Things to Do: Adventures in the Sun

The tropical climate of the Philippines and its spectacular beaches has made it a popular destination for tourists around the world, especially those seeking to escape the cold weathers of their home. The waters are filled with abundant marine life and teeming with biodiversity, making it a world-famous diving and snorkeling destination. Visitors have endless choices when it comes to accommodations; and although inter-island travel in the Philippines is generally affordable, there are also a number of luxury resorts in many beaches as well as backpackers’ accommodations to suit travelers with varying budgets.

The different beaches in the Philippines have unique characteristics, with something to offer for discerning travelers who have varying needs and wants when it comes to their travel experiences. While many go to beaches to relax, there are also beaches that are famous for its nightlife and party vibe, and among the most popular of these is the beautiful island of Boracay. For those that are seeking beaches that blend nightlife with scenery, other choices include Cebu, Puerto Galera, Negros Oriental, Puerto Princesa, and Panglao. Thousands of foreigners have made Philippine beaches their homes, after being unable to resist the lure and charm of the islands.

On the other hand, there are also many beach destinations if you are looking for a quiet, relaxing escape where you can just sit back, read a book, and still be treated to breathtaking scenery. These include Palawan, Camiguin, Davao, Pagudpud, Batangas, Batanes, Bataan, and Cebu as well. In many beaches, you will also find friendly locals who are more than happy to provide you with interesting bits of history and information, and even great secret spots that have not been published in many travel guides.

Apart from beach activities, snorkeling and diving, many beaches around the country are blessed with exciting landscapes and mountains where travelers can trek and hike. From simple routes to more complex treks, hiking is a great way to get a panoramic view of the coastline, and get some exercise at the same time. However, be sure to talk to a guide who can offer information of the trail, and bring along the proper footwear. Some resorts include these in adventure tours, as well as on trails that will tour travelers on the best of each island.

The rich flora and fauna endemic to various locations in the Philippines can also be seen in many adventure tours, such as touring Bohol and seeing the infamous tarsier, which is also an endangered species. Because the country’s landscape is very diverse and blessed with rich animal life that live in the mysterious forests and jungles close to many beaches, travelers also have the option of exploring these during their trips.

Apart from enjoying outdoor activities, don’t forget to refresh yourself by trying local specialties such as mango shakes and the “halo-halo” ice cream. Both cold chillers are famous in the Philippines and are available in many resorts.

Filipino Culture

The culture of the Filipinos can be described as a melting pot of Western cultures and influences. This is reflected in the family values, customs, habits, way of dressing, birth, marriage, and death customs, as well as language of the people. The most dominant influence is that of the Spanish, since they had the longest colonial period in the Philippines, spanning three centuries. The majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, also a product of Spanish missionaries who zealously went out and tried to convert the natives. Although Tagalog and English are the primary languages of the country, the Tagalog language has several borrowed words from the Spanish, including the way time is told. The Spanish also significantly contributed to Filipino folklore, literature, music, epics, and dance.

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Nature Tripping in the Philippines

The climate, landscape and geography of the Philippine islands contribute to its rich and abundant wildlife, and not to mention the diverse and unique combination of flora and fauna. Under the sea and on the ground, the Philippines is noted the world over for its wide varieties of mammals, plant life, marine life, and other animals. Half the land area is composed of tropical forests, and some of which are still virgin forests, which serve as home to some of the most intriguing flora and fauna in the world.


About 15,000 species of plant life can be found throughout the islands; a large number of which have medicinal properties and have been used since time immemorial by tribes and locals to treat a host of illnesses and diseases. Other flora are edible and have made their way into the Filipino diet, which are both delicious and nutritious. Philippine flora is also largely ornamental; many of which can even be found in the homes and gardens of those who live in the city.

The most popular tree in the Philippines is the coconut tree, which is also a beautiful tree that outlines many beaches and coastal towns throughout the country. Its fruit and the juice is a refreshing treat, and the coconut oil provides a number of uses ranging from medicinal to edible, earning it the nickname “the tree of life”.

Rice, the staple food of Filipinos, is commonly grown in the Central Plain of Luzon. The Philippines is also known for the best varieties of fruits in the world, especially sweet mangoes, which is also the national fruit. Among other delicious fruits of the country include pineapples, guavas, papaya, and jackfruits.

The Philippine seas are home to thousands of species of fish, two thousand of which are commonly eaten in the Filipino diet, including bangus or milkfish, tuna, mackerel, prawns, squids, shrimps, and shellfish. The forests are home to around 500 species of birds, including eagles, peacocks, parrots, and pigeons. A common sight in the rural areas is the carabao or water buffalo, which aids farmers in carrying loads and plowing fields.

