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19 Unique Local Adventures to Go on in 2019

by Danna Peña

With over 7,000 islands to explore, the Philippines is a never-ending book with pages waiting to be turned.

Planning to travel more this 2019? If you live in the Philippines, you don’t have to cross borders for a getaway filled with wonder and magic. Here’s a list of 19 life-enriching, distinctly Filipino adventures you simply cannot miss—this year and beyond.

1. Immerse in Ivatan culture in Batanes

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Go the distance by booking a trip to the remote island of Batanes situated in northernmost Luzon. Immerse in the culture of the Ivatans, the province’s indigenous people who are known for their awe-inspiring resilience and heartwarming hospitality. Visit Sabtang Island for its Ivatan stone dwellings and churches dating back to the Spanish era, and don a traditional vakul headdress designed to protect locals from extreme weather.

Looking for a place to stay in Batanes? Bernardo’s Hotel is a prime choice inclusive of full board meals, transfers, and eco-tours.

2. Take a historical trip in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan

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Journey to where art meets history at the award-winning heritage resort that is Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan, a 2-3 hour drive from the city. Cradling several post-Colonial houses, each with a unique history of its own, this photo-worthy 400-hectare settlement offers guests a visual, educational trip you wouldn’t get anywhere else. With its cobblestone grounds, traditionally dressed staff, and charming architectural structures, it’s as if you’re living and breathing in old Manila itself.

3. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

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Dubbed as a World Heritage City by UNESCO, the city of Vigan isn’t highly esteemed for nothing. The cobblestoned city boasts an amalgamation of Chinese, Spanish, and American influences that conjures a sense of nostalgia for its visitors. As you make your way through Calle Crisologo, entertain yourself with a slew of shops selling souvenirs, pottery, and other local novelties. Curious about what else to do? Here’s a 24-hour Vigan itinerary to keep you busy with more activities in this rustic, one-of-a-kind city.

4. Appreciate local art at the BenCab Museum in Baguio

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The City of Pines, beyond its cool climate ideal for sipping on ice cold beer or a steaming cup of joe, has a slew of activities fit for all kinds of travelers. As you make your way through the city’s lush foliage, a visual sight trip at the BenCab Museum is a must whether you’re an art aficionado or not. Take your time immersing in their several galleries of esteemed local art, most notably their artifacts showcasing the rich Cordilleran culture.

5. Commit to a no-wifi eco-retreat at Mount Purro Nature Reserve in Antipolo

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Feel like going off the grid for some R&R, but find it too much of a commitment to go somewhere far? Drive an hour to Antipolo and find your sanctuary at Mount Purro Nature Reserve, an impeccable eco-stay situated in the hills of the Sierra Mountain Range. This sustainable stay is a no-wifi zone with clean and comfortable amenities, allowing you to contemplate, spend quality time with loved ones, and be one with nature.

Still not convinced? Read this DG Traveler feature to find out more about this well-loved escape.

6. Go eco-glamping at Easy Adventure in Baler

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Want to embrace natural wonders without giving up certain luxuries? Easy Adventure in the dreamy surfing town of Baler is a raved about glamping spot that will suit your needs. This serene, pet-friendly stay boasts cozy amenities, delicious—and Instagrammable—organic meals, and a highly accommodating staff that guests love to commend. Catch waves at Sabang beach, paddleboard or kayak at the nearby river, or simply lounge in the charming campsite.

7. Help local communities in need through MAD Travel

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After several picturesque getaways and thrilling journeys, a seasoned traveler may start searching for a different kind of trip—one that is somehow more fulfilling. This is where MAD (Make a Difference) Travel, a social enterprise that works with marginalized communities through sustainable, low-impact tours, comes into the picture. Meet the Aeta community in Zambales or the Altas tribe in Aurora through their Tribes and Treks tours, where you can learn more about their heritage and help their communities thrive through environmental and cultural activities.

8. Chase waterfalls in the province of Laguna

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About two and a half hours away from Manila, Laguna is a favorite of city dwellers looking for nature-filled day trips. A homebase of several waterfalls like Hulugan Falls, Bukal Falls, and Buntot Palos Falls, the province is brimming with pockets of nature that provide travelers a rejuvenating escape. Choose to go waterfall-hopping or spend a day simply enraptured by the beauty of nature.

9. Witness a sea of clouds at Mt. Pulag in Benguet

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Famed mountaineer Edmund Hillary once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” This 2019, go beyond your limits by climbing the highest peak of Luzon, where you will (depending on the weather) most often be rewarded by a sea of clouds at its formidable summit. Choose the Ambangeg trail if you’re a beginner hiker or the Akiki trail if you’re a seasoned mountaineer, and get ready for a challenging adventure that will have your head above the clouds—literally.

10. Dive to the Skeleton Wreck in Palawan

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Constantly hailed as one of the best islands in the world, Palawan compels visitors to explore its sublime tropics and majestic shores. Spectacular limestone karsts and underground rivers aside, another sight to behold is the Skeleton Wreck in Coron Bay, where a sunken fisherman’s boat 22 meters underwater teems with nudibranchs, lionfish, and stonefish. Dive beneath the ocean’s surface to enjoy the abundant marine life and witness the mysterious wreckage—from a depth as shallow as 5 meters, so no professional snorkeling experience needed!

