(For English version scroll down a bit) Nachtmärke muss man…
You have two weeks of vacation and are interested in visiting the Philippines? You are dreaming of an exotic beach destination with a good mix of culture, adventure and relaxing. Two weeks in the Philippines is not an awful lot, but it is doable to visit some of the fascinating highlights this country has to offer. This is a suggested itinerary for two weeks in the Philippines and in fact the itinerary that I used when I spent two weeks of vacation traveling around the Philippines. There are a lot of islands to explore and of course you need to make a choice what you want to see. You could easily spend four weeks island hopping in the Philippines, but I believe two weeks is sufficient if you concentrate on visiting 2-3 islands. We travelled to Cebu, Bohol and Palawan. Below you will find our two weeks itinerary that we used for traveling in the Philippines. For us it was the perfect mix of relaxing on beautiful beaches and exploring the natural and cultural wonders of those regions. Feel free to use this itinerary as a suggestion for planning your trip to the Philippines or alter it accordingly to your liking. I am not saying this is the perfect itinerary for the Philippines- everyone of course travels differently. I like to make the most of my vacation days and see a lot of different places and am quite active, so this itinerary worked quite well for us.
Day 1: Fly into Cebu, One Night in Cebu City
Most international flights to the Philippines will fly into Manila. We heard that Manila wasn’t a must do, so we decided to skip it. Of course there are some interesting places to visit in Manila, but since we only had two weeks in the Philippines there were places that we wanted to see more. Therefore we decided to skip Manila entirely and my friends booked a connecting flight with Cebu Pacific and flew directly from Manila to Cebu City. Emirates actually offers direct flights to Cebu City from Dubai airport and that is the flight that I booked. I landed in the afternoon and headed to a hostel for the night.
Cebu is a province consisting of the main island and 167 surrounding islands such as Mactan, Bantagan and Malapascua. The good thing about Cebu is its central location and the proximity to unusually exotic tourist destinations. Cebu City is the first Spanish settlement and the oldest and first capital of the Philippines and a cultural centre. The imprint of Spanish and Roman catholic culture is evident. If you have some time to spare when arriving in Cebu City, try to visit some famous landmarks such as Fort San Pedro, the Magellan’s Crosss or the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
Day 2: Ferry to Bohol, Alona Beach
Early in the morning we made our way to the harbor. From there ferries depart more than 10 times daily to Bohol. We decided to take the fast ferry from Cebu to Tagibalaran harbor with a company called Super Cat that took us around 2 hours.
Bohol is west of Cebu and a popular tourist destination with lot of amazing things to do and see. The Chocolate Hills, numerous mounds of brown-coloured limestone formations, being the most popular attraction. Panglao Island is famous for its diving locations and is in fact listed as one of the top ten diving locations in the world. Resorts and dive centers dot the beaches there.
Here you also have the opportunity also make friends with one of the world’s smallest primates: the Philippine Tarsier is indigenous to the island.
We booked two nights at the Bohol Coco Farm and stayed in a bamboo hut. It is a cozy family-friendly farm and hostel and a great meeting space for like-minded travelers. You can sit in their outdoor restaurant until late, chat with other guests, play games and enjoy the healthy and organic food that they mostly grow on the farm. Breakfast is included in the stay.
Alona Beach, one of the most popular beaches on Panglao Island, is located only a short tricycle right from the hostel. We decided to spend our first day on the beach, walked around a little bit, had a massage on the beach and grabbed dinner in one of the restaurants there.
Day 3: Sightseeing Tour of Bohol
The next day started quite early as we wanted to explore the many sights and wonders of Bohol. We booked a sightseeing tour at the hostel and got picked up from a van in the morning after we had breakfast. Tours of Bohol can be booked almost everywhere either at your accommodation or in travel agencies that are located at popular spots such as Alona Beach. They basically include the same sights and price wise there is almost no difference.
Included in our tour was a visit to the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Farm, a Loboc River cruise that included lunch and we also stopped to do ziplining. It was a fun day out and we managed to see a lot. I can highly recommend taking a tour of Bohol if you aren’t too confident on a scooter.
Day 4: Dumaluan Beach, Ferry Back to Bohol, Transport to Oslob
The next day we spend a couple of hours at Dumaluan Beach. Here you will find a long stretch of white sandy beaches and if you are lucky you will even be able to spot some sea stars. There is a small entrance fee that you need to pay at the gate before entering the beach, unless you stay in one of the small resorts on the beach itself.
After some swimming and sun-bathing it was time to get our things from the hostel and head back to the harbor from where we took a fast ferry back to Cebu City. The next stop for us was going to be Oslob. It can be reached either by bus or taxi within a couple of hours. As we were traveling in a group we decided to simply get a taxi and split the costs.
Day 5: Kawasan Waterfalls
The Kawasan Falls are located 60 km away from Oslob and are in fact one of the most famous waterfalls in the Philippines. Even though it is a touristy place, it is definitely worth a visit. What will await you are several waterfalls with pools of turquoise water. When you arrive you need to pay an entrance fee and the first waterfall that awaits you is the one that you probably have seen on quite a few pictures before. It’s a big waterfall with bamboo rafts in the water. You can swim in it or sit on the raft. If you pass the first waterfall you can climb up to the second and third waterfall which are slightly smaller, but also less busy.
