Travel Guide to 3 weeks in the Philippines
Planning our holiday to the Philippines was probably the most tricky!! The country is made up of 7107 islands so choosing where to go in a limited time is almost impossible!
After much research, we came up with this short list of what we rate to be the best destinations for a first time visit to the country:
a) El Nido – for the Bacuit Archipelago (Tour A,B,C and D as well as Nacpan beach and Las Cabanas)
b) Coron – for the Calamian Archipelago (Kayangan Lake, ship wrecks and Malcapuya Beach)
c) Oslow – for the amazing opportunity to swim with whale sharks
d) Boracay – for the amazing beach, bars and sup boarding experiences
We probably could have gone to all 4 destinations, but we didn’t want to rush it! So we decided that two islands would be perfect, leaving the other two a reason to return!! We chose El Nido and Coron island – mainly because they looked the most like PARADISE!! Also, because their archipelagos boasted some of the best islands, hidden caves, secret lagoons, secluded coves and coral covered ship wrecks we’ve ever seen!! If that’s not enough to attract a couple of sea loving wanderers, then what is?
We Flew from home (Cape Town) in December 2015 to the main international Airport in Manila. Manila is a crazy busy city! I’m sure there’s some great places to see, but why stay there when you can be on a secluded beach somewhere in the province of Palawan!!!
We then had to find our way to El Nido and Coron, which both fall in the Palawan Province. This seemed easy enough, until we started researching!!
In order to get to El Nido, you need to fly to Puerto Princesa and take a 5 hour bus up to El Nido. Perfect! But then, in order to get to Coron (literally just above El Nido) you have two very average options:
- Take a 10 hour ferry from El Nido to Coron – Okay straight up this was never going to be an option for us. I (Mrs Wanderer) had way too many bad experiences as a kid on African ferries and now have a serious fear of them! I am almost always willing to put my big girl panties on and suck it up for a few hours while trying not to vom at the back of the boat, but 10 hours!! No way!! But for your interest, we know a lot of people who have taken this ferry. Most say its fine, just very long, others who went in bad weather said it was very scary! Up to you.
- Take the 5 hour bus back to Puerto Princesa and fly back to Manila and then take another flight to Coron Airport. I know, it’s so crazy and unnecessary! Why isn’t there a flight from Puerto Prinseca to Coron that isn’t a million dollar private jet?! But anyway, part of going to an untapped beautiful country is dealing with the “still developing” transport infrastructure!
Anyway that’s the only complaining we could think of as these two islands are worth a million flights and ferries!! We were so blown away and could not have been happier that we decided on this route!
A) Salem Domestic Guesthouse (1 night)
Fly: Ninoy Aquino Int. Airport (Manila) to Puerto Princesa International Airport via Cebu Pacific Air
Bus/ minvan: Puerto Princesa to El Nido via Daytripper Palawan (5 – 7 Hours)
C) Butterfly Totem (1 night)
Fly: Puerto Princesa Int. Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila) via Air Asia
Fly: Ninoy Aquino Int. Airport (Manila) to Francisco B. Reyes Airport (Coron) via Cebu Pacific Air
- There is an ATM in El Nido, however during our stay in El Nido the ATM was out of service/ or had no cash. We withdrew money at Puerto Princesa Airport and used our credit card where possible. We were able to book most of our excursions with card through our hotel.
- In Coron the ATM is available and is always in working order (as far as we know).
Besides the obvious, we really wish we had packed:
- Boat shoes: on every island excursion, you are told to wear shoes at all times. This is because the coral is extremely sharp and the black sea urchins are everywhere. We had to swim with our flip flops on – toe cramps for days!!
- Goggles and snorkels: in Thailand, these were always provided to us on every excursion. However, in the Philippines these are an extra cost so it’s definitely worth bringing your own gear.
Planning your trip around the weather is a good idea! For us this trip was all about the beaches and water activities and attractions on the islands! It’s pretty much always hot here so all we cared about was the rain! Overcast weather makes snorkelling less visible and the water less “paradise blue”. More importantly, if there is a monsoon/typhoon you can’t go to any of the islands as the local coast guard bands banca boats from going out.
On the other hand, we went in the time of year when it’s meant to have the absolute least chance of rain (let alone Typhoons), and we had a giant typhoon that lasted four days! So I guess you can only plan so much!
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