20 Unique & Exciting Things to Do in The Philippines (+Travel Tips)

There are plenty of unique and exciting things to do in the Philippines. Read on to discover all the things you could do in this beautiful country, and get ready to plan your next adventure!

Written by Marijim Dy Timkang | Edited by Bianca Versoza

The Philippines is known to be one of the best tropical destinations for those looking to dip their toes into crystal-clear waters and white, sandy beaches. Don’t be fooled into thinking that those are all it could offer, though. There are plenty of unique and exciting things to do in the Philippines. Read on to discover all the things you could do in this beautiful country, and get ready to plan your next adventure!

Top 20 Unique and Exciting Places to Visit in the Philippines

Whether it’s your first time in my country or you’ve already fallen in love with our tropical paradise, here are more things to do during your stay in the Philippines!

1. Pottery in Tibiao, Antique

Unless you have family in Antique, this little town doesn’t immediately come to mind when we talk about tourist destinations. Nonetheless, it’s a must-visit if you want to do something different and challenging — pottery.

Bandoja, formerly known as Lupa-an, is a Tibiao barangay rich in clay reserves. This place is known for its production of earthenware, which locals create using traditional methods passed down through generations.

When you arrive in the area, you’ll be given a quick tour of the place. Then, you’ll be shown the basics of working on the wheel, including centering, lifting, and turning. Afterward, you’ll be given the chance to make something yourself, such as a cup or a vase.

It might sound straightforward on paper, but the experience will truly give you a deeper appreciation for the art of pottery and the hard work that goes into creating each piece. Don’t miss the chance to explore this hidden gem of a town and try your hand at crafting your own pottery masterpiece. 

2. Surfing in Calicoan Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar

When it comes to surfing, most people immediately think of famous spots like Siargao or La Union. But there is a hidden gem in Eastern Samar that’s becoming more well-known in the surfing community — Calicoan Island.

Nestled within the Municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, this island is home to ABCD Beach, which is known for having the best surfing breaks and left-handler waves, catering to surfers of all skill levels.

Calicoan is a great destination if you’re tired of the crowded surf spots. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and make new friends along the way. You can reach the island from Tacloban by a three-hour bus ride.

3. Savoring fresh oysters in Iloilo

Iloilo is home to different historical churches, with the Miag-ao Church recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also has a lot of heritage houses and mansions built during the Spanish era, like the Molo Mansion and Casa Mariquit, to name a few.

Aside from its beautiful structures, Iloilo is also a must-visit for foodies. I’ll always remember the first time I tried oysters in the coastal city. They were incredibly fresh and flavorful. Moreover, they pack such a powerful sense of place that they reflect the island’s rich marine bounty.

Make sure to visit the famous Tatoy’s Manukan or any seaside seafood restaurant to enjoy Iloilo’s cheap and delicious oysters. Apart from oysters, you can also indulge in other seafood delicacies like scallops, crabs, and prawns.

The local markets always have an array of fresh catches every morning. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the city’s delicious treasures from the sea.

4. Discovering Coron

While Coron is a top beach destination, you can find other unique and beautiful things to do in Palawan. No trip to the Philippines is complete without visiting the beautiful Kayangan Lake.

It’s a freshwater lake with underwater rock formations and caves that will leave you in awe. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting the stunning islands of Palawan.

Kayangan Lake is only accessible by boat — either by joining a group tour or hiring a boat for a private tour. As you arrive, you’ll have to cross a wooden walkway, giving you a stunning view of Coron.

Despite being a popular destination, the lake still maintains an untouched and wild atmosphere, thanks to the conservation efforts of the local Tagbanua tribe. These indigenous guardians work hard to protect the lake, preserving its beauty for future generations.

As you dive into the water, keep in mind that you’re not merely a visitor but an active participant in protecting this pristine natural wonder. Respect the rules and heed your guide’s instructions to keep yourself and everyone with you safe.

5. Tubbataha Reef diving in Palawan

Tubbataha Reef in Palawan is considered one of the top diving spots in the Philippines and perhaps the world. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was nominated as part of the “New Seven Wonders of the Natural World.”

