Top 15 Backpacking Destinations in the Philippines for First-Time Travelers

Places to Visit in the Philippines as a Backpacker

Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines by Ranieljosecastaneda via Wikimedia cc

15 Best Destinations for Backpacking in the Philippines

The Philippines has many things to offer to every kind of tourist. Are you the type that likes to explore different historical and cultural landmarks? Or do you like relaxing out on a beautiful beach better? Well, no matter how you want to enjoy and appreciate a country’s beauty, the Philippines will always be able to amaze you.

So if you’re the type of person who likes to go on exciting adventures and fully immerse yourself in a country’s rich and vibrant culture, this article is perfect for you! The Philippines is home to thousands of islands worth exploring as a backpacker. The best part? You don’t have to worry about a limited budget! Affordable beach accommodations, tons of adrenaline-pumping activities, and most of all, great food. These are just a tiny glimpse of all the beautiful things to expect in our country because, trust me, there are definitely more!

Join me as we discover the Top 15 Backpacking Destinations in the Philippines for First-Timers!

Metro Manila

Intramuros Manila by Judgefloro via Wikimedia cc
Intramuros Manila By Judgefloro – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

First on the list and truly a go-to backpacking destination in the Philippines is Metro Manila. Each city in the capital offers endless fun and exciting activities that will help you explore Filipinos’ rich and vibrant culture. Countless cultural and historical landmarks, entertainment hubs, gastronomical districts, dazzling nightlife, and adventure await you here in Metro Manila.

Things to do: Visit some of the capital’s historical and cultural landmarks, such as the Rizal Park, Intramuros, and the National Museum of the Philippines. Explore the iconic entertainment hubs of Manila like Bonifacio Global City, Manila Ocean Park, and Mall of Asia Arena.

How to get there: Metro Manila is home to the country’s major airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Romblon

Mt. Guiting-Guiting National Park, Sibuyan Island, Philippines by Emmanuel Maceda via Unplash
Mt. Guiting-Guiting National Park, Sibuyan Island, Philippines by Emmanuel Maceda via Unplash

Are you looking for a tropical paradise to explore here in the Philippines? Well, I’ve got the perfect destination for you! The province of Romblon is known as the Marble Capital of the Philippines. But it is also becoming an admirable tourist destination because of its unspoiled islands and beaches that are truly enchanting. Romblon also has a rich culture and history, with the iconic Spanish Twin Forts as one of its must-visit destinations.

Things to do: Exploring the natural wonders of Romblon is definitely a must. Island hopping, beach bumming, hiking, and trekking are only some of the top things to do in the province. Make sure to visit Bonbon Beach, Libtong Falls, Kipot River, and Fort San Andres if you have the chance!

How to get there: The best and trusted way to reach Romblon is by sea thru RORO. From Manila, take a bus en route to Batangas Port, then take the RORO boat with an estimated travel time of at least twelve (12) hours.

Banaue

Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines by Ranieljosecastaneda via Wikimedia cc
Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines By Ranieljosecastaneda – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Banaue is home to the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces. This cultural landmark has been the face of the country’s tourism throughout the years, with the rice terraces being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, Banaue is also known for its cultural heritage, with several of the original ethnic tribes still thriving within the province.

Things to do: Don’t miss the chance to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the Banaue Rice Terraces! Some of the best things to do are walking along the iconic Hanging Bridge, trekking to Mt. Amuyao, and exploring Tappiya Falls.

How to get there: There is a direct bus route from Manila to Ifugao. The bus departs from Sampaloc, Manila, and takes about 9 hours before you reach Ifugao province.

Sagada

Hanging Coffins of Sagada by Lastithegreat via Wikipedia cc
Hanging Coffins of Sagada By Lastithegreat – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Known for its scenic and enchanting natural wonders, Sagada has long been a haven for local and international backpackers seeking peace and serenity from nature. From its famous mountains, valleys, cliffs, waterfalls, and limestone caves, you will never run out of fun and exciting adventures to choose from. Thanks to its increasing popularity as one of the country’s top tourist destinations, more and more backpackers from all over the world visit to witness the breathtaking beauty of Sagada.

Things to do: Exciting activities like hiking, trekking, spelunking, swimming, and bonding with the friendly locals await you here at Sagada. You also shouldn’t miss the famous Kiltepan Road, Sumaguing Cave, and the hanging coffins of Echo Valley.

How to get there: You can also reach Sagada through the direct buses from Sampaloc, Manila, to Banaue, Ifugao. Upon arrival in Banaue, you can ride jeepneys en route to Sagada. The travel time from Banaue to Sagada usually takes about 3 hours.

La Union

Surfing in San Juan La Union by David Aguilar via Unsplash
Surfing in San Juan La Union by David Aguilar via Unsplash

Get ready to be addicted to the breathtaking beach destinations brought to you by Elyu or La Union! This province is known as the Surfing Capital of Luzon’s West Coast, thanks to its beaches’ calming and beautiful waves. Beyond its mesmerizing natural wonders, La Union is also home to stunning historical sites, cultural landmarks, and exciting gastronomic adventures!

