Backpacking in the Philippines can seem like a daunting task. Not only are there 7,107 islands to choose from (yep, you read that right), but each one is stunning and unique in its own right. Plus, there’s so many fun things to do in the Philippines!
Where’s a backpacker to begin?
The good news is we’ll soon have 3 Mad Monkey hostels to choose from throughout these 7,107 islands. That’s your accommodation sorted, and now we can show you all the best things to do in the Philippines – your decision just got that little bit easier!!
From surfing to yoga, scuba diving to hiking, caving to paddleboarding to snorkeling… The Philippines could turn into your most active stop-off yet as you backpack Southeast Asia. It’s the perfect destination to explore after a boozy few weeks on the road, but that doesn’t mean the party ends here!
We’ve put together a list of the ultimate things to do in the Philippines for you – the fun-loving, curious, adventurous backpacker. You can easily experience all of these items whilst staying with us at Mad Monkey! Our Boracay, Nacpan and El Nido hostels are situated in locations which will allow you to experience a huge variety of the attractions that the Philippines has to offer backpackers.
All of this, and our suggestions still leave you lots of time to party.
Things To Do In The Philippines – Party in Boracay
Boracay is notorious for its all-night party scene. It’s a no-brainer stop-off for any Monkeys travelling out this direction. For crazy, all-day-all-night hostel or beach parties with a solid crew of locals and fellow international backpackers, Boracay is the place to be.
The party always gets started at Mad Monkey Boracay, usually from first thing in the morning…but join in whenever you fancy it! Eventually we’ll all hit the town together – Boracay’s main strip of bars and restaurants is just a 5-minute walk away. Where’s the party at, you ask?
- Exit Bar and Epic rank among the top recommended haunts for backpackers after an all-day session by the pool!
- Area 51 specializes in Full Moon Parties. They only open their doors according to the moon phases and for other exclusive/special events. If you happen to get your timing right, this is one of the most unique things to do in the Philippines for party animals. Check your dates accordingly!
- Bulabog Beach is also nearby if you’d prefer a chilled out evening or sunset stroll. However, be aware that parties in Boracay don’t do half-measures, and are always likely to end down on White Beach!
For more info on the pulsing nightlife of Boracay, check out:
- Boracay Nightlife Guide by Boracay Compass
Things To Do In The Philippines – Kitesurf on Bulabog Beach
The title of Number 1 Kitesurfing Beach in Asia comes with high expectations, yet Bulabog Beach does not disappoint. A hotspot for watersports of all kinds, Bulabog is the place to be if you’d like to try out a new skill or simply observe the carnival-like atmosphere of multi-coloured sails and parasails casually scattering the horizon. Between November and April (Habagat Season) kitesurfers from all over the world descend on this small stretch of land to make the most of the prevailing winds.
Beginners need not fear, however, as there are plenty of schools along the beach (like Freestyle Boracay) offering lessons to all levels! Between this and SUPing (Stand-Up Paddleboarding), it’s the perfect thing to do in the Philippines. Get active, and spend an afternoon soaking up the sun and the sea on a world-famous beach!
To learn more about kitesurfing in the Philippines, see: Surfer Today
Things To Do In The Philippines – Island-Hop the Bacuit Archipelago
The Bacuit Archipalego off of northern Palawan is the Philippines’ answer to Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. It’s arguably home to some of the most spectacular views in Southeast Asia, so it’s definitely one of the ultimate things to do in the Philippines for backpackers. Mother Nature has really outdone herself here.
Although we’ve already discussed Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ in relation to Thailand and certain filming sites, the director has admitted the original location and inspiration behind the movie was in fact, El Nido!
You can snorkel, dive, swim, sail, bathe, laze, pose for Instagram…all in pristine surroundings, crystal clear waters, and luscious greenery. It’s heaven.
Several diving and island-hopping tours in the area depart from El Nido. This close to where the new Mad Monkey hostel is located. Cadlao Island is where the majority of the visual pleasure takes place, but staying out there can be pricey. Most travelers choose to stay in the nearby regions and beachside towns. The bonus here is that you get the best of both worlds, experiencing some of the locality as well as seeing the typical tourist attractions!
There are many different types of island-hopping tours to suit every pocket and preference if you’re backpacking in the Philippines. Between day-long jaunts, overnight stays, private or adventure tours – you’re bound to find something to suit you!
Staff and guides at El Nido port will help you decide the best option for you, but El Nido Paradise run great tours and have detailed knowledge of the surrounding areas to make sure you see everything possible!
Things To Do In The Philippines – Swim on Nacpan Beach
Image courtesy of tripadvisor
Nacpan Beach has been in included several times in ‘World’s Most Beautiful Beaches’ polls, and it’s not hard to see why. The ‘twin beaches’ of Nacpan and Cailtang Beach not far away can also be seen in the likes of The Bourne Identity (2002) and Survivor (TV show), and really are something special.
A 45-minute motorbike or tricycle ride from El Nido, many of those backpacking in the Philippines make a day-trip here and return after sunset. If the sunsets are anything to go by however, sunrise sounds almost even more tempting, so it’s definitely worth a night here. Watching the sun come up over the ocean is a necessary thing to do in the Philippines, at least once.
The peace and beauty of Nacpan is something an increasing number of visitors find difficult to tear themselves away from, so it’s understandable that there are several guesthouses and hostels emerging to cater for this (Mad Monkey Nacpan, coming soon!). El Nido Paradise stop off at Nacpan Bay in their Tour E option, yet if you want to stay here you’d be better off making your own way (via motorbike/tricycle). You can walk to the nearby Cailtang Beach and eat, drink, swim to your heart’s content. Nacpan is a little slice of paradise and Mad Monkey are thrilled that we’ll soon be able to offer guests accommodation here!
