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How to Travel The Philippines with Kids: Tips & Tricks

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Of the countries that make up Southeast Asia, The Philippines is arguably the least traveled. For many families, it doesn’t even seem to be on their radar.

If we had to guess why this is, we’d put it down to the fact that most people don’t know what there is to do there besides visit white sand beaches, and because flights are rarely convenient.

But if you are considering traveling to The Philippines with kids, then you’re making a good decision.

savannah and kalyra playing in water near boat
Boracay Island

There is an abundance of things to do there for families of all ages, and yes while it takes a bit of planning to get to most places, those who make the effort find it’s well worth it.

To make life easier for you, and to help you plan the perfect family vacation, we’ve shared some of our top tips for how to travel The Philippines with kids, from babies, younger kids, tweens and teens, so you know where to start your planning process.

Is The Philippines Good For Families?

young girl in water of Punta Bunga Beach, Boracay Island, Philippines
Punta Bunga Beach

If you’re still on the fence about visiting The Philippines with kids, then you might be wondering whether it’s the right destination for you.

First of all, The Philippines is mostly a safe country. It gets a bad reputation, because many years ago a few backpackers went missing, but today it’s probably one of the safer countries in Asia.

Filipino people are SO nice. It’s rare to find an aggressive or angry Filipino, they are usually smiley and friendly, and could even take Thailand over as the new Land of Smiles.

As well as this, The Philippines is astoundingly beautiful. It’s the epitome of paradise.

While kids may not appreciate the scenes set before their eyes today, they will remember it in the future – and mom and dad will love it.

people sitting at a table with food

The only downside to visiting The Philippines with kids from our perspective is that the food isn’t phenomenal. Kids who tend to be fussy eaters are probably not gonna like Filipino food, but there are always restaurants serving pizzas and international cuisine.

Overall, The Philippines attracts families who want to reconnect with nature, experience a happy and lively culture, and introduce their children to a whole new way of life – island life.

Things To Do In The Philippines With Kids

Once we arrived in the Philippines, we found no shortage of things to see and do. Here are our favorite attractions:

1. Makati City, Metro Manila

high rises of Makati City

The capital of The Philippines is Manila, on the largest island in the country.

Metro Manila, the capital region, can be gritty. Though I find charm within the grittiness, my tween daughter does not.

Luckily, Manila also has many beautiful pockets of neighborhoods that are quite well kept, and one of these pockets is Makati.

This neighborhood is one of the few neighborhoods in Metro Manila that have real sidewalks where one can actually take a stroll without risking being hit by a trike or a jeepney.

Greenbelt

cat on log in jungle Greenbelt Makatai

In Makati, you’ll find Greenbelt, which is a series of shopping malls forming its own mini-city, if you will. There you’ll find some great eateries and places to have a coffee or a drink.

Yes, there is shopping there but most come here for the lively atmosphere, and it’s also a great place to take a respite from the hot afternoon sun.

Ayala Museum

If it’s an educational and cultural day you’re looking for, attached to the mall is the Ayala Museum, which is an amazing heritage museum. If you crave more knowledge about the Philippines, this stop, is a must.

Peninsula Manila

Makati also boasts some of the most prestigious hotels, one of them being, The Peninsula Manila.

If you can swing it, there is no better place to stay in Manila. At the equivalent of 20% of the cost of its counterpart in New York, we decided to splurge for a few nights and had the best stay imaginable.

Bailey so loved it, that she considers it her favorite site in Manila. Which is fair to say, as it is considered a landmark by most people in Manila, who affectionately call it the Pen.

One doesn’t need to check into the hotel to enjoy its grandeur. Go there and grab a table in the front lobby and enjoy dessert with the whole family. It’s best on Sunday afternoons when many families tend to go.

I suggest ordering a Filipino classic called, Halo-Halo, which is made up of local fruit with shaved ice, topped with flan and usually Ube Ice Cream (Purple Taro). The one served at the Pen is considered the best in the city.

Top Tips: If you are only spending a few days in Manila, try to stay in this neighborhood. It’s safe and there are plenty of options for food. Moreover, the infrastructure in Manila isn’t pedestrian friendly, but here you can walk just about anywhere.

Also, if you’re looking for a ride to get to other parts of the city, make sure to download the Uber App, It’s simply the best and most economical way of traveling around and they are plentiful in this area and the wait, never too long. It’s often less expensive than a taxi.

Walled City of Intramuros

Walled City of Intramuros

The Walled City of Intramuros is steeped in history, which provides an educational experience for kids. It’s probably not thrilling for younger kids, but teens and tweens may appreciate its history.