Located at the heart of the Sulu Sea, it is regarded as a center of marine biodiversity and a haven for both divers and marine conservationists. There, you can find reef sharks, manta rays, Napoleon wrasses, and more than half of all the world’s coral species.

The only way to get to this marine sanctuary is through a liveaboard vessel from Puerto Princesa, Palawan. It is quite challenging to get there, and it requires months or even years of planning, but experiencing the staggering wealth underneath is more than worth it.

6. Trekking Batad Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces is another must-see destination when looking for unique and exciting things to do in the Philippines. Batad, near Banaue, is an Ifugao village where one can find a high rice field that is over 2000 years old.

Nothing is more breathtaking than waking up to the sight of the amphitheater-like rice terraces. But don’t just look and admire; hike and trek the rice terraces and experience the natural beauty first-hand.

Walking through the narrow pathways and stone steps proves to be an immersive experience that lets you marvel at the intricate design and hard work put into creating these terraces. The picturesque landscape also showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Ifugao people.

It’s hard to pick the best season to travel to Batad. The place is so spectacular that it’s worth visiting at any season. Just make sure to watch out for slippery steps when venturing through the rice terraces during the rainy months from August to October.

7. Chasing sunsets in Siquijor

Known as the magic island of the Philippines, Siquijor is a relatively small town that’s easy to navigate. The place is one that you visit first before you realize just how wonderful this gem of an island is. The sunsets are magical, and the night sky is magnificent.

Siquijor promises a more laid-back experience than most islands in the Philippines. You can stay by the coast and enjoy the tranquility it offers. Use this time for meditation and introspection for rejuvenation.

Aside from its natural charm, one of the island’s highlights is its mystical reputation, which is believed to be home to healers and sorcerers. There’s no need to be scared, though, as the locals are welcoming and hospitable.

If you’re ever in Cebu or Dumaguete, make sure to drive to the port and catch a ferry to Siquijor.

8. Scuba diving in Malapascua

Speaking of visiting Cebu, you’ll want to try scuba diving in Malapascua. This little island getaway in the north of Cebu is a favorite among diving enthusiasts.

It’s most famous for the Thresher Shark and the vibrant sea creatures like Whitetip Reef Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Manta Rays, Devil Rays, Mandarin Fish, Pygmy Seahorses, Blue Ringed Octopus, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and so many more.

To get to Malapascua Island, you have to go to the northernmost part of Cebu, Daanbantayan. Then, at Maya Port, you’ll have to ride the local ferry to get to the island.

9. Swimming with sea turtles in Apo Island, Dumaguete

If you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with sea turtles, Apo Island, on the coast of Dauin, can turn that dream into reality. This small island offers one of the best snorkeling experiences in the country. Spend the entire day diving with sea turtles, reef fishes, sea snakes, and the like.

When interacting with these majestic creatures, make sure to follow your guide’s instructions for you and the marine life’s safety and well-being. These creatures are gentle and accustomed to human presence, but getting too close can stress them out or alter their natural behavior. Avoid touching them, as human contact can transmit harmful bacteria and disrupt their natural feeding and swimming patterns.

From Dumaguete City, you can take public transportation to Malatapay, Dauin. From Malatapay, a boat will take you directly to Apo Island.

10. Coffee crawling in Davao

Davao City has an impressive coffee scene. This city has many coffee shops, each with its distinct charm. The coffee culture in this region results from a rise in the number of third-wave coffee shops and high demand for high-quality, specialty coffee beans grown locally, like the bold and earthy flavors of Mt. Apo’s Arabica.

If you love a good cup of coffee, it’s your chance to indulge and immerse yourself in the city’s diverse offerings. Each establishment offers a unique atmosphere and a variety of coffee blends that cater to different tastes.

You can ride a plane from the Mactan Cebu International Airport or from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Davao.

11. Natural swimming in Magpupungko, Siargao

If you’re already planning a trip to Siargao to catch some waves in Cloud 9, take a break from your thrilling sea-scapade at Magpupungko rock pools. These are natural tidal pools found in the town of Pilar on the east coast of Siargao.

Magpupungko’s natural rock pools are only visible during low tides, which offer a unique and refreshing swimming experience. The only thing I hated about going there was waking up at an ungodly hour to see the mesmerizing rock formations and swim in the crystal-clear waters. Nonetheless, the experience is worth waking up early for.

