When we first started researching places we wanted to see in the Philippines, we had a list that would have taken nearly 3 months to get through.
The problem? Like many people, we only had two weeks off of work to make this trip to the Philippines happen. So as you can imagine, we had to cut a ton of places from our wish list.
Truthfully, two weeks isn’t much time in the Philippines. It is a country made up of islands, and therefore transportation can be (understandably) challenging. If you want to visit more than one island during your visit, you will likely need to devote an entire day to travel.
The itinerary below is an adaption of what we followed. We altered it a bit based on some things we would have changed, and came up with what we think is a pretty badass route for a first-time visit to the Philippines.
By following this itinerary, you will get to explore three islands, see jungles as well as beaches, and some spend time outside the typical “tourist” path. You will see a lot during these two weeks in the Philippines, but there are certainly days planned for (much needed) relaxation.
Before your trip:
Plan your trip with the weather in mind! We’ve put together a great resource for evaluating when’s the best time to visit the Philippines based on the weather as well as your travel style and preferences.
Prior to you packing your bags and booking your flights, don’t forget to do this… you’ll thank us later.
Also, if you’re strict on your travel time in the Philippines, we highly recommend to book your Philippines transportation online ahead of time. 12go.asia is a booking site we have used and have found some good deals on buses, ferries, trains and even flights.
Day 1: Travel day to Boracay
Most likely, you will be flying into Manila. Sure, there are direct flights to Boracay from many major cities now, but they are usually quite expensive.
There are several flights leaving each day from Manila to Caticlan (MPH) airport, so try to line the times up so you don’t have to leave the airport in Manila and deal with the city’s chaotic traffic.
You can also look at flying into Kalibo like we did. Often these are the cheapest flights, but be prepared for a roughly 2 and a half hour journey to Boracay.
Our advice would be to skip Manila. Most everyone we talked to advised us to do so. Yes, I’m sure there are things worth doing in Manila, but with only two weeks, you just can’t see everything.
Knowing that, Manila was the first to be cut from our list of places to see. The only reason to stay in Manila to use it as a hub to go to the Banaue Rice Terraces.
Where to Stay in Boracay Island
Once you get to Boracay, get settled into your hotel and relax.
Luxury Hotels: Henann Crystal Sands Resort – Station 2 Beach front 5-star resort with fantastic views with three pools and a pool-side bar. Complete luxury throughout entire hotel including on-site restaurant and room service.
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Hue Hotels and Resorts Boracay – Beautifully designed hotel in the Station 2 area and only 300 meters from the beach. This hotel has a fitness room, outdoor pool, pool-side bar, and on-site restaurants.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: CHILLAX Flashpackers Boracay – Located in the Diniwid area of Boracay Island, this fun backpacker hotel has private rooms as well as dorms. There is a game room and an outdoor common area with WiFi in all the rooms.
Everything you need to pack for the Philippines
Day 2 – 4: Beach days in Boracay
Relax on the beach with a drink in your hand, and be sure not to miss the sunsets!
These relaxing days should help you adjust to the new time zone and power through jet lag.
Check out our tips on where to stay and eat while in Boracay. Make sure you visit Spider Bar (information in the link). It is an absolute must!
Day 5: Travel day to Bohol
This one’s a doozy, but by evening, you will be in a completely different side of the Philippines than what you see in Boracay. You will be away from the crowds and will experience a piece of the country that few get to see.
The cheapest way we found to get to Bohol was to fly to Cebu City, then take a 2 hour ferry to Tagbilaran. From there, hire a tricycle (or van) bound for Nuts Huts in Loboc. Most of the drivers we spoke to knew where this guesthouse is located.
The ride should take roughly 50 minutes by trike (shorter by van). Local bus is another option and is much less expensive (50 PHP, versus 500 PHP for a tricycle), but considering the other modes of transportation you’ll be taking today, hiring your own transport is the easier option.
Note: Nuts Huts seemed to be the only guesthouse in the Loboc area. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time because it is a popular place and is usually fully booked. Read more about our stay at Nuts Huts and our adventures in the jungle.
Day 6: Relax in the Jungle
Grab a hammock and just relax! After a day of travel, you’ll be needing the rest. If you are feeling up to it, a local man offers a guided tour to bat caves high up in the hills. It is pretty cool and a place that most tourists never see, but be prepared for a little work out. Make sure you reserve your “cave trek” the night before.
We tried lots of food on the menu at Nuts Huts, but there were two sure winners.
Day 7: Tarsiers and Chocolate Hills
Rent a motorbike and head first to the Tarsier Sanctuary near Corella, about 30-40 minutes from the small town of Loboc. Next, head back on the same road toward the Chocolate Hills (about 35 km).
Take in the scenery around you and wave at the passing schoolchildren – they will make your day! Stop at any small restaurant along the way for an authentic lunch.
If you have time, stop in Loboc before returning to Nuts Huts. One of the oldest churches in the Philippines stands in the center of town. It was badly damaged in a recent typhoon, but definitely worth a look.
Read more about our adventures exploring Bohol by motorbike.
Note: We cut Alona Beach from this itinerary because we weren’t overly impressed by it. You will be seeing many beaches on this trip that are far superior, but if you do end up staying on Panglao Island, check out Kayakasia’s Firefly Kayak Tour. It was pretty incredible!
Day 8: Travel day to Palawan
Wake up early and wait on the highway near Nuts Huts for the local bus headed to Tagbilaran. Take a late morning flight to Puerto Princesa. (You may have to fly to Manila first before getting another flight to the island of Palawan.)
Once you land, you will have no trouble finding a van outside the airport bound for El Nido. But if you want piece of mind and don’t want to haggle a driver, book your van trip to El Nido ahead of time online. I’m sure it will be more comfortable than our ride.
We bargained and got seats for 500 PHP per person. We had a rough trip – broken seats and a driver who stopped to pick up his friends, making our trip take longer than usual. Considering the higher-end vans don’t cost much more, we would have opted for the more comfortable ride.
Some things to note: I believe the last vans leave around 6:30 pm. The trip should take between 5 and 6 hours. Most vans and buses will drop you off at the bus station about 1 km from the town of El Nido. You will have to grab a tricycle from there and it should cost no more than 50 PHP.
If you don’t want to do so much jumping around by air and land, you can book a popular liveaboard trip on Liveaboard.com. They have collections of the best tours and scuba trips that will bring you to prime spots only locals know about. Be sure to check out their tours in the Philippines.
Where to stay in El Nido:
Spin Designer Hostel – El Nido: With some of the highest reviews in all of El Nido, this laid back hostel is the perfect place to relax after a long day of island hopping. They have dorm rooms and private rooms at great prices. And with only 600 meters to the beach, what’s not to love!
Find other affordable and fun hotels and hostels in El Nido.
Day 9: Relax in El Nido
Get acquainted with El Nido. If you are feeling up to it, grab some drinks at Reggae Bar in the evening. Tables are hard to come by, so if you want a seat to listen to the live reggae band, come early. The real party starts after the band is done playing at midnight.
Day 10: Island Hopping in El Nido
Do an island hopping tour through one of the many tour companies in town. We would recommend either tour A or C.
Day 11: Nacpan Beach Adventure
Hire a tricycle to drive you to Nacpan Beach for the day – it’s an adventure, but totally worth it! Be sure to walk to the viewpoint at the far left end of the beach. Enjoy fresh seafood and a fruit shake for lunch with an ocean view at one of the beach’s two restaurants.
