Doing research on putting together an awesome itinerary for the Philippines? LOOK NO FURTHER, because I spent hours on hours on researching what to do/where to go and successfully going on one off the most amazing trips of my life THAT I NOW GET TO SHARE WITH YOU!
*Please note- this is a trip that my husband and I took our moms on so it is not your typical money-saving, hostel-staying trip that I usually do. We spent a little extra more on accommodations, but because we were a group of 5 traveling, the per-person rate was not that high. Beside paying more for accommodation, the rest of our trip was SUPER cheap. The transport and food has an unbelievably low cost!!
Because of our group size, we had private transport wherever we went and had a private van (only if going long distances, otherwsie we took two of the little cab tricycles). For example, to get to Oslob back to the airport in Cebu City we paid about 18 dollars per person for the 4-5 hour ride.
The trip was a total of 12 days long- (1 day flying there was totally killed so I Lost a day, that’s why it really only shows 11 days in the itinerary)
Day 1 - Arrived and went straight to White Beach, Moalboal
Stayed one night in airbnb. (I would have liked to go straight to Oslob but the flight was so long and I figured it would be nice to go somewhere closer vs farther away straight off the plane.)
Moalboal was about 2.5 hours from the airport vs Oslob would have been about 4-5.
I loved the airbnb that we stayed at, the house was in a perfect location on white beach, which is a super clean powdery white beach. I don’t have much else of a review of white beach because we arrived in the afternoon and left at 6 am the next day. --PS don't be afraid to negotiate a bit with airbnb prices, it's worked for me in the past!
KAWASAN FALLS and OSLOB
Left Moalboal at 6:30 to Kawasan Falls (This is en route to Oslob.)
I read numerous blogs on getting to Kawasan Falls EARLY to avoid crowds. I’m so glad I took the advice because we arrived around 7:15 and we were 1 of 2 groups there. It was so lovely to have the whole waterfall to ourselves. We spent about an hour at Kawasan waterfall and then headed to Oslob and to get to our next Airbnb and we got there around noon.
We spent the rest of the day lounging in the amazing pool, drooling over the edge at the views (which is directly in front of Sumilon island!)
THIS AIRBNB IS MAGICAL- The location is perfect especially if you are going to swim with the whale sharks. *It's only 8 minutes away from whaleshark watching site* It is one of the most beautiful villa rentals I’ve seen in my life- literally sits on a cliff and you see a beautiful sunrise every morning. There are a couple of different airbnb pages for the villa based on what you want to rent- You can rent the whole villa, or just parts of it if you are looking for a cheaper price. We ended up renting the whole villa because we had a larger group and also wanted privacy because it was more of a family trip. The staff is super accommodating, and I spent time with each of them and left with friends :) *IF you want to rent here send Fay a message through airbnb, and PLEASE mention my name (Danielle Peterson Thurber) I became friends with the owner and would love to send more guests her way. It’s always nice to hear your word-of-mouth referrals are working !!
WHALE SHARK WATCHING AND SUMILION ISLAND
Day 3- Woke up early in Oslob and was at the whale sharks by 7 am. Again, I read tons of blogs saying GO EARLY NO LATER THAN 7!And they were all right. There were already heaps of people there by 7 am. If I did it again I may even try to arrive by 6 am :) Swimming with the whale sharks was such a cool experience, but you only get a short amount of time in the water with them, about 15-20 minutes if I recall.
The rest of the day we spent lounging in the pool staring at the views again (lol) and then the staff organized a boat to come pick us up right from the waters below the villa (AWESOME!) and take us to Sumilion island which is right across from the villa you can see in my picture.
YOu can pay to go on the island which is a resort with a pool, but because we have the amazing airbnb pool (photo below) we didn’t feel the need to do that, so instead we just hung out for a few hours at the sandbar around the island and snorkeled in the crystal clear waters. I repeat, crystal clear. Reminded me of water in the Bahamas.
EL NIDO PALAWAN
Day 4- Woke up early to drive back to Cebu City for our AirSwift flight to EL Nido, Palawan. Arrived in El Nido around 4 pm and stayed at Aetas Glamping, which I found on AIrbnb.
This is SERIOUSLY an amazing gem I found, and we stayed 3 nights here. The experience was something unique and different, and I wouldn’t have traded this stay for anything else. The staff was unbelievably accommodating, and they left little surprises on our bed every day (homemade organic lip balm, homemade hair masks, bed decorations, afternoon snacks, welcome drinks, etc) Seriously read the reviews on this place, and I Hope they convince you to stay there like it did me!!
We had breakfast at Aetas daily, but got recommendations for lunch and dinner in El Nido town for all other meals and they directed us to the best of the best local food joints in town which was SO AWESOME!
ISLAND HOPPING- BIG AND SMALL LAGOON
Day 5- Woke up early to do combo island hopping tour, again EARLY we went at 8 am
Day 6- woke up early to do the last combo island hopping tour, again early 8 am- Then we rented scooters (Right at aetas) to go on a 45 minute ride to Go to DULI BEACH! DON’T MISS THIS BEACH- totally beautiful, white sands cove beach, HAS SURFING !!! There are 2 little beach restaurants at the end of the beach where you can rent surf boards. I went surfing and it was SO MUCH FUN. The restaurant's have a laid back surf vibe. This day was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!
APULIT ISLAND, EL NIDO RESORT
day 7- Left early to go to APulit Island El Nido Resort- It was an 1.5 hour shuttle across the island and then an hour ferry ride to apulit island. Decided to splurge on our last few days (but even splitting the large water cottage between 5 people wasn’t even that bad!)
All meals and activities are included here. Free island hopping tours and snorkeling, free kayak and sup rentals, free rappelling, rock climbing, etc!
This place was everything and more!! Such a beautiful island to explore and relax.
Day 8- Apulit Island
Day 9- Apulit Island
Day 10- Fly airswift back to Cebu City (stayed one last night in Cebu CIty as transit point)
Day 11- FLY BACK TO CHICAGO EARLY!
Recommendations/What I would do differently:
I feel like my time in both Cebu and Palawan was sufficient and wouldn’t change my itinerary that I completed.
What I would do differently- I would spend more time in the Philippines but go to a couple more islands! One Island that I REALLY wanted to go to was Siargao, which is known as their surfing island and has a super tranquil, laid back vibe. Another island that I would have liked to go to is Siquijor, which is known for its mountain healers and being a “mystical island” - The terrain is supposed to be untouched and beautiful!
Because the Philippines is SUPER CHEAP, I would definitely recommend spending a little extra on the accommodations (if you are able to and it's in your budget, or finding a group of people to be able to do the larger airbnb rentals) I wouldn’t change for the world the places that I stayed, it really made it quite unique and adventurous.
All I have to say is VISIT THE PHILIPPINES!!! I got so much heat from people, "why would you want to go there? It's such a poor country, " they would say.
Why wouldn't I? Just because a country is poor does not make it any less appealing to visit. The beaches and ocean was a blue unlike any other I've seen, the jungle landscape lush, and the people were absolutely beautiful, kind and accommodating.
Traveling around the country was the cheapest of any place I've ever been to, and I got roundtrip tickets from Chicago for $500 through EVA air!!!!!!!!