The Ultimate Philippines Bucket List: 25 Places To Visit
The Philippines is a popular tourist destination found within Southeast Asia, and is well known for its beaches, wildlife and beautiful landscapes. If you are dreaming of visiting a tropical paradise once travel reopens to the world, then look no further than this incredible country. Imagine crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches lined with palm trees and endless activities for you to get stuck into. Some of the most popular things to do in the Philippines include swimming with whale sharks (ethically, of course), going on an island hopping tour and learning to surf as the waves here are pretty impressive. We’ve compiled a list of 25 experiences that you don’t want to miss during your trip to this beautiful destination, so keep reading to put together your own ultimate Philippines bucket list!
1. Go on an Island hopping tour
If you want to truly experience the Philippines, then an island hopping tour is the best way to do it! There are over 7,500 islands in the Philippines, so as you can imagine there are plenty of stunning places to visit. There are lots of different tours to choose from, and the spots they head to will differ depending on which you choose. If you have the money, you can even pay to go on a private tour!
Exploring these beautiful islands on a little boat with fresh coconuts at hand, is truly the best way to experience this country in our opinion. If you are dreaming of a tropical getaway once things start to go back to normal, we would definitely recommend this experience.
On our 10 day Philippines tour, we will head out on a boat that will take us around all the spectacular, tiny islands in the bay. You will explore the most beautiful islands and the bluest waters you have ever seen. Snorkel with your new friends and feast on the freshly prepared food on board. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is a must for any Philippines bucket list!
2. Snorkelling with whale sharks
Snorkelling with whale sharks is one of the best things to do in the Philippines, but you have to be careful where you do it and which tour operator you choose. As this experience is so popular, there are many companies that take advantage of this.
The Philippines is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, which is why the experience is so popular here. However, you can still witness and snorkel with these magnificent creatures in a sustainable way!
If you love wildlife like us and are looking for an ethical experience, your best bet is to head out of the tourist hotspots. Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte and Donsol Bay on the island of Luzon are two great choices if you want to be a responsible traveller (good on you!). They put the welfare of the whale sharks above anything else, which means no feeding, no touching, and no swarms of tourists queuing up for overcrowded boat trips.
3. Visit the beautiful Kawasan falls
If you’ve seen pictures of the Philippines, then we can almost guarantee that you will have seen Kawasan falls. These falls are found on Cebu island and are a very popular tourist attraction. In total there are three waterfalls to see, and trust us when we say that you won’t be disappointed. Kawasan falls are absolutely stunning, with beautiful blue waters and the surrounding jungle which you can explore.
There are plenty of different tours you can choose from to visit this spot, but you can also get there yourself either by bus or motorbike. You can simply walk to Kawasan falls from the entrance or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can pay to go canyoneering.
Moalboal is the best place to stay if you want to see Kawasan falls, as it’s only a 30 minute drive away and means you can get there early before the heaps of tourists. These beautiful falls are a must for any Philippines bucket list, so make sure you don’t forget your camera!
4. Zipline in El Nido
If you are looking for a bit of adventure and an awesome view, then going ziplining in El Nido is definitely for you! The zipline is located just above Maremegmeg Beach, which is more commonly known as Las Cabañas Beach. This is definitely an activity for the thrill seekers out there and we would 100% recommend it.
The zip line is 750m long, and as you go down you’ll get the most beautiful view of the beach, Depeldet Island and the bright blue sea. Whether you want to go down in superman style or a sitting position is up to you, but this is an experience that you don’t want to miss. Just be aware that there are health and weight requirements for this activity, so it’s best to do some research first.
5. Admire the unique Chocolate hills in Bohol
The Chocolate Hills are found in Bohol, and they are pretty impressive. There are at least 1,268 hills found here and there are some cool stories about their origin. Two of the most popular legends are centered around giants. The first legend is that the hills appeared because of two fighting giants who hurled rocks and boulders at each other. Once their fight was over it led to huge mounds and hills, which are the chocolate hills as we know them today. Another legend claims that a giant became heartbroken, and cried a lot of tears, which led to the formation of these limestone hills.
