offering an array of international cuisines. The entire beach is a kids’ playground, offering everything from swimming, snorkelling and diving to banana boat rides and sunset sails on a colourful paraw (an outrigger sailboat).
If you’re seeking a less busy beach experience, head to Palawan, one of the country’s most sparsely populated regions. Most travellers head north to El Nido and the enchanting Bacuit Archipelago, an otherworldly landscape of jagged limestone islands. Bangka boats ply the crystalline waters, offering family-friendly island-hopping tours to secret beaches, magical caves and hidden lagoons amid the soaring limestone cliffs. This is the Philippines often seen on postcards.
For sheer variety, beauty and kid- centric activities, Bohol is hard to beat. Renowned for its bug- eyed tarsiers, one of the world’s smallest – and arguably cutest – primates, and the deliciously named Chocolate Hills – a vast expanse of uniformly rounded grassy hills that turn brown in the dry season – this island province also offers white beaches and a wealth of watersports for all ages. From Bohol, you can easily access another Philippines highlight: swimming with whale sharks. It’s a two-hour boat ride to the site in Oslob, Cebu, but an encounter with these gentle planktoneating giants is a thrilling experience the kids will never forget.
If your kids are up for a road trip, hire a car and driver to see the spectacular World Heritage-listed rice terraces at Banaue, a nine-hour drive north of Manila. Even young kids will be awed by these 2000-year- old terraces, which cascade dramatically down the mountains in a sweep of emerald green. Getting around in the Philippines is a bit of an adventure in itself. From Manila, a short flight to your destination’s nearest airport will most often be followed by a bangka or ferry ride, or a jeepney/minivan/tricycle drive – or any combination of the above. The most significant impediment to smooth travel is weather. The Philippines has a monsoonal climate and rain which can disrupt travel plans. Check regional forecasts before booking your holiday.
When you’re travelling with kids, health is everything. You’ll find pharmacies in towns and tourist hubs are usually well stocked with basic medical supplies, but it doesn’t hurt to take a simple first aid kit. Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, is prevalent in the Philippines so your best defense is to avoid being bitten. But never fear, a good repellent will sort that out. Drink bottled water, which is readily available, and indulge liberally in the ubiquitous fresh buko ( young coconut) juice straight from the shell. Kids will love the mild sweet flavour and it’s a great antidote to dehydration. A simple pleasure; one of many that awaits family travellers to this relaxed republic. www.tourismphilippines.com.au www.jparkislandresort.com
Philippine Airlines offers direct flights to Manila from Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. www.philippineairlines.com