Manila is the Philippines' capital city and a thriving urbanized center, which is the world’s most populous city as of 2018. Manila is one of the world’s first Global Cities whose commercial network was the first to cross the Pacific Ocean. The city has been damaged by hurricanes and tsunamis and then rebuilt many times, making one of the most disaster-affected cities in the world, though it remains one of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest cities.
More than one million tourists travel to Manila annually with some of the major attractions, including historic sites such as Intramuros, the famous walled city, and the center of Manila. The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church are also located in Intramuros. There are also famous Buddhist temples, architecture, and parks to explore. Many people venture to Manila however for medical tourism and shopping. Manila is known as being one of the greatest places for shopping in Asia.
1.Ayala Triangle Gardens
Ayala Triangle Gardens has evolved over the years from being the first landing strip in the Philippines to be the center of the business community, and now a calm and quiet haven that includes 20,000 square meters of landscaped park ground. The courtyard is open and surrounded by palm trees, rain trees, and other beautiful flora. Local art pieces are displayed throughout the courtyard making the Ayala Triangle Gardens a contemporary art oasis. The garden is open from 6 am to 10 pm daily. Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times.
There are also fourteen restaurants featured in the Ayala Triangle Gardens and eight spaces for public art. Other great attractions in the gardens include the Filipinas Heritage Library and several monuments to notable Filipino people, including Sultan Kudarat, Ninoy Aquino, and Gabriela Silang.
Paseo De Roxas St Cor Makati Ave, Cor Ayala Ave, Makati, 1209 Metro Manila, Philippines, Phone: +63-2-79-08-30-00
One of the most popular city getaways in the Philippines, just a few hours of Manila, is Batangas, on Luzon Island. Though on an island, Batangas is not known for its beaches like elsewhere in the Philippines, however, the marine life is extremely diverse and earns Batangas the name, “Center of the Center of Marine Biodiversity.”
The province is famously known for Taal Lake and the fabulous diving offered in Anilao. The best time to visit Batangas is between November and April during the dry season. Many people visit from May to July, but the temperatures are remarkably high, as well as the humidity. Some popular attractions in Batangas include hiking at the Taal Volcano, swim in the crater lake, which is said to have healing properties, or visit the historic buildings and sites at the Taal Heritage Town.
Corregidor Island is a historic small island where Americans fought with the Filipinos to protect the island from the Japanese in World War II. The island is one of the most important defensive sites for the capital of the Philippines, Manila, and unfortunately, the allied American and Filipino troops were not able to resist the Japanese in the end and Manila, and the bay, was captured. In 1945 however, the Philippines took Corregidor Island back, and no military action has happened since.
The Corregidor Island still highlights evidence of wartime with the ruins of the World War II bases abandoned all across the island and buildings that were destroyed by the bombs and never cleared away. Some of these sites even still have guns and evidence of men living in the barracks. Visitors can only reach the island by private boat.
Visitors looking for a fun, outdoor day trip away from Manila will enjoy Tanay, Rizal, where they can visit the Daranak Falls. The province, just east of Manila, is a small town with several natural areas that have been developed for tourism, including the 14-meter high waterfalls. The crystal-clear water fills a 30-foot deep basin before flowing into a river that can be hiked along.
The waterfalls are open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. Public transportation from Manila is available to Daranak Falls, and the area is often crowded in the summer and on weekends. No alcohol or pets are permitted at the park; however, visitors are allowed to swim in the basin. Local guides are also available to take people to Batlag Falls or Calinawan Cave nearby.
“The Magic Lives Forever” at The Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa, Laguna, a theme park founded by Mario Mamon and his wife in 1995. A ten-year expansion of the park began in 2016 and sought to redevelop the theme park, add a water park, convention center, and lifestyle center, as well as several new theme park zones.
