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Provinces of the Philippines

The Philippines is made up of 81 provinces, which fall under 17 administrative and one autonomous region divisions and grouped in three major island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

List of provinces


NCR - National Capital Region

CAR - Cordillera Administrative Region

o Abra

o Apayaoo Benguet

o Ifugaoo Kalinga

o Mountain Province

Ilocos Region

o Ilocos Norteo Ilocos Suro La Uniono Pangasinan

Cagayan Valley Region

o Batanes

o Cagayano Isabela

o Nueva Vizcayao Quirino

Central Luzon Region

o Aurora

o Bataano Bulacan

o Nueva Ecijao Pampangao Tarlac

o Zambales

Calabarzon Region

o Batangaso Cavite

o Lagunao Quezon

o Rizal

MIMAROPA / Southwestern Tagalog Region

o Marinduqueo Occidental Mindoroo Oriental Mindoroo Palawan

o Romblon

Bicol Regiono Albay

o Camarines Norteo Camarines Suro Catanduaneso Masbate

o Sorsogon


Western Visayas Region

o Aklan

o Antiqueo Capiz

o Guimaraso Iloilo

o Negros Occidental

Central Visayas Region

o Bohol

o Cebuo Negros Orientalo Siquijor

Eastern Visayas Region

o Biliran

o Eastern Samaro Leyte

o Northern Samaro Samar

o Southern Leyte


Zamboanga Peninsula Region

o Zamboanga del Norteo Zamboanga del Suro Zamboanga Sibugay

Northern Mindanao Region

o Bukidnono Camiguino Lanao del Norteo Misamis Occidentalo Misamis Oriental

Davao Region

o Compostela Valleyo Davao del Norteo Davao del Suro Davao Occidentalo Davao Oriental

Soccskargen Region

o Cotabatoo Saranganio South Cotabatoo Sultan Kudarat

Caraga Region

o Agusan del Norteo Agusan del Suro Dinagat Islandso Surigao del Norteo Surigao del Sur

BARMM - Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

o Basilan

o Lanao del Suro Maguindanaoo Sulu

o Tawi-Tawi


Luzon is one of the three primary island groups, with 38 provinces. It contains the Luzon mainland, the largest and most populous island, as well as the Batanes and Babuyan groups of islands to the north, Polillo Islands to the east, and the outlying islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque and Mindoro, among others, to the south. The Luzon mainland, located in the northern part of the archipelago, is the economic and political center of the nation, being home to the country’s capital city, Manila.

National Capital Region

Manila is the capital of the Philippines, considered the center of culture, economy, education and government of the Philippines. Officially, it’s also known as the National Capital Region (NCR) and commonly known as Metro Manila. The whole area is actually made up of 16 cities. Manila is the most common gateway for international tourists traveling to the Philippines.

CAR: Cordillera Administrative Region

The only landlocked region in the country, the Cordillera Administrative Region lies on the mountains of Luzon. The region comprises six provinces: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province. Its regional center is the highly urbanized Baguio City. The region is home to the world-famous Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, some of which fall under the UNESCO World Heritage List and can be seen on the Philippine currency. Mt. Pulag, Luzon’s highest peak borders between the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya.


Compared to other destinations in the Philippines, not a lot of tourists venture to the landlocked province of Abra. There’s still that air of mystery about this province, which hides many natural wonders, cultural gems and rich culture. Expect to do a lot of hiking to visit the remote spots.

Capital: Bangued

Top tourist spots: Abra River (one of the largest river systems in the country), Kaparakan Waterfalls (terraced waterfall that’s only visible during the rainy season), Apao Rolling Hills, Piwek Rock Formations and the Don Mariano Marcos Bridge (the third longest bridge in the country).

Unique eats: Abra Miki Noodles

Memorable travel highlight: Bumpy top-load jeep ride and river crossings to get to Piwek Rock Formations


Formerly a part of the bigger province known as Kalinga-Apayao before it was split up, Apayao makes up the northernmost chunk of the cool and mountainous Cordillera region and is the least explored province of the region. The province of Apayao is considered “Cordillera’s Last Nature Frontier.” Apayao means “land of rivers” and the province is home to various bodies of freshwater.

Capital: Kabugao

Top tourist spots: Underground caves of Lussok and Manacota, Dupag Rock Formations (currently closed), Church ruins of Pudtol

Unique eats: Pizza topped with Apayao delicacies (pinalatan, binanayan and pinaltit), Binungor (exotic dish of stir-fried snails eaten with bamboo shoots and siling labuyo)

Memorable travel highlights: Sleeping overnight in a makeshift tent in the rain beside a river in the remote Agora Wildlife Sanctuary


Benguet is a landlocked province known as the “Salad Bowl of the Philippines” because of its production of upland vegetables. Top tourist destination Baguio City, the “Summer Capital of the Philippines” is geographically located in this province though is administered independently from the province.

Capital: La Trinidad

Top tourist spots: Strawberry and farm fields in La Trinidad, Kennon Road in Tuba, Ambuklao Dam in Bokod and Mount Pulag along Kabayan

Unique eats: Strawberry taho, Pinikpikan, etag (sun-dried smoked meat) and pinuneg (sauteed ibaloi sausages)

Memorable travel highlight: Rainy overnight hike to Mt. Pulag; Driving a motorcycle from Quezon City to Sagada, passing the Second Highest Point of the Philippine Highway System in Atok


The landlocked province of Ifugao gets its name from the term i-pugo, which translates to “people of the hill”. It’s home to the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (also known as the Banaue Rice Terraces) which are believed to have been hand-carved into the mountains 2,000 years ago to plant rice. Five designated sites here are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Capital: Lagawe

Top tourist spots: Banaue View Deck, Banaue Rice Terraces, Tappiya Falls, Nagacadan rice terraces in Kiangan, Hungduan rice terraces, Mayoyao rice terraces, Batad rice terraces, Bangaan rice terraces, Highest Point in the Philippine Highway System in Kiangan

Unique eats: Pinikpikan, Ifugao coffee

Memorable travel highlight: Driving a motorcycle from Sagada to Banaue Rice Terraces and back on a day trip


Kalinga’s name is derived from the Ibanag and Gaddang noun which means “enemy”, “fighter”, or “headtaker.” The province is drained mainly by the Chico River, with its headwaters emptying out into the Cagayan River, which branches out into several tributaries. In recent years, the town of Buscalan has become increasingly popular with backpackers eager to get traditional tattoos from Whang-Od, a Filipino tattoo artist often described as the “last” and oldest mambabatok who is part of the Butbut people of the larger Kalinga ethnic group.

Capital: Tabuk

Top tourist spots: Chico River, Buscalan town proper, Sleeping Beauty Mountain

Unique eats: Kalinga Coffee, mountain rice

Memorable travel highlight: Whitewater rafting along Chico River

Mountain Province

Situated within the central Cordillera region mountain range in the upper highalnds of Luzon island, Mountain Province or (Mt. Province) is known for its mummy caves, which contain naturally mummified bodies, hanging coffins, and ecotourism attractions including rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and caves.

Capital: Bontoc

Top tourist spots: Sagada, Sumaguing Cave, Bomod-ok Falls, Kiltepan Peak, Lumiang Cave, Mummy Caves, Hanging Coffins fo Sagada, Lake Danum, Maligcong Rice Terraces

Unique eats: Etag (salted pork), Pinikpikan, Sagada oranges, pinit (local berries), homemade yogurt

Memorable travel highlight: Drinking craft beer at Sagada Cellar Door, a brewery in the middle of a pine tree forest, after driving a motorcycle from Quezon City to Sagada

Ilocos Region

The Ilocos Region, which occupies the northwestern section of Luzon, comprises four provinces: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan. This region is one of the most developed for tourists, offering a variety of natural attractions and tourist-friendly facilities that have been developed to cater to mass tourism. Notable destinations include the Historic City of Vigan and two UNESCO World Heritage churches. The region is also home to top surfing destinations in La Union and Pagudpud and the laid-back coastal towns of Pangasinan.

Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Norte is famous for its historical and cultural landmarks, Spanish colonial buildings, Baroque churches and great Ilocano dishes. It’s known as the birthplace of the former President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Top things to do here are visit heritage sites, churches and museums, go food-tripping or try sandboarding and 4 x 4 offroad adventures at the La Paz Sand dunes.

Capital: Laoag City

Top tourist attractions: Paoay Church, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Patapat Viaduct, La Paz Sand Dunes, Bangui Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, beaches of Pagudpud, Blue Lagoon, Malacanang of the North

Unique eats: Bagnet, longganisa, poqui-poqui, pinakbet, Batac Empanada

Memorable travel highlights: Sandboarding and 4x4 adventure at La Paz Sand Dunes

Ilocos Sur

Ilocos Sur is well-known for being the home of two UNESCO World Heritage sites, including one of the best preserved colonial towns in Asia. The architecture and planning in the town is preserved from the time of the Spanish colonization in the country during the 16th century. Stroll along the or ride a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) along the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo.

