The Philippines isn't just about finding an isolated beach and getting catatonic. From taming volcanoes and catching barrels on Cloud Nine to navigating cave systems in Samar, the Philippines can capably raise any adrenalin junkie’s pulse. The country also has some of the world's best diving.
Forming part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines has scores of mountains over 2000m, many of them active or extinct volcanoes. Some of these volcanoes are more active than others (a thrilling prospect for many visitors), most notably the smoking Mt Mayon, so get in touch with local authorities before setting out. You'll need to register and obtain permits for the most popular climbs. See the wonderful website www.pinoymountaineer.com for comprehensive profiles of dozens of climbs across the country.
Where to Go
Mt Mayon The country’s most iconic and picture-postcard-perfect volcano, the conical-shaped Mt Mayon (2462m) is one of the Philippines' most active. More often than not it's closed beyond 1800m or so, but this is still a nice overnight climb and affords wonderful sunrise views.
Mt Pinatubo The serene, ice-blue crater lake of Mt Pinatubo (1450m) is the country's ultimate view. Reaching it involves a thrilling 4WD ride through a bizarre moonscape formed by one of the 20th century’s most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, followed by an easy 45-minute hike.
Mt Pulag The highest peak in Luzon (2922m) is one of the country's most popular climbs, with several routes up of varying length and difficulty.
Taal Volcano It takes just 45 minutes to scale this diminutive crater within Taal Lake – itself a crater of a much larger volcano. Don't take it too lightly though: it's a brutally hot climb and one of the country's most active volcanoes.
Mt Apo The Philippines’ highest peak, Mt Apo (2954m) dominates the horizon in southern Mindanao, tempting climbers to set out from nearby Davao.
Mt Halcon More a mountaineering expedition than a hike, Mindoro’s Mt Halcon (2582m) is arguably the most challenging big peak in the Philippines.
Mt Kanlaon One of the Philippines' most thrilling volcano grunts is up Mt Kanlaon (2435m), one of Philippines' largest active volcanoes, on Negros. The climb takes you through forests teeming with bird species and wildlife.
Caving & Spelunking
The islands of the Philippines are pock-marked by some of the largest cave systems in Asia. Definitely not for the claustrophobic, the best spelunking adventures involve a combination of swimming through underground rivers, squeezing throughcrevasses and scrambling over ledges. Levels range from easy drifts through underground rivers to advanced caving with ropes and full equipment.
Where to Go
Catbalogan Langun-Gobingob Caves (Samar) The most expansive cave system in the Philippines, including one chamber the size of three football fields. The caves are surrounded by jungle, underground rivers and scores of waterfalls, and can be explored on a tour.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park A good option for those not wanting to scramble around or swim underground rivers. Paddle boats drift silently through one of the world's longest navigable, river-traversable tunnels near a pristine stretch of jungle-backed coastline.
Sagada The four-hour Cave Connection tour takes you through a labyrinth of passages connecting two major caves via underground rivers.
Tuguegarao Northeast Luzon is home to a vast network of caves near the provincial centre of Tuguegarao. Walk through the Callao Cave, with seven chambers of limestone formations, or tackle the 12.5km-long Odessa-Tumbali Cave, suitable for more advanced cavers.
Tabon Caves Home to significant anthropological remains, this fascinating series of caves near Quezon in Southern Palawan occupies a stunning coastal promontory.
The major Philippine islands boast mountainous interiors with forests, birdlife and spectacular views. The rice terraces and mountains of North Luzon are most popular for trekking, but there are jungles and mountains to be explored across the Visayas, Mindoro and Mindanao.
Where to Go
North Luzon This region's Cordillera Mountains are easily the country's top trekking destination. You'll find dazzling rice terraces throughout Ifugao, Bontoc and Kalinga – hiking among them is one of Southeast Asia’s top trekking experiences. You can hike to stunning waterfalls out of Batad, Hungduan, Sagada or Pagudpud, and there are 2500m+ peaks to tackle throughout the region.