Want more? Read about our crazy journey getting there in our Palawan blog post.
Day 12: Scuba Diving or Free Day
Go Scuba diving (or try freediving) with Palawan Divers. Check out our review on free diving.
If you’re not one for diving, go on another island hopping tour or just have a relaxing day in town!
Day 13: Relax and Travel to Puerto Princesa
When you are ready, catch a van back to Puerto Princesa. The last vans leave at 6:30 p.m., so you can do a tour during day if you are feeling up to it. We went diving on our last day, but were a bit rushed trying to get to the van. Book your ride back to Puerto Princesa ahead of time so you’ll know you have a seat
There isn’t much to do in Puerto Princesa. We spent most of the day hanging around the infinity pool at our beautiful hotel.
The main attraction near Puerto Princesa is the Underground River. We heard mixed reviews – both good and bad – and in the end decided not to dot this tour. If you’d like to add this to your itinerary, you’ll need to cut one day from El Nido and arrive to Puerto Princesa earlier, as this tour takes a full day.
Find other nice places to stay in Puerto Princesa here.
Day 14: Travel Home & Say Goodbye to the Philippines!
If you’re anything like us, you won’t want to leave. But… work… bills… we can’t all be beach bums.
Take a morning flight to Manila, and catch your international flight home. Again, if you can align your flights so that you don’t need to leave the airport, that is best. Just know that flights are often delayed in the Philippines, so be sure to have plenty of time between each as a buffer.
Also, it’s important to note that the domestic and international terminals are separate buildings. You will have to take a shuttle (infrequent but 20 PHP per person, or a taxi 150-200 PHP). It is about a ten minute trip between the two.
For more information about planning your own trip, read in-depth accounts of our experiences in Boracay, Bohol and Palawan. Still need more convincing that you to visit the Philippines? Find out why you need to go now!
Are you planning a trip to the Philippines?
We have TONS of resources on travel in the Philippines and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.
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We want to hear from you!
Is there anything you would change about our itinerary? Places you would cut or add? Comment below!
Comments (92) on “Ultimate Philippines 2 Week Itinerary”
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Nice article!I have gone for a holidays to Philippines with my family. It is such a wonder full experience. By reading your blog I am recollecting my holidays trip.
Thank you for writing about Philippines and sharing your experience with us.
Hi Katie and Ben
Thanks you much for this great information and insite into the Philippines, it was really helpful. I am looking at doing a two week trip with my girlfriend to the Philippines in December this year. We are a couple in our mid twenties and we are looking at getting a taste of the country, what the culture is like, doing adventures and enjoying some nightlife too. I am wondering if you guys can give us a recommendation of which places would be the best to achieve this in 2 weeks (I heard Palawan and Boracay are must do) and which would be the best order to help limit travelling time. I am looking forward to your response.
Thanks to everyone for this amazing blog and also the comments. It really helped me planning our trip to Philippines.
If anyone would be so kind and will me opinion about our itinerary, I will be really glad. I am little bit worried if we will not lose too much time with transports and maybe if it is not better to skip something.
Day 1 Arrival to Manila, then flight to Dumaguete and ferry to Siquijor
Day 1 – 4 Siquijor
Day 4 ferry to Bohol (morning)
Day 4 – 7 Bohol
Day 7 – ferry to Cebu and flight to El Nido
Day 8 – 12 El Nido
Day 12 ferry to Coron
Day 12 – 15 Coron
Day 15 – flight to Manila
Hi David, Looks like you’ve done your research. 4 spots in 15 days is quick but do-able. I think you’ll be fine if you don’t mind bouncing around a lot. Happy Travels.
Hi Katie and Ben,
Thank you for making a good review of the places you visited in my country – The Philippines. I must say, your blog is very insightful to those who are planning to visit Pinas (my country’s nickname). Your choices of which island to visit are perfectly expected and normal (i.e. Boracay, El Nido, and Bohol). For me, you have unlocked Level 1 of Philippines exploration. For the next challenge, in case you visit us here again, I would like you to go and visit the following:
Batanes (Nature – Best of the BEST), Ilocos region (History), Batangas and Tagaytay (Beaches just near the Capital), Pampanga (Food tour), and Baguio and Sagada (Cold temp provinces with perfect mountain views).
Note that all of the above-mentioned places are just located in the main island group – Luzon. I assure you that there are so many places need to be explored on other 2 main island groups – Visayas and Mindanao.
OK, that’s for me and I wish you could visit us again here and consider the above. Best of luck in your future travels.
Hi Ben and Katie,
Really insightful blog and envious of you guys 🙂
So we are planning a week’s trip to Philli in January. We mostly want to stick to Boracay and we understand the travel time within the country. Just wanted to check if you think we could add Palawan to the trip or leave it out? May 3 days each or 4 days in Boracay and 2 in Palawan?
Manoj Balaji, India
Hey Manoj, Thanks for the kind words. I would recommend having at least 3 days in Palawan. It takes a while to get to Palawan (flight from Boracay, then a 5-hour bus ride if you’re heading to El Nido), and you would want at least one day to do an island hopping trip. Boracay is a fun island but we really liked our time in El Nido. So if you only have 6 days to work with I would recommend 3 days in Boracay and 3 days in in El Nido, Palawan. Hope this helps!
Great itinerary. We spent about two weeks and decided to skip Palawan, instead heading for Siquijor and Bohol. We should have gone to Palawan!
I’m sure Siquijor was nice as well, but maybe you’ll just have to go back to the Philippines someday 😉
This is so helpful in my current overwhelmed state trying to plan our Philippines trip! I know you wrote this blog several years ago, but do you have any insight about which islands may be the best for digital nomads? My husband and I will be there for 12 days in December, but he works part time, but still needs access to the internet if any of his websites go down. This is causing me to deter from El Nido, unfortunately, because I’ve heard it’s pretty much completely off the grid.
Any insight? How was the service on Boracay?
Hi Azure! The Philippines is very well connected to the internet via Wifi at host hostel. Boracay had really good Wifi everywhere we went. We did experience some connection issues in El Nido when we were there back in January of 2015, but that’s almost 3 years ago now. El Nido has exploded with popularity in recent years so I’m sure the Wifi is much better. I would check the recent reviews on hotels and hostels and see what people are saying about the Wifi and connection and choose one based on that. I can speak much to the cell service because we did not have a phone plan when we were there. I hope this helps.
Really like the itinerary you put together here! I’m thinking of spending about 2 weeks in the Philippines, just visiting Palawan (including Coron) and perhaps Cebu as well. Just wondering if you would suggest from your experience whether this country and the areas you went to are suitable for a solo female traveller?
Thanks in advance, and again, great blog post!
Hi Jenna, the Philippines is completely safe to travel, especially in the touristy areas like Palawan and Cebu. When we were there for two weeks, we felt totally safe the whole time. With that being said, you should always be smart when traveling and use common sense. I hope this helps!
Hello guys!! Loved your blog 😀 We did not do the same route; we visited first Coron, El Nido and then Boracay.