Capital: Vigan

Top tourist attractions: Heritage City of Vigan, Calle Crisologo, Syquia Mansion Museum, Baroque Church of Sta. Maria

Unique eats: Vigan longaniza, Vigan empanada, Bagnet Pizza

Memorable travel highlights: Watching a live theater play staged at night along Calle Crisologo during the Raniag Vigan Twilight Festival

La Union

La Union is a vibrant coastal province known mainly for its surf scene. It’s a popular weekend beach getaway for those based in the metro. You can take surfing lessons, go hiking and cliff-jumping to scenic waterfalls, go grape-picking, enjoy the lively food scene and spectacular sunsets by the beach.

Capital: San Fernando

Top tourist spots: Beaches along San Juan, Ma-Cho Temple (Taoist Temple), Luna Pebble Beach, Tangadan Falls, Grape Farms in Bauang, Thunderbird Resort, PUGAD Pugo Adventure

Unique eats: Halo-halo de Iloko, La Union Fried Chicken, Ilocos Norte Burrito (stuffed with Vigan longganiza), kilawenM

Memorable travel highlights: Cliff-jumping in Tangadan Falls; hanging out by the beach and just watching the sunset (various visits); experiencing the “van life” at Vessel Hostel


Pangasinan is the biggest province of the Ilocos Region in terms of land area, with mostly coastal natural attractions that will appeal adventure-seekers. The best thing to do here is island-hopping and food-tripping.

Capital: Lingayen

Top tourist spots: Hundred Islands National Park, Bolinao Beach & lighthouse, Bolinao Falls, Enchanted Cave, Lingayen Provincial Capitol (the most beautiful Provincial Capitol in the country, various salt farms

Unique eats: Bangus, pigar-pigar, Puto Calasiao, Romana Peanut Brittle, binungey (sticky coconut rice cake cooked inside bamboo tubes), bagoong, Binalonan longganisa, Alaminos Longanisa

Memorable travel highlights: Aerial tour of the Hundred Islands National Park aboard a 2-seat plane

Cagayan Valley Region

Cagayan Valley, the second largest region of the Philippines in terms of land area, lies in a large valley in northeastern Luzon, between the Cordilleras and the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. The region is composed of five provinces: Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino and four cities: Cauayan, Ilagan, Santiago, and Tuguegarao. The Cagayan River, the country’s largest and second longest river, runs through the entire region. The region also includes the outlying islands of the Babuyan and Batanes, remote and beautiful islands to the north.


Batanes is the northernmost province of the country and smallest in terms of land area, yet it offers a unique blend of breathtaking scenery, natural attractions and well-preserved culture. Batanes is the only province in the country that’s been declared in its entirety as a Protected Landscape and Seascape.

Capital: Basco

Top tourist attractions: Marlboro Hills, Basco Lighthouse, Alapad Rock Formations, Valugan Boulder Beach, Ivatan stone houses, Sabtang Island

Unique eats: Vunung, turmeric rice, uvud (meatballs made with banana pith), dibang (flying fish), lunis (Ivatan adobo)

Memorable travel highlights: Motorcycling around the island solo; Biking around the whole island of Basco; Solo trip to Itbayat


Cagayan was one of the early provinces that existed during the Spanish Colonial Period. It lies in the northeast of Luzon Island and includes the Babuyanes Islands to the north. It’s known mainly for its cathedral-like Callao Cave on the mainland (where fossil bones and teeth from a new human species were recently found) and for hosting back-to-back seasons of the American reality game show, Survivor.

Capital: Tuguegarao

Top tourist attractions: Callao Cave, Palaui Island, Anguib Beach, Punta Verde, Cape Engano, Calayan Island

Unique eats: Pancit Batil Patong, Carabeef, Chicharabao (Carabao Chicharon), Alcala Milk Candy

Memorable travel highlights: Surviving the roller coaster waves on the boat ride going to Palaui; Getting stranded in Calayan (Babuyan group of islands) during a week-long backpacking trip


Isabela is the second largest province of the Philippines and the largest in Luzon in terms of land area. It’s considered the “rice and corn granary of Luzon,” and remains mainly agricultural. The more accessible mainland is home to various natural eco-tourism attractions, while the premiere spots with beautiful white sand beaches and islands are located in the isolated portion in the coastal region, cut off by the Sierra Madre Mountain ranges.

Capital: Ilagan City

Top tourist spots: Magat Dam, giant armchair in Ilagan, Ilagan Sanctuary, Sta. Victoria Caves, Tumauini Church, San Pablo Church and Ruins, Divilacan, Palanan

Unique eats: Pancit Cabagan, various kakanin or rice delicacies (binallay, inatata, moriecos, etc.), corn coffee, corn pastillas

Memorable travel highlights: Hiking to a remote waterfall where we encountered two large snakes

Nueva Vizcaya

Nueva Vizcaya is usually considered by many local tourists as a transit town. Nicknamed the “Citrus Capital of the Philippines,” the landlocked province is bounded by three mountain ranges – the Sierra Madre, Cordillera, and Caraballo. Nueva Vizcaya is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for an uncrowded destination for hiking and biking.

Capital: Bayombong

Top tourist spots: Mt. Pulag, Dalton Pass, Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park, Imugan Falls, Capisaan Cave System, Mt. Ugo, Church of San Vicente Ferrer, St. Dominic Cathedral

Unique eats: Vizcaya ponkan, Perante oranges

Memorable travel highlights: Rainy hike to Mt. Pulag; side trip to Imugan Falls after visiting Apayao


Quirino is a landlocked and rugged province that has lots to offer in terms of natural attractions and eco-adventures. The best things to do here are nature-tripping and camping, caving, spelunking, trekking, rafting and outdoor sports. It’s a popular destination for Motocross Riders because of its mountainous terrain.

Capital: Cabarroguis

Top tourist spots: Governor’s Rapids, Aglipay Cave, Siitan Nature Park, Bimmapor Rock Formation, Nagtipunan River, Landingan Viewpoint

Unique eats: Pancit Cabagan, Tapuy (rice wine), Royal Tubikoy (a combination of tupig, bibibgka and tikoy)

Memorable travel highlights: Testing out a river tubing activity along Siitan River before tours were opened to the public; spelunking in Aglipay Caves in the rain; riding a horror train in a local perya

Central Luzon Region

The Central Luzon Region is located north of Manila and contains the largest plain in the country and produces most of the country’s rice supply. It’s comprised of 7 provinces: Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. It’s also home to Mt. Pinatubo, one of the most destructive volcanoes in the world, which is located on the tripoint boundary of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. Zambales on the Western side and Aurora on the Eastern side of the province are both considered top beach and surfing destinations.


The province of Aurora is located in the eastern part of Central Luzon region, facing the Philippine Sea. While its capital Baler has long been known as a surfing destination, the province is becoming more popular with backpackers and tourists for weekend and summer trips. Beyond Baler, areas like Dingalan and Casiguran offer scenic landscapes and raw adventures.

Capital: Baler

Top tourist spots: Sabang Beach, Ditumabo Falls, Millennium Tree, Dicasalarin Cove, Diguisit Beach, Museo de Baler, Dingalan

Unique eats: Pako (fiddlehead fern), Baler Suman, Longganiza de Baler, Bignay Wine, Peanut Butter, lobsters in Dingalan

Memorable travel highlights: Motorcycle road trip to Dingalan & Baler; hiking in the rain to Ditumabo Falls; exploring Baler by bicycle


Bataan is best known for its historical significance as one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces during World War II. The rising eco-tourism destination is home to beaches, mountains, turtle sanctuaries, bird-watching sites, springs and waterfalls. 

Capital: Balanga City

Top tourist spots: Shrine of Valor at Mt. Samat, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Sisiman Bay, Pawikan Conservation Center, Balanga Wetland and Nature Park, Tarak Ridge

Unique eats: Hu tieu (rice noodle soup in pork broth), cashew nuts, tinapa, polvoron, araro cookies, duhat, kalamansi, and bignay wine

Memorable travel highlights: Mountain biking around the “Killer Loop”


Bulacan is known mainly for its heritage sites, historic caves, and fireworks industry. This province is often overlooked by tourists because of its proximity to Manila, but it has its share of secret spots for adventure-seekers including mountainous areas and trails for hiking and biking.

