Backpacking Philippines: Travel Guide, Best Places, & Itineraries

Backpacking the Philippines should be on everyone’s bucket list. With over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is one of the world’s largest archipelagos. Jam-packed with picture-perfect white sand beaches, beautiful sandbars, and small shacks selling cheap beer and rum. The photo opportunities are endless.

Many of the locals speak English and are some of the friendliest people in South East Asia. The Philippines is a place where karaoke is a national pastime so don’t be surprised to hear terrible singing at any time of the day.

With so many deserted beaches to explore, sunken ships to dive into, and some rum and colas to sip on, it’s time to pack your bags and set off on the perfect Philippines holiday! There are many famous Philippine destinations, but also many that are less explored.

This guide covers favorites from our 7-week trip. Backpacking Philippines travel guide & itineraries include details about visiting this paradise for budget-minded backpackers, honeymooners, and even those on a short trip. Be sure to check out the several island hopping itineraries.

 

Looking to go to the Philippines on a Budget? We’ve got you covered on our Backpacking Philippines Travel Guide & Itineraries. We cover islands like Palawan, Camiguin, Siargao, Bohol, Panglao, Siquijor, Luzon, and Boracay. With island hopping itineraries for one week, two week, three week, four week, one month and 6 weeks. By: Beard and Curly (@beardandcurly)

        Interested? Pin Now…Read Later!

 


JUMP TO:  Transportation  Backpacking  |  Top Destinations  |  Itineraries


 

Visa to the Philippines

On arrival into the Philippines, there is a free 30-day visa. If intending to travel longer than 30 days, it is possible to get visa extensions.

The easiest way is to pay for an extended visa on arrival. If your flight is arriving during business hours (usually 9 am to 5 pm), ask the customs agent to pay for a 60-day visa. They allow this at the Cebu and Manila airports. We paid 3,000 PHP for a 60-day visa. It took us about 20-30 minutes of extra processing time.

 

 

Currency in the Philippines

The Philippine Peso is commonly called the Piso (₱ or PHP). As of December 2018, the Piso is worth:

  • $1 USD = 53 PHP

  • €1 = 60 PHP

  • £1 = 67 PHP

 

Man doing a backflip off diving board in Sugba Lagoon, Siargao, Philippines

Backflips at Sugba Lagoon Siargao

 

Sim Cards in the Philippines

While backpacking in the Philippines is heaven, for digital nomads or anyone looking to get work done on your downtime, don’t expect to be too productive. Wifi and cell coverage in the Philippines is absolutely horrible.

I could barely open Facebook with 3G coverage in El Nido. Other times, it seems to work alright. I suggest anyone visiting the Philippines, whether it is a 1-week honeymoon or 4-week backpacking adventure, to get a cheap sim card on arrival.

There is debate over who has the best coverage between Smart and Globe networks. I tried both, and they were overall pretty bad, but I found myself using Smart SIM more often.

The Philippines break up their regions to different providers. So for example, Smart might be the only provider in Boracay, however in El Nido, only Globe will work.

The prices are pretty similar for SIM cards; they are either free or 100 PHP (with 1GB loaded). Credit is loaded in denominations of 100 PHP. For the Smart SIM, 100 PHP covers a week plan with 1.5GB of data.

Woman in red bathing suit on a tire swing at Papaya Beach, Palawan, Philippines

Swinging around at Papaya Beach, a 45-minute kayak ride from El Nido

 

Transportation in the Philippines

Transportation costs vary from island to island. Some islands have better infrastructure and larger populations, thus convenient aircon buses run daily.

Whereas others only have minivans or might need private transfers to suit your schedule. Our transportation costs below are based on our 7 weeks in the Philippines.

 

 

Transportation in Palawan and Prices

 

  • Shared Van Puerto Princesa town to Port Barton: 300 PHP (3 hours)Shared Van Puerto Princesa airport to Port Barton: 400 PHP (3-4 hours)

  • Shared Van Port Barton to El Nido: 500 PHP (4 hours)

  • Shared Van Puerto Princesa to El Nido: 400 PHP (5 hours)

  • Shared Van Coron to Busuanga: 150 PHP (40 mins)

  • Local Tricycle: 10 – 20 PHP

  • Scooter Rental: 400 – 600 PHP for 12-hours

  • Ferry to El Nido:

    • Slow ferry El Nido – Coron: 1,200 PHP (5 hours)

    • Fast ferry El Nido – Coron: 1,750 PHP (3 hours)

 

