2018 was the year when tourism in the Philippines hit an all-time high. The Department of Trade and Industry reports a recorded 7.1 million foreign tourists that visited the country, an increase of 7.7% when compared to 2017’s statistics. This year, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with the Manila Standard noting foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines increasing to 12.4% in the first seven months of 2019 alone.
Domestic travel also seems to be flourishing these past couple of years. The Department of Tourism’s (DOT) recorded number of domestic travelers have already exceeded 97 million since 2017, which prompted the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) to revise their target of 89.2 million domestic tourists by 2022. This has been a fairly recent trend, too, with DOT noting that these statistics have doubled from the 45 million domestic tourists recorded four or five years ago.
With the tourism industry booming, the tourism market is catching up with things that make traveling easier and more accessible. As noted by lifestyle magazine Preen, seat sales and apartment rental apps like Agoda or Airbnb make booking your next getaway easier and more wallet-friendly.
If you’re already building up your wanderlust spirits and looking for your next R&R destination, here are some popular locations in the country that you might want to look into.
Next to Metro Manila, Cebu is the Philippines’s second biggest metropolis. Not only does Cebu have five-star hotels, shopping areas, casinos, and resorts all for a tourist’s perusal, it’s also host to picturesque beaches and must-see historical landmarks.
Among the historical sites in Cebu is the famous Magellan’s Cross, believed to be set up by Ferdinand Magellan, a Spanish conquistador. Magellan’s Cross has the honor of serving as a marker for Catholicism and Europe’s first contact with the Philippine islands. Close to Magellan’s Cross is the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, one of the oldest historical landmarks in the country. Founded in 1565 and constructed around 1740, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño features a stone facade with a unique hybrid style of Muslim, Romanesque, and Neoclassical influences.
Tourists also flock to Cebu for the yearly Sinulog festival, a grand and lively celebration of Filipino traditional beliefs and the acceptance of Christianity through the celebration of the Santo Niño icon. The cultural event is surely a sight not to be missed, with elaborate parades, brightly colored and intricate costumes, live music and drums, and a lot of dancing.
After Boracay’s six-month closure for rehabilitation, GMA News reports that the iconic white sand beach destination’s re-opening this 2019 has the famous tourist spot looking much cleaner and even more picturesque than before.
Since the location reopened, the destination has been rebranded as a peaceful and relaxing getaway. The Boracay that used to be a destination for partygoers has now changed into a place where you can enjoy the tranquil sand, wind, and waters, and have your break from the chaos of city life.
With its crystal clear waters, untouched beaches, and thriving ecosystems, Travel+Leisure’s second best island in The World’s Best Awards 2019. There are tons of resorts, luxury hotels, or backpacker inns around the many islands of Palawan. Main island destinations are Coron, Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and San Vicente, all of which are equally breathtaking.
The sights and sunbathing in Palawan are incredible enough to occupy your entire stay at any island of your choice, but there are also plenty of activities you can opt to do at your leisure. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, with its magnificent limestone landscapes and untouched forestry and wildlife, is regarded as one of the 7 Wonders of Nature and is a UNESCO World heritage site. There are also plenty of divespots in Palawan, with the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park serving as a top spot for both newbie and experienced divers alike. Island hopping, snorkeling, kitesurfing, kayaking, and other water sports can also easily be arranged with your group tour or hotel.
Vigan, located in the quiet province of Ilocos Sur, is a great display of Philippine colonial history and the unique culture of the Ilocos region. Dating as far back as the 16th century, the entire city of Vigan is a living cultural artifact — the buildings feature untouched architecture with combined Spanish and Chinese architectural elements, reflecting its history of affluent Ilocano-Chinese settlers.
Every nook and cranny of Vigan maintains the picture of the entire town as coming straight out of the Spanish colonial era, from the stone-cobbled roads to the al fresco bars scattered along them. Even hotels try to accurately display designs reminiscent of the 16th-century Spanish occupation in their interiors, like lauded art hotel Hotel Luna, which combines luxurious interiors with art pieces spanning from the 16th century to the contemporary era.
CNN Travel recently hailed the popular tourist destination as among the best locations in Asia to fully experience Spanish colonial era architecture, citing its well-preserved buildings as well as its historical museums and expertly-restored Baroque-style cathedrals. If you’re looking for a unique getaway that lets you both learn and experience culture and history, then Vigan is the place to go.
Sagada is the perfect place for the adventurer. Located in the Cordillera Administrative Region, a quick Google search of the area might not give you many results. However, it’s been gaining popularity thanks to the hit local film That Thing Called Tadhana. Sagada is the destination to consider if you’re looking for a holistic, healing retreat from the chaotic, noisy hustle and bustle of city life. Watching the sunrise at the Kiltepan Viewpoint is an experience like no other — at the break of dawn, the sun lights up a thick sea of clouds above the awe-inspiring view of the mountains and rice terraces of the Cordilleras.
Other activities you can do in Sagada surely don’t fall behind— the area has its fair share of breathtaking sights. The Hanging Coffins of Sagada are a cultural landmark, showcasing the ancient practice of the Igorot people where remains of beloved, revered elders are hung against limestone walls. For daredevils looking for adrenaline, spelunking in the Lumiang and the Sumaguing cave is an experience like no other, giving you a dose of heart-pumping adventure as you marvel at the untouched beauty of nature. If you fancy a laid-back hike, there’s also the Bomod-ok, the Pongas, and the Bokong falls in the area, all of which are just equally as spectacular as the other.
If you’re looking for more travel tips to try during your upcoming getaway, check out Daydreaming in Paradise’s 5 Packing Hacks for Traveling on a Budget.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.