As a tropical country, the Philippines experiences two main seasons: the wet and the dry. Temperatures are generally hotter during the wet season and cooler in the dry season, although there's monthly and regional variation. January is in the middle of the dry season. Expect temperatures of between 75°F and 88°F (23°C and 31°C) in most places. Humidity is also low this month.
There's a slim chance of typhoons affecting the Philippines in January. These usually fall later in the year, after August and before January, and can be very destructive. Keep an eye on the weather reports and avoid any areas at risk of being hit (or be prepared to change your travel plans).
Crowds & Costs
January is peak travel season in the Philippines. With excellent weather conditions and New Year vacations early in the month, popular beach resort areas can get crowded. The Philippines is generally a good-value destination, and high-quality accommodation doesn't cost as much as it might in some other places. Still, January is certainly a more expensive time of year to visit. Resorts increase their prices, and demand is tight. Make bookings well in advance if you're visiting the Philippines in January, especially the first week of the month, and expect to pay up to four times more than in the low season.
Where to Go
Practically everywhere will be an accessible and desirable destination in January. Many travelers flock to the beaches, and with around 2,000 inhabited islands making up the country, you'll be spoilt for choice. El Nido and Coron, in western Palawan, are especially popular as they're a short flight from Manila yet feel far away from the mainland. Coron is an excellent base for diving adventures (see more below), as World War II-era Japanese shipwrecks aren't far away. El Nido's white-sand beaches and karst islands and rock formations are truly spectacular.
For a more off-beat island experience, check out Camiguin Island, a short ferry ride off the northern coast of Mindanao Island. Fewer international travelers venture to this southern island, partly because of Mindanao's poor reputation for safety, but the riskiest parts of the island are the west and the south: the area around the northern city of Cagayan de Oro is quite peaceful. Pretty volcanic Camiguin offers laid-back resorts, great snorkeling, and abundant fresh seafood served in platters and eaten with the hand (which is quite a contrast to the pork-heavy cuisine popular elsewhere in the country).
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Aside from lounging on a beautiful beach, January is an excellent time to dive. The lack of rain means there's generally good visibility in the water during the dry season. Located in the Indo-Pacific Oceans' so-called "Coral Triangle," the Philippines is often among the best diving destinations in the world. Expect to see coral reefs and gardens, manta rays, whale sharks, schools of various tropical fish, giant clams, and exciting wrecks to explore. Snorkeling is also attractive if you don't (or won't) scuba dive.
Alternatively, if you're a more land-based active traveler, January is a great month to hike in the Philippines as the weather is relatively cool and quite dry. The rice terraces of Banaue in northern Luzon are perhaps the ultimate hiking destination in the Philippines. As well as enjoying incredible views of the UNESCO-listed Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces, you can meet and learn more about the Ifugao people in the area.
To combine beach and hiking activities, hone in on an area that offers the best of both worlds. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in the Philippines where gorgeous beaches are just a short journey from epic hikes. Bohol Island is one ideal destination, beloved both for its beaches and its hiking destinations. Climb jagged Osmeña Peak on a short day hike, or the unusual Chocolate Hills, so named because of the color they turn in the dry season.
Events in January
New Year's Day, nationwide. January 1 is a public holiday in the Philippines, and offices, schools, and many businesses will be closed. Plan accordingly when scheduling activities.
Feast of the Black Nazarene, Manila. A Catholic festival held on January 9 where a life-sized statue of Christ carrying his cross is paraded from 16th-century Quiapo Church around the streets. Visitors to the church at other times of the year can see the evocative statue on display.
Ati-Atihan, Kalibo, Panay Island. Sometimes referred to as the biggest festival in the Philippines (and that's saying something), this festival in the second week of January celebrates the relationship between the indigenous people and settlers with amazing colorful costumes and street dancing.
Sinulog, Cebu City. Cebu City's largest festival is held on the third Sunday in January and celebrates Santo Niño (the child Christ) with a street parade, music and dancing, and feasting.
Lunar New Year, (especially) Manila. The Lunar (often called Chinese) New Year is celebrated in late January or early February. Even many Filipinos (particularly in Manila) who aren't of Chinese descent celebrate this festival with dragon dances and street parties. Manila's Chinatown is said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world and is a good place to head for lunar new year celebrations.
Traveling to the Philippines in January? Check out these great itineraries
Discover the Philippines: Snorkeling in the Calamian Islands - 6 Days. Explore the natural wonders of the Calamian archipelago on this six-day snorkeling trip.
Diving in the Philippines: Cebu, Negros & Bohol - 9 Days. Experienced divers can enjoy the Philippines' vibrant marine biodiversity, colorful reefs, and white-sand beaches on this exciting nine-day itinerary.