With over 7,100 islands, island hopping in the Philippines can be quite daunting but precisely because there are so many islands in this tropical paradise, your best option to see so much more of the country is to go island hopping. With its long stretches of coastline, verdant forests and mountains that the islands have to offer, a diverse flora and fauna, and the wonderful sunset views, there are enough reasons for one to go hopping from isle to isle in this paradise of an archipelago.
Museums, historical sites, and centuries-old churches also abound in the islands that those who love history are sure to enjoy. And then there is shopping galore at the many malls and department stores the islands have to offer, not to mention the flea markets of Quiapo, Divisoria, and Baclaran which bargain hunters are sure to love.
In the largest island of Luzon, there are many tourist destinations that the wanderer can visit, foremost of which is the famous Banaue Rice Terraces which UNESCO recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites in the Philippines due to its legacy as a testament to man’s ability to work with nature to survive even with the simplest of tools. Going down the mountains of Northern Luzon, you can make a side trip to another World Heritage site, Vigan. The cobblestone streets and the old-world architecture of the town’s residences and other edifices is viewed as unique and confirms man’s ability to adapt and adopt to influences and create a style out of these influences that is uniquely their own. Even further north to the Ilocos region are two other World Heritage Sites, one being the Paoay Church in the town of Paoay in Ilocos Norte and the other being Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur which both reflects the unique architectural style known as Earthquake Baroque. On your way back to Manila, the country’s capital you can stop over at Pangasinan and go spelunking at the Hundred Islands in Alaminos before traveling southward to Zambales where you can camp out at Anawangin where the lush forest is very near the beach and the towering rock formations offer a view of the sunset that is one of the best in the world. Then there is Potipot Island which is fast becoming a popular tourist destination with its white coral sands. A few days of shopping in Manila and some time off to arrange a trip to the Philippines last frontier, Palawan can be a break from all the sight-seeing and adventure. A side-trip to the world’s smallest active volcano, Taal is a couple of hours drive. You can also visit Mayon Volcano in Albay, famous for its near-perfect cone before heading off for a most memorable trip to Palawan. The Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa is a must-see for the erstwhile traveler, another one of the World Heritage Sites found in the archipelago. If one can afford it, El Nido in Palawan is also an experienced not to be missed.
Leaving the island of Luzon, we head on to Visayas, home to one of the world’s best beaches and perennial party place – Boracay Island. Boracay is famous for its white sand beaches that is powdery soft and where the parties never end. Anytime of the year, the beaches of the island are teeming with tourists who cannot resist the beauty that the island has to offer. After a few days of relaxation in Boracay, you can head on to Cebu, teeming with history and shopping. It is known for its world-class furniture and amazing accessories, not to mention the welcoming smiles of its very friendly people. Of course, one cannot visit Cebu and not enjoy its world-class resorts and the diving spots around the “Queen City of the South.” Also in the Visayan Islands is Bohol, one of the Philippines top tourist destinations. The Chocolate Hills of the island is a major tourist attraction where one can see the tarsier, considered as the smallest primate in the world and is endemic to the island. Then there are the white sand beaches of Panglao, perfect for swimming and sunbathing, or enjoy snorkeling or diving in the waters surrounding the island. Dolphin-watching is also a popular attraction that the island has to offer. A cruise of the Loboc River is also offered by the many tour operators in Bohol and one that is popular among foreign tourists. Spelunkers would enjoy the many caves of Samar while Siquijor is slowly gaining popularity because of its white sand beaches and its wealth of faith healers and the mysticism that comes to mind when you mention the province. For foodies, the province of Iloilo and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental should not be missed. The mangoes of Guimaras are also world-famous and are touted as the sweetest in the world.
Moving on to the last major island of the Philippines, Mindanao is home to most of the Muslim population of the largely Christian people of the Philippines. It is an island rich in cultural heritage and history. Surigao is blessed with white beaches one of which, the Cagwait White Beach is being compared to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Tinuy-an Falls, also in Surigao is also a popular destination in the province. In Mati, Davao Oriental, skim boarding is one activity that is fast gaining popularity and is attracting tourists from far and beyond. Likewise, Glan in Sarangani province also has beautiful white beaches to offer the island hopping traveler. And a visit to Mindanao is not complete without dropping by the Pearl Farm in Samal Island which offers world-class facilities parallel to the world’s best. So get your back packs ready and start your tour of the most enchanting islands of the Philippine archipelago.