The Best Destinations in The Philippines

Through Its Four Main International Airports

By Rachel Tolentino (

The news is out! Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards 2017 resulted to hailing not one, not two, but three islands from the Philippines as the top 3 best islands in the world. Each of the 7,641 islands of this archipelago surely has an adventure or two waiting for you. Discover how to get to the Philippines through its four major international airports on the below guide to see which airport best fits your planned island destination.

Manila International Airport

(Ninoy Aquino International Airport -NAIA)

Located in the country’s capital city, this is the largest and busiest international airport in the Philippines, with four terminals. It is the main gateway to the Philippines, and it has the most number of domestic flights including Palawan. It is situated in Pasay and Paranaque which are known for its luxury hotels, world-class casinos and shopping malls. If you stay in Manila for a couple of days, these are the best trips you can do near NAIA:

Learn How to Dive in Anilao, Batangas (2 days, 1 night)

Anilao is a Marine Protected Sanctuary in the province of Batangas, 115 kilometers south of Manila. It is considered the place where scuba diving started in the Philippines. It boasts a rich marine ecosystem with plenty of scuba diving resorts to choose from whether you’re a beginner or a certified scuba diver.

1. To get to Anilao, take a cab from NAIA to JAM, JAC or Alps Bus Terminals in Pasay.

Pro tip: Make sure to ride a cab that agrees to use his taxi meter as the bus terminal is a couple of minutes away from the airport.

2. Take a bus heading to Batangas City Terminal. Travel time should be at least 2 to 3 hours.

Pro tip: Choose a bus that has no “via Lipa” signage as this detour to another city will make the travel time longer.

3. Upon reaching Batangas City Terminal, take a jeepney with a “Mabini” signage and get off at Anilao Port and take a tricycle to your chosen resort.

Pro tip: Jeepney is an iconic form of transportation in the Philippines and riding one should be on your travel bucket list.

Heritage Tour and Flea Market Shopping in Manila (Day Tour)

If you only have one whole day to spare, make the most out of it by having an immersive experience in Manila. Visit Intramuros or The Walled City, a witness to the history of colonialization in the Philippines from Spanish, American to Japanese regime. It houses the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church showcasing the deep influence of Spaniards in the religious practice in the Philippines, that makes it the largest Catholic nation in Asia. It is best to walk around Intramuros or take a “calesa”, a traditional horse carriage whose driver can also be your tour guide.

After a trip around Intramuros, you can ask your “calesa” driver if he can bring you to Binondo or Chinatown, otherwise, you can take a jeepney with a “Divisoria” signage. This is where you can find authentic Chinese/Filipino restaurants and experience another cultural influence of the Filipinos - the Chinese.

After a food trip in Binondo, get your feet ready for some flea market shopping action in Divisoria. It is a bargain haven selling clothes, shoes, accessories and handicrafts.

Pro tip: Learn how to bargain by familiarizing yourself with the current exchange rate and if you find the price a little high, feel free to say, “Tawad po” which means “Can I have a lower price, please?”

Mactan-Cebu International Airport

Cebu is the main hub for your travel across islands in Central Philippines. With its airport opening a new resort-style Terminal 2, more international and domestic flights are being catered to by this airport, including Palawan. It has a great mix of city life and island life with a lot of pristine beaches to choose from.

Beach Bumming in Bantayan Island

The north of Cebu has three laid-back islands to choose from, Bantayan, Malapascua and Kalanggaman. Bantayan is a tourist favorite because it is easy to get to from the city.

1. To get to Bantayan. Take a cab from the airport to North Bus Terminals, then take a four-hour bus to Hagnaya Port. When you reach the port, take the ferry to Sante Fe, Bantayan for about one hour.

2. Hotels in Bantayan usually offer transfers from Sante Fe Port to the hotel and vice versa. It is best to avail of that since it usually comes free with the accommodation or at a minimal cost.

Enjoy beach bumming in the pristine white sand beach of Bantayan Island and the nearby Virgin Island

Pro tip: Inquire about a scooter rental from your hotel receptionist so it is easier for you to go around the island, this usually costs $5 for a 24-hour rental. Gas for the motorcycle is on you.