Things to do: The most popular beach destination in La Union is the iconic town of San Juan, where you can find endless choices of stunning beach and resort destinations. Moreover, you can also try cliff diving at Tangadan Falls, visit the Ma-Cho Temple, and experience the food trip and nightlife of Urbiztondo!

How to get there: There are many ways to reach La Union from Manila, but the best way for backpackers is to travel by land thru buses. With an estimated travel time of just 4 hours, you can already enjoy the stunning beauty of La Union!

El Nido

El Nido's Nacpan Beach among TripAdvisor's Top Beaches in Asia for 2021 photo via Depositphotos
El Nido’s Nacpan Beach among TripAdvisor’s Top Beaches in Asia for 2021 photo via Depositphotos

Known as one of the heavenly tropical islands of the world, El Nido has become one of the sought-after tourist destinations in the Philippines thanks to its pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, dramatic limestone cliffs, and a dazzling culture! If you want to witness the raw beauty of nature at its finest, then traveling to El Nido will be one of the best decisions you’ll make in your life.

Things to do: Some of the best places to visit are Nacpan Beach, the Big Lagoon, and Shimizu Island. Don’t miss exciting activities such as cliff diving, island hopping, trekking, hiking, kayaking, and more!

How to get there: The best and easiest way to reach El Nido, Palawan is by plane through a direct flight from Manila to El Nido. Another relatively cheaper method is taking a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, which takes about a whole day.

Coron

Calauit Safari by Paul Fernandez via Unsplash
Calauit Safari by Paul Fernandez via Unsplash

Ah, another tropical paradise awaits you in Palawan when you visit the enchanting island of Coron. Known for its famous wreck diving activities, Coron has long been a premier diving spot for international divers where you can enjoy the crystal clear waters and abundant marine life of the seas. The breathtaking islands and stunning white-sand beaches are also a must-visit here at Coron!

Things to do: You definitely have to try wreck diving and island hopping, snorkeling, trekking, kayaking, hiking, and exploring food hubs around Coron. Some must-visit tourist attractions are Banol Beach, Coron Bay, and the mesmerizing Busuanga Island.

How to get there: The best way to reach Coron, Palawan from Manila is by traveling by plane from NAIA to Busuanga Airport. This option is indeed the most convenient and, at the same time, comfortable mode of transportation.

Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa Underground River via Depositphotos
Puerto Princesa Underground River via Depositphotos

Known as the home of the world-famous Puerto Princesa Underground River, which has been internationally recognized as one of the New7Wonders of Nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this bustling capital of Palawan is definitely one of the must-visit backpacking destinations of the country. Puerto Princesa is home to several natural wonders from pristine beaches, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers that are truly enchanting.

Things to do: Of course, you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the famous Puerto Princesa Underground River! Some of the best things to do are island hopping, swimming, paddle boat tours, and visiting historical museums.

How to get there: There is a direct flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, which only takes more than an hour of travel time. This is the fastest and most convenient way to reach Palawan.

Laoag

La Paz Sand Dunes in Laoag
La Paz Sand Dunes in Laoag

Laoag is known as the center for business and trading in the province of Ilocos Norte. Nicknamed the Sunshine City, there are tons of fun and exciting activities to enjoy in one of the sunniest regions in the Philippines. Aside from indulging yourself with the fantastic dishes of Ilocano cuisine, you are also in for quite an adventure! From historical buildings, stunning beaches, and the exciting La Paz sand dune, you certainly wouldn’t run out of things to do in Laoag.

Things to do: Visit historical and cultural landmarks such as the Sinking Bell Tower, Museo Ilocos Norte, and Santa Monica Parish Church. You also shouldn’t miss the chance to witness the undeniable beauty of Blue Lagoon!

How to get there: Coming from Manila, the best way to reach Laoag City is by land through buses or by private car. Direct buses can be found in Sampaloc, Manila, with a travel time of about 8 hours.

Vigan

Exploring Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Exploring Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Ah, the iconic city of Vigan. Indeed, this is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines where you can indulge yourself with its abundance in history, culture, and extreme beauty. Vigan is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Colonial Town, where you can still witness and experience many of the charming buildings from the historical era of the Spanish Colony in the Philippines. Thanks to its unique charm, Vigan City has also been hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Things to do: Aside from exploring the charming city, you should also go on a gastronomic adventure and try all of the delicious Ilocano delights that Vigan offers! Moreover, some of the best places to visit are Calle Crisologo, the Twin Bridge, and the Baluarte Zoo.

How to get there: You can reach Vigan City by bus or private car from Manila. Direct buses can be found in Sampaloc, Manila, where daytime and overnight trips are available. The estimated travel time is about 8 hours.

Boracay

Boracay White Beach photo via Pixabay
Boracay White Beach photo via Pixabay

Undeniably the most famous tourist destination in the Philippines for many years until now is Boracay. Pristine white-sand beaches, crystalline turquoise waters, exciting water sports activities, and a memorable nightlife experience await you in Boracay Island.