Capital: Malolos

Top tourist spots: Biak-na-Bato National Park, Barasaoin Church, Mt. Manalmon, Pinagrealan Cave, Angat Dam Rainforest Park, Hilltop, San Rafael River Park, Mt. Balagbag, Malangaan Cave, Bitbit River

Unique eats: Pastillas de Leche, minasa, ensaymadang Malolos, inipit, chicharon, sukang Bulacan, longganisang Calumpit

Memorable travel highlights: Motorcycling to Angat Dam Rainforest Park

Nueva Ecija

Nueva Ecija is best known as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines.” About four hours from Metro Manila, this landlocked destination is usually overlooked by travelers as well. While it may not have any beaches, it does have mountains and other landscapes like rivers and waterfalls worth exploring. Enjoy the laid-back provincial life in farms and riverside resorts.

Capital: Palayan City

Top tourist spots: Minalungao National Park, Pantabangan Dam, Pantabagan Lake, Crystal Wave Resort, Gabaldon

Unique eats: Tilapia ice cream, local kakanin (palitaw and nilupak), Batotay and Cabanatuan longganisa, Carabao milk dairy products

Memorable travel highlights: Riding through Gabaldon, watching the sunset while trying to fish at Pantabangan Dam; Motorcycle road trip through Pantabangan Dam


Pampanga is the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines” and offers one of the best destinations in the country for foodies. Visit farms where you can ride carabao carts and enjoy authentic Kapampangan cuisine or go off-roading around the lahar trails of Mt. Pinatubo for an extreme adventure.

Capital: San Fernando

Top tourist spots: Mt. Pinatubo (via the Golden Trail / Sapang Bato), Angeles City for food-tripping, Pamintuan Mansion, SandBox Pampanga, Mount Arayat Park, Nayong Pilipino Clark, Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone

Unique eats: Sisig, kakanin, kamaru (mole crickets), buro (fermented rice) bringhe (local paella), tibok-tibok (a dessert made from Carabao’s milk), San Nicolas cookies, betute tugak (stuffed frog)

Memorable travel highlights: Off-roading through lahar terrain in Mt. Pinatubo. 4x4 jeep ride and sand spa experience


Tarlac is often considered as a stopover destination for most travelers headed north. But it has a lot of tourism potential, including historical sites, museums, adventure parks, religious destinations, hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, and local restaurants worth trying. 

Capital: Tarlac City

Top tourist spots: Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake (via the Capas trail), Capas National Shrine, Monasterio de Tarlac, Kart City Tarlac, Tarlac Recreation Park, Aquino Center and Museum, Ylang-Ylang Center in Anao

Unique eats: kakanin (duman and tibok-tibok), bonete (dinner roll dipped in vinegar)

Memorable travel highlights: Witnessing a Forest Food festival of the local Aeta community in Capas


Zambales is the second largest among the seven provinces of Central Luzon after Nueva Ecija. It’s known for its sweet mangoes, which are abundant from January to April. Zambales has become a go-to destination for weekend travelers since it’s just a few hours’ away from Metro Manila and offers a variety of natural attractions from beaches to hiking trails. The Freeport Zone contains many casinos, parks, malls, beach-side huts, cottages, resorts, historical sites and a bay popular for yachting.

Capital: Iba

Top tourist spots: Subic Bay, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake (via Botolan), Crystal Beach, Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove, Magalawa Island, Potipot Island

Unique eats: Zambales mangoes, mango nectar, mango tart, mango wine, mango pie and cookies, jam and dried mango, polvoron from Casa San Miguel

Memorable travel highlights: Living the high life on a yacht; having to push a boat at night to get to an island because of low tide


Formally known as Southern Tagalog Mainland, CALABARZON is an acronym for its five provinces: Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. It’s situated just south of the metro, making it a popular destination for weekends and day trips. The whole region is home to various historical sites, farms, lakes, waterfalls and coconut plantations while the coastal province of Batangas is home to numerous beaches and dive spots.


Batangas is one of the most popular tourist destinations near Metro Manila, known mainly for its beaches and dive sites. It contains the second largest international seaport in the country and is home to the well-known Taal Volcano.  You can spend the day swimming, diving and enjoying other outdoor activities. It’s best to stay for the weekend at beach resorts to maximize your visit.

Capital: Batangas City

Top tourist spots: Taal Volcano, Taal Heritage Town, Anilao, Sombrero Island, Matabungkay, Calatagan, Laiya, Fortune Island, Verde Island Passage

Unique eats: Bulalo, Batangas Lomi, Batangas Goto, Tapang Taal, Kapeng Barako

Memorable travel highlights: Learning how to scuba dive in Sombrero Island


Cavite is one of the most industrialized and fastest-growing provinces in the Philippines. The province played an important role in the country’s colonial past and eventual fight for independence, earning the title “Historical Capital of the Philippines.” Cavite is best known for its historical attractions and sites. For locals, Tagaytay is one of the most popular choices for a quick weekend or day trips from Manila. You can enjoy the cooler climate while dining on fresh farm-to-table cuisine in many of the restaurants located along the ridge overlooking Taal Lake.

Capital: Imus

Top tourist spots: Tagaytay City, Corregidor Island, Fort San Felipe and Sangley Point, Aguinaldo Shrine (birthplace of Philippine Independence), Mt. Pico de Loro (shared with Batangas), Kaybiang Tunnel

Unique eats: Pancit Pusit (squid ink blackened noodles), Cavite tamales, bibinkgoy (rice cake), bacalao (salted codfish), bibingkang samala, tawilis (now endangered)

Memorable travel highlights: Overnight biking in Corregidor Island, exploring Malinta Tunnels at night


For those who want to experience simple country living, Laguna is a good day trip getaway from Manila. Laguna hugs the southern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country. You can go rafting or have picnics by lakes, hike to waterfalls, spend the day at farms, stay in cozy bed & breakfasts, dine in artistic and heritage restaurants or visit artist’s studios. Laguna is also notable for being the birthplace of Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. 

Capital: Santa Cruz

Top tourist spots: Laguna Lake, Caliraya Lake, Pagsanjan Falls, Hot Spring Resorts in Los Banos, Seven Lakes of San Pablo, Mt. Makiling, Paete, Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

Unique eats: Buko Pie, espasol (rice pudding), bibingka, kesong puti, puto Binan, kinulob na itik

Memorable travel highlights: Camping out beside Caliraya Lake; various motorcycle trips


Quezon is a province southeast of Metro Manila, known for its mountains and vast coconut plantations. Mount Banahaw, one of the most sacred sites during pre-colonial times, is a major tourism draw and well-known pilgrimage site. Part of Quezon province connects the Bicol Peninsula to the main part of Luzon. Quezon also includes Polillo Islands in the Philippine Sea, which has remote, but beautiful beaches.

Capital: Lucena

Top tourist spots: Mount Banahaw, Pahiyas Festival every May, Villa Escudero, Kamay ni Hesus Shrine, Jomalig Island, Balesin (an exclusive island resort)

Unique eats: Pancit Habhab, Lucban Longganisa, kiping (rice wafers), kulawong talong (grilled eggplant with burnt coconut cream), Pancit Buco (using fresh coconut meat)

Memorable travel highlights: Dining at the foot of a waterfall in Villa Escudero. Long motorcycle ride from Manila to Bicol passing the zigzag road in Atimonan


The province of Rizal, named after national hero Jose Rizal, also lies on the northern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country. This mountainous province is perched on the western slopes of the southern portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Capital: The Provincial Capital is situated in Antipolo while Pasig in Metro Manila (outside the jurisdiction of the province) is the official capital

Top tourist spots: Laguna de Bay, Antipolo, Angono (Art Capital of the Philippines), Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs, Wawa Dam, Daranak Falls, Pinto Art Museum, Tinipak River, Mt. Daraitan, Masungi Georeserve

Unique eats: Suman with latik, Dinilawang Kanduli sa Alagaw, cashews, minaluto (local paella), fried itik

Memorable travel highlights: Overnight ride and camp to Mt. Daraitan; Biking through Laiban Dam; Biking to Sta. Ines; various weekend rides

MIMAROPA / Southwestern Tagalog Region

The Southwestern Tagalog Region is one of the two regions in the country sharing no land border with another region, as they are mostly islands provinces. The name is an acronym for its provinces: Mindoro (divided into Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. The region is home to some of the country’s best beaches. Palawan consistently ranks in lists of the world’s best island, with beautiful beaches and lagoons in the top tourist destinations of Coron and El Nido. It’s also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Puerto Princesa Underground River and Tubbataha Reef Marine Park.


Marinduque is an island province known primarily for celebrating one of the oldest religious festivals of the country, the Moriones Festival during Holy Week. The heart-shaped island is considered the geographical center of the Philippine archipelago.