The current seven zones at the park are Victoria Park, Brooklyn Place, Boulderville, Spaceport, Portabello, Jungle Outpost, and Midway Boardwalk. There are more than 20 rides with more planned in the expansion. The Enchanted Kingdom is not affiliated with any other brands, including Disney, and all characters are the creation of the owners and management, including the mascot, a wizard name Eldar the Wizard.
San Lorenzo South, City of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines 4026
Within Intramuros, Fort Santiago is one of the most impressive structures of the walled city. The mighty fort was constructed in 1571 and is the oldest Spanish Fort is in the country though it was originally where a Muslim kingdom was settled before the Spaniards destroyed it. Fort Santiago served as a defense fortress along the spice trade routes. The Americans used the Fort as their headquarters in the Philippines during World War II but were turned into a prison by the Japanese who seized it.
Today, the Philippine National Parks Development Committee manages Fort Santiago. Visitors can explore the grounds and ruins, including an on-site museum dedicated to the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was executed by the Japanese there. Fort Santiago is open daily, offers guided and self-guided tours, and is easily accessible by taxi.
Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila, Philippines
Fortune Island is an abandoned island in Batangas that was once a private luxury resort island. The resort closed in 2006 due to the lack of access to fresh drinking water and the cost of bringing fresh water into the resort. An acropolis stands on top of a limestone cliff on Fortune Island. The island is accessible via boat from Fortune Island Resort, which now operates from the mainland. Visitors will pay an entrance fee to the resort, as well as a boat rental fee to go to the quiet, secluded island.
Visitors to the island swim at the white sand beaches or cliff dive into the deep, yet calm waters. A lighthouse is also found on the island and reachable by hiking thirty minutes from the beach. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also fun, popular activities. There are a few natural wonders under the water on Fortune Island include Blue Holes, which are made up of sinkholes, Dutch freighter wreckage, and the Fortune NW coral formation. Some visitors also camp on the island.
8.Hidden Valley Springs
© PBNJ photo/stock.adobe.com
Tucked between two mountains in Laguna is a 110-acre tropical forest with natural springs called Hidden Valley Springs. The resort property features waterfalls and three spring pools in one of the most beautiful settings anyone could imagine. One of the pools is named Soda Pool because it tastes like a sugar-free sprite. The pools are surrounded by trees that are centuries old with paths that visitors can use to explore the forest. Wi-Fi and cell service is spotty at Hidden Valley Springs, but the resort’s goal is to be a relaxing oasis, away from the chaos of everyday life. The resort offers a buffet lunch or dinner for guests to enjoy in the dining hall each day. Tours of the Hidden Valley Springs are available daily between 8 am and 5 pm.
© Malacanang Palace
The Malacanang Palace is where the President of the Philippines lives and works. The Palace is found in San Miguel and is a sprawling campus with multiple mansions, offices, and meeting halls, all designed in a neoclassical style. The original palace was constructed in 1750 as a summer house for Don Luis Rocha and then bought by the state in 1825, was destroyed by earthquake in 1863 and has been enlarged and remodeled and refurnished numerous times while it has been used for eighteen Spanish Governors, Fourteen American Governors, and now the President of Philippines.
The grounds are one of the few parks in Manila and are comprised of acacia trees more than a century old, tropical plants, and public gardens named Freedom Park.
Malacañan Palace, JP, Kalayaan Hall, 2/F Jose Laurel St, San Miguel, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines, Phone: +63-2-87-36-46-62
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There is a secret Sanctuary called the Masungi Georeserve in Baras Rizal. The reserve is 1,500 hectares of adventure for hikers, and thrill-seekers who can take guided tours at either 7:30 am or 1 pm daily. The 3-4 hour hike takes participants over rocky terrain, across rope bridges, into caves, amidst gorgeous tropical fauna to see sites such as limestone peaks, cave shelters, and even a web where you can lie high about the rocky reserve they dare and have a one-of-a-kind view of the Laguna de Bay. There are entrance fees to the Georeserve, but this fee includes a tour guide, helmet, and backpack rental, water, and a snack after the hike.