Puerto Princesa The lush tropical jungles of central Palawan are ripe for exploration. Hook up with Pasyar Travel & Tours for multiday expeditions led by forest guardians, or explore the lush rainforests and peaks around the Underground River in Sabang.
Camiguin This Northern Mindanao island is an adventure playground riddled with volcanoes and hiking trails leading to hot springs and spectacular waterfalls.
Stick 7000 islands in the middle of the Pacific and some decent-sized swell is going to make landfall somewhere. The typhoon season in the Philippines occasionally sees giant waves lash the entire length of the eastern seaboard, while west-coast surf hot spot San Juan reigns supreme in the dry season.
Where to Go
Cloud Nine The name of this legendary right-hander says it all. Despite increasing in popularity of late – some locals dub it ‘crowd nine’ – Siargao’s signature wave remains the country’s most legendary break.
La Union San Juan is the best surf spot on North Luzon's more consistent and beginner-friendly west coast. Here three- to five-footers pelt the sandy beach from November to March.
Baler The point break made famous in Apocalypse Now ('Charlie don't surf') hasn’t changed – it’s still guarded by palm trees in idyllic Baler and it’s still fickle. But when it’s on, it’s surfing bliss.
Calicoan Island, Samar Home to four reef breaks collectively known as ABCD, with both excellent right and left breaks. Otherwise hit the unexplored east coastline of Samar on a surfin' safari.
The Philippines – and in particular Palawan – is heaven for sea kayakers, with thousands of kilometres of pristine coastline to explore.
Where To Go
Busuanga & the Calamian Islands A world-class sea-kayaking destination, with plenty of established operators based in Coron Town. Take off for a few days to explore sheltered bays and camp on idyllic islands, stopping often to snorkel on beautiful coral reefs.
Caramoan Peninsula Southeast Luzon's answer to El Nido, here you can paddle amid brooding karst formations and into secluded bays.
Hundred Islands Kayak is the best way to explore the curious mushroom-shaped islands of this national park in North Luzon's Lingayen Gulf.
Kiteboarding, Windsurfing & Wakeboarding
Catching barrels isn't the only way to have fun on a board in the Philippines, which is home to a world-class kiteboarding scene along with other action-packed water sports, including wakeboarding and windsurfing.
Where to Go
Boracay With a shallow lagoon protected by an offshore reef, steady winds from December to March, and state-of-the-art equipment for hire, Boracay's Bulabog Beach is an ideal place to learn kiteboarding and windsurfing.
Pagudpud The country's stiffest winds and sizeable surf create incredible conditions for advanced kiteboarders and windsurfers along Luzon's north coast from November to April.
Daet, Camarines Norte On Bagasbas Beach you'll find excellent kiteboarding conditions from November to March, with winds of 15 to 20 knots, and quality operators offering equipment hire and instruction.
El Nido The east coast of El Nido is rapidly emerging as a top kiteboarding destination, centred around the barangays of San Fernando and Sibaltan.
CamSur Watersports Complex Wake magazine calls the home of the 2008 World Wakeboarding Championships, near Naga in Bicol, the best cable wakeboarding park in the world.
The rugged interiors of larger islands – Luzon, Negros, Mindanao, Panay, Leyte and Samar – feed scores of rivers that seethe with white water during the wet season. If you have your own kayak and are into first descents, there are remote, virtually unexplored rivers all over the big islands, especially North Luzon and Mindanao. There are plenty of mellow rivers to explore by kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) as well.
Where to Go
Cagayan de Oro Take advantage of year-round white water in Mindanao, on rapids ranging from technical to gentle.
Pagsanjan Though your bancero (boatmen) will be doing all the paddling on this canoe trip, you'll get to kick back and enjoy the scenery where Apocalypse Now was filmed before encountering fun little rapids (best done around July and August when the river is full).
Davao River Fun Grade 3 white-water rapids that peak around around June, bringing plenty of thrills and spills.
Loboc, Bohol Explore this jade-coloured tidal river by SUP or kayak in search of waterfalls and fireflies.
Volcano activity www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph
Rock Climbing www.climbphilippines.com
Surfing www.surfingphilippines.com; www.surfistatravels.com