Capital: Boac

Top tourist spots: Moriones Festival during Holy Week, Luzon Datum of 1911 reference marker, Mt. Malindig, Maniwaya Island, Poctoy White Beach, Tres Reyes Islands, Boac Cathedral, Biglang Awa Shrine

Unique eats: Uraro (arrowroot cookies), bibingkang Boac, panganan (fried “fingers” made from arrowroot flour)

Memorable travel highlights: Bikepacking around the whole province and staying overnight in Maniwaya Island

Occidental Mindoro

Occidental Mindoro occupies the western half of the island of Mindoro. The province is home to Apo Reef Natural Park, the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef system, and the largest in the country. Apo Reef is one of the best known and most popular dive sites in the country.

Capital: Mamburao

Top tourist spots: Apo Reef Natural Park, Longest Zipline in Sablayan, Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park, White Island, Pandan Island

Unique eats: Adobong Pugita (octopus)

Memorable travel highlights: Mindoro Loop Ride; Snorkeling in Apo Reef and turtle sighting in Pandan Island

Oriental Mindoro

Oriental Mindoro is one of the country’s emerging eco-tourism destinations. It’s here where you can find the center of marine fish biodiversity and the home of the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world. Puerto Galera, located at the north-westernmost part of the province, is one of the most popular tourist destinations for locals, accessible by ferry rides from Luzon via the Batangas ports.

Capital: Calapan

Top tourist spots: Puerto Galera, Sabang Beach, Tamaraw Falls, Talipanan Beach, Mangyan Heritage Village in Mansalay, Bulalacao

Unique eats: Suman sa Lihiya with coco jam, seaweed instant noodles, Mindoro Sling (Puerto Galera’s signature cocktail), Lamayo pizza

Memorable travel highlights: First trip to Puerto Galera a decade ago; Road trip to Bulalacao in a coaster van with videoke; returning for Mindoro Loop Ride


Palawan is an archipelagic province and one of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines. It has been ranked as one of the most beautiful islands in the world and best island destinations in East and Southeast Asia by international publications because of its beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. Palawan is the largest province in the country in terms of the total area of jurisdiction. There’s currently a move to split it up into three separate provinces.

Capital: Puerto Princesa

Top tourist spots: Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park, Coron Reefs, Coron Bay, Kayangan Lake, El Nido, Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, San Vicente White Beach

Unique eats: Tamilok, Crocodile sisig, Chao Long, Nocnoc’s Halo-Halo

Memorable travel highlights: Cliff-climbing in El Nido; island-hopping around secret beaches and lagoons; driving from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and back


Romblon is an archipelagic province made up of several islands including Tablas (the largest), Romblon Island and Sibuyan Island. It’s known for its local marble industry and has been dubbed the “Marble Capital of the Philippines.” The province is a rising ecotourism destination, with several white-sand beaches, diving spots, mountains and rainforests.

Capital: Romblon

Top tourist spots: Bonbon Beach, Fuerza de San Andres, the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Mainit Falls in Odiongan, Binucot Beach in Odiongan, Mount Guiting-Guiting, Sibuyan Island

Unique eats: Romblon Pizza (pizza topped with Romblon longganisa) , Sarsa (dish made out of freshwater shrimps mixed with young coconut and chili), Gayabon (Romblon’s version of Laing), sihi (local edible shellfish)

Memorable travel highlights: Motorcycling solo around the island; Swimming alone in secluded beaches

Bicol Region

The Bicol Region comprises six provinces, four on the Bicol Peninsula mainland (the southeastern end of Luzon) – Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon – and the offshore island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate. Bicol is known for its volcanoes and colonial churches on the mainland, while the coastal provinces offer stunning island-hopping destinations, surf spots, whale shark encounters and rodeos.


Albay is best known for being the home of Mayon Volcano, a perfectly symmetrical active stratovolcano visible throughout most cities of the province. Albay has various natural wonders, including caves, waterfalls, beaches, and is known for its delectable cuisine and local industries.

Capital: Legazpi City

Top tourist attractions: Mayon Volcano, Cagsaua Ruins, Sumlang Lake, Daraga Church, Lignon Hill Nature Park, Kawa Kawa Hill, Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave, Quitinday Hills

Unique eats: Bicol Express, laing, pinangat from Camalig, Sili ice cream & Sili Shake, Guinobatan Longganiza, pili nut delicacies

Memorable travel highlights: Day trip rides from Naga City to Legazpi City passing Tiwi-Sangay; ATV experience in Mayon; Biking through lahar terrain; various road trips with family

Camarines Norte

Camarines Norte occupies the northwestern coast of the Bicol Peninsula in the southeastern section of Luzon. It’s known for its surfing scene, beaches, and agricultural products including a pineapple variety that is extensively cultivated in the area.

Capital: Daet

Top tourist attractions: Calaguas Group of Islands, Bagasbas Beach, Jose Rizal’s First Monument, Apuao Island, Malatap Falls, Bicol Natural Park

Unique eats: Bicol Express, laing, pineapple products

Memorable travel highlights: Having Calaguas Island to ourselves during a camping trip (before it got popular)

Camarines Sur

Camarines Sur is the largest among the six provinces in the Bicol Region. On the eastern portion of the province, you can find the Caramoan Peninsula and islands made popular worldwide by the reality show Survivor. Within the province lies Lake Buhi, where the smallest commercially harvested fish, the Sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis), can be found. It’s also known for its old churches and Mt. Isarog.

Capital: Pili

Top tourist spots: Caramoan Islands, CWC Wakeboard Complex, Penafrancia Basilica, Mt. Isarog National Park, Malabsay Falls, Lake Buhi

Unique eats: Kinalas, Toasted siopao, putong bagas, sinantol (ground santol meat with gata)

Memorable travel highlights: Spending Christmas island-hopping around Caramoan with family


Catanduanes is an island province, traditionally known for being frequently hit by typhoons. It’s a top surfing destination and rising eco-tourism destination, with many stunning beaches and islands, lagoons, caves and waterfalls that will appeal to adventure-seekers.

Capital: Virac

Top tourist spots: Puraran Beach, Binurong Point, Balacay Point, Cagnipa Rolling Hills, Tuwad-Tuwadan Lagoon, Palumbanes Islands, Bato Church, Ilihan Point

Unique eats: Bicol Express, laing, fresh seafood, pili nut products, Catanduanes Cacao, Catandungan latik, Tilmok (steamed seafood with coconut meat), mudcrabs, lobsters

Memorable travel highlights: Hike to Binurong Point; Cagnipa Rolling Hills


The province of Masbate is one of the oldest settlements in the country, with rolling, hilly and mountainous terrain and rugged topography. It consists of three major islands: Masbate Island, Ticao and Burias. Masbate City, the capital of the province, is known as “The Rodeo Capital of the Philippines”.

Capital: Masbate City

Top tourist spots: Rodeo Masbate?o, Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary, Burubancaso Rock Formation, Catandayagan Falls, Sese Brahman’s Ranch, Mangrovetum, Burias, Tinalisayan Islets, Animasola Rock Formations

Unique eats: Masbate beef, flavored fresh cow’s milk , carmelado (a type of pastillas made from carabao’s milk), molido (dessert made from sweet potato & pili nuts)

Memorable travel highlights: Witnessing Masbate’s Rodeo Festival; side trip to Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary


Sorsogon is the southernmost province in Luzon with striking volcanic topography and a few little-known beaches, lakes, hot springs and waterfalls. Located at the tip of the Bicol Peninsula facing the island of Samar to the southeast, Sorsogon is the gateway of Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao through its Roll-on/Roll-off ferry terminal facilities.

Capital: Sorsogon City

Top tourist spots: Mt. Bulusan, Bulusan Volcano National Park, Paguriran Island and Lagoon, Whaleshark encounters, Pink sand beaches of Subic in Matnog, Irosin Hot Springs, Barcelona Ruins and Church

Unique eats: suman, binut-ong, baluko (pen shell), kinagang, timitim, santan (coco jam), sikad-sikad and dalu-dalo (conches or sea shells)

Memorable travel highlights: R0ad trip with family to Sorsogon tourist spots; staycation at Siama Hotel


Located in the central part of the archipelago, Visayas consists of 16 provinces made up of several islands, primarily surrounding the Visayan Sea. What I like most about destinations in the Visayas are its beautiful natural attractions, historical sites, and distinctive cuisine, particularly fresh seafood. Visayas offers an amazing destination for beach-lovers, adventure-seekers and foodies. Some provinces in the Visayas are well known for their rich culinary history and dishes which have been greatly influenced by Chinese and Spanish cuisine. Visayas is further divided into three administrative regions, namely: Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas.

Western Visayas Region

Western Visayas consists of the major island of Panay and the smaller Guimaras as well as several outlying islands. It also includes the western half of the larger island of Negros. 


