This post I tried to sum up and keep the skeleton of the best tips and reference of cost from a personal experience to the Philippines with the objective of helping people who like planning and travelling by themselves.
What I like most were their people and their values: fraternity, friendship, justice and happiness all the time.
Before start with the tips, a big thanks to Rosana Palla who makes this trip unforgettable, proposing the trip, planning and being an amazing company, Luke Faulkner for his awesome hospitality and the unforgettable Gaspar family from Apo Island.
I would say that my highlights from Philippines are:
1. Best waterfall: Kawasan (Moalboal)
2. Best sunset at the beach: Las Cabanas (El Nido)
3. Most strange but delicious food in Philippines: Balut
4. Best snorkelling from all my life: Siete Pecados (Coron)
5. Best Island: I owe you one. I have never seen a place with so many beautiful Island/beaches in my live. Seriously, one more beautiful than other
6. Big and friendly turtles from all my life: Apo Island
7. Coolest beach: Cloud 9 (Siargao)
8. Best nuts: pili. You must try it! I simply love it very much.
9. Best encounter: whale shark in Oslob
10: Best airport: Siargao
Now, let’s go to the details. The itinerary summary we made in 17 days, by order were:
1. Cebu (big city)
2. Moalboal (close to Kawasan Waterfalls and turtles/tune shoal) - 2 days
3. Oslob (Whale Shark encounter) - 1 day
4. Dauin (Apo Island - big sea turtle encounter) - 1 day
5. Siargao (caves, surfing, snorkelling, ecotourism, etc) - 4 days
6. Coron: islands trip, snorkelling, rock formation, hot spring water - 2 days
7. El Nido: snorkelling, hopping island - 4 days
8. Manila: destination to Sydney
-1AUD = 38PHP (pesos)
-The best month for travelling in the Philippines is in April.
- Bring your snorkel mask. Many places are not included, and every time should be paid PHP150.
-buy a waterproof bag (20liters - PHP350)
- Get a water shoes over there, mainly for El Nido or Coron. There are a lot of rock formations and they rent for PHP100, however you can buy for PHP300 the simple one.
-Buy a SIM card (don't buy in the airport but in the city = PHP40, 2gb internet for two weeks = PHP100
-the best exchange rate was in Siargao - 38.5pesos = 1AUD
-bring cash, it is not easy to find an ATM
- Rent a motorbike to see more and be free. If you have never done you can give it a go.
-It is worth to download the map because internet is horrible in general.
-Use Uber or Taximeter if you get a Taxi.
-You can find accommodation for less than PHP1000 for double room with toilet
-Airline companies: Cebu Pacific, Scoot, Qantas, Airasia, Air-swift
Now, breaking down by place, you can see prices for transport, accommodation as a reference and also some local contacts that can help you.
From Cebu to Moalboal:
-PHP1800 taxi but using taximeter is cheaper than that.
-Moalboal is very close to the Kawasan Falls - 30 min by tuk-tuk (PHP150) or you can rent a motorbike.
-Beautiful sunset at the beach. Don’t lose it!
-Local contact: Jacquie - His Facebook is Rolly Gwaps. He works in on of the restaurants and organized everything for us in the island.
-Kawasan Falls is worth to spend a full day if you like waterfalls. It is very crystal-clear water and full of jumps. They offer canoeing which they show where is the best places to jump and do some water activity. Arrive before 8am to avoid many tourists. After 9pm is packet.
-Fish Island in Moalboal: it is not worth. It's a standard island close to the main beach - Moalboal Beach, and we must pay island fee. You can stay in front of the Moalboal Beach where everything can be seen: tuna, turtles. Probably it's worth to pay a native to help you to find the turtle and tune shoal as they know where they are.
From Moabal to Oslob:
-Taxi from Moalboal to Oslob after long negotiation = PHP1400. Or local bus for 65 per person.
-Swim with whale sharks for 30 min. It opens 5 am for registration, and 6 am for whale watching. It costs 1000 for the project.
-We stayed in Sharkly Hostel, very close to the project which helped us to be the first group.