For more things to do in Palawan, check out our travel guide here.

11. Feast on ₱1 scallops in Carles, Iloilo

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After taking in a visual feast of the spell-binding view of Tangke Lagoon in sunny Islas de Gigantes, a more literal feast awaits in Carles, Iloilo: thousands of scallops literally scattered on its creamy shores. Locals consider scallops “beggar food” due to their cheap price and abundance, even selling them for as low as ₱1 each—perfect for a quick snack or even for your lunch’s main course.

Looking for your dream vacation home in Carles, Iloilo? Enjoy a luxurious stay at Huni Sicogon or go glamping at Solina Beach Resort.

12. Visit the wide-eyed tarsiers in Bohol

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Googly-eyed and extremely sensitive, the Philippine tarsier is an endangered species found only in Bohol, Cebu, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. These tiny primates have distinctive features that make them all the more lovable—they are about 4 to 5 inches by height, have eyes bigger than their brains, and are nocturnal creatures. When in Bohol, make sure to be a responsible tourist by patronizing official tarsier sanctuaries such as the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary located in the municipality of Corella.

Come for the tarsiers, stay for the ultimate VIP treatment in Bohol’s most luxurious resorts. Feel pampered, taken care of, and absolutely spoiled (in the best way!) with a getaway to Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort and Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa.

13. Eat ‘the sweetest mangoes in the world’ in Guimaras

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Ever had your taste buds tickled by mango bulalo or mango adobo? How about mango pizza or mango ketchup? At Guimaras, the home of sweet mangoes, you can delight yourself with all those mango-infused treats and more. While you’re basking in the sweet island life of Guimaras, indulge your palate by grabbing a bite of the many unique mango dishes locals can whip up. If you’re a big fan of the fruit, plan your trip in May to attend the Manggahan festival, where you can enjoy eat-all-you-can mangoes.

14. Cliff dive at Ariel’s Point in Boracay

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Unlimited food, beer, and fun under the sun—what more could you ask for? At Ariel’s Point, a 40-minute boat ride from Boracay’s main shores, lies a thrilling island getaway unlike any other. Spend the entire day here with your friends to cliff dive, snorkel, and paddleboard before Boracay’s multi-colored sunset paints the sky. Plus, a trip here is inclusive of a lunch buffet and all-you-can-drink beer at only ₱2,800 per person—a steal for what may be one of the most memorable days of your life!

Check out our exclusive, best-priced Boracay deals here.

15. Attend the MassKara Festival in Bacolod

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There’s nothing like experiencing Philippine culture by attending one of the nation’s extravagant fiestas. An event where communities come together to celebrate life and local customs, a fiesta brings together food, music, dancing, marching bands, and a visual treat of lively flaglets and costumes in a kaleidoscope of colors. Feel your smile widen as you attend the vibrant MassKara Festival in Bacolod City. Held every October, it is at present one of the most celebrated Philippine fiestas.

16. Experience a yoga retreat at Lotus Shores in Siargao

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A yoga, surf, and farm retreat that will revitalize the senses and rejuvenate the soul: if that piques your interest, travel to the famed surf town of Siargao and have a holistic retreat at the secluded and raved about Lotus Shores. Advocating oneness with nature, a positive mindset, and other deep learnings from yoga practice, the retreat allows guests to find an oasis on earth and within one’s self.

17. Swim with stingless jellyfish at Sohoton Cove in Surigao del Norte

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If you love swimming in the ocean but have been stung by a jellyfish before, wading through unfamiliar waters may be anxiety-inducing. But fear not—the jellyfish of Sohoton Cove in Surigao del Norte aren’t only stingless, they’re absolutely adorable, too! These harmless creatures will not injure you in any way as they bump into you with their soft, gelatin-like texture.

18. Tread the crystal clear waters of Hinatuan Enchanted River in Surigao del Sur

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Enchanting as enchanting gets, this gem in Surigao del Sur is sure to beguile with its crystal clear waters in glorious shades of turquoise. The Hinatuan Enchanted River is about 10 meters deep and typically has a cool temperature perfect for wading in during hot summer days. Life vests for rent are available for visitors, and nearby cottages are open for all to share. The rough drive en route to the river may be off-putting, but as soon as you witness this stunning sight, your distress will easily be replaced with immense awe.

19. See The Grand Mosque in South Cotabato

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A place of worship for Muslims, the Grand Mosque in South Cotabato is the largest mosque in the Philippines that is well worth the visit. Although its appearance may look imposing with its grandiose architecture, one will feel a sense of peace and calm walking through its impeccably clean and well-maintained interiors. When visiting, make sure to observe silence, be respectful, and dress conservatively—Islamic clothes are also available for rent for mosque visitors.

Discover more great escapes in our Getaways section.

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About Danna
Danna is a writer whose works have been published on Rappler, CNN Philippines Life, DG Traveler, PURVEYR, and Young STAR's Zine. She feels lucky to marry two of her passions—writing and travel—as part of DG’s team. When she's not working, she often finds herself exploring all kinds of destinations, may it be a vast sea, a bustling city, a foreign land, or most frequently, a book. View her creative spaces on dannapena.com and @dannapena on Instagram.

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