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Mount Batulao is located in Nasugbu, Batangas, and features twelve peaks and amazing views of Batangas and Grass Ridges, both coastal towns in the Philippines. The mountain is an inactive volcano with deep gorges, jagged peaks, and many ridges. The area is known for its resorts and peaceful retreat centers just 53 miles from Manila.
Mount Batulao is a great mountain for beginner-level hikers and climbers with the East Trail being the longest and most challenging route that takes hikers up to the summit and features a gradual ascent. There is also a campsite along this trail just before it starts getting a bit rocky. There are golf courses and clubhouses at the base of the mountain where the spas and resorts are found.
Mount Pinatubo is a dormant volcano that discharged in 1991 after six centuries of inactivity, releasing tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere and killing nearly 1000 people and destroying more than 100,000 homes. Today, the turquoise crater lake in the center attracts visitors from all over the world who can expect several hours of hiking and an ATV ride to reach their destination.
Some of the activities that visitors can do in the Mount Pinatubo area include volcanic ash treatments at the various spas, visiting the Capas Shrine, go hiking, spend time at Museo de Tarlac, or attend mass at a centuries-old Spanish Catholic Cathedral. Visitors can also explore caves, hot springs, and historic homes that still exist in the province.
Visitors who want to spend a day outdoors in the Philippines can visit Pagsanjan Falls, one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions in Laguna. While the falls are located in Cavinti, they are named after the nearby town of Pagsanjan because the falls are most often accessed through Pagsanjan. People who live in Cavinti refer to the falls as Magdapio Falls, which the indigenous people named the waterfalls originally.
A one-hour boat ride from Pagsanjan takes visitors to the pool called Shooting the Rapids where they can witness the falls, then take a fast-paced ride downstream. Visitors who choose the Cavinti route to the falls will need a rappel to go down a 90-degree ladder, then raft the rest of the way to the falls. There are no vendors or amenities in the area, so visitors must make sure to bring enough food and water with them.
14.Pinto Art Museum
© Pinto Art Museum
The historic city of Antipolo, just outside of Manila, is home to the Pinto Art Museum, a contemporary exhibition space founded in 2010. The museum’s focus is to display the art collected over the year by Dr. Joven Cuanang, a patron of the arts and neurologist. The museum’s name translates to “door” in Filipino and is aligned with the belief that arts can play a great role in bridging groups of people.
The exhibits at the museum rotate though the collection and seek to promote the works of Filipino artists, both contemporary and primitive. Visitors can find the museum inside a large complex inside the Silangan Botanical Gardens.
1 Sierra Madre St, Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, Philippines, Phone: +63-26-97-10-15
© Rachelle Resurreccio/stock.adobe.com
Visitors looking for a summer beach day away from Manila can enjoy the pristine beaches at Potipot, an Island destination in Zambales. The waters surrounding Potipot Island are crystal clear, and the white sand beaches have attracted an influx of travelers in recent years.
Potipot Island is not a resort island; however, and visitors that wish to stay overnight will need to camp on the beaches or can rent a local beach hut. There are toilets and picnic tables on the island, and several of the boat services from the resorts in Uacon or private ferry boatmen can get visitors to the island. Visitors should keep in mind that no drinking water is on the island; however, some of the camp shops sell bottled water as well as food to cook over the fire in the grill area.
© Dmitrii Iarusov/stock.adobe.com
Puerto Galera is just around four hours from Manila by land and three hours total by ferrying through the islands. The island city is surrounded by mountains and is one of the most beautiful beach resort communities in the Philippines. The tourist island offers many amenities, including restaurants, inns, hotels, and 115 resorts.
There is no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities. Many visitors to Puerto Galera enjoy camping, beach bonfires, hiking, rock climbing, star gazing, motorcycling through the mountains, swimming, sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling, and more. The beaches range from white powder sands to black sands and stones, to coral rubble and jagged rocks.
