This island nation is brimming with rainbow-coloured reefs and tropical fish best explored with expert marine biologists. The pristine white sand beaches rival those of the Maldives far from the glistening lights of Manila and are surrounded with limestone cliffs and picturesque volcanic islands.
The Philippines spreads out across over 7,000 islands, containing more than enough to keep even the most curious traveller happy. Plenty of space coupled with the fact that the island nation is still relatively free from mass tourism results in a beach destination that still feels blissfully off the beaten track. With picture-perfect, palm-framed beach-scapes and a good deal of adventure to be had, the Philippines makes a great alternative to Bali or Thailand.
There’s a fascinating history to uncover, particularly the colonial legacy left behind by the Spanish, remnants of which you’ll find in urban hotspots such as Manila and Cebu. Once you’ve left the teeming megacities behind however, a tropical paradise awaits. Whatever type of traveller you are, the Philippines is sure to satisfy your cravings: cocktail crawl your way across Boracay’s party beaches; trek up mountains and smouldering volcanoes; explore the jungle interior which conceals ancient tribal villages and exotic wildlife; dive into sapphire waters; swim with whale sharks and, of course, end up with at least a few days on the beach.
Wix Squared has some exceptional guides to get you under the skin of the country including:
- Specialists in colonial history and architecture
- Authorities on indigenous cultures
- Mountain biking professionals
- Trekking guides
- Diving instructors
- Passionate gourmands
- Photography enthusiasts
- Ornithologists and wildlife experts
Itinerary Starting Price
Itinerary starting price: From £2,500 per person, for 7 days including accommodation and private transfers (not including flights).
As a result of the Spanish influence from colonial times, the Philippines is named after King Philip II of Spain.
In January, Filipinos celebrate Ati-atihan, a week of colourful street parades, beating drums and much merrymaking.
What to Eat
Adobo is the Philippines’ unofficial national dish and consists of pork, chicken or indeed any other meat stewed in soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper and a ton of crushed garlic.
What to Read
One of the most significant novels in Philippine literature, ‘Noli Me Tangere’ by José Rizal, is a beautifully told love story set during a tense political climate. It is thought to have been pivotal in the country’s gaining of independence.
What to buy
The Philippines is one of the world’s largest producers of natural pearls which you can buy at very reasonable prices. Just make sure they’re authentic and sustainably produced.
Right in the middle of Manila’s downtown, The Peninsula is the glamorous, old-school option for those who want to rub shoulders with the city’s movers and shakers. Art lovers will be happiest at Raffles Makati, whose walls are covered in commissioned works primarily by Filipino artists. Just next door is the Fairmont, with a diverse range of activities within walking distance, whilst the Shangri-La is a safe bet with a tropical garden creating the perfect refuge from the hectic streets of the capital.
If there’s anywhere that’ll give you a feeling of castaway bliss, it’s the Philippines, where getting off the beaten track has never been easier. A crop of exclusive, remote island hideaways provide barefoot luxury at its best. There’s Amanpulo, the ultimate stop for Amanjunkies, or the eco-chic El Nido, a diving hotspot with a marine sanctuary right on its doorstep. For true exclusivity, enjoy a private island experience all to yourself at Ariara.
Sun seekers are spoilt for choice when it comes to beach resorts in the Philippines. The Shangri-La, overlooking Boracay’s spotless northern coastline, is a haven of hospitality, as are the tranquil seaside resorts of Amorita and Nay Palad, which comprises only nine villas. Esakya Beach Resort and Spa, named after the indigenous people of Bohol, combines modern luxury with traditional Filipino touches and Abaca, on Mactan Island, is an intimate tropical retreat with a laid-back atmosphere.
The Philippines is the quintessential destination for getting off the grid in comfort. For a complete digital detox, we suggest a stint on the Silolona, a traditional sailing yacht that’s been given the luxury treatment or stay on land at The Farm at San Benito – a centre of calm, holistic wellness and healing journeys. It’s all about self-nourishment here, with delicious vegan cuisine, mindfulness and personalised health optimisation.
With thousands of islands to choose from, there’s a beach for every type of sunworshipper. Choose the Palawan archipelago for picture-perfect shores like El Nido which inspired the novel The Beach, Boracay for a lively, party scene, Coahagan Island for a taste of the traditional way of life, Pamilican for whales, dolphins and excellent snorkelling, Siargao for surfers. We can arrange anything from private picnics and sundowners on sandbanks to sunset cruises and sleep-outs under the stars.
The Philippines’ topography lends itself to adventure with a varied and exhilarating landscape. We’ll take you hiking through 2000-year-old, UNESCO-protected paddy fields before a stay in a traditional thatch-roofed hut or camping on one of many volcanoes dotted across the archipelago. Experience jungle living in tropical Bohol, home not only to the dome-shaped Chocolate Hills but also to the Loboc River, best explored by paddle board. Further north, discover secret caves and the hanging coffins of Echo Valley, deep within the misty mountains of Sagada.