To make the most of your time in Siargao, make sure to also go Island Hopping, visit Sugba Lagoon and the Tayangban Cave Pool. The easiest way to get to Magpupungko Rock Pools is to rent a scooter from General Luna and drive there yourself.

12. Paraw sailing in Boracay

Paraw Sailing is a wonderful way to enjoy the amazing sunset in Boracay. This traditional sailboat activity uses two outriggers and two sails made of wood and bamboo. It provides a unique way to experience the breathtaking sunset views while gliding across the crystal-clear waters of Boracay.

It’s a great activity for families since it provides a relaxing experience for all ages. The gentle breeze and picturesque views make it a memorable activity to enjoy with loved ones.

From Manila, you can choose to travel to Boracay via either Kalibo Airport or Caticlan Airport.

13. Trekking up Mt. Pinatubo

The scenic Mt. Pinatubo, nestled between Zambales and Pampanga, remains one of the most powerful active volcanoes from the 20th century. It’s also a top hiking destination and sought-after tourist spot near Manila.

Going up the volcano is no easy feat. Be prepared to face a challenging trek across rocky terrain and ash fields.

You’ll hate me even more for this, but I recommend getting an early head start. This way, you’ll only have to deal with your lungs dying for air without worrying about sunstroke as well.

Nonetheless, you’ll be rewarded with a magical view of the crater lake at the summit. Make sure to plan your trek in advance, considering the weather conditions and necessary permits.

To get to Mt. Pinatubo, hop on a bus going to Capas, Tarlac, via any major bus terminal in Manila, Cubao, or Pasay. You can also ride buses with routes going to Baguio, Ilocos, or Pangasinan and tell the conductor that you’re getting off at Sta. Juliana in Capas.

Once there, you can ride a tricycle or jeepney going to Sta. Juliana Tourism. There, you will be assisted in booking your 4×4 tours that will take you closer to the mountain.

14. Enjoying the heritage in Batanes

With clear blue skies and rolling hills, Batanes is reminiscent of the 1965 musical film, “The Sound of Music.” The best place to experience this is in Racuh A Payman, otherwise known as “Marlboro Country.”

Batanes is a must for history buffs. Here, you’ll find Ivatan houses, brightly colored churches that were built in the 17th century, and majestic lighthouses like the Naidi Lighthouse in Basco and the Tayid Lighthouse in Mahatao.

You can take a domestic flight to Basco, the capital of Batanes. Once you arrive, you can explore the breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and unique culture of the province. Renting a bicycle or motorcycle is a popular way to get around and see the beauty of Batanes up close.

15. Exploring Intramuros

Intramuros in Manila is one of the major sites of the Philippines’ colonial period up to the American commonwealth. A lot of tourists like to visit Intramuros because of its old-world appeal.

Although Intramuros’ structures were initially built as a defense mechanism, people are now curious to explore centuries of history within its walls. The name, derived from the Spanish word for “within walls,” refers to the fort near the Pasig River downstream.

The best way to explore and maximize the whole Intramuros tour experience is to ride a bamboo bike. With bamboo bikes for as low as 200 pesos per hour, tourists can get on a guided tour around the walled city.

To get to Intramuros, you can either take the LRT ( Light Rail Transit) or the jeepney going in.

16. Going back in time in Calle Crisologo, Vigan

If you want a more immersive historical experience, you can head to Vigan, where it’s an entire city frozen in the Spanish colonial era. Calle Crisologo, a cobblestone street lined with ancestral houses featuring Spanish-Filipino architecture, offers a glimpse into the past.

Take a leisurely stroll through this UNESCO World Heritage site, shop for souvenirs and sample local delicacies. Don’t miss out on visiting the iconic Bantay Bell Tower for panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes.

Try riding the horse-drawn carriages, otherwise known as the “calesa,” sample the famous and delicious Ilocos empanada, and walk along cobbled streets lined with shops selling pottery and other souvenirs.

You can get to Vigan from Manila by taking a bus bound for Laoag or Vigan. The journey can take around eight to 10 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

17. Feasting on Cebu’s Lechon

From Hanging Rice (puso) to Lechon, Cebu is a foodie’s dream destination where visitors can taste some of the greatest Philippine cuisines. Cebu lechon, a charcoal-roasted pig, is considered the best-tasting lechon in the country.

