- Chocolate Hills
- Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
- Mayon Volcano
- Banaue Rice Terraces
- El Nido
- Whale sharks at Donsol
- Hundred Islands National Park
- Coron Island
- Snake Island
- Honda Bay
Forget one moment the typhoon that destroyed a part of the Philippines in 2013; Philippine is a paradise on earth, consisting of an archipelago of 7,107 islands, with genuinely caring people. I know that because I’ve been there and one of my friends is Filipino.
The capital, Manila, is incredible: an exciting megalopolis full of action and opportunities. Makati City (one of the 16 cities that make up Metro Manila) is an awesome shopping destination. And you have to visit Intramuros, the oldest district and historic core of the City of Manila, a stone citadel that has withstood wars, natural disasters and successive waves of colonial invaders.
Manila is also where you can have your first ride in a jeepney, the wildly decorated stretched jeeps that serve as buses across the Philippines. And if you’re a big fan of Tolkien’s work, visit the Hobbit House, ‘the world’s only bar owned and staffed by hobbits’, actually a team of dwarves and midgets. Tall people will need to bend over double to fit through the doorways! Are you more an unusual seeker? Taste a balut! This is a very popular treat here: a soft-boiled egg with the baby bird inside that started to form… the feathery insides are eaten with a spoon. Bon appétit!
And why not visit de 8th world wonder! The 2000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, a 5-hour drive north of Manila, is an icon of agriculture heritage. Your photos are going to be postcard material!
Do you want to experience something unique? You have to swim up close to the butandings (whale sharks) in Donsol. Your heart will stop beating since you can actually swim with them! They are not dangerous, don’t worry! And why not hike the active Mayon Volcano, one of the most dangerous volcanoes on earth! Not too far from there is the Caramoan Peninsula, a paradise on earth that has been the filming location of the last Survivor seasons.
You prefer water over fire? You have plenty of choices! San Juan is Philippine surf’s best-kept secret, with clean waves reaching 8-10ft on a good swell, it is perfect for beginners to advanced surfers.
You will obviously go to Boracay. Everyone that comes to the Philippines wants to see its white sand beach, the stunning sunsets, feel the charming island vibe and taste the nice cocktails! It is worth it! But please don’t spend too much time there, because other islands have even more to offer.
Is diving your thing? Then head to Puerto Galera, on Mindoro Island, one of the best diving spot in the country. Corals, exotic fishes, canyons, walls, wreck ships… all waiting for you! And you can enjoy your hot nights to party like crazy!
I cannot tell you to go to the Philippines without going to El Nido and the Bacuit archipelago. Picture yourself clear turquoise water dotted with islands and islets, mostly inhabited. This is the place to island-hop in a Bangka (outrigger canoe) to swim in Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, to the small Secret Beach, to Snake Island… the choice is plenty! This is where I have one of my best travel souvenirs: we spent 2 nights on our own private island, slept on the beach, a super friendly lady made us breakfast and dinner, gave us massages, made a bonfire… If you are stressed, this is THE place to decompress! This is where I picture myself when I need to: this is my happy place! I am sure it’s going to be your happy place too!!
Finally, I would suggest that you take the time to visit 2 very unique things that we can only find in the Philippines: the tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills, both on Bohol Island. Did you know that tarsiers are the smallest primates in the world, and ‘Master Yoda’, from the Star Wars movies, was based on them? And the Chocolate Hills… well, they look like hills made of chocolate! There are no less than 1268 hills, very uniform in shape and mostly between 30 and 50 meters high. They are covered with grass, which, at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown!
One last recommendation for you: if you like to get massages, please indulge! I spend 24 days in the Philippines, and got 12 massages (some on the beach)! Do I have to explain more? They are good, they are cheap, and it feels amazing!
Now here’s our itinerary for our trip in the Philippines. You won’t regret any minute of it!
- Day 1 to 3: Visit Manila, Intramurous, Makati City, shop, ride a jeepney and eat good food!
- Day 4 to 6: Go to Donsol, and swim with whale sharks! And relax: this is a sweet spot without much to do. You should stay a couple of days in case whale sharks are shy and hard to spot.
- Day 7 to 10: Take a cheap flight to Boracay, and get your camera ready! Walk White Beach at sunset, sip a cocktail on a lounge chair, take a boat tour, snorkel and golf.
- Day 11 to 14: Fly to Cebu, then take a ferry to Bohol. Stay on Panglao Island (right next to Bohol): it’s more charming than Bohol. Visit the Chocolate Hills, and see Tarsiers (they are so ugly that they are cute!)
- Day 15 to 22: Fly from Cebu to Puerto Princesa (Palawan Island), then take a bus to El Nido. Now, relax, relax, and relax. And rent a kayak to go to your own private beach. And relax. And take a boat tour to swim in perfect lagoons, in perfectly clear blue water. And relax. And get a massage, to relax you even more!
- Day 23 and 24: You have to leave your own perfect paradise… I know, it’s sad. Go back to Manila, and then home. Now you have a new happy place! You are very welcome!