Philippines.. The heart of Asia’s incredible scenery, clear blue waters and the warming locals!
It was time for the country I have looked forward to most! It was now time to head to Manila. We had heard that Manila wasn’t safe so we booked a flight straight out of Manila to Puerto Princesa. We were lucky enough to land and have our flight within the next hour and a half. I wouldn’t advise this because we didn’t leave ourselves much time but it worked out well for us.
Puerto Princesa-El Nido
1 hour later we arrived in Puerto Princesa, our destination was El Nido so we spent a night in a nearby hotel then got the 7 hour bus to El Nido in the morning. Our bus ticket cost just £6, we pre booked this using good o’l 12Go. Top tip! The journey wasn’t great if you get travel sick, the roads were constantly winding so best to take travel sickness before hand.
The bus dropped us around a 5 minute drive from our hostel so we got one of the Tuc Tucs at the bus station to take us. The minimum price for a Tuc Tuc is 100 Pisos, around £1.50. All journeys we have done so far have cost 100, some journeys being over 10 minutes long so it’s pretty good value for travel!
We stayed in Outpost which is an amazing hostel. The vibe is great and the staff are the friendliest people we’ve met in hostels so far. It’s on the beach and the sunsets right in front of the bar so it’s a pretty breathtaking view.
Our first day we went to the Zipline which was a 30 minute walk down the beach from our hostel. It was so cheap, just £7 each. Admittedly it didn’t look all that safe and you had an almighty trek up the forest to get to the zip wire. Once we were at the top our minds were at rest slightly and it seemed more official than we initially thought. You are able to go at the same time so we whizzed from one island to the other side by side, it was unreal! Once on the other side there’s a rocky sand bank so you can walk back to mainland, alternatively you can pay for a return trip.
We spent the day at Las Cabanas beach, a quiet and beautiful beach with piercing blue water and the zipline up above.
We met amazing people at Outpost, the night life at the hostel was so good and really helped everyone mingle. The hostel had daily boat trips, they were more expensive than what was offered on the street however it was for people from the hostel only. The boat was big and a lot less crowded than it would’ve been else where. As mentioned before, we haven’t yet experienced a good boat trip however this regained our faith in them! We had an unreal day visiting great locations. We paid £26 each but that included our lunch, drinks at the end and visiting 5 locations.
There isn’t much nightlife in El Nido, In fact there’s one bar/club that everyone tends to go to after the hostel shuts. It’s not amazing but everyone goes as it’s your only option so you always have a good night.
The boat from El Nido to Coron takes 4 hours and only runs at 6am & 8am. I couldn’t tell you how the journey was as I slept the entire 4 hours, I’m guessing that’s a good sign that it wasn’t too bad for travel sickness.
In Coron there isn’t many hostels, we stayed in the new hostel Bam Bam. We enjoyed our time in Bam Bam a lot, it’s a pretty quiet hostel but central to everything and super comfy! We only paid £8 P/N, oppose to Hop charging £17 P/N.
Coron is limited for day time activities. Theres no nearby beaches so the 7 of us spent a lot of time in the hostel watching movies and playing games. The view point was very nice to do at sunset, the views were incredible. It was a fairly tough, sweaty climb up the endless stairs but the top was totally worth it.
The best thing you can do in Coron to see as much as possible is to go on a boat trip. We had enough people to hire a private boat, you pay the boat fee and then pick what locations you want to visit. In total we paid 950 Pisos each (£15), the public boat tours were charging more than this so if you have enough people I would definitely advise the private option.
The tour guide will take you to the market in the morning, help you pick out what you want for lunch and then they cook it for you on the boat. We visited Secret beach Lagoon, Banol Beach & Barracuda lake. We enjoyed all of them!
Food can be very expensive in Coron. It seems that the island is up and coming so a lot of new cafes and restaurants have been built. Drinks aren’t too expensive, the rum is the cheapest you can buy. Fun fact! The rum in Coron is actually cheaper than the coke, hence why your drinks are so strong!