For scuba fans, there are just as many stunning sites underwater as there are on land and our stunning collection of liveaboards will take you off the beaten track to discover them. Besides the colourful coral, epic drop offs and thrilling drift dives, an array of dramatic wrecks – some dating back to WWII – lie waiting to be explored. Far flung reefs are home to whale shark, giant sea turtle, manta ray and even the pre-historic looking dugong. There’s plenty to tick off your bucket list.
The hectic city of Manila is a far cry from the relaxing beaches most imagine when considering a holiday in the Philippines. However, a few nights here at the beginning or end of your trip are a few nights well spent, especially when staying in the comfort of one of our favourite hotels. Our private guides can show you the very oldest parts of the historic centre inside the ancient city walls. Meanwhile the ‘real’ city is in downtown Makati where you can snack from hole-in-the-wall bars and visit the world’s oldest Chinatown.
Thanks to its remote location, the Philippines’ biodiversity is world-renowned. We suggest exploring the tropical rainforests on the islands of Bohol and Palawan to discover the most colourful, exotic wildlife. Our guides know just where to locate the wide-eyed tarsier – an endangered mouse-frog-monkey hybrid that’s just five inches high – as well as brilliantly glowing fireflies in the mangroves, whale shark in Donsol and plenty of birdlife too.
Remnants of a colonial past lie scattered across the Philippines with towns bearing names such as Sevilla and Valencia, crumbling cathedrals and 16th century wooden houses all bearing testament to the Spanish legacy. Wix Squared guides can reveal the secrets of forts, churches and parks from another age, invite you inside ancestral homes in Cebu, explain the imposing walls of Intramuros in Manila and bring to life the UNESCO World Heritage city of Vigan where the local specialty is the empanada.
The staggering scenery of the Philippines and the intoxicating energy of Japan make them a great travel combination, not to mention the direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya. Stark contrasts abound: the fast pace of Japanese cities is a far cry from the crystal-clear waters and white sands of the Philippines.
With direct flights from both Sydney and Melbourne, it’s very easy to link the Philippines with Down Under. Enjoy the big outdoors with bush adventures or explore the Gold Coast before heading north where each Philippine-island is more beautiful than the next.
For the ultimate ‘shop and flop’ holiday, we suggest pairing slick, sophisticated Dubai with the beaches of the Philippines. Thankfully, there’s a direct flight from Dubai to Manila from where you’ll be whisked directly to the sun, sand and sea.
The many islands of the Philippines present multiple opportunities for fabulous events and parties, and we have the experience and contacts to point you in the right direction.
There are obviously never-ending options for wedding ceremonies, proposals, vow renewals or intimate dinners on countless beaches and coves but we can also arrange a private boat party cruise on Manila Bay, dinner in a giant Ferris wheel or even a cultural show in the ruins of an old theatre.
Find out more about Events by Wix Squared
The best time to travel is November-April with temperatures rising in March and April.
The rainy season is May-October when the arrival of typhoons is unpredictable.
- The Philippines offers wonderful weather in January, and it is rare to see any rain during this month, so be sure to book with plenty of notice to secure the best rooms.
- Temperatures are slightly warmer than January and this is an excellent time of year for diving and sunbathing. The hot air balloon fiesta takes place just north of Manilla with balloon rides, skydiving and aerobatic displays.
- The temperatures are climbing but it is still a lovely time to visit the Philippines where you can cool off in the turquoise waters and witness some incredible marine life. For a bit of culture, it is a short flight from Manila to Tokyo or Osaka for the cherry blossom season.
- April is the last month of the dry season and it is best to avoid Easter when there is a hike in the hotel rates. Time your visit with the Dragon Boat Festival from the white sandy coastline of Boracay.
- You might see a splattering of rain in May which will come as a light relief from the high temperatures. Now is a great time to indulge in sailing, kayaking or simply relaxing in a beautiful spa.
- The heavier rain showers begin in June but the islands around Cebu tend to stay dry until August and there are a couple of great hotels we work with in that area.
- Cebu, Bohol and Panglao are the driest parts of the Philippines at this time of year where we can book you into an incredible hotel or charter a boat around these waters with untouched dive sites.
- This is one of the wettest months of the year when typhoons are likely, hence you might prefer to only spend a short amount of time here before continuing to Bali for more guaranteed weather.
- The monsoon rain continues, and it can be very wet in September, however we have some incredible rates with the hotels, and you can always hole up in a luxury spa to escape the thunderstorms.
- If you can wait until November, we recommend doing so to avoid the last of the rains. Alternatively take the first part of your holiday in Hong Kong before flying on to the Philippines where we can negotiate a great deal on a private island.
- November tends to be mostly dry when you can visit local villages, ancient caves and dive amongst wrecks, though be prepared for the odd tropical shower.
- This is a great time of year to visit the Philippines with warm sunny days and great visibility for snorkelling and diving in the incredible turquoise waters or star gazing into cloudless skies.