3 weeks in the Philippines
The Philippines is situated south of Taiwan and to the East of Vietnam, and roughly consists of 7,600 islands. It's unlikely you'll make it to all of them, but you could make it to a few of the best if you follow my quick 3 week guide. Have a look at Conde Nast Traveller's Best Island 2019, in which 3 of my recommended islands feature.
Travelling to and from the islands is not as easy or cheap as it is to travel around other South-East Asian destinations like Thailand or Vietnam (but on a positive note, there are far less tourists!) Overnight travel is less common and it's likely the only transport option is by air, or a long boat journey. Prepare to lose a day or two to travelling if you would like to island hop, hence my recommendation of 3 weeks! But please don't let this put you off, I assure you it is all worthwhile. Cebu Pacific Air is a cheap local airline that I used throughout my time travelling around the Philippines, and I recommend you use it too.
Best time to visit? Dry season, November - April.
Recommended route: Boracay > Cebu (Moalboal & Cebu City) > Bohol > Palawan (El Nido, Port Barton & Coron)
Top tip: Get yourself a SIM card, wifi in the Philippines is unreliable and lacking in many areas. For more info click here.
3 nights: Boracay
3 nights in Boracay to party, shop and sail. The island that closed its doors to tourism to clear the island from plastic, polluting materials and over-tourism reopened in October of 2018 after 6 months of closure, and thankfully it did.
Because of Boracay's beauty, there are still high numbers of tourists who flock to the island each year. Although this is unsurprising due to Boracay's clear bath-like water and white crystal sand, it can feel overcrowded at times in certain areas. Check out my 3 night guide to Boracay here.
Next: Fly from Boracay to Cebu City and catch a local bus from Cebu's main bus terminal to MoalBoal (3-4 hours at a cost of £2).
2 nights: Moalboal, Cebu
Moalboal is a popular backpacker destination on the island of Cebu. It attracts divers and other water-sport enthusiasts alike. They'll be coming for a spot of canyoneering at Kawasan Falls (pictured), diving/snorkelling with turtles, hammerhead sharks and thousands of sardines. Check out the famous sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu here.
If water-sports aren't for you, relax and watch the sunset at White Beach, or skip on ahead to a different island.
I'd recommend 2 nights in Moalboal, and depending on where you head to next, it might be convenient to stop off at Cebu City for a night before flying to your next destination.
3 nights: Bohol
3 nights in Bohol to relax, dive and explore the chocolate hills. I'd recommend using Alona Beach, Panglao island (pictured above) as your base in Bohol, there is an abundance of restaurants and accommodation to choose from. The unexplained geographical phenomenon of the Chocolate Hills are a 2 hour bus ride from Alona Beach (Panglao Island) and are a must whilst you're in the area. Don't miss the weird but wonderful animal Tarsier on your day trip. There are dolphin trips from Alona Beach too if you're somehow stuck without things to do.
3 nights: Island of your choice
Choose from the following...
I sadly didn't make it to the above islands but those who have rave about them, and I will be sure to visit the next time I'm in the Philippines. Check out this list of the 25 best places to visit in the Philippines. And of course depending on where the island that you choose is located, make sure you re-figure the travel order to make it work best for you.
7 nights: El Nido, Port Barton & Coron (Palawan Island)
Now we're onto my favourite island of them all: Palawan. Dedicate at least a week to this beautiful island. And if you don't believe me, check out this article from Travel & Leisure that has recently named Palawan the best island in the world.
You could fly to Pueto Princessa (capital of Palawan) from Cebu or Manila, and drive to Port Barton where you could spend 2 nights, head north to El Nido for 3 nights & finally a 4 hour boat ride to Coron (2 nights). On the island of Coron you'll find a small airport that provides direct travel to the capital, Manila with SkyJet airlines. Remember to book this flight at least a few weeks in advance, seats on this jet go fast!
Palawan has some of the most beautiful beaches and islands I have ever seen. From all of the above locations, you will have the opportunity to go on island-hopping boat tours that cannot be missed. Locals will take you on their Banca boats to deserted islands with arguably some of the clearest sea on the planet. You'll have the opportunity to snorkel around the Coral Sea near Coron, swim in the Twin Lagoon, visit Las Cabanas Beach and hike Snake island (pictured). Check out this page for a more detailed guide for your 1 week in Palawan.
1 night: Manila
As there are so many idyllic islands in the Philippines, try and limit your time in the capital as much as you can. It's likely your flight to the Philippines will leave you here, but catch a flight out to Boracay or Palawan straight away. That said, I would recommend staying in Manila for one night before your journey home. Ride a local bus and eat some fried chicken at the fast-food joint Jollibee (pictured below). Stay at Lub D (Makati) hostel. It's not far from the airport (roughly 15 minutes via taxi) and has lovely but cheap double and single rooms available.