There’s no doubt that the Philippines is a breathtaking destination! With thousands of islands and a limited time to travel, creating an itinerary can be overwhelming to say the least. After spending three weeks trying to see as much as I could of this stunning country, I decided to create the ultimate Philippines three week itinerary!
PHILIPPINES THREE WEEK ITINERARY
DAY 1 – MANILA TO CEBU:
If it’s your first time travelling through the Philippines, chances are that you’re looking to explore the tropical islands. If that’s the case, you can most definitely skip out on Manila and go straight to Cebu. Depending on the time of year, you can find flights for roughly $50 CAD (I went from January – February).
Upon arriving, get a SIM card from the airport. I believe I got one with SMART for around $20 CAD for the month. The other large competitor is Globe but I was told by travellers I had met in New Zealand that they didn’t have the best reception.
There isn’t much to do in Cebu City itself so if you arrive at night stay at Mad Monkey hostel. You’ll want to book this hostel ahead of time because it gets booked up. (For more in depth information regarding the hostels I stayed at in the Philippines, see my blog post here). If you arrive in the morning, take a bus from Cebu to Moalboal that day.
DAY 2 – CEBU TO MOALBOAL:
Getting to Moalboal from Cebu is pretty straight forward. You can take a Grab from the airport or whatever hostel you’re at to the Cebu bus terminal. From there the bus is about 4 hours to Moalboal. Once you arrive at Moalboal you can grab a tuk tuk to your hostel. If you do so, make sure to haggle with the driver to get the best price possible and share with others if you can! I used Rome2Rio to figure out how to get to each destination. While this site is great, keep in mind that transportation times are usually longer than shown. For example, it shows just over 2 hours on the bus here, meanwhile it really took 4 hours.
Once you get to your hostel in Moalboal there are few things you can do. There are some beaches nearby where you can rent snorkel gear for cheap and see some turtles swimming around if you’re lucky!
DAY 3 – KAWASAN FALLS & DAO FALLS:
Most hostels in the area will have different canyoneering day trips you can do to see Kawasan Falls. If you’re into that kind of thing you can do those trips but keep in mind that they’ll probably be a little pricey.
On the other hand, you can rent a scooter/motorbike and drive up to the falls on your own and take your time exploring them. If you don’t feel comfortable on a scooter you can get a taxi or tuk tuk to take you but that will be a little more expensive as well. I ended up taking a scooter with two guys I had met in Cebu City and got in a horrible accident (more info to come in a future blog post) so be careful!
The best thing about renting the scooter was having the whole day to use it so we were able to see Dao Falls as well. Keep in mind that there are entrance fees for each but Kawasan Falls were PACKED and not a single soul was at Dao Falls when we went in the late afternoon. At Dao Falls there will be people to guide you there and will expect a tip at the end so that’s just another thing to be aware of. If you want to save money, you can do it without the guide, it’s not too difficult to find!
DAY 4 – MOALBOAL TO DUMAGUETE
After Moalboal you can either return to Cebu City and fly to another island (what I did), or you can continue travelling down the island and heading to Dumaguete. While I didn’t take this specific route, someone I met during my travels went to Dumaguete and it looks amazing. Once again, Rome2Rio can show you how to get there by bus and ferry.
DAY 5 – DUMAGUETE TO MANJUYOD SANDBAR
From Dumaguete you can make your way to the Manjuyod Sandbar which is known as the Maldives of the Philippines! This spot is essential to the Philippines three week itinerary in my opinion.
This spot looks absolutely spectacular and I’ll definitely be visiting next time I make my way back to the Philippines! You can find more information about the sandbar and how to get there here.
DAY 6 – MANJUYOD SANDBAR TO SIQUIJOR
After spending a day in paradise you’ll want to head back on a bus to Dumaguete. From there, you can hop on a ferry that will take you to Siquijor. It’s said that there are many ferries leaving each day but ask around to see if you need to get a ticket in advance or you may be stuck on the island for a while if it’s all booked up.
DAY 7 – 9 – SIQUIJOR
Once you arrive in Siquijor there’s lots that you can do! A fellow traveller I met went to Cambugahay Falls and they looked stunning so I’d definitely recommend going there.
For your second day, I’d either spend it by the beach or doing some of these other activities!
DAY 10 – SIQUIJOR TO CORON
Another travel day but it will be well worth the journey once you get to Coron! The fastest way to get there is by taking a ferry back to Dumaguete and then flying from there to Coron.
