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I curated a short and fun list of activities and must-do’s if you’re planning to travel to the Philippines when the pandemic is over. I have already done some of these and I want to do them all before I turn 35. Or 30. Whichever is doable. I strongly suggest that you do too!
For a country of more than 7,000 islands, you will never run out of activities to do in the Philippines. From the farthest of North to down South, you will experience nature, people, and life. Despite being a third world country, I think it’s one of the reasons why the Philippines has a certain charm in it.
1. Island Hopping in El Nido
I am sure you’ve heard the same thing over and over about El Nido. And it’s all for a good reason. El Nido is a paradise! There are four standard island hopping routes that tour organizations must follow. I choose Tour A and C. I am not sure if they still follow the same guidelines because Palawan is trying their best to preserve the lagoons and beaches. But boy oh boy was my jaw dropped at every lagoon and islands we stopped to.
2. Surfing in Cloud 9, Siargao
Siargao wasn’t famous to tourists before except for those adventure-seekers who want to brave the big waves. It was a surfer paradise and it became known as that. However, in recent years, more and more hidden gems have been discovered within this tiny island and other nearby islands. Read and fall in love with my travel gallery of Siargao Island here.
3. Dive or snorkel in Apo Island
One of the top, if not the best, diving destinations for having a well-protected marine sanctuary. The island boasts of white sands and clear waters, but the treasure is found under the waters. The coral reef is tiny but with over 600 species of fishes, green turtles and other marine life.
4. Enjoy the food and drinks at Makati’s red light district
Burgos Street in Makati is known for its neon lights, hookah smokes, foreigners enjoying drinks, and massages with some bonuses hehe but I love this street not just because of its lively charm but also because of the good restaurants and bars surrounding it. The 50’s-themed diner called The Filling Station which serves all-day breakfast and beer is one of the most famous restaurants in this street.
5. Swim with Whale Sharks
My first solo travel was in Southern Cebu that has a spot where you can swim with whale sharks. Now as a noob traveler, I didn’t have much problem with it because they weren’t caged and were just being fed. I followed all the instructions like no-touching the whales or avoiding sunscreen. However as time goes by, I’ve realized that this activity is frowned upon because of the impact to the species and its habitat. If you don’t like the set-up in Cebu, I suggest you go to Donsol, Sorsogon. Here, the whale sharks are seen happily wandering their natural habitat without the feeding. Locals cannot guarantee you a sighting since they do not lure them with food, but there is a season when you get a higher number of chances to swim with them.
6. Dive deep down Coron
Coron is a great place for swimmers and divers. There are so many activities and sightseeings you can do underwater. Despite being too deep, Coron’s water is so clear that even while snorkeling I can still see the shipwreck in one of the diving areas. Kayangan lake was crystal clear that it was both fun and scary.
7. Get a tribal tattoo from the famous Apo Whang – Od
In the province of Kalinga, there is a famous old woman who is known for doing traditional batok (tattoo). It is said that she is the last one of her people to practice this art, but in recent years it’s been reported that she is passing the legacy to one of her granddaughters. I am not sure but I think Apo Whang-Od doesn’t customize designs. If you think a machine tattoo is painful, wait til you try this one.
8. Canyoneering at Cebu
This is what I keep trying to do but I got lured to Bantayan Island last November because I wanted to have a chilled birthday. Not that I regret anything, Bantayan is beautiful! But I always wanted to do something adventurous and cry a little before I make the leap.
9. White river rafting in Cagayan de Oro
Speaking of crying a little, deep inside I was so nervous and scared while listening to the safety precautions of the river rafting guides. One, if I can’t swim that good in salt water, I will probably drown in freshwater. Two, I keep imagining falling from the rat and hitting my head in the rocks. Three, a few minutes before we aboard our raft, it rained so hard the clear water turned murky and the river flow got stronger. I wanted to back out from the experience but since I was with a couple and two guides, I just said ‘F it’ and did it anyway.
10. Day trip to Chocolate Hills
A Bohol trip is never complete without seeing this wonder of landscapes called The Chocolate Hills. According to legends, two giants were fighting and throwing rocks, boulders and sand to each other. Overtime, this became the Chocolate Hills. I wish it was made of chocolates though. During the rainy season, the hills are covered with green grass which turns brown during the summer, hence the name.
11. Riding the ATV near Mt. Mayon
Mayon is an active stratovolcano renowned for its perfect cone-shaped structure. You can explore the scenic trails while riding an ATV around the area with a group of friends or special someone. Honestly, I would do it alone but I’m afraid I’ll get stuck somewhere. Mayon’s name comes from the name “Bulkang Magayon” which translates to beautiful volcano and the name doesn’t lie.
12. Eat Guimaras’ Mangoes
Guimaras is home to the best sweet mangoes in the world. Fight me hahahaha. Even Filipinos are crazy for it. For those crazy for fruits, this is one tropical fruit kind you shouldn’t miss. AT ALL.
13. Eat more exotic tropical fruits
Speaking of tropical fruits, you have to try the unique ones as well! Rambutan and mangosteen are considered exotic tropical fruits in Asia and can be found almost everywhere during its season.
14. Dance to street festivals
Philippine festivals are grand, flamboyant, colorful and over-all just amazing! If you happen to travel to a Philippine province and you’re lucky enough to visit on a festival month, then you cannot miss out on the street parades, neighbors inviting you for food, street dancing and the grand costumes you won’t see anywhere else!
15. Visit the tarsiers in Bohol
Philippine Tarsiers are known as the world’s smallest primate and a menace to insects and lizards because they are a great night-time hunter. Don’t let its size fool you! Like me, great things come in small packages. When visiting a tarsier sanctuary, always try to be silent and careful as tarsiers can easily be stressed out and climb away.