Pampanga, the province known for its culinary works, lies on the northern shore of Manila Bay. Its location, which is less than two kilometers away from Metro Manila, makes the province a great destination for quick trips to get away from the very busy life in the metropolis.
It is nicknamed as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines but there is more to Pampanga than just the popular foods originated in the province. It has natural and manmade attractions therefore providing fun activities for locals and tourists alike. It got another nickname as Christmas Capital of the Philippines due to the Giant Lantern Festival which celebrates the start of the Christmas season in the country.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Pampanga summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Pampanga in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Pampanga: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Pampanga …
Car for Hire
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Pampanga.
1 | Explore Mount Arayat National Park
One of the oldest national parks in the country, Mount Arayat National Park is more developed than others with its concrete trails, pools, and huts. It has a trail leading to the peak of Mount Arayat which offers the view of Pampanga River, the caldera-like crater, and the mountains of Zambales, Bataan, and Sierra Madre.
2 | Visit Candaba Bird Sanctuary
A great place to see migratory birds, Candaba Bird Sanctuary is a large piece of land that hosts different species of migratory birds such as Philippine mallard which is endemic to the Philippines. Most birds, however, have migrated from Russia and the northern parts of Asia. This haven in the town of Candaba is definitely a perfect destination for bird watching and wildlife photography.
3 | See the waterfalls in Porac
Apart from mountains, Pampanga is blessed with several waterfalls, too. The town of Porac alone has three – Miyamit Falls which boasts of its clean and potable water, Darabulbul Falls (also called Dara Falls), and Sapang Anka Falls which can be a challenge to reach. The jump-off point to Mt. Pinatubo Twin Falls is also in Porac.
4 | Spend a day of adventures at Sandbox and Sky Ranch
Sandbox is another destination in Porac which adventure junkies would love. Its roller coaster zipline is the first in Asia and its giant swing is the tallest in the Philippines. Other attractions to make the day more exciting are aerial walk, ATV/UTV rides, free fall, outdoor archery, and rappelling.
Like Sandbox, Sky Ranch in San Fernando offers a day of adrenaline rush with its wide range of rides and attractions such as Super Viking, Drop Tower, Log Flume Ride, Loop Roller Coaster, Space Shuttle, and the gigantic ferris wheel called Pampanga Eye, the tallest and biggest ferris wheel in the Philippines so far. There are kid-friendly and family rides as well so there’s surely for everyone to enjoy.
5 | Experience water slides at Aqua Planet
Aqua Planet offers another kind of thrill and adventure for adults and kids alike. With 38 slides, two wave pools, and other attractions, the theme park surely is an experience one can never forget.
6 | Sightseeing at Nayong Pilipino and Clark Museum and 4D Theater
Nayong Pilipino and Clark Museum and 4D Theater are two places in Pampanga where you can learn more about culture, heritage, and history of the Philippines, particularly the province of Pampanga.
Originally located in Pasay, Nayong Pilipino was moved to Clark Freeport Zone to expand the facilities of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay. The current theme park in Clark covers an area of 3.5 hectares and features a variety of exhibits showcasing the heritage, culture, and history of the Philippines. It has a Money Museum which features the past and present Philippine currency and a Textile Museum for local textiles as well as replicas of popular national landmarks and villages of ethnic groups.
Just a few kilometers from Nayong Pilipino is the Clark Museum and 4d Theater. With its more modern facilities, the museum focuses on the history and culture of Pampanga. It has different galleries showcasing geophysical artifacts, tools, historical memorabilia, and of course the present-day life of Kapampangans. The 4D Theater plays a documentary film about the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
7 | Visit Pradera Verde for wakeboarding experience
Pradera Verde is a recreational resort complete with relaxing villas and world-class facilities for wakeboarding and golf. Whether you are an expert wakeboarder or hoping to learn the extreme sport, there’s always a place for you since the resort has a track for every wakeboarder level. The resort also has a swimming pool and restaurant to make anyone’s stay more relaxing and fun.
8 | Take the kids to Dinosaurs Island
Add Dinosaurs Island to your itinerary when travelling with kids. Located in Mabalacat, the theme park features dinosaur animatronics with motion sensors which trigger reaction with movement around them. The park’s main attraction is the Dinosaur Trail with 26 species of dinosaurs. The trail has a jungle vibe complete with dinosaur sounds and screams for a more realistic experience. Other attractions include Dinosaur 7D Experience, Fossil Museum, Jurassic Safari, Wonders of the World Museum, and live dance show.
NOTE: The Giant Lantern Festival occurs annually in San Fernando City every December and Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta between January and February.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restuarants to try while in Pampanga.