This fortified allows visitors to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines.

As you walk along the ancient cobblestone streets, marvel at the well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and towering walls that once protected the city.

There are also charming horse-drawn carriage rides, known as kalesa, which are a delightful way for kids to experience a taste of the past.

Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park entry way

Manila Ocean Park is an aquarium that combines marine exhibits and educational adventure for the whole family.

Witness mesmerizing marine life up close, from colorful tropical fish to majestic sharks, and learn about marine creatures in the aquarium.

Afterwards, visit the sea lion show or watch the penguin feeding.

Ocean Park is an unforgettable experience for both children and parents alike.

2. The Food Markets in Manila, Metro Manila

Manila is once again poised to become a truly international destination, and the food scene plays a large part.

There are plenty of restaurants worth trying, but as a family, there are no better venues for eating than that of the markets.

The one’s that have stood out for us are the Mercato Salcedo and the Mercato at the Fort.

Mercato Salcedo

family at Manila Markets Philipinnes

Mercato Salcedo takes place every Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm in Salcedo Park, in the Bel-Aire neighborhood.

This market is in the gourmet category, where you can find organic and locally sourced product.

Yes, you can get your fruit and vegetables here, but we go there for the food stalls. And there are plenty. What’s wonderful about the food stalls at this market, is that they are diverse.

You will find your ubiquitous Filipino Barbecue along with regional specialties from outside provinces. There are, of course, cuisines from neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam as well.

But what makes this place special for travelers like us, that long for the taste of home every so often, is that the market offers Western staples such as pasta, hamburgers, tacos, steaks and hot dogs.

Bailey and I love lamb, and in this market the range goes even further into Middle-East and Northern African cookery.

We love to finish our market day off with sorbetes (ice cream) which are doled out of the most ornate looking mini ice cream carts.

Our favorite flavor is queso, yes cheese. Not some mild ricotta or cream cheese, I’m talking cheddar.

I know that all the Michelin Star Chefs are dabbling in this now, but it’s been a flavor option in the Philippines since as far back as Brenda and I can remember.

Mercato at the Fort (Bonifacio)

Our other favorite market is the “Mercato at the Fort (Bonifacio)”. This takes place every Friday and Saturday night, starting at 6 pm and ends very late.

Not unlike the Salcedo Market in quality and in range, Mercato at the Fort, with its high energy is a travelers dream.

Our favorite stall is one that serves fried talangka (crablets). If you like crab, you’ll love this. They’re tiny, and when fried (whole), it’s literally like eating chips made out of crab.

There is no better way to spend time with friends and family than grabbing a bunch of food and drinks and eating and laughing your way through the night.

Top Tip: Get there early.

3. White Beach, Boracay

people on the beach

Boracay Island is famous for its “White Beach” which lies on the beautiful Sulu Sea.

This beach is broken down into what is called, Stations (Stations 1, 2 and 3). It gets a bit crowded, but the sand is pristine and the sea a marvelous clear blue.

Running alongside the beach is its promenade, where you’ll find fruit vendors, massage therapists, hair braiders and, of course, restaurants and bars.

The energy is contagious, with music pouring out from everywhere and different languages spoken all around.

It’s a perfect place to take a tween starving for some fun.

It’s here that Bailey learned how to surf, it’s also here that she got her hair braided into cornrows, it’s here that we would watch people playing beach soccer and volleyball.

It’s here that Bailey was cheered on by spectators while scaling a climbing wall, and it’s here that we witnessed the most beautiful sunset we had ever seen.

Getting to Boracay Tip: There are two airports in Boracay, Kalibo, and Caticlan. Try to secure a flight going to Caticlan, it’s a much shorter ride to the dock where the boats depart for the actual island.

There are expediters at the airport upon arrival who charge 600 PHP per person (about $12 USD) that bring you from the airport to the door of your destination. If it’s your first time on the island, it’s well worth the price.

4. Angol Beach, Boracay

people swimming in Angol Beach the Philippines

Bailey is being homeschooled, and part of her curriculum is to read some of the classics.

During her school year, with me being the teacher, I will be introducing her to some of my favorite novels I read as a kid. Two of them being, “Robinson Crusoe” and “Treasure Island”.

Growing up in the asphalt jungle that is New York City, it was hard for me to picture the setting in both books. This will not be the case for Bailey.

Past Station 3 is Angol Beach, a more quaint extension of the White Beach. It’s a beach less traveled and the atmosphere much more serene than the Stations.

There were many mornings there that I felt like a guy in a beer commercial having the beach to himself. Due to fewer crowds, the fish are a little more plentiful around these parts for those who like to do a bit of snorkeling.

