Ten amazing experiences in the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, made up of 7 641 islands of which approximately 2000 are inhabited. This amazing country has been on my bucket list for the longest time and April this year, myself and three of my best friends left for this island paradise. With more than 2000 island options and only 16 days to cover as much ground as possible, deciding where to go was a big challenge. Thanks to YouTubers like Lost LeBlanc and The Juicy Vlog, I soon came up with my wish list.
The important thing to remember when going to the Philippines is that research is vital. Depending on how much time you have, you need to have a good idea of where you want to go prior to leaving as there are many factors to consider. Our ideal trip included less tourists and a lot of adventure, therefore we decided on islands such as Siargao and left out the popular places such as El Nido and Boracay. Choosing the perfect island for you is important as each island has unique characteristics to offer.
Our trip took us to Manila, Cebu, Bohol as well as Siargao. Here are my top ten experiences:
1. Infinity pools of Makati, Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and many people choose to leave this out of their itinerary. Looking back now, we could have taken a direct flight from Hong Kong to Cebu and skipped Manila, however I am glad that we spent two nights in this very interesting city. There are so many contrasts in this capital. We stayed in Makati, the business hub of Manila and used the time to recover from our long flight from Africa. One of the best experiences was lounging next to the infinity pool on the 30th-something floor of our high-rise apartment building. Manila has many interesting social options to explore, massive shopping malls and some great dining experiences.
2. The beautiful resorts of Mactan
Our group decided to live it up for one night in one of the five star resorts of Mactan, before heading out to the more remote areas. We booked one night at Pacific Cebu Resort and I am so glad we did. I must say, we did not expect to find the paradise we walked into after a stressful morning getting out of Manila, on our way to Cebu. The drive to the resort was quite long and the masses of housing creates a very different picture, but once we drove into the resort we were blown away by what we found. Crystal clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, topped of with an amazingly beautiful resort, swim up bar and all. We had an awesome day with amazing food, cocktails for days and incredibly friendly staff.
3. Swimming with Whale sharks
After our stay in Mactan we headed down South towards Oslob where our first adventure included swimming with the beautiful whale sharks. After an early morning pick up and light breakfast, we headed out on our whale shark excursion. Swimming next to these magnificent creates is truly a humbling experience. I wrote a separate post on this which you can find here
After our whale shark excursion, we traveled another 90 minutes to Kawasan, for our canyoneering outing. This was one of my highlights of our trip. Filled with adrenaline, beautiful scenery and a lot of water, this definitely comes highly recommended. For more on this you can read up on our experience here.
5. Discover Bohol
After two days in Oslob we headed for Bohol, a two hour ferry ride towards the East. Bohol, again, offered something completely different and we spent the first afternoon exploring the more touristy area of Alona beach. Here you have many dining options, some nightlife and just an all round good holiday vibe.
Bohol has many attractions, from wildlife sanctuaries, to great beaches and diving, adventure parks, waterfalls and so the list continues. We rented scooters and spent an entire day exploring the island. From the Chocolate hills, to the man-made forest and ultimately explored the roads less traveled. This is where the magic lies as we found small villages, far away from the main roads, where we interacted with the locals and found hidden waterfalls and other gems. Discovering Bohol on scooter is definitely a must. Just be aware that traffic can be hectic and it is recommended that you are a confident rider.
6. Magical sunsets
The Philippines is famous for incredible sunsets and we were left speechless many a time during our trip. Every island adds its own character to this daily art show and nothing beats a beach walk and beautiful sunset in the Philippines.
7. The island of Siarao
We spent most of our time on the island of Siargao and I am so happy that we did. Siargao is known as the surfer hub of the Philippines and what I loved about this island is that it is smaller, has less traffic and is a lot less touristy. Siargao is extremely beautiful and truly special, it has the clearest water I have ever seen, tallest palm trees and magical landscape. We stayed in the General Luna area and explored the island over four days. Small enough to cover in one day with plenty to do to keep you busy for a week, in fact we did not get to do all the things we planned on doing. If you love surfing you will love the culture on this island. The food is amazing and there is some nightlife as well. Our time on the island included exploring on scooters, wake boarding, enjoying good food, island hopping etc. Definitely my top rated island for my first visit to the Philippines. I am sure with 2000 other options this will probably change as I return to this country, however I loved everything about Siargao.
8. Island hopping Siargao
One of the most amazing days during our trip to the Philippines. We decided to book an island hopping tour, requested for a private tour and then asked the guide to not take us to any of the islands, but to just let us spend the day having our own little boat party. We stopped at naked island to see what all the fuss is about, I must say I still don’t get it, then we headed to the next island to stock up on some drinks and snacks. The rest of the day we just swam and enjoyed paradise.
9. The people of the Philippines
Every YouTube video I watched on the Philippines, travelers made mention of the kindheartedness of the people; after spending a couple of weeks in the Philippines I can confidently say that this is not exaggerated at all. I have never seen a people so friendly, open to assist and humble. Everywhere you go people make you feel welcome. Passing through villages, as you explore the islands, you are met with excited children greeting and waving; almost as if you are the first traveler to ever pass through their village. People are happy everywhere you go, even though they seem to have access to only the basics. We made friends with our barman in Mactan, spent time swimming and laughing with local kids, had meaningful conversations with our cab drivers and met smiling faces everywhere we went.
10. Adventure and exploring
I’ve found that many people that fell in love with travel started their journey in the Philippines. This county, for me anyway, is the epitome of exploration and adventure. The magic lies in the fact that you can find something amazing to do everywhere you go, the nature is incredible and you can really rough it out. Obviously there are many exclusive options as well, however we loved the unknown and less comfortable options. The Philippines is quite laid back and you have to take each situation as it comes. Try not to plan too much as you will have to adapt as you go. This is what makes it an adventure. One moment you will be stuck in traffic and the next you will be swimming and swinging from palm trees, jumping of waterfalls or submerging into the clear blue ocean water. If you are looking for a trip that will awaken your inner adventurer, this country should be at the top your list. I am hoping to return to the Philippines and explore some more as the three islands we visited are only the tip of the iceberg.