Must-visit places for Malaysians in the Philippines


Malaysians love bagging a good deal. And when we’re looking for holiday destinations, the more value-for-money, the better. That’s why the Philippines is becoming an increasingly popular travel spot for us.

If you think that the archipelagic country is only worth visiting for islands such as Boracay, think again. Its capital, Manila, is filled with fun activities and places which will make you feel like you’re living the high life while on a budget.

As soon as you step out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila, you’ll immediately be able to find hotel accommodations, food spots, and shopping malls. To make your shopping, cultural, and nature experiences complete, here are 7 must-visit places in the Philippines when you head to Metro Manila.


1. SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City – shopping, theme park, and bayfront view


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - SM Mall of Asia
Image credit: Sacha Blokland

Since NAIA is located in Pasay City, it’s only natural that you start your holiday at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. This is the largest shopping mall in the country, and it’s just a 20-minute taxi ride away from the airport.

 7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - SM Mall of Asia - SM by the BAY
Image credit: SM by the BAY

Before shopping, though, we recommend stepping outside the mall during sunset for a scenic view of Manila Bay. The sunset photos you take here will look phenomenal.

Then, walk along Seaside Boulevard towards SM by the BAY. There’s a theme and amusement park, as well as buffet restaurants such as Vikings and La Fiesta.

SM Mall of Asia - MOA Eye and Drop Tower
The MOA Eye (left) and the Drop Tower (right)

Image adapted from: Liza and Oleey Lee

This is a great place for friends and families to get together, especially if you have kids with you. Bring them to play around the grounds or go on rides with them on the MOA Eye. The giant ferris wheel will show you quite a view of Manila Bay as well as the city.

SM Mall of Asia - SM by the BAY - Paw Park
The Paw Park.
Image credit: SM by the BAY

If you’ve brought a furry friend with you, spend the day playing with them at the Paw Park, where you can teach them new tricks and test their agility on the mini obstacle course.

SM Mall of Asia - races and bazaars
Image adapted from: SM by the BAY and SM by the BAY

Apart from that, SM by the BAY is where most outdoor events such as pop-up stalls, athletic races, or occasional beach volleyball competitions take place. Every day’s bound to have something different happening, which means you’ll never get bored or run out of activities to do.

SM Mall of Asia - shopping and food trips
Image adapted from: Patrick Unson and Charlotte-Mae Jacob Peñol

Of course, the shopping offerings here won’t disappoint. As the mall spans 4.2 million square feet, you can plan to spend at least two days here to explore the mall from end to end.

Shop for clothes, shoes, or bags from international brands such as Bershka and Marks & Spencer. When you’re feeling peckish, hit up the food outlets. Whether it’s Western cuisine at TGI Fridays or Asian cuisine at Ippudo, you’re bound to find something that caters to your taste buds.

You can also chill out and enjoy activities such as watching movies at SM Cinema’s regular, Director’s Club, or IMAX theaters. There’s also the SM Ice Skating Rink on the 3rd floor, where you can glide around on the ice to while a hot afternoon away.

SM Mall of Asia - Kultura
Image credit: HAN IL SOO

To shop for products or crafts made in the Philippines, visit the shop Kultura. It has everything from jewelry to handmade crafts such as tableware and wicker baskets. It even stocks locally made food items such as dried mangos and tea leaves.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - SM Mall of Asia - S'Maison and IKEA
Inside S’Maison mall (left) and IKEA in Pasay (right)

Image adapted from: Jazz Parreno and IKEA Pasay City

Easily move between S’Maison, a separate shopping center inside the nearby hotel Conrad Manila, and the largest IKEA store in the world – IKEA Pasay City, via the connecting bridges.

SM Mall of Asia
Address: Main Mall, Seaside Boulevard, 123, 1300 Pasay City, Metro Manila
Opening hours: 10am-10pm, Daily
Email: smmallofasiamktg@gmail.com

SM by the BAY
Address: SM by the BAY, Seaside Boulevard, 1300 Pasay City, Metro Manila
Opening hours: Mon – Thu 10am-9pm | Fri – Sun 10am-10pm
Telephone: (02) 8556 0364
Email: thesmbythebay@gmail.com

S’Maison
Address: Seaside Boulevard, Coral Way, Pasay, Metro Manila
Opening hours: 10am-10pm, Daily

IKEA Pasay City
Address: MOA Square, Mall of Asia Complex Zone 10 CBP-IA, Marina Way, Pasay, Metro Manila
Opening hours: 10am-10pm, Daily
Telephone: +63 (2) 8888 4532

SM Mall of Asia’s Facebook | Instagram


2. Seascape Village in Pasay City – outdoor dining space, live performances, and fresh seafood


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Seascape Village
Image credit: Seascape Village

Around 15 minutes away from SM Mall of Asia is Seascape Village. You can get freshly picked seafood cooked according to your preferences at the array of restaurants here. There’s also plenty of bayfront space for you to go on a stroll and watch the sunset too.