Transportation in Siargao and Prices

 

  • From Siargao Airport:

    • AirCon shared van from the airport to General Luna: 300 PHP (45 min)

    • Tricycle from the airport to General Luna: 600 PHP for 3 people (1 hour 15 min) Walk outside of the airport to the road and it is possible to negotiate for an empty van with 5+ people for 200 PHP per person

  • General Luna local tricycle: 20 PHP

  • Motorbike Rental: 350 to 450 PHP

  • General Luna to Dapa via tricycle: 300 PHP (45 min)

 

Transportation from Siargao to Camiguin and Prices

 

  • Boat From Dapa, Siargao to Surigao City: 150 PHP on tourist AC (3 hours)

  • Bus From Surigao City to Butuan City: 230 PHP (2.5 hours)

  • Bus to Balingoan via Cagayan: 230 PHP (2.5 hours)

  • Ferry to Camiguin (Benoni terminal): 217 PHP (1 – 1.5 hours)

  • Private mini jeepney to Mambajao hotels: 300 PHP (45 mins)

 

Transportation from Camiguin to Panglao, Bohol and Prices

 

  • Tricycle to Balbagon ferry terminal: 150 PHP (15 mins)

  • Ferry from Balbagon, Camiguin to Jagna, Bohol: 437 PHP (2.5 – 3 hours)

  • AirCon bus from Jagna to Tagbilaran: 80 PHP (1.5 hours)

  • Tagbilaran jeepney to Alona Beach: 25 PHP (30 mins)

  • Private car Alona to Tagbilaran bus terminal: 500 PHP (30 min)

  • Private tricycle Alona to Tagbilaran bus terminal: 300 PHP (1 hour)

 

Transportation from Panglao, Bohol to Southern Leyte (Padre Burgos) and Prices

 

  • Bus from Tagbilaran to Ubay: 160 PHP (3.5 hours)

  • Local ferry Ubay to Batu: 292 PHP (2 hours)

  • Minivan from Batu to Maasin: 50 PHP (45 mins)

  • Jeepney from Maasin to Padre Burgos: 40 PHP (30 mins)

 

Transportation from Southern Leyte (Padre Burgos) to Kalanggaman Island and Prices

 

  • Private tricycle Padre Burgos to Maasin: 500 PHP

  • Shared van Maasin to Ormac: 147 PHP (2.5 hours)

  • Shared van Ormac to Palompon: 110 PHP (1.5 hours)

  • Ferry to Kalanggaman group prices: between 150 and 300 PHP depending on group size (1 hour)

 

Transportation from Kalanggaman Island to Malapascua and Prices

 

  • Day trips: leave daily for 600 – 800 PHP. For one-way rides ask the captain for 300 PHP (2 hours)

 

Transportation from Malapascua to Cebu City and Prices

 

  • Ferry from Malapascua (beach near French Kiss Divers) to Maya City, Cebu: 100 PHP (30 mins)

  • Shared minivan from Maya to Cebu City: 200 PHP (4 hours)

 

 

Drone top down photo of Magpupungko Tidal Pool in Siargao

Magpupungko Tidal Pool in Siargao

 

Accommodation in the Philippines

Rooms and hostels have a massive variance between budget backpacking options and high-end resorts.

The Philippines is a great backpacking destination with affordable dorms and budget private rooms in most places we visited. There are some exceptions and in some cases, such as Boracay, where the prices are double that of most islands in the Philippines for dorm best and budget rooms.

Typically, hostel dorm beds cost between 250 PHP and 400 PHP per person. A budget double room starts at 600 PHP, and a mid-range double accommodation is around 1,500 PHP for the room.

 

 

Food in the Philippines

In the Philippines, local food is highly meat oriented. Small shops and homes will have pre-cooked dishes in pots and pans.

There is usually an assortment of stews, sauteed pork meat, chicken curry, pork egg rolls, and noodles. It can be very difficult for vegetarians to eat at local restaurants. Small dishes range from 15 PHP to 50 PHP.

Western restaurants are pretty common, especially in tourist destinations and beach towns such as El Nido, Coron, Panglao, and Moalboal.

There is a wide option of food; such as burgers, Mexican, Thai, Italian as well as an occasional vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Dishes typically cost between 150 PHP and 300 PHP.

 

 

Woman in flowy dress at scenic sunset in Moalboal, Cebu

Pretty sunsets in Moalboal, Cebu

 

Alcohol in the Philippines

Alcohol is very cheap in the Philippines, so if partying is your thing, it is a cheap destination to wet your lips and not break the bank.