While researching for my Philippine‘s trip in February, I have seen your comment. I‘ll have two weeks time to travel and my plan was to fly from Manila to coron, with the ferry To El Nido and then from Puerto Princesa to Boracay. I had doubts that this would be too much for two weeks, so I was thinking about to skip Coron… Can you tell me about your experience and how you‘d travel to the places? 🙂
This blog post was so informative and helpful especially with the in depth looks at particular locations. i was wondering if you had any advice about where in the itinerary you would make room to do a whale shark dive.
Hey Molly, so glad you’ve found it helpful! We were curious about diving with whale sharks too, but after lots of research and talking to others who had done it, we feel that the whales are treated very inhumanely, so we chose to avoid this experience.
The most popular one is in Oslob, but it takes a long time to get there, and would add at least 1 full day (if not more) to an itinerary. And like we said, we didn’t hear great things about how the whales are treated, so we can’t recommend it.
The whale shark experience in Donsol markets itself as being more of an "ecotourism experience", but we also read bad things about that one too. Plus, it is even more time consuming to get to than Oslob. Do a little research and see how you feel about it, and then decide if it is worthwhile to you to add it into your itinerary. Just keep in mind that travel within the Philippines takes a LONG time 🙂
First of all, great blog. Well written, enough detail to have a perfect idea what to expect from certain destination. Great works.
We along with two 5years kids are planning to visit the Philippines in mid-november 2017 (10-11 days) and most likely to follow the aforementioned itinerary. I would like to know if the same itinerary would be good along with kids? Also I noticed that you have missed few recommended places such as mayon volcano (Bicol), Arials Point (Boracay), Hikong Bente Falls (Cebu), Banaue Rice Terrace etc. Did you intentionally choose other destinations/attractions over these? Would you recommend the best place you have crossed for Snorkelling, free jumping from the hill into rivers?
Glad you’re planning a trip to the Philippines! We only had 17 days, so we had to pick and choose – with more than 7,000 islands, there’s just no way we could see everything in the country. The Banaue terraces were high on our list, but it would have taken at least 3 more days – with transportation there and back and one day to explore – and one thing we can’t stand when traveling is feeling rushed.
(We didn’t spend any time in Cebu, and Ariel’s Point is not on the island of Boracay – it’s on the adjoining island.)
Remember that transportation in the Philippines can sometimes take an entire day to get from place to place. With only 10 days and 2 children, I would be sure to keep that in mind when planning your trip. I think you’ll certainly have to pick and choose, and leave some places for next time 🙂
If you need to leave a place out, I might suggest Bohol. Most of the stuff we did there was more adventure-based (jungle trekking, motorbiking, etc.) so it might not be as good of a place for young kids if you need to cut one.
We went diving and snorkeling in El Nido and would recommend it – but I think anywhere in the Philippines is a good bet 🙂 Spider House on Boracay has a place to jump into the water and a floating dock.
Hope that helps. Happy planning!
Thank you for sharing, that was very insightful. We are planning a two week trip from the middle of May. I am not keen to spend a lot of time travelling between Islands. My plan is to go to Boracay for 3 days, then on to Bohol. How did you do this? Ferry? Flights? Duration?. Then to spend a fair time in Bohol, based in Panglao initially. We aim to do some boat trips and possibly diving for 4-5 days. Then finish with a relaxing time at a beach resort in Anda, with day trips to the Tarsiers and Choc Hills and the adventure park? Does Bohol have enough attractions for this sort of holiday? Or should we think of spending getting to Palawan, given the time constraints? Best wishes, Clint
Hey Clint, glad you found us! We’re jealous that you’ll be headed there soon. I’ll try my best to answer your questions:
We did go from Boracay to Bohol. We were on a pretty tight budget, so we flew from Kalibo (near Boracay, but not the closest airport) to Cebu City, then took a 2-3 hour ferry to Tagbilaran. (If I remember correctly, the flights to Tagbilaran are more expensive and less frequent. We didn’t book far in advance though, so maybe this isn’t always the case.) It was a LONG day on transportation, that’s for sure (probably not what you’re wanting to do). There is probably a faster way of doing this – but the thing we found in the Philippines is that direct flights between the islands are not super common. (Many of them have a layover in Manila, making your travel day even longer.) Again, we were not booking very far in advance, so this could have had something to do with it.
Honestly, if you don’t want to spend a ton of time on transportation, I think I’d leave Palawan out of your itinerary. From Tagbilaran, it will be pretty time consuming to get there, as I don’t think there are any direct flights from Tag. (Option #1: Take the ferry to Cebu, then a direct flight to El Nido, where you’d probably want to be based. Option #2: Fly Tagbilaran to Puerto Princesa, then a 5-6 hour van ride to El Nido.) I will say that Palawan was our favorite island of the 3 we visited (Boracay, Bohol and Palawan), but with 17 days, we felt like we were pushing it a bit. With 2 weeks, it would be pretty tight, especially if you don’t like the idea of spending a lot of time on transport.
There is lots to do in Bohol – from beaches (though the ones in Boracay are better in my opinion) to jungles, to motorbike rides, firefly kayaking, Tarsiers and diving (that sounds like it’s pretty good!), I think you’ll find plenty to do!
Hope this helps! Have an amazing time and let us know how it goes.
Oh, man! I can’t wait to go! I’m leaving for the Philippines in May! I’ve been reading all about it. I just read this article, too and it seems so amazing!
Have a great time in the Philippines! One of our favorite places!
I have 2 weeks to spend with my boyfriend in the Philippines. We like to mix beaches with jungle, activities like snorkeling (not diving), and things we don’t do back home. We also like spending time with local people and villages, etc. We don’t want to hop around every 2 days, so where would you say are the top 2 or 3 places that are good to allocate our 2 weeks time at? Which islands have all or most of the above?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Hi Roni, We had 16 days and we hopped around to 3 different places: Boracay, Bohol, and El Nido. I think all three of those places would have all you are looking for in a Philippines trip. We have articles on each of those locations so feel free to browse around our site. Happy planning!
Thank you for sharing such an insightful and fun post. I’ve been doing some intensive research on the Philippines for a while now because me and a friend of mine want to go there last week of April. Your post was one of the most helpful I’ve read so far. Can you please help me a little bit further? 🙂
We’re supposed to arrive in Manila in the evening of the 21st of April and leave on the 1st of May. I wanted to explore several places, but I think spending a day in Manila (just to get a feel of the city and maybe getting some souvenirs) and the rest of the week in Palawan (Palawan beaches, Puerto Princesca, El Nido and maybe Coron) would be just enough and not too hectic.
The problem is planning Palawan; where to go, transportation, accommodation and so on. So any suggestions/tips/ideas for the Palawan itinerary? Thank youu. 🙂
Hey Susan, You’ll love the Philippines! Palawan was probably our favorite island we visited while we were there, so I think it’s a great choice. We have a whole itinerary for Palawan if you search our site.
I agree that just a day in Manila would be sufficient, and honestly if you’re feeling really tight on time, you could always skip it. We actually never left the airport. It would be nice to explore if we have lots of time during our next trip to the Philippines, but there is so much more to the country than this big city, and what we really wanted to see were the smaller towns and beaches.
Corn looks amazing, and originally we wanted to go there as well. But we have heard getting there can take a full day and we just didn’t have the time. The hardest part about traveling in the Philippines is transportation because it takes a long time to get from place to place. Just getting from Puerto Princesa to El Nido is a 6 hour journey which takes the better part of one day.