Aklan is most famous for being the home of Boracay, a resort island known for its white sandy beaches considered one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines.

Capital: Kalibo

Top tourist destinations: Boracay, Ariel’s Point, Bakhawan Eco Park, Sapsapon Cave, Jawili Falls, Hinugtan Beach

Unique eats: binakol, inubarang manok, linapay, latik, eangkuga

Memorable travel highlights: First visit with college best friend after graduation where we rode the SuperFerry from Manila; squeezing in an overnight solo trip to Boracay during a work trip to Aklan


Antique is a laid-back province on Panay Island that has lots to offer those looking for raw and rugged adventures. Its tagline is “where the mountain meets the sea” and you can find riverside jungle hot tubs, beautiful uncrowded beaches, rice terraces hidden in remote mountain villages, multi-level waterfalls, clear rivers and springs, mountain highlands and stunning karst cliffs and more here.

Capital: San Jose de Buenavista

Top tourist spots: Kawa Bath in Tibiao, Mararison Island, Seco Island, Nogas Island, Aningalan Highlands Strawberry Garden, Igbaclag Cave, Malumpati Cold Spring, Naranjo Water Park, Anini-y Church 

Unique eats: Chicken Papisik (native chicken stuffed with local herbs and spices), porbida (similar to adobo but makes use of coconut milk), Tibiao’s pangyam-is (dessert made from glutinous rice and root crops, best paired with muscovado sugar).

Memorable travel highlights: Hiking up Antique Rice Terraces; 3-hour long boat ride on a cargo ship to visit Seco Island; cliff scrambling up Igbaclag Cave; waking up at 3am to take photos of stars; drinking craft beer while soaking in a kawa


Capiz is a rising eco-tourism province that has a lot to offer for different types of travelers. History buffs can visit sites of historic and religious interest, nature-trippers can venture out and explore the off-the-beaten natural tourist spots like islands and waterfalls, while culture buffs can enjoy the province’s rich handicrafts. Its capital Roxas City is known as the “seafood capital of the country” and a great place for foodies.

Capital: Roxas City

Top tourist spots: Santa Monica Church & Pan-ay Bell, Baybay Beach, Palina Greenbelt River Tour, Cadimahan Libotong River Cruise, Ang Panublion Museum, Culajao Mangrove Eco-Park, Suhot Cave and Spring in Dumalag

Unique eats: diwal (angelwing clams), baked scallops, Kapis Aligue, mud crabs, puyoy (fried eels)

Memorable travel highlights: Eating baked scallops in the plaza; sharing travel horror stories while drinking Gold Eagle Beer; hiking to remote waterfalls in the middle of an army reservation


Guimaras is one of the smallest island provinces in the country, reachable by a short boat ride from Iloilo City. It’s known as the “Mango Capital of the Country” and is home to one of the sweetest varieties of mango.

Capital: Jordan

Top tourist spots: Guisi Beach, Guisi Lighthouse, Taklong Island National Marine Reserve, Alubihod Beach, Trappist Monastery, the San Lorenzo Windmills, Smallest Plaza

Unique eats: Mango Pizza, Mango Beef Bulalo, Mango Bibingka, Mango Jam

Memorable travel highlights: Getting all emo during a first solo backpacking trip to Guimaras; eating Mango pizza


Iloilo occupies a major southeast portion of the Visayan Island of Panay. As a leading province during the Spanish Colonial Era, the province is widely known for its beautiful old world architecture similar to that of Latin American Countries. It’s home to the UNESCO World Heritage Miag-ao Church.

Capital: Iloilo City

Top tourist spots: Miag-ao Church, Molo Church, Calle Real Heritage District, Iloilo River Esplanade, Garin Farm, Islas de Gigantes

Unique eats: KBL (Kadios, Baboy at Langka), Lapaz Batchoy, native lechon manok, fresh oysters, baked oysters with cheese, Pancit Molo, Tsokolate Batirol, Chicken Binakol

Memorable travel highlights: Getting sick from eating too many oysters and fresh seafood that I over-ordered during a solo trip

Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental occupies the northwestern half of the large island of Negros. It’s known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines” because of its vast sugarcane plantations. The capital Bacolod City, dubbed the “City of Smiles” is famous for holding the vibrant Masskara Festival and its great food scene.

Capital: Bacolod

Top tourist spots: The Ruins in Talisay, Balay Negrense, San Sebastian Cathedral, Mt. Kanlaon, Capitol Park and Lagoon, Sipalay

Unique eats: Chicken inasal, Pala-Pala, sizzling kansi, sate babe, all cakes from Calea

Personal travel highlights: Visiting the Ruins and heritage houses on a side trip; bingeing on cakes from Calea

Central Visayas Region

The Central Visayas is a major tourist hub in the Philippines consisting of two major island provinces of Cebu and Bohol (among the country’s top tourist destinations) as well as the smaller island of Siquijor and several outlying islands. It also includes the eastern half of the larger island of Negros.


Bohol is a major tourist destination in the country, known mainly for the unique geological formation of Chocolate Hills, beaches and dive resorts. The Philippine tarsier, among the world’s smallest primates, is indigenous to the island.

Capital: Tagbilaran

Top tourist spots: Chocolate Hills, Panglao Island, Alona Beach, Hinagdanan Cave, Philippine tarsier sanctuary, Loboc River Cruise, Bilar man-made forest, Baclayon Church

Unique eats: Peanut Kisses, ice cream from Bohol Bee Farm, kalamay, Chichaworm

Personal travel highlights: Scooter ride from Tagbilaran to Anda Beach to hunt for craft beer; looping Panglao Island by bicycle


Cebu is one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines for tourism and serves as the main center of commerce, trade, education and industry in the Visayas. Its capital Cebu City is the oldest city and first capital of the Philippines, which is politically independent from the provincial government. It’s known mainly for its historic sites in the city and eco-tourism attractions in the north and south of the island.

Capital: Cebu City

Top tourist spots: Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, Cebu Taoist Temple, Kawasan Falls, Osmena Peak, Batnayan Island, Tops Lookout, Temple of Leah, Sirao Garden, Lapu Lapu Shrine

Unique eats: Lechon, dried mango, puso (native rice), dried fish, tuslob-buwa, otap

Memorable travel highlights: Having to ship my motorcycle from Manila to explore Cebu for Wrangler True Wanderer 2016; joining up with a group of people to try canyoneering at Kawasan Falls; rock climbing in Toledo

Negros Oriental

Negros Oriental occupies the southeastern half of the large island of Negros, with a chain of rugged mountains separating it from Negros Occidental. Its capital Dumaguete is known as a university city, with several notable educational institutions. Dumaguete has the distinction of being one of the best places to retire in the country. The province is where you can find Apo Island, a popular dive site for both local and foreign tourists.

Capital: Dumaguete City

Top tourist spots: Apo Island, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park, Pulagnbato Falls in Valencia, Mount Talinis, Siliman University, Lake Danao, Rizal Boulevard

Unique eats: Sans Rival, Silvanas, chicken inato, budbod, puto maya, Rizal Boulevard’s tempura

Memorable travel highlights: Turtle sighting while snorkeling in Apo Island; motorcycling to Pulang Bato falls in Valencia


The island province of Siquijor is the third smallest province of the Philippines. It’s commonly associated with mysticism, folkloric and faith healing traditions. During the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines, the Spaniards called the island Isla del Fuego or Island of Fire.

Capital: Siquijor

Top tourist spots: Salogdoong Beach, Lazi Church, Lazi Convent, Cambigahay Falls, 400-year old Balete Tree, Lugnason Falls, Guiwanon Spring Park, Cantabon Cave, St. Francis of Assisi Church

Unique eats: saang (spider conch shells), Siquijor-style beef burger, sizzling crocodile steak

Personal travel highlights: solo ride around siquijor

Eastern Visayas Region

The Eastern Visayas, which faces the Philippine Sea to the east, offers raw and rugged eco-tourism adventures. The region is known for its famous landmark, the San Juanico Bridge, dubbed as the “Most Beautifully Designed and Longest Bridge in the Philippines” as well as large cave systems in Samar.


Biliran is one of the country’s smallest and newest island provinces. Formerly a sub-province of Leyte, Biliran lies less than a kilometer north of the island of Leyte and is connected with a bridge-causeway fixed link. Biliran is home to beautiful islets with pristine beaches and sandbars. Inland, there are natural attractions like waterfalls and mountains to hike.

