The Philippines: Culture, Food, and Beach Adventures

Today’s guest post is by Jason Garcia

How do you want to experience more joy in life? One piece of advice I could give you is to travel more. Whether it’s an organized tour, a group vacation or a solo backpacking trip, traveling can make you happy and feel alive. Traveling allows you to encounter one-of-a-kind traditions, diverse people, natural wonders, mouthwatering food, and unforgettable sights.

The Philippines is close to my heart as a travel destination because of its world-class hospitality and unique locations. The country’s 7,641 islands are home to world-famous pristine beaches and historical sites. Filipinos are known to be among the happiest in the world, making a trip to the Philippines a delightful experience.

Here are 7 amazing destinations in the Philippines that I highly recommend:

The quaint Northern charm of Batanes

batanes in the philippines
Photo courtesy of Eisen Jiao via Flickr

Do you remember the iconic scene from The Sound of Music, where Maria (played by Julie Andrews) was gleefully singing “The Hills are Alive”? I had a similar experience while exploring Batanes. Batanes is the least populated province in the Philippines, but its rolling hills are a sight to behold. The island’s picturesque landscapes, majestic sea views, and quaint stone houses can take your breath away.

Batanes represents a facet of Philippine culture that teaches us to appreciate the simple joys of life. Traveling to Batanes before was so expensive, but it’s now become more accessible to budget travelers because of airline promos and added flight schedules. While the place has no fancy restaurants, it’s a must to try a local delicacy, the flying fish. Note that Internet connection is problematic in Batanes, so you will likely have to wait until you get back to the city before you can post on social media.

Life’s a beach in Boracay

Puka Beach in Boracay - Photo courtesy of cyril4494 via Flickr
Puka Beach in Boracay – Photo courtesy of cyril4494 via Flickr

While Boracay may be a great party scene, but it has so much more to offer. My first visit was on a Boracay budget trip with friends. I had so much fun dancing all night on the beach. But when I got to visit again with my family, I realized that the island has many other compelling sites. White Beach is a popular spot, but I’d recommend a trip to Puka Beach. It’s a quieter location and only 20 minutes away by tricycle from the island’s busy center. Surrounded by the sea, Boracay is a mecca for seafood lovers. The D’Talipapa Seafood Market is a favorite place because it has fresh seafood that the eateries there can cook for you.  

A thrilling experience with the gentle giants in Donsol

Photo courtesy of Klaus Stiefel via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Klaus Stiefel via Flickr

What if I tell you that it’s totally safe to swim with sharks? Sharks have a scary reputation in the popular imagination, but the whale sharks in Donsol are kind and harmless. Whale sharks are the largest known fish species, but they are among the most gentle sea creatures. Swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol was one of the most thrilling adventures I’ve ever experienced. It is similar to the thrill I felt while skydiving. The whale sharks roam free in the wild, unlike in other places where they’re kept in large pools. The best time to visit is between January and March, as there are more sightings of whale sharks during this period.

Cooling off in Baguio

Baguio Country Club
Baguio Country Club

Baguio is a quick getaway outside of Metro Manila. It has been call the “summer capital of the Philippines” for good reasons. The Philippine climate is generally hot and humid, but the summer experience in Baguio is different. Visitors go to Baguio to enjoy the cool weather. It has lots of pine trees, and has one of the most diverse cultures in the country.

While travelers have noticed an increasing congestion in the city’s center, Baguio still has its charms. Whenever I visit Baguio with family and friends, I usually stay in the Camp John Hay area. I like the place because it’s serene and quiet. In the city’s center, I recommend visiting the Baguio Cathedral, Session Road, and Burnham Park. For local delicacies like purple yam, the place to go is Good Shepherd.

Vigan: A place of historical wonder

Photo courtesy of Obra19-Jojo Deladia via Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Obra19-Jojo Deladia via Wikimedia Commons

Vigan is a must-visit if only for its cobblestone streets and colonial houses. This capital city of Ilocos Sur province has a rich heritage that dates back to the Spanish era. UNESCO has declared Vigan a World Heritage Site, and rightly so because the architecture is impressive and fascinating. Visit Calle Crisologo to experience Vigan’s old-world appeal.

Try the Vigan Empanada, one of the classic dishes people from this region are proud of. Vigan Empanada consists of a vegetable and meat filling and is fried to a crisp. Vigan can be very hot during summer. The best time to visit is between November and March, when temperatures are much cooler.

El Nido’s magnificence

Lagen Island, El Nido
Lagen Island, El Nido

I can confidently say that El Nido is a paradise, but saying this still feels like an understatement. Conde Nast has ranked El Nido as among the best in the world. I love the place so much that I’ve visited four times already. The crystal-clear water and the limestone cliffs formed hundreds of millions of years ago make this place truly magnificent. When planning a trip to El Nido, these travel tips may sound repetitive but they’re worth repeating: plan ahead of time and check the weather forecast.

You can pull out all the stops and stay in El Nido’s exclusive and luxurious island-resorts, but I think you can also have fun in budget accommodations. I’ve stayed in both high-end and budget-friendly places in El Nido, and I honestly had so much fun in both arrangements. Remember that El Nido has around 50 white sand beaches, which means you can definitely pick the right spot for you.

Traveling to these 6 destinations in the Philippines has given me so much life-enriching experience. I’ll bet my hat that you’ll have a journey of a lifetime in these places.

[YOUR TAKE: Have you ever been to the Philippines? What were some of your favorite experiences? Share with us in the comments!] 

Author bio: Jason is a manager of a family enterprise and he loves to write articles about home investing, health, travel, and lifestyle articles. Visit his website, www.investmentdad.com, or follow him on Twitter

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