Cebu is a bustling port and is also a strategic jump off point to Bohol, another island in the Visayas which is known for The Chocolate Hills, Panglao White Sand Beach and the Loboc Floating Restaurant. The less touristy beaches of Siquijor, Dumaguete and Guimaras are also easily accessible from Cebu.

Clark International Airport

This airport which is 2 to 3 hours away from Manila is gaining popularity as fares are usually cheaper, especially domestic flights. Formerly an air force base, this airport is your best entry point to explore Northern Philippines.

Pro tip: You can book the cheapest direct flights to El Nido, Palawan from this airport.

Culinary treat in Pampanga

The Province of Pampanga where the Clark International Airport is, is known to be the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. In fact, Anthony Bourdain visited the province to try Sisig or what he called as the “Best Pork Dish on Earth”. This dish is made from roasted pig face and ears and is usually served on a sizzling plate. With just an airport shuttle ride or a jeepney ride outside the airport, you can head to the nearest mall called SM City Clark and look for Sisig. This dish is best enjoyed with beer.

Nature retreat to Banaue and Baguio

If you will remember the last scene in Marvel’s Infinity War movie where Thanos lives in a hut in the middle of a scenic mountain and rice terraces, that is in the Province of Banaue. To get there:

1. Take a jeepney to Dau terminal, then take a bus going to Baguio. You may choose to stay in Baguio and enjoy its cool climate or head directly to Banaue.

2. Take a bus to Banuae (Batad) from Baguio Bus Terminal.

Wake up early, be mesmerized by the sea of clouds, enjoy a relaxing trek to the mountains to Tappiyah Falls, try native delicacies and their famous rice wine.

Pro tip: If time permits, stay in Baguio for 2D1N and check out their best restaurants like Pamana, Café by the Ruins and the BenCab Museum of Filipino National Artist, Benedicto Cabrera.

Davao International Airport

(Francisco Bangoy International Airport)

This beautiful city is your gateway to the southern islands in the Philippines. It serves 7 airlines, catering to 1 international flight to and from Singapore. Davao City is tourist friendly and offers plenty of commuting options from the airport.

Experience paradise in Samal Island

There are plenty of beach choices in Samal Island, from affordable cottages to luxurious villas. Visit Kaputian beach, or Talicud Island which has a longer shoreline of white sand beaches with a more affordable price tag.

From the airport, take a cab to Sta. Ana Wharf. Ferries leave every hour until 6 PM to Talicud Island and Kaputian.

Surf in Siargao Island (3 days, 2 nights)

Got more time for more adventure? Head to Cloud 9 (yes, that’s what it is called) in Siargao and learn how to surf. Cloud 9 hosts international surfing competitions annually and is famous for its surf deck. But there are more things to do in Siargao than surfing. Three white sand islands can be visited in a whole day island hopping tour - Guyam, Naked and Dako Islands are equally gorgeous beaches. Take a dip in nature’s best freshwater pool in Sugba Lagoon and beautiful rock formations at Magpupungko Beach.

You can reach Sayac Airport in Surigao from Davao City thru a short 1.5-hour flight or you can get to Surigao City Terminal through an overnight bus ride.

1. Take a cab to Ecoland Terminal in Davao City. Buses to Surigao City leave every hour for 24 hours. It will take 8 to 10 hours to get there so it is best to travel overnight.

2. Upon arriving at Surigao City Terminal, take a jeepney to Surigao Port terminal. Then take a ferry to Dapa Port in Siargao.

3. Take a tricycle or a single motorbike called habal-habal to get to your hotel.

Pro tip: Motorcycle rental is the best option if you are staying in Siargao for at least two days. Siargao is loved for the numerous dining options, vibrant nightlife, water activities and island hopping destinations to choose from.

The Philippines is a country you will surely fall in love with. Each island destination offers the best experiences for every adventure-hungry soul. It’s time for you to discover and unleash its beauty!