Philippines: A pocket guide

There’s much more to these treasured islands than picturesque shorelines, white-sand beaches, and palm trees. In this sprawling network of more than 7,000 islands, you’ll find dense forests that are home to indigenous people, a strong Spanish colonial influence, bustling cityscapes, and a genuine zest for life. A spirited nightlife contributes to the Philippines’ vibrant cultural scene, and fiestas regularly blossom in the streets and squares. Catholic religious festivals are celebrated en masse, while smaller festivities, such as Ati-Atihan and Masskara, remain unique to specific regions. Wherever you are, embrace the jubilant atmosphere and be ready to immerse yourself in the party spirit.

By day, explore the complex history of the Philippines. In Manila, home to an array of museums and monuments dedicated to the island’s rich heritage, take a morning trip to explore the colonial walled city of Intramuros. The WWII American Memorial Cemetery stirs strong emotions—a visit here is a must. So, too, is a tour of the National Museum of the Filipino People, which brings the islands’ precolonial history to life.

For a land-based adventure, travel to the northern islands and head inland to the many rice-fields and remote villages, best explored by bicycle. Pedal along a scenic route at your leisure and appreciate the laborious process behind the staple food of the islands.

If you’re seeking an abundance of sun, sea, and sand, as well as luxurious seclusion, then you are in luck. For ultimate privacy, head to the Visayas, a group of seven large and hundreds of smaller islands in the center of the archipelago, and spend your days hopping from island to island. Or swim among rainbow-colored fish and exotic underwater plant life—the diving in the Philippines is superb.

Perhaps the best way to spend a day in this relaxation mecca is on warm sands beneath a balmy midday sun. Add a superb vacation rental and outstanding service and you have a patch of paradise.

Meet the Experts for Philippines