Capital: Naval

Top tourist spots: Tinago Falls, Ulan-Ulan Falls, Sambawan Island, Higatangan Island, Dalutan Island, Talahid Beach Resort, Mt. Tres Marias, Mainit Hot Spring

Unique eats: Biliran lechon manok, Bisaya-style manok tinola, pinakbet, tortang talong and local delicacies like puto and bibingka

Personal travel highlights: canyoneering in ulan-ulan falls; sambawan island

Eastern Samar

Eastern Samar occupies the eastern portion of the large island of Samar. Because of its location facing the Philippine Sea to the east, part of the vast Pacific Ocean, and the Leyte Gulf to the south, it frequently suffers from powerful typhoons. Eastern Samar has a significant history of the country’s rich colonial history through the island of Homonhon, where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521 on his way to conquer the Philippines for the western world.

Capital: Borongan

Top tourist spots: Baybay Beach, Divinubo Island, Linao Cave, Homonhon Island, Guian World War II Operating Base, Calicoan Island

Unique eats: moron/bakintol (ground rice suman with chocolate), salukara (crepe-like delicacy that uses young coconut)

Personal travel highlights: samar loop ride


Leyte (also known as Northern Leyte) occupies the northern three-quarters of Leyte Island, the seventh largest island in the Philippines by land area. It’s most famous for its role in the reconquest of the Philippines in World War II. The convergence of naval forces resulted in the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history. Leyte is especially prone to typhoons because of its location facing the Pacific Ocean. In 2013, the province was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan.

Capital: Tacloban

Top tourist spots: San Juanico Bridge, San Juanico Strait, MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park, Lake Danao, Tacloban, Kalanggaman Island

Unique eats: binagol, chocolate moron, suman latik, roscas, bukayo

Personal travel highlights: food tripping in tacloban; chew love

Northern Samar

Northern Samar lies on the northern portion of the large island of Samar. Still raw and rugged, it has several tourism potentials that remain undiscovered by tourists. Some of these include old churches, waterfalls, rivers, caves, virgin forests, and beaches.

Capital: Catarman

Top tourist spots: Biri Island, Capul Island, Capul Island Lighthouse, Pink beach of San Vicente

Unique eats: inakob (traditional Waray dish made by cooking grated root crops like gabi with coconut milk, condensed milk, eggs, brown sugar, and an herb called anuv), ginataang saang (conch shells)

Personal travel highlights: overnight camping at biri island


Samar province (formerly named Western Samar) is located on Samar Island. It is connected to the island of Leyte via the San Juanico Bridge. Samar is known as the Caving Capital of the Philippines.

Capital: Catbalogan

Top tourist spots: San Juanico Bridge, Sohoton Caves & Natural Bridge Park, Tarangban Falls, Lulugayan Falls, Langun Gobingob Cave in Calbiga, Ulot River Torpedo Boat

Unique eats: Tahong BBQ, tahong lumpia, binagol, Corioso (Spanish-era biscuit; “crunchy butter cookies”)

Personal travel highlights: calbiga cave, pinipisakan falls; samar loop ride

Southern Leyte

Southern Leyte forms an important part of the inter-island transportation system of the country, with ferries transporting people and goods between Liloan and Surigao del Norte in Mindanao. The province is well known for its quality abaca products.

Capital: Maasin

Top tourist spots: Agas-Agas Bridge, Napantao Marine Sanctuary, Puting Buhangin Island, Banahaw Cold Spring, Maasin Cathedral, Limasawa

Unique eats: binagol, moron, suman-latik

Personal travel highlights: visiting agas agas bridge in the rain, a couple of hours before flight back


The Mindanao island group is made up of 27 provinces in the Mindanao mainland (the second-largest island in the Philippines) and smaller islands surrounding it. It’s divided into six administrative regions: the Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, the Caraga region, the Davao region, Soccsksargen, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Mindanao is the most culturally diverse island in the country, home to many different tribes and ethnic groups.  It’s where I’ve experienced some of the most amazing adventures in the country and felt genuine hospitality from locals.

Zamboanga Peninsula Region

Zamboanga Peninsula consists of three provinces (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur) and two cities (Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan). Zamboanga Peninsula noted for its vibrant melting pot of cultures, Hispanic-inspired cuisine and stunning attractions, including a world-famous pink sand beach.

Zamboanga del Norte

Zamboanga del Norte is the largest province of the Zamboanga Peninsula region by land area. It comprises 25 towns and 2 cities including Dipolog City (known as the “Gateway to Western Mindanao”) and Dapitan City (the “Shrine City in the Philippines). Dapitan is historically significant as the place where national hero Jose Rizal was exiled by the Spaniards for his revolutionary activities.

Capital: Dipolog

Top tourist spots: Dakak Beach Resort (white sand beach resort), Gloria’s Fantasyland (the first amusement park in Mindanao), Rizal Park and Shrine, St. James the Greater Church, Dapitan City Plaza, Dipolog Sunset Boulvard, Linabo Peak

Unique eats: Montano Spanish-style Sardines, lokot-lokot, binaki (grated young corn with milk), bulad (dried fish)

Memorable travel highlight: Riding the crazy roller coaster in Fantasyland

Zamboanga del Sur

Zamboanga del Sur occupies the southern section of the Zamboanga peninsula in Western Mindanao. For tourists, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of its capital Pagadian, are the steep inclined tricycles that have been designed to adapt to the city’s hilly terrain. Originally a stop-over for traders who plied the road between the old Spanish fort-town of Zamboanga on the southwestern tip of the Zamboanga peninsula and other bigger towns to the north, this province is also home to the longest river in the region.

Capital: Pagadian

Top tourist spots: Pagadian Rotonda, City Hall and Plaza, Baywalk & Pier, Lakewood, Dao Dao Islands, Puting Balas (sandbar), Alindahaw Lakeview Resort in Lakwood

Unique eats: 1 peso barbecue, Pansat (shrimps), kinilaw (ceviche) 

Memorable travel highlight: Spending a serene afternoon island-hopping and stepping foot on the remote sandbar of Puting Balas

Zamboanga Sibugay

Zamboanga Sibugay is the third youngest province in the country, lying in between the road traversing Zamboanga City to Zamboanga del Sur. Though tourist sites are not yet that developed, Zamboanga Sibugay has a lot of potential in terms of natural attractions including mountains, waterfalls, caves, hot springs, white sand beaches, as well as bird, fish and sea snake sanctuaries.

Capital: IpilTop tourist spots: Obelisk Rotunda, Provincial Capitol, Buluan Island, Kabug Mangrove Park and Wetlands (birdwatching site), Siay-Kabasalan Wetlands mini-Disneyland theme park, Pandilusan Island, Litayon Island, caves in Moalboal

Unique eats: fresh seafood like crabs, prawns, shrimp, seafood paella, tropical fruits (mango, lanzones and rambutan)

Memorable travel highlight: Getting stuck during low tide in the rain after birdwatching in Kabug Mangrove Park and almost missing our flight back from Zamboanga

Northern Mindanao Region

Northern Mindanao occupies the north-central part of Mindanao island. It comprises five provinces: Bukidnon, the island province of Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental and two cities classified as highly urbanized, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, which are administered independently from any province.


Bukidnon occupies a wide plateau in the north central part of the island of Mindanao. It’s considered to be the food basket of the region, being the major producer of rice and corn, and is known for its highland areas and vast plantations of pineapples, bananas and sugarcane. 

Capital: Malaybalay

Top tourist spots: Bukidnon Provincial Capitol, Kaamulan Park, pineapple fields, Lake Apo, Mount Dulang-Dulang, Mount Kitanglad, Mount Kalatungan, Mount Maagnaw, Mount Capistrano, Mount Palaopao, Center for Ecologocial Development and Recreation (CEDAR)

Unique eats: pineapple products, Monk’s Blend Coffee

Memorable travel highlight: Climbing up for hours by Vertical Bivouac to sleep overnight on a cliff at Kiokong White Rock


“The Island Born of Fire,” Camiguin is an island province with volcanic origins. It’s currently the second smallest province in the country after Batanes. But despite its compact size, this lovely island has a lot of natural sites to offer from sea to summit and all around the island.

Capital: Mambajao

Top tourist spots: Sunken Cemetery & Ruins, White Island, Mantigue Island Nature Park, Mt. Hibok-Hibok, Ardent Springs, Sto. Nino Cold Spring, Soda Water Park, Katibawasan Falls, Tuasan Falls,

Unique eats: lanzones, pastel, lechon de Camiguin, Hibok-Hibok Express, Kiping (crispy wafer made from dried sweet potatoes), latik, nilabog (local cooler made with coconut strips, milk, crushed biscuits & peanuts), piniato (peanut brittle bars glazed with honey)

Memorable travel highlight: Camping overnight and hiking up Mt. Hibok-Hibo; taking a joyride loop of the whole island by motorcycle

Lanao del Norte

Lanao del Norte is a rugged province that ranges from the coastal shorelines in the north to the high plateaus and mountains in the south. While it’s governed independently from the province, the highly urbanized city of Iligan, known as the “City of Majestic Waterfalls” is geographically situated here.

