Calling all city trippers and tropical island adventurers – there’s a place for you in the Philippines. The capital, Manila, is one of the most underrated cities in Asia, while the countless islands scattered below it offer some of the most pristine beaches and beautiful diving sites on the continent. The hotel scene is vibrant too, which means you can choose anything from an eco-luxury beach villa to a boho-chic artists’ compound in the capital.
The Peninsula has been welcoming guests to Makati for more than 40 years. The hotel is on the corner of a busy crossroads, but the noise melts away once you step foot into the grand, high-ceilinged lobby. The ample rooms are decorated in cool pebble tones and feature marble bathrooms and Filipino rattan furniture. Can’t decide between culture and cocktails? Luckily for you, Ayala Museum is just across the street, not far from the Curator, a speakeasy-style bar hidden within a cafe.
Raffles Makati isn’t quite as glam as its Singaporean sister, but it still has a cosy, art-filled Writer’s Lounge and Long Bar where you can try the hotel’s signature cocktail – a gold-leafed Makati luxury sling. Plush suites feature hand-tufted rugs, antique furniture and deep-soaking tubs. There are two pools, one of which is shared with the adjacent Fairmont Hotel, as are the gym and spa. Greenbelt Mall and Ayala Museum are also practically on your doorstep.
The densely populated Mactan Island is where most travellers land on their way to explore the wider province or island-hop along the Cebu Strait. But, there’s plenty to tempt you to drop anchor right here and spend a few nights at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort. Like the ocean view from your room? Take part in beach cleans and coral recovery activities to give back to nature, or earn your PADI diving certificate to get a closer look at the local sea life.
With calm, clear waters and white-sand beaches framed by towering limestone peaks and jungly hillsides, secluded Pangulasian Island Resort is a honeymoon brochure brought to life. The 42 eco-luxury villas sit along the beach and among the forest, and have striking thatched roofs and private balconies. Don’t miss a boat trip to discover the hidden coves and secret lagoons dotted around Bacuit Bay.
If you’re an art lover, book a night or two at the boho-chic Henry Hotel in Pasay City, a revamped 1950s artists’ compound. It’s well located – the airport and Mall of Asia are both 10 minutes away by car – but you’ll need to venture a little further to browse the fine-art exhibitions at Yuchengco Museum and the multimedia displays at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.
The nine exquisite villas at Nay Palad in Siargo redefine island luxury. Huge terraces with designer day beds, statement showers and oodles of living space are a joy, but it’s the little details – such as iPads, fruit baskets and aromatherapy diffusers – that make each villa feel like home. Kick off your flip-flops and put your cash away; this place really is all–inclusive, meaning your daily massages, yoga classes and boat excursions are all part of the package.
Want true tropical seclusion? Book a stay at Amanpulo. Only accessible by private plane (flights from Manila take just over an hour), the resort occupies the whole of pristine Pamalican Island in Palawan. And while there are nearly 60 villas and almost 400 staff here, the clever layout means you’ll often feel as if you have the place to yourself. Bored of lounging on sun-bleached sands? Try a spot of kitesurfing or scuba diving, or get pampered in the hilltop spa.
A smattering of spacious whitewashed villas occupies the jungly hillside at Matinloc Resort, looking like a miniature Filipino Cinque Terre. The infinity pool overlooks the ombre colours of the private resort beach: bone-white, turquoise and deep indigo. Join an island-hopping tour to explore the soaring limestone cliffs and crowd-free coves of El Nido, or snorkel the reef just off shore, eyes peeled for sea turtles.
This resort centres around a wide, deep cove at the narrow centre of the private island. Thatched-roof villas are clustered village-style around the beach and lagoon, and feature stone mosaic showers and traditional bamboo and rattan furniture. Keen divers are well catered for on Cauayan – there are more than 18 locations to try nearby and you can study for a variety of PADI certificates through the hotel dive centre. Prefer dry land? Trek to the highest point on the island for epic ocean views.
Whether your idea of tropical paradise includes non-stop water sports and wildlife spotting, or lounging on the beach between spa treatments, Misibis Bay in Bacacay is the hotel for you. The resort features light-filled rooms and villas, infinity and lagoon-style pools and a private stretch of white-sand beach. Try your hand at kayaking, windsurfing or snorkelling, or join an ATV tour of the nearby Mayon Volcano, a picture-perfect conical peak.
Heading to the capital? Discover our guide on the best luxury hotels in Manila and book now on Culture Trip. For more incredible hotels in the Philippines, check out our pick of the best hotels on Bantayan Island, the Philippines, bookable on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
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WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.