These unique hills are named ‘the chocolate hills’ because the grass on them dries up during the dry season and turns a chocolate brown colour; pretty cool right? They are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Philippines and it isn’t difficult to see why.
There are so many beautiful islands here to explore, so your adventure doesn’t have to stop after 10 days. We have 5 different add-ons which you can tag on at the end of our 10 day Philippines trip. One of these add ons is Bohol island where you will get to visit the Philippines Tarsier foundation, go dolphin watching and of course get to see these famous chocolate hills!
6. The sardine run in Moalboal
If you want a unique experience to add to your Philippines bucket list, then this is it. Found in Moalboal, the sardine run is something you don’t want to miss out on. Schools of sardines are found only 20m from the shore, giving people the opportunity to snorkel amongst them. Each school has roughly 1 million sardines, so as you can imagine it’s a sight to see. Their sheer numbers are mesmerising, and you will get to see them swirling and changing direction at a breakneck pace.
Moalboal is a small town found in Cebu and is popular for its beaches and scuba diving. The best time to visit for this experience is during the dry season which is between December-June as these months have the best weather conditions and underwater visibility. The sardines usually school off Panagsama beach, but if you can’t find them just ask around.
7. Visit the Banaue Rice Terraces
The Banaue rice terraces are found in Ifugao, Luzon. They were carved into the mountains over 2,000 years ago by the Ifugao people and are now a popular tourist attraction. These rice terraces (also known as Hagdan-Hagdang Palayan) were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 because of their incredible beauty. Apparently these rice terraces cover 4,000 square miles and their total length is estimated to be around 12,500 miles which is pretty impressive!
When a large number of the Ifugao people left to move on to more urban areas, the terraces began to deteriorate. In the 2000’s Banaue Rice terraces were added to the UNESCO list of ‘world heritage in danger’ and because of this, major restoration efforts were undertaken. In 2012 the rice terraces were removed from the ‘in danger’ list, and now sustainable tourism is being promoted in the area for people to come and enjoy this amazing place.
8. Hiking Mt. Pinatubo
Mt Pinatubo is found in Luzon; about 55 miles north of Manila. After being inactive for centuries; during June of 1991, the volcano erupted. First on the 12th June 1991, and then again, three days later on the 15th June 1991. These explosions produced a column of smoke and ash over 40km high, and left 100,000 people homeless. People fled the area and were then placed into evacuation areas. The eruption caused 300 deaths, and in the weeks after the eruption hundreds more died as a result of disease in the camps. Mt Pinatubo’s eruption was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, and had lasting impacts.
Today, however, you are able to hike up Mt. Pinatubo. The journey usually consists of an hour long jeep ride, and a hike up to the crater lake. The hike is roughly 5.5km to the top and takes about 2-3 hours depending on your fitness level. You can either visit Mt. Pinatubo as part of a tour, or you visit by yourself. If you are wanting to head there on your own, you’ll need to head up to Santa Juliana Capas Tarlac Tourism Office. From there the tourist office will sort out the rest, and there are a few payments that you will need to make.
9. Explore the UNESCO listed Underground River
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is a UNESCO listed heritage site found in Palawan, and attracts hordes of tourists every year (pre-pandemic of course). The river is found within Puerto Princesa Subterranean River national park, and it emerges from the sea. However, because part of the river is tidal the park’s opening depends on the weather. If there is excessive rain or rough seas, the likelihood is that officials will close the park off.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is one of the new 7 wonders of nature and is the world’s longest navigable underground river. There are species found here that are endemic to this river system, including snakes, bats and swallows. If you are lucky enough you might even get to see them!
During our 10 day Philippines tour, we will take you to this UNESCO listed Underground River, and explore the 5 miles worth of caves and river by boat.
