When looking for a travel destination with thousands of idyllic islands, plus world-class diving, and something for the kids to do, the Philippines is often overlooked. Here are 5 reasons why this archipelago is firmly on our family travel wish list.
Some of those 7,000-plus islands are little more than rocks, but each of the inhabited islands offers something different. To look for accommodations, check out online booking sites like Traveloka to find the perfect hotel for you and the family.
El Nido, Palawan
Apparently this is the place Alex Garland drew inspiration from for The Beach (even though the movie was set in Koh Phi Phi in Thailand).
It is stunningly beautiful, and the water is so clear you can snorkel on the surface and see fish 15 metres below you. Staying in an hotel here must surely be the best way to unwind, in the tropical island paradise.
Things to do in Palawan with kids:
They will love making sand castles in the powdery white beaches, and eating freshly grilled seafood, which is popular all over the island. Due to a low level of light pollution, stargazing is an absolute must-do activity on Palawan. For the older child looking for things to do in El Nido, kayaking and snorkelling shouldn’t be missed.
Currently number 3 in the best travel destinations as voted by Conde Nast. It has 12 beaches, the most popular being White beach and Bulabog.
Boracay recently got its own airport, so getting here became much easier. Yet you should still be aware of the boat station system of organising the island, which are used as reference points. Station one, in the north, is known for its high-end resorts and tranquillity; station two is the liveliest part, and station three is where all the budget accommodation can be found.
Things to do in Boracay with kids:
Children will enjoy flying kites on Bulabog beach, drinking from fresh coconuts, and taking a glass bottomed boat tour.
Rice Terraces in Northern Luzon
We wouldn’t want to miss the sight of the amazing two thousand year old rice terraces, in Banaue, northern Luzon.
Travelling north from Manilla on a nine hour bus journey doesn’t sound like super fun (especially with kids) but I would love to see the rice terraces. North Luzon is the biggest island of the Philippines. The 2,000-year-old rice terraces are like green amphitheatres and are UNESCO-listed. The 20,000km of terraces still provide a livelihood for the Filipino tribes who live in relative isolation in the mountains.
Things to do in Luzon with kids:
Manilla is the main city in Luzon, and the capital of the Philippines. In Manilla kids have a huge variety of things to do including KidZania, Ocean World and exploring the old town. The trip to the Rice Terraces will be a long one, but well worth it, especially if you get an hotel overlooking the greenery. Watching the sunrise is reportedly not to be missed (and let’s be honest, it’s more likely you won’t miss it if you have young children).
The title of this place might be a bit misleading for children, who might imagine a Willy Wonka-style venue just waiting to be munched on. However, the Chocolate Hills on Bohol Island looks like a great destination for family travellers in the Philippines.
Located just off Cebu, Bohol Island is where you can find the Chocolate Hills: over 1,500 mounds formed by coral deposits sculpted by millennia of erosion. Depending on the season, they will either be green or brown.
Things to do in Bohol with kids:
This island is home to tarsier, the world’s smallest monkey. You can visit them in their protected enclosure at the Philippines Tarsier Foundation. Please, don’t visit them in the cages kept along the river; monkeys shouldn’t live in cages. Children might also enjoy staying at Bohol Bee Farm, which is an organic vegetable and bee farm with rooms.
Go diving in Mindoro
Good dive spots are easy to find in the Philippines, but the best scuba spots can be a bit harder to reach. If you have to leave the children in the kids club in the hotel, then you’re limited to half a day’s diving. There’ll be just enough time for one tank each and then run back to collect the children in time for lunch. However, if you’ve got a bit longer, or a generous (or non-diving) partner you could go out on a boat for two tanks in Mindoro – home to the big stuff, like sharks, rays and turtles.
Things to do in Mindoro with kids:
This one is less for the young children, and more for adults. You know what they say – happy mummy, happy baby, and diving is one thing that does make me rather happy! However, PADI courses are available for children aged 8 and older.
Is the Philippines on your family travel wish list?