So you’ve saved enough cash from the past two years stuck at home, laid out a list of all the long weekends for 2023, and you’re ready to finally dust off your passports and get your bags out of storage for revenge travel this 2023.
All that’s left is deciding where to go. With all the seat sales and destinations dropping their COVID travel requirements, it can be overwhelming to think of where exactly to go for your first trip of the year.
To help you out, PhilSTAR L!fe asked travel influencers and experts what destinations they would recommend this coming year.
Because of the cost and ease of travel, domestic destinations still remain top of mind for Filipino travelers this 2023. According to a Statista survey in June 2022, Boracay and Baguio were the most preferred domestic travel destinations among the respondents in the Philippines last year. Other popular local destinations include Cebu, El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Siargao, La Union, and Manila, which will continue to be popular this year.
Looking for alternative local destinations? Here are some suggestions.
Camotes Islands, Cebu
Travel journalist and photographer Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap of EAZY Traveler says Camotes Islands in Cebu is “one of the underrated destinations of Cebu that's bound to boom.”
“This island group is a complete destination, offering a diversity of attractions like secluded beaches, stunning reefs, cave pools, waterfalls, heritage churches, the province's largest lake, and a world-class freediving school that opened just last year."
Those revisiting Cebu can also look forward to easier travel time to Cordova municipality on Mactan, which is now only a 10-minute drive away from Cebu City after the opening of CCLEX—the country's longest and tallest bridge—last year.
“The insular town is the jump-off point for great snorkeling and scuba diving trips around the Olango Island Group, where the tourism's return is helping remote communities recover from the pandemic lockdowns and the devastation of Supertyphoon Odette (Rai). After island-hopping, unwind at an al fresco seaside resto like Parola or Lantaw, or watch the sunset from Solea Resort's rooftop lounge."
Danjugan Island, Negros Occidental
Some destinations in Cebu and the rest of the Visayas region are recovering after the double whammy of pandemic lockdowns and Supertyphoon Odette (Rai) that hit in December 2021, and would gladly welcome the tourism income.
"Supertyphoon Odette (Rai) may have toppled the iconic dungon tree where sea eagles nest at Danjugan Island in southern Negros, but the graceful raptors continue to breed and thrive here—a testament to the resilience of this exceptional wildlife sanctuary. This ecotourism gem offers day tours and overnight stays at laid-back beach camps. It's a wonderful place to commune with nature and spot birds, bats, and other wildlife from rainforest to reef," said Yap.
Eastern Visayas (provinces of Samar, Leyte, Biliran)
It’s no secret that the tourism industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, which impacted the local economies of places and the livelihoods of people depending on it. According to Angel Juarez of Lakwatsero.com, travelers don’t have to look far to go on adventures this year.
“Think local and revenge travel in the Philippines! Support and help the local communities greatly impacted by the pandemic by visiting or re-visiting the domestic spots that we missed and were missing. Top of mind is Eastern Visayas comprising of Samar Provinces, Leyte Provinces, and Biliran. It is a region frequently visited by devastating typhoons that also rely on tourism, so your visit will surely help locals rebuild and recover. Unknown to many, the region is home to diverse natural wonders! Bask in Kalanggaman Island of Leyte, explore the waterfalls of Biliran, or discover the beautiful caves of Samar. These and more surprises await in Eastern Visayas!”
Gigantes Islands, Iloilo
"First, city life is much better here than in other megacities. You get the comforts of urban life but it's calmer and less crowded. Less than four hours from Iloilo city is the coastal town of Carles where you can find the stunning Gigantes Islands. Exploring this group of islets is more than just the usual island-hopping trip. You get to experience pristine beaches and also some awesome lagoons and rock formations. Visiting the mystical Tangke Lagoon is a must! You can enjoy Gigantes via a day trip or an overnight stay. If you have enough time, I highly recommend staying overnight because you'd have a chance to experience authentic island life in a local fishing village. Plus, the food is delicious, especially the unlimited scallops."
Have you already ticked island-hopping around El Nido and Coron in Palawan off your bucket list? Consider Balabac, a group of mostly uninhabited islands on the extreme southwestern part of the island.
“For me, the ultimate destination is still Balabac in Palawan. Crystal clear waters, a lot of islands and sandbars, great diving spots, white sand beaches, and definitely uncrowded,” says Mariane Tagaca, tour organizer of GALA PH, which specializes in joiner tours to remote destinations in the country.
