Even though the Philippines had always been on my bucket list, I really wish I had done some more research when I travelled there! In my mind it was going to be like all the other South East Asian countries I had travelled to but I was wrong! I always knew the country is made up of 7,000 islands, it didn’t cross my mind that to get around you need to fly which obviously can be expensive. There is the option to travel by boat but this is difficult to organise, takes a long time and doesn’t save you THAT much money. I would suggest trying to vaguely plan a route and check Skyscanner for the best rates and work around the cheapest flight options.
Most flights will take you to the capital Manila, from here you can either take a connecting flight or travel inland. I was lucky enough to have a Filipino friend called Carol, who I met living in Marbella. Carol’s family live in Laoag city which is in the northern province, Ilocos Norte. As Filipino’s are renowned for their generosity, my friend Ainhoa and I were invited to stay with Carol’s family. The bus from Manila to the north took 12 hours and after a red eye flight from Bali to Manila we were quite exhausted. During our time in Laoag city we were chauffeur driven to the main tourist attractions in the north. Our first stop was the gorgeous beach resort of Fort Ilocandia, with its postcard perfect views – a bright blue sky and a stunning purple haze on the horizon. Next stop was the famous La Paz Sand Dunes where you can sandboard in the desert!
Another fun place to visit is Pagudpud which is located at the very north of the country and is extremely popular with the locals. The lovely family we were staying with packed a picnic so we hired one of the beach huts and enjoyed some local food after we had been for a dip in the beautiful blue sea which had a blue lagoon! On the way back to Laoag we called at Kapurpurawan rock formation in Burgos, it’s known for white limestone formations which have been formed by the ocean – it’s really quite impressive!
Another famous site in the north, is the Spanish style historical city of Vigan. I loved the Spanish colonial and Asian architecture, it really felt like walking through a western film set! The cobbled streets were filled with kelesa’s (horse and carts). We climbed to the top of the bell tower which was quite a work out!
It was time to say goodbye to our lovely new friends and make the long journey back to Manila to catch a flight to Cebu. We did some research on places in stay in Moalboal and decided we would try Moalbaol which is a 3-hour bus ride from Cebu city. We jumped in a tricycle and went to White Beach which is a stunning beach but was let down by the quality of accommodation. The small beach huts had shared bathrooms and were expensive for what you got! We decided that the dive resort Panagsama beach was more for us and we found a huge room in a modern hotel for the same price as the beach hut at White Beach so we were happy! Moalboal is stunning and a popular dive spot with restaurants, bars and dive schools.
We found a bar called Chillis bar and made friends with the waiter who said he would take us to see Kasawan Falls on his motorbike the next day. On the way to the waterfalls it started raining, a lot! With 3 of us clinging on the back of a bike it was quite a scary experience but we arrived in one piece! The waterfalls are beautiful and surrounded by blue lagoons. It’s quite a trek through water and across bamboo bridges to see all the falls but it’s definitely worth it! You will probably see Kasawan falls on Instagram a lot and my best advice would be to arrive as early as possible as it gets busy!
My favourite place was Borocay, you really can’t miss this place out if you’re visiting The Philippines. When I arrived here and saw the beach it was a serious “wow” moment! White sand, amazing blue sea, a thousand palm trees – it was like paradise! It’s even won awards for Best island in the world! Boracay is made up of 3 stations, we stayed at station 3 which was the cheapest option.
One of the best days was when we made friends and went on a sailing boat around the island. It was so much fun and I would highly recommend it! The nightlife in Boracy is fab, there is a few main hangouts but one of the most popular is exit bar which always has live music.
If you like to take part in activities, you can enjoy stand up paddle boarding and paragliding which are so much fun.
At the other side of the island is a beach called Puka beach which is covered in seashells, it’s a big contrast to the beautiful white beach but that maybe because the weather wasn’t great the day I went here.
We were quite lucky that Kalibo festival called Ati-Atihan which is held on the neighbouring island. This festival was fantastic and is a must see if you’re around in January. The name of the festival means “pretending to be like Ati”, so locals paint their faces with black soot and perform in the parade wearing the most amazing bright coloured costumes.
Our next adventure was at Taal Volcano in Batangas. We hired a boat to take us across the lake and wow was it scary. The waves were huge and terrified we were going to capsize but the driver seemed totally oblivious to our fear as he cranked up Britney Spears “Hit me baby one more time” and giving us the thumbs up as we clung on for dear life. When we finally reached dry land we trekked up the volcano and it was a gorgeous view of inside the crater and the other surrounding lakes. What goes up must come down and we had to brave the the scary journey back to the main land, but this time it was even more scary, with more waves and more hit me baby one more time.
Our final stop was Manila as unfortunately we ran out of time in this beautiful country. One of the biggest regrets was not planning the trip to include Palawan which everyone tells me is more beautiful than Borocay. El Nido is definitely on my list of places I have to visit, so looks like another trip back to the Philippines!
Have you ever been to the Philippines? Is there anywhere else I need to visit on my next trip?
I would love to know what you think in the comments below.
Keep on wandering!