10. Sleep in a tent on the beach
The Philippines is the perfect tropical destination and if you are looking for unique accommodation, then you will have plenty of choice. If you are a fan of camping, then where better to camp than on a tropical beach surrounded by palm trees? Picture this – the sun is setting, you are sipping a fresh coconut with your toes in the sand and you’ve got your tent set up behind you for the night. You get to watch the beautiful sunset, fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing against the sand, and then wake up early to catch the sunrise.
11. Explore the beautiful Balabac Islands
The Balabac Islands are a group of 31 islands found in the Palawan province. A lot of these islands are totally uninhabited, and they are much less crowded compared to other areas in the Philippines like El Nido, Coron and Bohol. If you want to visit the Philippines and are looking to go off the beaten path, then take a trip to these beautiful islands. They are the perfect destination for island hopping!
People generally tend to go to the Balabac islands from Puerto Princesa. From here you can book a trip to these islands that will usually last between 3-5 days. Depending on your budget you can join a tour and pay per person, or you can spend more and book a private trip.
One of the best things about these islands is the amount of wildlife and marine life that can be found here. A type of mouse deer is found here; endemic to these islands and is known locally as pilandok. The crystal clear waters around these islands are also home to sharks, dolphins, rays and sea turtles among others!
12. Go dolphin & whale watching
The Philippines are a haven for marine life, and there are so many great places to see whales and dolphins. Some of the best destinations to see these incredible creatures are Bohol sea, Tanon Strait and Babuyan Channel.
The Bohol Sea is teeming with marine life; and is home to tuna, dolphins, whales and sea turtles among plenty of other wildlife. If you’re lucky you might even get the chance to see whale sharks, and manta rays. Not fancying a boat trip? Bohol sea is one of the most popular dive sites in the Philippines, so why not take a look at diving here instead?
The Tannon strait connects the Bohol sea and Visayan sea, with the best time to visit being between March and June. During this time you will be able to spot bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, pilot whales and dwarf sperm whales among other wildlife.
Babuyan Channel is known as a favourite spot for many whale and dolphin species. Humpback whales are even known to pass through this channel between February to April. Another popular spot is Puerto Princesa Bay where a number of marine mammals can be found including risso’s dolphins, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Bryde’s whales. If you love wildlife then whale and dolphin watching here in the Philippines is a must!
13. Snorkel and explore the World War II shipwreck of Lusong Gunboat
The shipwreck of Lusong Gunboat is found in Coron and is now one of the most popular snorkeling and dive sites in this region. The ship was one of 12 Japanese supply ships that were hit by an airstrike whilst they were anchored in Coron Bay. Lusong Gunboat then sank to a depth of 10m, where it remains to this day as a popular tourist attraction. It truly is an amazing sight, and you can dive down inside the wreck for an even cooler experience.
Just along from the shipwreck is Lusong coral garden which is a beautiful reef full of colorful coral and crystal clear waters. There are so many colourful fish here to see including clown fish, angel fish, butterfly fish and even giant clams!
One of our 5 add-ons which you can tag on at the end of our 10 day Philippines trip, is going island hopping in Coron. During this 5 day trip we will take you to a number of shipwrecks; one of these is the historic shipwreck of Lusong Gunboat. Afterwards, we will head to Lusong coral garden so If you have an underwater camera, then this is the time to use it!
14. Drive through the famous palm tree road in Siargao
The palm tree road in Siargao is a very popular photo spot, and everyone who comes here is desperate to get that amazing shot. Endless palm trees line this road, making it a pretty spectacular place. If you have a drone, then it’s the perfect way to see this amazing destination from above. Trust us you won’t be disappointed!
This beautiful destination is located on a main road, just 30 minutes outside of General Luna.
Many travellers hire motorbikes when they come to Siargao, just so they can drive through this tropical paradise. However, we must stress that this is a main road. Plenty of cars and motorbikes come through here everyday, so if you want to get photographs, please use common sense and look out for any oncoming traffic. As the road can get busy, we recommend heading here early in the morning, when the traffic is quiet. Not only will you be a lot safer, but it will be much easier to get those amazing photographs.
