With such a surfeit of stunning scenery, eye-boggling beaches and marine life-rich reefs it’s a mystery why the Philippines doesn’t lure more Brits away from the well-worn charms of its South East Asian rivals – although UK visitor numbers did grow by more than 20% from January to March 2016.

Top Tip...

“When people think of the Philippines they often think of just a beach destination, especially Boracay, but there is much more to the country and we recommend visiting several islands”


Perfect 10

  1. Colourful capital: Manila, with its iconic Jeepneys and the old Spanish-built centre of Intramuros, is worth more than a flying visit

  2. Go green: The ancient lush-green, rice terrace-lined mountains around Banaue, in North Luzon are great for hiking or touring around local villages

  3. North island: Other Luzon highlights include the Cordillera Mountains, Mount Pinatubo and Sagada, while scenic Echo Valley is famous for its Hanging Coffins

  4. Second city: Cebu City is a jumping-off point for travelling to Loboc and the popular Chocolate Hills on Bohol Island - also home to the local tarsier monkey, the world’s smallest

  5. Party people: Boracay remains the best-known and best-equipped resort island, with its mix of tourist-friendly nightlife, great choice of accommodation and the paradisiacal White Beach

  6. Paradise isle: Palawan is known for its jungly interior, stunning coastline and extensive coral reefs offering excellent diving and snorkelling, hiking, mangrove tours, interactions with local Batak tribesfolk and trips on its Underground River

  7. Soul sisters: Get off-track on Mindanao’s satellite islands. Siargao is a lively surfing spot while Camiguin lures in visitors with its excellent diving and nature hikes amid the unspoilt, lush volcanic interior

  8. Go luxe: Exclusive getaway options include Huma Island Resort & Spa on Dicilingan Island, off Busuanga, while exclusive Ariara Island, which is booked out on a private basis, caps occupancy at 18

  9. Festival frolics: Time your trip to take in the spectacular week-long Ati-Atihan festival, a kind of Philippines mardi gras held each January

  10. Scale new heights: Hike or climb one of the many lofty peaks such as Taal Volcano, Mount Caglago or the perfectly formed Mount Mayon

What the experts say

“The Philippines offers a mix of idyllic beach resorts and fascinating heritage and culture, such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed rice terraces. Our 2017 Faraway brochure features several new Philippines hotels, with two on Panglao Islands. These are the recently refurbished Bohol Beach Club, which resides alongside a private beach, and Henann Alona Beach Resort, which offers a relaxing vibe and is the biggest resort on the island.

“The others are located on Palawan. Club Paradise is an exclusive island resort hotel in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with exhilarating diving sites, while Two Seasons Coron is an eco-friendly haven just a boat ride from Coron Town.”

“The Philippines are great for a beach holiday because there are more than 7,000 islands and a coastline twice the length of the USA, with bright white sands and warm seas.”

“For us it’s all about El Nido in Palawan at the moment There’s incredible limestone karsts, azure hidden coves accessible only by kayak and powder-soft, and untouched white-sand beaches which top the scale by miles for natural beauty but without the tourists in comparison to the likes of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. Accommodation is not big and shiny here, although Pangulasian Island is our favourite.”

What’s new

Operators: Intrepid Travel has increased the number of departures of its two Philippines trips from 12 last year to 17 for 2017, on the back of rising demand.

Responsible tourism initiatives include G Adventures’ new G Adventures for Good community project in Maribojoc on Bohol Island, used on its Yolo trips.

Accommodation: New high-end openings in the capital include the stunningly ship-shaped Conrad Manila and Shangri-La Hotel at The Fort,with Grand Hyatt Manila set to open in the second quarter.

Hotel chains growing a presence include Dusit International. Products under development include dusitD2 The Fort, Manila; Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort, on Kopiat Island, opening later this year; and dusitD2 Resort, San Juan which will open in 2019 in the new Waves Beach Club development in the surfing hotspot of San Juan, in Northern Luzon.

Over on Boracay the big news is the recent opening of Aqua Boracay by YOO.

Where to book it

Turquoise Holidays has a 13-night tour which starts with three nights in Singapore followed by five nights at Shangri-La, Boracay, and then five nights at Pangulasian Island is priced from £3,999pp including flights from Heathrow and transfers.

Intrepid Travel’s 11-day Philippine Discovery costs from £1,195pp (excluding international flights) for departures from March-December 2017. Highlights include a three-day trek through the rice fields, forests and local villages of Northern Luzon and a two-day trek to Mt Pinatubo.