Manila: Side Trips

El Nido

Side Trip El Nido Michael Melford / Getty Images
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There being 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago, it behooves you to try to see at least a few. From Manila, fly to El Nido, on the northwestern tip of Palawan, and base yourself at the eponymous tourism resort. You can easily explore up to 45 islands from there, many of them dramatic limestone formations rising out of limpid turquoise waters — reminiscent of the Thai islands seen famously in The Beach, but minus the superabundance of tourists that followed the movie's release. Expect a profusion of marine life and some of the world's best wreck dives in the form of trips to sunken Japanese warships. Landlubbers can traverse swaths of natural forest, kayak around emerald lagoons and, of course, island-hop — all just a 90-minute flight from Manila's gridlocked streets.

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