What exciting travels do you have lined up this year?
Below are some places you might not have heard of much, but are worth checking out if you are looking for an adventure, and, in some cases, quiet time.
An island south of Luzon, Marinduque is blessed with pristine white beaches and nature-sculpted karsts. It also has caves for the adventurers, and churches and old houses for heritage enthusiasts. While it may seem far to get to from Manila, there is a direct flight to Boac, the province’s capital.
Your itinerary will already be full with island hopping. From Boac, you can take a boat to Gaspar Island, one of the trio that is Tres Reyes islands. The island has white beaches and gray karsts, specifically in a “secret cove” you can explore. Other pristine beaches abound in Marinduque, like Maniwaya Island’s creamy sands northeast of Marinduque, and with a nearby sandbar, Palad.
For outdoor adventurers, Bagumbangan Cave has crystalline formations and wavelike stalactites and stalagmites and some challenges in the trek, like hoisting yourselves up a rope. For heritage enthusiasts, Marinduque has old colonial houses and a red-brick church in Boac.
How to get to Marinduque: Take a flight from Manila to Boac. Cubao also has a direct bus with roll-on, roll-off trips to Marinduque.
Located up north in the Cagayan Valley region, Nueva Vizcaya may not immediately come to as a tourist destination, but this landlocked province holds promise for nature lovers with its waterfalls, caves, and other attractions.
Lintungan Falls in Quezon municipality is a four-tiered waterfall with clear pools perfect for swimming. Surrounded by a rainforest, the waterfall flows abundantly even during the height of summer.
Capisaan Cave in Kasibu municipality is considered the fifth longest cave system in the Philippines. An end-to-end trek in this cave takes around 4 hours, but exploring just part of the cave will already give you a visual treat of rock formations in different shapes and sizes.
For a cultural tour, you can visit the 18th century red-brick St. Dominic Cathedral and the nearby People Museum’s Library in Bayombong, the province’s capital.
How to get to Nueva Vizcaya: Ride a Cagayan- bound bus from Cubao and ask to be dropped off in Bayombong.
Calayan Island, Cagayan
With sweeping, panoramic 360-degree views of grassy cliffs carved by wind and water and the seemingly endless sea, and impossibly white beaches and turquoise waters, Calayan is an island definitely worth going to.
Yes, this is despite the long journey (which can take around 17 hours or more, including a five-hour trip in the lampitaw, the local boat designed to pass through the occasionally rough waters to Calayan).
Trips are thus best taken during the summer, though flights from Luzon mainland are planned for the future.
The best 360-degree views are from Nagudungan Hills. Sibang Cove, a long stretch of cliff-lined white sand, is perfect for a quiet swim. Due to Calayan’s remote location, it is likely you will have the beach to yourself or share it only with a few people.
An island where nature is still quite raw, Calayan also has caves and waterfalls for the adventurers. Lusok Cave, which can be reached by boat, has a clear lagoon perfect for swimming. Caanawan’s three-column waterfall is refreshing, especially if you stand under one of its cascades.
How to get to Calayan Island: Ride a bus to Claveria, Cagayan, from Sampaloc, Manila. Take a tricycle to the port then ride a lampitaw to the island. Alternatively, you can also ride a bus to Aparri then take a lampitaw from there.
While the Chocolate Hills usually comes to mind when Bohol is mentioned, the province has other gems worth experiencing. Located two to three hours away from Tagbilaran, the province’s capital, is Anda, with its quiet white beaches and deep blue cave pools.
Well-known among Anda’s beaches is Quinale Beach, a stretch of powdery white sand perfect for barefoot walking. The shoreline is also a great spot to watch the sunrise.
With its deep blues surrounded by cave walls, Cabagnow Cave Pool is picture-perfect. Take the plunge from a height of around 15 feet and swim in the cave’s clear waters, which are around 20-25 feet deep.
Combento, a smaller cave pool, meanwhile, has clear shallow waters great for a relaxing dip.
How to get to Anda: Take a flight to Tagbilaran, Bohol. Ride a tricycle to the bus and van terminal, then take the bus or van to Anda.
While this tiny island province is arguably well-known, Camiguin has some lesser-known yet beautiful attractions. The local tourism office is particularly promoting mountain climbing, opening guided tours to Mt. Hibok-Hibok, which is rich with deciduous and mossy forests.
The volcano is an ASEAN Heritage Park, a protected area of high conservation importance. Trekking to the summit takes 3 to 5 hours.
After the climb, you can relax at one of the island province’s beaches. An alternative to the usual itinerary of White Island is Mantigue Island, also a much bigger island to explore. There is also a snorkeling area for underwater adventures.
How to get to Camiguin: Take a direct flight to Camiguin. You can also take a flight to Cagayan de Oro, then ride a fastcraft to Camiguin.
Polomolok, South Cotabato
While South Cotabato is well-known for Lake Sebu and the T’boli dreamweavers, the province has other heritage and cultural gems, like the Blaan Wellness and Tribal Village and the cultural center of Blaan Bai Yabing Masalon-Dulo, a Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), or National Living Treasure awardee for her traditional weaving and for her passing on the tradition.
GAMABA is a recognition similar to the National Artist award, but applicable to indigenous communities.
At Masalon-Dulo’s cultural center, you get to see the tabih, traditional abaca weaves made by her and other members of the community. Some there are students of weaving. Nearby the center is the house of the master weaver herself, where you can still see her hard at work.
Also close by is the Blaan Wellness and Tribal Village, where the community greets you with a dance and a ritual to welcome you in their home. The village has panoramic views of Polomolok’s greenery, including Mt. Matutum in the distance on clear days. When you stay for the day or overnight in a hut, you get served healthy, traditional meals. Traditional massage is also available.
Polomolok also has sweeping pineapple plantations where you might want to stop by on the way to the Blaan community.
How to get to Polomolok: Take a flight to General Santos City. From Bulaong Terminal, ride a bus or van to Polomolok. You can also ride a bus or van to Marbel and ask to be dropped off at Polomolok. – Rappler.com
Claire Madarang is a writer, researcher, and documenter whose work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies on her blog Traveling Light and on her Instagram.
Want a vacation overseas instead? Use this AirAsia promo code to get discounted flights to Bali, Indonesia!