Philippines had been on my bucket list for a very long time. Especially as I am drone obsessed, seeing all the stunning islands from above, with the turquoise water and sandbars, I knew I had to add the Philippines as a stop on my Asia trip. In this guide to the Philippines islands, I will be outlining a three week itinerary including what to do on Cebu Island, Siargao, Coron and El Nido.
There are so many more islands to see, the problem is you would need more than a few weeks to see them all. As well as time constraints, it is actually quite expensive to get around the Philippines. Internal flights cost me over £300 in total. However, it is well worth it. If you have more time, consider adding Boracay, Siquijor Island and The Caramoan Islands too, as I didn’t have time to go but I’ve heard these are just beautiful!
Guide to the Philippines: How long to spend on each island?
Due to the amount of travel time, I would recommend at least four nights on each island in case you have to lose a day travelling either side. Cebu is quite a large island, and I stayed here for five nights and still didn’t make it down south to some of the waterfalls there. Siargao is relatively small and you can scooter around the whole island in just a few hours. El Nido is also a bit bigger and is surrounded by so many smaller islands that you could do a boat trip each day! I did two boat trips here so you need at least two full days here.
Coron was my least favourite island mainly due to Coron town, which is very busy and dirty. However, there are also some great boat trips you can take here. To avoid having to stay in Coron Town head here to see a great place to stay out of town with a pool and lush greenery around. I would also recommend backpacking around Asia in general as wheeling a suitcase around and fitting it into a tuk tuk can be hard! I spent 3 months in Asia travelling and went to Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia!
How to get around?
There are many modes of transport to choose from! For transfers when you have all of your luggage on you, the best option is to book a transfer or get a local bus, although these take much longer. Once you are settled, the best way to explore each island is by scooter. These can be rented for a few pounds a day and fuel is also very cheap. Another option is getting a driver for the day, which we did in Cebu to get us around from the early morning. This is a good option if there are a few of you.
For more top tips on the Philippines, here are 17 things to know before visiting the Philippines. Lots of helpful tips on the culture, food and even SIM cards!
Guide to the Philippines: How to spend 5 days on Cebu Island
Day 1 – Swimming with turtles and sardines
Head to the beach in Moalboal to swim with turtles and see the famous sardine run, where thousands of sardines swim in a huge shoal along the edge of the beach. You can rent a snorkel right on the beach at the dive centre for a few pounds for the day. There are lots of lovely little beaches along the coast here, so plenty to choose from. Then for dinner there are also lots of restaurants right on the beach with a perfect view of the sunset.
Day 2 – Canyoning
This was one of my favourite activities in the Philippines. I was desperate to visit all the waterfalls and canyoning is a great way to see them all! For 1,500 Peso it was a great active day out, jumping from the tops of waterfalls into the bright blue water below. You can either do this as part of a group trip or just your own group, but be sure to go early, as later on in the day it gets busy with groups of people and you may have to wait in a queue to jump off into the waterfalls. There is not really an age limit – we saw one couple here with a child of about 5 years! Some people worry about bringing their children to Asia, but this proves Asia can be a great destination for a family holiday!
Day 3 – Visit Kawasan Falls
After seeing the waterfalls while canyoning, I wanted the chance to see the waterfalls in peace in the morning and take some photos. I would recommend going as early as possible to make sure you beat the crowds.
Day 4 – Hike up to Osmeña Peak at sunrise
Similar to the ‘Chocolate Hills’ of Bohol, these huge green mounds are amazing to see at sunrise. Make sure to check the weather beforehand, as we ha a very cloudy morning and had to come back in the afternoon to see the view properly.
Day 5 – Head down south to see all the waterfalls in the south of the island.
Inambakan is a popular waterfall to go and see, very lush and cascades into a bright blue pool of water. Alegria waterfall is also stunning to see. There are plenty around here so take your pick!
Guide to the Philippines: What to do while you’re on Siargao Island
I would say rent a scooter and go exploring! Most people stay in General Luna, which is about a thirty minute drive to the first spot on my list, the Coconut Tree Viewing Point.
Coconut Tree Viewing Point
As the roads winds in among the coconut trees, there is suddenly a huge gap where the trees drop down below the road, making it an amazing viewpoint to see a sea of coconut palms below! Park your bike and have a short walk along the barrier to see the view from above.
The Palm Swing
Further along the same road is the Palm Swing. This is a rope swing attached to a palm, and you swing right off the palm and jump into the water below. A very popular spot so make sure you arrive early.
Magpupungko Rock Pools
The whole coastline of Siargao is very rocky, and you won’t find that many beaches. However, this coastline has the very impressive Magpupungko rocks pools that you can even swim in so I would definitely recommend going. It also gets very busy here so I would recommend going as early as possible.
Boat trip to Guyam Island, Naked Island and Daku Island
These islands can either been explored as a group tour, including entrance fees to the island, or by hiring a private boat, meaning you pay the entrance fees separately. Either way, it’s a nice way to get out on the boat and lie on some sandy beaches.
Guide to the Philippines: What to do on Coron Island
Take an island hopping boat trip
Boat trips are the best option here, as Coron Island itself is very bare with not much to see. I would recommend going with Casa Fidelis, as they take you out early to beat the crowds at the most beautiful spots such as Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake and amazing coral reefs with plenty of fish to see while you are snorkelling. Head here to see how much entrance to each spot is.
Island hopping boat trip to beautiful sandy beaches
Make sure to take a boat trip to some of these amazing islands if you can. Coron really has no beaches, so it’s nice to take a boat trip to relax on some sandy beaches and go snorkelling. What would make this even more fun is an underwater scooter, if you’ve never heard of them then just click on the link to see!
Bulog Dos – Bulog Dos is a very small island with a small sand bar and a sandy beach
Malcapuya Island – a larger island with a sandy beach and plenty of palm trees, even a basketball court among the palms – Malcapuya Island is perfect to relax for a while
Ditaytayan Island – We came here for the sandbar, and although we had been lied to and at this time of year there was no sandbar, it was still beautiful! Instead of walking along a sandbar, we walked hip deep in water along a sandbar. Make sure to check beforehand whether the tide is at the right level for you to see the sandbar!
Where to stay and what to do in El Nido
I stayed at Outpost Hostel in El Nido, which is meant to be one of the best ones on the island. The atmosphere was great and it is a very sociable hostel. There are different events each night such as pub quiz or beer pong. However, there is also a 10pm curfew, so no one will be keeping you up late if you want to go to sleep early. My favourite part about staying here was the boat trips! To get to El Nido, you may fly in to Puerto Princesa, where there are also lots of things to do to break up a long journey and stop over here!
Northern Island Tour
This tour takes you around some of the most scenic beaches, untouched and pretty much empty of other people for you to explore, snorkel and swim.
Southern Island Tour
This tour is just as beautiful and even more relaxing, with plenty of white sand beaches and palm trees around.
With an long sandbank connecting the two islands, it’s a lovely place to jump off the boat and then walk up to the viewpoint on top the island. Alternatively, fly the drone like me for the best view!
A stunning sunset spot! Also fun to play some volleyball and end the day.
If, like me you have a drone then El Nido is the best place to go. Each spot looks even more amazing from up in the sky. Hope this guide to the Philippines has given you some good drone inspiration!
Planning a longer Asia trip? Head to my blogs on Sri Lanka or Bali to add these as another destination during your trip! If you want to see temples and try surfing then both of these destination are perfect for easy to get to beaches, culture and delicious food.
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