Life is too short to waste on the usual day-to-day activities and meaningless travel. Over the 5+ years of exploring the Philippines, I've discovered the most awesome adventures guaranteed to make your hearts race and rave. These are the experiences that left indelible memories in my mind. I'm sharing these with you because these are the adventures that make the Philippines truly awesome!
1. The BATANES Adventure
This is one of the last places in the Philippines that has its culture and traditions intact. The people who live here are very proud of that fact. You can also still see the bayanihan spirit alive in their communities.
I love the 30-minute falowa ride from Batan to Sabtang Island. The falowa is a u-haul boat without any katig for balancing. It sways with the waves, which is safer for crossing the channel. People go to Sabtang to see the old bahay na bato that is still inhabited today. It is indeed a blast from the past. If you are adventurous enough, you can opt to try the 4-hour falowa ride from Batan to Itbayat Island. :)
The natural wonders of Batanes are awesome to behold, especially when you are in Racuh a Payaman (also known as Marlboro Country), which is a communal grazing land in the south of Batan Island. There are a lot of nature-tripping spots like the Vayang Rolling Hills and Valugan Boulder beach. But if you'd like something more laid-back, spend a day on the terrace of Fundacion Pacita, one of the best boutique hotels in the country. There, you can just sit and marvel at your 270-degree view of the mountain, sea and sky.
2. Palawan: Puerto Princesa, Coron and San Vicente
Palawan is indeed the last frontier. It's the place where we can start development with the right eco-mindset and sustainable tourism programs.
Puerto Princesa City is famous for its Subterranean Underground River Park, which will hopefully soon be part of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The city is also home to Ka Lui (one of the best Filipino restaurants in the country) and one of the best fresh seafood markets. The air in Puerto Princesa is noticeably different – more fresh, more clean. Plus, you can feel the pride of the Palaweños in every person you encounter.
In the northernmost tip of Palawan is Coron, which is known for its wreck diving spots, Kayangan Lake (the cleanest lake in the country), and one of the best island hopping tours that ends with a relaxing dip in Maquinit Hot Springs. The city is also the jump-off point for the Calauit Safari or a trip to the exclusive twin resorts of Club Paradise and El Rio Y Mar.
3. El Nido Resorts Experience
El Nido is the first resort that we fell in love with. Its eco-friendly practices are very laudable. Early on, they realized that protecting their natural wonders is the cornerstone of their success.
There is a debate on which of their twin resorts is better: Miniloc or Lagen? For me, I prefer the rustic beauty of Miniloc resort because there is a natural pool in front of it, with lots of fishes that are not afraid to interact with people. Also, when you are in Miniloc, you can kayak to the Big and Small Lagoons – a good way to exercise and one experience you'll never forget.
You have to pay an all-in fee, which includes the buffet food and all the resort activities. You can also go on an island hopping tour that will also take you to the sand bar behind Lagen (it was once the setting of a very private and romantic beach wedding).
The best part, for me, is that you can arrange to have an island reserved all to yourself for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't forget to have this unforgettable experience in Entalula Island, one of the best beaches in the Philippines.
4. The Northern Road Trip to Pagudpud
My first road trip was when we drove to Pagudpud for 12 hours. We didn't know how to get there and we only had an atlas to guide us. The experience was exhilarating – driving through one town after another, looking for the secret spots along the way. I can't forget the first time we saw the giant windmills in Bangui. We were just standing there, with our jaws dropped, as we touched those gentle, white giants.
On the way to Pagudpud, it's a must to stop over in Vigan to see the proud, old homes on Calle Real. In Laoag, don't forget to eat bagnet and empanada. When you get to Paoay, visit Paoay Church (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and dine at Herencia Cafe, which serves Pinakbet Pizza and Dinuguan Pizza. Make sure to set aside time to try the sandboarding adventure in Paoay. It's an awesome way to experience the sand dunes of Ilocos Norte.
Some travelers are already satisfied with just reaching Saud Beach and seeing the Patapat Bridge. But you shouldn't dare miss the best part of the trip to Pagudpud, which is finally seeing and swimming in the Blue Lagoon, with some of its immaculate beauty still intact.