15. Look at the hanging coffins in Sagada
The hanging coffins in Sagada may not be what comes to mind when planning a trip to this tropical destination, but it’s one we’d definitely recommend for any Philippines bucket list! The Igorot tribe are found in the northern Philippines, and they have a very unique way of burying their dead. Once a member of the Igorot tribe has passed away, they are buried in hanging coffins which are nailed to the sides of cliff faces.
The common belief of the tribe’s people is that moving their dead higher, brings them closer to their ancestral spirits. This traditional burial is very important to the Igorot tribe, but they only take place every few years now. The elders of the tribe are some of the last practitioners of this ancient burial, with very few members of the younger generation following the tradition. If you do get the chance to see the hanging coffins, it is a very unique experience.
16. Wander through the SM mall of Asia in Manila
The SM mall of Asia is found in the bay city area of Manila. This mall is like nothing you’ve seen, and is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. It’s one of the largest malls in the world and has so much to offer aside from the usual retail shops and restaurants.
This mall has a two storey entertainment complex with movie theaters, an olympic sized ice rink and there is even a small amusement park outside. There is an indoor arena which hosts concerts and other events, and there are firework displays which take place on the weekends. If you have a free evening when visiting Manila, definitely take the time to explore this unique shopping mall.
17. Go on a canopy walk up the famous cliffs that overlook El Nido
This experience is a must for any Philippines bucket list! The canopy walk is located at Taraw Cliff, and if you walk up then you will get the most incredible view overlooking the bay and Cadlao Island. The climb takes roughly 30 minutes and is relatively easy, aside from the fact it’s pretty high. If you are looking for an experience to help you conquer your fear of heights, this is the one, because you’ll get a pretty amazing view at the end! Imagine getting to the viewpoint, and then seeing an endless view of the bright blue ocean and the limestone cliffs that El Nido is so famous for. You definitely don’t want to forget your camera for this one!
On our Philippines tour we will head up the canopy walk together and show you the best views of El Nido. This is something you don’t want to miss!
18. Go snorkeling with turtles
Swimming with turtles is an experience that is on many people’s bucket lists. These animals have been around for over 150 million years and they are so graceful. Being able to see them cruising along under the water and just living their lives is such a magical experience.
They are so many great places to snorkel with turtles in the Philippines, as the surrounding ocean has such rich marine life. Some of the best spots include Apo Reef, Apo Island, Moalboal, Siquijor Island and Port Barton. In our opinion off the coast of Port Barton is one of the best places to see turtles in the Philippines. There is a small area known as ‘Turtle Point’ which is well known for its sea turtle sightings.
However it is important to do this responsibility so it doesn’t affect the sea turtles. Make sure you keep your distance and don’t splash around as this may spook them. If turtles don’t see you as a threat they will often just allow you to cruise by as they move along. This magical encounter is definitely one for any Philippines bucket list!
19. Learn to surf in Siargao
Learning to surf can be an incredibly fun (if not a little scary) experience, and where better to do it then on a beautiful tropical island. Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines because of its towering waves, but also because it’s a great place to teach beginners. You can go surfing all year in Siargao, but if you want to experience the huge waves that this island is known for then it’s best to go between the months of August and November.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, there are so many great spots to surf in Siargao. Some of the most popular ones are Jacking Horse, Guiuan, Quicksilver and Daku Reef.
20. Relax in the picturesque Port Barton
Port Barton is one of the quieter destinations in the Philippines, but it is just as beautiful. In the past few years guesthouses and cafe’s have started to pop up, and the area is preparing for a tourism boom (post-pandemic of course). Although the area is becoming more popular, the best part about Port Barton is that it still has that local charm.
Some of the best things to do in Port Barton include going on an island hopping tour, hiking up to Pamuayan Falls or renting a kayak to explore white beach. If you are looking for a place that is more relaxed than many of the tourist hotspots, but still has plenty of amazing things to do, then this is it!
