The Philippines' charm stems largely from three characteristics: ancient cultures, natural beauty, and overwhelmingly friendly people. A visit to the beach is a must. Swimming with whale sharks is highly recommended (and completely safe). Island-hopping trips among the thousands of uninhabited islands are surprisingly affordable. A visit to a village where life has remained essentially the same for millennia—such as to Batad, set among rice terraces inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List—is a unique and humbling experience. Hospitality is an important part of Filipino culture, and if you socialize with locals you're likely to be invited to a home-cooked family dinner.