To give you an idea about timing, we spent 4 whole days in El Nido and wish we had longer – there is lots to do in that area and so much beauty. We also heard good things about Port Barton, which is between Puerto Princesa and El Nido, and could make a nice stop between the two.
I hope this helps! Best of luck 🙂
This information has been really helpful for me as I am currently planning our honeymoon to the Philippines and am feeling a little lost. We have about 15 nights are were wondering what you think about this rough itinerary as we don’t want to feel like we are moving around too much?
1 night Manila to break up the flight
Fly from Manila to Boracay – 3 nights
Fly back from Boracay to Manila and then fly down to Palawan
Stay 7 nights in Puerto Princessa then bus to El Nido
Stay 5 nights in El Nido
Not sure if we would have to catch the bus back to Puerto Princessa and then fly back to Manila from there or if there is a flight from El Nido to Manila?
Any suggestions? Was thinking about cutting out the Boracay stop if this is too much in the time we have?
Thank you for sharing us your travel adventures. My husband and I just get married and plans a vacation for our honeymoon. Your Philippine post is appealing to me. I guess we will go there. I’m browsing for the flights, but they’re quite expensive. Around 1500 bucks for a round trip. I saw your budget and you only spend around 600 bucks. How did you do it? What airline did you get on for your flight from US? i will really appreciate your response.
Hey Kenna, that’s a great question. The Philippines is such a good choice for your honeymoon! (If we were going to go on a second honeymoon, it would be there!)
You’re right, though, flights there are not cheap. We traveled to the Philippines when we were living in Korea, so we weren’t flying from very far. You’ll notice there’s a note on our budget that says, "Note: international airfare to and from South Korea is not included."
We did include $354 for the flights BETWEEN the islands (and you’ll definitely want to budget for those if you’ll be doing some hopping between islands. Those flights aren’t very expensive if you go through the budget airlines (like AirAsia, etc.), but they can add up if you’re planning to hop to a few islands.
All that said, once you get there, the Philippines doesn’t have to be very expensive, so if budget is a concern, it does really even out (if you try to stick to a budget). Let us know if you have any other questions while planning. We think you’ll love the Philippines 🙂
Really great post thank you very much! I’m going there with a friend in 2 weeks. We’re pretty much going to the same route as ye did. Really looking forward it! Can you recommend an app that would be helpful with the navigating side of things?
Hey Andy, That’s super exciting that you’ll be in the Philippines so soon (a bit jealous haha!). The apps that we love when traveling (anywhere!) are:
Navigation apps we use:
-Google Maps: load the islands you’ll be going to by zooming in as far as you can through the places you’ll be going. Make sure your GPS is turned on, and even when you don’t have wifi, you’ll be able to see your current location and zoom in to view the streets
-CityMaps2Go: Another great map app – download a country before you get there, and you’ll have a full map on your phone (never have to worry about being in wifi)
Other great apps:
-Trail Wallet: to stay on budget
-Google Translate: works wonders in countries where English is not widely spoken (in the Philippines you may only need to use it a few times because many people speak English)
-Convert: shows conversions between currency, temperature, distances, etc.
-Viber/WhatsApp: to call/text other travels you meet or hotels, etc. when you don’t have phone service (just wifi)
I hope this helps! Have an amazing time 🙂
Thank you for the great post. I like reading your blog and I plan to visit that place someday.
Aww, thanks so much, Gustavo. You just made me smile 🙂
Thanks so much for your post – it’s really helpful and my friend and i are actually following a similar itinerary!
One questions, did you take a backpack or a suitcase? Would you recommend one over the other?
Hey Caroline, I’m so glad this post is helpful. You’ll love the Philippines! That’s a great question, and honestly I think the type of luggage you bring is very personal. That said, I almost always prefer a backpack. You’ll be packing mostly lightweight clothes (since it’s a tropical country), so you really won’t need much. I just brought a small backpack for our 17-day trip and I was fine. I loved not having to roll a suitcase behind me over sand or anything. I hope that answers your question. Have a fantastic trip!
Loved reading your blog. Looking to go to the Philippines next year, end of August early September time. Would you recommend that time of year, what time of year were you there? Also having to think about the boring stuff – money. How much did you end up roughly spending for the 2 weeks? My boyfriend and I would like to do the travelling comfortably and not have to say no, to things like scuba diving or boat tours, but will need to be on a bit of a budget. Any advise would be great.
Hi Immy, The rainy season for the Philippines typically spans from July to mid-September, so it might get a little wet during that time. Although, I have read that the rainy season doesn’t necessarily ruin your holiday, you just have to adjust the activities you do. We went in January and we had great weather.
We actually have a whole post about how much we spent in the Philippines (Under $50 per day per person) and you can find that by searching our site.
My boyfriend and I are going to the Philippines Dec 28 – Jan 11, going to Boracay (for New Years), Palawan and Cebu. As of now, all we have booked are our flights, and we are trying to figure out exactly where to go and what to do! I’m wondering if you would recommend booking hotels in advanced? I went to Thailand 2 years ago and found that the hotels I booked in advance were far more expensive (like American standard prices), and once I arrived I saw that there were tons of hotels (that maybe did not have online presence or capability to book in advance) that were much less expensive, and still quite nice! So my question for you is… I know it’s a popular time to travel there– Would you recommend booking all our hotels in advance?
Also, with 5 days in the Palawan (flying into Puerto Princessa, but I’ve been eying El Nido), where would you go with that time?
Thank you so much!
Hi Natalia, There is plenty of accommodation in Boracay, and just like Thailand there are some cheaper places that do not advertise online. It might be good to book your first night online somewhere so you won’t have to lug your bags around. And then search around for cheaper places later. But that is a busy time of year in the Philippines, so showing up without hotel or hostels booked might be a little risky.
With 5 days in Palawan, I would recommend doing exactly what we did in the itinerary above. Fly into Puerto Princesa and get the 6 hour van up to El Nido, 1 or 2 days island hopping, and 1 day at Twin Beach. Then head back to Puerto Princesa and maybe swing by the underground river if there is time.
just booked my trip for January, doing 16 days! Can’t wait, me and my wife was supposed to be going to Bali for our honeymoon….but we got that drunk the night before we missed our flight!! ?? so we are using this as a belated honeymoon, really enjoy reading your blog, wish we could do what you guys did and just travel the world! Keep up the the good work ????
Hi James, hahahaha that is a crazy story about your honeymoon! I bet in the moment you weren’t laughing, but it’ll be a story you’ll tell for years to come 🙂 I hope you have an amazing trip, the Philippines is a perfect honeymoon destination. Let us know how you like it! (Oh, and congrats and happy honeymoon <3)
I’m just wondering, which ferry service did you use to get to Tagbilaran?
Hi G, We took the Ocean Jet ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran. It was a good ferry, nothing too special, but I think the other companies are similar.
love this article!
Me and my boyfriend are going for 2 weeks in November.
we are flying to Cebu and are trying to work out a route.
We have thought straight out of Cebu to Oslob for the whale sharking. A trip to Apo Island and possibly Dumaguete. Then from Cebu to Coron or else Busuanga (opinion)?
Then 4days in El Nido. we only have a very rough idea currently so any advice on this idea would be great!
Hi Carol! How exciting – you guys will love the Philippines!
Of the places you’ve mentioned, we only went to El Nido. And I think 4 days is a good amount of time there.
