As far as I’m concerned, a few things make up an ideal destination to explore: warm weather, great culture and people, fantastic diving and some (if not a lot!) of opportunities to surf.

The Philippines has all of this and much more. My decision to visit was sparked after looking down the list of destinations I’d visited and realising none were in Asia! Where in Asia would you be able to get off the beaten track and find great places to surf, dive and snorkel? How about a collection of over 7,000 islands and archipelagos with a wonderful mix of Asian and Latin heritage and a unique feel? The Philippines? Brilliant!

If you enjoy laid back beaches and snorkelling, mixing with locals in low-key bars, lounging on pure white sands with a Pina Colada or hopping around islands on a rickety bamboo boat – you need to visit the Philippines. For water-lovers, the Philippines has it all. There are wonderful dive sites that are just a stone’s throw from nearby towns; the surf picks up along the southern islands for half of the year and along the north east island chain for the other half. Paddle boards are accessible for pottering around El Nido and kayaking through crystal clear waters becomes the day to day norm.

A local boat in the Philippines

How to get to the Philippines

The great thing about the Philippines is it’s relatively cheap to get to if you are planning a small holiday of a couple of weeks (Philippines Airlines run direct flights from London to Manila), but it can also be incorporated into a RTW trip or multi-stop itinerary.

Getting to the Philippines from the USA or Australia is easy and cheap flights from hubs like Singapore and Kuala Lumpar make travel here almost too easy to resist! If you’re looking at a RTW ticket that includes Singapore, then I suggest it’s worth setting aside an extra ten days and £70, for a quick hop over to Manila!

Climate and when to visit

In terms of temperature, the weather in the Philippines is pretty consistent throughout the year (you’d be unlucky to see a day below 25 degrees C!) The wet season begins in June and ends around September time, but even during the wet season, the tourist areas of Palawan and Boracay are always sunny and hot!

Depending on the style of trip you want, the Philippines could include an intimate and secluded beach break with white sand and blue seas, or an adventure-lover’s paradise with trekking, waterfalls, surf and reefs to explore.

Dumaguette and the islands

The itinerary I took in December was based on island hopping, nesting up for a few days in well-known diving spots and getting over to Palawan to see the stunning backdrops of El Nido.

Arriving in Manila was as expected, a bustling city that’s great for a night or two but then it’s time to move on. Flying down to Dumaguette, a university town known for its colonial buildings and great dive spots (turtles anyone?) was a change of scenery and we headed to a more secluded part of the islands and a town called Dauin. What’s not to love about this place? Aside from a few Dutch ex-pats, we were the only tourists visible, and the locals made us feel so much at home.

Filipino homestay

We headed to a wonderful diving-orientated home stay called Bongo Bongo Divers. This place is great –situated over a protected reef and boasting great learn-to-dive packages and advanced courses, it has something for everyone. The eccentric owner Amado and his lovely wife make the place what it is, and boat trips in the company of the family dog Balu (he eats bananas!) were just magical.

Although staying here for more than four days is certainly doable, I think it’s best to make the most of a country, so next we headed up the coast to hop across to the island of Cebu. Habbal Habbals (the Filipino tuk tuks) and small ferries are cheap and accessible at all times, so travelling short distances is certainly easy enough.

Cebu

Cebu is one island the typhoon hit, so it was our first real glimpse of any serious damage. We found an organisation that was accepting aid and donated our extra backpack for its contents to be distributed to the community.

The southern tip of the island of Cebu is home to one of the Philippines’ main attractions: Whale Sharks! I love sea life and especially the larger animals, so I was adamant that I wouldn’t leave without seeing one. After taking the bus to Oslob, you can take jump in a small boat (snorkel in hand!) and swim face to face with these creatures. Just awe inspiring!

The middle of Cebu has waterfalls-a-plenty for the eager trekkers  and if you’re staying there - the town of MoalBoal is a great place to use as a hub.

El Nido

After the enjoyment of diving and the marine life of the South, why not head up to the most famous location in the Philippines – El Nido!

My pictures here don’t do this place justice. Waters were clear, temperatures were warm and the combination of delicious food, flowing cocktails and a fantastic reggae bar made this place one of my favourite spots to explore and relax in.

Getting to El  Nido and staying there

Flights from Manila to Puerto Princessa are easy to add into your itinerary and I can help you arrange them. Upon arrival you will realise it’s the best £45-50 you could have spent!

Although accommodation prices are slightly higher in El Nido than other locations, rooms are still available for around £25 per night for a double. A hearty breakfast of garlic rice, fresh orange juice and pork adobo will only set you back about £2.00.

There are plenty of trips around El Nido are tours around the islands are plentiful and if you have longer on the island, the Palawan Adventure is a great value trip that takes in not only El Nido, but the underground river at Sabang – not to be missed!

Surfing in the Philippines

For avid surfers, there are some great spots around these islands. The southern island of Siargao has the biggest waves but it can be pretty inaccessible –especially during low season.

I opted for the smaller town of Baler, located about 6 hours’ drive from Manila. In December, it has some pretty great waves (both lefts and rights) a point break and a local surf competition that really made the few days worth the visit. During the northerly winds, surf picks up along the Eastern coasts of most of the Northerly islands and swell gets pushed through, creating some wonderful secret spots to explore.

 


How to do this trip

Flights

The great thing about the Philippines is it’s relatively cheap to get to if you are planning a small holiday of a couple of weeks (Philippines Airlines run direct flights from London to Manila), but it can also be incorporated into a RTW trip or multi-stop itinerary.

Getting to the Philippines from the USA or Australia is easy and cheap flights from hubs like Singapore and Kuala Lumpar make travel here almost too easy to resist! If you’re looking at a RTW ticket that includes Singapore, then I suggest it’s worth setting aside an extra ten days and £70, for a quick hop over to Manila!

For those short on time, and wanting to explore Asia in a few weeks, I can put together something like this: London – Tokyo // Osaka – Bangkok – Manila – Singapore – London Flights from £1,077 pp including taxes

Itineraries

I travelled independently and I can help you organise a trip like mine, or you could try one of these great valule backpacking tours which means you'll be travelling with other people:

Accommodation

If you intend to soak up the sun on a beach, I would consider arranging hotels and resorts in popular places like Boracay before you go. There are some fantastic properties around so getting them booked means you won’t be disappointed on arrival! I can book any accommodation for you, including the homestay I used.


Interested in including the Philippines in your itinerary?

If I’ve inspired you to include these islands into your trip - call us or get in touch with me to see just how easy it is to include the Philippines into different travel plans - I can also recommend accommodation, tours or any transport options around the islands.

Go and dive into the vibrant colour of a less-explored Asian country that is bursting with hospitality, adventure and people that not only love you spending your time there, but at present certainly need it too.

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