A trip doesn’t have to be just a chance to relax, shop, and make your friends back home jealous with constant social media updates—it can be an opportunity to learn, contribute, and collect one-of-a-kind experiences you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
If you’re craving a travel experience that’s both fun and authentic, both entertaining and eye-opening, check out these tours and tourism platforms in the Philippines that champion ecotourism, ethical travel, and experiential learning. These trips won’t just give you photos that’ll have the likes pouring in, they’ll also give you a rush that no amount of likes can beat.
Explore Palawan’s remote islands with Tao Philippines
Tao Philippines lets travelers witness the hidden beauty of Northern Palawan with off-the-beaten-path expeditions exploring over 500 islands. The villages the Tao expeditions pass through reap benefits, too, as the company generates jobs for the locals and improves their livelihood through social programs. Meanwhile, the explorers lucky enough to set foot on these islands get a true taste of local life—the good shots for the ‘gram are just a bonus.
Tours offered: Among Tao’s regular five-day, four-night expeditions are Open Group (starts at USD 545 or around P28,000) and Paraw Sailing (starts at USD 630 or around P33,000). Another experience on offer is Combo (starts at USD 305 or around P31,000), which combines an island retreat in Camp Ngey Ngey in Busuanga and an expedition to the remote islands of Culion, Linapacan and North of El Nido.
Plant trees in Zambales with Tribes & Treks
A project of budget-friendly eco-hostel chain The Circle Hostel and social tourism platform Make a Difference (MAD) Travel, Tribes & Treks merges education, sustainability, and fun into one unforgettable trip. Its Zambales tour in particular takes travelers on a cultural and visual journey into the lahar-covered valleys of the Pinatubo range, where they get to plant trees and help reforest 3,000 hectares of land with fruit such as mangosteen, rambutan, and coconut, and trees such as apitong, kupang, and narra.
Tours offered: Besides Tribes & Treks Zambales: Adventures of the Plains (P1,950 for day tour including meals, activities, and local transport; with options for overnight), other adventures offered are Subic: Adventures of the Forest (P1,800 for day tour including meals, activities, and local transport; with options for overnight) and Rizal: Adventures of the Mountains (P2,900 for overnight, including meals and activities). Tribes & Treks is also set to launch a new program in Aurora.
See another side to Siargao with Bathala Land Tours
Don’t leave Siargao with just beach snaps and bikini selfies; take home lessons about the island’s culture—and some mean weaving skills, too! The first sustainable company offering cultural land tours in Siargao, Bathala Land Tours works with and empowers local NGOs engaged in farming and crafts. Bathala also prides itself in holding tours that are completely plastic-free, so ditch the single-use plastics and bring reusables when you join.
Tours offered: The Banig Weaving Land Tour (P2,000) has as its highlights a weaving workshop with the women artisans of LOKAL Siargao and a coffee tasting session at MA+D Siargao, an NGO that works with coffee farmers from all over the country. The tour also takes travelers from spot to spot for meals, snacks, beach sights, and sunset views—all aboard Bathala’s handpainted jeepney.
Immerse in communities with Meaningful Travels PH
Meaningful Travels “lets tourists immerse in communities, make connections with locals, and learn lasting lessons about their culture,” says its sales-professional-turned-social-entrepreneur founder Ann Marie Cunanan. Whether you’re doing a three-day excursion up in the mountains or a short day tour right in the concrete jungle, the company promises a transformative and truly meaningful encounter—all in one nifty package where everything is taken care of, from meals to transport to accommodations.
Tours offered: Coming up on their summer calendar are Quiapo Muslim Town and Culture Immersion Tours (P1,500), a Poblacion Makati Discovery Tour (P1,500), and Banaue and Batad Immersions (P5,200). Later in the year, travelers can join the T’boli Community and Cultural Immersion in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (P8,800) and the Talaandig Festival and Cultural Immersion in Songco, Bukidnon (P8,800). All rates are inclusive of meals and snacks, as well as transport, accommodations, and insurance as applicable. Meaningful Travels also caters to companies by creating alternative team-building experiences with voluntourism activities.
Climb for a cause with RAK PH Mountaineers
This group doesn’t just do random acts of kindness—they bask in nature’s breathtaking beauty while at it. Random Act of Kindness (RAK) PH Mountaineers invites those with a heart for helping to give back through out-of-the-box ways that allow them to embrace the outdoors as well: through fundraising hikes and climbs, mountain and beach clean-ups, outreach to schools and children, and more.
Upcoming projects: Since February, RAK has been holding the Love Climb series, a fundraising project for the benefit of Baby Zooey who was diagnosed with the rare disease biliary atresia. Love Climb culminates in May, during which climbs in Baguio, Mt. Batulao, and Banahaw de Tayabas are scheduled. Climb participants may join for a fee, and other donors are also welcome to donate. The group is also organizing an outreach and donation drive for over 400 Aeta families in Porac, Pampanga who were affected and displaced by the recent earthquake in Luzon.
For more information: Visit them on Facebook.
Learn about local cultures with Culture Shock PH
This company is so named because, as founder Osep Reyes explains, “’Culture shock’ is what I experience whenever I travel, tipong ‘Meron palang ganito dito’ despite me having lived in the Philippines all my life.” Apart from letting travelers glimpse magnificent sights, Culture Shock gives them the chance to connect with locals; for instance, for the Ifugao Cultural Immersion, the group has partnered with an Ifugao host family who would be welcoming the travelers into their life.
Tours offered: Culture Shock holds food tours, heritage walks, fiesta tours, and cultural immersions with indigenous communities. The current one on offer is the Ifugao Cultural Immersion (P4,800, including round-trip transportation, accommodations, meals, and cultural activities), which will also take travelers to the rice terraces of Batad.
Go on a green tour with Bambike Ecotours
City dwellers, you don’t have to travel far for that eye-opening ride. Bambike, the social enterprise behind those famous handmade bamboo bicycles, can get you on one of their bikes for an exhilarating tour of Intramuros. As with each Bambike purchase, proceeds from each Bambike Ecotour go to its partner Gawad Kalinga community in Tarlac. FYI: Bambike Ecotours is serious about going plastic-free, so be sure to bring your own reusable water bottle on your trip!
Tours offered: Regular tours include the Intramuros Experience (P1,200), Express Tour (P600), Sunset Tour (P1,200), and Night Edition (P1,200). Another tour worth trying is the BGC Art Tour (P1,200), plus a Guimaras ecotour is also in the offing.
Connect with local guides around the country through Tralulu
One of the best ways to travel is to go where the locals go, and online tourism experience platform Tralulu lets you do just that. With its network of local guides you can connect with—over 500 in the Philippines and over 100 elsewhere in Southeast Asia—plus over a hundred experiences on offer, travelers are in for a fun, authentic experience they won’t get with just a guidebook in hand. Tralulu also gives back by helping IP communities in Northern Luzon develop their unique tourism offerings, and by giving livelihood opportunities to urban poor and heritage communities in Quiapo and Tondo.
Tours offered: Tralulu’s lineup of experiences includes on-demand, by-request, and fixed-date offers, from food crawls and heritage tours to community immersions and cultural trips all over the Philippines and Southeast Asia. One regular offering is the daily Free Walking Tour of Intramuros which happens every day at 10:00 a.m.