Things To Do In The Philippines – Visit the Chocolate Hills
Bohol is very much an up and coming destination for backpackers in the Philippines. It’s most notably famed for yet another of Mother Nature’s generous offerings to this region – The Chocolate Hills. 1,268 dome-shaped hills dot the 50-squared kilometres of landscape here, making for a beautiful and surreal visual experience. This is heightened especially during dry season when the mounds appear chocolate-brown for as far as the eye can see, earning them their nickname.
There are several theories as to how exactly the limestone hills formed, including several myths and legends involving giants and gods! Most people however accept the general understanding that gradual geological shifting combined with erosion and weathering have brought them to their current state of natural beauty. Two large resorts have been formed around them by the tourist boards in the Philippines, yet it is still possible to visit them without staying here (they’re very expensive!)
Simply hopping on a bus bound for Carmen town or Sagbayan from Tagbilaran City in Bohol (Dao terminal) will leave you at the entrance to the resorts within 10 minutes. From here, you can find a guide to lead you to the hills.
Other attractions on Bohol include the Hingdanan Caves, Alona Beach, and several Adventure/Eco-tourism parks.
Things To Do In The Philippines – Go Mermaiding
Yeah…we know how it sounds. But don’t diss it ’til you’ve tried it!
‘Mermaiding’ is a new trend in the Philippines. It was brought to our attention by some guests who sent this our way. It’s basically a new style of fitness class combining swimming with ‘artistic movement’, and involves strapping yourself into a mermaid tail and sloshing around in the shallows of a Filipino beach.
Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy advocate their classes as a great way to ‘get fit’ and take some seriously Instagrammable content with their brightly coloured fish tails and beach-bum landscapes. We can’t deny being slightly intrigued (and also amused) by it.
If nothing else, it certainly sounds like great craic if you want to try something different for an afternoon? This is one of the things to do in the Philippines that we haven’t actually tried ourselves but that guests and locals have been raving about. Worth a shot, or not? You decide!
Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy have schools in Manila, Anilao, Cebu and Borangas already, so they must be doing something right!
How To Get Around In The Philippines:
As a network of small islands separate from one another, it can be difficult for those backpacking in the Philippines to determine the best routes to get from place to place
How To Get To Manila
Most international flights will bring you to the capital city of the Philippines, and as it’s a central hub for neighbouring destinations you’re bound to spend at least a transitory day or two here during your travels. Cebu Pacific, Air Juan, Air Swift and Philippines Airlines the main airlines which operate between islands, yet you may also find deals with Air Asia by using Skyscanner to check your dates.
How To Get To Boracay
There is no airport on Boracay, and so it’s become protocol for those traveling here to fly from Manila into the neighbouring island of Palay. Palay has two airports, Caticlan airport (10 minutes from ferry port) and Kalibo airport (1 hr 15 minutes from ferry port).
For this reason flights to Kalibo are generally cheaper, yet it depends on your preference. Caticlan ferry port out to Boracay then takes 15 minutes by speed boat/ferry. Island Star Express operate a great service between the various airports, ports, and resorts of Palay/Boracay.
How To Get To El Nido
To get to El Nido in Palawan the best route is to fly out from Manila. However Manila to El Nido direct flights can be pricey, so the cheaper option is to fly into the island’s main city – Puerto Princesa – instead.
Traveling overland from Puerto Princesa to El Nido can then be done by bus – a longer, 6 hours option, but you’ll ultimately see more of the beautiful surroundings and save money in the process!
The town of Sabang is situated conveniently between Puerto Princesa and El Nido. It is a popular overnight stop for backpackers heading there. The journey can also be done in a single day. However, at the risk of not seeing anything else on the island (you may never want to leave El Nido!), a night in Sabang is usually a good call.
From Caticlan you can fly straight to El Nido with Air Juan and Air Swift.
How To Get To Nacpan Beach
To get to Nacpan Beach, first make your way towards El Nido. Tour E around El Nido stops off in Nacpan Beach during the day, but to make your own way here for an overnight stay it’s about a 45 minute motorbike/jeepney/tricycle ride.
How To Get To Bohol
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, again fly direct from Manila to Bohol several times daily (1hr 15 mins). From neighbouring Cebu, flight options are also available, yet so is the ferry. This includes several fastboat/general ferry options, the rates of which change regularly.
How To Get Around The Philippines
Popular local forms of transport across The Philippines include (but are not limited to, it is still Asia afterall!):
- The humble Tuk-Tuk
- The Jeepney (see above)
- Local Buses
- Domestic Flights (Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia, etc)
Looking for more Things To Do In The Philippines?
Our Ultimate List is pretty ultimate in our opinion, but there are always more things to do in the Philippines.
We’re lucky to live in a time with so many online resources to help us plan our travels. However, the secluded nature of many places in the Philippines can make strong WiFi hard to come by. For this reason it’s worth doing your research beforehand.
Blogs we love with great advice for things to do in the Philippines:
- 27 Cool and Unusual Things – Must Do In Philippines by Atlas Obscura
- Top 10 Things In The Philippines by Southeast Asia Backpacker
- 7 Unique Things In The Philippines by PhiliHappy
- Philippines Things To See And Do by World Travel Guide
BONUS! These useful apps allow you to save information to read offline:
- Pocket (formerly Readit Later) – iOS/Android
- My Klips – Google Chrome/iOS/Android
- Evernote – iOS/Android
- Offline browser in Android
How Did We Do?
Is the article “Things To Do In The Philippines” useful? If so, please share and like this post, as it helps other travelers find information. Many thanks! You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for further updates!