Lechon in Cebu hits are different from those made in other parts of the country. I think it’s because our Lechon masters here stuff the pig with herbs like lemongrass, spring onion, bay leaves, black pepper, garlic, and salt, which results in more flavorful and juicier meat.

Prices of lechon vary from P100 per 1/4 kilograms in the province to P200 per 1/4 kilograms in the city. It’s best eaten à la minute to savor the crispness of the skin.

18. Marveling at Aliwagwag Falls

Aliwagwag Falls is a premier tourist spot in Davao Oriental. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because of its height (1,100 feet). It’s considered one of the highest waterfalls in the country. Aside from its height, what makes it eye-catching are the boulders around it that are reminiscent of an elaborate staircase.

Davao City is the nearest major city to Aliwagwag. Hop onto a bus or rent a car from Davao City to get to Cateel Town. Make sure to bring a camera to capture the breathtaking beauty of Aliwagwag Falls and create lasting memories of your visit.

19. Catching a sunrise in Sagada

Kiltepan Viewpoint is the most popular spot to catch the famous Sagada sunrise. The site is the highest point in the area, which makes it the best spot for catching the majestic sun as it rises above the surrounding mountains and clouds.

Wake up at dawn, then from the foot of the mountain, take an early morning hike along the natural trail through a pine tree forest. It can be challenging, but witnessing the “sea of clouds” is all worth it. It’s often described as the white clouds embracing the hills, then slowly revealing the golden sun behind the mountains of Cordillera.

You can easily catch a bus to Sagada from Baguio City, which is another popular tourist spot in the Philippines.

20. Whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro

Cagayan de Oro, or CDO, is a highly urbanized city located in the Misamis Oriental region of Northern Mindanao, Philippines. CDO is the only city that offers whitewater rafting all year round.

If you’re looking for adventure, CDO is the place to visit. Aside from whitewater rafting, you can also go zip lining and kayaking. Cagayan River’s depth, incline, and rock formations make rafting fun and exciting.

Catch a flight to Cagayan de Oro from major airports in the Philippines and brace yourself for a memorable and adrenaline-pumping escapade.

Things to consider about the local cuisine

When exploring the Philippines, don’t miss out on the delicious local cuisine. As I’ve mentioned, Cebu lechon is something that you should try once, and I’m certain you’ll be craving it again.

However, it’s prudent to be mindful of the dishes you’ll be eating. Here are six things to remember when it comes to the local cuisine:

Know the common allergens

Filipino cuisine commonly uses nuts, shellfish, and gluten. If you have allergies, learn how to say your specific allergies in Filipino or have them written down to show at restaurants.

Ask for vegetarian and vegan options

While Filipino cuisine is meat-heavy, many eateries are adapting to provide vegetarian and vegan options. Dishes like Laing, Chopsuey, or vegetable-based stews can be customized to be served without meat or fish products.

Don’t be afraid of street food

I know eating street food can seem daunting to many tourists. However, sampling our local delicacies is something you should do. Just look for stalls that cook the food right in front of you to avoid foodborne illnesses. Also, stick to popular vendors since they have a high turnover rate.

Anticipate the portion sizes

Filipino restaurants often serve family-style meals, meaning large portions intended for sharing. When dining alone or with a small group, you might want to ask about portion sizes to avoid food wastage. Fast food chains like Jollibee, Mang Inasal, and Chowking have solo meals.

Check the sweets

Filipino desserts and snacks are typically sweet. If you have dietary restrictions like diabetes, be cautious about sugar content and seek out less sweetened alternatives.

Drink water safely

Stick to bottled or filtered water, as tap water isn’t always safe to drink. Also, be careful about buying ice as well. Look for ones that come in sealed packs since these are mostly made from purified water.

Philippine Health and Safety Tips

Aside from the local cuisine, there are also other factors to consider when it comes to your health and safety:

Travel insurance

Always travel with insurance that covers medical emergencies, from unexpected illnesses to accidents. It might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it definitely becomes useful when unforeseen circumstances happen.

