The Philippines is an insanely beautiful chain of islands that we merely touched during our 10 day stay. We could island hop for hours, exploring hidden beaches and lagoons, uninhabited islands, and sandbars that come to life only during low tide. It feels like a bucket list destination that contains some of the most magical sea life, people and scenery in the world. That doesn’t, however, mean the destination comes without its challenges. Nearly everything that could go wrong went wrong on our trip.
While we were en route to the Philippines (a 16 hour flight), we found out a hurricane hit Boracay. We instantly had to re-shuffle our plans and work with difficult hotel availability. We also had to rework flights, which ended in booking a new flight plus a 5-hour car ride (yikes)! And of course, one of us got sick in the middle of nowhere El Nido halfway through the trip. Nonetheless, we walked away from the Philippines with lessons learned and a desire to maybe try it again someday. Here are a few of my favorites from the Philippines!
I was not planning to spend any amount of time in Cebu and it ended up being one of my favorite islands. Cebu is a big city and everything seemed just a little disfunctional. We stayed within the city, but ventured to Mactan, a 15-minute car ride, to get a taste of the beach. If you’re venturing to the Philippines, you should 100% stay in Mactan. I recommend the Shangri-La Mactan or Crimson Resort (really cool over the water bar here, too!). While you are recovering from jet lag, you can relax by the water, eat good food and catch an awesome sunrise.
Perhaps my favorite day of the entire trip was when we ventured to Moalboal, a 3-hour drive from Cebu. In Moalboal, you can swim with turtles and see the sardine run. Thousands of sardines gather in a pact to trick bigger fish trying to eat them. As you dive down to swim through the sardines, you are mesmerized by the way they move in various formations.
From Moalboal, we headed to Badian for a canyoneering adventure. I had zero idea what to expect from this day. You can imagine my surprise when we signed our lives away, put on life jackets, and headed up a steep hill on a motorcycle. PS – in the Philippines there are no enforced rules of the road. We made it to the top and were quickly harnessed into a zip line. We ziplined to the other side of the mountain and then began our adventure jumping off of waterfalls for 4 hours straight.
I’ll let the videos and photos do most of the explaining, but this is the most fun I have ever had. I was pushed so far beyond my comfort zone and survived to tell the tale.
From Cebu, we took a direct flight to El Nido. We stayed at Matinloc Resort, which is about a 25-minute boat ride from the town of El Nido. The majority of the luxury resorts are located on islands. El Nido Resorts is a luxury chain with resorts such as Miniloc Island, Pangulasian Resort and Lagen Island. We spent a few hours in the town of El Nido, enjoying the food and culture, but were excited to get to our private island experience. Despite Trip Advisor warnings (read blog here on why you shouldn’t listen to them) we LOVED Matinloc. The staff was wonderful and accommodating. The food was great and the accommodations were large. The one negative is that they don’t serve alcohol on the island, so you have to bring your own. There is a natural reef right off of the beach, so you could be entertained here with a snorkel mask for hours!
The thing to do in El Nido is island hop. There is much to see! In one day, we experienced Hidden Lagoon, Snake Island and Big Lagoon. I haven’t experienced natural beauty quite like that in my travels. We both made comments of “this feels fake”. That’s how beautiful it is! The nice thing about being on a private island and away from the town of El Nido was that all of our tours were customized. We weren’t on Tour A, Tour B or Tour C. It was more of a combination of them and we only had 4 other passengers on board! I wish we were able to enjoy El Nido a bit more, but maybe that’s why we’ll venture back another time.
We took a short 30-minute flight from El Nido to Coron, but to be honest, we didn’t leave the hotel room. We were too sickly and tired. But look at this sunset we did get to witness!!
Coron also has island hoping tours! A lot of these revolve around sunken Japanese war ships! I would recommend a stay at Two Seasons Island or Two Seasons Coron hotels. The staff was lovely here and the food was top notch!
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