After a very heavy night with new friends we hung around the hostel and headed to the hot springs at sunset. I definitely wouldn’t advise doing this in the day, it’s far too hot! In the evening although still hot it’s an enjoyable temperature. We paid 200 (£3) each for entry. Top tip! Take water with you, it’s such a high temperature you’ll definitely need to stay hydrated.
We took a flight to Cebu City from Coron. The airport is tiny and pretty much like a small train station, you definitely don’t need to get there 2/3 hours before your flight. When arriving at Cebu City airport we were approached by drivers for the white taxis, they have a fixed price. Usually a fixed price is the best option however they were charging 700 Pisos for a 25 minute drive to Mad Monkey hostel. We took a gamble with the yellow taxis as they use the meter. Luckily for us the gamble paid off as we only paid 390 Pisos!
We spent 5 nights in Cebu city, we definitely over stayed. The hostel was great in the evening, especially the half hour every night of unlimited free spirits! That aside, it’s really hard finding something to do in the day. We spent 4/5 of our days in The Alaya Mall, going to the cinema and trying out nice restaurants.. also enjoying the air con!
If you’ve got a short time in the Philippines definitely miss Cebu City. The only benefit of staying in the city is the hostel runs various day trips. You can go to Kawasan Falls, Moalboal, Oslob and Bohol. We chose not to book onto any of these trips as the drive to oslob was 3-4 hours and to Moalboal was way over 2. We added Oslob and Moalboal into our itinerary to visit separately.
Oslob is around a 3 1/2 hour bus journey from Cebu City. You can get your ticket at the South bus terminal for 200 Pisos (£3), the buses run hourly.
Our main reason for visiting Oslob was to see the whale sharks. We booked this through our hotel guide for 1000 Pisos P/P. He collected us at 5am and drove us there, collected our tickets and put us on one of the first boats. This experience is made a whole lot better if you get up early, it gets so busy later on and will make it very unenjoyable.
Pierce and I were worried that this experience would involve abuse and cruelty to the whale sharks. We looked into it prior and found that there has been a lot of rules and regulations brought in. We had heard in that past that it wasn’t very well regulated and the whale sharks were treated badly. During our experience there was a marine officer monitoring the entire experience, making sure the sharks were not approached and touched by anyone. Prior to swimming with them we were given a brief and told how many meters to keep back, if they approach you keep your distance and let them pass and was constantly reminded during the activity to move back and give them space. Of course this wasn’t the most natural experience, the whale sharks are there purely because they are being fed. However you are in the ocean with them, they’re not contained in tanks and they most certainly didn’t look under any stress. We loved our entire time with them, they are unreal, beautiful fish. we couldn’t get enough!
We also visited Tumalog waterfall. Unfortunately it hadn’t rained in a while so there wasn’t all that much water but it was still a beautiful sight. We attempted to walk it after being told it was too steep for a Tricycle. 10 minutes up we were exhausted and hot, luckily a motorcyclist offered to bring us both up and down for less than £1 each. We soon realised there was not a chance we could’ve walked there haha. The waterfall is free to visit and was empty when we got there around 1pm.
I wouldn’t advise staying too long in Oslob, we spent 2 nights which was more than enough. Top tip! We had no WiFi or signal at any point in Oslob. If you need anything booked or to contact anyone back home, make sure to do this before arriving in Oslob!
Heading to Moal Boal was different to any other travel days we’ve experienced so far. We had to sit at the edge of the road with our backpacks and wait for a bus to pass, flag it down and buy our tickets when on the bus (30 Pisos) . Once we arrived at Bato we had to switch buses to get to MoalBoal (100 Pisos), this journey took 1-1 1/2 hours.
Due to leaving Oslob a night early and having no WiFi we had no where to stay. We tried to extend our stay at MoHo hostel but they were fully booked. We spent the night in a very dingy, hot hostel private room just up the road. We spent our next two nights in MoHo hostel. MoHo also have the 30 minutes of free spirits every night which was great for our budget! We met up with our friends from Coron and spent the night drinking in the hostel.
Moal Boal is most famous for the beautiful Kawasan Falls. There was a canyoneering trip advertised at the hostel for 1500 Pisos P/P. Initially this seemed pretty expensive however we had heard that if you go to the waterfall without a tour you will be ripped off a lot. Our friends went without canyoneering and had to pay nearly 1000 Pisos in the end by the time they hired the car, Life jackets, entry fee etc.