Moreover, make sure to have your emergency contacts ready and easily discoverable when needed. It’s also best to know locals whom you can ask for help during these times.

Last year, my friend had to help a 19-year-old British woman who was basically a stranger to her. She was in Moalboal in the Southern part of Cebu when she got involved in a motorcycle accident and got a severe head injury.

She was rushed to the hospital, where the staff called her parents. Apparently, my friend’s sister-in-law’s sister’s boss was friends with the parents and used their connections just to have someone with their daughter during this scary time. If I remember correctly, they arrived in Cebu two or three days after the incident.

Although some accidents can be prevented, we never really know when disaster will strike. No matter where you’re traveling, investing in travel insurance is extremely important so that you’re covered in case of any unforeseen circumstances, especially in a foreign place.

Sun protection

If you’ve been here before, you know how harsh the Philippine sun can be. Don’t forget to pack your favorite sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and stay hydrated to prevent sunburn and heatstroke, especially when exploring Philippine beaches or hiking.

Wildlife

We have a lot of diverse wildlife in the Philippines, from marine life to various species of birds and mammals. When you visit these creatures in their natural habitat, be respectful and avoid disturbing them with unnecessary noise or even food. Maintain a safe distance to protect both yourself and the wildlife.

The same goes for the flora and fauna. When you’re out exploring, you can appreciate the beauty of nature. Just make sure you keep it beautiful for others to enjoy as well.

Local advisories

Stay updated on local weather and safety advisories, particularly during typhoon season or in areas with active volcanoes or civil unrest. You should also be aware of any cultural or social customs in the place you’re planning to visit. 

For instance, in some areas, you should remove your shoes before entering a home since this is considered respectful. Being mindful of these traditions can make your travel experience more meaningful.

First aid kit

Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and mosquito repellent, especially for trips to remote locations where medical facilities may be scarce. It’s also best to attend a first aid training course before your trip. 

Having the knowledge and supplies to handle common travel-related health issues can make a significant difference in keeping yourself and others safe during your journey.

Road safety

If you’re renting a vehicle, be aware of local driving conditions and practices. Traffic can be chaotic, and road conditions vary, so always drive defensively.

Even if you’re just crossing the road, I admit that Philippine roads can be scary. Observe local road signs and be cautious when walking or driving.

Philippine Travel & Accommodation Tips

When it comes to finding a place to stay, follow these best practices:

Check reviews

Before booking, read recent reviews from other travelers. This can provide insight into the cleanliness, service quality, and actual experiences of previous guests.

Consider homestays or guesthouses for a more authentic experience. These accommodations often provide glimpses of the local way of life and opportunities to engage with locals.

I remember my brother joining the CouchSurfing network before, and we really welcomed people from Ukraine and China into our home before. From what I’ve read, the site now requires a monthly paid subscription from its members, which may be why it’s a bit less popular now.

Pro tip: Check Facebook and TikTok for accommodations, but thoroughly verify the listing and reviews. Agoda, Booking.com, and Airbnb have limited options, but most of them are reliable.

Look for safety features

Make sure your accommodation has essential safety features like a secure lock on the door, a safe for valuables, and working smoke detectors, especially if staying in budget accommodations.

Consider proximity to attractions

Choose a place close to the majority of your planned activities. This can save you time and transportation costs, especially in regions where transport options might be limited.

Remember check-in/check-out times

Always review the check-in and check-out times to avoid any inconvenience, especially if arriving early in the morning or leaving late at night. Most hotels and inns have a 2 PM check-in time and 11 AM or 12 PM check-out time.

Check booking flexibility

If you want to ensure flexibility in your booking, look for accommodations that offer free cancellations or changes. This can be helpful in case your travel plans unexpectedly shift.

Always double-check the cancellation policy to avoid any surprises. Some platforms may also offer discounts for non-refundable bookings, so think about the advantages and disadvantages based on your travel needs.

Discover More of the Philippines

Whether you’re rushing through a bustling city like Metro Manila or relishing the laid-back atmosphere of our coastal towns, the Philippines offers many unique and exciting activities waiting to be explored. 

As you plan your adventure, remember to embrace the unexpected, respect the natural beauty, and immerse yourself fully in the unique rhythm of our enchanting archipelago.