The 10 Best Ecotourism Experiences in Luzon, Philippines

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines.
Mount Pinatubo, Philippines. | © Nick Utchin / Shutterstock
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer20 August 2018

As the biggest of the Philippines’ main island groups, Luzon is home to a number of ecotourism options that let you enjoy nature and help maintain its beauty at the same time. Check out where you can have the best ecotourism experiences in Luzon.

Rich in natural resources, the Philippines has been globally-admired for its pristine nature and diverse flora and fauna. Due to climate change and illegal man-made activities, some natural areas and species are under threat. In order to protect them, conservation efforts have been set up to promote sustainable travel among tourists. Here are 10 of the best.

Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines. | © Nick Utchin / Shutterstock

On June 12, 1991, the world’s second largest volcanic eruption in that century took place in Zambales, Philippines. Mount Pinatubo’s eruption had resulted to millions of tons of sulfur dioxide in the air, covering the entire Luzon and reaching neighboring Asian countries. These days, it holds wondrous beauty featuring a blue-green lake on a gray-brown crater. After its tragic eruption, tourists are now visiting the area to experience Mount Pinatubo by trekking the crater lake, which involves a 4×4 ride on a lahar field. After a 2.5-hour trek, visitors are treated to a majestic view of the Pinatubo crater’s lake water.

Hundred Islands National Park

Park, Natural Feature
Map View
Quezon Island | © Jhun Taboga / Wikimedia Commons

From the name itself, over a hundred mushroom-like islands scattered across the southwest part of Lingayen Gulf comprise the Hundred Islands National Park. Although there are 123 unique islands, only three are open to tourists – the Governor’s Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island. The Governor’s Island is the biggest among the three, and has a viewing deck at the top that requires you to go through a tough climb. Because of its camping facilities and shallow shores (ideal for snorkeling), Quezon Island has been dubbed as family-friendly among tourists. Meanwhile, the Children’s Island also has shallow waters and cottages, which are perfect for family picnics. What makes the Hundred Islands National Park a favorite ecotourism destination is its close proximity to the country’s capital city, Manila.

Candaba Swamp and Wild Duck Sanctuary

Flock of Ducks | © Steve Oehlenschlager / Shutterstock

Located in Candaba, Pampanga, the Candaba Swamp acts as a catch basin whenever water overflows from Maasim, San Miguel, Garlang, Bulu, and Penaranda rivers. Encompassing an area of about 32,000 hectares, the Candaba Swamp has freshwater ponds, swamps, and marshes visited by thousands of migratory birds every October to April (during the wet season). That’s because these migratory birds either spend their winter season in the country or just pass through before heading to their destinations. In 1982, the largest concentration of birds happened in the area with 100,000 migratory birds observed in just a day. If you’d like to catch sight of these birds, it’s best to see them at either sunrise or sunset. Some of the popular species you can see here are the Shrenck’s Bittern, Purple Swamp Hen, and Black-Crowned Heron.

La Mesa Eco Park

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Garden Area of La Mesa Ecopark
Garden Area of La Mesa Ecopark | © Andrew Martin / Wikimedia Commons

The La Mesa Eco Park is a 33-hectare ecological park that provides outdoor recreation, forest experience, and a breath of fresh air for Metro Manila residents. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, this public park was established to save the La Mesa Watershed, which is a source of drinking water in the country’s capital. After its reopening in 2004, this tree-lined paradise has become a popular tourist spot, especially for adventure seekers. Things to do here include hiking, boating, and fishing, among others. Apart from generating revenue, it also aims to promote environmental awareness.

Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area

Freedom Trail at Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) | © Elmer nev valenzuela / WikiCommons

The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or LPPCHEA is a nature reserve located in the South of Manila. Comprising of Freedom Island and Long Island, the LPPCHEA is the country’s first critical habitat teeming with mangrove forests, lagoons, and salt marshes. As visitors trek in the area, they are introduced to a diverse variety of ecosystems. The main attraction is the wild birds – 82 species of wild birds (41 species are migratory birds) can be found within the area. Tourists can spot these birds nesting, feeding, or flying in the open. During migration season, this area becomes a feeding and resting spot for migratory birds heading to warmer regions.

Masungi Georeserve

Hiking Trail
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Hanging Bridge at Masungi Georeserve | © Richard Ernest Yap / Shutterstock
Masungi Georeserve is a 1,600-hectare conservation area set within lush rainforests and limestone formations hidden in Baras, Rizal. It aims to sustainably protect the rocks, flora, and fauna within it. Since its opening in December 2015, it has been luring in outdoor enthusiasts and even newbie travelers to get a unique outdoor experience through its famous Discovery Trail. The trail lets visitors hike through karst landscape, go through natural rails and forests, and commune with nature. If you’d like to visit this sanctuary, make sure to wear lightweight attire and closed shoes suitable for hiking!

Pawikan Conservation Center

Two baby turtles race towards the sea in Morong, Bataan, Philippines. | © ChrisGreenTea / Shutterstock

Located in Morong, Bataan and about a three-hour drive from Manila is the humble sanctuary called Pawikan Conservation Center. Due to harsh fishing conditions, illegal trade, and natural predation, the sea turtles (pawikan) have become endangered. Thus, the government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) put up the conservation center. Headed by the Bantay Pawikan Incorporated, the organization’s members roam and patrol along the beach’s six-kilometer stretch to protect the hatchlings of the sea turtles from its predators and the fishermen around. These eggs would then be placed in the center’s hatchery until its hatching is completed after 51 days. Both local and foreign tourists head over to the area to volunteer with patrolling, join the center’s “Adopt a Turtle” program or attend the annual Pawikan Festival.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
Four divers swimming with a turtle, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines
Divers swimming with a turtle, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines | © RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
A stunning underwater landscape made up of vibrant corals and marine life, the Tubbataha Reefs in the Philippines is recognized as a top diving site in the world. Comprising two coral atolls, the reefs feature 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, birds, plus Hawksbill and Green sea turtles. The Tubbataha Reef Natural Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 due to its ‘pristine coral reef’ along with the ‘extensive lagoons and two coral islands.’ But because of its isolated location, tourists have to endure a journey that takes about 10-12 hours. Plus it’s only accessible from mid-March to mid-June. Nonetheless, being in touch with the beaming and magnificent diverse marine life is worth the travel.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Park, Natural Feature
Map View
Puerto Princesa Underground River | © Paweesit / Flickr
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park has become one of the most famous tourist destinations in the city since its recognition as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. From the city center, it’s about an 80-kilometer drive north to the town of Sabang. Whether you take a boat or hike to the entrance of the Underground River, a tour of the eight-kilometer waterway (which is one of the world’s longest navigable river caves) is done aboard a small paddle boat. This tour takes visitors into the cave of impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. More than these remarkable rock formations, the area represents a complex ecosystem, being home to a number of animals such as crab-eating monkeys and monitor lizards.

La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden

In the City of San Fernando, La Union, you’ll find this garden on a hilly 20-hectare land. Serving as a sanctuary for various wild animals and displaying theme gardens with their scientific names, it invites tourists to indulge themselves in the beauty of nature. Here you’ll find different themed gardens such as the Japanese Garden, Shade Garden, and Evergreen Garden. They also have a Medicinal Garden where they cultivate dozens of herbs and medicinal plants. What makes this destination a fascinating one is the existence of the harmonious relationship between the plants and animal species present in the garden.

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