For the adventurous ones: Go canyoneering at Kawasan Falls. It is a hell lot of fun and a different way to experience Kawasan Falls. We went on a tour with Planet Action Adventure and got picked up from our accommodation. We received all the equipment we needed from them such as helmet and life jacket. From their meeting point we got taken up to a higher point with a truck. From here the canyoneering started. You will hike for a bit and then swim, jump and slide down the waterfalls, do some rope swinging and so on. You shouldn’t be scared of heights when doing the canyoneering, however it is a relatively easy tour that doesn’t involve any abseiling.
Day 6: Swimming with Whale Sharks, Transport to Sumilon Island
A popular activity to do in Oslob is swimming with the whale sharks. It actually takes place in Tan-awan which is 10 minted away from Oslob City. I believe that everyone needs to decide for themselves whether they want to do this activity or not. Basically what happened in 2011 was that local fishermen started feeding the whale sharks and those whale sharks now stay relatively close to the bay. Now the fishermen take tourists out on their boats to observe the whale sharks and it is also possible to swim and snorkel with them. The chances of seeing whale sharks on this tour is almost 100%. Whale sharks are incredible and friendly giants and it was an amazing experience to see them up close.
My tip: It gets extremely busy with tourists and if you want to swim with whale sharks I would suggest to do that as early as possible. We got up at 5 am to be among the first ones that are taken out by boat at 6 am when tours start. The experience itself is really short and you will be out for about half an hour and swimming with the whale sharks for 15 minutes. Please don’t wear sunscreen and don’t try to touch or get to close to the animals.
After having breakfast at one of the restaurants by the water we decided that it was time to leave this busy place and head to nearby Sumilon Island for some relaxing. We stayed in Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort for two nights, you can read more about the resort and what you can do on the island here, but it is also possible to do a day trip and simply enjoy the facilities of the resort and some lunch.
Day 7: Sumilon Island
We had a full day to spend on Sumilon Island. Our day started with a delicious breakfast, we chilled by the beach and pool for a while, went snorkeling and hiked around the island to catch some good views. Our day ended with a BBQ on the beach. Sumilon Island really is the perfect beach getaway.
Go to Moalboal- a small town on the South-West side of Cebu. It is the perfect base camp for diving and exploring. Panagsama Beach and White Beach is where you will find different kind of accommodation from budget to luxury, restaurants and bars and there are also plenty of dive shops to choose from that can take you to different dive sides. The drive from Oslob to Moalboal is around 1 hour with a private driver or around 2 hours by bus.
Day 8: Back to Cebu Airport, Flight to Palawan (either Puerto Princessa then van to El Nido town or direct flight to El Nido)
It was time to explore another island paradise in the Philippines. Also on our itinerary was Palawan and it should definitely be on yours as well. Palawan has been awarded numerous times as one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
We took a flight from Cebu Airport to Puero Princessa and from there took a van to El Nido. Alternatively there are also direct flights to El Nido.
Day 9: Island Hopping in El Nido Tour A
A popular activity in El Nido is island hopping. There are 4 different tours and we managed to go on three of them during our time on El Nido. We booked with Binibini Travels, but all tour companies offer pretty much the same tours. You leave by boat and stop at different islands, caves or snorkeling sites. Lunch, water, a life vest and snorkeling equipment usually is included in the tour.
Day 10: Island Hopping Tour El Nido Tour B
Same procedure as the day before. After breakfast we left for some more fun in the sun. This time a different island hopping tour that was going to take us to other islands.
Day 11: Island Hopping Tour El Nido Tour C
More beach-sun-snorkeling-swimming. We really liked each tour that we did and they were all quite different. It is really hard to pick a favorite one, I really loved them all. For more information about the individual tours, check this post.
Day 12: Transport to Port Barton
Everyone that we spoke to recommended us to go to Port Barton on Palawan. It is a small fishermen’s village that is quite isolated and surrounded by jungle and mountains. Here you will only find sandy roads, some shacks and houses and a few shops and restaurants. So why should you visit? We had a few very full trip until now and almost every day we either did a tour or went exploring and sightseeing on our own. Port Barton is a quiet and laid-back place and we wanted to end our trip in the most relaxed way possible and spend the last days literally doing nothing. So off we went to Port Barton. From El Nido you can get a van that takes you to Port Barton is around 3 hours.
Day 13: Chill Day in Port Barton or Tour
We booked a room in a small guest house right on the beach and after having some breakfast in the village, we found ourselves a nice hammock on the beach, took a good book along and simply spend the entire day reading and sleeping. In the evening we went out for dinner, there are quite a few nice options in Port Barton when it comes to food and ended the night in a hippie beach bar.
There are a few snorkeling or island hopping trips that you can do in Port Barton, but since we have done so much island hopping already, we decided to just relax. If you have a few more days to spend and manage to leave your hammock, then I am sure they are worth doing.
Day 14: Back to Puerto Princessa, visit of the Underground River
After some more relaxing in the morning, it was time to head back to Puerto Princessa. From there we had a flight to catch to Manila, before flying home. Travel time to Puerto Pricessa is approx. 4 hours. In Puerto Princessa you will be able to visit the Puerto Princessa Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight and one of the „New 7 Wonders of Nature“. The river flows directly underneath the St Paul Mountain Range and with 8.2 km it is one of the longest underground rivers in the world. It really is an otherworldly experience when you are on a small boat paddling through the dark.
Now it is time to fly home.
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I hope this itinerary was helpful and made planning your two weeks in the Philippines easier. Let me know if you have something you would like to add.