If you’re reading this, then chances are you are planning a trip to The Philippines. Or you’re just being nosey. Or you’re enjoying my posts which is a good sign so… Welcome to The Ultimate Philippines Itinerary.
I guarantee that you will have the most amazing time in The Phillies. We’re going to call it that for short now because it’s easier. It is one of the most beautiful, picturesque and friendliest countries that I’ve ever visited! It is also surprisingly easy to get around too, which for us is one big bonus.
We face one main issue with The Phillies, and that is the fact you can stay here for a maximum of 30 days. I guess if you want to faff around with a visa run then you can stay for longer, but for the sake of this itinerary, we’re going to whizz around the islands in 30 days or less.
Trouble is, you physically cannot see all of The Phillies. I mean, you can but you’d be exhausted. I will go through everywhere that I visited, where I stayed, what I did and how long I stayed in each place for. What I’ll also do is suggest some places that you could visit as alternatives, or if you wanted to slot them in between places… you get the drift. Let us begin!
Oh, Manila. You’ll most likely fly into Manila, get off the plane, leave the airport and think… Where the hell am I? Do not worry good Sir, the rest of The Phillies will not be this ugly. Granted, Manila has a certain charm some might say. However, I’ve heard that it’s not the safest city to stay in, especially in certain areas or after sunset.
Manila is a gateway to the rest of The Phillies, so you can fly to just about anywhere. Following this itinerary, your next destination will be Coron. We flew into Manila on a Thursday, and the cheapest way to get to Coron is via a ferry named 2GO. These ferries depart from Manila every Tuesday and Friday so it would be best if you could book a flight arriving a Tuesday or Friday morning or if you want to be safe, the night before the ferry.
Accommodation: The Wings Transit Lounge, Manila Airport Terminal 3.
Duration of stay: 1 night.
Manila To Coron
The best way to guarantee your passage to Coron is to pre-book your tickets via the 2GO official website. There are a range of accommodation choices which vary in price, just bear in mind you depart at 1:30 pm and arrive in Coron the following day at 4:30 am so… choose wisely. We opted for a shared cabin with an en-suite which was surprisingly comfortable. Treat yo’ self. After your (hopefully) safe voyage, you will arrive in Coron, tired and weary eyed and BOOM the taxi men are going to scam you. Anywhere within the main harbour area of Coron should cost around 20 pesos per person. Not… 100… pesos. I heard that this guy I once knew was stupid enough to pay that.
Anyways, Coron is pretty cool! It is from here that you can do the infamous Island Hopping! There are heaps of companies there when you walk around the town that offer different packages, all are pretty much the same price. Honestly, the Island Hopping is incredible, you HAVE to do it. We did an ultimate tour which was 8 stops including lunch in a hut in the middle of the ocean! The scenery is absolutely stunning and the marine life is incredible. I can promise that you won’t see anywhere in the world that comes close to Coron’s Island Hopping.
You can also climb Mt.Tapyas, but be warned, it’s pretty steep but should take around 25 minutes to reach the top.
TIP: don’t pay for a town tour! Google the stops and do it yourself for free! Or maybe I should write a blog on that…
Accommodation: Seahorse Guest House.
Duration of stay: 3 nights
Coron To El Nido
When you’re walking around Coron, you’ll see quite a few signs offering transport to El Nido, which is your next stop. Please people, love yourselves and do not take the slow boat. They’ll tell you it will take 5 hours but trust me when I say it will take you 8 hours, with no protection from the waves and all you’ll have to sit on is a wooden bench. Pay the extra couple hundred pesos and you’ll be there in 3 hours and have a comfortable seat, inside and with air-con. Much better! Don’t bother haggling because everyone pays the same price for the fast boat. The boat we used was called El Negro and leaves every day from Coron.
As you sail into El Nido, it is very impressive. You’ll be surrounded by dramatic cliffs and turquoise waters - it looks like something from Avatar! In all fairness, El Nido can be a bit of a tourist trap but it is definitely still worth the visit. We stayed a little out of the main stretch for a cheaper price, but I would advise not to stay at Leonides Budget Hotel. El Nido is also famous for it’s Island Hopping and we decided to book two tours, A & B. Again, any tour operator that you find will offer a similar price. Tour A takes you to the most popular spots, such as Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Small Lagoon (there’s a lot of lagoons), whereas tour B was a couple of caves, Snake Island and more stunning destinations. They’re well worth the money and the lunch buffet was great! The lagoons are magnificent and you can hire kayaks to explore them in which is well worth it.