The majestic forests, jungles, valleys and mountains of the country are not only known for being home to wildlife, but are also a popular destination for tourists and foreigners. The mountains and volcanoes provide an exciting adventure trail for those who enjoy hiking and trekking, and these types of activities offer travelers the chance to explore unknown and unspoilt areas. Some known locations for trekking include Mount Pinatubo, Mt. Apo, Mt. Mayon, Banaue Rice Terraces, Baguio, Cebu, Palawan.

Outdoor activities are a must in the country, simply traveling the Philippines is synonymous to communing with nature. Campsites abound the country from north to south, one can even choose to sleep outdoors when traveling to a beach instead of sleeping at a resort.

National parks have been established by the government to educate people and protect the delicate species that live in these areas. They are an ideal destination for sightseeing and learning. These include Palanan Wilderness, Mt. Isarog, El Nido Marine Reserve, Turtle Islands, Twin Lakes, and Mount Arayat.

Historical and Cultural attractions

The Philippines’ archipelagic nature has made it easy for conquerors and foreigners to try and inhibit the islands, the reason for its rich cultural heritage and history. They tried to establish trade routes and did business with locals. Ever since Magellan discovered the Philippines in 1521, other countries and cultures have tried to conquer the islands, and few were successful. Prior to Magellan’s discovery, archeological finds in Palawan revealed that people have been inhabiting the country as early as 50,000 BC.

For 300 years, Filipinos were under Spanish rule, the longest conquest in Philippine history. This explains the sheer number of Roman Catholics that exist in the country today, as well as the significant architecture and structures that are related to Spanish culture and tell of an era gone by. One of the most popular is the Intramuros or walled city of Manila. Other famous historical attractions contributed by the Spanish are the baroque churches, found in Ilocos Norte, Bulacan, Manila, and Miag-Ao. Filipinos today even still live by the values instilled to them by the Spanish, something still evident in many households.

During World War II, the Philippines was under the stronghold of the Japanese. Corregidor Island is a known historical attraction because of its significance to the Japanese era in the Philippines. Within the island one can find the famous Malinta tunnel and other structures that were used during the war.

The Chinese also had a significant presence in the country. They arrived in the 16th century, and many still live in Manila to this day. They were and still are known for their business sense, and visiting Chinatown in Manila can give one a glimpse of history and the many artifacts they sell.

Within Manila, there are many places to go to where one can get a feel of the heritage and culture of the Philippines. These include the American Cemetery, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Chinese Cemetery, San Agustin Church, Plaza San Luis, Coconut Palace, Roxas Boulevard, and Manila Bay.

Other popular museums which serve as treasure chests of knowledge and information include the National Museum of the Philippines, Ayala Museum, Lopez Memorial Museum, and the Malacanang Museum.

Cavite, which is just an hour’s drive from Manila, has a significance in Philippine politics and history. Kawit, Cavite, is where the country was announced as the Republic of the Philippines, right on the balcony of General Emilio Aguinaldo. His home is a national shrine and where tours are conducted to educate people about local history. The Aguinaldo home is also the site where the Philippine flag was unfurled for the first time. Other historical locations in Cavite include the Battle of Julian Bridge Marker, Fort San Felipe, House of Tirona, House of Andres Bonifacio, and the General Artemio Ricarte Marker.

With the country’s rich heritage and history, simply walking through the streets of old Manila can provide you with details and bits of the past, as history is still present in the way Filipinos live their lives.

Photo credit: PayManila.com

Top 10 Attractions

The Philippines is endowed with natural beauty: miles of beaches, white sands, turquoise waters, abundant marine life, lush mountains and hills, breathtaking coastlines, flora and fauna, and great tropical weather to enjoy it all with. The Philippines’ beautiful 7,107 islands are truly a pride of the locals, and enjoyed by visitors who come from all corners of the globe.

1. Boracay – Located in Western Visayas, the island of Boracay has been a favorite holiday getaway for Filipinos; and because of its popularity and reputation for being the finest beach in the world, has also been a much-loved destination for foreigners. Developments on the island now offer visitors complete amenities and endless choices when it comes to food, accommodations, and beach activities. One aspect that makes Boracay particularly popular is its nightlife. The island seems to come alive at night, with every bar and restaurant pulsating with music, rhythm, and a generally pleasant atmosphere.

