By Kieva McLaughlin
Despite being one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the Philippines is only recently starting to attract tourists. If you are one of the soon to be visitors to this Asian paradise, read on to get tips and guidance on your route, travel options and the top activities to do while you are there.
Manila, the capital, is the easiest place to fly into internationally. One or two days is more than enough time to spend here if you are short on time. Although it does not boast the picturesque scenes you will find on the islands, the shopping is fantastic.
The Philippines has four of the ten biggest shopping centres in the world, with the third and fourth biggest located in Manila. If you are interested in getting really good designer fakes, Greenhills Shopping Centre is the place to go. Those good at haggling will get some great bargains here.
After a couple of days in Manila I would suggest flying into Boracay. If you fly into Kalibo, the flight will be extremely cheap but you will have to drive a couple of hours to get to Boracay. Ariel’s Point tour is a must when you are here.
You will spend the day making friends, snorkelling, cliff jumping, and kayaking, with all you can eat food and all you can handle drink.
If you aren’t on a budget I would recommend staying in Azalea Hotels and Residences Boracay. The hotel’s rooms and facilities are impeccable and the staff are very accommodating and friendly. The food in the Philippines is not the best as a whole, but Boracay has a lot of beach restaurants and Spiderhouse’s view is amazing if you go at sunset. The nightlife in Boracay is very lively, so if you are into beach bars and cocktails, this is the place to go.
I flew into Cebu from Kalibo, again the flight is very cheap so is definitely worth it. The three places I would aim to go in Cebu are; Moalboal, Bohol, and Oslob. Moalboal is very quiet at night but the day time is all about scuba diving and snorkeling, if you are into that it is definitely not one to miss, with some of the best dive sites in the whole country. While you are there I would recommend taking a trip to Kawasan Falls, it’s a little hike to a waterfall in a small rainforest.
Oslob is good for one thing – swimming with the whale sharks. This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and I would strongly recommend doing it. Drive down from Moalboal the night before and get up really early to be there for the whale sharks early feeding. I would recommend staying in Casa Solmar Oslob, there’s not much accommodation nearby but the owners are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They will organise everything for you including a boat to Bohol the next morning because there are no commercial ferries.
Bohol is where a lot of the activities are situated. You can rent a car with a driver for the day who will bring you around to all the best activities. I would suggest ATVing around the chocolate hills, zip-lining, visiting the tarsier monkeys, and lunch on the Loboc river.
The last place I visited was El Nido. Again, I flew straight to El Nido but this can be a quite expensive trip. Alternatively you can get a cheaper flight into Puerto Princesa, and get a six hour bus up to El Nido.
There are four tours in El Nido- A, B, C, and D. I would recommend doing tours A and C, you spend the day snorkelling and kayaking in loads of amazing islands, beaches, and lagoons.
Dining in El Nido is a bit better than elsewhere in the Philippines, including an amazing Italian restaurant called Altrove that does homemade pasta and pizza. Artcafe is also worth a try.
All of the beaches in El Nido are amazing but I would strongly suggest visiting Nacpan and Calitang Beach if you have time.
Brilliant article. Very well written and most informative. I want to go. Geraldine Byrne