To be honest, I can’t recommend the Whale Shark encounters. I was very interested in swimming with the whale sharks as well, but after doing lots of research we found that this tourist activity is very bad for the sharks. We decided that we don’t want to contribute to companies that are harmful for the animals involved. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t do it (everyone has their own opinion on these matters), but I would suggest doing a little research and seeing if it is still something you want to support. From another perspective, we’ve talked to a few people who’ve done it – some have had fun and liked the pictures, but others said it is a tourist trap and it is a pain to get there just to stand in line and be in the water for a short amount of time. Just another thing to think about.
We haven’t been to Apo, but heard really good things about the diving there. We weren’t certified scuba divers at the time and from the little research we did, it seemed that most of the accommodation was in a package with diving. Since we are certified now, we can’t wait to get to Apo because we’ve heard it’s some of the best diving in the Philippines. If you’re a diver I would recommend getting there 😉
We’ve heard good things about Coron and Busuanga, but just make sure you have the times for transportation figured into your itinerary. It takes a long time to travel between the islands in the Philippines — way more than you may expect. Traveling between Coron and El Nido may seem like an easy thing to do, but it will either take a flight to Puerto Princesa and then a 5-6 hr van ride, or an 8-hour+ boat ride. So that will pretty much take up an entire day. We chose to only visit El Nido because with 17 days in the Philippines we didn’t want to be too rushed. But again, it comes down to personal travel style and how much time you feel comfortable spending on transportation.
I hope these thoughts help you as you start planning. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any more questions!
Best of luck!
Thanks Katie for your advice 🙂
Thanks for sharing of you travels in the Philippines! 🙂 My husband and I are planning a 2 week trip in February. This is what I’m thinking so far: Cebu (2 days), Apo Island (2 days), Puerto Princesa (2 days), El Nido (5 days). A couple of questions…
– any recommendations for Cebu? Good shopping? Good restaurants? Waterfalls?
– is Apo Island worth it? I just really want to swim with sea turtles!!
– should we explore elsewhere on Palawan?
Thank you so much. Appreciate your advise!
Hi Katrina! So jealous that you’re planning a trip to the Philippines soon! We can’t wait to get back there!
I think your plan sounds pretty good. (I like that you have allotted 5 days to El Nido – it definitely deserves lots of time!) As far as other places in Palawan, we have heard good things about Port Barton, but we didn’t get there because we didn’t want to be rushed. I think your plan for Palawan is solid. (And be sure to take a day trip to Nacpan Beach from El Nido!)
I haven’t been to Apo Island, but have only heard great things. The thing to consider is that it does take some time to get there, and I remember that when we were researching it, it seemed that most of the accommodation was combined with Scuba diving. We weren’t certified at the time, so we decided it wouldn’t be worth it for us. That said, we are now certified and can’t wait to get to Apo someday. I’ve heard it’s some of the best diving in the Philippines. So I guess it just depends on if you’re certified and how important swimming with turtles is to you.
We didn’t really spend any time in Cebu (just took a taxi from the airport to the ferry on our way to Bohol), so I can’t give you much advice. I have heard mixed things about the waterfalls on Cebu – that they take a while to get to and are quite crowded with tourists, but they do look beautiful. And we didn’t do much shopping on our trip so I’m afraid I can’t answer that either, though I’ve heard Cebu is known for it. Our short time in Cebu City wasn’t that great – super crowded and kind of dirty (at least in the parts that we saw). I’m not sure what your plan is with 2 days, but that might be kind of short if you want to get out of the city.
I hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any more questions!
I have only 9 days in Philippines
Can you suggest what all I should do and what I can skip ?
My main attractions are:
Hi Simran! To hit all three islands you want to see in 9 days, you will have to travel a bit fast. I would recommend to basically follow the itinerary above, but just shorten the amount of days in each area. Maybe spend 2 days in Boracay, 3 days in Bohol, and 4 days in Palawan, with most of your time spent in El Nido. Or you can take out one of the three, but I would definitely keep Palawan on your list. Hope this helps!
You by far have the easiest to follow itinerary out there! I am basing our holiday around your adventures!
Im in the mind frame at the moment of trying to cram too many things in but i want to see it all!
I love markets – hand made one of a kind things to keep forever.
I want to do a bit of trekking
I want to see at least one festival
Love a good party…
This is were i’m at now and would love your opinion!
Manila for two days – for some shopping, Borocay for two, Kalibo for two – for the Ati-Atihan Festval, cebu for two, bohol for three, El Nido for two Palawan for two then back to Manila…
Is this too ambitious? What should I scratch to make the trip less hassle?
Hi Corey, I’m so glad to hear that this itinerary is helpful for you! There is so much to do and see in the Philippines that we had the exact same frame of mind when we first started planning… we had 8 places we wanted to go and 17 days to see it all! Then we realized that just wouldn’t work. So we had to cut. A lot.
I think you’re right – you have too many places in your itinerary right now. Travel between the islands can take an entire day, so cutting a few places is going to be necessary with your limited time frame. Just gotta get back someday for a second time to see the rest! (We already have a list of places we want to see the second time around!)
Here’s some of our input:
-I can’t speak much on Manila – we cut it from our itinerary because we aren’t too fond of gigantic, chaotic cities (especially when there are so many other amazing places to see.). Most people we’ve talked to haven’t had many good things to say about Manila when tacking it onto a trip. That said, we have a friend who has family there, so she enjoys the city, and I know just like any city there are places I would love. Totally up to your preference, but we found it easier to just book our flights to the islands with the intention of not leaving the airport (traffic is crazy in Manila). I totally understand your interest in markets though. We didn’t find many big handicraft markets in the other places we went (though we didn’t really seek them out), but we did find some smaller artisan shops and even bought a beautiful hand-woven basket. So I wouldn’t go to Manila solely for the markets since you can find handicrafts in other places. It might be one location to cut.
-Also, I think 2 days is too much in Kalibo. We were only there for the day to see the festival, and then headed to Boracay in the evening which I thought was sufficient. We were there on the last day of the festival though, and things were winding down. There’s not much else in Kalibo, so that would be another day you could cut if necessary.
I’m a bit confused when you say 2 days in El Nido, and 2 in Palawan. (Palawan is the island and El Nido is a town). Did you mean Puerto Princesa? If that’s the case, my recommendation would be to give more days to El Nido. It takes 5-6 hours to get there from the airport, so if you only spend 2 days there, you’ll be spending half of that time in a van. El Nido is worth at least 3 days in our opinion, and you won’t get bored even with 4 days there. Puerto Princesa is alright if you have lots of time to spare – but nothing too special. Maybe one day would be good there to see the Underground River if you’re interested. (We skipped it because we were too tired and had heard mixed reviews about it). But on limited time, you could really limit your time in PP.
-Cebu is another place I can’t speak much about since we only took a taxi from the airport to the ferry port of Cebu City. The city itself (from what we saw) is hectic and kind of dirty. I’m sure there are things to do and see, but it just didn’t make the cut on our itinerary since we were limited with time. If you want to see other places on Cebu island itself, look into how much time it takes to get there – some of the places take at least a whole day, so 2 days on Cebu isn’t going to get you far.
