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After a cool month spent in Taiwan we were ready for warmer weather and beach days as we made our way down to the Philippines. We had been to this corner of the world years ago but had somehow missed the two main South East Asian island nations of Indonesia and the Philippines our first time around. This year we allocated a month to each country.
Overall we absolutely loved the Philippines. The level of English was solid, the sites simply amazing with gorgeous beaches and the most crystal clear water I have ever seen. From lagoons, to lakes to epic snorkeling this is a beach lovers paradise. And while the food did not blow us out of the water, and the historic sites are not quite as awe inspiring as those in neighboring Indonesia, if you’re looking for a beach paradise, the Philippines is it.
We spent a full 4 weeks traveling around the country and this was not nearly enough time. With thousands of islands it could take you years to step foot on each one, but with a full month you do get to see quite a bit at a more leisurely pace.
Manila – 5 days
We hadn’t heard great things about Manila, and weren’t expecting much, keeping our guard up at all times. When we left our Airbnb apartment rental to grab dinner a block away on our first night we immediately felt uncomfortable with the unwanted attention we were generating from the locals in the area. After that first night we made sure to simply Uber everywhere – no need to wander around on foot when you feel uneasy.
Some of our highlights of Manila included the Bambike eco tours around the city, a slum tour with Smokey Tours and an escape room and night of karaoke with 3 of Dave’s employees who are all from the Philippines. The bike tour gave us a brief history lesson and views of the historic city center while the Slum Tour provided us with a more harrowing experience really getting to see and understand what kind of daily existence is led by millions across the world, those who live on only $1 a day. Getting to know Dave’s employees was also an amazing experience as it allowed us to really ask a ton of cultural questions and get a feel for some of the issues plaguing the Philippines today. Interactions with locals always enrich our travel experience so this was a huge plus for us!
Coron – 4 days
From Manila we flew to Coron where we started our island hopping tour. There is no beach per say in the town of Coron itself, but the thing to do is hop on a group tour and make your way to some of the other islands, coves, lagoons, bays in the area. We did three different tours and they were all amazing. Just breathtaking scenery simply unparalleled. I could not get enough. This was my paradise. Palm trees, fresh grilled seafood made right on the boats, crystal clear waters and an abundance of fish to see from our snorkeling masks. Dave even witnessed one fish swallowing another. Everything was magical, except for the lack of proper air conditioning in our room at the adorable marine themed Kokosnuss guesthouse. After a bout of whining about heat stroke daily I would eventually calm down and settle down to sleep, giddy to start another amazing day of island exploring.
El Nido – 4 days
From Coron we were off to El Nido, the most famous island destination which seems to always be flooded with backpackers. The backpackers are there for good reason, from there you can also find the same types of boat tours running to completely different lagoons, lakes, islands etc. It’s all beautiful. Every single day we did a tour I was amazed. I could not get enough. I had a permanent smile attached to my face. Here we also had an adventurous snorkeling experience during which all of us seemed to drift further and further away from a boat only realizing how strong the current was when we were seriously struggling to swim back to the boat. Dave even rescued an Indian woman who latched on to his back after losing all arm strength. After watching us flail about for what seemed like eternity the boat crew finally threw a rope out that we could all latch on to. Good thing we were all wearing our life vests!
Port Barton – 2 days
Port Barton was a last minute addition – a recommendation from a backpacker we met while in Coron. He highly recommended stopping in this small beach town which is perfectly mellow and laid back. We rented a small bungalow in a resort right on the water with intermittent electricity and a truly chilled out vibe. Looking up at the stars over a completely darkened beach was truly unforgettable and falling back into a hammock while reading a book is the perfect way to relax and unwind after a full week of daily tours.
Puerto Princesa – 3 days
Pureto Princesa is known for it’s famous underground river. Though touristy I still found this to be incredibly interesting boat tour into the cave with all sorts of stalagtites and stalgmites. We also found some seriously good restaurants in Puerto Princesa. While as a whole I can’t say I loved the cuisine in the Philippines, in Puerto Princesa there were a couple great restaurants with truly delicious meals, one of which we enjoyed in complete darkness as there was a power outage. All the more romantic dining experience if you ask me!
Boracay – 5 days
Then it was on to the party paradise island of Boracay. Unfortunately while we were there a slimy green algae had taken over the entire coast line so that postcard perfect beach pic was a bit tainted. Luckily this was not our only beach destination in the country and we had no problem getting a bit of work down in our summer cute studio apartment rental.
Bohol – 2 days
Bohol is the island famous for the chocolate hills – an area with small brown covered hills which look almost exactly like Hershey’s kisses. While we loved seeing the chocolate hills and learning about the tarsiers at the sanctuary we were deeply saddened to see how poorly the staff was managing the visitors at the sanctuary. While we are animal lovers and want to learn as much as possible about exotic animals in foreign countries we were strongly against coming within inches of these nocturnal creatures in order to get a close up selfie pic.
Siquijor Island – 3 days
Siquijor island was our more off the beaten bath island destination. We rented a motorbike and with our days drove all around the island, spending more time getting lost and trying to backtrack our way back to our guesthouse than we’d like to admit. We found an awesome restaurant with beach access and a gorgeous view over the coast line and pretty much returned there for every single meal. The food was delicious and the lounge chairs and hammocks quite comfortable. I kind of wanted to move in and never leave.
Cebu – 1 day
We had a brief stop in Cebu where we were able to meet up with a Filipino family who we met while on a food tour in Taiwan. They were incredibly generous and hospitable – taking us to their favorite Filipino pork restaurant so we could sample all the local cuisine and then chasing down a balut bicycle man so that we could try the infamous treat.
Overall we loved our time in the Philippines and recommend it to anyone in the region. To get over to the region be sure to use the Traveloka online flight booking service and if your airlines happens to have a stop over in Malaysia use Traveloka Malaysia to find a place to stay there!