The Philippines is a dream destination. From the clear blue water, to the endless rows of palm trees, to white sand beaches – it’s easy to understand why it’s becoming such a popular tourist destination. I spent 3 weeks backpacking in the Philippines and saw only a handful of the 7107 Filipino islands. That was enough for me to discover how your trip can go from paradise to hell, depending on where you’re staying. So being the good Samaritan I am, I’ve set out the best and worst hostels in the Philippines!
When it came to choosing a hostel for Boracay, I was torn between Mad Monkey and Frendz. After much deliberation I went with Frendz. The decision was made based on the fact that it was closer to the beach than Mad Monkey. I was happy with my decision.
Frendz had decently clean rooms with aircon, as well as a fun atmosphere on the free pasta nights (Sunday and Wednesday). Who doesn’t love free pasta?! I ended up going to check out Mad Monkey one night to see what it would be like for drinking. Personally, I didn’t think it was that great. I heard from people who stayed there that they didn’t like how most people were trying to get drunk from 10am onwards. The distance from the beach didn’t help as well!
Definitely stay in Frendz if you’re ever in Boracay! I met some great people there and you can’t pass up being a one minute walk from a stunning white sand beach and sunsets to die for.
Upon arriving at the Philippines, I began my trip in Cebu City and booked Mad Monkey hostel. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice this hostel was. This was probably due to setting my expectations extremely low for Asian hostels. This hostel was clean, had large lockers for large backpacks and even suitcases to fit.
The atmosphere was also great for meeting other backpackers. With music and drinking at the bar on the roof of the hostel where they give out free (weak) shots out every hour! While it may come across as a party hostel from the pictures they put up on HostelWorld, I didn’t find it to be that wild. The noise doesn’t really go past the rooftop so if you feel like a quiet night in your room, you wouldn’t have any problems.
10/10 would recommend staying at this hostel if you first get to Cebu with no plans. It’s a great spot to meet other backpackers you can travel with!
After being recommended this hostel and hearing rave reviews from everyone, I made sure to book a room at Hop Hostel. It’s definitely a beautiful hostel with the white walls and structure. They also have beds with curtains that surround each individual bunk for privacy.
The most noteworthy aspect of this hostel is the rooftop, where you can see the most spectacular sunsets! With that being said, if you can’t get a dorm room at Hop (as they book up quite far in advance), stay somewhere nearby in town and walk up to the bar for sunset!
After hearing such great reviews from people, I must say that I was a little let down by the atmosphere of the hostel altogether. It wasn’t exactly the most conducive to meeting other travelers, but where there’s a will there’s a way!
While Big Paul in El Nido was nowhere near as disgusting as the one in Cebu City, it wasn’t exactly fantastic. If you’re on a budget it will definitely do with aircon in the rooms and free rum and coke from 7-10 EVERY night. If you’re looking for a little more relaxation in El Nido, I’d suggest staying at Outpost Beach Hostel instead.
Outpost is definitely more expensive but it’s right on the beach so you see beautiful sunsets every night. They also organise island hopping tours that you can do with people you meet at the hostel. I stayed at Big Paul but had a friend staying at Outpost so I spent some time hanging out there. The only downfall to Outpost is that you have to go down steep steps. This can be problematic at night with no light or if you have any injury.
When looking at HostelWorld I also considered booking Mad Monkey in El Nido. After going on a day trip to Napcan Beach and seeing how far it was from the town and other hostels, I was happy to have chosen Big Paul.
Not to be mistaken with the Big Paul in El Nido, I stumbled upon Big Paul in Cebu City after a series of unfortunate events. Everything fell apart after having to come back to Cebu for a few days and sort out the rest of my travel plans.
I initially went to select Mad Monkey, as I had previously stayed there and knew it was a great hostel. Sadly all of the dorm rooms were unavailable so I decided to give Big Paul a go …
It seemed as if it was a new hostel with the construction going on on other floors and the lack of people staying there. Normally that would be fine, but to be completely honest, Big Paul Hostel in Cebu City was DISGUSTING. The room I was in was also occupied by little bugs crawling around all of the beds. The staff who seemed to walk into the room quite often and last but not least, there was a MOUSE. Yes, you read that correctly. When I brought the mouse to the attention of the staff they laughed and said, “ah yes, we know him”. THEY KNEW THE MOUSE?!?!?
I had so many questions but at the time I was in too much pain from a previous scooter accident to fully process how gross this place was. If I didn’t have to stay in Cebu City another night to go to the hospital I definitely wouldn’t have stayed more than the one night. The only saving grace for this hostel was the extremely kind staff and free breakfast. Hands down one of the worst hostels in the Philippines.
*I’d also just like to add that when I went back on HostelWorld to link their hostel, I saw that they had erased all the reviews they previously had (including one I submitted). This was probably done to continually keep their rating high*
All in all, the hostels in the Philippines were pretty good – I mean you really can’t expect much for $15CAD a night. If you can afford to stay in the more expensive hostels, I’d definitely recommend doing so. If not, you’re really just at the hostel to sleep anyway.
Have you been to the Philippines? If so, I’d love to hear what hostels were your favourites and which ones you’d recommend avoiding. I’ll definitely be heading back someday to explore more of the 7000 islands I didn’t make it to!
You can follow my past, present & future travels here.