Beer and rum are available at all stores as well as many small shops. Wine is available in liquor shops and supermarkets.

There are two popular beers in the Philippines, San Miguel and Red Horse. San Miguel tastes better, but Red Horse is stronger at 6.9% alcohol. Beers are available in 33ml, 50ml, and 1L and cost 50, 70, and 100 PHP respectively.

Tanduay is the national rum of choice, and while the price is scary cheap at 100 PHP for a 1L bottle, it is surprisingly not bad, especially when mixed with coca-cola or calamansi (lime) juice.

Imported wine from Italy, Spain, Australia and other regions of the world and is available at liquor stores and larger supermarkets. Wine prices range from 300 PHP – 1,000 PHP depending on the quality.

 

Drone image of Naked Island in Siargao

Naked Island in Siargao

 

Nightlife in the Philippines

There are large disco’s and clubs in the larger cities such as Manila and Cebu. They typically have an entry cost of 50-100 PHP and have live DJs at night. They commonly have a dress code of pants and closed toe shoes. Drinks cost between 80 – 200 PHP.

Bars are common in tourist areas and beach towns, sometimes with live music, typically reggae. Drinks cost between 60 – 150 PHP.

Karaoke bars are really common in the Philippines, which you will quickly realize during your travels is a favorite evening (and morning, and mid-day) activity among locals.

 

Scenic view of Twin Lagoon in Palawan

Yana exploring Twin Lagoon in Coron, Palawan

 

Backpacking the Philippines Budget

Backpacking in the Philippines is very common and easy, because of the low transportation and accommodation costs. Everywhere we visited in the Philippines was extremely backpacker friendly.

Budget rooms are easy to find, so if dorms aren’t your thing, it is easy to grab a cheap double room. Dorms and budget rooms can vary from nice quad rooms to pungent moldy 16-bed horror shows, so it is good to do some research or see the room before paying a bill.

For a backpacking budget and what to expect on a two-week trip to cost in the Philippines, I would expect between $30 – $40 USD per day, with boat trips and activities being the largest swing in costs. Here are some expected overall trip costs:

 

  • Dorm bed: 400 PHP per night

  • Food: 150 PHP per meal

  • Beer or Rum: 200 PHP per day

  • Extra (water, snacks, cigarettes, etc…): 150 PHP per day

  • Transportation between El Nido, Coron, Cebu, Moalboal, Panglao, and Siquijor: 5,000 PHP

  • Boat Trips in El Nido, Coron, and Panglao: 3,000 PHP

  • Scooter Rental: 3,500 PHP per week

  • The entry cost to tourist sites and environmental cards: 1,000 PHP

  • Total cost for a 2-week trip in the Philippines: ~30,000 PHP = $560 USD = $40/day

 

Top Down of Kalanggaman Sand Bar

Kalanggaman sand bar from above

 

Safety in the Philippines

The Philippines has garnered a lot of attention in recent years when it comes to safety. There is a government war against drugs, specifically in Manila, southern Mindanao, and the Sulu Islands.

It is best to avoid southern Mindanao and the Sulu Islands, as this is a major concern for pirating and terrorism.

In the tourist regions such as Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Siargao, there is no reason for concerns about safety. As you should anywhere else in the world, be careful with items in your room and do not leave valuables unattended.

Theft does occur, although it is usually an opportunistic and not a systemic issue in the Philippines.

 

Beautiful view and reflections of Kawasan Waterfalls

Kawasan Waterfalls in Cebu

 

 

Best Philippines Destinations for Tourists

Aerial image of a blue lagoon off of Coron Island

A lagoon at Coron Island, Palawan

 

Palawan

Palawan has some of the most stunning limestone cliffs and clear water in the world. It is super busy with tourism, especially in El Nido. However, I wouldn’t recommend skipping a boat tour to the famous Big Lagoon or Secret Beach.

The beach towns of Port Barton, El Nido, and Coron, each have unique characteristics and are worth exploring. The best way is by joining group boat trips or hiring a private boat.

For a little of everything; spend two nights in Port Barton, three nights in El Nido, and two nights in Coron. In addition to boat trips, spend a day at White Beach in Port Barton and Kayak to Papaya Beach from El Nido.

