The 10 Best Ecotourism Experiences in Visayas, Philippines

Latasan and Tinagong Dagat islands
Latasan and Tinagong Dagat islands | © rweisswald / Shutterstock
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer30 August 2018

The Visayas region is well-known among frequent travelers to the Philippines, being home to the popular tourist islands of Cebu and Boracay. Apart from these crowd-heavy destinations, the region has other beautiful attractions promoting the country’s untouched natural wonders.

While the Visayas is famous for pristine beaches and adrenaline-pumping activities, there are also several ecotourism spots promoting sustainable travel. These natural spots establish the harmonious coexistence of Mother Earth and humans in this collection of islands in the Philippines.

Mount Canlaon

Natural Feature
Map View
Mount Kanlaon Volcano
Mount Kanlaon volcano | © Jack Pokoj / Shutterstock

Located on the island of Negros in the Visayas region, you’ll find lush vegetation and dense rainforests in Mount Canlaon Natural Park. This natural haven lures mountain climbers with its proud centerpiece: Mount Canlaon (also spelled Kanla-on or Kanlaon), which is one of the country’s most active stratovolcanoes. While climbing to the top is a challenging experience, the view is more than worth it – standing as the highest point on the island. The park is also home to numerous wildlife creatures such as the hawk eagle, wild boars, and leopard cats.

Olango Wildlife Island Sanctuary

A bridge to nowhere. #olangoisland #boardwalk #mangrove #cebu #philippines

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Just like many backpackers on the Southeast Asia loop, the Philippines is a favorite stopover for migratory birds from the northern or southern hemispheres. These birds often head to Olango Island in Visayas centre, where there is shelter from monsoons and trade winds. Many find themselves in Olango Wildlife Island Sanctuary, which is endowed with rich coral reefs and huge seagrass beds. It’s well-known for having the largest concentration of migratory birds in the country – a flock of 10,000 were discovered in 1987. If you want a glimpse of these magnificent beasts of the sky, bring your camera to this ecotourism hotspot.

Malapascua Island

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Malapascua Island, Cebu, Philippines
Malapascua Island, Cebu, Philippines | © unterwegs / Shutterstock

While its name means ‘Bad Christmas’, the tiny island of Malapascua will bring no humbugs to your holiday cheer. Unspoiled white-sand beaches, beautiful coral gardens, and beaming marine life sanctuary have earned Malapascua the title of one of the best diving spots in the Philippines. Take the chance to spot thresher sharks, enjoy unlimited scenic views, and immerse yourself in a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere.

Lake Danao

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Lake Danao
Lake Danao | © Paradox.Photo / Flickr

If you’re seeking the fresh ocean breeze, a laid-back atmosphere and stunning scenery, then Lake Danao Natural Park belongs on your itinerary. This guitar-shaped lake is located on the island of Leyte in the Visayas region. Just like Taal Volcano near Manila, this picture-perfect scene was formed after a volcanic eruption. Because of its high elevation (similar to that of Tagaytay’s), you can expect a cool climate and a relaxing spot to breathe in some fresh air. For extra ecotourism adventures, you may opt to enjoy boating in wooden canoes, fishing, or camping.

Cuatro Islas Protected Landscape & Seascape

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Digyo Island
Digyo Island, one of Cuatro Islas | © Warrendering / Wikimedia Commons

Nestled in the western part of Leyte, you’ll find a group of islands bordered by white-sand shores and beaming coral gardens – the Cuatro Islas. The group of islands, which literally means ‘Four Islands’, showcases a rich and diverse underwater paradise in the province of Leyte. These are the islands of Apid, Digyo, Himokilan and Mahaba, which all have a specialty of their own. Through proper maintenance of its ecosystem, Cuatro Islas is on way to becoming a top recreational diving destination, giving tourists the chance to interact with their diverse marine sanctuary.

Simply Butterflies Conservation Center

Botanical Garden
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White and black butterflies in Bohol, Philippines, Asia.
White and black butterflies in Bohol | © Loes Kieboom / Shutterstock

Apart from the world-famous Chocolate Hills, this butterfly breeding and conservation center in Bohol is something you don’t want to miss. Simply Butterflies Conservation Center is the first of its kind, aiming to protect the butterfly population through breeding, releasing, and research. Here, you’ll be able to observe hundreds of species of butterfly – either handbred or local insects which were attracted to this place out of curiosity. Sit on a hammock under the shade and watch in awe as these delicate creatures flutter by. You can also purchase butterfly by-products and other souvenirs to help preserve the center.

Cambuhat River and Village Tour

Break away from the bustle of the city and embark on a relaxing tour of Cambuhat River and Village – the pride of Bohol’s Buenavista. This ecotourism adventure will have you navigating through the picturesque river lined with mangroves and nipa trees. After a refreshing paddle boat ride, visitors are led to the oyster farm to enjoy sumptuous oyster meals and learn about fishing culture. What follows is a trip to the local village, where community members show their skills in the weaving of raffia (a type of palm). As the tour is managed by locals, you’ll definitely get a taste of Filipino culture.

Biri-Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape

Biri rock | © don rodriguez / Shutterstock

Located in Northern Samar, Biri-Larosa Protected Landscape/Seascape is a breathtaking beauty famous for its natural rock formations and scenic views. There are seven gigantic rock formations within the area: Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, Caranas, and Pinanahawan. These are said to be the result of underwater tectonic plate movements and the crashing of waves millions of years ago. Adventure junkies will love the natural saltwater pools and coming face-to-face with diverse wildlife and marine species.

Hindang Caves and Wild Monkeys

Forest, Natural Feature
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Wild monkeys
Wild monkeys | © murrayfisher / Pixabay

Head underground and interact with our banana-loving animal relatives in the municipality of Hindang in Southern Leyte. To reach the hidden caves of Hindang, you must climb a set of concrete stairways leading to the forests hiding the caves. There are an estimated six barren caves within Hindang, beautifully formed with stalagmites and stalactites. Unlike many treks to dark hidden caves, the journey is a refreshing treat as you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery. Before you reach the cave complex, you’ll be greeted by wild monkeys. You don’t want to bring any food (it’s also prohibited) as these creatures expect you to feed them.

Lulugayan Falls

While Samar’s Lulugayan Falls are not the highest nor the most popular in the region, it’s definitely one of the prettiest cascades in the Philippines. There are hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the 14-kilometer rapids from Lake Kalidongan into Calbiga River. With its wild waterfalls spanning 50 meters in breadth, it has been dubbed the country’s ‘mini Niagara Falls’. If you want to witness its majestic beauty at the best moment, head over during the summer when the water current is weaker: You’ll be able to see the rock formations beneath the waters.

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