Some other thoughts (based on your interests):
-Boracay is a good place to relax and party, and so is El Nido
-You can do a little trek in Bohol (we mention it in our article on Bohol) and also there is one to a nice viewpoint in El Nido
With only 2 weeks I would strongly urge you to choose 3 islands (you can go to a couple towns on each island) instead of the 5 islands you have listed. We only went to 3 islands in our 17 days, but felt like even that was pretty rushed at times. We didn’t expect the transport between islands (or within the islands themselves) to take so long.
I know it sucks cutting places – it broke my heart each time I had to cross a place off our itinerary, but you’ll enjoy it so much more if you’re not constantly on transport. And you’ll still get to see a ton! The Philippines is just one of those places where you can’t see everything in one trip (or even 10!). You’ll just have to make it back someday 🙂
I hope this helps! Let us know if you have more questions!
Where else would you say is good to go? We are thinking of extending our trip to 3+ weeks.. Thanks
In our itinerary, we have Boracay and Bohol listed and we’d definitely recommend those places as they have very different feels. We spent 17 days between Boracay, Bohol and Palawan and definitely could have used a couple extra days. If you want to see more still, I would suggest looking into:
-Banuae Rice Terraces – north of Manila and a very cultural experience.
-Apo Island – really good diving
-Siargao is supposed to be nice
-Coron (north of Palawan) is supposed to be beautiful but a bit tricky to get to
Those are the places I would start researching and see which appeals to you most! Let us know if you have any more questions!
Myself and my partner are going to be doing 3 weeks in phillipines from 7th to 28th February.
Would you say that 4-5 days in el nido is enough. Would you recommend doing all four of the tours if you had the time? A, B, c and the kayak tour? I’m confused about Palawan/el nido. Is el nido in Palawan and can you stay in el Nido?
We are thinking about flying straight from Manila to el nido to save the time. Where would you recommend going afer we have done the islands in el nido? We love the beach life!
Hi Kirsty, you’ll have an amazing time in the Philippines! February should be a great time to be there.
I think 4-5 days in El Nido is perfect. To clarify, El Nido is a town on the island of Palawan, and yes you can stay there 🙂 It’s not a huge town, but there are plenty of guesthouses, restaurants and bars. Behind the town are jungly mountains, and the town is right on the ocean. It’s really nice!
We did 2 of the tours – A and C – which were the highest recommended ones. Since we had the time, it was nice to do 2, but many people we met only did one. I think more than 2 might get a little repetitive and while I loved the ones we did, I wanted to have a couple days to ourselves to relax and explore. I would definitely recommend hiring a tuk-tuk driver for a day and going to Napcan ("Twin") Beach. It is amazing! And there is are a couple nice little restaurants serving seafood and smoothies.
As for getting to El Nido, you’ll definitely want to fly as it is one of the more isolated islands in the Philippines and is pretty far west. There is no airport in El Nido for commercial flights (I think there’s a tiny one) but the flights you’d take would land in Puerto Princesa. In our opinion, we would get a van straight to El Nido from the airport and only spend time in PP if you have extra days to spare. There’s not much to do there other than to see the Underground River. We didn’t make it to the Underground River, but we heard mixed reviews – some people loved it and others said it’s a tourist trap – so maybe do a little research. The ride from PP to El Nido takes between 5-6 hours, by the way. You can just catch a van from the airport – no need to book ahead. It can be a windy, fast and bumpy ride, so be prepared!
I hope this info helps! Let us know if you have any other questions. Have an amazing time in the Philippines!
To clarify, Palawan is a province composed of several islands. El Nido is a town on the northern tip of the biggest island in Palawan. To get to El Nido, most people fly to Puerto Princesa (the capital of Palawan) then take a bus or van to El Nido — this takes 5-6 hours. There is a direct flight to El Nido from Manila, it’s 4-5x more expensive than flying to PP but it’s worth it. This is a very small airline though (and really small plane too, a 50-seater) and, when we went in December 2015, it had a different separate terminal than the bigger international and local airlines.
Some boat tour companies in El Nido actually offer combinations of the usual A-D tours. So maybe you can do A&B one day and C&D the next? But like Katie said, A & C are the best tours if you only have time for 2. Nacpan beach is also amazing! So tranquil! But be sure to spray on really good insect repellent. I got eaten by sand flies there even with the spray on mosquito repellent.
From El Nido, you can go to Puerto Princesa to fly to other islands. One your way to PP, if you want to see the underground river, I would suggest staying in Sabang town –it’s closer to the river and also has a great beach! Then in PP, there’s the Honda bay — it’s a boat tour kind of place too and more snorkeling than some of the boat tours in El Nido.
Hey Kellsye! Thanks for your additional information.
Hey! I Live in Korea too and was planning on using my 15 day winter break in January to go to to the Philippines. This itinerary looks pretty awesome and am thinking of doing it almost day for day. The only thing is I’m an AOW certified diver and really want to get some dives in around the Bohol/Panglao area. I’m thinking I would trade that last day on El Nido for a day or 2 of diving around that area instead. Do you think that’s possible? Are there any other alterations you could recommend?
Also when I fly into Cebu I think that big festival will be going on so I’m hoping I could maybe check that out for a day too, but I don’t want to feel too rushed.
Also, I’ll be going solo so I hope I don’t get lost! Haha thanks for this itinerary though it looks great!
Hey Chris, the Philippines is a perfect place to hop over from Korea for winter break. The weather in January is much nicer there than in the ROK 😉 We got our advanced scuba certifications a few months ago, so we can’t wait to get back to the Philippines to do some diving! So jealous of your upcoming trip!
A few notes on diving based on our itinerary:
I wouldn’t recommend diving in Boracay – our friend went there and said it wasn’t the best. And I don’t know too much about diving around Bohol/Panglao. I haven’t heard much about it there, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but it probably isn’t the best either.
The place I would recommend is diving in El Nido/around Palawan. I would bet it is better there than Bohol, though I’m not completely sure.
We went free-diving in El Nido with Palawan Divers, and would recommend them (they do traditional scuba diving too).
You can see our free diving review by searching our site.
You can check out Palawan Diver’s TripAdvisor reviews here:
Since we were working on breath control and learning a whole new skill, we were in an area with a sandy bottom, and aside from a few big schools of fish, we didn’t see much sea life. But I guess that’s not the point of free diving haha. We have heard that the dive sites they bring scuba divers to near El Nido are really nice. So if you want to stick closely to our itinerary and just do 1 or 2 days of scuba, El Nido would be a great option.
Two other places we are just dying to get to in the Philippines for diving is Apo Island (supposed to be amazing!) and Malapascua (where you can see thresher sharks). The only thing is if you choose one of these locations, you’d have to cut one of the other islands from the itinerary and rework it to fit your new location. It’s totally doable, but with 15 days you’ve just gotta pick and choose! (We feel your struggle! It was so hard for us to choose which islands to visit because we wanted to see it ALL!).
Anyway, I hope this information is helpful to you. Let us know where you end up diving. We can’t wait to go back to the Philippines and hopefully spend lots of time in the water 🙂
And as for traveling solo, the Philippines is a great place to do it. The people are so friendly, so if you do get lost, most of them will be happy to help. Sometimes it helps but down costs to group together with others for tuk-tuk rides (especially to Nacpan Beach in Palawan, which we’d highly recommend).
Best of luck and happy planning!
One more question… would you recommend booking everything in advance, like the intercity flights and hostels? Or can I just leave it open and improvise while I’m there? I would rather do the latter, but not if everything will be booked up if I wait until he day of. I’ll be there mid-late January.
