They say that everything is more fun—masaya—in the Philippines. Known for having some of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world, along with white sand beaches, waterfalls, and majestic bright green mountains, the Philippines should be on everyone’s travel list. Even getting around can be fun. Instead of taxis, you’ll find jeepneys (WWII jeeps converted into bus-like transportation) and tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars for passengers). While you’re in the ’Pines, try fresh, sweet mangoes; sour soup called sinigang; and if you’re feeling brave, balut: boiled fertilized duck egg. If you’re looking for adventure and a whole lot of fun, the Philippines is the place to be. Here are four travel destinations to plan your vacation around:
Honda Bay, Palawan
The island of Palawan beat out Bali and Maui to be named the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine and Condé Nast Traveler readers. Getting to Palawan is easy—a short flight from Manila lands you in the capital city of Puerto Princesa. Don’t leave Palawan without visiting Honda Bay, about 30 minutes outside of the city. To get there, you can take a tricycle for a day trip and then come back to Puerto Princesa at night. Honda Bay is just a short boat ride to several other islands, where you can snorkel in a coral reef, cliff jump, or kayak. You may even end up the only one on an island and get to spend the day exploring the white sand beaches and turquoise ocean.
While on Palawan, you really shouldn’t skip the region of Puerto Princesa. Its name means “princess port,” and guests of the city will definitely get the regal treatment. Its main attraction is an underground river, a world heritage UNESCO site and one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature. Tour boats run on the five-mile river, giving guests a view of bats hanging above them, stalactites growing down from the ceiling, and jagged limestone cave walls.
The river gets very narrow at parts, but experienced boat guides can steer down the river and out the other side.
Hundred Islands National Park
Where else can you look out and see over one hundred islands at once? Hundred Islands National Park, located on the west coast of Luzon, is famous for its plethora of islands. Some are large enough to house hotels and resorts, and some are just a rocky outcropping popping up from the ocean’s surface. Consider hopping from island to island via boat, or try out the island-to-island zipline that takes you on a thrilling ride over the water. You can also put on a diving helmet and walk along the ocean floor to check out the coral reef and ocean wildlife near the islands. There are also plenty of restaurants and hotels nearby where you can relax and eat after a long day of adventuring.
Banaue Rice Terraces
After you exchange your American dollars for pesos, you may notice the image of the Banaue Rice Terraces on the back of the 20-peso bill. The ancestors of the indigenous people carved this “stairway to heaven” into the Cordillera Central range as a source of livelihood, and locals still use the paddies to grow rice during the rainy season each year.
If you go, you’ll want to devote at least one or two full days to exploring the area and taking in the gorgeous terraces. The area is just a one-day bus ride from Manila. Once in Banaue, you can easily find a guide who can take you hiking through the rice terraces. While you’re there, make sure to ask your guide if you can check out the huge Tappiya waterfall in the jungle nearby. If the weather is good, you will probably be able to swim in the huge pool at the base of the falls. Remember to bring a hiking stick with you, though—the trail is rocky and can be muddy.
While these are just four destinations the Philippines has to offer, you can find unexpected fun and adventures wherever you go in the country. Take a page from the culture book of the locals and enjoy your adventures, wherever they take you. From singing bus and jeepney drivers to colorful markets and outdoor adventures, you’re sure to find that almost everything is more masaya in the Philippines.