2. Tagaytay – Just 37 miles south from the country’s capital of Manila, Tagaytay is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, especially during the summer because of its high altitude. Tagaytay has clean air, a crisp, cool climate, abundant greens, and a wide array of delicious restaurants and comfortable accommodations. The highlight of visiting Tagaytay is the spectacular view of the Taal volcano, which is situated within Taal Lake. Popular activities include picnics, horseback riding, and golf.

3. Bohol – Situated in Central Visayas, Bohol is a popular destination; it combines the best of beaches, natural beauty, as well as historical and cultural attractions. Many historical structures and churches dating back to the time of the Spanish colonial period have been well preserved. Apart from its white sand beaches, other must-sees in Bohol include the Chocolate Hills, which is probably the most notable tourist attraction of the province; its magnificent waterfalls, and the Bilar Mahogany Forest.

4. Camiguin – Camiguin lies in the northern area of Mindanao. The small island province is small enough that one can tour its perimeter by car in one day. It is known for several attractions, such as the White Island, a tiny patch of white sand and clear waters which is just a few minutes away by bangka. Camiguin, being a volcanic island, also boasts of 7 volcanoes. One can never run out of things to enjoy in the island, with its Sunken Cemetery, which is especially majestic during sunset; breathtaking waterfalls, cold and hot natural springs. Historical attractions also abound, such as Old Catarman Church Ruins, and the Stations of the Cross.

5. Baguio – Located in northern Luzon, Baguio is a favorite getaway during summer for its cool weather. It has been highly developed and boasts of numerous cozy inns, but has also preserved its historical attractions. Visitors of Baguio are treated to sunny mornings, cool afternoons, and chilly nights, which many find to be romantic. Coffee in Baguio is exquisite, and the food is wonderful. There are a number of outdoor activities to enjoy, such as picnicking and horseback riding, as well as attractions such as the Burnham Park, Session Road, Baguio Cathedral, Mines View, Wright Park, Baguio Botanical Garden, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, Lourdes Grotto, Asian Hot Springs, Bell Church, Wood Carver’s Village, and the Easter Weaving Room.

6. Siargao Island – Located in Surigao del Norte, Siargao Island is a favorite destination of local and foreign surfers, giving it the nickname of Surfing Capital of the Philippines, and hosts a number of surfing competitions every year. Apart from surfing, the tear shaped island of Siargao also has white sand, coconut-tree lined beaches, a sand bar, lush jungles, and a very relaxing atmosphere. Popular activities aside from surfing include caving, fishing, kayaking, island tours, and boat trips.

7. Pagudpud – The sleepy little coastal town of Pagudpud is situated in northwest Luzon. Here you won’t find a highly developed resort area; but rather, many nipa huts, little stores, and stretches of glorious coastlines and spectacular beaches that are ideal for camping. Instead of hotels, Pagudpud offers a number of affordable inns that make it easy for any tourist to commune with nature. Because of the town’s remoteness, Pagudpud is an ideal destination for tourists who want to enjoy the beauty of Philippine nature in isolation, probably shared with a few other campers.

8. El Nido – Located in Palawan in Western Visayas, El Nido possesses majestic natural formation and spectacular beaches that have intrigued and enticed tourists. It also has extremely diverse ecosystems, white sand beaches, limestone cliffs, abundant marine life, rainforests, and breathtaking, mysterious lagoons. The sleepy province of El Nido offers a range of accommodations, but the islands also have five star exclusive hotels. Boating is a popular activity and mode of transport, as the region has countless islands waiting to be discovered. El Nido is also a preferred destination of divers for its stunning marine life.

9. Dumaguete – Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental boasts of the best of historical and natural attractions. The city was significant during historical times, and the Japanese Imperial Forces occupied the city during World War II. Over the years, people from other countries have been unable to resist the charm of the city and have made it their home. The Rizal Boulevard is especially charming during sunset, as one can watch people from all walks of life. Other popular attractions include Silliman University, Twin Lakes, Apo Island, Dolphin Watching, and the Sugar Mills.

10. Sorsogon – Situated in the province of Bicol, in Sorsogon you will encounter probably one of the most unforgettable experiences possible in the Philippines – swimming with whale sharks. These gentle giants have long called the Bicol province their home, enthralling thousands who have come to swim alongside them, many who claim the experience is “surreal”. Apart from this, Sorsogon offers a plentitude of choices when it comes to exploring the island, which include Bulusan Lake, Rizal Beach, Bacon Beach, Paguriran Island, Pagol Beach, and Sta. Magdalena. Many beaches here have affordable resorts, and are also scenic and idyllic, a choice location for campers.