Another great question, Chris. We would definitely recommend booking the flights in advance. There are only a certain number of flights between the islands per day, and January is a busy time. When we were there, it seemed like all the flights were full. That said, you don’t need to rush to buy them right now. We bought ours in November I believe, and there were still seats – though I think availability was getting limited. (So if you still need some time to plan stuff, don’t worry!)
As far as hostels go, it’s kind of up to your preference. We are totally the same way – we prefer to go with the flow and book things as we’re there, but with the Philippines we booked everything in advance. We figured since we had all the flights booked and only had a certain amount of days in each place it just made sense. I don’t think you’d be out of a bed since there’s quite a bit of accommodation, but you may not have much choice in where you’re staying. The places we stayed were pretty full, so we were glad we had booked them. I hope this helps!
Another good place to dive is Coron, Palawan. It’s an island north of El Nido. You can take a ferry from El Nido to get there. I’ve only gone snorkeling in Coron, but the amount of fish and corals there is amazing so I could imagine scuba is even better! Also, a number of Japanese ships sunk near Coron and you can go shipwreck diving there!
I’ve dived in Bohol (Balicasag island) and Apo Island. Bohol is great and you can check out other things when you want to take a break from diving. Diving in Apo Island is amazing too but there’s really nothing else to do in that really small island and you have to take a boat and a bus to get to the nearest city/big town.
So excited for you!
Thanks Kellsye, seems like you have explore quite a bit of the Philippines!
Hi, we are planning on doing your itinerary – thank you for posting it! Quick question, is it better to book the domestic flights whilst there or before we fly? At the moment flights from Manila to Caticlan are going for £60
Hi there Georgia! I’m so glad you found the itinerary helpful! We booked our flights ahead of time because the prices seem to only go up the closer it gets to your travel dates. Also, we went during a popular season, so some of the flights were booking up, and since our schedule was kind of tight, we didn’t want to risk being stuck somewhere (although being "stuck" in the Philippines wouldn’t be so bad! hehe)
I think Manila to Caticlan for £60 sounds about right. (I believe that’s about what we paid as well).
Have a great time planning, and please let us know what you think! I’m jealous that you’ll be on those beautiful beaches very soon 🙂
Hi! My name is Josh, I’m 18 years and looking at different places to travel to. I really liked your itinerary you had for the Philippines, only question is approximately how much was it for this two week trip for each person? Want to get an idea of how much I’ll be spending. Thanks!
Hey there Josh, I’m so glad you’re considering the Philippines as a travel option – it’s an amazing country! We actually wrote up an entire post about our budget and break down how much we spent on accommodation, food, transportation, etc.
One thing to know is that it’s totally possible to travel the Philippines for cheaper than we did. We had some nicer meals, went on a couple of excursions, and had quite a few cocktails and beers 😉 To save more money, you can choose cheaper accommodation, eat less expensive food and not have many nights out drinking. The thing you can’t control is transportation – and flights/ferries between the islands are pretty expensive.
Is you have any more questions, please let us know. Good luck planning!
Thanks for the great post, I have three weeks in the Philippines, and was panicking I might not have time to visit all these places, but you’ve filled me with hope! 🙂
Hey Anastasia! I’m so glad this put you at ease! 3 weeks will be a great amount of time to see these three places. You could even squeeze in another stop, but it may get kind of rushed. We went for 17 days total, and I would have loved a few more to just spend relaxing! (Next time!) I have heard great things about Port Barton, which is between Puerto Princesa and El Nido, so that might be a nice stop! Enjoy your time there! We can’t wait to go back 🙂
Thanks so much for this post! I have used it to help me plan my trip. I am going for a month, but two weeks of it I will be with a group provided medical care/setting up temporary clinics. Did you do any research into the hanging coffins in Sagada? I want to add that onto my itinerary, and can’t find great information… This is also my first solo trip where I am winging it a bit more than usual. Any advice?
Hi there, Teresa! That sounds like a great trip you have planned. I would love to know more about the program that you’re working with. Sounds incredible. (Thanks in advance for doing some great work!)
I don’t know much about Sagada, but it looks suuuuper interesting! It would be a great little side trip to tag onto the Banaue rice terraces. We wanted to go there so badly, but had to leave it out since it would mean we’d have to cut another destination from the list. It’s definitely one of our top destinations for our next trip to the Philippines!
How long in total will you be traveling (not working with the clinic)? The main reason Banaue didn’t make our list this time is because it takes a while to get there – a long night bus, if I remember correctly – and we just didn’t have the time to make it worthwhile.
The Philippines is a lovely country to "wing it" in, but sometimes transportation should be booked ahead since it can take a while. Remember that it is an island country, so getting from place to place can take much longer than you think. This eats up some days very quickly. So with out 2 weeks, even 3 destinations felt a bit quick, and I would recommend cutting one place from this suggested itinerary if you plan to add Banaue/Sagada.
You will have a wonderful time traveling solo though. Enjoy every minute, and let us know which places you end up visiting!
I have 17 days to travel on my own… I was hoping to hit Sagada, Bohol (with a day in Cebu maybe…) and end in Palawan… Is this too much?
I am volunteering with Project Helping Hands. It’s a great organization founded by an ER nurse (as an ER nurse I really appreciate this fact). They take who ever is interested, you don’t have to have medical training to volunteer. It’s my first trip with them, but some of my co-workers did a few trips and loved it!
Yes, Teresa, that sounds like a great plan! It will more or less be about the same time we were able to spend in each place, and may feel a bit rushed, but it’s definitely doable and will give you a taste of 3 very different places in the Philippines. And the organization sounds great! We’ll have to look into it more 🙂 have a fantastic time and let us know how it goes!
(Oh and sorry for the delay in response – we were trekking to Everest Base Camp and had very limited internet!)
Hey, I absolutely loved this post I added it to my home screen months ago when I booked my flights to the Philippines. I’ve been travelling and living in Australia for the last year and am ending my trip home with 2 weeks in the Philippines. I’m planning on following your itinerary pretty closely, but one thing I am super keen to do is snorkel/swim with whale sharks. Do you know where the best place to do this is, along your route? I’m planning on doing this solo although a friend might come for a week so I’m pretty nervous about being along in a country that doesn’t speak English. Do you have any recommendations for someone travelling solo? How much would you recommend I also put aside for the trip once I’m there? Bearing in mind I haven’t booked any internal flights or accommodation yet. Thanks so much for your help! Lauren Talulah x
Hi there Lauren! I’m so glad this post is helpful! That will be a perfect way to make your way home from Oz 🙂
First, don’t be nervous at all about traveling solo in the Philippines! Aside from Manila, it is a really safe country and most people are lovely and very friendly. As long as you are conscious of what’s going on around you, you should be fine. One thing I would recommend to solo travelers anywhere is to always know where you are going when you get off transportation. That’s when most scams happen. Have a hotel address written down and a map in a screen shot.
Good news: English is widely spoken in the Philippines!! Most people spoke enough to have a full conversation 🙂 at times we wanted to learn the local language, Tagalog, but everyone just wanted to practice their English!
