’s a great way to get up close and personal with the waterfall, while enjoying the heart-pumping experience of jumping into the cool waters below.

Kawasan waterfalls on Cebu Island © oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

Travel back in time in the historic city of Vigan

For more than 300 years, the Philippines formed part of the Spanish Empire and nowhere has evidence of Spanish rule been better preserved than the historic city of Vigan.

Located on the west coast of Luzon island, it dates back to the 16th century and is home to a unique intersection of cultures reflected in its exceptionally well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets.

The fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning earned Vigan UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1999.

Simply wandering around the historic city and picturing what life was like during colonial times is enough to fill a day.

However, there are lots of other things to do, from riding in a horse-drawn carriage to visiting the impressive old Bantay Bell Tower.

As you wander the traditional Hispanic checkerboard streets and plazas, it’s also a good opportunity to try the local cuisine, such as the Ilocos empanada.

This must-try savoury snack, which is a hangover from Spanish rule, is typically filled with vegetables, egg and longganisa, a sausage similar to chorizo.

Vigan in the Philippines © Daniel Andis/Shutterstock

Visit the Del Carmen Mangrove Forest of Siargao Islands

Covering an area of more than 4,500 hectares and home to 27 different mangrove species, the Del Carmen Mangrove Forest of Siargao Islands offers an experience like no other for lovers of nature and the outdoors.

Visitors can hop on a boat tour and explore the region, where they will be able to spot flora and fauna unique to the Philippines, as well as finding out about recent efforts to educate local communities about protecting the mangroves for future generations.

The expert guides will also make sure you don’t end up having a dodgy encounter with the endangered Crocodylus Porosus, otherwise known as the saltwater crocodile, which calls the Del Carmen Mangrove Forest its home.

Del Carmen mangrove forest, Siargao Island, Philippines © kudla/Shutterstock

Cycle through skies at Eden Nature Park

Enjoy jaw-dropping views while experiencing a bike ride like no other at Eden Nature Park in Davao.

Set in spectacular surroundings at the foot of Mount Apo, Eden Nature Park is a world of adventures in itself thanks to a range of activities, from ziplines to horse riding.

The undisputed star of the show is SkyCyle, a 200m cable spanning across two platforms which thrill-seekers can pedal along on a bicycle suspended 18m in the air.

As well as providing 360-degree panoramic views, the ride offers a surreal experience as you make your way over lush plains, with the treetops so close you could almost reach out and touch them.

For those who want the thrills without the legwork, SkyRider is the perfect option, allowing you to zipline along the same route while admiring the views out to Davao City and the Davao Gulf.

Or try SkySwing, an adrenaline-fuelled swing ride suspended 30 metres up.

Eden Park in Davao City, © Zea Raiza Pidut /Shutterstock

Find out what more fun awaits in the Philippines and receive safe travel updates.

Top image: A rice terrace in Banaue © Leonid Andronov

Travel advice for Philippines

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written by Benedict Smith
updated 11/8/2021
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