2021 is bringing some much needed hope with news of a COVID-19 vaccine that will enable many to get back to their usual routine. After months of being grounded in our homes due to the pandemic, it’s not surprising that many of us have a travel itch that we’re looking to scratch and some of us are thinking of escaping to an island paradise away from our everyday problems. Just imagine getting your dose of sunshine at a beach on a tropical island in the Philippines after months of staring at the sky from a window in your suburban home or tiny studio apartment.
Philippines, a destination for all types of travelers
The Philippines is a magnet for all types of travelers with its vibrant culture, amazing weather almost all-year round, scenic views, must-try delicacies, and hospitable locals everywhere. Whether you are adventurous at heart, a foodie, or just looking forward to some relaxation, this island nation has a piece of heaven to offer you. In fact, its diverse landscapes and natural resources is why the Philippines is a favorite destination of travelers from around the world. What’s more, the Philippines is home to many sustainable and eco-friendly tourist spots. If you’re planning a trip to the Philippines this year, here are some eco-friendly destinations to include in your itinerary:
Boracay Island, Aklan
The crystal-clear waters and the powdery white sandy beaches of Boracay Island makes this location one of the most popular for beach travelers. The views are unparalleled at anytime of the day. Here, you’ll never run out of fresh seafood cooked in variety of local recipes usually paired with steaming white rice. Try eating local cuisine without utensils and just your hands, “kamay”, the traditional way to eat meals in the Philippines.
Feeling a little adventurous? Try freediving and paraw sailing which makes use of a boat that is made of a single hull with two floaters on the side and moves with the help of a large sail.
Masungi Georeserve, Rizal
Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area located in Tanay, Rizal and offers a variety of hiking trails with different difficulty levels for hikers. There is so many attractions and experiences here, such as the spider web-like walkway and the tree houses that will give you a view of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges and the surrounding lush greenery. You’ll also get a glimpse of the thousands of protected flora and fauna as you climb your way to the top.
Siargao Island and its epic waves is a favourite spot for professional and beginner surfers alike. Although it is fast gaining traction among travelers, Siargao Island has managed to maintain its natural beauty and serene island vibes with often empty roads. Not into surfing? No problem, there’s still plenty to do, from snorkelling and swimming through to hiking to the Taktak Waterfall, the only waterfall in the area. Maximise your island life by staying at Lotus Shores which operates on renewable sources of energy and a place that also grows their own food to serve to guests. They even offer wellness classes including yoga programmes that will help you feel more at one with nature.
Sagada, Mountain Province
Go backpacking in Sagada and immerse in rich indigenous local culture. This place is popular for their civet coffee and for the hanging coffins on the sides of the cliffs which serve as the burial practice for the local Igorot tribes. Enjoy spelunking through the Sumaguing Cave where you get to squeeze through cave openings to reach your spectacular destination. You can also embark on some rock climbing, see some majestic rice terraces, and enjoy local cuisines you won’t find elsewhere. Opt for a homestay rather than a hotel so you can fully experience living like a local firsthand.
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city life by visiting Puerto Princesa, Palawan, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palawan Underground River. Get up close and personal with unique rock formations and other nocturnal animals living in the cave as you experience a paddle boat ride. After that, relish the vast marine ecosystem at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, just southeast of Puerto Princesa City which is another World Heritage Site. Conclude your trip by checking out other tourist spots in the city such as Mitra’s Ranch and Baker’s Hill.
Once popular for being the location of the iconic Chocolate Hills, the province of Bohol is gaining attention for another reason: the local government’s initiative to promote eco-tourism. When you arrive on the island, you’ll get to experience the first eco-airport in the country Bohol-Panglao International Airport, which uses natural ventilation and solar energy that partly covers the terminal’s power supply. There is also a variety of attractions in Bohol including zip-lining, trekking, and kayaking at Danao Adventure Park and of course, visiting the Chocolate Hills that change from brown to green and vice versa depending on the season. You can also include popular diving spots in your itinerary, such as in Panglao. Don’t forget to complete your visit by checking out the Tarsier Sanctuary which is home to the smallest primates in the world.
Batanes is the Philippine’s most-sought after destination if you are really looking to disconnect from your urban life. Located in the northern tip of the country and accessible only by plane, this is a far cry from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the city – in parts of this region, you won’t even have a mobile phone signal. Here, you’ll get to enjoy breathtaking views of ruins of stone houses, lighthouses old and new, and various historical sites dating as far back as the 1900s Spanish period without distraction. It is highly recommended to come here during one of the region’s celebrated fiestas so you can partake in the festive Filipino atmosphere and culture.
Camiguin, Northern Mindanao
Camiguin is a small volcanic island offering tourists a quiet nature retreat. Choose between black sand beaches and white sand ones, each offering a different vibe and backdrop that is no less than remarkable for a relaxing vacation. Fancy water activities such as snorkeling and diving? Then you’ll want to explore the marine sanctuary at Mantigue Island and the unique diving spots in the area including the Sunken Cemetery which was once a town that sank during a volcanic eruption. There’s also the Black Forest, a black coral reef with plenty of aquatic life to appreciate. You can also try the hot springs or the area’s cold springs to relax your muscles after an adventure-packed day. Check out the few waterfalls in the island such as the Katibawasan Falls and the Tuawasan Falls for picturesque shots.
Danjugan Island, Negros Occidental
This island is not your typical island where you can enjoy the usual resort amenities. Instead, this is a protected conservation area preserving wildlife and natural habitat. It isn’t hard to feel at one with nature in this place; you are surrounded by rich rainforest, numerous lagoons, and hundreds of different species of marine lifeforms and other wildlife. Go Black Tip Sharks-watching and check out Typhoon Camp, a small village that is made up of mud houses. On this island, you can also go kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. Be prepared for a solar power-dependent energy source while you are on the island.
Bataan, Central Luzon
The Bataan province, located in Central Luzon, boasts spectacular resources and rich cultural heritage. Bear witness to the Dambana ng Kagitingan at Mount Samat which was built to honor the valor exhibited by both Filipinos and Americans who fought against the Japanese during WWII. Discover war memorabilia at the Bataan World War II Museum. Explore historical landmarks such as the Zero Kilometer Marker, the starting point of the infamous Bataan Death March, and after you’re done getting acquainted with the local culture, connect with nature by checking out natural wonders such as the Hidden Coves at Five Fingers, the Bataan National Park, and the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park. With all the eco-friendly tourist spots, there is never a dull moment when you explore Bataan.
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Cover image of Digyo Island, Philippines. Photo by Tatiana Nurieva.