As for whale sharks… We really wanted to do this as a part of our itinerary too, but after looking into it decided against it. The main place people go is Oslob (the southern tip of Cebu). The main concern we had is that the whales are not treated well. If this is something that concerns you, there is a lot of information out there – so do a little reading about the issue. Also, we’ve met lots of people who added it to their itinerary and were disappointed. You have to take a really long bus (often times over night), then wake up early to be crowded with other tourists doing the same thing, hop in the water, take some photos and you’re done. Most people we spoke to said they went out of their way to squeeze it in, but ended up being let down. It’s totally a personal thing though. You may love it. Just look into it a bit and make the call. One thing to consider though is that it’s pretty far from everything, so it’ll be hard to tag on to just about any itinerary without adding a few hectic days. I do know there’s a nice waterfall nearby that would be worth seeing if you’re in the area – but don’t think it’s worth going too far out of your way for.
I remember reading that Donsol is a place known for the more ethical treatment of the whale sharks – but it is even less convenient to get to unfortunately. And I’m not exactly sure what they are doing there that is better than Oslob. Might be worth checking into.
We made a budget breakdown of our trip that should help you get an idea of what to expect cost-wise.
We just took money out of the ATMs so we didn’t have to carry a super large sum of cash on us.
Good luck with making your final plans. Let us know how your trip goes 🙂
Hi! I’m traveling to the Phillipines for 14 days, 2 being traveling days, at the end of April. I’ll be staying in Cebu, but I’m having a hard time finding information on things to do. I love hiking and food, but Ill be honest, Phillipines being divided into islands has me researching places not reachable other than a plane ride. Do you have suggestions for Cebu or even islands that are a must?
Hey Ashley! So excited to hear you’re going to the Philippines! We think you’ll love it (we sure did!).
We actually didn’t stay in Cebu. We just passed through on our way to Bohol, so I’m afraid we don’t have too much advice on that area.
I do remember researching it a bit and reading about some beautiful waterfalls on the island (Kawasan looks gorgeous, but is said to be very touristy. Tumalog is less busy, but a bit further away). The problem with both of these waterfalls is I think it takes a while to get them from Cebu City (which is very typical a in an island country like the Philippines!).
I also heard good things about diving in Malapuasca (which is also a ways north, but reachable from Cebu City). That area is famous for thresher sharks.
Other suggestions that aren’t too far from Cebu:
-Bohol: this island is a short ferry ride away from Cebu and has a very different feel from the rest of the islands we visited (less touristy and more jungly). You can go firefly kayaking, rent a motorbike and explore the chocolate hills, stay in a lodge in the jungle, see tarsiers in their natural habitat.
-Apo island: we never made it here but heard great things about the snorkeling and diving
-Dumaguete: we didn’t make it here either, but it looks like there’s some cool culture nearby (and it’s the closest city to Apo island, so you’d have to go here first)
-Siquijor Island is supposed to be nice (and relaxing) as well
If you’re open to going further, we would highly recommend Palawan. It requires a flight and a 5-6 hour drive to get to the town of El Nido, but was one of our favorite places in the Philippines. (I would say you’d need at least 5 days to get there, spend some time, and get off the island)
-Boracay is touristy, but the beach is superb. And we found a really amazing treehouse bar that was out of the "tourist zone" that we loved spending our days at 🙂
One more note: a popular thing to do in Cebu is go to Oslob and swim with whale sharks. We were thinking about it, but read up on some of the ethical issues and decided against it. It’s totally a personal decision, but I’d advise you to do a little research before making it a must on your itinerary. We met some people who thought it was kind of a let down because you have to take a night bus to get there, then wake up super early, and be crowded with other tourists doing the same thing. And they wished they hadn’t gone out of their way for it. Again, totally a personal decision, but just something to think about!
Good luck planning and let us know if we can be of any more assistance 🙂
Just wanted to say a big thank you – with a last minute change of plans from our planned trip to Bali now becoming a last minute switch to the Philippines (thanks to my lovely boyfriend not having enough months left on his passport…) I had no idea what to do / where to go with only 2 days to plan! Slightly overwhelmed indeed. Your ultimate guide is perfect and we are about to fly off on Saturday now knowing what route we pretty much will do & we’re now so excited to explore!
Thank you again! Beth
Thank you so much for the kind message, Beth! That seriously made our day 🙂 We love knowing when our guides are helpful and useful for others. Please update us after your trip and let us know what you thought of the Philippines. We’d love to hear about your time there!
And P.S. What a "terrible" problem for your boyfriend to have 😉 I never thought too many stamps was really a problem… Until it affects travel plans I suppose!
Hello! First of all, thank you for such a through blog, with great information. My boyfriend and I are about to embark on a 3.5 month travel stint and starting in the Philippines in April!
We are most likely going to follow your 2-week itinerary! I do have one question, how did you get from Caticlan Airport to where you stayed in Boracy? Did you take a ferry over, and if so how did you obtain that ticket?
Thanks for any insight! Again- love the blog!!
Hi Emma, Thanks for such a kind message! Your 3.5 month trip sounds amazing! You are seriously going to fall in LOVE with the Philippines – we sure did 🙂
We actually flew into Kalibo Airport because we wanted to see part of the Ati-Atihan festival that was taking place that day (in January) and then headed to Boracay from there. You might want to check out the price of flights to Kailbo compared to Caticlan because they can be cheaper (but you do have to spend more time in a shuttle van to get to Boracay).
We too were nervous about the transportation before we arrived (especially since it was during one of the biggest festivals of the year), so we booked online with Southwest Tours Boracay. They have a van pick you up at the airport, connect you with a ferry to Boracay and then another van picks you up on Boracay and drives you to your hotel. It all worked out great. That said, we saw many other companies when we arrived at the airport that were offering the same service. I think Southwest is supposed to be one of the nicer companies, but if we were to do it again, we would have just taken whatever we found at the airport since it’s all pretty much the same.
Hope this helps!
Two weeks in the Philippines is very hard to do, but you’ve definitely picked the main spots! I’d probably only try to squeeze in a trip down to Apo Island to swim with the wild sea turtles! Sounds like a fun trip!
I know – we could have stayed there for 6 months and still not seen everything we wanted to! We were originally planning to go to Apo Island, but didn’t want to rush things too much (especially since it takes a whole day to fly, then drive 6 hours to El Nido! Eeeek!) Next time, I guess 🙂
There is so much to see in the Philippines, i also felt like my 2 weeks was too short… for those more interested in hiking, I’d recommend the rice terraces in Banaue and Batad, and for those into wreck diving, the sunken Japanese fleet in Coron.
Thanks for the tips! We are dying to make it to Banaue!
This sounds perfect. Could you give a rough estimate of how much you spent on this trip total? (And were there two or three of you?)
We traveled as a group of 3, but all of our expenses are for just the 2 of us. We spent roughly $49 per person, per day. You could easily spend less (we weren’t on a super tight budget since it was a 2-week vacation), but you could also easily spend more with more luxurious accommodation. One other thing to note is that we had 3 domestic flights, which upped our cost quite a bit. Getting to and from the islands isn’t cheap!
Good luck with planning!
Hi guys, great report! I’m going for three weeks in November and pretty much doing the trip above but the other way around – starting in El Nido first. It seriously looks amazing there!
That’s so exciting! Three weeks will be a good amount of time to go to all those places – we felt it was a little rushed in 2 weeks. And you’ll love El Nido (it was our favorite)! That might be a problem though, we never wanted to leave! Cheers and safe travels!