The Philippines is a republic in Southeast Asia, located in the Pacific Ocean. This archipelago consists of over 7,600 islands with countless white sand beaches, stunning natural areas, and breathtaking waterfalls. The country is a true paradise for beach lovers, adventurers, and nature enthusiasts.
We ourselves found it quite challenging to plan our travel itinerary, so I can imagine how difficult it can be to choose from all those islands. Hopefully, this article will help you to get started. Below you will find my ultimate 4-week travel itinerary for the Philippines, along with information about the must-see attractions and activities you shouldn’t miss out on.
We visited the following islands and places:
- El Nido
- Moalboal (Cebu)
- Optional: Siargao
Table of Contents
Flying to Manila in The Philippines
From Amsterdam, we flew to Manila for approximately 550 euros per person. We flew with SAUDIA and had a layover in Jeddah for about 7 hours. The total flight duration was around 22.5 hours.
Tip: Did you know that you can easily compare and book flights through Skyscanner?
Manila is the capital and largest city of the Philippines, located on the island of Luzon. The metropolitan area is home to around thirteen million people.
Opinions on whether Manila is worth visiting vary (dirty and unsafe, but also beautiful historical buildings). We decided to skip the city and proceed directly to our next destination.
Coron (2 or 3 days)
From Manila, we flew directly to Coron, an island that belongs to the province of Palawan. Coron is mainly known for its crystal-clear, turquoise lagoons, massive limestone rock formations, and pristine white sand beaches. It’s the perfect destination if you’re looking for a relaxed island atmosphere.
Things to do in Coron?
Coron is popular among nature lovers, divers, and snorkelers. Go island hopping and discover the most beautiful lagoons and beaches, go diving or snorkeling and enjoy the spectacular underwater landscape with colorful coral reefs and shipwrecks, watch the sunset from Mount Tapyas, and indulge in delicious food and drinks at one of the many restaurants in the city center.
We stayed for three nights at the Happy Camper Hostel, a great hostel that offers both shared dormitories and double rooms. The hostel is only a few minutes’ walk from the center of Coron.
Expedition from Coron to El Nido (3 or 5 days)
There are several companies that offer expeditions from Coron to El Nido. We chose TAO Philippines. TAO works in collaboration with local communities, aiming to create a positive experience for both the locals and the travelers. They train local young men to become expedition leaders, guides, boat and base camp crew, cooks, farmers, and bamboo craftsmen, while local women become hostesses, masseuses, or managers.
You can also choose to do the expedition with Buhay Isla, Keeloma, El Nido Paradise or a similar organization. Although we didn’t choose one of these companies ourselves, we have heard nothing but positive stories about all of them.
Tao Philipines’s 3 or 5-day expedition
During the expedition, you board a boat that takes you from Coron to El Nido (or vice versa) in three days. You spend around 6 to 8 hours per day on the boat, so you’ll be spending quite some time sailing. Depending on the weather, you make 2 or 3 stops each day for snorkeling. In the evenings, you will stay at remote islands where you will pass the night in beautiful bamboo huts on the beach. Throughout the day, you can enjoy freshly prepared meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) served on the boat or on the island. Delightful!
If you can’t get enough, you can opt for the 5-day expedition. Essentially, you follow the same route, but you spend the last two days at the TAO Beach Farm camp (when traveling from Coron to El Nido) or the Ngey Ngey camp (from El Nido to Coron). Here, you can relax after three days on the boat and indulge in delicious food, drinks, and enjoy a relaxing massage.
El Nido (2 or 3 days)
Just like Coron, El Nido is located in the province of Palawan and offers stunning limestone rock formations, turquoise lagoons, and pristine white sand beaches. Furthermore, El Nido has a vibrant center with plenty of things to do!
Things to do in El Nido?
In El Nido, you can engage in various activities. Rent a scooter and visit the nearby beaches such as Duli Beach, Napcan Beach, Lio Beach, and Marimegmeg Beach. Go island hopping, visit Cadlao Island, and enjoy the sunset at Las Cabañas Beach.
If you enjoy nightlife, El Nido won’t disappoint. There are numerous bars where you can have a drink and party. A unique experience we had in El Nido was visiting the local casino, where island residents gather for a night of gambling!
Looking for accommodation in the center of El Nido? Fisheye The Rooms – Room 1 is a good option. If you prefer to stay on the beach, a popular hostel in the northern part of the island is Mad Monkey Hostel Nacpan Beach. If you have a larger budget, you can choose Seaview Villas at Marimegmeg Beach.
Malapascua (3 or 4 days)
From El Nido, we traveled by minivan to Puerto Princesa, flew from Puerto Princesa to Cebu, took a bus from Cebu North Terminal to Maya Port and then boarded a boat to our next destination, Malapascua. It was quite a journey, but definitely worth it.
Malapascua is the only place in the world where you can dive daily with thresher sharks, recognizable by their long tail fins. Malapascua is still relatively undiscovered, creating a delightful island atmosphere. Everyone lives on the streets, chickens roam around, roosters perch, and there are no cars.
Things to do in Malapascua?
The most popular activity in Malapascua is diving. You can dive with thresher sharks and explore other dive sites. Highly recommended! Additionally, you’ll find several beautiful beaches such as Bounty Beach, Langub Beach, and Bantigue Beach and you can enjoy the sunset at the Malapascua Lighthouse or Sunset Beach.