 

Budget Stay in Port Barton: Charity Homestay is a short walk from the main street in town with an apartment room for 765 PHP ($14)

Budget Stay in El Nido: Bacuit Lodge is a basic guesthouse with rooms from 700 PHP. For a hostel, check out Happiness Hostel with dorm beds for 1,000 PHP ($13 – $18 USD)

Budget Stay in Coron: Check Dayon Hostel for dorms (750 PHP) or The Yellow House for private rooms for 700 PHP ($13 USD)

 

Mid-Range Stay in Port Barton: Rubin Resort is a nice mid-range resort with rooms from 2,900 PHP ($55 USD).

Mid-Range Stay in El Nido: Bulskamp Inn has nice rooms for 3,600 PHP ($70 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Coron: 4.13 Suites Hotel has nice rooms and is located in a good area for 3,400 PHP ($65 USD)

 

 

Incredible view of Sugba Lagoon from above

Sugba Lagoon from above

 

Siargao

Siargao has been the up and coming spot to be in the Philippines. This surfing mecca reminds me a little of Bali meets Maui meets the Philippines. It has great western food and great vibes.

The island has more palm trees per capita than anywhere in the world (OK maybe I am wrong on this, but lets go with it) and the rum seems to flow nonstop.

Definitely stay in the General Luna area where you can watch or take some surf lessons for 1000 PHP.

For a more chilled out vibe stay near Pacifico Beach, one hour north of General Luna. Island hopping can be done to either the three islands (Naked Island, Guyam Island and Daku Island) or to Sugba Lagoon.

Siargao has some really beautiful places for photography such as the Magpapungko tide pool (at low tide) and Cloud 9. We didn’t go, but the less visited Sohoton Cove looks like a drone operator’s playground.

 

Budget Stay in General Luna: Kokai Resort has cheap dorms for 500 PHP, or grab a private room from Balay Hayahay for 1250 PHP ($10/$24 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in General Luna: Villa Pagoda Resort is oceanside with nice rooms for 3,000 PHP ($55 USD)

Stay in Pacifico: Calypso Surf and Dive budget room for 600 PHP ($11 USD)

 

 

White Island with Camiguin in the background

White Island with Camiguin in the background

 

Camiguin

Spending a few days exploring Camiguin by scooter was really fun. This island is more developed than others but actually felt like there was way less tourism.

Two waterfalls are worth visiting, the Katibawasan Falls and the Tuasan Falls. The drive through the mountains with views of the entire island is worth the trip alone.

A boat trip to the White Island sandbar is a relaxing war to spend an afternoon. If you are into hiking, check out the trek up Mt. Hibok-Hibok to the top of this active volcano.

Don’t forget to finish off one of the days by soaking in the Ardent Hot Springs, a beautiful spot with natural jungle surroundings.

 

Budget Stay in Camiguin: Pabua’s Cottages are basic double rooms located near the White Beach ferry for 700 PHP ($13 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Camiguin: Grab the Guerrera Rice Paddy Villa if it is still available for 3,150 PHP ($60 USD)

 

 

Pink Sunset from the Chocolate Hills viewpoint in central Bohol

Sunset from the Chocolate Hills viewpoint in central Bohol

 

Panglao/Bohol

Panglao is one of the more touristy spots in the Philippines, but with good accommodation and great food, this is a good base to visit other tourist areas in Bohol.

Alona Beach is the hub for hostels and restaurants, but Dumaluan Beach was our favorite to relax on the white sand beaches. Either book a tour or grab a scooter and check out the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, Loboc River, and Chocolate Hills viewpoint.

 

Budget Stay in Panglao: Grab a cheap hammock at Hostel Alona Hammocks for 350 PHP or stay at Hope Homes for 850 PHP. Staying at Hope Homes comes with a free scooter rental ($6 -$16 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Panglao: Scent of Green Papaya is a beautiful resort close to the beach for 4,450 PHP ($85 USD)

 

Underwater photo of ethically swimming with whale sharks in Leyte

The Ethical Way to Swim with Whale Sharks in the Philippines

 

Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte

Getting to Padre Burgos is a journey in itself, but has some of the best scuba diving in the Philippines and a chance to swim with whale sharks in an ECO-FRIENDLY way. This is a great reason to visit this lonely corner of the Eastern Visayas.

Diving here is about $30 USD per dive plus marine park fees. If visiting between the months of November and May, you are in luck, as this is the whale shark season.

A whale shark snorkeling tour costs around 3,000 PHP or 3,600 PHP with 1 dive included ($57 – $68 USD).

