Not Your Usual Trip: Cycling, Sailing & Paragliding in the Philippines

Not Your Usual Trip: Cycling, Sailing & Paragliding in the Philippines

Craving for an adventure in Southeast Asia? Here’s one destination that will definitely deliver.

White sand beaches, refreshing tropical fruits, and the friendliest of faces — just some of the things that are most commonly associated with the Philippines. While these certainly give the Southeast Asian country its incomparable charm, that’s not everything it has to offer. The tropical paradise may be almost synonymous with the idea of a relaxing getaway, but it’s also got all the makings of an adventure-filled vacation.

philippines scenic cycling routes

Image credit: Jpsarabiawiki

Yes, you read that right: If you thought you’ve seen and done it all in the Philippines, think again. Besides mountain climbing, snorkelling, and diving, there are many more exciting ways to see and experience the archipelago — whether by land, sea, or even up in the air. Craving for an adventure in the Philippines? Try cycling, sailing, or paragliding; these outdoor activities will treat you to the country’s best views, along with more than enough excitement to get your adrenaline pumping!

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Paragliding: take your Philippine adventure to greater heights — literally

How about bringing your Crash Landing on You fantasies to life? The iconic 2020 K-drama got a lot of people curious about paragliding — so, imagine what a pleasant surprise it was for locals to discover that you can actually enjoy paragliding in the Philippines!

If you haven’t tried yet, paragliding involves gliding through the air with the help of a wide canopy similar to a parachute. And while it may be an extreme sport, anyone, regardless of expertise level, can enjoy it by going on a tandem flight. Basically, this requires a paraglider wing big enough to fly two people; here, a passenger will be strapped in together with a licensed pilot, who’ll handle all the flying! All you need to do? Enjoy the view!

However, if you want to learn the ins and outs of paragliding yourself, you can definitely do that here, too. In fact, paragliding is bigger in the Philippines than you’d probably imagine — so much so that the country even has its own Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association, which was established in 2010. Pretty neat, right? That said, if you’re a first-timer experiencing any fears or hesitations with regard to paragliding, you can rest assured that you’ll be in safe hands with licensed paragliding instructors should you try out the sport in the Philippines.

Where to go paragliding in the Philippines

South Cotabato

Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines

Lake Sebu | Image credit: Camille Morales via Canva Pro

When you hear South Cotabato, it’s almost always in conjunction with Lake Sebu,  the province’s most popular tourist destination and home to the indigenous T’boli and Ubo tribes. Apart from the stunning lake that it gets its name from, the town is also a known adventure destination, boasting a whopping seven waterfalls. And what’s more, it’s also a popular go-to for paragliding!

With an accredited operator like SOX Paragliding Adventure, witness a bird’s-eye view of Lake Sebu and its jaw-dropping vistas. Prepare to be awed: from above, the greenery seems to go on almost endlessly. 

In addition to paragliding, the province has a whole lot to offer to tourists — lakes, waterfalls, plantations, stunning textiles, and attractions that showcase meaningful traditions passed down from generation to generation. To add to all that, it’s also a known destination for ziplining and canoeing. That said, when you come to South Cotabato, don’t just stay for the paragliding — make a whole trip out of it!

Where to stay in South Cotabato

Grand Summit Hotel

Image credit: Grand Summit General Santos | Official Website

Craving an upscale escape? Look no further than Grand Summit Hotel, a 4-star hotel and a winner of the prestigious 2023 Travel Excellence Awards – Rising Star. This luxurious haven puts your right at the heart of General Santos, offering a taste of the grand lifestyle the city is known for.

Experience unmatched hospitality at Grand Summit — from luxuriously kept rooms and suites to top-notch amenities, every detail is designed with comfort and enjoyment in mind. Whether you’re in town for business or leisure, unwind, recharge, and make the most of your stay in this sanctuary of relaxation.

Near Manila (Cavite, Rizal)

Paragliding in Cardona, Rizal | Image credit: High 5 Paragliding Official Facebook Page

Great news for adventure seekers visiting Manila: It’s totally possible to go paragliding near the city! We’ve talked about Rizal and how it’s loved for its fresh air and overlooking nature views — so how about enjoying these scenes from a bird’s-eye point of view?

Rizal is home to several flying sites operated by High 5 Paragliding: Binangonan-Cardona, which overlooks Laguna Lake; Pililla, also known for its beautiful windmills; and San Mateo, where you’ll enjoy views of Metro Manila and the mountains of Rizal

Note: Because paragliding is a highly weather-dependent sport, fly sites open on a seasonal schedule. Binangonan Rizal is open for paragliding from October to June, while you can choose between Pililla or San Mateo from June to September.