Capital: Tubod

Top tourist spots: Tinago Falls, Maria Cristina Falls, Mimbalut Falls, NPC Nature Park, Paseo de Santiago

Unique eats: Chedeng’s Peanuts, Suka Pinakurat, Piaya de Iligan, palapa (Maranao condiment)

Memorable travel highlight: Pub Quiz Night and craft beer at Fat Pauly’s (the first microbrewery in Mindanao) after revisiting Tinago Falls

Misamis Occidental

Misamis Occidental is located near the narrow strip of land linking Northwestern Mindanao, to the North-central part of the island.  The province is named after the early settlement of Spaniards at the entrance to the Panguil Bay.

Capital: Oroquieta

Top tourist spots: Mount Malindang Range Natural Park and Lake Duminagat, Caluya Shrine, House of Suman, Immaculate Conception Cathedral Pipe Organ in Ozamiz, Cotta Fort, Jimenez Church

Unique eats: Suman in various flavors (mango, pineapple, ube, buko, peanut, langka & durian), ngo hiong & lumpia from Shanhai Noodle House

Memorable travel highlight: Visiting the heritage town of Jimenez; listening to a bamboo organ being played inside a church; visiting a century-old Balete tree in the middle of a cemetery

Misamis Oriental

Misamis Oriental is a coastal province in Northern Mindanao. Its capital and provincial center is the city of Cagayan de Oro, which is famous for its white water rafting and kayaking adventures, one of the tourism activities being promoted along the Cagayan de Oro River.

Capital: Cagayan de Oro

Top tourist spots: Mapawa Nature Park, Seven Seas Water Park and Resort, Garden of Malasag Eco Tourism Village, Museo de Oro

Unique eats: binaki (Sweet Tamales), kinilaw and sinuglaw, ostrich meat, Bisaya Express

Memorable travel highlights: Whitewater rafting during first visit in 2005 (no photos because I had no waterproof camera back then); Mapawa Nature Park

Davao Region

Davao Region is situated at the southeastern portion of Mindanao, comprising five provinces; Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental, the newest province of the Philippines. Its regional center is Davao City, nicknamed the “Durian Capital of the Philippines.” Davao region is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines and a forest-like conservation center for endangered Philippine eagles.

Compostela Valley

Compostela Valley (or ComVal) is one of the newest provinces of the Philippines. It’s known for possessing one of the largest gold deposits in the country. In terms of tourism, Compostela Valley is still raw and rugged, with beautiful landscapes of rolling hills and mountains with peaks ideal for trekking.

Capital: Nabunturan

Top tourist spots: Awao Falls, Mainit Sulfuric Hotspring in Maco, caves in Nabunturan and Haven’s Peak Highland Resort, Mt. Candalaga, the biggest gold ring in the Philippines.

Unique eats: nilamburan nga suman, lyurot (meat dish cooked in bamboo)

Memorable travel highlights: Solo backpacking trip and visiting Awao Waterfalls straight from the airport with no idea where to go

Davao del Norte

Davao del Norte is known as “the banana capital of the Philippines.” This province includes Samal Island, a small tourist-friendly island just 2 km from Davao city to the south in the Davao Gulf, which is known for its beach resort and dive spots.

Capital: Tagum

Top tourist spots: Island Garden City of Samal, Samal Island, Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Banana Beach Resort, Talikud Island

Unique eats: durian, kinilaw na tuna, sinuglaw, durian pie, durian shake, durian ice cream, marang

Memorable travel highlights: Instant noodles dinner by the pier because restaurants were closed during a solo trip; staying overnight in Samal Island

Davao del Sur

Davao del Sur occupies the southwestern section of the Davao Region in Mindanao. Its capital and largest city is Digos. Davao City, which serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao, and the regional center of Davao Region is geographically part of the province, though is governed independently from it.

Capital: Digos

Top tourist spots: People’s Park, Eden Nature Park & Garden, Mount Apo, Crocodile Park, Philippine Eagle Center, ‘D Bone Collector Museum, Philippine Eagle Center

Unique eats: Fresh durian, Durian Coffee, Durian Cheesecake, Crocodile Egg Ice Cream, Crocodile burger, fresh pomelo, Malagos Chocolate

Memorable travel highlights: Witnessing a tribal festival while staying in a remote Matigsalog Community

Davao OccidentalDavao Occidental is the 81st and newest province of the Philippines. Tourist spots are not yet that well-known and developed here and it has yet to craft its distinct identity. Potential tourist destinations are mostly concentrated at the province’s coastal beaches and the remote Sarangani and Balut islands in the south.

Capital: Malita

Top tourist spots: Little Boracay Beach Resort in Sta. Maria, Sarangani Island, Balut Island, Olanivan Island, Sleeping Dragon (mountains)

Unique eats: fruits and fruit-based products

Memorable travel highlights: Getting drunk on a grande liter of San Miguel Beer (because there were no smaller bottles available) while staying overnight in Little Boracay Beach on a solo trip

Davao Oriental

Davao Oriental is the easternmost province of the country, facing the Philippine Sea and part of the Pacific Ocean. Famous for its white sand beaches and waterfalls, the province is also home to Mount Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Capital: Mati

Top tourist spots: Aliwagwag Falls, Dahican Beach in Mati, Ultralight Flying from Mati airport, Sleeping Dinosaur View Deck, Blue Bless Beach Resort Aqua Park, Subangan Museum, Baywalk area

Unique eats: sinuglaw, grilled tuna, buttered bagaybay, Mati’s Brew coffee, Mati empanada (pastry filled with ground pork, eggs, cheese, and spices), lumpia made from ubod (coconut heart)

Memorable travel highlights: Riding an Ultralight plane over Dahican Beach; motorcycle ride to Sleeping Beauty Mountain

Soccskargen Region

Soccskargen, located in south-central Mindanao, is an acronym that stands for the region’s four provinces and 1 city: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City. Hidden gems and beautiful culture, including Lake Sebu, Lake Holon and Mt. Matutum as prime tourist destinations. General Santos City is well known for its tuna industry.


Cotabato (known as North Cotabato) is a landlocked province politically located in the Mindanao region of Soccskargen, though some of its barangays are under the jurisdiction of the nearby Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Cotabato derives its name from the Maguindanao word kuta wato, meaning “stone fort.”

Capital: Kidapawan

Top tourist spots: Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada, Mt. Apo (via Kidapawan City, Magpet and Makilala trails), Ligusan Marsh, Fort Pikit, Kabakan Caves, Skyline Mountain Resort

Unique eats: baye-baye (delicacy made from coconut water, grated coconut meat & toasted pinipig), tinagtag (Maguindanaon delicacy made of ground rice and sugar), native chicken barbecue, pastil (steamed rice and shredded chicken then wrapped with banana leaf), lanzones, mangosteen, rambutan

Memorable travel highlight: Making it to Asik-Asik Falls after a long hike just as it was getting dark after our van got stuck in the mud on the rough road going there


Sarangani is a province that lies at the southernmost tip of Mindanao island. Geographically, the province is divided into two sections, separated by the Sarangani Bay and General Santos City. Known for extreme activities like whitewater tubing and paragliding. Glan, the summer capital, is where you can find Gumasa Beach, a six-kilometer powdery white sand beach stretches the length of a crescent-shaped cove.

Capital: Alabel

Top tourist spots: Gumasa Beach, Isla Jardin del Mar, Belimac Sumbang Point Beach, heritage houses in Glan, Hacienda Don Juan , White water tubing in Maitum, Sarangani Bay View Resort Paragliding

Unique eats:  Belmar’s Buko Halo-Halo, buko salvaro (biscuit-like wafer made from coconut meat), sikwate & puto maya, humba (braised pork dish), lumpiang ubod with coconut, Chicken ala Bukid from Freddo’s

Memorable travel highlight: Swimming in the uncrowded shores of Gumasa Beach

South Cotabato

South Cotabato is often associated with the T’nalak, the native textile woven by the local T’boli tribal women from abaca strips. The fabric has come to symbolize the blending of culture, strength, and unity of the various ethnic groups living in the province. It’s been dubbed as the “Land of the Dreamweavers.”

