When you have a full week to spend in Manila, Philippines, don’t just stay in the capital! Make time to visit the nearby provinces.
Via domestic flights, you can opt to:
1. Catch the hidden natural wonders of Palawan. The capital, Puerto Princesa is alluring but, if you want more enchantment, go to El Nido or, click to see what’s in store for you in Coron.
2. Fly to Bohol. From Tagbilaran, arrange for road transportation to see the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals and the one with the largest eyes, and witness the grandeur of The Chocolate Hills of Bohol. See the old churches around town, although many have been destroyed by the 2013 major earthquake that struck the island. Take the Loboc River Cruise and have your lunch on a raft. Proceed to Panglao Island or, in case you don’t have premium budget for an overnight stay, choose one of the resorts by the shore and just take a day trip to the island.
3. Catch the sun in Bicol. Misibis Bay is located on Cagraray Island, Bacacay in Albay Province. To get there, fly Manila to Legazpi City. Feast at the sight of the majestic, perfectly shaped cone of Mayon Volcano and take an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or even hike up before proceeding to Misibis Bay after lunch or, early the following day.
If you’d rather travel on the road, Boy, Oh Boy, you’re in for a feast for the senses — yes, that includes a rather extraordinary experience for your tastebuds and tummy too. If you got just 1 week to tour around Manila and the provinces in Luzon, here’s an itinerary that you can use.
Day 1: Arrival. Check in to Sofitel Philippine Plaza or Hotel H2O for a magnificent view of Manila Bay and the sunset laid out in front of you. Make sure to get a bay side view. If you’d rather see the bustling night life of Makati City or, The Fort in Taguig City, there are also plenty of hotels, both posh and business style, that you can choose from.
Day 2: Drive Out South. Leave your hotel early morning to catch the early morning sunrise of Tagaytay, located about an hour up to 1.5 hours drive from Makati or Manila Bay. Have a cozy breakfast at Antonio’s to experience the ambiance of the glorious Spanish Era in the Philippines or, have a filling buffet breakfast with a full view of the Lake and Taal Volcano at Josephine’s. If you love your Starbucks and just want to take shots of your espresso, there’s a bar located in the area also facing the lake.
From here, you can drive up to a beach in Batangas or, try the hot springs of San Pablo or Calamba in Laguna. Batangas is a diving site. If you’re into that, then you should make time to spend a day or two in Batangas. If you’d rather take a relaxing dip in a hot pool of water, head to Laguna where manmade pools are filled with natural hot spring water coming from the lakes and mountains in the area. You can choose to stay or, go back late afternoon to your hotel in Manila.
Day 3: Drive Up North. Drive back to Manila on to C-5 or via EDSA, all the way to the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX). Make Pampanga your first stop. If you love the outdoors, most especially when you are traveling with grade school aged children, you should check out the activities at Sandbox, located in Porac, Pampanga.
Or, you can also just go on a gastronomic adventure in Pampanga. After all, it is recognized as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. You can’t miss Aling Lucing’s Sisig in Angeles City. Don’t fill up because you do have to try nearby Mila’s for their Chicharon Bulaklak and Paco Salad with Salted Egg too.
If you want to go full outdoor fun then, you should drive up all the way to Mt. Pinatubo for a rugged adventure. This mountain last erupted on June 15, 1991, which buried several towns in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac, while the effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It continues to be the home of Aetas, a group of indigenous people residing in Luzon. Several tour packages are available which take you on a combination of a 4×4 drive and hiking to the mouth of this caldera for a view of the lake.
Stay a night in hotels inside or within the vicinity of Clark Field where one of two former US bases (the other one was in Subic) was once located.
Day 4: Head to The Hundred Islands. Former Filipina beauty queen, Charlene Gonzales, was asked during the Miss Universe Pageant, “How many islands is the Philippine archipelago made up of?” to which she wittingly answered, “High tide or, low tide?” The 100 islands in the 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. From Pampanga, it should take you half of the day to get there. According to Ms Gonzales it could go up to 108 or, experts claim, possibly more, on low tide.
Your target is to get to Alaminos by sundown because there are no hotels in the area. Instead, you should get a guest room from local homes of townsfolk. You need not worry as these are all registered by the local government. However, do not expect the convenience of a five-star hotel. You should also ask your host for a “bangkero” or boat’s man. It’s best for you to book your boat now and ask your boat’s man or host as well if they can market and prepare lunch for you on one of the islands the following day.
Must-try food? Fresh Sinigang na Hipon or Isda (Shrimp or Fish in Tamarind Soup Base), Inihaw na Liempo (Grilled Pork Ribs), and Alaminos Longganisa — one of my most favorite sausages of all time!
Day 5: Sail to the Islands. Spend the early morning to around noon touring the many islands in the area. Take lunch and make room to befriend the locals. Dare yourself and your company to find your own island and practically really own it for several hours.
Make it back to shore by around two or three in the afternoon. Pack and drive farther up north to Baguio. You should be in your next destination by dinner time. To experience the best of Baguio, you should book a room in advance at The Manor or, Le Monet Hotel which are both located inside Camp John Hay. If you’d rather experience the city center, I personally recommend the newly refurbished Paragon Hotel on Otek Street just one block away from Burnham Park.
Warning: It can get really chilly at night so you better not be wearing the beach outfit you had on at Hundred Islands.
Day 6: Explore the best of Baguio. For a more detailed account of what you can do during your stay, check out this post and this post and this if you want to go all the way to Sagada. Baguio is only about four hours drive away from Manila so, you can either spend another night or, head out on Day 6.
Day 7: Visit Old Manila. If your plane leaves late evening, you can still catch the grandeur of Old Manila and go fully loaded on history by visiting Fort Santiago, Intramuros, and the National Museum.
Been to any of these places? Share your tips. If you found this guide helpful and actually used it to tour Philippines, whether you are a local or a foreigner, give your thumbs up, better yet, share the most defining moments of your trip with us! Happy vacationing!