5. The Southern Road Trip to Bicol
The roadside to Bicol is equally as beautiful as the road trip to the north. With a lot of food stops along the Quezon Viaje del Sol route, you can either dine at Ugu Bigyan in Tiaong, Quezon, or eat crispy pata in Candelaria. Most people stop over at Lita's in Gumaca, Quezon for cocido or sinigang na isda.
Like Vigan in the north, Naga is the progressive town of Bicol with a vibrant row of restaurants along Magsaysay Avenue and an active nightlife. I enjoyed eating kinalas in one of the secluded houses and getting my fix of Bicolano cuisine from Naga Garden.
On the way to Legazpi, you have to travel early in the morning to get a great view of Mayon Volcano. There are two great photo spots: the Cagsawa Ruins and Lingñon Hill Natural Park. At the latter, you have to hike all the way to the top where you can zipline with Mayon as your backdrop.
Don't leave Legazpi without tasting the best halo-halo in the Philippines – DJC Halo Halo in Tiwi. They now have branches in Legazpi and Naga.
Finally, there's Donsol. This is the place where you can interact with the majestic yet gentle whale sharks. Every summer, these giant creatures appear because of the abundance of plankton in the area.
6. Eco-Adventure in Bohol
Bohol is the eco-adventure tourism capital of the Philippines. With year-round tourism (because typhoons don't pass through here often), this is the best place for eco-adventure.
Our favorites are:
- the canyon swing and canyon zipline in Danao, Bohol;
- the 4x4 adventure ride through the Chocolate Hills;
- the Loboc River Cruise lunch;
- the Loay River Firefly Watching Cruise at night; and
- the Dolphin Watching tour on Pamilacan Island.
You can also choose your own beach experience here. There's the long, private stretch of white sand at Bohol Beach Club; the vibrant, bohemian vibe of Alona Beach; or your own, secluded beach resort. Any Bohol Adventure would be incomplete without savoring the healthy, organic food of Bohol Bee Farm. :)
7. Extreme Adventure: Cagayan de Oro - Bukidnon
Cagayan de Oro (CDO) is finding its niche in providing fun, extreme activities to tourists. It all started with its White Water Rafting Adventure. At first, there was just a Beginner route, then Advanced and, now, an Extreme route that goes up the CDO river.
Aside from that, Cagayan de Oro is starting to become famous for the Mapawa River Trek, where you go through 5 natural waterfall challenges. The first few waterfalls are easy because you just have to slide down the falls. But the best parts of the trek are the challenging ones – the 20-ft jump off the waterfall and the 65-ft rappel down the waterfall.
After CDO, most adventure seekers go to the latest adventure destination: the Zipline Park in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, which currently boasts the longest zipline in the Philippines.
Every second Sunday of the month, a lot of people journey to Malaybalay, Bukidnon to experience the Sunday Brunch Buffet with the monks of the Monastery of the Transfiguration. Some people opt to stay overnight in the monastery to pray with the monks as early as 3 a.m. Don't leave Bukidnon without eating steak at the Del Monte Farms and buying fresh milk from the cooperative canteen.
8. Kayaking in Tuguegarao and White Water Rafting on Chico River
No doubt, the best White Water Rafting experience in the country is in Chico River in Kalinga because of its wild beauty and difficult rapids. Before going on that exciting river ride, you can practice White Water kayaking along the Pinakawan River in Tuguegarao. You can also explore Callao Cave, known for the church built inside the cave's natural dome formation.
Tuguegarao is also the jump-off point for people who want to visit the pilgrimage site of Our Lady of Piat or to explore more places up north. Some go all the way to Sta. Ana, Cagayan to check out the supposedly haunted Cape Engaño Lighthouse.
The Philippines never runs out of adventures for travelers to experience. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring!
Live an Awesome Life,
Full Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. I'm not related to, connected with or compensated in any way by any of the establishments featured in this blog post. I'm not connected with, compensated by, or represented by any PR firm.
P.S. I'm looking for 2 more adventures to complete the top 10. Any suggestions?
P.P.S. This article is one of the awesome articles in My Awesome Life Book in 2011 (a Travel Log Planner). Since only 1,000 OAP friends will get a copy, I decided to share the article with all the loyal readers of OAP. :)
My Awesome Life Book 2011 (a travel log planner - collector's edition) - P599
It will be available in Mercato Centrale by mid-February. For any questions, please email me directly at email@example.com.