Seascape Village - al fresco dining and sunset view
Image credit: Seascape Village

As almost all the restaurants here offer al fresco dining, you’ll get to enjoy the natural breeze as you have your meal. The taste of fresh seafood while you hold a drink in hand and watch the sunset view will surely give you the island life experience while you’re in the city.

Seascape Village - live performances
Image credit: Seascape Village

If you’re a music lover, stay late enough to catch live performances with late-night jamming sessions.

Address: Sofitel Plaza Walkway, Pasay, Metro Manila
Opening hours: 10am–11pm, Daily
Telephone: +63 (2) 8640 9955 | +63 (2) 8869 7452
Email: seascapevillageph@gmail.com

Seascape Village’s website | Facebook | Instagram


3. Bonifacio High Street – open-air dining, shopping, and art


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Bonifacio High Street
Image credit: Jaeryeng Choi

Head to Taguig, the southern part of the metro, and discover Bonifacio Global City or BGC as locals call it. This is an entire modern city complex with tall buildings and spacious parks where you can enjoy leisurely walks, take pictures, or play with pets.

Hop on a movie marathon at Bonifacio High Street Cinemas at Bonifacio High Street in BGC. Or go shopping at Central Square. Foodies will want to hit up Pop-Up Street to go on a food hunt. The stalls here offer dishes from a myriad of cuisines, and you can also find merchandise from brands set up by young local entrepreneurs and online platforms too.

Bonifacio High Street - weekend activities
Image adapted from: @bonifaciohighstreet and @bonifaciohighstreet

During weekends, the roads are made pedestrian-only to make way for events that you can participate in, such as outdoor dining, bike lessons, or even bazaars.

Bonifacio High Street - mosaic and mural artworks
Image adapted from: Art Tibaldo and Bonifacio High Street

Art lovers will especially enjoy the various mosaic artworks and mural paintings spread throughout the area. You can even spend a day here and explore every corner to seek out all the artworks you can find.

Address: C1, 11th Avenue-3rd Avenue, Bonifacio High Street, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila
Opening hours: Mon–Thu 11am-9pm | Fri–Sat 11am-11pm | Closed Sundays
Telephone: +63 (2) 8818 3601 | +63 (2) 8478 8669
Email: info@bgc.com.ph

Bonifacio High Street’s Facebook | Instagram


4. Paping’s Staycation & Campsite in Cavite – giant outdoor cinema, unique camping accommodations, and fun amenities


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Paping's Staycation and Campsite
Image credit: Paping’s Staycation & Campsite

Travel outside the metro to Magallanes and Dasmariñas, Cavite, where you can have a staycation, camp, or glamp at Paping’s Staycation & Campsite.

Cavite is a part of the Calabarzon Region – Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon – and a one- to two-hour drive from the capital of the metro, Manila City.

Paping's Staycation and Campsite - tiny house and capsule
Tiny house (left) and Capsule (right).
Image credit: Paping’s Staycation & Campsite and Paping’s Staycation & Campsite

This unique staycation and campsite lets you choose from over six types of accommodations – from a Baby Bus (P2,000-P3,000, ~RM160.45-RM240.67) to a Container house (P5,000, ~RM401.12) with a jacuzzi or a Capsule (P2,000-P2,500, ~RM160.45-RM200.56) that includes a cinema instead.

Paping's Staycation and Campsite - camper van
Image credit: Paping’s Staycation & Campsite

You can even stay in a Camper Van (P2,000-P3,000, ~RM160.45-RM240.67) to experience being an on-the-go road tripper, hanging out by the van and bathing in the sun.

Paping's Staycation and Campsite - giant outdoor cinema
Image credit: Paping’s Staycation & Campsite

Aside from the typical campfires at night, you can take your outdoorsy adventure up a notch by watching a movie with friends and family at the giant outdoor cinema (P500, ~RM40.11). This is part of the additional amenities offered that include board games, bowling, and viewing the stars on a telescope for P200 (~RM16.04) each.

The outdoor accommodations – from the Baby Bus to the Cocoon Ohouse – can fit two guests while the indoor Container House can hold up to eight guests with a fee of P500 (~RM40.11) per additional person.

