Lay of the Land
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands in Southeast Asia, just south of Taiwan. The capital, Manila, is located on the largest island, Luzon, in the northern part of the country. With a population of over 12 million people, Metro Manila is a dense and bustling metropolis, often crippled by traffic and insufficient infrastructure. For travelers, it’s best to stay within two main areas: Makati, the central business district and commercial heart of the city, and Taguig, a new development just a short drive from Makati. Historical sites such as the walled city of Intramuros are located in Old Manila, just over five miles from these areas; but with traffic, this drive can take over an hour.
Manila’s charms may not be obvious at first glance, but for the patient and intrepid traveler, it’s worth spending time in the capital before flying to the islands. Of the thousands of choices, the province of Palawan is the most beautiful and unspoiled. In the northern part of Palawan is the private island resort Amanpulo, a secluded paradise. El Nido Pangulasian is in the more touristy area of Bacuit Bay, a breathtaking marine reserve with towering limestone karst islands, accessible by commercial flight to El Nido town.
Good to Know
English is widely spoken throughout the Philippines, and most signs and menus are in English.
When to Go
The rainy season is from June through November, but as with any tropical island, this could mean stretches of sunshine with little rain, followed by a typhoon. It’s hot and humid throughout the year (temperatures are typically in the high 80s) but the months of December, January and February are generally milder. March and April are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures reaching 95° F.