The following article is written by Christian, a real world traveller from beautiful Cologne. Julian bugged him since a while already to bundle his travel experiences on wavesnbackpack. After his world trip he didn’t stay long in his hometown but found himself in a plane traveling east soon again. Now, finally the experiences of a truly well-traveled person. Here are his tips for the best travel route in the Philippines.
Arrival in Manila
My adventure on the archipelago started with the flight from Frankfurt to Manila. I was able to get a cheap return flight with China Southern Airlines for 450€ round trip. Arrived in Manila I followed the hints of many friends and other travel bloggers and left Manila immediately again. In Manila you won’t see anything special so better don’t waste your valuable time. The philippines have so much to offer, but you will see later.
First Stop: Coron
For this reason I got the GoHotel near the airport for one night. It is located 10 minutes from the airport and made my onwards travel easy. After a couple of relaxing hours in bed I jumped on the plane to Busuanga (Coron). I found this 1.5 hours flight on Skyscanner for 75€ and was operated by Philippines Airlines.
Coron is – as El Nido – a hotspot for island hopping tours to adjacent islands. Beyond that, Coron is a famous diving spot as two ships wrecks now inhabit thousands of fish. The small Coron is not known as a party town and not very touristy, which is always great to arrive in a country. During the day you hardly see any foreigners as these will be either diving below sea level or exploring the islands close by.
Tip: It makes sense to look for a place to stay on time, as the area is often pretty booked. In the end we found a place and paid 4€ for a double room. From my perspective, three nights are sufficient for divers.
Activities on Coron
Coron offers a lot of interesting activities – such as the all inclusive day trip – that are definitely worth their money.
Ultimate Island Hopping Tour
By joining this trip you will see the following places: Siete Pecados Marine Park – Twin Lagoon – Kayangan Lake – Beach 91 – Coral Garten – Skeleton Wreck – CYC Beach. In this stunning trip snorkel gear, lunch, other snacks and drinks are included. As well as that you are allowed to use kayaks. A pretty cool day if you ask me.
Already from further away you will notice the letters Coron. Once you climbed the summit after approximately 750 steps, you will spot a lookout. The view is breathtaking and worth every step you made beforehand. Ideally you do the ascent before sunrise to get a fabulous view on the surrounding islands.
Maquinit Hot Springs
These hot springs are reachable with a just 5 minute tuk tuk ride. Here you will find 38-41 Celsius (104 F) hot water which runs down the mountain into a pool. The entrance is 4€.
Tipp: End your day here. I still bask in the memories hanging out in the hot springs while enjoying the sunset!
Beaches on Coron
Ideally you explore the beaches close by with a rented scooter, as often while travelling on the Philippines. Through this, you can travel at your own pace and plan your stops individually. Take a whole day for cruising around! You will spot things, stop, get off the scooter, walk around, enjoy and get back on.
We stopped at three different beaches and have always been the only tourists. Here you can be pretty sure in advance that you will have a beach for your own.
In my time I stayed at the Guapos Guesthouse.* Rooms were small but I really liked it. A great bang for the buck if you ask me.
Onwards travel to El Nido
Two boats depart to El Nido daily. One of them is a smaller boat which takes up to 9 hours and the other one a ferry that makes the trip in 3-4 hours. This ferry costs 30 Euros – just 10 Euros more than the smaller boat – but as it is more comfy and significantly faster, it’s definitely worth spending the money on top.
Second Stop: El Nido
El Nido, a small town in the north of the island Palawan, is a lot more touristy than Coron. Both islands are famous for their island hopping tours. In El Nido, you will find everything you need. Hostels and Hotels in all price categories, countless bars and restaurants as well as little shops. The beach in El Nido in unfortunately not suitable for swimming as boats to the mentioned island hopping tours leave here. In the evening and at night the bars will transform into clubs.
Don’t panic: You’ll find them! When you stroll around the beach at night, you won’t be able to miss the parties.
Despite many accommodation and shops the island remains laid back and not a tourist hotspot such as Phuket or Koh Samui in Thailand. I really enjoyed my time here and would recommend getting the vibe. So definitely part of my travel route for the Philippines.
You will find some great accommodations here if you look a bit around!
Tip: Always book your accommodation early, as the best places are likely to be booked already days in advance. Here it is possible to find a decent place to stay for approximately 5€ per night.
Activities on El Nido
Once in El Nido, you wanna do stuff. Of course! And there are many things to do in El Nido!
Island Hopping on El Nido
When it comes to island hopping four tours are offered. Tour A, B, C and D. Tour A is definitely the one with the highest frequency, as it stirs to all highlights. The negative part about that is that you will not be alone on the boat but share the ride as well as the sights with a couple of people.
In our other Philippines article written by our American friend Pierce, El Nido was also recommended.
