No summer vacation in the Philippines would be complete without a trip to the beach. But while Boracay is always a good idea, you have to remember that we’ve got a new total of 7,641 islands waiting to be explored. When you’ve had your fill of sun, sand and surf, take a detour inland and see for yourself what else the country can offer:
1) Calauit Safari Park in Coron, Palawan
We’re pretty sure you’ll never get tired of Coron’s beaches and lagoons, but if you have the time, check out Calauit Safari Park, located on the northwestern tip of Busuanga Island. Getting there is no easy feat—you’ll have to endure a four-hour boat ride (or an equally tedious van ride) from Coron town proper, which is situated on the opposite end of Busuanga. But trust us, it's worth the massive buttache you'll likely have to endure. Calauit Safari Park is probably the only place in the Philippines where you can feed giraffes and watch zebras roam around. And if you do choose to go there via boat, you can go snorkeling in a coral-filled shipwreck site on your way back to town. What’s not to love?
Calauit Safari Park is located on Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan. Several agencies offer all-in whole-day tours going there for an average of P2,300 to 2,800. Click here for more details.
2) Siitan River in Nagtipunan, Quirino
Raw, rugged Quirino is still pretty much off the tourist radar, making it a great place for thrill-seekers. Sail on the mighty Siitan River in the town of Nagtipunan to see the lush countryside and the mighty rock formations flanking the rapids. Take your adventure up a notch by riding a tube to go down the river!
Siitan River is in Barangay Ponggo, Nagtipunan, Quirino. As of 2016, the river cruise costs P175, while water tubing costs an additional P100. Allot around P700 to include guide fees, food, and tipping. Click here for more details.
3) Inflatable Island in Olongapo, Zambales
Yes, we’re pushing the “no beaches” rule here, but come on, how can we not include this gem?! Sitting in an area equivalent to eight basketball courts, the Inflatable Island is the biggest floating playground in Asia. There are slides, swings, dive points, climbing areas, trampolines, inflatable toys—the only thing missing would be blow-up dolls, but that’s probably not a good idea. And once you’re done having fun, you can collapse on one of the colorful beanbags in their Bali-inspired beach lounge. Sounds like a great way to spend a weekend!
Inflatable Island is located at Samba Bluewater Resort, Olongapo, Zambales. A two-hour pass costs P699, a half-day pass costs P999, and a whole-day pass costs P1,399. Click here for more details.
4) Gapuz Grapes Farms in Bauang, La Union
Heading back to Manila after surfing in LU? Stop by Gapuz Grape Farms, one of the few grape vineyards in the Philippines. Explore the grounds, pose under the rows of vines, and pick bunches of grapes for pasalubong (though we won’t judge you if you finish them all on the trip back home). If you’re with a big barkada, you can also have a boodle fight there for P1,500. Wine na lang ang kulang!
Gapuz Grape Farms is located at 78 Urayong, Bauang, La Union. Grape-picking season is until May. Entrance fee is free, but they charge P20 for photography and P250 per kilogram for the grapes. Click here for more details.
5) Tibiao Kawa in Antique
Being cooked alive is up there on our list of “ways by which we DON’T want to die,” but we might just change our minds if it involves a relaxing kawa bath. This old-school bath experience involves heating a huge cauldron of water using a wood-powered fire, so it can be a bit scary at first. Fragrant leaves and flowers are added in your bathwater so you’d think you’re in a spa instead of being a pork substitute for a barangay-sized serving of sinigang. Don’t forget to take a photo!
Several resorts in Tibiao offer kawa baths, including Kawa Inn and Kayak Inn. The experience costs P250 upwards. Click here for more details.
6) Mabinay Spelunking in Negros Oriental
Negros Oriental is known for its beaches and dive spots, but when you’re all pruney after spending your days by the shore, take a detour to the town of Mabinay for some fun in the underworld. There are more than 400 caves to explore—must-visits include the massive Bulwang Caves, the romantic Panligawan Cave, and the gorgeous Crystal Cave, which has impressive stalactites and stalagmites. For experienced spelunkers, there’s Odloman Cave and Cayaso Cave, two of the longest cave systems in the country.
There’s a P50 entrance fee for beginner-level caves and P150 for expert-level caves. You can also get a guide for P400 for every 5-7 people. Click here for more details.
7) Sibuyan Island in Romblon
The island of Sibuyan should be on every Pinoy’s bucket list. Aside from being the jump-off point to the gorgeous Cresta De Gallo Islet (which has fine white sands and clear blue waters, but we’re not going here just for that), the island is also home to the Catingas River, which is considered as one of the cleanest rivers in the Philippines. You should also visit the Dagubdub Falls—keep your eyes peeled for rare pitcher plants along the trail. If you’re extremely hardcore, you can climb Mt. Guiting-Guiting, one of the hardest treks in the country.
Sibuyan Island is a five-hour ship ride from Tablas, Romblon. Click here for more details.
8) Vertical Bivouac in Quezon, Bukidnon
If you have absolutely no fear of heights and are game for extremely extreme adventures, you can go on a vertical bivouac adventure in Bukidnon. WTF is a Vertical Bivouac, you ask? It involves a challenging climb on a 480-foot rock wall to the bivouac ledge (a feat that can take three to four hours if you’re really fit), where you’ll be sleeping for the night. You’ll have your breakfast the next day while gazing out at an unbeatable view, then you’ll rappel going down for a unique and unforgettable adventure.
Adventure Technology Outfitters arranges vertical bivouac adventures in Bukidnon for P7,500 per head for Filipinos and $200 per head for foreigners, minimum of five guests. Click here for more details.
9) Lake Sebu in South Cotabato
Get a taste of the T’boli culture by heading to the town of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. With three great lakes, the largest of which is the namesake Lake Sebu, and seven jaw-dropping waterfalls which you can view via zip line, it’s an eco-tourism destination unlike no other. The temperature’s also on the cool side down there, making it an excellent alternative to the highlands in the northern Philippines.
There are vans that go directly to Lake Sebu from Bulaong Terminal in General Santos City. Travel time is three to four hours. You can go there on a day trip, or you can stay there for a few nights in one of the hotels in town. There are several entrance fees and environmental fees, but they’re all relatively cheap: The waterfall zip line ride costs P250-300 per head, a boat tour costs around P500 per boat with a tour guide, and river tubing costs P300 per head. Click here for more details.
10) Mt. Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin
Camiguin is the second smallest province in the Philippines after Batanes, but it’s a literal hotbed of volcanic activity. Seven volcanoes are crammed in the tiny island, the most active of which is Mt. Hibok-Hibok, which has erupted five times since 1827. It takes three to four hours to reach its peak, making it a great dayhike option. Reward yourself after your hike at Ardent Hot Springs, located at the foot of the volcano.
The jump-off point to Mt. Hibok-Hibok is Ardent Hot Spring, located in Brgy. Yumbing, Mambajao. You’ll need to pay a registration fee of P200 per head at the province’s DENR office before hiking. Hiring a guide will cost you P1,200 for a day hike. Click here for more details.