We were collected from our hostel at 9am, driven for around 30 minutes with three other couples then taken to collect our safety equipment. We had around a 40 minute trek through the jungle to the top of where the waterfalls start. If you are not keen on the walk you can pay 500 Pisos P/P for a zip line and then just a 10 minute walk. Pierce and I done the 40 minute trek, this wasn’t half as bad as it sounds.
Once we reached the top you’re faced with a 3 meter jump almost immediately. The best way to beat your nerves is to be chucked in the deep end, almost literally. We spent the next 2-3 hours sliding down natural slides, leaping off various size jumps and trekking to the next waterfalls. I stopped jumping at 5 Meters, Pierce stopped at 7. Once you’ve reached your limit there’s alternate routes down so you don’t have to jump. At the last fall there was a natural slide and then a rope swing into the water, this was my favourite part. We finished at Kawasan Falls for a swim, luckily it wasn’t to busy by the time we arrived. We had one last walk back to where our lockers were for a delicious included lunch.
We had to travel on the bus for 3 hours back to Cebu city for our flight the following morning. Final stop, Boracay!
There’s two options when flying to Boracay, first option being our choice. Fly into Caticlan airport, get a 10 minute trike to the port, 15 minute boat to Boracay island and then a short trike ride to your accommodation. Flights into this airport tend to be more expensive so there’s a second, cheaper option. You fly into Kalibo then have around a 2-3 hour drive to the port and then follow the same process as the first option. Depending on your budget, pick what choice is best for you. We pre booked our flight so got it for fairly cheap, hence why we flew into Caticlan.
We stayed in Mad Monkey hostel for £10 P/P P/N. Boracay is currently still under a lot of construction, do not let this put you off. The beach front is finished and looks great, the back streets are still taking a little more time. Due to the endless construction,walking around can be dangerous so make sure to watch where you’re walking. Every Wednesday night there is a beach clean up at mad monkey, It’s voluntary and only takes around 40 minutes. I think it’s nice to always help and give a little back when you can. After all no one likes a dirty beach or an ocean filled with plastic.
White beach is the spotlessly clean strip of white powder sand. This is the best beach we have seen in our entire trip. It’s not too busy, the sand feels like baby powder and the sea is possibly the clearest you will ever swim in. It’s an absolute dream! White beach is the best place for a day of relaxation. Alternatively you can rent paddle boards for 300 Pisos if you’re not one to spend your day sunbathing!
Boracay revolves around white beach, endless bars and restaurants line the coast. There is every type of cuisine you could hope for, you will definitely be struck for choice. If you’re hoping for a slightly cheaper meal come away from white beach, the back streets aren’t as expensive.
You will be offered endless massages along the beach, you can knock their price down by a lot. I was offered an hour full body, oil massage for 650 Pisos, I got him down to 400. I decided I only wanted half hour and paid just 200 Pisos.
When it comes to Boracay’s night life, you can find the majority of it all along the beach front. We went to a few bars one night, Exit bar and Epic. Epic is where you go for a dance vibe. Top tip! Epic will try to charge you 300 Pisos entry fee however all through the day they hand out free entry & drink tokens, make sure to pick one up.
We decided the best way to try out the nightlife was to join the famous Boracay pub crawl. After the insanely good Koh Tao pub crawl, we had high expectations. For 990 Pisos P/P (770 if you pre book online) you get a free T shirt, Shot glass necklace, bracelet, 2 free shots in each bar, selected 2 for 1 drinks & lastly bar/club entry.
As you can see, Pierce didn’t do very well at limbo.
There were a lot of Filipinos on the pub crawl, unlike Koh Tao which was full of backpackers. We really enjoyed mingling with the locals, they were all so friendly and spoke amazing English. There were fun games throughout the night and the reps really got everyone involved and mingling. I would definitely advise this for a good night out!
The Philippines very quickly became my favourite country that we’ve visited in Asia. The beauty is impossible to describe, the friendly locals, once in a life time activities, budget friendly and just over all an all rounder!