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17.Quezon Memorial Circle
The Quezon Memorial Circle was issued to be created in 1951 by Philippine President Sergio Osmena to honor the former president of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon. A competition was conducted to choose the designer, which Federico S. Ilustre won. A monument was erected at the center of the park and housed the President and his wife’s remains.
The area is managed by the city government and is a great family-friendly attraction with lots of green space and picnic areas as well as a small amusement park and smaller, landscaped gardens that can be explored. Several restaurants and museums are also inside the park.
Rizal Park, also called Luneta Park, is a large urban park with historic significance in the Philippines. The park is found along the wall surrounding Intramuros and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Manila. Jose Rizal, a famous Filipino patriot, was executed in 1896 that ignited the Philippine Revolution against Spain. A monument within the park holds Rizal’s remains and is the focal point of the park named in his honor. The Philippines were also granted independence from the United States in 1946 at the park.
Some notable attractions within Rizal Park include the National Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Natural History, a Japanese Garden, Manila Ocean Park, and the Quirino Grandstand.
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Stilts Calatagan is a Beach Resort in Calatagan, Batangas, and features some of the best beachside accommodations in the Philippines with romantic floating cottages, beachside cottages, villas, and bungalows, tree houses, and even camping spots available. Visitors to Stilts Calatagan can visit the resort without spending the night however, by paying a day rate fee.
Some of the best things to do include buying an adventure package or aqua sports package. Visitors can go boating, visit the mangrove forest, scuba dive, ATV ride across the sandbars, all with expert guides when booking a package. Guests to the Stilts resort who want to relax, can book a day at the spa and receive body massages and skin treatments. Bike rentals and volley court hourly rentals are also available on the beaches.
Barangay Sta. Ana, Calatagan, Batangas, Phone: +63-91-75-86-33-43
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Visitors to the Philippines who want to enjoy eco-tourism should spend the day in Subic Bay where they can enjoy triple-canopied rainforests, mountain adventures, indigenous culture, and theme parks based on nature. The bay is surrounded on three sides by mountains and was once the U.S. Naval Base in the Pacific but was turned over to the local government in 1992. Subic Bay is not a popular, premier holiday resort for families, singles, and friends.
Some of the most popular activities in the bay include sunbathing on the beaches, volleyball, snorkeling, swimming, paddling, and other water sports. The mountains provide hiking and biking trails through tropical rainforests with trees that are hundreds of years old. Subic Bay is also a food lover’s dream with many restaurants, bars, and cafes.
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21.Taal Volcano Lake
The Taal Volcano Lake is one of the most exciting outdoor recreational places in the Philippines and is part of a volcanic chain that borders the Luzon Island. At the center of Taal Lake, another island was formed due to eruptions and is named Volcano Island. Since the 16th century, the volcano has erupted more than thirty times. Taal Volcano is the smallest of all active volcanoes in the world, and permanent settlement is prohibited which leaves the island and lake area mostly secluded with the exception of a few tourism and farming families. Another unique feature is Crater Lake, which is a lake on Volcano Island. Lake Taal is freshwater but has a high sulfuric content.
Most of the visitors to Taal Volcano Lake come to trek across the volcano and islands on guided tours suitable for the entire family. Riding the horses on the islands is highly discouraged and considered dangerous.
People who are looking for the perfect day trip away from Manila and into the countryside can take an eight-hour guided tour of the Tagaytay Ridge. This tour explores the region just two and a half hours south of Manila, where amazing view of the Taal Volcano and Lake can be seen. Tours begin at St. Joseph Church in Manila in a neighborhood called Las Pinas City. Visitors will see the only organ in the world to be made from bamboo reeds, which was created in 1816. There will also be fresh produce stands that the tour van will stop at to let travelers sample local foods on their way to Palace in the Sky and the agricultural plantations that grow pineapple and coffee. Gratuities and souvenirs are not included; however a box lunch with sandwiches, chips, and water is available.