Tour A: 22 EUR
Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, 7 Commandos Beach. All inclusive
I really enjoyed the tour. Even if a handful of boats arrive at the same time, the lagoons are worth seeing.
Tip: Comparing prices is not really necessary here. You will find the same offers almost everywhere.
Mountain Taraw is a mountain directly located behind El Nido. Who is not scared of heights, physically fit and looking for an adventure, should dare to go up. A guided tour is roughly 10€ and definitely recommended. The ascent can be dangerous as it is easy to lose track, so it is advisable to be accompanied by a local guide. The summit is roughly reached within one hour and the view is simply insane.
Beaches in El Nido
To visit the surrounding beaches I would recommend to rent a scooter and explore the area around El Nino. My favorite here is Napcan Beach, Las Cabanas and Duli Beach.
Las Cabanas Beach has a zip line with which you can slide to the closest island while enjoying a great view. This costs 15€.
Duli Beach is great for surfing and mostly empty. The cool thing here is that you also can drive along the beach with your scooter. A different perspective than usual and definitely recommended when you are close by.
From El Nido to Puerto Princesa
From here the trip continues in direction of Puerto Princesa. The trip takes roughly 4-5 hours and costs round about 10€.
Third Stop in our Travel Route Philippines: Puerto Princesa
Puerto Princesa is especially famous for one attraction the Underground River NP. Here you drive a couple of kilometers along an underground river, the longest one in the world. Since a few years, this river is considered as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
If you only have one day in Puerto Princesa, as we had, you should do this, but isn’t a sight you should never miss out on.
Onwards to Boracay
The next day our plane departed from Puerto Princesa to Kaliko. Boracay calling!
Fourth Stop: Boracay
The island of Boracay seems to be the mecca for tourists of all kind in the Philippines. Here you will spot backpacking folks and masses of other tourists, which results unfortunately in a huge number of big hotels.
The positive effect of this is that you will find a lot of things to do on Boracay. From water sports such as water skiing, banana boats to day trips to adjacent islands. On the island Boracy, everyone should find a suitable offer.
Also for people who want to party, Boracay is the right place as the promenade becomes one big party in the evenings. Of course, the high number of paying tourists also pushes the prices compared to the rest of the Philippines. Prices here are roughly double than usual.
Tip: Two nights on Boracay have been enough for me. Everybody who has been in Thailand and knows places such as Phuket or Koh Samui, also knows the Philippines version of them – Boracay.
Activities on Boracay
So you wonder what to do on Boracay? This will, of course, be covered!
Diving on Boracay
Diving is possible on Boracay as in the rest of the Philippines. Strolling trough the streets you will spot countless diving schools with countless possibilites of great diving spots.
Party and Nightlife
At the White Beach visitors can find a number of clubs and bars. Every evening you have the possibility going to a party or join one of the pub crawls.
Island Hopping on Boracay
Boat trips to various beaches and islands can be found as well. All inclusive, of course.
Tip: Who already did a boat trip in El Nido or Coron, should skip the more expensive boat trips here.
Beaches on Boracay
The main beach on Boracay is called White Beach, where you will find hotels, shops, bars, and restaurants. The miles-long white and the powdery beach is great to hang out and sun beds and umbrellas can be rented. Doubtless an incredibly beautiful beach but for me personally, always a bit overcrowded. On top, the merchants on the beach who want to sell sunglasses and other things can be annoying when you just want to hang out in peace.
What you definitely should do: Get a tuk tuk to the other side of the island. Here you still find empty beaches with postcard flair.
Boracay in a nutshell: A paradise island with dreamy beaches but here you really feel the tourism. In my humble opinion, as a backpacker, you can easily skip Boracay and spend more time in less explored areas in this beautiful country. In case you wonder, where to sleep, you will easily find something in very different budgets.
Onwards travel to Bohol
Try to catch a flight to Cebu (On skyscanner you can find flights for round about 70€ / $90. From here you jump on the ferry to Tagbilara (Island Bohol).
Firth Stop: Bohol
For me, Bohol has the perfect mix of beaches and incredible nature. Most of the beautiful beaches are located in the south of Panglao Island, which you can reach by crossing a bridge. Most of all I can recommend Alona Beach!
Bohol’s landscape is the Philippines at its best and ideally explored with a scooter. For all this, it is definitely recommended to take a whole day.
Activities on Bohol
Once you are on Bohol there are three things you shouldn’t miss out on:
- Tarsier Santuary (Animals you can only see here)
- Choclate Hills
- Man-made forest
If you start early in the morning you will be back just before the sunset.
A good point to start is Tagbilaran and start exploring Bohol with your scooter. On the next day you can simply cross the bridge to Panglao island to enjoy the beaches here. Two days are enough as you will find even nicer beaches on your trip. Because of the unique Chocolate Hills and the rare Tarsiere Bohol should not be skipped.
If you plan on a different trip as we did, it is also easy to reach from Cebu City with a ferry.
From Bohol to Apo Island
From Tagbilaran we continued by ferry to Dumaguete (Island Negros). Arrived at the harbor just ask a tuk tuk driver to drive you to APO Islands, bargain a bit and hop on the trycycle. After 40 minutes drive for a few bucks, you will reach a small harbor from which boats regularly depart to Apo Island.
Sixth Stop: Apo Island
Apo Island is a tiny island so that most likely every point is reachable by foot. The main reason to come to this island is most likely the underwater world. Apo Island is a real diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise.
The special fact: Sea weed in knee-high water attracts huge sea turtles.
Here you just need to put your head under water and you will not only see turtles but come close to them.
Before my first snorkel trip I was excited to spot a turtle, or perhaps two but ended up being literally surrounded by 15-20 turtles, incredible Philippines!
I definitely recommend to stay overnight. The first reason for this is the pristine beauty of the under water world and the second is that tourists come to the island at fixed schedules. If you stay longer, you will have vast areas of the tiny island for yourself. Lucky you :)
In my time at APO island I stayed at the Liberty Lodge that I really liked. Have a look here* to find the place or another one that you might like.
Onwards travel to Cebu Island
From Apo, you take the same way back. Hop on a boat to Dumaguete and from here to Cebu Island.
Seventh Stop: Cebu Island
Arriving at Cebu harbor you will see tuk tuk’s here tuk tuk’s there as well as bigger travel busses. All offer to bring you to the destination of your journey. As the whale sharks are, for me personally an absolut must-see it is recommended to take the bus to Tanawan for $3. You might ask yourself “what to do in Tanawan”? The answer is “absolutely nothing”. The best thing you can do is to arrive in the late afternoon, go to bed, get up at 5 am to see whale sharks.
For round about $45 you get the great opportunity to swim with the biggest fish on earth. Most of them were 6-9 meter long and I can tell, it was absolutely breath-taking to encounter them. Just imagine. They can get up to 15 meter, which is simply insane.
Whale sharks are attracted by shrimps that are thrown into the water. Some people might say this it is incorrect to feed them. You might be correct but in the end, watching whale sharks was extremely impressing and thus a must see for me.
Please be aware not to touch them or come too close and have a look that you choose bigger boats with more people. So whale sharks are less disturbed by us humans.
From Cebu to Moalboal
Pretty easy to answer. From Tanawan with the bus to Moalboal!
Eigths Stop on the Philippines: Moalboal
Moalboal is a small authentic fishing village that is most famous for its underwater world, similar to APO island. Restaurants are serving great food, some bars, and shops for things you need. The atmosphere here is laid back and very chilled. All in all a place where you can spend some time and feel comfortable.
Activities on Moalboal
In the following, I will cover some cool things you can do on Moalboal.
Diving and Snorkeling
Most of all there is one particular reason for underwater enthusiasts to come to Moalboal: Sardines. Gazillions of Sardines.
Just a few meters away from Panagsama Beach you will spot the colorful and beautiful reef, where you can swim with millions and millions of sardines. As well: One or two turtles might cross your path as well.
With your rented scooter it is easily possible to reach Kawasan Falls within 40 minutes. Arrived here you need to pay $2 entrance fee, which is well worth spent as these falls are an absolute must see!
The waterfalls are 5-10 meters high and if you dare, it is also allowed to jump down.
It is also possible to book a guided canyoning tour, which is comparatively expensive. As the area is great to explore on your own, you can save the money!
Beaches around Moalboal
Panagsama Beach is the main beach in Moalboal, where you should ideally book your accommodation. This area offers a great variety of hostels, hotels, bars and restaurants, etc. The beach itself is not extraordinarily inviting to hang out as the sandy parts are tiny, or potentially gone during high tight. The very positive thing about that is that the island doesn’t become a tourist magnet, even though it’s one of the best places for diving and snorkeling I’ve ever seen.
The good thing here: Beautiful beaches that definitely invite for hanging out are just around the corner.
White Beach, for example, is just a very short tuk tuk or scooter ride away. After a few minutes driving, you will encounter a postcard, powdery dream beach. Accommodations are here significantly more expensive, so it might rather make sense to stay in Panagsama Beach and drive over once you are in the mood to hang out at the beach.
Despite the paradise beach the beach never got crowded! So a real hidden gem.
Moalboal in a nutshell: If diver or not, you can definitely spend four nights here without being bored for a second.
From Moalboal you can get direct but to Cebu City, which makes leaving this little paradise very easy as well. In my personal opinion neither Cebu nor Manila have anything great to offer, so rather spend time in the above-mentioned places, you will fall in love with for sure.
Get an even better feeling of the Philippines with my 25-minute video of my travel route in the Philippines.
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