If you love glamping in nature and watching movies, this place is for you.

Address: Barangay Sitio Putol, Magallanes, 4113 Cavite
Telephone: +63 969 369 6085 | +63 995 482 3602
Email: papingsglampsite@gmail.com

Paping’s Staycation & Campsite’s Facebook


5. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan – a UNESCO World Heritage Site


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Image credit: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park & World Heritage Site

Those looking to immerse themselves in nature can head over to Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River National Park, one of the most well-known tourist destinations in the country. It is also home to the second-longest underground river in the world and has been conferred UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

To get there, hop on a 1.5-hour Cebu Pacific flight from NAIA to Puerto Princesa International Airport and take a 2-hour drive up to the site. You can find accommodation ranging from guest cottages to resorts at the Sabang Beach area, which is only a 10-minute drive away.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park - biodiversity
Image credit: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park & World Heritage Site

Rich in biodiversity, the National Park has eight types of forests. The site consists of over 800 plant species, perfect for plant-lover adventurers to explore.

For animal-watchers and sightseers, there are also 30 mammal species, 19 reptile species, and 252 bird species to spot around the island.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park - underground river
Image credit: National Parks

When traveling to Puerto Princesa, touring the 8.2-kilometer-long underground Cabayugan River is definitely a must on your list of things to do during your stay. It’s certainly worth it to witness the cave up close with its intricate mineral stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and stalagmite mounds growing from the ground.

It’s also key to hire an experienced local tour guide and boatmen to maintain a safe and fun tour. Take note that there may be bats inside the cave when touring the underground river.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park - Macaque monkeys and Komodo dragons
Image adapted from: @burstsofbubbles and @mihee_1456

Since it’s considered a protected area, bear in mind that you’re bound to come across long-tailed macaque monkeys or komodo dragons during your island adventure. Do give them plenty of space and respect their habitats.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park - Hundred Caves
Image credit: jie acosta

Apart from the boat ride through the underground river, exploring the Hundred Caves is another touristy activity you can do if you’re interested in spelunking.

It’s a hidden gem where you can walk through cave tunnels and discover magnificent chiseled rock and mineral formations in the dark.

Puerto Princesa is a must-visit if you’re into underground adventures, animals, and everything that nature has to offer.

Address: Barangay Sitio Sabang, Cabayugan, 5300 Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Telephone: +63 (48) 434 2509
Email: undergroundriver_ppsrnp@yahoo.com

Hundred Caves | Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park’s Facebook


6. Boracay in Aklan – food halls, hotel resorts, and water activities


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Boracay
Image credit: Franek Dolas

Another beloved destination in the Philippines is, of course, Boracay in Malay, Aklan. For the laid back, island life experience, this is your go-to place to take in the sun, the crystal clear water, and the white sand beach.

Not only is it popular, the island has also been recently named as one of the “Best Places in the World” by TIME Magazine.

To reach Boracay, you can choose to ride by land and sea or by air. By air, you can book a domestic Cebu Pacific flight going to Caticlan, Malay, Aklan. Upon arrival, you’ll also need to take a short boat ride to get to the island. Travel by plane if you prefer getting to Boracay faster as it only takes an hour and a half of flight time.

If you’re traveling by land from Manila, hop on a bus going to the Port of Batangas then ride a ferry to Caticlan in Malay, Aklan. Lastly, you’ll have to take a short boat ride to Boracay Island. Keep in mind that it may take anywhere from 9 to 11 hours to get to Caticlan from Batangas if you choose to travel by land and sea.

Boracay - food spots
A walk-along of food spots.

Image credit: Jed Rodelas

The island comprises three different stations, with a wide range of food halls and resorts you can explore. Water activities such as snorkeling and boating are must-tries. If you’re up for a scheduled tour, online tour packages are easily at your disposal to make the most of your trip.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Boracay - Seaworthy Boracay
Image credit: Seaworthy Boracay

The recently opened Seaworthy Boracay Resort in Station 1, for example, is worth a visit if you like a rustic, bohemian-themed stay that’s near the beach.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Boracay - Percy Seafood, Cocomama, and Hello Sailor
Seafood dish from Percy Seafood, dessert from Cocomama, and Rubber Ducky cocktail from Hello Sailor.
Image adapted from: @percyseafoodboracay, @hwangcalii, and @hellosailorboracay

Located beneath the resort are three different food options all in one place. You can have a hearty tropical meal at Percy Seafood, eat some refreshing dessert at Cocomama, and spend a happy hour at Hello Sailor, a cocktail bar.