If you’re on a tight budget and have some time to spare, there many other ways you can get to Coron for much cheaper. As always, I’d check Rome2Rio for your options.
DAY 14-17 – CORON
Arrive in Coron in the afternoon and meet some people at your hostel. I stayed at Hop Hostel which gets extremely booked up so if you want to stay there make sure to book in advance if it’s during peak season! If you’re travelling by yourself you should be able to make friends and find people who want to go island hopping with you.
All hostels will have different packages and tours you can choose from but in my experience, it’s much better to find a few people to do a private tour with. It usually ends up being cheaper and you have more control over how long you stay at a particular spot!
1ST DAY OF ISLAND HOPPING
My first island hopping experience was with two girls I met at the hostel. One was actually originally from the Philippines, so she was very helpful when trying to arrange things. She also made sure we didn’t get screwed over with tourist pricing. We simply walked down from our hostel to the water around 10am and people were approaching us left, right and centre for private boats. We got to choose three destinations for the day:
- Twin Lagoon
- Hidden Lagoon
- A beach on Dimanglet Island
We had the most amazing time because we weren’t rushed at each spot and we actually missed a lot of large groups of tourists at Twin Lagoon due to us leaving around 11am/noon.
PRO TIP: Book your private tour the day prior for super early (6am) or head down on your own the day of around 10 to avoid the large tour groups that start their day around 8/9am!
2ND DAY OF ISLAND HOPPING
For the second day of island hopping, I went with one girl from my hostel. We had a little more trouble getting a good price for the tour without our friend from the previous day. With that being said, we weren’t afraid to haggle a bit. We went to two destinations:
- Barracuda Lake
- A small beach nearby
After two days of island hopping in Coron, I was ready to move on. While the lagoons and beaches were stunning, Coron itself didn’t offer much to do and you needed a boat to get everywhere.
I had pre-booked a ferry from Coron to El Nido for the next day. Make sure to book this ferry in advance, as my friend hadn’t done so and would’ve been stuck in Coron for another 4 days if she hadn’t paid 4 times what I did for a ‘private’ ferry over. Before you think “ah, a private ferry would be nice” I’ll have you know that after hearing her horrifying 8 hour (instead of 4 hour) journey to El Nido, I couldn’t be happier to have booked mine ahead of time!
DAY 17-21 – EL NIDO
Before I landed in El Nido, I was told that Outpost Hostel was the best hostel there. Of course it had already been booked up so I went with what I was told was second best – Big Paul hostel.
After getting set up at the hostel I made plans with people I had met on previous islands to go to Napcan beach the next day. It took about 45 minutes on a tuk tuk and was a beautiful beach to hangout on for the day.
For my second day in El Nido, I did an island hopping tour through my hostel. I chose Tour A which took us to Papaya beach and Secret Beach.
The next day I headed to Las Cabanas which was just a short 10-15 minute tuk tuk ride. The beach is stunning and has a great atmosphere with lots of young people. There are heaps of restaurants right on the beach as well with an amazing view of the water! Definitely a great spot for a chill day.
During my last day I chose to do another island hopping tour. This time I went with a tour from Outpost hostel with a friend I had made. We went to Small lagoon, Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon. While it was stunning, I wasn’t fully able to enjoy it because I had gotten food poisoning the night prior.
From El Nido you can either fly direct (more expensive option) or can take a 6 hour bus to Puerto Princesa. To save time and hassle I opted for the fight.
ADDITIONAL SPOTS TO CHECK OUT
If you find your Philippines three week itinerary is getting filled up quite quickly and plan on staying a little longer, here are other places that you should definitely check out!
From what I gather, Siargao is a surf island with a more relaxed and hipster feel, in comparison to other islands. I heard absolutely AMAZING things about it from everyone who had been there. So I was saddened when my travel plans were rearranged and I couldn’t go.
If you aren’t there for the unreal surf they get, there are many other things to do and see. When planning your Philippines three week itinerary, I’d try my best to fit Siargao in!
Boracay used to be known as the party island in the Philippines due to the number of tourists who would drink by the beach. It was recently closed and then reopened to tourists to clean up and restore the island.
It definitely is still a fun spot to check out but didn’t seem like anymore of a party island in comparison to the others. If beautiful beaches are more of a priority for you, you’ll love Boracay! The main beach – White Beach – is absolutely stunning with white sand (duh) and crystal clear water. You can also catch some pretty spectacular sunsets each night.
So there we have it! The perfect Philippines three week itinerary for backpackers/solo travellers. Want more information before you plan your trip to the Philippines? Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook!