The season of giving is just around the corner!
Aside from the exchange gifts, have you decided what 'you're getting for yourself?
Especially during the Ber season, there's nothing like a planned escape from the bustle of city life that should get you through the day. No better time than the holidays to check a few things off that bucket list either. Lucky for you, the list of attractions in the Philippines is inexhaustible. It's time to skip the annual road trips to the same crowded tourist destination. Treat yourself this holiday season by exploring secluded islands and breathtaking mountain top views- the hidden gems of the country- at affordable rates.
Quick guide as you plan your next holiday getaway:
* Decide what kind of trip you want and what your budget is. This should narrow down your holiday search. During the holiday season, rooms run out very quickly. Book early on to secure your share.
* Research your destination. Make sure you know what the local customs are, what the facilities are and what the best time to travel is to travel to avoid inconvenience or unnecessary expenses.
* Check reviews. Before booking a hotel, check the reviews. Not only the ones provided by the hotel provider but independent reviews from bloggers, TripAdvisor, etc.
* Shop around for the best deals. Comparison sites such as skyskanner.ph and Momondo make booking much more comfortable now. If 'there's a big difference in prices, double-check that the provider is offering the same holiday on the same basis. There's a ring of truth to the saying "you get what you pay for".
* Purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is protection against everything wrong that can happen while you travel. The right travel insurance includes health insurance, medical evacuation insurance, trip cancellation, and baggage and property insurance. Whether you're, you're exploring unfamiliar places, or in the safety of your home, the right travel insurance will give you peace of mind. It will also allow you to recover from your losses against any unforeseen event.
Affordable, underrated destinations
Liwliwa Beach, Zambales
Craving for another ride on the waves? Missing the beach but not the crowd of tourists? If so, 'Zambales' Liwliwa beach is a must-try. This province, located in central Luzon, is a 3-hour drive from Manila, making it a quick beach fix from the bustling metropolis. Zambales is home to sweeping coves and islands such as Anawangin cove, Nagsasa cove and Capones island- perfect for trekking and even camping outdoors. The quiet beauty of 'Zambales' Liwliwa beach comes from its ash-grey shore and pine-like agoho trees lined in an endless coastline. It'sIt's mainly known for powerful waves that are perfect for surfing and occasionally tranquil enough for swimming. The beachfront isn't crowded, which is suitable for tent pitching and backpackers.
How to get there: From Manila, take a bus to Olongapo City, then another bus to San Antonio, Zambales.
Tablas Island, Romblon
Tablas Island is one of the three main islands in Romblon and 45 minutes away from the world-famous Boracay, yet it is still relatively unknown both by foreigners and locals. This water adventure haven is perfect for those craving for various water sports or has a penchant for the ocean. You may snorkel at Looc Marine Sanctuary, a protected marine area in Looc Bay or go scuba diving at the Blue Hole. Explore secret waterfall systems such as the Mablaran and Busay Falls. You can cliff jumping at the Binucot Beach viewpoint and watch the sun go down at Tablas point, among many other thrills! The breathtaking beauty of Tablas and the variety of outdoor activities available on the island make it incredibly underrated.
How to get there: Because Tablas has its airport, you can directly fly to and from Manila for as cheap as 500 pesos, depending on how far in advance you book.
Maniwaya Island, Marinduque
Too many people know about this island province. Marinduque has identified as the "Heart of the Philippines" for the island's shape and location. It's an apt name for a very serene place. Marinduque itself is replete with sulfuric springs, pristine beaches, and mystic cave formations. The Maniwaya island is an island just off the coast of Marinduque, home to the beautiful Palad Sand Bar, intriguing rock formations and the taclobo (giant clam) sanctuary. Tourists are sure to enjoy the various activities and accommodations- even Airbnb and hut cottages- which are all very affordable.
How to get there: From Cubao, take a bus to Dalachian Port in Lucena City. Then, take a boat to Balanacan Port in Mogpog, Marinduque. Then, catch the public boat to Maniwaya Island.