Seaworthy Boracay Resort
Address: Station 1 Beachfront Balabag, Boracay, 5608 Aklan, Philippines
Telephone: 999 884 0624
Seaworthy Boracay Resort’s website | Facebook

Percy Seafood
Opening hours: 11am-10pm, Daily
Telephone: +63 995 665 6555
Percy Seafood’s website | Instagram

Cocomama
Opening hours: 9am-9pm, Daily
Telephone: +63 36 288 1301
Cocomama’s website | Facebook | Instagram

Hello Sailor
Opening hours: 11am-9pm, Daily
Hello Sailor’s website | Facebook | Instagram


7. Island-hopping from Mactan Island, Cebu – white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and other attractions


7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Island-hopping from Mactan Island
Arrival at Gilutongan Island.
Image credit: 홍단가족

Last, but not least, travel across the seas and visit Cebu in the Central Visayas for an island-hopping rendezvous. Here, you’ll be able to find historical sites such as relics and shrines, natural wonders such as falls, and what Cebu is most known for, beautiful tiny islands that can be seen offshore.

Unlike tourist destinations in Luzon that can become quite crowded, you’ll find that in Cebu, you can fully enjoy your holiday without being surrounded by too many people when visiting tourist attractions.

To get to Cebu, book a Cebu Pacific flight from NAIA going to Mactan Airport in Cebu. The flight is about an hour and a half. Of course, you’re welcome to travel by land and sea, but you won’t get to your destination as quickly.

On your island-hopping escapade, your starting point is Mactan Island, a coral island known for some of the most diverse tourist attractions such as Gilutongan Island, Pandanon Island, and Nalusuan Island – three islands you should definitely visit.

Island-hopping from Mactan Island - Gilutongan Marine Sanctuary
Swimming with aquatic species in Gilutongan Marine Sanctuary.

Image credit: Verde Speranza

Once the tour boat stops, you can start gearing up with the provided life vest and snorkel set and take a swim with the fish at the Gilutongan Marine Sanctuary. You can meet different kinds of marine life as you swim in the clear waters around the island. This is a protected area, so do make sure to appreciate but steer clear of touching the conserved reefs.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Island-hopping from Mactan Island - Pandanon Island
Pandanon Island.

Image credit: @mami__camera

Next on the list, Pandanon Island sports a narrow sandbar, with clean sand and clear water, with huts where you can have a beach BBQ.

Island-hopping from Mactan Island - uninhabited island
Image credit: 김우현

As the island is not inhabited by many, except a small fishing community, expect to unplug and bring your own refreshments or seafood to grill here – the view is worth it.

The fee to visit the beach is P150 (~RM12) and it’s P250 (~RM19.99) to book a beach cottage as your chill spot.

 7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Island-hopping from Mactan Island - Nalusuan Island
Diving and snorkeling site at Nalusuan Island.

Image credit: 김관호

For your last stop, Nalusuan Island is where you can let loose and dive into the cooling water. Aside from that, you can kayak or snorkel to see more marine life. There is a resort with a restaurant – Nalusuan Island Resort and Marine Sanctuary – where you can stay the night.

Tour packages to these islands are bookable online and come with meals on the boat or gear rentals to make the most of your trip. Boat fare starts at P1,600 (~RM128.36) per person, depending on your group size.

7 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines - Island-hopping from Mactan Island - Sirao Garden
Sirao Garden.

Image adapted from: @jvojenal and @jvojenal

While you’re in the Cebu City area, do drop by the flower gardens such as Sirao Garden. This spot is an hour’s drive from downtown, and photos taken with the surrounding flora are definitely going to look gorgeous.

If you love chilling on beaches and island-hopping, traveling to Cebu will be worth your while.

Gilutongan Island | Pandanon Island | Nalusuan Island


7 must-visit places in the Philippines


If this makes you want to start planning your next Philippine trip, take advantage of Cebu Pacific Air’s airfare sale. A flight from KLIA to NAIA starts from RM309 from 1st until 31st August, and you can travel any time from 1st September 2022 until 31st January 2023.

So make the most of the sale, book a flight, and visit the natural and man-made wonders of the Philippines.

Safe travels!

Book your flight to the Philippines with Cebu Pacific Air now!

Also check out:


This post was brought to you by Cebu Pacific Air.

Cover image adapted from: Seascape Village, HAN IL SOO, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park & World Heritage Site, and Verde Speranza

Follow The Smart Local Malaysia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram for more stories like this. If you have a story to share, email us at pressmy@thesmartlocal.com.