It is hard to put into words how breathtakingly beautiful the Philippines is. Every single beach I saw there had white sand, jewel coloured waters. I cannot get over how amazing it was to spend time in the Philippines. The locals definitely made my experience more amazing. The Filipinos and Filipinas are so welcoming, kind, helpful, hilarious, and talented. Everyone wants to get to know you genuinely, even the lady you’re buying snacks from down the street in the middle of nowhere. Drink fresh coconut at a local’s open to air house watching the Philipino news, watch the plankton light up at night when you dig your feet into the sand, watch shooting stars on the beach, and swim with whale sharks in their natural habitat. The point of me writing this post for you is so that I can help you avoid the hiccups and frustrations I had to go through so that you can enjoy the wonders that this amazing country has to offer. This post is not going to list places (well except where I really think you should eat) to eat because as long as you go somewhere that is not touristy and overpriced you will most likely enjoy your meal, I will make a list of local dishes you can try. As for places to stay, I’ll only list the hostels that I really loved and would recommend. I have made this as condensed and easy to read as possible so that you can just hit “print” and stick it in your bag. =)
- Fresh fruit shakes in general, my favourite is watermelon
- Book your accommodation ahead of time, hostels especially will fill up.
- The Philippines is very student friendly, bring your student ID to get discounts even on public buses. Therefore the prices I list are mostly with a student discount.
Things I didn’t get the chance to do, but wish I did:
- Rice terraces in the north.
- Moal boal, diving with the sardine run.
- From the airport to your accommodation: I suggest taking an Uber. Some taxis are rigged so that the meter goes to a high amount, so to be safe an Uber is easy to hire and not expensive. There is wifi at the Manila airport, or if you want, you may unlock your phone and get a local SIM card.
- In the city: getting around in jeepneys is the easiest and cheapest way.
- The Melting Pot: I recommend this hostel because it is the sister hostel to the melting pot in El Nido which I highly recommend.
- Flights within the Philippines are relatively cheap. I found that Cebu Pacific had the cheapest prices for tickets. So the easiest way to get to Boracay is to fly from Manila to Kalibo International Airport. Then to go from Kalibo to Boracay you can buy a voucher on the plane that includes the bus ride to Caticlan Jetty Port (you can also fly to Caticlan, but Kalibo is usually cheaper to fly to), the boat ride, and a shuttle to your accommodation once you arrive on Boracay.
- Frendz Resort Boracay (hostel), or Casamso house (Frendz’s sister hostel right next door).
- From Boracay, return to Kalibo airport and fly to Cebu. Uber is the easiest way to get from the airport to the ferry terminal, and there you buy a ticket to go to Tagbilaran. Once you arrive you can take a van taxi to your accommodation, try not to get ripped off here and bargain with your driver. I would suggest staying on Panglao Island, most people visit Alona beach.
- To return to the ferry terminal, you can arrange a pickup with any an agency along the beach
The easiest thing to do to see all these sights is to book a driver with an agency, there are many stores along Alona beach that sell these. Or I have been told it is also fun to rent a motorbike and try to find these sights yourself.
- Chocolate hills
- Visit a tarsier sanctuary
- Bamboo hanging bridge
The main reason for visiting Dumaguete for me was to dive. Apo Island is known for its beautiful dive sites.
- Take a ferry from Bohol to Dumaguete. It was easy to walk from the Dumaguette ferry terminal to the hostel.
- Harold’s Mansion hostel
From doing some research and speaking to other guests, it’s recommended that you don’t take the trips organized by the hostel.
- Visit Apo Island, go snorkelling there.
- DIVE! I recommend Dumaguete Divers. The local dive sites and Apo Island are amazing. The cheapest way to get to the dive centre from the hostel is the public bus however it was hard to figure out sometimes where and when to catch, we would just catch it if we got lucky and saw it, otherwise you can share a tuktuk.
- Walk along Rizal boulevard
- Sans Rival, must try the silvanas and other pastries.
- Take a ferry from Dumaguette to Siquijor.
