Top Tourist Spots In The Philippines That Look And Feel Like Popular Foreign Destinations

Travelers are getting more and more creative with their adventures and, more important, Instagrammable photos.

Sure, getting a lot of stamps on your passport for every country visited is a huge achievement, but not everyone can afford that privilege. Budget-limited travelers often rely on their creativity and resourcefulness to satisfy their wanderlust in local tourist destinations.

Sometimes it just takes a good camera, perspective, and lighting to make your travel photos look world-class. You may have heard of some of these tourist spots in the Philippines, and some, you might have just forgotten.

Regardless, these places will give you a feel of a foreign country’s culture, as you save up more cash for that international trip.

1. Huma Island, Palawan
Manjuyod Sand Bar

Looks and feels like: Maldives

Maldives, with its pristine beaches and luxurious accommodations, rightfully lives up to world-class standards. Lucky for us, Philippine destinations also have tropical islands that can rival its beauty.

Huma Island in Palawan is the first-of-its kind Maldivian-inspired resort in the country. It is located next to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and marine sanctuaries. Its five-star hospitality makes it worth a visit, whether you’ve been to Maldives or not.

But if you’re on a budget, next in line is Manjuyod Sandbar in Dumaguete. They also have bamboo cottages right by the beach. And since it’s in the province, you’re sure to get some really good and affordable food there.

2. Batanes

Looks and feels like: New Zealand

If airfares in Batanes were cheap, we would instantly plan that local trip to feel like we’re in a different country. Its breathtaking landscapes, coastlines, and cliffs, well-preserved culture, and quaint stone houses bring the same beauty of international tourist spots in once place.

New Zealand, Ireland, and Scotland have scenic coastlines and cliffs too, and Batanes can compete with its pasture lands and seascapes.

Some of Batanes’ notable structures include Chinapoliran Stone Arch in Itbayat Island, which looks like the Azure Window rock formation in Malta, and Valugan Boulder Bay in Basco, which closely resembles California’s Bowling Ball Beach.

3. Bilar Man-Made Forest, Bohol

Looks and feels like: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan

If you’re planning to go to Bohol, make a stop at the town of Carmen on your way to Chocolate Hills. The man-made mahogany forest sprawling in this two-kilometer highway makes for an idyllic postcard-like photo or backdrop.

Even in high noon, the lines of trees block out the sun’s rays, so you can bask in the forest’s shade and walk down this road for a bit of nature trip.

It does remind you of Kyoto’s Sagano Bamboo Forest in that it makes you feel like you’re entering another world, but it has its own peaceful and breezy atmosphere that’s uniquely brought by the red and white Mahogany trees.

4. Miniloc Island, El Nido

Looks and feels like: Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Maya Bay in Thailand is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Thanks to the movie The Beach, it’s now swarmed with tourists that want to make memories and take their photos on the island.

A better and way less-crowded alternative is our own world-famous El Nido in Palawan. You may avail of travel packages that allow you to go kayaking at Small and Big Lagoons, which look a lot like Maya Bay minus the crowd of tourists. You also get to explore other secret and unspoiled beaches surrounding Miniloc Island.

5. La Paz Sand Dunes, Ilocos

Looks and feels like: Merzouga, Morocco

If you want to try sandboarding on the Sahara Desert, it’s best to practice first at the La Paz Sand Dunes. The adventure of rough-riding in a 4×4 will give you that initial thrill before you head out on its steep sandy slopes. It’s a coastal desert so you can then head to the beach for more photo ops after sand boarding.

6. Corregidor Island

Looks and feels like: Iwo Jima, Japan

Historic Corregidor Island is home to the ruins of Fort Mills during World War II. Iwo Jima matches Corregidor’s history in that it was the last of the defending forces of Japan. Both battles happened during World War II: American soldiers bombed Japanese troops in Iwo Jima for their Operation Detachment (the story behind the Marine Corps War Memorial located in Arlington County, Virginia, US), while Japanese troops bombed the American forts in Corregidor to invade Luzon in 1942.

If you’re a history buff, you have the option to reserve well ahead of schedule, or book at the ferry terminal for the day tour of popular sites on the island such as the lighthouse, Japanese Garden of Peace, and the Filipino Heroes Memorial.

7. Marlboro Country and Blue Hills (Kamanbaneng Peak), Sagada

Looks and feels like: Werfen Picnic Meadow, Salzburg, Austria

The Blue Hills of Sagada are alive with green landscapes, blue soil, and cool breeze. If you want to feel like you’re in the set of The Sound of Music, it’s one of the best places to go to get that kind of landscape in the Do Re Mi opening scene.

Some tourists also claim that the sea of clouds at Kamanbaneng Peak is so much better than the often-crowded Mount Kiltepan, so this place is definitely worth a visit when you go to Sagada.

8. Gramercy Infinity Pool, Makati

Looks and feels like: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Now this one is a lot different from Marina Bay Sands. We don’t have an infinity pool in the country that big, and the skyline in Marina Bay is incomparable.

But if you want to get that I’m-casually- lounging-by-the-pool-with-the-skyscrapers-behind-me kind of vibe and photo op, The Gramercy Residences swimming pool is the closest alternative.

Book your stay through Airbnb. Note that most units offer a minimum of two nights’ stay. The pool is located at the 36th floor, giving you an unobstructed view of the Makati skyline.

9. Quezon Memorial Circle

Looks and feels like: Washington Monument, Washington DC, USA

For our very own local national parks, the Quezon Memorial Shrine holds its own history amid the bustle of the Quezon Memorial Circle. The 66-metre tall mausoleum contains the remains of Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines.

Though the observation deck at the top of the shrine is no longer open to tourists, the Circle holds two museums that hold memorabilia of Quezon, and the history of Quezon City. Recreational activities are also available, such as the children’s playground and riding bicycles for rent around the park’s track.

10. Binondo, Manila

Looks and feels like: Beijing; Hong Kong

Not a lot of people know that Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world. Its history traces back to the Spanish colonization, and it became the center of commerce during the American occupation.

It’s best known for authentic Chinese food, where a lot of people visit to get a fix of their favorite dishes and dumplings. The best time to come and experience its own unique culture is during the Chinese New Year. Witness the dragon and lion dances on the streets and walk with other tourists in finding the best street foods and restaurants in the district.

Some of the popular ones are Sincerity for the best fried chicken in town, Kim Hiong Food Garden (Stir Fried Beef Noodles), Wai Ying (dumplings, e.g. Ha Kao, Xiao Long Bao and their wonton noodles), President, Dong Bei (dumplings), Delicious for their pansit, Tasty for their pork chop, and The Original Salido Restaurant for Hong Ma with Cua Pao, Shanghai (Fried Siopao). And if you’re a vegetarian, there’s Quan Yin Chay Vegetarian Good Garden for their vegetarian versions of Filipino and Chinese foods.

Have more to add to this list? Share your suggestions in the comments.