Leyte is home to two of the most famous events in Philippine history. First, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of World War II. It took place from 23-26 October 1944 between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Second, a promise that involves Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Red Beach in Palo – a site known more for its history than its shoreline. Allied Forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned here on 20 October 1944 to aid the Philippines against the Japanese invasion, fulfilling his oft-quoted promise, “I shall return.” That moment is commemorated by the Leyte Landing Memorial that stands at Red Beach today.

Apart from its historical sites, Leyte is also a good jump-off point to find some isolated isles that look straight out of the pages of a travel magazine. Kalanggaman Island in Palompon is the quintessential tropical island, where gradient blue waters lap peacefully at fine sugary sand.

Cuatro Islas (“Four Islands”) in Inopacan and Hindang are another pretty bunch. Of these islands, Digyo is a standout: palm trees, clear waters, and barely any other tourists in sight. Snorkel in its shimmering waters to swim amongst corals and fish.

Another great place for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking—and yes, camping—can be found in Canigao Island off the municipality of Matalom.  Its assets: beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters.

Prefer sports to solitude? Head to Tanauan, the birthplace of skimboarding in the Philippines and host to annual national skimboarding competitions.

The Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park may also pique your interest. Here you can trek and picnic surrounded by lush foliage, visit hot springs, take a boat ride across a lake, or trek to volcanic craters.

In the course of your sightseeing, don’t forget to sample some local specialties. Two of the most popular are binagol, a mix of talyan (a local root crop), coconut milk, and sugar steamed inside coconut shells; and moron, glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and flavored with cocoa.

Other favorite native delicacies are the pastillas de leche, made from pure cow’s milk and roscas, a traditional rusk bread especially baked by the women of Barugo. It is made from egg yolk, wheat flour, milk, shortening, and flavored with anise seeds.