 

Budget Stay in Padre Burgos: Peter’s Dive Resort has quad dorms for 400 PHP ($8 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Padre Burgos: Padre Burgos Castle Resort has great reviews and diving tour packages, with rooms from 3,000 PHP ($55 USD)

 

 

Flying over Kalanggaman sand bar with drone

Lonely Yana on Kalanggaman Island

 

Kalanggaman Island

The Philippines is known for sandbars, and Kalanggaman has one of the best. The sandbar juts out into the tropical blue water from this tiny island. You can walk across the island in a matter of minutes.

This is a popular day trip for locals and foreigner to enjoy the sandbar and have a BBQ. You also can stay the night and camp under the stars. It costs 500 PHP for entry to Kalanggaman, plus the cost of transport.

Boats leave from Palompon, Leyte and day trips leave from Malapascua. It typically will cost around 300 PHP from Palompon and between 600 – 800 PHP from Malapascua. The boat cost depends on the total size of the group.

 

Sleeping on Kalanggaman: Camping on the island is permitted with a few options. Staying the night costs 750 PHP instead of the 500 PHP entry. You can bring your own tent at no additional cost or rent a tent for 400 PHP. At the far end of the island is a private section with basic huts that can be rented for 1,500 PHP.

 

 

Diving with threshers sharks in Malapascua

Diving with threshers sharks in Malapascua

 

Malapascua

A throwback in time, Malapascua has a true island vibe. The tiny alleyways between dilapidated homes and coconut trees all lead to the beach where dozens of dive shops and restaurants line the walking street.

Karaoke will be blasting at any time of day. While the island is “dirtier” than other places in the Philippines, there was just something I loved about it.

The main reason to come to Malapascua is the scuba diving. There are several good dive sites, but the best attraction is to see the amazing thresher sharks.

Monad Shoal is a cleaning station for thresher sharks and is at a depth of 30m. It is one of the few places in the world where there is a chance to see these amazing sharks every day of the year.

A single dive at Monad Shoal costs 1,600 PHP including gear rental.

 

Budget Stay in Malapascua: Grab a dorm bed at Malapascua Budget Inn for 400 PHP or a private room from Sharks Tail Dive Resort for 900 PHP ($8 – $17 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Malapascua: Tepanee Beach Resort is a beautiful option looking for a nice stay with rooms starting from 3,500 PHP ($66 USD)

 

 

Long exposure of person at Inambakan Waterfalls

Long exposure of Inambakan Waterfalls, Cebu

 

Moalboal, Cebu

Moalboal is a coastal city on the south of Cebu Island. It is the perfect base for activities in Cebu, including some serious waterfall exploring. Cebu has some of the best waterfalls in Asia.

The out of this world Gatorade blue color of the water makes these waterfalls exceptional and unique. There are dozens of falls to explore; some of our favorites are Inambakan Falls, Kawasan Falls, Dao Falls, and Binalayan Falls.

Watching the sunset from Osmena Peak is worth the trek. This bizarre landscape has beautiful views of the coastline.

Moalboal is one of the best places in the world for freediving. If you have experience or want to try it out for the first time, visit our besties Yahia and Kris at Freediving Planet. Don’t miss out on the sardine run which can be seen year round.

 

Budget Stay in Moalboal: Chief Mau is good for a budget dorm bed for 440 PHP ($8 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Moalboal: Oceanfront Paradise Resort has rooms for 2,400 PHP ($45 USD)

 

 

Bird's-eye survey of traditional boat at idyllic Philippine Beach

Philippine beach from above

 

Boracay

What used to be a sleepy island known for honeymooners has become one of the Philippines top party destinations. Boracay is known as one of the top beaches in the country, and unlike other places in the Philipinnes, accommodation is right on the beach.

In 2018 it has become a little too popular; the government closed the island to tourism for six months from April to October.

We skipped Boracay because we weren’t looking for the party scene, but there is a reason it attracts over 2 million tourists a year.

 

Budget Stay in Boracay: Dorm beds at Hostel Avenue are 700 PHP and right in front of the beach ($13 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Boracay: Lazy Dog B&B has great reviews with a private room for 2,200 PHP ($42 USD)

 

 

Local Filipino children playing games and smiling

Making friends in the Philippines

 

Siquijor

Siquijor, the island of witches, is an island with beautiful beaches known for its history with witchcraft. The Old Enchanted Balette Tree is an interesting site to see.

The island has a lot to offer; mountain biking, exploring waterfalls, and of course, searching for the best beaches. Click here for more on the top things to do in Siquijor.

 

Budget Stay in Siquijor: James Homestay has excellent reviews and is affordable with private rooms for 500 PHP ($10 USD)

Mid-Range Stay in Siquijor: RhenMart Inn has cute private bungalows not far from the beach and near-perfect reviews for 1,750 PHP ($33 USD)

 

 

Panorama of green rice fields at Batad Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces in North Luzon. Photo by Ojito.

North Luzon

It is a long journey from Manila (10-hours), but totally worth the effort.

When arriving at the mountainous village of Banaue, the crisp cool air and ever-lasting views of rice terraces is the perfect place to relax for a couple of days. There are several stunning rice fields in the area, including the Batad and Bangaan terraces.

Since you made the journey here, continue to Sagada, a 7-hour bus ride from Banaue, with visits to the hanging coffins, explore caves, and relax in a traditional village setting. For more ideas, check out the Pinoy Solo Backpacker’s Sagada Guide.

 

Budget Stay in Banaue: Batad Transient House is perfectly in the rice terraces for amazing views with private rooms starting at 600 PHP ($12 USD)

Budget Stay in Sagada: Agape Log Cabin & Restaurant is a good place to base your adventures from in Sagada, with private rooms for 1,250 PHP ($23 USD)

 

Philippines Itinerary

Hike to the top of Kawasan Waterfalls

Looking over at Kawasan Waterfalls in Cebu

 

A Quick 1-Week Itinerary for the Philippines

Visiting the Philippines for one week is tight. However, with some cash to spend, you can visit a few of the top destinations:

 

Day 1: Fly to Cebu International Airport and catch a flight directly to El Nido, Palawan.

Day 2: El Nido is known for boat trips, so get on an island hopping tour of package A+C, visiting the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon.

Day 3: Fly back to Cebu and take a bus or hire a taxi to Moalboal.

Day 4: In the morning, go snorkeling or take a freediving session to see the sardine run. In the afternoon, visit Kasawan Falls and Inambakan Falls.

Day 5: Take transport back to Cebu City and catch a ferry to Bohol. Take transport down to Alona Beach in Panglao.

Day 6: Spend the early morning at the beach. In the afternoon take transport or scooter to Carmen.

Day 7: Wake up for sunrise over the Chocolate Hills and join an ATV tour exploring this unique landscape. In the afternoon, take transport back to Tubigon and take the ferry to Cebu City.

 

 

Air perspective of Small Lagoon in El Nido

Drone photo of Small Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

 

 Philippines Itinerary 2 Weeks

If you are coming for a two-week trip, this is enough time to visit many places, but don’t expect to see the entirety of the Philippines.

With so many islands and slow transportation, it is best to limit the number of islands visited. To see the best of the Philippines and not wasting several days on transportation, we recommend visiting these locations:

 

Day 1: Fly International into to Cebu. Fly directly to Coron, Palawan. Set up an island hopping tour to Coron Island for the following day.

Day 2: Coron Island is the highlight so pick a tour that visits the Twin Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, or Barracuda Lake.

Day 3: Take the fast boat or public boat (3 hours or 5 hours) to El Nido. Get set up for a day tour the following day.

Day 4: El Nido has some of the best scenery in the Philippines, which can be seen via their four different tour options. Tour A+C is a good option, seeing the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, Secret Beach, Secret Lagoon, Secret Beach, and Star Beach.

Day 5: Spend another day in El Nido, but today you will make your own adventure. Rent a kayak for 700P and kayak out of the bay to the very quiet Ipil Beach or our favorite, Papaya Beach. It takes roughly one hour to reach the beach.

Day 6: Take the 4-hour bus to Port Barton and spend the afternoon at White Beach.

Day 7: Hire a private boat tour around the islands near Port Barton.

Day 8: Bus to the Puerto Princesa airport and fly to Cebu City. Take the public bus or hire a taxi to Moalboal (3 hours).

Day 9: Rent a scooter and have a waterfall adventure day. Visit Kawasan Falls, Inambakan Falls, and Dao Falls.

Day 10: Spend the morning exploring the underwater scene in Moalboal. The sardine run can be visited year round. In the afternoon, join a tour or if adventurous enough, drive up to Osmena Peak for sunset.

Day 11: Return to Cebu City to catch the ferry to Bohol. From here, take transport down to Alona Beach in Panglao.

Day 12: Panglao has excellent beaches, so choose between Alona Beach and Dumaluan Beach to chill for the day.

Day 13: Explore Bohol by visiting the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, Loboc River, and Chocolate Hills viewpoint.