Things to do: Some of the must-visit places in Boracay include Ariel’s Point, White Beach, Puka Shell Beach, and Diniwid Beach. Aside from these mesmerizing attractions, you should definitely go on an island hopping tour, parasailing, snorkeling, hiking, trekking, kayaking, and more!

How to get there: The most convenient option to reach Boracay is traveling by plane from NAIA to Caticlan Airport. Caticlan is only about 30 minutes away from the famous island, so it’s definitely the fastest option.

Cebu

Kawasan Falls in Cebu photo via Depositphotos
Kawasan Falls in Cebu photo via Depositphotos

Finally! Your trip to the Philippines wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Queen City of the South itself. Cebu City is one of the country’s major metropolises where many huge companies and corporate centers are based. Moreover, Cebu is also known to house many of the breathtaking natural wonders you can ever discover in the Philippines. Top all of that with Cebu’s dazzling culture and history, you’ll definitely have one of the best backpacking destinations in the country.

Things to do: Of course, you shouldn’t miss the chance to witness Cebu’s best natural wonders like Kawasan Falls, Sumilon Island, and Camotes Island!

How to get there: The most convenient option to reach Cebu is traveling by plane from NAIA to Cebu-Mactan International Airport. The flight only takes about an hour.

Bohol

Bohol Tarsier by Nick Kulyakhtin via Unsplash
Bohol Tarsier by Nick Kulyakhtin via Unsplash

Widely known for its famous Chocolate Hills and the world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier, one of the country’s top and best tourist destinations in the province of Bohol. Renowned for its breathtaking beaches, historical landmarks, and extreme activities, more and more tourists are starting to appreciate Bohol.

Things to do: Bohol is extremely rich in culture and history, where some of the oldest churches and buildings in the country can be found. Moreover, don’t miss the chance to visit Chocolate Hills, the iconic Bohol Bamboo Hanging Bridge, and the amazing Loboc River Cruise.

How to get there: The fastest and easiest way to travel to Bohol is by direct plane from Manila to Tagbilaran City, which only takes about 1.5 hours.

Siquijor

Siquijor Adventure by Andrew Haimerl via Unsplash
Siquijor Adventure by Andrew Haimerl via Unsplash

One of the most underrated travel destinations in the country, which is incredibly blessed with pristine beaches, evergreen forests, rich culture, and historical landmarks, is no other than Siquijor. Mostly, the province is famous for its healing arts and traditions, which go back hundreds and thousands of years.

Things to do: There are a lot of beautiful and enchanted must-visit places in Siquijor which are perfect for adventure and thrill-seekers. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Old Enchanted Balete Tree, Salagdoong Beach, and the famous Lugnason Falls.

How to get there: The best way to travel to Siquijor from Manila is by plane from NAIA to Dumaguete City. This only takes about an hour. Afterward, you have to ride a tricycle en route to the port, where the ferry will take you to Siquijor.

Siargao

Siargao Sunset - Cloud 9
Siargao Sunset – Cloud 9

Last but definitely not least is the stunning island of Siargao. Considered the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, Siargao is currently the hottest and most sought-after tourist destination in the Philippines, especially for beach lovers and surfing enthusiasts. Known for its world-class waves, pristine white beaches, and thriving culture, Siargao is definitely a haven for backpackers.

Things to do: The first and most important thing to do in Siargao is to learn how to surf. Once you’ve done that, I guarantee that you’ll be able to enjoy every activity there is on the island. Aside from that, don’t forget to visit the famous Cloud 9, Naked Island, and Magpupungko Rock Pools!

How to get there: Rather than taking a series of ferry trips, the most convenient and fastest way to reach Siargao from Manila is by plane, with an estimated travel time of 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Follow #TeamOutofTown, on FacebookTwitterInstagramBloglovin, and Pinterest for more travel stories. Do you have other backpacking destinations in PH that you can recommend to first-time travelers? Please share your recommendations by posting a comment below!

  1. Melody Co says

    Hi! Thanks for the information about the contest! I linked you for the mechanics in my contest blog here: http://girl-kuripot.blogspot.com/2010/11/seair-win-winter-trip-to-batanes.html

    Melody
    guiltlessgetaways.blogspot.com
    girl-kuripot.blogspot.com

  2. Cel Peniero says

    Thank you for posting the mechanics of the SEAR Air Winter in Batanes contest.
    Here’s my blog entry link: Lucid Intervals – the journey of a struggling writer: I Dream of Batanes
    Wish me luck:)
    More power and looking forward to more of your travel tips and adventures!

    1. melo says

      @Cel – Good Luck:)

  3. Between Bites says

    Melo!!! 🙂

    I hope to find the time to join this contest!!! I want to go to Batanes!!! 🙂

    *cracking writing muscles*

    Miss you!

    Janey

    1. melo says

      @Jane – Join ka na! Batanes is super beautiful and you should go there:) Miss u na:(

  4. cheap flights philippines says

    contest is near its draw na, submit your entries well and good luck to all bloggers!

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