Sarangani

For paragliding enthusiasts, a visit to Sarangani is a must; it has been named one of the Philippines’ top paragliding destinations and is particularly popular among foreign tourists. Moreover, adventure-seekers will be pleased to learn that the province is also a known go-to for diving and river tubing! How’s that for an action-packed trip?

Also read: Philippines Reopens to Fully Vaccinated Foreign Tourists — Entry Requirements + Tips Here!

If you’re up for the full paragliding experience as a beginner, look no further than Soar High Paragliding Adventure’s seven-day paragliding course. A crowd favourite among the operator’s offerings, the course will allow you to learn the ropes and enjoy Sarangani’s scenic vistas for a whole week — the perfect excuse to go for it, if you ask us.

Must-knows before your paragliding excursion

First time to go paragliding in the Philippines — or in general? Fret not, here are a few tips and reminders to get you physically and mentally prepared for this exciting adventure:

  1. Book your paragliding activity only with an accredited paragliding facility and/or a licensed instructor. Sure, there might be a YouTube tutorial for everything — but nothing beats learning firsthand from the experts. Since you’ll be up in the air, you’ll definitely want to be assured that you’re in safe hands!
  2. Check the weather forecast. This particular activity is highly dependent on the weather, and specific locations operate only during the dry season, while others are only open during the wet season. Be sure to double-check with your chosen operator beforehand.
  3. If you’re planning to take photos, you’re welcome to bring your own camera. Just take note that there’s a weight limit that ranges from about 90kg to 120kg, depending on the weather. (Takeoff is more difficult, particularly with heavier passengers, when there isn’t enough wind.) GoPros are also available for an added fee.
  4. The best time to fly would be in the morning, from 7am to 12nn or in the afternoon, from 3pm to 5pm. 
  5. Dress appropriately; shorts and slippers are highly discouraged.
  6. You’re welcome to bring your own helmet if you prefer, although these can be provided.
  7. Expect sunny weather — pack sunscreen and drinking water as needed.
  8. Don’t forget to pack your medicine if you tend to suffer from motion sickness!

Cycling in the Philippines: your ticket to fresh air, scenic views, and some much-needed cardio

Cycling has always been big in the Philippines, both as a leisure and fitness activity. From biking tours to long-distance cycling events, you’ll find a wide range of biking-related activities to try around the country — as long as you know the right places to look. With biking being more popular in the Philippines nowadays than ever, though, this certainly won’t be a challenge!

Because biking has easily been one of the most “COVID-friendly” ways to travel and exercise in the last few years, there’s been a significant rise in the number of cyclists in the country. Who can blame these new cyclists for wanting to join the club, after all? Cycling is an affordable and practical mode of transportation — plus, a great opportunity to get some fresh air, take in beautiful scenery, and even get a workout while you’re at it.

The best thing about this growing interest in cycling in the country? A subsequent increase in bike paths, scenic cycling routes, and bike-friendly destinations in the Philippines. Wondering where to go cycling on your next trip? Keep reading to find out.

Best places to go cycling in the Philippines

Metro Manila

Bambike, Intramuros, Manila Philippines

Bambike ecotour in Intramuros | Image credit: Bambike Ecotours Official Instagram Page

The Philippine capital itself is slowly becoming quite the bike-friendly destination — in fact, you can actually tour Intramuros, one of Manila’s most popular attractions, on a bamboo bike! If you haven’t explored Old Manila just yet, an ecotour with Bambike deserves a spot on your to-do list.

Apart from this historic tour, you’ll get to find other scenic bike trails within the metropolis. For instance, there’s La Mesa Nature Reserve, a rainforest tucked within Quezon City. Filled with lush greens, it provides cyclists with a welcome break from the buzz of city life.

Near Manila: Bulacan, Pampanga, and Rizal

So, here’s the cool thing about visiting Manila: There are so many must-visit destinations that are just a road trip away! When in the Philippine capital, cyclists will want to take advantage of its proximity to provincial locations that boast scenic views, fresh air, and more adventure-worthy bike routes.

Also read: 17 Best Day Trips From Manila if You Need a Break From the City

Ipo Dam, Bulacan

Ipo Dam, Bulacan | Image credit: Richard Ernest Yap via Canva Pro

North of Manila, Bulacan is home to several dams and water reservoirs, which also happen to double as excellent biking trails. Among them are Ipo Dam and Angat Rainforest Eco Park, which is responsible for about 90% of Manila’s water supply. If you’re looking for biking routes near Manila that are set in the middle of nature, Bulacan is certainly not to be missed.