- To get off the island I would suggest you buy tickets the day before if you can, there are two ferry terminals you can choose from. The other one is called Larena. From Larena to Cebu the ferry leaves Tuesday and Thursday with Light Ferry (company) at 6 am, 8 am, 10 am, 1 pm or 4 pm, however unless you want to be there waiting for tickets at 6 am I suggest you go to the other terminal.
- Tori’s Paradise, they have dorm rooms available however they’re quite hot with some fans, otherwise we had a nice stay here. We actually only stayed here by accident, it is the sister hotel to Tori’s Backpacker’s Paradise
- Rent a scooter and explore the island
- Salagdoong beach, beautiful and good for cliff jumping
- Cambugahay Falls
- Old enchanted balete tree
- Lugnason falls
This island was amazing for diving with thresher sharks and to get away from tourists. You can find beautiful beaches just by walking around the island.
- Getting from Siquijor to Malapascua: I would suggest you to try to get a ferry to Cebu, we didn’t have this option because all the tickets were sold out from every company we asked. So to get from Siquijor to Cebu you can take a ferry to Dumaguete. Then take a bus from Dumaguete to Sibulan (215 pesos), ferry from Sibulan to Lilian (70 pesos). It takes about 1:45 hours to arrive in Lilian. Then the bus to Cebu City takes around 5 hours. In Cebu City go to the northern bus station, then take a bus to Maya (163 pesos) and takes around 5 hours. From there you take a Bangka (150 pesos, 1 hour), however these only run until 6 pm to Malapascua and scooter guys can take you to your resort (20 pesos). If you cannot make it there before 6 pm you can take a private Bangka. Be aware that the prices will be very inflated and you need to negotiate a better price, and the bigger the Bangka the safer, sometimes the waters get really rough at night time.
- From Malapascua to Maya, the ferry takes about 40 minutes. A bus with wifi and aircon from Maya to Cebu (160 pesos) takes around 4.5-5 hours.
- Thresher Cove Dive Resort (has dorm rooms).
- DIVE, must go diving with the thresher sharks.
- Fly to Puerto Princesa.
- Amazing Gecko Bamboo room on Airbnb.
- Nagtabon beach
- If you ask Jonathan, the host of the air bnb, he will have many suggestions for you.
This is about as small, quiet, relaxing, and most chill place to visit. It is about two small dirt roads, with limited amounts of electricity and wifi.
- Take a tuktuk from your accommodation in Puerto Princesa to the bus station. Then take a van to Port Barton (around 380 pesos).
- El Dorado Sunset Garden Resort (hostel).
- Recommended to walk to Pamuayan falls, but did not get the chance to.
- Tour A
- Mini van from Port Barton to El Nido. The fact that these mini vans are the only way to get out of Port Barton, the prices are quite high. The lowest I could get the price of this mini van to was 650 pesos and it takes about 4:15 hours.
- The Melting Pot Hostel
- Tour A and camp on a beach and tour C the next day.
- Nacpan Beach
- Las Cabanas Beach
- The Tao Experience. A bit pricey, however so many people recommended the Tao experience, it would definitely be a more pleasant experience getting from El Nido to Coron than the ferry.
- Take a ferry from El Nido to Coron.
- DIVE! World-renowned WWII ship wreck diving. I recommend Rocksteady dive centre.
- Take a private Bangka instead of doing the tours, way less crowded and you can spend whatever time you want, wherever you want. Some things I’d recommend: Kayangan Lake, twin lagoon, and barracuda lake.
- Watch the sunset on top of the hill with the “Coron” sign that looks similar to the Hollywood sign.
I came here to swim with whale sharks in their natural habitat, in Oslob the whale sharks are fed.
- You can take a ferry from Coron to Manila and then take a bus to Donsol, but if you want to take a shorter route you can also fly to Legazpi and take a mini van to Donsol from the airport (75 pesos, 1:30 hours).
- Then from Donsol back to Manila, a night bus leaves from Putiao (811 pesos, 11 hours overnight).
- Swim with whale sharks!
- Firefly watching along the river
- Diving with manta rays!
- Treks on the volcano