(I'm finalizing this article to be published in EYP. Please provide comments and feedback, please. :) )
The Philippines is starting to be discovered not only by foreigners but by our local tourists, thanks to the availability of cheaper flights and more bargain options for local travelers. I believe that the upswing in local tourism is also greatly influenced by travel bloggers and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In 2010, it is now considered cool to travel and explore locally. Boracay will retain its standing as THE ultimate beach party place, but local tourists will most probably look for something more special and exciting -- something new to discover and experience, a way to get to know our country a little bit more.
Here are the top 5 awesome travel experiences in the Philippines in 2010:
#1. Let’s Go To Palawan!
Palawan continues to be the number one local travel destination, not only because of El Nido (which has the best resort and best beaches in the Philippines), but also because of three key developments in the area:
First, in 2011, the Underground River in Puerto Princesa will be voted as one of the 7 New Natural Wonders of the World. Filipinos who have not been there will be encouraged to see it before it becomes a major global tourist attraction. It wouldn’t be cool to let people know that one hasn’t been to a natural wonder of the world that is in one’s own country.
Second, Coron will be touted as the new place to be in Palawan. It boasts of relatively cheap accommodations, a rural immersion experience, and the opportunity to swim in one of the cleanest lakes in the country -- Kayangan Lake. If you want to have a more luxurious experience, you can go to Club Paradise, El Rio y Mar, or the new Coron Gateway Hotel in the heart of town, near the market.
Third, the vision of Boracay 2 in Palawan will take form. A lot of the resort owners in Boracay have already invested in their own little islands in Palawan. Just imagine being able to hop from one island resort to another, each with sugar-like sand beaches with a breathtaking backdrop of limestone cliffs...
With an International Airport being built in San Vicente, Palawan will be the premier tourist destination in the Philippines. ☺
#2. New Lusso Escapes
The hotel industry is now discovering that there is a market for affordable luxury travel, even just among locals. Some people save up, join contests, wait for bargains like travel fairs, or exhaust any means possible just to be able to go to the latest lusso escapes in the Philippines:
Fundacion Pacita in Batanes is one of those places that you have to visit before you die. Its “Wuthering Heights” experience is heightened, especially with its rooms that have a terrace overlooking the sea, mountains and an almost-270-degree view of the sky.
Bellaroca in Marinduque is the talk of the town lately because of its Santorini-inspired architecture. It is literally an island escape, where you can just go and hang out with your family and friends and imbibe the Greek vibe.
Shangri-La Boracay is another good reason to escape to Boracay. It offers a different luxurious experience for your family and loved ones. For the people who adore Shangri-La in Mactan, they would love Shangri-La Boracay even more with its spacious resort and fun activities for the family.
#3. It’s Cool To Be In Bicol
There are 5 reasons why it is cool to start exploring Bicol in 2010:
1. It is one of the few sites in the world where you get to see the Whale Sharks up close in Donsol, Sorsogon. At the moment, majority of the international tourists in the Philippines only go to these three places: Boracay for the beach, El Nido Resorts for one of the best Green Resorts, and Donsol, Sorsogon for the whale sharks.
2. CAMSUR Wakeboarding complex has reinvigorated the tourism industry in this region. It plays host to international wakeboarding competitions and is the site of the Iron Man competition in the Philippines.
3. Caramoan Peninsula was the talk of the town in 2009. It was made famous when the French franchise of Survivor was filmed in Gota Beach. As part of the deal with the government, they developed the Gota Beach Resort, which tourists can visit during the off-season of Survivor.
4. Misibis Island Resort, managed by Discovery group, is one of the luxurious eco-park destinations in Albay. It is now the jump-off point for exploring Mayon Volcano, where they offer Lava Treks to see the famous landmark up close. (It is not a good idea to do it while there is a threat of an eruption.)
5. Calaguas Islands -- my favorite destination in Bicol, located in Camarines Norte. It is a bit far away, though. You have to travel across open seas to see the beauty of this undiscovered and undeveloped white beach paradise. You can join eco-adventure tours here. I think it will still be some time before we will see major investments in the island.
#4. Rediscovering the North
Baguio is becoming popular again, not just because of the cool climate but because it is gaining a reputation as a unique culinary haven in the north. The all-time favorite Café by the Ruins, the weekend buffets at Mario’s, the healthy restaurant of Oh My Gulay, Manor by Chef Billy King, and Honey in the Rock Cafe make a road trip to Baguio worth it. ☺
People have also started traveling again to Subic because the travel time is much shorter (about 3 hours) because of the SCTEX highway. Another reason for Subic’s popularity is that it has one of the best resort communities ever developed -- Anvaya Cove by Ayala Land.
For an affordable beach escape, Pinoys are flocking to La Union, Hundred Islands and Bolinao in Pangasinan. I think these are better alternatives to Puerto Galera. (I was never a fan of Puerto Galera because the boats traveling in that area are not sea-worthy.)
For the ultimate road trip (12 hours!), people prefer to travel to Pagudpud (rather than journey south to Bicol) because of the beautifully paved roads leading there. Pinoys have discovered the Blue Lagoon (or Maira-ira beach) in Pagudpud versus the main Saud Beach. Blue Lagoon got its name because of its clear blue waters -- natural raw beauty at its best.
A trip to Pagudpud is not complete without a stopover in Vigan for its heritage houses and its famous empanada.
#5. The Next Level of Adventure
If you have completed these experiences:
- You’ve been to the three white-water destinations in the country -- Chico River in Kalinga, Cagayan de Oro River, and Davao River;
- You’ve tried Camp Sabros’ longest zipline in Davao with Mt. Apo as your backdrop;
- You’ve conquered the Mapawa River Trek in Cagayan De Oro;
- You’ve climbed Mt. Pinatubo and saw the blue waters at the peak; and
- You’ve already surfed and explored Siargao
then you’ll be looking for the next level of adventure for you and your thrill-seeking companions.
This year, adventure-loving Pinoys can go on these escapades:
- The Extreme/Eco/Educational Adventure Tour in Danao, Cebu;
- Asia’s Longest Zipline (for now)-- the 840-meter dual ziplines of the Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon;
- Baler in Aurora -- the “Bali” Surfing destination in the Philippines; and
- Mt. Apo in Davao -- the highest peak in the Philippines!
There are only two types of Pinoys in the country: those who prefer to travel to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong Disneyland for vacation because it seems more economically convenient to do so, and those Pinoys who have fallen in love with the Philippines and have committed to discovering its beauty and hidden gems, proud to put local exploration before foreign travel. So, which one are you?
In 2010, the coolest resolution you could ever have is to Travel The Philippines First!
Live an Awesome Life,
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P.S. #6 Antipolo is the New Tagaytay. With SLEX constructions in full swing in 2010, it would take 2 hours now just to go to / from Tagaytay. Antipolo is becoming an exciting option because it is very near (1 hour with traffic) and new Art Places and Interesting Restaurants are opening in Antipolo.