Why go “It's home to one of the most ancient Philippine churches from the Spanish era, Paoay Church. I think a lot of people go there, specifically to see that old part of town which is one of the oldest Spanish cities in the Philippines.”
Sidetrip “When you mention Ilocos Norte, what comes to mind is the image of Bangui Windmills, Cape Bojeador, Patapat Viaduct, and the white sand beaches of Pagudpud. It’s very nice to visit these places with your family. You get to appreciate history; you get to see nature; and you can enjoy the beach there.”
Where to stay Fort Ilocandia is Ilocos Norte's grande dame, built on 77 hectares of land amidst sand dunes and a pine forest, with a two-kilometer beach facing the South China Sea. All rooms are airconditioned. The beach sand dunes stretch endlessly and make for the perfect family playground and there's a big swimming pool for you to cool off after a day of exploring. Lots of activities can be arranged by the hotel, from renting an All Terrain Vehicle for riding the dunes to kayaking, or indulging in a spot of golf. A standard room costs from P7,000 (about US$150) for two persons, per night. Children age 12 years old and below are free of charge. For inquiries and reservations, call +632/478 6506, visit Fort Ilocandia. PAL Express offers a roundtrip airfare from Manila to Laoag at about P6,299 per person. Visit PAL Express.
Why go. “Everyone calls it the “Queen City in the South.” It’s a miniature of Metro Manila and provinces put together and the life pace is more relaxed.”
Sidetrip “You can do things at a slower pace plus it has beaches and some modern facilities like the Skywalk at the Crown Tower. Families can also go to Malapascua and have a very relaxing, affordable vacation. To get to Malapascua from Cebu, take a bus from the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City to Maya. The bus fare is P150 for a non airconditioned bus and P190 for airconditioned. From Maya port take a local boat for P80 per person to take you to Malapascua Island. Everything’s very accessible.”
Where to stay The Crown Regency Hotel and Towers is a favorite among families and thrill seekers alike as it features the Edge Coaster and the Skywalk Extreme. Some of the hotel facilities include a restaurant, nightclub, 24-hour room service, game room, 4D Cinema, gym, and outdoor pool. A standard room costs P6,240 good for two people. For inquiries and reservations, call +6332 418 8888, visit Crown Regency Hotel and Towers. A roundtrip airfare to Cebu by Cebu Pacific Air at about P2,886. Visit Cebu Pacific Air.
Why go “Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills and home to the little primate called tarsier. It’s a very unique experience to see a primate in miniature form, which is not so common in Asia. In the Philippines, it’s the only place where you get this opportunity to experience the Chocolate Hills, made of limestone, basically coral and other sea fossils that have dried up and turned chocolate brown after millions of years. During summer, they become like chocolate because of the heat that burns off the grass and it becomes brown.”
Sidetrip. “Bohol is a haven for nature lovers. You can visit the countryside and see the man-made forest and the Loboc River. You and your kids can go dolphin and whale watching in Pamilacan Island. Or you can enjoy the beach in Panglao.”
Where to stay Stay at the Bohol Bee Farm for P3,000 per night, good for three persons. The resort also serves delicious meals made from organically-grown vegetables on the farm. Try the squash muffins, vegetable lasagna and a specially-brewed coffee from roasted corn and wild berries. For inquiries and reservations, call +6338 510 1822, visit Bohol Bee Farm. Cebu Pacific Air offers roundtrip flights to Bohol from Manila for about P3,950 per person. Visit Cebu Pacific Air.
Why go “Palawan is the favorite destination of everyone now.” The Underground River in Puerto Princesa, after making it to the New 7 Wonders of Nature, has been so popular that you should book months in advance to be able to see the site. For inquiries and reservations, call +63927 436 7895, visit Puerto Princesa Tours.
Sidetrip “Families can enjoy watching little monkeys in the Monkey Trail, or bathing in the waterfalls, or cruising the dark underground river on board a speedboat and then watching fireflies after sundown. And then, they can go to the city’s dining spots or go shopping.”
Where to stay Book the family room at the Duchess Pension Inn. The three-storey building has a 24- hour water supply, package tours, transportation assistance, telephone, stand-by generator, budget rooms, aircon rooms and a cafeteria. Their family room, good for four, costs from P1,520 per night. For bookings and reservations, call +63917 553 0605, visit Duchess Pension Inn. A roundtrip airfare to Puerto Princesa, Palawan is about P3,514 per person. Visit Cebu Pacific Air.
Why go Boracay is known for its beautiful white-sand beach and there are lots of activities for families, from island hopping to just lounging about the beach with kids. “Boracay has become a year-round destination. It has a tropical climate year round,” says Shroff.
Sidetrip “Families can enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach early in the morning and late afternoon. Kids love this. Shop for souvenirs at D’Mall, the island's shopping area, indulge in a good meal, have ice cream or refreshments al fresco style.”
Where to stay The Orchids Boracay has air conditioned cottages for P2,350 per room night, good for three people. For big families, the family villa is ideal, with price at about P4,875 per night, good for 10 people. For inquiries and reservations, call +63917 242 0833, visit The Orchids Boracay. PAL Express offers a roundtrip airfare of about P6,776 per person. Visit PAL Express.
Travel expert Arjun Shroff owns and operates Shroff Travel, one of the Philippines’ established tour operators. Shroff Travel has been operating in the country for the past 22 years.
-By Margie Francisco and Klarissa Villavieja
Originally published in Bakasyon April 2012. Updated March 2016