With three days in Manila, you can start to get a real taste of the pulsating Philippine capital plus the natural and cultural highlights of Luzon island. Discover and dine your way through Manila, then day trip to historic Corregidor Island, active volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, coconut plantations, or tropical islands.
Day 1: Metro Manila
Spend your first day in Manila orienting yourself in the city, getting a handle on the nation’s history, and savoring some deliciously hearty dishes. There are a wealth of city tours available on foot, by bamboo bicycle, or by the Philippines’ signature jeepney. Look for one that includes Manila’s oldest quarter, Intramuros, historic Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, and Rizal Park. You might also want to head farther afield, to the mansion-tombs of the Manila Chinese Cemetery, the somber fields of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, or the vast SM Mall of Asia.
Another essential experience for today is Filipino food, a fascinating blend of indigenous and international influences. Discover it on a market tour, a food tour, or even at a cooking class in a local home. Wrap up the day with a sunset harbor cruise.
Day 2: The Rock and the Volcanoes
For your second day in Manila, journey to one of the area’s signature attractions. Corregidor Island, a rocky fortress that played a key role in two World War II battles, lies a 1- to 2-hour drive from the city. History and walking tours of the fortress enable you to explore its fortifications, tunnels, and munitions.
Alternatively, discover one of the Philippines’ many active volcanoes. Mt. Pinatubo, whose 1991 eruption was one of the largest of the 20th century, makes for an impressive day trip. Or, for a gentler volcano experience, discover Mt. Taal, an active volcano that sits in the middle of a lake, with its own crater lake at the top; trekking and horseback trekking are just two of the options here. For the evening, try a cultural dinner, where local delicacies meet Filipino dance and folkloric traditions.
Day 3: Spreading Your Wings
With three days in Manila, you can add another day trip—or opt for both Corregidor Island and a volcano. But you might want to branch out into less-visited parts of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. Ride a boat up a jungled gorge to Pagsanjan Falls, then board a bamboo raft through the cascade itself. Discover some of the Philippines’ celebrated beaches with an island-hopping trip along the Luzon coast, or bask in the relaxing waters of volcanic hot springs. Alternatively, enjoy lunch at a restaurant in a waterfall at the historic hillside plantation of Escudero Villa, or spend the day discovering the attractions of the Subic Bay resort area. Top off your stay by embracing Manila’s hypermodern side: splurge on the fine cuisine of homegrown chefs such as Chele Gonzalez, and finish with cocktails in a sky-high rooftop bar.