Updated: Jan 13
November is the right month to visit Philippines: it is start of the dry season, the remote islands are often accessible and not so crowded as in December & January.
Here is the route I followed in the beginning of November 2018:
Manila - Puerto Princesa (Plane)
Puerto Princesa - EL Nido (Bus)
El Nido - Coron (3 days of sailing)
Coron - Cebu (Plane)
Cebu - back to Manila (Plane)
- You will also most probably arrive to Manila first and stay over a night as I did. There are nice hotels in the city to get rest a day, recover and be ready for the adventure. However, if you can arrange a flight on the same day you arrive to your next destination, do it!, at the end staying in Manila was a day lost.
- Flights between islands take a day from you (mostly depart in the afternoon and they are not cheap if you book last minute; they costed me between 50-90 Euros one way). I stayed about 10 days, it was rushy, I should have planned at least 15 days after Manila.
- Be careful about your luggage limit when you book a flight between islands. Some companies only allow 10kgs max.
- Philippines is a diving paradise, I did only snorkeling but it is right place to learn or improve diving skills. Underwater was amazing already when snorkeling.
- Flying to other countries around Philippines is not expensive. I should have stayed longer and visit also the countries around like South Korea, Vietnam, Kambocia.
IS IT EXPENSIVE?
No, plane ticket will be your main cost; out of that, depending on your budget, you can sleep in very modern cheap hostels with good food for about 15-30 Euros or high class hotels for 60 to 100 Euros. Also renting a car with driver for a day would cost you between 60 to 100 Euros/day depending on the route, your bargain skills and where you are. Don't drive yourself, booking with driver will not cost much extra and you can avoid the whole stress.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE WITH ME?
» Sun Protection hat, sunscreen, sun glasses etc. » A rash guard for sun protection and guard against jellyfish stings » Insect Repellent » Sandals or reef shoes » You will not need warm clothing
Shallow pools of clear water and soft sands of tropical paradise El Nido. El Nido is a typical chaotic touristic asian type of coastal town. Many tricycles rushing around. Main attraction is boat tours to islands and lagoons (see big lagoon in the photo below), which is called island hoping. There are many boat tours departing every morning. About that; definitely rent a private boat (not a group tour) , and convince your guide to depart as early as possible in the morning so you can skip the tourist rush and enjoy the islands and lagoon in the early hours all for yourselves.
Sailing Adventure With Tao Philippines
After a day spent with island hoping, I went to Tao Philippines Office and got a briefing about our 3 day tour that would depart the next day. Tao Philippines is a social enterprise developed together with island communities as partners. They do great work! Here you can have more info about their history and organized trips:
The tour was amazing, the crew, food, it was unforgettable to sail through the remote islands of northern Palawan and camping in open native beach huts, all were organized great; a perfect alternative to skip tourist rush and join a sailing adventure. Below you see some of the beach huts we stayed and the camp fire from one night.
In the video below, we are anchoring our boat for camping onshore on a remote island somewhere between El Nido and Coron island. After that we all swam to reach the island, our dry bags were than brought to the the crew with canoes.
Nothing can get more fresh, fishing on board cooking directly after:
Below you see fishermen preparing their catch for sale in the early hours of the day, somewhere at the Northern Palawan.
And yes, underwater is crazy and Nemo was also there:
The boat tour ended in Coron island and I took a plane to Cebu island the next day.
In Cebu I rented a car with driver. One tip, do not arrange a tour or rent a car from your hotel, they double the price.
Cebu island has 3 main attractions you shouldn't skip:
1) Moalboal - "The Sardinian Run":
In Philippines you might run into different kind of traffic; this is the one you would love about; the `sardine run`. It was amazing to dive inside a sphere of so many fishes, plus you just need to snorkel.
2) Oslob: Swimming with Whale Sharks:
Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean. In most places around the globe, a whale shark sighting is big news. But there are select destinations where the big fish routinely gather to feed. One such encounter takes place in the Philippines, just offshore of the village of Oslob, on the island of Cebu. Despite their tremendous size these giant fishes are approachable. The ones I met were about 7-8 m long, they can grow up to 12-13 m. They can weigh up to 60 tons. In Oslob, whale sharks are fed shrimp to return every morning for tourists and divers. The feeding takes place between first light and early afternoon, by which time the sharks will often loose interest and go elsewhere. Before we were allowed to enter the water, we had to first sit through a briefing that includes all the dos and don’ts of snorkeling with the sharks.
Even the knowledge that I am most certainly not on the menu doesn’t diminish the thrill of seeing one passing slowly a few cms away.
3) Osmena Peak:
Osmena Peak is the highest mountain in Cebu and is considered a twin to Bohol’s Chocolate Hills. I had no time to visit chocolate hills so I visited the twin.
At the gate you pay for entrance and for a guide (together costs about 5-6 euros), there is a short rocky trail, about 15 minutes, to the top.
You can bring a tent and camp there to see the sun rise.
Cockfighting is unfortunately a booming billion Dollar industry in Philippines. There is a lot of money to be made on bets. In around 2500 dedicated mini-stadiums across the country about 30 million roosters are killed each year. Watching this wildness is more or else seen similar as watching football during the weekend. The photos are from a training session I came across with on my way in Cebu Island. In the real fight, blades are attached to the cocks' legs instead of these small pillows for protection.