During our stay in Malapascua, we stayed at JPH Resort, a basic but clean accommodation within walking distance of the port.
Moalboal – Cebu (2 or 3 days)
After enjoying our time in Malapascua, we traveled to Moalboal on the island of Cebu. To get there, you first take a boat back to Maya Port from Malapascua, where you can then take a bus or taxi to Cebu North Terminal. From there, you take a taxi/Uber to Cebu South Terminal and catch a bus to Moalboal. The journey takes approximately 8 to 10 hours if everything goes smoothly.
If you find this too much hassle, you can also choose to take a taxi from Maya Port directly to Moalboal. It is relatively expensive, but it saves you quite a bit of time.
Moalboal, like Malapascua, is known as a diving and snorkeling destination due to the presence of beautiful coral reefs off its coast and the opportunity to witness the famous sardine run. The sardine run is a phenomenon where millions of sardines swim together in a massive group, creating a mesmerizing sight.
Things to do in Moalboal?
Diving and/or snorkeling are a must-do in Moalboal. Another fun and popular activity near Moalboal is canyoneering at Kawasan Falls. Additionally, you can relax at White Beach, enjoy a massage, and indulge in delicious food and drinks at one of the many restaurants.
We stayed for two nights at Pig Dive Hostel, a cool accommodation made from containers. The staff is incredibly helpful and there is a free shuttle service from the hostel to the town center and back.
Siquijor (3 or 4 days)
From Moalboal, we traveled to Siquijor, a small island below Cebu. To reach Siquijor, you take a tricycle from Moalboal to the bus stop in the center of Moalboal Town. From there, you take the Ceres Bus to Bato Bus Terminal, where you then take a tricycle to Liloan Port in Santander. The only direct ferry to Siquijor (to Larena Port) is operated by Maayo Shipping. Other ferries require a transfer in Dumaguete, a city on a neighboring island of Cebu. The Maayo Shipping ferry departs four times a week at 2:00 AM, specifically on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sunday, the ferry departs at 7:00 AM. From Larena Port, you can take a tricycle to your accommodation.
Siquijor is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning natural attractions such as waterfalls, palm trees and rice fields. The great thing about this island is that it is much quieter than places like Coron or El Nido, allowing you to enjoy it even more!
Things to do in Siquijor?
As Siquijor is a small island, it is ideal to explore it by scooter. Rent a scooter and visit various waterfalls, including the popular Cambugahay Falls, Lugnason Falls, Locong Falls, and Kawasan Falls & Cave. Soak up the sun at Paliton Beach or Tubod Beach, or go snorkeling at Secret Beach. You can also make a short stop in Tigbawan to visit the Lazi Church (a historic Catholic church) and have lunch at Twenty4 Restaurant and Burger Bar.
We stayed at Nakabalo Guesthouse & Restaurant, a beautiful accommodation with a stunning infinity pool where you can relax. Keep in mind that this accommodation is located on top of a hill, so having your own scooter is quite convenient!
Bohol (4 or 5 days)
The final stop on our itinerary was Bohol. The quickest way to travel from Siquijor to Bohol is by taking the OceanJet ferry. This ferry departs from Siquijor Pier and arrives at Tagbilaran Port in Bohol after approximately 2 hours of sailing.
Bohol is a lush island and is best known for its Chocolate Hills and tarsiers, that reside here. Tarsiers can only be found in the jungles of Borneo and Bohol!
Things to do in Bohol?
Like Siquijor, Bohol is a fantastic island to explore by scooter. However, it is larger than Siquijor, so you’ll cover more distance. You’ll find beautiful waterfalls on Bohol as well, such as Pahangog Falls, Kawasan Falls, Camugao Falls, and Can-umantad Falls. Ride through the Bilar Man-Made Forest, visit the Chocolate Hills, go hiking at the Binabaje Hills in Alicia, visit Loboc River, and stroll through the Cadapdapan rice terraces. We found White Beach in Anda and South Palms Beach in Panglao to be the most beautiful beaches in Bohol.
Staying on Panglao or Bohol?
When visiting Bohol, you have the option to stay on Panglao Island (near the airport) or on mainland Bohol itself.
If you’re seeking tranquility and natural beauty, we recommend staying on mainland Bohol around the Loboc River or in Anda. We stayed at Fox & The Firefly Cottages, a lovely accommodation along the Loboc River that features one of the few restaurants in the area. Another good option is Loboc River Resort.
If you’re looking for a lively place with numerous restaurants and nightlife options, Panglao Island is your best bet. Here, you’ll find large resorts, countless bars, and well-known fast-food chains. We stayed here for only one night, near the airport. We stayed at The Three Shooting Stars, a great accommodation just outside the bustling center. The owner is a friendly and helpful Dutch man!
Siargao (3 or 4 days)
Siargao was high on our wish list. This island is known for its countless palm trees, pristine beaches, trendy restaurants, and excellent surf spots. However, since it was the rainy season in Siargao when we were in the Philippines, we decided to skip this island and allocate more time to the other islands. If you’re visiting during the right season or are willing to take the risk of encountering some less favorable weather, you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on this island!