-Sumilao Island (PHP2000 per boat negotiated in front of the beach - boat with 11 people). Sumilao is a piece of white sand in the middle of the turquoise water. It is not a place for snorkelling, but it is a beautiful island.
Oslob to Apo Island (Dauin City):
-Boat to Dumaguete = PHP60, after that a local bus (Easy Rider Company = PHP20 until bus station. Local bus to Apo island = PHP50.
-The boat costs PHP2500 for four people, and it is not negotiable. If you have more people, you can reduce the price. It was worth to go as it was the best place to see huge turtles in the Philippines.
-Accommodation in Dauin: Contact a beautiful Garcia family on Facebook: Garcia Jeanz Baylon or Vandz Garcia or Welmar Garcia. They helped us with everything, local events, food, transportation, etc.
-We stayed in a double room for PHP600. It's close to the place to go to Apo Island. The place we stayed was in front of the bus stop in the main road - National Highway, “Apo Island Stop”.
-Tumagong Falls: it will be for the next trip.
From Apo Island (Dauin) to Siargao:
It was quite tough. We need to go to Dumaguete, Cebu, Surigao e Siargao via the local bus, local ferry, aeroplane Company. There is a boat limitation, and it is better to organise in advanced. We spent two days to get there because of the departure' boat time.
From Dauin to Dumaguete: via bus/tricycle
From Dumaguete to Cebu: there is a boat, bus and aeroplane
From Cebu to Siargao: there is a direct flight, but it was full as it is just once per day. We went to Surigao by flight, close to Siargao and then from there; we took a local ferry. Surigao to Siargao the ship is only 5 am to 11 am. If you need to buy the ferry boat from Surigao to Siargao, You can buy directly from the company for PHP50. The hotel will charge PHP200. Another option is going by night boat from Cebu to Siargao, but it is only 7 p.m.
-If it is needed to stay in Surigao because of the time boat departure, there is an excellent hotel with a reasonable price: The Grande Suites Hotel (PHP1350 double room including breakfast, dinner and transfer from and to the airport or port). However, there is no much to do in this city, filthy and miserable city.
-It will be the new promising tourism attraction in the Philippines due to topography and geology: caves, mangroves, marine ecosystems, ecotourism, game fishing, etc.
-It's better to stay at General Lune as most of hostels, markets, stores and surfers are there. But other cities from this Island have their own tourism as well.
-Siargao Airport in Dallas City to General Luna Suburb: local bus (tricycle) to share with local people PHP20 each. Ask for that! It is very close to the airport. If not, you can pay PHP200 for private tricycle.
-We stayed 4 days but wishing to stay longer and explore better all island.
-Magpupungko pool in Pilar: walk on the left side of the beach to see the lagoons. Better to go in the low tide. PHP70 fee each.
-Tayangban Cave in Pilar: PHP70 each. You cross the cave under the water for 20 min walking.
-Pacifico Beach in San Isidro: It's a beautiful resort and you can use fresh water for showering in front of the beach/resort (it was the only shower I found in Philippines). The food is fantastic with a beautiful view of the ocean. The highlight of this restaurant is the dessert, hot chocolate cake with homemade ice cream It was the best ice cream I ate in Philippine.
All these three attractions can be done in 1 day: Magpupungko, Tayangban and Pacifico Beach.
-Cloud 9: surfing destination - it is the top five breaks in the World. Stunning sunset and beautiful beach.
-Sugba Lagoon in Del Carmen, very green lagoon = 1600 boat for six people. Wait to achieve the big number of people, and it is worth as everybody is going there. Check to go in a high tide, if you can. Kayak/paddle for renting = PHP300. Very green lagoon to be explored.
-Island hopping at General Luna: Naked Island + Daku Island + Guyam Island: go in front and rent a private boat straight with the locals - PHP1500 boat.
-Sohoton Cave: we didn't go as it was a bit far.
Siargao to Coron:
- It needs to go to Cebu first. From Siargao city to the airport by van = PHP150 per person. From Cebu to Coron: by plane = PHP7500
-Two Kids Accommodation in the downtown. Very clean and organised (Double room PHP800 after negotiation - expect for a PHP1000 double room)
-Mount Tapyas: all city and Coron mountains can be seeing from the top of the hill, escalating only 800 steps. Go for sunset view.