West of Bulacan, you’ll find Pampanga, hailed the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines.” For a trip where cycling meets mouth-watering cuisine, look no further than this province — because don’t the best biking excursions end with good food? In Pampanga, popular cycling trails and destinations include Pampanga River Delta, Clark Freeport Zone, and Sta. Rita Eco Park.

Pililla Wind Farm, Rizal, Philippines

Pililla Wind Farm, Rizal | Image credit: bugking88 via Canva Pro

Finally, east of Manila, there’s also Rizal, a landlocked province just a little over an hour’s drive away. Locals love Rizal for its mountains and waterfalls — which, yes, you can definitely cycle your way to! When visiting the province, add these bike-friendly spots to your itinerary: Wawa Dam for nature scenes; Pililla Wind Farm, where you’ll find Instagram-worthy windmills; Mt. Balabag for those looking for a mix of hiking and cycling; and the Laiban-Daraitan Trail for seasoned cyclists prepared to bike through rivers and rockier terrains

Also read: 10 Bike Trails in and Near Quezon City

Iloilo

Iloilo Esplanade in the Philippines

Cyclists along Iloilo Esplanade | Image credit: Iloilo City Government Official Facebook Page

Fun fact: Iloilo was awarded “Most Bike-Friendly City” in 2018. Truly deserving of the award, the city is known to have more bike lanes than the average city, and even hosts a number of cycling events, including an annual bike festival. What’s more, the city government actually has plans to interlink all of its existing bike lanes for easier and safer mobility for cyclists. Talk about a bike-friendly city!

So, where does one go biking in Iloilo? Well, here’s the thing about the city proper: It’s one of the only places in the Philippines where citizens can travel almost anywhere by bicycle. So, there’s certainly no shortage of places to cycle in the city. But if you’re looking for scenic, photo op-worthy routes, we can certainly name a few.

Calle Real, Iloilo, Philippines

Calle Real, Iloilo City | Image credit: Ryomaandres

Iloilo Esplanade is a bike-friendly park located along Iloilo River, and stretches over 5km. There’s also Aquino Avenue, a 4km-long protected lane that was designed by an award-winning landscape architect named Paulo Alcarazen. This particular bike route connects two of Iloilo’s municipalities, Molo and Jaro. Plus, if you’re up for a cultural tour, make sure to check out Calle Real, also known as JM Basa Street. This 10km route in downtown Iloilo will take you to a number of cultural sites that include Plaza Libertad, Museo Iloilo, and the Old Iloilo Provincial Jail. 

Also read: My Great Escape: 8 Fun Facts You Should Know About the Philippines’ Iloilo

Davao

Lantaw Dabaw in Davao, Philippines

The viewpoint at Lantaw Dabaw | Image credit: Lantaw Dabaw Datu Dagku View Official Facebook Page

If there’s one thing Davao is known for, it would have to be its mountain peaks. After all, it’s home to Mount Apo — the highest mountain and volcano in the Philippines. That said, you can definitely expect to go on a few nature rides around this province!

Davao City, the province’s capital city, is an emerging cyclists’ destination. Plans for historical and cultural bike tours are currently in place, and this can easily be attributed to the popularity of the city’s existing cycling trails. One of the best-loved would have to be Lantaw Dabaw, an elevated bike stop in Calinan that overlooks Davao City and Davao del Norte. With such commanding views, it’s easily one of the most gorgeous spots in Davao — so don’t forget to bring your cameras.

Over in Davao Del Sur, there’s also the Nenita Trail, also known as the Catigan Trail, in Toril. Particularly favoured among the more adventurous, this biking path will take you along unpaved terrains and rustic landscapes.

Top tips for the ultimate cycling experience

For the best experience while cycling in the Philippines, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Depending on whether you’re going on a short- or long-distance cycling trip, be sure you’re equipped with the right kind of bike. Make sure you’re using a bike built to withstand the distance and terrain you’ll be crossing, so as to avoid any accidents. You can rent, buy a brand new bike, or purchase a secondhand one, depending on your needs.
  2. Equip yourself with the necessary safety gear — a helmet, plus other essentials for long-term bikers like a lock, horn, and lights. 
  3. Dress appropriately. You’ll want to be dressed in bike-friendly clothes to ensure that you feel comfortable throughout your cycling trip.
  4. Know the basic biking hand signals, and make sure to use these to protect yourself and your fellow bikers from running into accidents.
  5. Cycle with a friend or with a group. It’s not just a great way to make friends — it’ll also be a great way to ask for tips and help when necessary.
  6. Always pack the essentials: masks, water, hand sanitiser, first aid, and anything else you might need on your cycling excursion.