El Nido is also great to explore on a scooter. There is one main road that goes in a circle and loops back to central El Nido and I would 100% recommend this! The views are insane and you drive through so many local villages! On this loop road are Makinit Hot Springs, NacPan beach and Nagkalit Waterfalls. Just wear lots of suncream because I burnt my hands like an idiot.
Accommodation: A tent, a palm tree, the beach… anywhere but Leonides Budget Hotel.
Duration of stay: 4 nights
El Nido to Puerto Princesa
Similar to Coron, you’ll see signs for transport to Puerto Princesa all around El Nido. 15 minutes from the main strip (by trike) is the El Nido bus station. You can easily just rock up and buy a bus ticket but you might have to wait if you want a bus with air-con. We used Cherry Bus and it took us a lovely 8 hours drive. To be fair they normally play a movie or two and the view is pretty cool. Try and make yourself as comfy as possible.
We didn’t really have an interest in staying in Puerto Princesa very long. We stayed for two nights and that was more than enough. It’s a big dirty city with a mall if you’re into that. There’s also the Underground River, but we’d read reviews that it was quite underwhelming and dark. I should probably justify why you’re going to Puerto Princesa. It’s from here where you’ll fly to your next destination, Cebu.
Accommodation: Fanta Lodge.
Duration of stay: 1/2 nights.
Puerto Princesa to Cebu
From PP to Cebu I think it takes around an hour. Book your flights with Cebu Pacific and try to book them well in advance for the best deal. Again, Cebu city is a bit of a stop off place and you’ll be coming back here for another flight later.
We stayed for just one night and then headed to the bus terminal the next day. We stayed at Residencia Lourdes which was one of the best hotels we stayed at in The Phillies! Large rooms, good price and bangin’ wifi. Its only downfall is that it’s miles from anywhere, so we ended up eating a bag of crisps for dinner… gross.
Accommodation: Residencia Lourdes.
Duration of stay: 1 night
Cebu to Oslob
Yet another bus ride, young ones! Grab a taxi (haha, if you know, you know) and head to the South Bus Terminal. Literally, if you say South Bus Terminal the guy will know where to go. Once you get there, track someone down in the terminal and ask for Oslob and they’ll point you in the right direction. Buses to Oslob run pretty frequently and I think the bus is called Bato via Oslob.
I’ll tell you this now so you’re not bewildered when you get on the bus. Take a seat and wait for the ticket man to come round and he’ll ask you where you’re going. Show him your hotel address and they’ll probably stop outside your door. He has this weird, prehistoric ticket hole puncher and he’ll hand you some slips of paper and walk off. This just tells you the price, and later he’ll do another lap of the bus and collect payment.
Oslo is a vast contrast to Cebu city! The drive down the coast is amazing, I felt like I was in the Bahamas! The coast is lined with whitewashed guest houses and dotted with tall palm trees. You’ll be coming to Oslob for one reason, and one reason only. To swim with Whale Sharks. Over the past couple of years, this has become quite the controversy. All I’ll say is that if you want to do it, then do it. It truly is a magical, breathtaking experience. If you don’t then that’s cool, just skip out Oslob and forget I ever said anything. If you want more info on this then shoot me an email.
If you stay at Germaroze, then honestly, it is the cutest place that we stayed in The Phillies! It is a large converted house on the sea front with a pool. We didn’t really see anyone else staying there and practically had the place to ourselves! The room was decorated in a ‘boutique’ style and the wifi was also really good. There are some Island Hopping trips available here and also a waterfall, however, I’d recommend doing some research on these as I’m not sure if they’ll be as impressive as Coron and El Nido.
Accommodation: Germaroze Guest House.
Duration of stay: 2 nights
Oslob to Moalboal
If you don’t wait to see the Whale Sharks then skip out Oslob and from the South Terminal get a bus to Moalboal instead. If you’re going to Moalboal from Oslob, then catch the bus from outside Germaroze and get off at Bato Bus Terminal. From Bato, get on another bus to Moalboal. Moalboal is quite the tourist destination, however, it’s not mega built up.
It is well worth renting a scooter and heading to possibly the most famous waterfalls in Cebu, Kawasan Falls. It’s about a half hour scooter ride to the falls and then a 20-minute walk to the falls themselves. It’s worth renting a locker when you’re there to put your valuables in. The falls are beautiful and the water is the bluest I’ve ever seen! It’s possibly also the coldest I’ve ever swam in too. Be warned it gets very busy here so I’d recommend coming as early as possible.