Located in the Dycaico Ancestral house, 25 Seeds is a farm-to-table restaurant serving Filipino fusion dishes. The interior is a perfect mix of the old and new giving the place a homey ambience for everyone to enjoy. Must-try dishes include Sous Vide Duck with Adobo with Pinakbet Ratatouille, Sisig Paella, Mushroom “Tom Yum” and Fried Vegetable Dumplings, and Crispy Pork Belly with Truffled Macadamia Kare-Kare.
2 | Aling Lucing Sisig
Location: Angeles City
There’s no better place to eat sisig than Pampanga, particularly the restaurant of Aling Lucing, the woman who invented the dish and is now referred to as Sisig Queen. Made from pig’s face and belly, sisig is a staple Kapampangan cuisine and is now one of the most popular dishes in the country. Aside from the original Pork Sisig, other varieties to try include Sisig with Lechon Kawali, Bangus Sisig, Sisig with Fried Chicken, Ostrich Sisig, and Crocodile Sisig.
3 | Bale Dutung
Location: Angeles City
Bale Dutung, which means House of Wood in English, is a beautiful wooden structure with a homey ambience and is surrounded by greenery. The restaurant boasts of having three dining setups – the open kitchen, al fresco, and an air-conditioned private room that doubles as an art gallery. The restaurant, once visited by American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, is not open for walk-ins and only opens once reservations are made. Must-try dishes include Adobong Pugo, Binagoongan Sisig, Hito at Balo-Balo Sushi, Lechon Tortilla, and Tibok Tibok.
4 | Binulo Restaurant
Location: Angeles City
Binulo Restaurant specializes in Kapampangan cuisine and grilled U.S steaks which make it a great dining destination for local and foreign customers alike. The restaurant is spacious and has a nice and relaxing ambience. While the price is a bit high for local standards, the servings are generous. That and the quality of food being served makes the restaurant worth it. Some of their best dishes include Pangat na Ulang, Pork Bulanglang, Oxtail Kare-Kare, and Crispy Pata.
5 | Cafe Fleur
Location: Angeles City
Like its sister restaurant 25 Seeds, Cafe Fleur is located in an ancestral house with modern touches which appeals to those who prefer a laid back ambience. The restaurant specializes in Kapampangan cuisine with the goal of preserving the dying recipes for the younger generation. Their bestsellers are Buro and Hito, Pandan Sansrival, Pinoy Caesar Salad, Salted Egg Bibingka Cheesecake, and Tamales Pampangueña.
6 | Matam-ih Authentic Kapampangan Cuisine
Location: Angeles City
Matam-Ih, Aeta word for delicious, is living up to its name with its authentic Kapampangan dishes. The restaurant has a combination of traditional Filipino and African art decors. What makes this restaurant unique from the others is the cooperation of Aeta and Abelling tribe members employed as staff and servers. Their best sellers are Adobong Pusit, Begukan Babi (pork sauteed in shrimp paste), Kare-kareng Iking Baka, and Sisig Babi.
7 | Piccolo Padre
Location: Angeles City
One of the few Italian restaurants in Pampanga, Piccolo Padre is a fine dining restaurant serving not only Italian dishes but Western cuisine as well. Its Venetian design and interiors make the restaurant a perfect place for romantic and elegant dinners. Its Italian Chef Dan Giampaolo is the man behind those delectable dishes including Ahi Katsu, Piccolo Padre’s Maine Lobster Tails, and Ossobuco Alla Milanese.
8 | Susie’s Cuisine
Location: Angeles City and San Fernando
It doesn’t look much but Susie’s Cuisine is one of the most visited food establishments in Pampanga as it is also a one-stop pasalubong center where you can find a variety of Kapampangan delicacies. What started out as a small carinderia is now a favorite gastronomic destination for its pancit luglug (a noodle dish), tibok-tibok (dessert made of carabao milk), and other Filipino dishes.
9 | The Souq
Location: San Fernando
Inspired by Souk Madinat in Dubai, The Souq has a variety of dining settings. One area is glamorous, another is more casual and rustic, and the small garden has a cozy setup perfect for intimate events. The restaurant initially served Arabic and international dishes and later on included Filipino dishes with a twist to cater to customers craving for Filipino flavors.
KNOWN FOR:Sisig, a Kapampangan dish made from parts of pork and usually seasoned with pepper, onions and calamansi.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Pampanga.
1 | Clark Imperial Hote (Budget)
2 | Central Park Tower Resort (Mid-Range)
3 | Widus Hotel and Casino (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay in Pampanga or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
AVERAGE DAILY COST
Average Daily Cost: $42
Average Daily Cost: $90
Average Daily Cost: $240
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Pampanga, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
The following are our Top 10 most useful travel apps on our smartphones when traveling in the Philippines:
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling in Pampanga or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.
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