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Words and images by Diane Wuthrich
Traveling with kids doesn’t necessarily have to mean Disneyland and butler service all the time. The Philippines offers a multitude of diverse experiences guaranteed to make a family trip enjoyable for the young ones and the young at heart. We’ve rounded up the best destinations in the Philippines for the whole family because let’s face it – every parent should have a list handy for when life gets too hectic and a vacation is in order.
From relaxation to adventure for toddlers and teens, look no further than the Philippines for the family trip of a lifetime.
Touted as the most beautiful island in the world, Boracay has all the trimmings of the perfect tropical getaway. Seven kilometers of powdery white sand, coconut tree fringed coastlines, crystal clear turquoise waters, and breathtaking golden sunsets may have been Boracay’s claim to fame, but that’s only scratching the surface.
A hike up Mount Luho, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, paddle boarding, banana boat rides, and island hopping are popular activities among kids of all ages. All the action will get you hungry, so head over to the wet market where you can take your pick of freshly-caught seafood and have it cooked any which way you want. At the end of an adventure-filled day, there’s no better way to appreciate Boracay’s famous sunsets than by taking the whole family on a sailing cruise.
A trip to Vigan will take you back to the 16th century Philippines, where horse-drawn carriages were the norm. The cobblestone streets are lined with quintessential Filipino ancestral homes, many of which have been converted into lodging, museums, shops, and restaurants. Calle Crisologo is a major attraction in Vigan, home of the elite during the Spanish times and where you’ll find some of the most awe-inspiring architecture.
Vigan is a quiet, charming town steeped in nostalgia. For families looking for a relaxing holiday in a scenic, historical location, Vigan should be at the top of your list. The late afternoons in town are especially magical as the sun casts a golden glow on the city’s structures, perfect for strolls and photo ops. Sink your teeth into the fabled Vigan empanadas which are sold by vendors on the street. If you’re craving for fresh sea breeze, take the family to the nearby beaches which are just a mile away from town.
Nature-loving families shouldn’t miss this island jewel located in the heart of the Visayas. Bohol has several great attractions both in and out of the beach. Take an afternoon to explore the surreal landscapes of the Chocolate Hills, Bohol’s most well-known landmark which resembles mounds of chocolate during the dry season.
The man-made mahogany forest is also worth visiting; the majestic emerald-green trees make the perfect backdrop for family portraits. Kids will love a visit to the butterfly sanctuary where 300 species of all colors and sizes fly around, guaranteed to take their breath away. When you’re done with all the activities, head over to Alona beach and enjoy refreshing dips in the ocean with the whole family. There are also several exhilarating island tours to do where everyone can go dolphin-watching, snorkeling, or relaxing in one of the nearby islands.
Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines, home to dozens of heritage sites that tell the story of its rich history. Being the second largest city in the country, downtown Cebu is a busy metropolis punctuated by office buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, all the modern conveniences of urban life. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of any culture. To save time, book a tour that will take you to all the notable historical attractions. Visiting Magellan’s cross, Fort San Pedro, Colon street, and the numerous religious sites will bring your kids’ history lessons to life.
No trip to Cebu is complete without dining at the many celebrated restaurants. Cebu is known for being one of the country’s best culinary destinations – perfect for families who live to eat! Include a side trip to one or more of the beautiful beach getaways that Cebu has to offer. Mactan is easily accessible from the city known for spectacular diving and snorkeling. If you’re looking for a more rustic tropical holiday, check out Bantayan Island, Malapascua, Moalboal, and Badian.
Puerto Princesa, also known as the City in a Forest, is famous for its biodiversity and wealth of natural wonders. The town proper is one of the cleanest cities in the world, and also a practical jumping-off point for many exciting day trips the whole family will love.
Don’t miss the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. Kids and adults alike will be captivated upon seeing the natural spectacles inside the cave, which is also one of the world’s longest navigable underground rivers. For a memorable day out at sea, book a day tour to Honda Bay where you’ll spend hours snorkeling in waters teeming with colorful fish and corals.
So the next time you plan a family trip, you know where to go. The only problem is… where should you go first?
(Pro Tip: Check out Traveloka’s excellent selection of hotels in all of these destinations. From five-star luxury resorts to budget accommodations, we’ve got you covered.)