-Daily Island Tour: Rainy Day Company (09777181782). Try to get the company which you can see Siete Pecados and Twins Lagoons. One of them is called “ Coron super ultimate tour” which costs PHP1600 per person (this tour was the most completed package considering the most famous spots).
-Siete Pecados+coral garden: This was the best snorkelling I have seen all my life. It is surrounded by corals in all levels from the top of the water to the deep bottom of the ocean. There are plenty of shoals from different fish sizes, colours and shapes. How deep you can go, more things to be seeing in the ocean. I feel like a little grain of sand in the big aquarium.
-Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake: both are very similar, with rock formations, mostly freshwater and crystal clear turquoise fresh water, it can be seeing shrimps, fishes and shelves.
-Skeleton wreck can be skipped as it is just a wreck under the ocean
-Twin lagoon: it is composed by 2 lagoons separated by stones. Beautiful blue and green water.
-Maquinit Hot Spring: it's one of the few hot salt springs water in the world as most of them are with fresh water. You can clean all your body just staying there.
-Bali Beach: close beach from Coron. One day trip covers this spot for eating. The view from Coron Mountains is stunning. Fee entry = PHP50.
-Cabo Beach: second close beach from Coron.
Coron to El Nido
PHP1750 by ferry. Timetable 8 am or 12 pm from Monte Negro Company
Once arrived in the port, walk to the town which takes 2 minutes. There is no need for the tricycle.
Famous boat trips PHP Best spots
Boat Trip A: 1200 - 7th Commando Beach, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon (plus kayak rent = PHP400)
Boat Trip C: 1400 - Secret Beach, Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach
Boat trip D: Cadlao Lagoon, etc
Best trips are A and C.
El Nido Tips:
-Every trip must pay environmental fee = PHP200. Keep the number/paper and get discount of 200 for the next trip. If not, you have to pay again.
-If you need to rent snorkelling or water shoes, go to the diving stores which is PHP50 each. At the beach, it will cost PHP100.
-The best deal is to rent a private boat at the beach with locals, negotiate with someone else and go earlier, for example, 7:30 am, to avoid tourists in the main touristic sites. It is packed and worth to see the paradise without so many boats and people to dispute the view with you.
-Rent a motorbike to go to the beaches around El Nido: PHP400/day.
Duli Beach: the road was terrible and wasn't worth though.
Nacpan Beach: this is the famous beach in El Nido with a lovely sunset. The water is crystal clear and turquoise.
Duli Beach (close to the airport): the sand is a bit dark, but there are many trees for lying down and resting under the shade.
Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall: Minimal, not too much water. What I don’t think is worth.
Las Cabanas: best sunset I have ever seen! Must do it! 15 min from the city by motorbike. Zipline to Maremegmeg Island. PHP700
-Taraw Cliff: we didn't make it, but there is a beautiful view from El Nido. PHP500.
-Accommodation: Og Inn Hostel - in front of the beach = PHP1000 double room with toilet. Cheap, perfect location, breakfast included. Best deal ever.
Local tourist guide: Bensor Pendon - he can negotiate cheaper than agencies as he talks directly with the boats - Bensor Pendon on Facebook - El Nido -09365527823
Agency: in case you prefer an agency, Infinity Tour El Nido - 0955-5013164. Facebook: infinitytourelnido. They are honest and have a reasonable price comparing with others. The motorbike we rented with them with discount = PHP400.
El Nido to Manila:
-Lio Airport: very organised, free coffee and snacks. Ticket = PHP7000/person. Air-swift Airline or AirAsia Airline
We didn't see but we wanted to:
-2h from Cebu
-Snorkeling at Alona - Panglao
-Flight from El Nido to Caticlan
-They are building a huge casino. The beach is closed for 6 months.
-White beach, sunset, party beach
-Sunset: Diniwid beach
Some Local Food you must try:
Balut (developing bird embryo) – food street
Fry peanuts with chilli – food street
Pili Nut – delicious nut from the volcano area in Philippines
Halo Halo – dessert
Ube Ice Cream – dessert
Taho – dessert