Day 14: Return to Cebu City

 

 

Diver along the Limestone cliff walls in Barracuda Lake, Coron

Limestone cliff walls in Barracuda Lake, Coron

 

3 Week Philippines Itinerary for Scuba Divers

The diving in the Philippines is world-class. Incredible WWII wreck dives, pristine coral walls, and incredible marine life are just some of the reasons for a scuba diving holiday in the Philippines.

Below we listed some of the best dive locations. Shorten the itinerary choosing fewer destinations or lengthen the trip and stay a bit longer!

 

Day 1 – 3: Fly to Coron, Philippines and spend two days exploring the best wreck dives that Coron Bay has to offer. Find a dive center that can organize trips to Apo Reef. Don’t miss out on diving in Barracuda Lake, Okikawa Maru, and Irako dive sites in Coron or Apo 29 at Apo Reef.

Day 4 – 7: Liveaboard to Apo Reef & other dive locations.

Day 8: Fly to Cebu and take the bus to Maya (northern tip of Cebu) and a short boat ride to Malapascua.

Day 9 – 11: Dive at Monad Shoal to see the Thresher Sharks. Other dive sites are offered nearby, such as Gato Island.

Day 12: Take a bus back to Cebu City and then the ferry over to Bohol. Take a bus down to Alona Beach in Panglao.

Day 13 – 15: Enjoy some beach time in Panglao and dive at Balicasag Island.

Day 16: Take a bus to Ubay and then Ferry to Hilongos. Hire a taxi down to Padre Burgos.

Day 17 – 21: Snorkel with whale sharks and dive at some of the Philippines best-kept secret, Sogod Bay. Don’t miss out on the top dive sites such as Napantao or Limasawa Island. Overland to Tacloban and catch a flight to Cebu or Manila to end the trip.

 

 

Airborne perspective of Snake Island in Palawan

Aerial perspective of Snake Island in Palawan

 

Ultimate One Month Island Hopping Itinerary in the Philippines

One month allows for the ultimate itinerary to experience lots of what the Philippines has to offer. These are our favorite stops in the 7 weeks we spent exploring the country.

 

Day 1 – 7: Kick off your Philippines adventure with a week in Palawan. Hit up as many island hopping tours as your can between El Nido, Coron, and Port Barton.

Day 8 – 12: Fly to Siargao and kick back with some rum and cola between your daily surf. Don’t miss out on some island excursions such as the three island tour, the Sugba Lagoon, and the Sohoton Cove.

Day 13 – 16: Cebu has some of the best waterfalls in the Philippines, so clear out one or two days to check out Kawasan Falls, Dao Falls, Binalayan, and our favorite, Inambakan Falls. Hike up to Osmena Peak for sunset, and don’t miss a chance to dive or a snorkel trip to see the sardine run.

Day 17 – 20: Panglao is a perfect place to get in some good quality beach time and eat some good grub. It is a great base to explore Bohol. The Chocolate Hills is quite far out there, but it is best at sunrise or sunset, so consider staying in Carmen one night. On the way (or after), make stops at the Loboc River and Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary.

Day 21 – 24: Camiguin is a laid-back island with volcanic landscapes (and hiking if into that). Explore waterfalls, a sunken cemetery, and a day on White Island.

Day 25 – 26: Southern Leyte is not easy to get to, but to swim alongside whale sharks is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do it the right way though! Padre Burgos is 100% eco-friendly and a whale shark research area. There are way fewer people here, so only 1 or 2 boats might be searching for whale sharks at the same time.

Day 27 – 28: Kalanggaman Island has the best sandbar in the Philippines. This common day trip allows camping, so rent a tent, bring some rum, and spend a night under the stars.

Day 29 – 31: Malapascua is island life to the fullest, and has a rare opportunity to see thresher sharks. Return to Cebu City to fly out.

 

 

Woman in yellow on top of Osmena Peak as the sun sets

Sunset at Osmena Peak, Cebu

 

 Ultimate 6 Week Island Hopping Philippines Itinerary 

If you have more time that’s great! Use our one-month guide and add on from there. Spend the extra time by seeing some culture in the Philippines and an extra beach destination.

 

Day 1-31: Follow the above Itinerary, then fly to Manila.

Day 32-35: Take a bus to the northern rice terraces. Visit Banaue, Batad or Bangaan terraces.

Day 36-38: Take a 7-hour bus ride to Sagada to see the hanging coffins. Bus back to Manila.

Day 39-42: Fly to Boracay for a relaxing few days.

 

 

Looking down at a palm tree lined road in Siargao

Looking down at a palm tree lined road in Siargao

 

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Looking to go to the Philippines on a Budget? We’ve got you cover on our Backpacking Philippines Travel Guide & Itineraries. We cover islands like Palawan, Camiguin, Siargao, Bohol, Panglao, Siquijor, Luzon, and Boracay. With island hopping itineraries for one week, two week, three week, four week, one month and 6 weeks. By: Beard and Curly (@beardandcurly)

 

 

Check Out These Other Posts from the Philippines

50 Philippines Photos To Inspire Your Travels

 

Our Adventure Wreck Diving in Coron

 

 

 

Return to Asia

Return to Destinations

 

 

22 comments on “Backpacking Philippines: Travel Guide, Best Places, & Itineraries”

  1. Hayley Reply

    Would love to go to the Philippines. We were actually planning a trip but had to postpone it. But this is such an awesome guide – would be great to go for a full month and this is so helpful. We were going to visit Cebu but seems there’s quite a few islands we should add

  2. Nadia @ Nomadic Nerd Reply

    I’m going to the Phillipines for the first time next month! This was the perfect guide for me to read, great tips!

  3. Mateja Drobnic Reply

    This is such a thorough post! Love all the itinerary options at the end. The Phillipines have been on my list for a long time now, with all the islands to explore and Whale Sharks to meet 🙂 Thanks for sharing all the valuable info!

  4. Jess Stom Reply

    It looks like you thought of absolutely everything girl! We want to check out the Philippines in the next few years, so this will be SO helpful. I especially love that you included how much all of the variation options of transportation would cost and then a bunch of different itineraries based on how long you can stay. Sadly, I think we will only be able to stay 1 week, but I really want to stay for 2 weeks so I can check out Coron Island!

  5. Haley P Reply

    This guide is so useful! Definitely saving this for later. I’ve always wanted to go to the Philippines!

  6. savvydispatches Reply

    Your photos are absolutely stunning! Also this guide really seems like it has all the info you’d need to backpack in the Phillipines. If I’m being honest, I always forget that the Phillipines exist. That’s got me feeling super dumb after reading about all the great reasons to visit in this post. Now I definitely have to go!

  7. marystange Reply

    This is such a great breakdown of such a beautiful destination! What a great resource. I never would have thought that different regions would be covered by different cellular carriers, but it’s such a good tidbit of information for someone to know. Thanks for a thorough post!

  8. Emily Lush Reply

    This is definitely the most comprehensive guide I’ve seen for Philippines travel. North Luzon looks absolutely incredible—great pick! It’s such a diverse destination, and probably a bit underrated. I live in Australia, so not too far—Philippines is definitely on my wishlist!

  9. Alina Reply

    We are thinking if we should add Phillipines to our itinerary in about 2 months. Your article convinced me it is worth seeing!

  10. stellymm Reply

    Wow that waterfall at Cebu does look like gaterade! Stunning! Great job on this post. Super informative and I love your pictures!

  11. Natasha L Reply

    Holly molly! This is such a comprehensive guide! It literally answers all the questions I would have for travelling to the Philippines! I’ve heard they have some of the best beaches in the world and your pictures have confirmed that.

  12. Odette Reply

    This post looks amazing, makes me want to book a flight to the Philippines right now. It simply looks like paradise!

  13. Brittany Harris Reply

    Great resource for travel in Phillippines! Palawan was an awesome vacation! And I felt very comfortable and safe there.

  14. GallopAroundTheGlobe (@KiaraGallop) Reply

    This is such a fantastic, comprehensive guide and will definitely be the first one I’ll refer to when planning a trip to the Philippines 🙂 It is a country that’s on my list but then so are around 20 other destinations currently!

  15. mo Reply

    Wow, what an incredible and comprehensive post!! I am dying to go back to the Philippines and explore some more places like Siargo. Thanks for this helpful post 🙂

  16. Geena Truman Reply

    This is hands down the most comprehensive guide to the Philippines I’ve ever seen! Thank you so much for helping me plan/budget my Philippines vacation.

  17. sue Reply

    Helpful post. I like the how you did the itineraries. Very comprehensive info on Philippines. I’ll need to get there sometime.

  18. Agness | the Adventure Traveler Reply

    These places in the Philippines are really stunning. I’ve been to some of the places mentioned and I could really vouch that they’re beautiful not just in photos but also in real life. This isn’t because of photoshop, guys!

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