They also offer a canyoneering trip which is a full day venture of rock climbing and cliff jumping. My weak heart and fear of heights made me and the trip incompatible but I would imagine it to be epic! You drive through a lot of cute villages here too and the drive is quite scenic.
Whilst in Moalboal, it’s also worth checking out the Sardine Run at Panagsama Beach! My travel partner, Annie, was very excited for this. I, on the other hand, was quite the sceptic. Swim about 20 meters from the beach and expect to be swimming with 1 million sardines! Never did I think I would be so fascinated by a sardine, however, I may go as far to say it was a highlight of The Phillies! I mean, they don’t really do much… it’s a sardine, but there’s so many of them and it really is quite the sight!
Moalboal also offers cooking classes which would be quite cool, however not the biggest fan of Filipino food I’m sad to say. Our hostel wasn’t too bad at Moalboal, however, it did, at times, feel a bit like a brothel. I’m also 90% sure that one of the women was a male. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Accommodation: Le Village Hostel.
Duration of stay: 3 nights
Moalboal to Cebu
How do you get back to Cebu, I hear you cry? By bus, stupid! Hop on the bus at Moalboal and poof, 2 hours or so later you’re back in Cebu city. This time we stayed more central in Alicia Residences. This was a really good location and next to two shopping malls! After all the rice and noodles, you will be pleased to hear that there is also a Pizza Hut in the mall next door, thank me later. We ordered so much food that we had pizza for breakfast and I have no shame. It’s from Cebu city that you will be flying to your last destination, Boracay. Wahhhh.
Accommodation: Alicia Residences.
Duration of stay: 1 night
Cebu to Kalibo, Boracay
Two options here, you could fly to Caticlan, Boracay or Kalibo, Boracay. We flew to Kalibo as it was cheaper. Your destination? Boracay Island. We had a late flight landing at 10:30 pm, so we thought that the two-hour drive to the jetty would mean that we miss the last boat to the island, however, I literally think it’s a 24-hour service! However, if you want to play it safe like us, then there are plenty of hotels near the airport and only a short ride away from the traditional Filipino meal, McDonald's.
Accommodation: D’sapa Lodge.
Duration of stay: 1 night
Kalibo to Boracay Island
When you come through arrivals you’ll see a couple of desks advertising Boracay Island transfers. You will have to get a 2-hour bus to Caticlan jetty and then a 20-minute boat ride to Boracay. A bit of a faff but it's worth it. There’s a bangin’ post called Boracay on a Budget which we used to plan our trip. Boracay Island is really beautiful, but it is the most built up area in The Phillies. However, it’s been voted the number one beach in the world for a couple of years and I can see why. The beach is pristine white sand stretching the circumference of the island and is dotted with lush palm trees. Quite the dream.
The island is split up into different stations with accommodation and restaurant price changing with each station. We stayed in station three which was really decent! Unfortunately, we didn’t see much on the island. Annie and I got a bit too into happy hour and the next day was a complete write-off. What I can vouch for is the bars on Boracay! I’ve been to Gili Trawangan in Indonesia, the so-called ‘party island’ and Boracay definitely topped Gili T! The music is great, the alcohol is reasonable and the atmosphere is fantastic! I would definitely say do not miss Boracay off the list, but maybe see a bit more of the island than we did.
Accommodation: Morning Beach Resort.
Duration of stay: 2 nights
Boracay Island to Kalibo
Reverse the way you came and you’re back in Kalibo. We stayed back at the same hotel and got a cheeky discount too. Kalibo is an international airport so is the perfect place to sadly end your trip in The Phillies! It’s from here that we flew to Malaysia.
I didn’t visit any of the following places but you could do some research to see what you can do there. But I’ve heard they’re worth a visit.
Skip Oslob and get a ferry to Bohol Island from Cebu city.
Get the bus to Oslob and catch the ferry to Dumaguete.
Get the bus to Oslob and catch the ferry to Suquijor Island.
From Cebu city get a flight to Donsol.
That really is my ultimate Philippines itinerary! Did you enjoy? I bloody hope so because I have a banging headache after writing that. Let me know if you’d change anything though, or if there are any extra hotspots that you would add in!
I think I will be returning to The Phillies because I feel like there is so much more to see! They need a longer visa because it really is impossible to see everything in 30 days.
Gonna’ plug my YouTube channel again I’m afraid. A boys gotta’ do what a boys gotta’ do.
I recorded so much whilst I was in The Phillies, I’ve just got to whack all the footage together. I’ve got some really great shots of the Island Hopping tours to give you some wanderlust. If you can’t contain your excitement for the video, then head over to the gallery and get some real insta envy.