The Philippines consists of three main island groups: Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. Between them they offer something for everyone: megacity madness in Manila, hill tribes in North Luzon, indigenous village life in Mindanao, surfing along the eastern seaboard of the entire country, and good snorkelling practically everywhere. The Visayas most embody the defining image of the Philippines: a dreamy desert island festooned with palm trees and ringed by white sand. Palawan is a region apart, a fantastic otherworld of unspoiled rainforests and surreal seascapes.
The steamy, seamy capital is a little in-your-face for many first-time visitors, but if you can get underneath its surface it's a mix of fascinating museums, raucous nightlife, varied cuisine and undeniable energy.
Names such as Corregidor and Bataan evoke WWII like nowhere else. For climbers there’s a bevy of accessible peaks to choose from, while the south coast of Luzon has some of the country’s best diving.
This region is intimidating in its diversity, with secluded bays where the surf’s almost always up, romantic Spanish colonial enclaves and mountains sliced by rice terraces, inhabited by a staggeringly diverse range of indigenous tribes.
After searing your tongue on the spicy cuisine of Bicol, cool down by taking advantage of numerous water sports, or heat things up more with a volcano trek or by dancing at one of the region's rambunctious fiestas.
Diving or snorkelling at Apo Reef can’t be beat, while Puerto Galera adds a party element to your diving experience. Elsewhere you can visit lost islands offshore and lost tribes in the impenetrable hinterlands.
Boracay is an intoxicating and fun draw with a world-class beach, but other destinations beckon: easy-going Siquijor and Sugar Beach; dive-mecca Negros; happening Cebu; and vibrant Iloilo and Silay with their historic colonial-era mansions.
Cebu is the gateway to diving and beaches galore plus jungle adventures. Bohol has riparian pleasures and a little bit of everything else, while the forests and caves of Samar and Leyte are ripe for off-the-beaten-track exploration.
The southernmost island, blessed with rugged mountains, palm-lined beaches and a tapestry of distinctive cultures and cuisines, runs the gamut from cosmopolitan Davao to laid-back cool surf spot Siargao.
From exclusive private island retreats to simple beachfront bungalows, Palawan has it all. Get in the water to explore coral reefs and WWII shipwrecks, or trek through pristine jungle to reach waterfalls or isolated settlements.