Sailing: soak in awe-inspiring sights while relaxing at sea

Home to over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is particularly famous for its breathtaking beaches. So, it pretty much goes without saying that water sports are among the most exciting things to do here. But apart from the usual — snorkelling, kayaking, scuba diving, to name a few — sailing is definitely one of the best ways to take in the tropical scenery.

Whether it’s on a bangka (a Filipino sailboat), a speedboat, or a luxury yacht, a sailing trip offers the perfect excuse to kick back, relax, and enjoy the view; and when you’re in the Philippines, there are countless views to choose from. Our favourite way to sail, though, would have to be on a bangka — promising an adventure that’s equal parts relaxing and thrilling, sailing in the Philippines, local-style, is an experience unlike any other!

Top sailing locations in the Philippines

Boracay

Image credit: R.M. Nunes via Canva Pro

Given that Boracay is one of the most — if not the most — popular islands in the country, it doesn’t come as a surprise that it’s one of the best places to go sailing in the Philippines. In fact, sunset sailing on a paraw (a type of bangka or traditional Filipino sailboat) is actually among the top things to do in Boracay!

boracay paraw sailing rentals

Sunset paraw sailing | Image credit: Galitskaya via Canva Pro

A ride typically lasts between an hour to an hour and a half; you’ll get to enjoy views of the island with the wind in your hair, plus a stop in the middle of the ocean for some swimming or snorkelling. While you can go paraw sailing from the morning until the afternoon, the most recommended time is right before sunset, so you can take advantage of the sunset scenes during the peak of your sailing trip!

Tip: Along the island’s famous White Beach, simply walk along the shore and look for an accredited operator to help you schedule a paraw sailing appointment; you can also ask your hotel’s front desk for booking assistance.

Palawan

Image credit: Tao Philippines Official Facebook Page

Named one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Palawan is yet another excellent destination for sailing in the Philippines. Hop aboard a balatik, a native wooden sailboat fit for sailing expeditions, and see some of the island paradise’s most spectacular attractions. Tao Philippines is particularly known for their 74-foot balatik, said to be the largest paraw in the country. The boat is available for private chartering — so if you’re planning to go sailing with a group of friends, this is an experience you won’t want to say no to!

Image credit: lanolan via Canva Pro

You can take your pick of itineraries that include a day tour, an overnight trip, or a 3D2N sailing experience. The shortest trip will take you island hopping around Daracuton Bay in El Nido; the longest one will tour you through Bacuit Bay, the coast of El Nido, and to Baracuton Bay — plus an overnight stay at a remote island basecamp. The packages also include meals, as well as kayaking and snorkelling activities!

Cebu

Sailing in Mactan, Cebu | Image credit: Albert Paran via Canva Pro

The province of Cebu is known for a lot of things: rich history, breathtaking waterfalls, beautiful islands, and delicious cuisine. To add to that, it’s also been named among the best islands in Asia, along with Boracay and Palawan.

For some of the best sailing in Cebu, head to the renowned Mactan Island — or if you’re more into quiet, underrated destinations, add Moalboal to your list. The great thing about staying at the former is that it makes for an excellent jumping-off point for visiting more of Cebu’s neighbouring islands that include Sumilon, Bantayan, and Malapascua, to name a few.

Moalboal, Cebu | Image credit: Lindstrm

Moalboal, on the other hand, is a small town located a few hours away from Cebu City. One of the most popular things to do here is sail to Pescador Island, one of Cebu’s top diving destinations. It’s also famous for the Sardine Run — a phenomenon where millions of sardines swim together in a group — which you can witness just 30 metres off the coast of Panagsama Beach! 

All you need to know for a smooth sailing adventure

Ready for your sailing adventure in the Philippines? Before anything else, check out these tips to help you prepare for your trip:

  1. Sail only with a licensed company or an experienced sailor.
  2. Bring your cameras (with protective casing, if necessary) and other waterproof equipment!
  3. If you’re going on a day trip, make sure to bring water and stay hydrated.
  4. Pack your motion sickness medicine if necessary.

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Brought to you by Tourism Promotions Board – Philippines. 

About Author

Gabriella Salud
Gabriella Salud

With the intention of pursuing a career in medicine, Gaby got her bachelor of science degree in psychology—and proceeded to follow her passion for writing instead. A former editorial assistant at Metro Society magazine, she loves to hear people's stories and tell them through her writing.

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