The first thing I think of when someone mentions the Philippines is Boracay. A small island known as a tourist destination, hub for resorts and gorgeous white sand beaches. But of course there's more to this country. I recently found out about Palawan - another beautiful island in the Philippines and less touristy but on the rise. I'm not anti-touristy destinations, but I do find true beauty in the untouched - more locals less tourists. Every time I touch down in a new destination, I'm always thinking, "Pero where do the locals hang?". It's something about transforming into a native. Enjoying the country as if it was your birthplace and not just another vacation. It heightens the cultural experiences you're immersed into. I haven't traveled to the Philippines yet, but it's definitely on my never ending bucket list of places to go. Instead of searching for a travel agency or a concierge service to get recommendations on things to do and spots to hit up, I reached out to a local I know - Travel Writer and Media Influencer Sheila Tagaro. She's a former CNN Philippines Desk Editor, founder of travel blog The Solo Tripper, and author of "If You Fall For The Girl Who Travels" that was featured in the Huffington Post. We met over Twitter a year ago and our shared love for travel has kept us in contact ever since. She's traveled to many different countries, but the Philippines is her home. No one knows home like a local which is why I'm excited to share with you Sheila's top 5 places to go in the Philippines. Let's follow her.
El Nido is a tropical paradise, luring tourists with its crystal-clear lagoons, coral reefs, limestone cliffs, and pristine white sand beaches.
Pro Tip: Don’t stay within the town proper if you want a more laid-back vacation. There are beautiful beaches outside town that are worth exploring!
Coron is another Philippine destination wowing visitors with its crystalline waters, white-sand beaches, colorful corals, and picturesque islands.
Pro Tip: Take an early trip to Coron if you want to take good photos minus the crowd.
Boracay is a small island, but its stunning white sand beaches and beautiful resorts continue to win hearts of tourists. It is also packed with adventures like cliff diving, parasailing, motorbiking, horse riding, snorkeling, kite surfing and scuba diving. When the sun sets, a buzzing nightlife scene kicks off.
Pro Tip: Boracay is a famous spot for capture of magnificent sunsets.
Mayon Volcano is significant for its perfectly symmetrical cone shape. It was even listed by CNN as one of the world’s most photogenic volcanoes. Besides the picturesque volcano, tourists can enjoy taking snapshots of the belfry and what is left of the baroque Cagsawa Church that was destroyed by the 1814 eruption.
Pro Tip: The Lignon Hill, Cagsawa Ruins and Legazpi Boulevard will give you an amazing view of the Mayon Volcano, but take pictures at dawn before the clouds roll in.
Vigan is the country’s first and only UNECO World Heritage city. This tourist destination is for culture and history vultures. The city gives a glimpse of the Philippines’ colonial past and culture. Spanish-styled houses, the antique shops, the 17th century Augustinian cathedral are all Instagram-worthy.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave Vigan without a taste of Vigan longganisa (sausage) and empanada from the street food stalls around.