Families in the know, like to settle in at this area, as it gives the kids more room to play in the sand and makes it easier to keep track of them as they swim out.

If it’s Treasure Island you seek, Angol Beach is your place. If it’s good people you seek, Angol is your place.

All cold beverages are available at the Red Pirates. For food, there is a small fish-fry vendor that sets up right alongside the promenade where people love to go and get some fried goodies such as fried plantain, tempura shrimp, battered fish balls, fried cheese.

It’s a great local experience for any traveler to have.

Top Tip: Angol Beach is a great place to watch the sunset as tourist groups aren’t herded through these parts.

5. Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan

boat paddling towards Puerto Princesa Underground River

Another adventure to have with your kids in The Philippines is visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan.

This natural wonder, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, is one of the most unique attractions in The Philippines.

As you navigate the river’s enchanting cave system by boat, your children will be captivated by the awe-inspiring limestone formations and the diverse ecosystem that surrounds them.

It’s an educational journey through nature’s masterpiece, where kids can learn about geological wonders and marine life.

6. Swimming With Whale Sharks, Bohol

whale shark in bohol

If you’re looking for a truly unique family experience, then swimming with whale sharks in Bohol is up there as one of the best.

This unique adventure allows you and your kids to witness these gentle giants up close in their natural habitat.

Swimming alongside the world’s largest fish not only creates lasting memories but also instills a sense of awe and appreciation for marine life.

7. Visit Taal Volcano, Tagaytay

Taal Volcano ins eaw

Check out the world’s smallest active volcano, Taal!

You can take a boat ride across the serene lake or hike up to the crater for panoramic views.

This is another natural, outdoor classroom for kids to learn about geology and the natural world.

8. Chocolate Hills, Bohol

hill mounds Chocolate Hills, Bohol

Also in Bohol, you’ll find the Chocolate Hills.

These whimsical geological formations, resembling mounds of chocolate, create a surreal landscape that will capture the imagination of both kids and adults.

Climbing to the top of the hills offers breathtaking panoramic views, allowing you and your family to appreciate the beauty of nature from a different perspective.

9. Boat Tour, El Nido

aerial of El Nido Boat Tours

If you want to get away from the beach resorts with swimming pools and experience the true natural beauty of The Philippines, then embark on a boat tour from El Nido.

There are three tours to choose from: A, B and C. All of which are pretty and idyllic, taking you to snorkel sites, secluded beaches, and hidden lagoons.

Boat Tour A is probably the best one if you only have time for one. It takes you to the three Lagoons at Miniloc Island, which make El Nido so famous.

You also visit Shimizu Island and snorkel at Seven Commando Beach which is known to have turtles. See rates and availability for the different tours here.

10. Kayak Twin Lagoon, Coron

Aerial view: Twin Lagoon with blue, azure water in the middle of small islands and rocks. Beach, tropical island, sea bay and lagoon, mountains with forest,

Coron is a small and peaceful island, which may be a little boring for small children, but if you have older kids, then kayaking Twin Lagoon in Coron is an amazing experience.

As you paddle through turquoise waters, navigating between towering limestone cliffs, you can be enchanted by the beauty of the lagoons.

Kayak into the narrow passageways that connects the two lagoons, and look overboard at the abundance of marine life swimming around you.

Take a refreshing dip in the emerald waters and jump from board walk into the pool.

It’s the perfect combination of nature and adventure.

Tips For Visiting The Philippines With Kids

girl standing on the sand

Before you go, here are a few tips to help you have a better vacation with the family:

  • Plan to visit during the dry season, which usually falls between December to May. You may experience some wet and stormy weather in December, as it’s just after the monsoon season, but from January onwards the weather is usually pretty good. Monsoon season is BAD in The Philippines. The wind is strong and the rain is torrential, and makes for a bad time to visit.
  • Interact with the locals. The people are so friendly and smiley, don’t be afraid of sparking up a conversation with them. Most people speak English, and it’s a great learning experience for kids to speak to people of other cultures.
  • Plan ahead. Book tours, hotels, and have a plan for getting around well in advance. Planning is the key to traveling easily with kids.

Filipino Food To Try With Kids

girl drinking a milkshake
Shakes on White Beach

So most kids are pretty fussy eaters, but if your kids are adventurous, here are some Filipino dishes to try!

