The Philippines has been high on my list for a about 5 years! So I thought it was about time I jumped the gun, and went all in on a trip I’d been daydreaming about for way too long.
With like a million (or closer to 7,000 islands) the hardest part was – where to start? Which is probably what has brought you to my little blog today! I’m not going to go into the specific details of where I ate each day or how many jager bombs I shouldn’t have had each day, but I think I nailed the 2 week itinerary and I hope it works for you too.
HOW TO GET THERE
You’re going to want to fly into Manila or Cebu which are the two biggest airports. I decided on Manila due to flight pricing from Australia and flew with Cebu Pacific. It’s a pretty budget airline who don’t accept credit card on board (I know WTF) so if you don’t mind a sneaky snack or you like to snuggle a blanket on a long flight – remember to take these with you.
Stay 1 – 2 nights
.. is a city. I stayed at Z Hostel in Makati which was nice enough and opted for a private room. There’s a rooftop bar which actually wasn’t too noisy, and it’s in an area of the city that felt safe and really close to restaurants and shopping. To be honest I just wondered around and ate food – I was just busting to get out to the islands.
CORON – Palawan
Stay 2 – 3 nights
Now this is where the fun begins. I flew from Manila to Coron with SkyJet – it took about an 1.5 hours and cost about $70 AUD, cheap as chips. Once I arrived I hopped on a shuttle bus which had the name of my accommodation on the sign, it was all really simple and I didn’t pre-book. Upon arriving at Hop Hostel I felt like I was back on the Greek Islands – blue and white everywhere and really nice, brand new facilities. They offered free dinner every night, some of the beds were double beds (pretty much unheard of in hostel land), and the rooftop had a great atmosphere – where the sunsets are to die for.
For day 2 I decided on a boat tour that shouldn’t be missed, and forced someone from the rooftop bar to join me (sucker!) It’s called ‘Coron Island Hopping’ and I just booked it through by hostel I think it was about $60 AUD for a full day on the water, transfers to and from my accommodation, buffet lunch and some of the best places I’ve ever seen .. don’t take my word for it – have a look at these photos 😉
EL NIDO – Palawan (take me back there right now!)
Stay 3 – 6 nights
El Nido absolutely took my breath away. Now you can either get a 3 hour ferry over from Coron or be all fancy and fly (which is obviously what I did) – the flights was only $50 AUD with Air Swift and took about 45 minutes.
When I arrived at the tiny airport I thought – shit, I should have booked a transfer but it was all fine. There are motorised tricycles ready to go, that even fit my huge suitcase. I was tossing up between two accommodation options in El Nido and after chatting to other travellers I wish I had enough time to stay at both, but I chose Outpost Beach Hostel on Corong Corong beach and loved every minute. It’s one of those hostels where you walk in and feel right at home. The staff were super friendly, the food was delicious and every incredible sunset was accompanied by a free shot to really kick off the night. Probably the only negative (which didn’t bother me at all) was that the party would finish up at around 10pm, then you’d have to head into town – for anyone who knows me, you would already know that I never made it into town!
You can’t miss the boat tours in El Nido and I booked mine through my accommodation – the tour guide at Outpost are hilarious and add to the experience. I did tour A+B which also had small lagoon included .. try not to book a holiday immediately after seeing these photos!
Other highlights from my time in El Nido ..
Stay 3 – 5 nights
After El Nido it was on to Cebu another quick (and cheap) flight. I decided not to stay in Cebu City and go further south as this is where you’ll find the whale sharks and the famous falls. To get down south it can take 3 – 5 hours and you can travel by bus / van or if you think you’re a ‘baller like me, a taxi! $100 AUD later, a few too many toilet stops and some imodium and I arrived.
I stayed at Noordzee Hostel which is a great hostel – unfortunately there were not many other guests there so it didn’t quite have the vibe I was looking for If I was to go again I would probably stay in Moalboal. Luckily I met a lovely Irish mate who joined me on my ventures .. you know when you meet those people and you just instantly know they’re one of the good ones – that was her!
To get around didn’t seem very easy but after chatting to a friend I took a risk and went for a bit of a wander up the street looking for a driver. I met ‘Migsy’ and he took me into his house for a water, I met his wife and children, we negotiated a price and we were set. I know this doesn’t sound safe, but I felt safe and would do it again in a second.
Whale Sharks – Oslob
There is a lot of negative feedback about this experience online and I would encourage you to do your own research, however I felt OK with how how everything was run and the way the sharks were respected. When you’re waiting to get in the water it feels like a bit of a tourist trap .. then you jump in and WOW! I was full of so much adrenaline afterwards that I almost had a little vom – it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences I’ll never forget. Even though I look super close in these photos I always kept the minimum 4m distance and I didn’t see any other swimmers touching the sharks.
Kawasan Falls – Badian
Another one of those places you see all over Instagram and you think hmm is it really that nice? Is the water really that blue? Well, the answer is YES. The falls are incredible and it’s only a short walk between each one which makes it even better for a lazy traveller like me. There were quite a lot of tourists but it was actually a lot more quiet than I thought it would be and I still managed to get some great photos and have a nice relaxing swim. If you like adventure I would recommend doing the canyoneering tour.
Stay 2 – 3 nights
Boracay was the first place I heard about in the Philippines and I was so excited to finally travel here. Unfortunately, they did have to close the island for a 6 month period in 2018 to rebuild and fix the recycling and wastage systems. A lot of the beachfront was rebuilt and ready to go, but there is still a lot of work to be done (I went in December 2018 – 2 months after re-opening.)
This was also probably one of the hardest islands to get to – they made it an easy process but it included a flight (from Cebu to Caticlan airport), followed by a bus ride to the marina, then a boat ride to the island and another car ride from there to the main part of town.
I decided to have a few days of luxury and booked a stay at Ferra Hotel and Garden Suites and I couldn’t recommend this place enough. The rooms were luxurious and a great size, the rooftop pool area was stunning with great views and the staff were so attentive .. they even took me to McDonalds in the middle of the night to pig out, absolute legends!! I also checked out Mad Monkey Boracay so if you’re on a budget that’s your best bet, they have a great vibe and cheap drinks.
- Book your flights in advance – I know it’s hard sometimes when you’re winging it but if you wait until you’re there the prices will jump from roughly $50 AUD between in each island to up to $300!!
- Go in with an open mind. Remember the Philippines is still a developing country and things can sometimes take longer than usual or there might be slight issues, just roll with it and enjoy the ride.
- Tip the locals and feed the street animals – if you can afford a holiday to the Philippines you already have way more money than they do – spread the love.
- Lastly, there is a photo opportunity around every corner. Don’t spend so much time taking photos and trying to remember the trip that you forget to enjoy it!