Maripipi Island, Biliran
Those who are considering to literally "unplug" or detox from gadgets and social media, and reconnect with nature, Maripipi island in Biliran is the place to go. Relatively one of the country's new provinces and the fourth smallest region in the Philippines, Biliran is as jaw-dropping as its neighbors Samar and Leyte. Chase multi-faceted waterfalls especially the Ulan-Ulan Falls, one of the most beautiful falls in the province. Visit the Iyusan and Sampao Rice Terraces, majestic rice terraces built by early settlers. Maripipi is a boat ride away from Biliran and a good jump-off point for island hopping to neighboring islands. This island has an active volcano at the center, astounding rock formations, an immaculate ecology and crystal clear waters you can dip, snorkel or dive in. The way life on this island is truly refreshing.
How to get there: Take a flight to Tacloban and a 2.5 hour -hour van ride will take you to the port of Biliran's capital, Naval. Look for boats that head to Maripipi.
For those craving the quiet cool of forests, and the thrill of mountain heights. Bukidnon is the third largest province in the country located in Northern Mindanao, yet many tourists have yet to discover the adventures the province promises. The place is framed by mountain ranges and forest reserves and replete with plateaus, canyons, waterfalls, springs and vast pineapple plantations. Go bamboo rafting at Lake Apo, a scenic crater lake up a hill in Valencia. Try out the Dual Zipline and Drop Zone in Dahilayan Adventure Park and ride a Skybike at Kampo Juan. Satiate the adrenaline junkie in you by visiting the Kioking Eco-Tourism Project in Quezon, Bukidnon where you can access extreme activities such as bouldering, rock climbing, and rappelling.
How to get there: Coming from Manila, there are daily flights to either Cagayan de Oro City or Davao City. Then, take a bus to Bukidnon.
Screengrab from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIzDJRURX9s
Those who are looking for cultural immersion or waiting to check Paragliding off their lists, Sarangani is the way to go. Here is another perfect destination of Mindanao that has an untapped potential for tourism. It has the white sand beaches of Boracay (without the nightlife) and the diving spots and marine life of Palawan! Learning the dances and music of the Tbolis and tasting the organic dishes of the Blaan tribe will surely make the trip very memorable. Maasim is a municipality in Sarangani that is home to fantastic beach resorts and mountain villages. You may also paraglide and see the sweeping view of Sarangani Bay from its cliffs.
How to get there: Sarangani is reached through land via General Santos and GenSan or sea or air travel from Manila or Cebu.
Kibungan Circuit, Benguet
Thought you'd seen enough of Benguet after Mt. Pulag and Mines View Park? Consider enjoying the cool breeze of Benguet- without the flocks of tourists on the cosmopolitan streets of Baguio. Benguet has been called the "Switzerland of the Philippines", which tells of its grandeur. If you are only starting to hike, Mt. Kagulong is a perfect choice. For those who prefer long-distance trekking, Kibungan offers scenic trails that pass through highland villages, rice terraces, pine ridges, and occasional mossy forests.
How to get there: Coming from Manila, take the bus from Philippine Rabbit Avenida to Philippine Rabbit Baguio, which takes around 5 hours.
Palumbanes Islands, Catanduanes
Photo courtesy of idreamofthis.com
Not as known as its neighbors, Catanduanes is home to unspoiled beaches, lagoons, caves and waterfalls. Palumbanes Island and Bitaog Beach have been called the "hidden gems of Catanduanes." The Palumbanes is at the north-western part of Catanduanes, known for its mountainous terrains but also home to secluded beaches such as the Bitaog Beach. The Bitaog waves are secure, and there is no residential community on one side of the island. The waves are a majestic blue that crashes on a mystic inlet. A refreshing trek to Binanderahan hill completes the trip to the Palumbanes.
How to get there: Take a direct flight from Manila to 'Catanduanes' capital, Virac. Once in Virac, take a bus that travels to Pandan. Head to Baranggay Baybay and look for boatmen who can take you to the island.
Bulalacao, Mindoro Oriental
The southernmost town of Mindoro Oriental used to be called "Bula-layo" because of its far distance from the rest of the main cities. If you're looking for a beach with the quality of Puerto Galera minus the hustle of crowds, or a quick beach fix because of its proximity to Manila; this island should be on your list! You are sure to offer the bountiful seafood specialties (Lamayo Pizza and Pasyak among many) and the laid-back vibe the beach offers.
How to get there: Take a flight to Mindoro Airport (San Jose airport), where you can ride a van to Bulalacao.
People also read:
7 Mistakes You Can Make with Travel Insurance
5 Things You Should Know About Flight Promos
13 Smart Travel Tricks That Will Improve Your Christmas Trip