3 Week Itinerary for The Philippines
Renowned for its white beaches, The Philippines is an absolutely stunning country made up of thousands upon thousands of small and large islands. Because of this it's not the easiest place to get around which hinders a lot of people from visiting for "shorter" holidays. But we're here to help! We've put together a flexible three-week itinerary with our favourite highlights. If you don't have that much time, take the tips that sound appealing to you to create a two-week or ten day trip.
As always, none of the recommendations mentioned are sponsored. They are from personal experience and are recommendations we genuinely feel are worthwhile to pass on.
Land in Manila airport and fly straight to Coron which is part of the province of Palawan. The local taxi & tuk tuk drivers know the flight schedules so will be waiting for you outside the airport.
Coron is famous for its shipwrecks so if you're into diving, this is the place to do it. There is so much to explore under the clear waters!
If diving isn't your thing; fret not! There are plenty of lagoons and lakes to visit and we recommend a day trip to Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake which sit next door to each other. The views here are stunning, but you might want to go early as it can get quite busy.
For sunset, you will want to climb up to Mount Tapyas (where the eye-catching Hollywood style "Coron" sign sits). There are around 700 steps and it will take you about 45 minutes, but trust us - the spectacular colours as dusk approaches are well worth it.
Sunset at Mount Tapyas
One of our all-time favourite hostels is in Coron and we highly recommend staying here! It's called Hop Hostel and it is clean, safe, and has a stunning view of the town from its rooftop bar.
Ok so this next recommendation is a bit on the expensive side but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well worth saving up for. Tao Philippines is an amazing company that run boat expeditions from Coron to El Nido (or vice versa). They run over different periods but for this three-week itinerary we recommend the 3 day/2 night package.
You will travel with like-minded people to different remote islands; you will totally switch off and disconnect from the world; you will eat freshly cooked meals, including fish that's been caught before your eyes; you will swim, snorkel and kayak in the clearest waters; you will stay in private beach huts that look out on the water. And you will enjoy an experience you will find yourself day-dreaming about for years to come.
Tao Beach Huts
Plus, Tao give back hugely to their community which you will learn about along the way. There are other companies that offer a similar experience at cheaper rates but, like anything, you pay for quality.
If you decide to skip this part and head straight to El Nido you should get the ferry. It will take 6 hours or else there is a fast ferry which takes 3-4 hours.
Next you'll land in El Nido, which is fast becoming a favourite tourist destination. For this reason we recommend staying in the slightly less built up area near Corong Corong Beach. Kame House Backpackers is a relatively new hostel here that is clean and cosy.
Plus this area is where all of the island-hopping tours depart from. Island-hopping is the number one attraction in El Nido. There are four different tours - A, B, C, or D. From experience, we recommend both A and D but we've heard each one is just as scenic and incredible as the last.
Tour A scenes
A trip to the 3km white sand of Nacpan Beach is also worthwhile (if you didn't stop there during your Tao tour). You can get a shuttle from El Nido. For those who want to party, stay at Mad Monkey Hostel on Nacpan Beach.
From here, make your way to Cebu. You can fly direct from El Nido (1 hour 40 minute flight). There is a lot to do in the hustle and bustle Cebu City so you could spend the day wandering around here, or else take a tour of the breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls in the surrounding areas of Cebu.
Then make your way to Panglao (the place our Panglao backpack is named after!) To get here you will need to catch a 2 hour ferry to Bohol and then grab a 30 minute bus to Panglao. There is plenty to do here, such as snorkelling and diving trips, visiting sandbars, or enjoying the plenty of 2-for-1 cocktail offers. You could also do a day trip to the Chocolate Hills in Bohol and visit the Loboc River for a cruise and the Tarsier Conservation Area along the way.
A cute Tarsier
Alternatively, if you don't want to head over to Cebu and Panglao and would prefer a more relaxing trip, stay in Palawan a little longer. Make your way down towards Puerto Princessa stopping in laid-back Port Barton for a couple of nights. Lonely Planet describes this village as "essentially a two-road town where the jungle drops precipitously into the bay".
If you like to surf or would like to learn how to surf then your Philippines trip won't be complete without visiting Siargao island. It's not the easiest place to get to so allow yourself plenty of travel time.
Surf schools near Cloud Nine
Cloud 9 is a famous surf spot for experienced surfers, and just around the corner at Jacking Horse is where you'll find beginners with plenty of surf schools to choose from. Treat yourself to a smoothie bowl at Shaka Cafe (a gorge healthy cafe dotted throughout the Philippines) to quench your appetite afterwards.
Smoothie Bowl at Shaka Cafe
Rent a motorbike and spend some time taking a spin around the luscious green island. Stop off at the rockpools of Magpupungko Pool, but be sure to get there when the tide is in so you can jump off the rocks.
Time to fly back to Manila, bid the beautiful Philippines goodbye and make your way home.
We hope this guide was helpful and that you have the most incredible trip to one of our all-time favourite countries! Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think, we love to hear your feedback.