Capital: Koronadal

Top tourist spots: Lake Sebu, Seven Falls, Lake Holon, Mount Melibengoy, Mount Matutum, Queen Tuna Park, T’boli Museum, T’nalak Festival, Surallah Rotunda

Unique eats: Tilapia cooked in various ways (fried, curried, with coconut milk, etc.), sinanglay (fish wrapped in cabbage and cooked in coconut milk), tilapia sisig, T’boli meal (rice packed in leaves), native chicken cooked in bamboo, native coffee, forest wine

Memorable travel highlights: Riding a zipline over waterfalls (best zipline I’ve tried in the country so far); Driving a rented motorcycle on off-road terrain to hike to Lake Holon

Sultan Kudarat

The province of Sultan Kudarat is named after the great Muslim ruler and national hero, Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat, who reigned in the Sultanate of Maguindanao from 1625 to 1671. This largely unexplored province is home to many beaches, hot springs, waterfalls, and a bird sanctuary.

Capital: Isulan

Top tourist spots: Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol, Buluan Lake (the third largest lake in Mindanao), Marawir Peak, Kalamansig Beach (white sand beach), Baras Bird Sanctuary, Lagbasan “Paradise” Cave

Unique eats: native chicken bulalo, bbq and lechon manok, bibingkang kanin and coco piaya

Memorable travel highlight: Long road trip around Mindanao traversing the province

Caraga Region

Caraga Region occupies the northeastern section of the island of Mindanao. The region comprises five provinces: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands. The regional administrative center is Butuan, though the most popular tourist-friendly destination for local and international travelers is the island of Siargao, well-known for its surf and food scene.

Agusan del Norte

Agusan del Norte is still largely an agricultural province, with major crops of rice, corn, coconut, abaca and bananas. The port city of Butuan (the regional center) is best known for the balangays (ancient large sailing vessels) which were unearthed there. Agusan River, the third longest river in the country, used to serve as a highway for Spanish colonizers in gaining access to inner northeastern Mindanao.

Capital: Cabadbaran

Top tourist spots: Agusan River (longest river in Mindanao), Butuan National Museum, Delta Discovery Park, Balangay Shrine Museum

Unique eats: Kilawin, pao (local root crop dipped in coconut jam), tumpi (chewy delicacy made of coconut, laksoy (liquor made from the sap of nipa palms)

Memorable travel highlight: Ziplining in Delta Discovery Park; long bus ride from Surigao del Sur to Butuan

Agusan del Sur

Agusan del Sur is home to Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the most ecologically significant wetlands in the Philippines. This marsh situated in the heart of Mindanao’s Agusan Basin, contains nearly 15% of the nation’s freshwater resources in the form of swamp forests. Lolong, one of the world’s largest crocodiles ever caught, was captured from a creek here.

Capital: Prosperidad

Top tourist spots: Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Esperanza Bridge, Bayugan Rotunda, Pinandagatan Falls

Unique eats: Freshwater fish, fruit wines (duhat, mangosteen, guyabano, makopa and tambis )

Memorable travel highlight: Spending the night in a remote community in the middle of the vast marshlands

Dinagat Islands

The Dinagat Islands are a group of islands mainly known for its mining industry and for being one of the archipelago’s holiest sites in the Pre-Christian native religion and base of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association. It is the second newest province and one of the smallest island provinces in the country.

Capital: San Jose

Top tourist spots: White Castle, Libjo and Cabdianao, Lake Bababu, Mount Redondo Natural Bonsai Forest and Mount Kambinliw in Loreto

Unique eats: lechon manok, grilled seafood, root crops

Memorable travel highlight: Trading life stories with the owner of the homestay while swimming in a secluded lagoon during a solo trip; having to borrow white clothes from a local to enter the PMBA Shrine

Surigao del Norte

Surigao del Norte serves as an important transportation hub between Visayas and Mindanao. Numerous ferries cross the Surigao Strait to and from the island of Leyte in the Visayas carrying vehicles and passengers. Aside from the mainland, the province comprises two major islands – Siargao and Bucas Grande in the Philippine Sea.

Capital: Surigao City

Top tourist spots: Siargao, Cloud 9, island-hopping in Siargao (Guyam, Daku and Naked Island), Bucas Grande, Sohoton Cove, Magpupungko, Sugba Lagoon, Tiktikan Lake, Mabua Pebble Beach, Silop Cave

Unique eats: sayongsong (rice delicacy wrapped in banana leaves), poot poot ginamos, kinilaw, Gigaquit Rhum (similar to tuba), dried pijanga

Memorable travel highlight: Solo ride on a semi-automatic motorcycle around the island (first trip in 2012)

Surigao del Sur

Surigao del Sur is situated at the eastern coast of Mindanao and faces the Philippine Sea to the east. Surigao del Sur is one of the suppliers of rice, bananas and other tropical fruits. The Mindanao Deep, one of the deepest trenches in the world, is situated a few kilometers east of the coastline.

Capital: Tandag City

Top tourist spots: Tinuy-an Falls, Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Britania Group of Islands, surf spots in Cantilan and Lanuza

Unique eats: fish tinola, sayongsong, biko, puto, nilupak

Memorable travel highlights: 5-hour long bus ride from Surigao City to Bislig (I mistakenly thought it was near); Habal-habal ride in the dark to visit Tinuy-an Falls

BARMM: Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

BARMM is an autonomous region within the southern Philippines. Formerly known as ARMM, it is the only Muslim-majority region in the Philippines. It is composed of 5 provinces: Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Its regional center is Cotabato City, which is home to the largest mosque in the Philippines, the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkia Masjid. The whole region is very rich in culture, architecture, raw natural attractions and has very distinctive cuisine, with Spanish and Malay influences.


The province of Basilan is an island province of the Philippines in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It’s the largest island and northernmost of the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago. It lies just off the southern coast of the geographic Zamboanga Peninsula.

Capital: Lamitan City

Top tourist spots: Malamawi Island, Bulingan Falls in Lamitan, the lake in the Panigayan fishing village, Sumagdang Beach, Old Basilan Provincial Capitol

Unique eats: dulang (medley of molded sticky rice with chicken, fried fish and vegetables on a banana leaf), kaliya (Yakan chicken), pinalam-pinalam (spicy native chicken with dulang), jah panyam pitis (rectangular sweet made with sticky purple rice, coconut milk and brown sugar), Basilan coffee

Memorable travel highlight: Meeting a princess in Basilan

Lanao del Sur

Lanao del Sur is a province situated at the basin of Lake Lanao, the largest in Mindanao. The landscape is dominated by rolling hills and valleys, placid lakes and rivers. The province is known for its traditional houses built by the Maranao people of Lanao and rich weaving culture. Its capital city, Marawi suffered extensive damages during the 2017 Battle of Marawi. Much of the province is still in the recovery phase.

Capital: Marawi

Top tourist spots: Lake Lanao, Sacred Mountain National Park, Mindanao State University (MSU), Aga Khan Museum of Islamic Arts, Torogan

Unique eats: palapa (condiment in Maranao cuisine), pater (traditional Maranao delicacy composed of yellow rice topped with either spicy beef or chicken rendang or fish with coconut meat wrapped in banana leaves)Memorable travel highlight: Searching for stories of hope in war-torn Marawi


Maguindanao is situated in the central section of Mindanao. The native Maguindanaon culture revolves around Kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines.

Capital: Buluan

Top tourist spots: Masjid Dimaukom or Pink Mosque, Abpi White Mosque, Blue Lagoon, Timako Hill, Liguasan Marsh

Unique eats: pastil (cooked rice topped with chicken or fish flakes wrapped in banana leaf), tinumis (fermented rice wrapped in alum leaves)

Memorable travel highlight: Stepping foot inside the Pink Mosque


Sulu is a volcanic island located along the southern border of the Sulu Sea and the northern boundary of the Celebes Sea. Its capital Jolo was the center of the government of the Sulu Sultanate.

Capital: Jolo

Top tourist spots: Sulu Provincial Capitol, Camp Bud Datu, Jolo group of volcanoes, Sulu Museum, Masjid Tulay

Unique eats: Tiyulah sug (beef-based soup cooked with burnt coconut meat), Piyanggang Chicken, Beef Kurma (local version of curry)

Memorable travel highlight: Eating fresh crabs in the Jolo public market


Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines. It lies at the southwestern tip of the country and shares sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and the Indonesian East Kalimantan province. It covers some islands in the Sulu Sea to the northwest, including Turtle Islands, just 20 km from Sabah.

Capital: Bongao

Top tourist spots: Bud Bongao (Bongao Peak), Sheik Makhdum Mosque in Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol, Bolobok Cave and Beach, Panampangan Island, Sitangkai (Southernmost settlement of the Philippines)

Unique eats: Tiyulah Itum (beef stew with broth made from burnt coconut meat), Junay (rice steamed in coconut milk and toasted coconut), Baolu (sweet mini-muffins)

Memorable travel highlights: Encountering wild monkeys while hiking up the sacred mountain of Bud Bongao.

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