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23.The Manila Acapulco Galleon Museum
The Manila Acapulco Galleon Museum is found in the Manila Bay and depicts the 250-year history of global trade through vivid physical and digital exhibitions that have drawn people from all over the world. The museum’s unique presentation of the global trade route that connects the Philippines and Mexico also links to commerce, culture, banking, and the history of nautical travel. An ocean galleon is being constructed as an ongoing project that is based on concepts of 18th-century naval fleet ships.
The exhibits at the Manila Acapulco Galleon Museum are presented chronologically and begin in the 16th century and continue to the end of the 19th century. The Galleon is also the first Southeast Asian museum to be created through collaboration with curators from across the globe.
24.The Museum of Filipino People
The National Museum oversees several branches from their main museum, including National Art Gallery, Planetarium, a series of regional museums, as well as The Museum of the Filipino People in Manila. The museum is housed in a building that was originally constructed in 1918 and was once used as the government offices of Manila, including housing the Senate and House of Representatives. The building was nearly demolished due to 1945 bombings but was rebuilt in 1946 and soon was turned into The Museum of the Filipino People and National Art Gallery.
The exhibits included at the Museum of the Filipino People include the wreck site of the San Diego exhibit, Five Centuries of Maritime Trade Before the Arrival of the West, The Origin Story, Archaeological Treasures, and The Filipinos and Their Rich Cultural Heritage.
Padre Burgos Drive, City of Manila, Philippines, Phone: +63-0-92-94-57-32-86
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25.Villa Escudero Plantation
The 1880s Villa Escudero Plantation is a cultural resort where visitors and guests can experience a working coconut plantation that has thrived since the early 1900s. The plantation was first founded as a sugarcane farm by Don Placido Escudero; however, his son, Don Arsenio Escudero was an agro-industrial pioneer who built the first hydroelectric plant that worked in the Philippines.
Visitors to the Plantation today can enjoy the museum, touring the coconut fields, take a ride on a bamboo raft, and eat at the amazing Waterfall Restaurant where romantic views of the waterfalls create a delightful ambiance. The Escudero Private Museum is one of the biggest museums in the Philippines with artifacts and antiquities collected from around the globe.
Km 91, Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines, Phone: +63-02-85-23-03-92
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Manila
- Ayala Triangle Gardens, Photo: bugking88/stock.adobe.com
- Batangas, Photo: yooranpark/stock.adobe.com
- Corregidor Island, Photo: Pipo/stock.adobe.com
- Daranak Falls, Photo: immigrant1992/stock.adobe.com
- Enchanted Kingdom, Photo: familie-eisenlohr.de/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Santiago, Photo: yooranpark/stock.adobe.com
- Fortune Island, Photo: Hendraxu/stock.adobe.com
- Hidden Valley Springs, Photo: PBNJ photo/stock.adobe.com
- Malacanang Palace, Photo: Malacanang Palace
- Maungi Georeserve, Photo: bugking88/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Batulao, Photo: Joseph Oropel/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Pinatubo, Photo: bugking88/stock.adobe.com
- Pagsanjan Falls, Photo: aarstudio/stock.adobe.com
- Pinto Art Museum, Photo: Pinto Art Museum
- Potipot Beach, Photo: Rachelle Resurreccio/stock.adobe.com
- Puerto Galera, Photo: Dmitrii Iarusov/stock.adobe.com
- Quezon Memorial Circle, Photo: pavel1964/stock.adobe.com
- Rizal Park, Photo: yooranpark/stock.adobe.com
- Stilts Calatagan, Photo: leonardovillasis/stock.adobe.com
- Subic Bay, Photo: Janus/stock.adobe.com
- Taal Volcano Lake, Photo: Spectral-Design/stock.adobe.com
- Tagaytay Ridge, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- The Manila Acapulco Galleon Museum, Photo: stock.adobe.com
- The Museum of Filipino People, Photo: yooranpark/stock.adobe.com
- Villa Escudero Plantation, Photo: bugking88/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: hossein1351/stock.adobe.com