21. Sleep in traditional Filipino style beach bungalows
On our 10 day Philippines trip, after a full packed day exploring we will spend the evening relaxing on the beach and then will head back to our accommodation. Plot twist! You will be staying in a traditional Filipino style beach bungalow for the night so you won’t have far to wander.
You will get to watch the amazing sunset that Port Barton is renowned for, and then fall asleep to the crashing waves. Now you’ve heard about these beach bungalows, we know you’ll be adding this experience to your Philippines bucket list!
22. Go on a firefly tour in Puerto Princesa
Going on a firefly tour is one of the best things to do in Puerto Princesa, and is a pretty cool experience. These tours generally start between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, where you will get picked up at your hotel and then driven to the Iwahig River.
After you get to the wharf, you will head into the paddle boats with a group of people to watch the riverbank start to illuminate from the glow of the fireflies. The tours usually end between 9:00pm and 10:00pm and you will get dropped off at your hotel afterwards.
If you are looking for a unique experience in the Philippines, then definitely think of adding this one to your itinerary! There are plenty of tour operators you can book this experience with, so shop around and look for the best deal.
23. Search for Tarsiers in Bohol
There are plenty of incredible things to do in Bohol, but this experience is up there with the best. If you are a wildlife lover, then getting a chance to see these tiny primates for yourself is a must! The Philippine tarsier is known for its small size, and huge eyes that they use to hunt insects at night. Unfortunately, these animals are listed as an endangered species because of the threats they are facing.
Now the Philippine Tarsier Foundation has set up protected areas for the Tarsier to repopulate, away from humans and any other threats. Tourists can’t enter these areas, but there is a small sanctuary found in Corella where you can get a glimpse of these cute primates. This way, you will be guided through the sanctuary by conservation workers who will point out the tarsiers to you and explain the important work that they do!
24. Explore the beautiful Coron Island
Visiting Coron island is one of the most popular things to do in the Philippines. It is a tropical island found in the province of Palawan, and is part of the Calamian islands. Coron is well known for it’s beautiful beaches, shallow coral reefs and incredible dive spots. Whether you are looking for a relaxing break or an adventure packed holiday, you won’t run out of things to do here!
Some of the most popular things to do include boat tours around the beautiful Coron Bay, relaxing on Banana island and going swimming in the twin lagoons. If you are feeling adventurous you can even kayak around Kingfisher Park, go for a dive in Barracuda Lake to see the underwater mountains, or hike up Mt. Tapyas. Whether you enjoy relaxing on the beach or like to jam pack your itinerary with activities; Coron has so many things to do!
25. Visit Iwahig Prison
Iwahig Prison is found in Puerto Princesa and is one of the world’s largest open air jails. There are no concrete walls, only a wire fence and a single guard at the entrance. This prison is located over a huge area; 26,000 hectares in fact. If you are looking for a size comparison, that is twice the size of Paris! This prison is very unique, and allows tour groups to come in and learn about how the prison works, and what life is like inside.
This prison is very different to your typical prison and works to rehabilitate the inmates by offering vocational activities such as farming, forestry, carpentry and hospital paramedical work. Apart from maximum security prisoners, all inmates learn a trade where they earn an income each month. Part of this income is then kept in a fund for their release, so they have some savings for when they get out. The idea behind this is to rehabilitate and prepare prisoners for their release, in the hope that they won’t reoffend.
There are so many amazing things to do in the Philippines that you will be spoilt for choice. This beautiful country has so much to offer, and is the perfect destination for any traveller. These are some of the best experiences for you to add to your Philippines bucket list, but there are plenty more for you to choose from too!
If you are feeling unsure about which activities to do and how to book your trip, then why not look at our 10 day Philippines tour. We will organise all the activities for you, and you will get to enjoy them with the new friends you have made along the way! This will save you a lot of time and hassle, meaning you can just have fun and enjoy this beautiful destination. If you are dreaming of visiting the Philippines, then we would love to show you around!
Written By: Abbie Bevan