There’s something to be said about going slightly off the beaten path with your kids. One of our favorite vacations over the years was visiting the tourist spots in Luzon, Philippines.
Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Philippines is off the beaten path, as there are plenty of visitors who go there every year, but the idea of Philippines travel doesn’t exactly scream “family travel,” either. But one thing I’ve learned about traveling internationally with kids is that a place doesn’t have to theme parks or all-inclusive resorts to be Family friendly. The Philippines would say that it’s a great place to visit. Especially with your kids.
Over the course of our travels, we’ve explored the bustling city of Manila, and experienced the relaxed island feel of Puerto Princesa. Through it all we’ve definitely felt there’s something special about the Philippines. With its welcoming culture, tropical climate, and beautiful scenery, Philippines travel is well-worth doing at least once in your life.
This post was updated on March 21, 2020.
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Getting to the Philippines, and getting around Luzon
We visited the tourist spots in Luzon in 2012, when my step-son was fourteen and my daughter was not yet two. We had so much fun! There were so many interesting places to see and things to do. And since my husband’s family comes from the Philippines, there was a personal connection for us too.
If you’re trying to decide where to take your family for vacation, you may want to consider visiting the tourist spots in Luzon, Philippines. The island of Luzon is accessible by air at the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Flights from international destinations fly there daily.
Getting around Luzon may be challenging, if you don’t have a private driver. While buses do travel to various destinations around Luzon, you’ll have more flexibility with a private car and driver. Accommodations in Luzon can be found throughout the island. You can also refer to the Philippines guide book for more ideas of where to stay and where to go in Luzon.
Traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia? Read my Southeast Asia posts for helpful tips.
Visiting the tourist spots in Luzon
Although the initial flight costs to the Philippines may be more expensive than places like Europe or Mexico, the dollar is strong over there. So the overall trip costs wouldn’t be too different from any other trip.
Plus, English is pretty widely spoken in the Philippines. Unless you’re spending time in the rural areas, most people speak English, and are more than happy to practice with you. However, it doesn’t help to pick up a Tagalog phrasebook to learn a few helpful phrases. It will help you experience the local culture better.
For families planning to visit the Philippines, I’ve put together a few suggestions for tourist spots in Luzon that families can visit. Here are my picks for Philippines travel ideas for your next family trip:
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1. See the historical tourist spots in Luzon at Intramuros
One of the more obvious tourist spots in Luzon is the capital city of Manila. Within that city, the old historic part is called Intramuros. It’s characterized by a wall that surrounds the area, and is still full of some of the old Spanish-style architecture in some of its buildings. When we were there, we decided to go all-out tourist mode and rent a kalesa to take us around Intramuros.
Kalesas are traditional horse-drawn carriages, and one of the things I liked about riding them is that you go at a much slower pace than a car, which makes it easier to look around and take in the sites. Plus, my kids loved riding around in a horse-drawn carriage.
2. Enjoy the views at Manila Bay
If you’re looking for a nice place to get some lunch in Manila, then you should definitely head to Manila Bay, another one of the popular tourist spots in Luzon. The restaurants in this area are known for their seafood.
On our trip, we decided to stop by Harbor View Restaurant. Their restaurant includes a covered pier, which gives you the chance to dine right on the water. We ate to our heart’s content on crabs and seafood, as well as traditional Filipino dishes like kare-kare and halo-halo.
3. Spend an afternoon at Rizal Park
One of the heroes of the Philippines, Jose Rizal, has a park dedicated to him in the central coastal part of Manila. Parks are a great way for families to relax when they’re doing Philippines travel.
In terms of family friendly tourist spots in Luzon, we especially liked Rizal Park for the fountain found in the center of the park. Rizal Park also has memorials dedicated to Jose Rizal, so this was also a way for my kids to learn about their Filipino heritage.
4. Get your shopping on at Mall of Asia
Filipinos love their shopping. It’s evident in the abundance of malls throughout the Philippines. Manila is no exception. In fact, Manila has the eleventh largest mall in the world, called the Mall of Asia. When we were in the city, we spent an afternoon shopping at the Mall of Asia, a large open area mall with amenities like an ice skating rink, a ferris wheel, and even an arena!
Of course, while we were there, we spent most of our time at the shops. It was just so big, I think we covered just a tiny corner of the place. If you’re traveling with little kids, a mall is a great place for them to run around.
5. See Taal Volcano, the world’s smallest volcano
If you’re wanting some less busy tourist spots in Luzon, head out of the city of Manila. Just about an hour’s drive from Manila is the Taal Volcano, considered the world’s smallest volcano. It’s set in the middle of Lake Taal, and is accessible by boat. For us, we decided to forgo the boat ride to the volcano, and instead headed to nearby Tagaytay, where you can catch postcard-worthy views of the volcano.
6. Visit tourist spots in Luzon at Subic Bay
My husband’s parents met in Subic Bay, a military base in the Philippines on the coast of the island of Luzon, west of Manila. His dad was in the Navy, and his mom was working on the base. Since the base held such an important place in my husband’s history, we decided to stop by there and see what it was all about.
These days, all the former US military bases in the Philippines have been turned into duty-free shopping areas (remember how I said Filipinos love their shopping?), so they are all overflowing with shopping malls and visitors coming in droves to take advantage of tax-free shopping. Subic Bay has become one of the frequently visited tourist spots in Luzon, by foreigners and Filipinos alike.
Despite the commercial aspect of former bases like Subic Bay, there are still some naturally beautiful parts of the area. Subic Bay, in particular, is quite peaceful to look at in the early mornings, before the visitors come.
7. Explore the hill town of Baguio
Also on the island of Luzon, and north of Manila, is the hill town of Baguio. It’s a nice respite from the hot craziness that is Manila. When we visited, it was cool and rainy, and I was actually wishing I had brought warmer clothes to the Philippines!
There are plenty of interesting things for families to see in Baguio, including a botanical garden, Burnham Park (Baguio’s version of Central Park), and John Hay Air Base (a former US military base-turned museum). It rained most of the time we were there, but we were lucky to have rented a car, so the rain didn’t bother us too much.
8. Take and excursion to Mines View Park
Just outside of Baguio is Mines View Park, which overlooks the abandoned gold mines and copper mines near the town of Igoton. The area is a nice place for a picnic and to catch scenic views of mountains and hills. And when we visited, the climate was definitely several degrees cooler than Manila.
Not sure what to pack for your Philippines trip? Check out our essential items for travel.
Experiencing all the tourist spots in Luzon with our kids
Philippines travel may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of family travel, but the country definitely has plenty of family-friendly activities for you to enjoy. We loved our time exploring all the tourist spots in Luzon with our kids, and can’t wait to visit again.
Have you had a chance to experience travel in the Philippines with your family? Share your stories with me!
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The problem with Rizal Park is their is now a permanent photo bommer ugly building behind Rizal Shrine
Oh no! That’s too bad. I wrote this post several years ago. Other than that, is it still a good park to visit?