  • Halo-Halo Ice Cream Adventure: Treat your taste buds to a delightful adventure with the famous Filipino dessert, Halo-Halo. Take your kids to a local street food stall and let them customize their own Halo-Halo bowls with colorful ingredients like sweet beans, jellies, fruits, and ice cream. It’s a cool and refreshing treat on a hot day!
  • Adobo Chicken Skewers: Have a tasty barbecue experience by trying Adobo Chicken Skewers. Marinated in a flavorful blend of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices, these tender and juicy skewers are a hit with kids. Watch as they devour these delicious bites!
  • Puto Bumbong Pancakes: Put a delicious twist on traditional Filipino delicacies by trying Puto Bumbong Pancakes. These fluffy pancakes are inspired by the classic Christmas treat, Puto Bumbong, and are topped with fragrant coconut and muscovado sugar. Your kids will love the unique flavors and textures.
  • Dynamite Lumpia: Spice up your culinary adventure with Dynamite Lumpia. These crispy fried spring rolls are filled with cheese and spicy chili peppers, creating a burst of flavor in every bite. Let your kids experience the thrill of spice in a fun and delicious way.
  • Lechon Kawali Tacos: Combine Filipino and Mexican cuisine by trying Lechon Kawali Tacos. Crispy deep-fried pork belly is served in soft tortillas with fresh toppings like salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. It’s a fusion dish that will excite your kids’ taste buds.
  • Buko Pandan Sago: Indulge in a sweet and creamy dessert by trying Buko Pandan Sago. This delightful treat combines young coconut, pandan-flavored jelly, and tapioca pearls in a refreshing coconut milk base. It’s a dessert that kids will surely enjoy.
  • Turon Cheesecake: Give your kids a unique dessert experience with Turon Cheesecake. This creative twist on the classic Filipino banana fritter combines crispy turon (fried banana spring roll) and creamy cheesecake. It’s a delicious blend of textures and flavors that will leave them asking for more.
  • Pancit Canton Pizza: Let your kids explore the fusion of Filipino and Italian cuisine with Pancit Canton Pizza. This unconventional pizza is topped with stir-fried noodles, vegetables, and savory meats. It’s a fun and tasty twist on a familiar dish.
  • Ube Macapuno Cupcakes: Introduce your kids to the vibrant purple yam, Ube, with Ube Macapuno Cupcakes. These soft and moist cupcakes are flavored with Ube and filled with sweet macapuno (young coconut) preserves. They are a delightful treat that showcases the unique flavors of the Philippines.
  • Cheesy Ensaymada Waffles: Combine two beloved Filipino treats by trying Cheesy Ensaymada Waffles. These fluffy waffles are inspired by the buttery and cheesy Ensaymada bread. Top them with melted butter, grated cheese, and sugar for a satisfying breakfast or snack option.

How To Travel to the Philippines

girl running towards boats at the edge of the beach

Most international flights will bring you to the gateway: Manila. Most of the time, you will need to travel here first in order to catch domestic flights to other islands.

From New York, it’s was quite the distance, so choosing a good airline was of great importance to us. We chose Cathay Pacific. The seats were comfortable (for the record, we flew coach), the pillows and blankets soft, and the service excellent.

There was plenty of space in the aisles to stretch out, and most importantly, Bailey had a multiple of movies, television shows, and music stations to choose from during the flight.

Cathay also serves unlimited Cup Noodles throughout, which my daughter happens to have an affinity for.

At one point during the flight, I looked over to where she was seated, finding her in bliss, as she was wrapped in her blanket, eating a cup of ramen, and laughing at the movie she was viewing. This was a good start. Tweens are not easy to please. Cathay delivered.

Tip: As opposed to flying to Manila direct, consider a long layover in Hong Kong. It makes for a slightly shorter flight and eases the acclimation process. Hong Kong is a true International City, there is nothing that can’t be found or done in Hong Kong. Then you can fly the following day to your destination with a short layover in Manila.

Getting Around The Philippines

boat headed towards Diniwid Beach Boracay

When it comes to getting around the Philippines, the vast archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands, so the best way to get from island ot island is by ferry.

Some islands don’t have ferries, but there are always cheap domestic flights between islands too.

On the islands themselves, the best way to get around is to rent tricycles, either with a driver or by hiring one yourself. You can also rent tuk tuks and scooters.

Getting between city-to-city is easy, as you can find minibuses that are used by locals and tourists alike.

One thing to be aware of is the roads in The Philippines are not great. They are windy and full of pot holes (most of the time) so be sure to take medication for motion sickness if you have sensitive stomachs.

Final Thoughts

The Philippines is full of picturesque scenes and things to do for families.

The warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people are sure to make your stay even more enjoyable, too.

We hope this guide gave you some inspiration for things to do with kids in The Philippines and also helped you understand what an adventure to this country would be like for a family.

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What are your best tips for travelling to the Philippines with kids? Share in the comments.