To join their tours to Balabac scheduled in April (right in time for a long weekend holiday), visit their FB page. Other destinations worth revisiting, which they are organizing hassle-free tours to this year, include Quirino, Zambales, Catanduanes, and Apo Reef (for freedivers).
Glen Santillan of Escape Manila, who has traveled to all 81 provinces in the Philippines, says that flying to Davao is always a good idea. From Davao City, you can travel by land to other neighboring provinces on the mainland of Mindanao, including Davao del Sur, Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley), and Davao Oriental.
“You can do a lot of things here to make your trip memorable. You can hike Mt. Apo in Davao del Sur or experience the majestic waterfalls in Baganga and Cateel in Davao Oriental. If you love the beach, you can explore the white sand beaches in Samal or in Mati. If you don’t want to go far, you can head to the Philippine Eagle Center and see our national bird up close. You can also visit the Malagos Chocolate Museum where you can make your own chocolate. And don't forget to bring home some fresh fruits. Davao is known for affordable tropical fruits such as pomelo, marang, mangosteen, durian, and a lot more!”
Writer and photographer Celine Murillo, who is currently traveling around the Philippines in a mobile home/camper van, recommends the underrated province of Bukidnon in Mindanao.
“Go to Bukidnon for surreal views and nature encounters. Go on a relatively easy trek to multiple waterfalls at CEDAR in Impasug-ong or visit Ogaong Viewdeck in Manolo Fortich. You also have to try the local produce, especially the bananas and pineapples! Plus, there’s Mt. Kitanglad-Dulang-dulang for a more extreme adventure—the trails are now open to hikers!”
Aside from traveling locally, more Filipinos are expected to travel internationally for the first time since the lockdown this 2023.
Based on activity bookings from travel platform Klook, Singapore was the top travel destination for Filipino tourists, followed by South Korea, Thailand, and Japan in 2022, which will continue to enjoy popularity in the coming year.
Airbnb data likewise shows that the top trending travel spots for international travel in 2023 among Filipino guests are Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and South Korea.
Looking for other places to visit? Consider these equally stunning destinations.
In case you've already been to Bangkok, other areas like Krabi and Pattaya in Thailand offer tempting reasons to return.
“Amazing, exotic, thrilling, and unique. This is how I described my experience after visiting Thailand. It has everything you could want for a memorable vacation. No wonder foreign tourists fall in love with Thailand. It is genuinely ideal for budget travelers. Located adjacent to the sea in Naklua, Pattaya, the Sanctuary of Truth is truly an amazing structure," said Marco Dennis Esplana, The Pinoy Traveler
Da Nang, Vietnam
“I highly recommend visiting Da Nang in Central Vietnam. It’s a charming and progressive city with a laid-back vibe. It’s super clean and it’s not too crowded. It has almost everything you want on your vacation—a white sand beach, pagodas, caves, mountains, museums, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also less than an hour away from the beautiful Hoi An Ancient Town - a UNESCO World Heritage Site," Glenn Santillan of Escape Manila told PhilSTAR L!fe.
“For those who want to go abroad, Ubud in Bali would be a great choice, as everything here is affordable. Skip the crowded beaches on the island and book a private villa in the town, and gorge on the yummy food its restaurants and cafes have to offer. Start with Naughty Nuri's grilled meats and The Elephant's scrumptious vegetarian fare. Don't leave without indulging in a Balinese massage and visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest," said Klara Iskra Añonuevo, Senior Content Writer for Guide to the Philippines.
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Prague, Czech Republic
“Prague is an affordable European city with a fetching historic center, and its mix of old world and modern architecture make it a noteworthy destination. It’s a city that’s easy to walk around in. You can spend hours walking around Prague Castle grounds where you’ll find St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, and St. George’s Basilica. Spend time in the old town square where you’ll see the Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church and some of the city’s prettiest buildings," according to The Wandering Juan writer Joshua Berida.
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New York City
“For an international destination, there could only be one on my end that fits the target of a 'revenge' travel experience and that is New York City. The city offers infinite possibilities, diversity and notable level of energy with skyscrapers and sceneries that have served as backdrop in films and novels, home to some of the famed museums around the world, a bagel, a dollar-worth pizza, the times square and the broadway shows to name a few," Mark Julius Estur of Lakwatserong Tsinelas said.