The Philippines had been on our list of places to visit for a few years, and after seeing the many photos of idyllic beaches, turquoise waters, otherworldly rock formations and palm forests we finally bought our tickets.
From Toronto, we were able to book a direct flight to the capital city of Manila, where we quickly transferred on a domestic airline to the eastern island of Siargao. Siargao is known as one of the surfing meccas of the Philippines and offers visitors a laid back, serene environment complete with postcard-worthy photography opportunities, great food, comfortable amenities, and even a man-made wakeboard park.
The roads are in great condition and allowed us to get around easily with an affordable scooter rental ($5/day), and cheap petrol readily available for sale by locals alongside the road. We stayed at a beach front surf hotel by the name of Harana Surf Resort. The hotel’s close proximity to ‘Cloud 9’, the islands famous surf break, made it easy to access the waves and our favourite morning smoothie bowls at Shaka Cafe. Other noteworthy places to checkout were Sugba Lagoon and the Magpopongko Rock Pools.
Next, we travelled across the country, by air, to Coron, Palawan. Coron, once a sleepy fishing island, is now waking up with a recent surge in tourism and we could feel the difference after coming from Siargao. The main town is full of day-tour agencies, western-friendly restaurants, and sun-burnt tourists. That said, like most areas facing tourism surges, there is a reason and the reason is out on the water. The region is surrounded by hundreds of islands, lagoons, and pristine beaches. Many partake in group day-tours but we opted to spend a little more and rent our own private boat for the day in order to have the maximum amount of flexibility and freedom. It was well worth it and highly recommended. Incredible paradise coves, crystal clear water and vibrant snorkelling make this region pretty unforgettable.
For our final few days, we chose to visit the place that started all of the hype for us, El Nido, Palawan. The pictures we saw of this paradise immediately shot it up on our list of must-visit travel locations, however, as our trip approached I had heard nothing but negative reviews about it’s oversaturated tourism, poor infrastructure and high prices. We stayed optimistic as we waited for our early morning ferry to pick us up from the port of Coron. The ride over was about 4 hours, and as the cliffs of El Nido came into view we knew that regardless of what changes the local community had seen in recent years that we were going to enjoy ourselves. El Nido ended up being incredibly memorable, with some of the most impressive scenery of the trip. Again, I’d recommend any potential visitors to hire their own boat/crew and to explore the islands with the maximum amount of flexibility. Ask your captain to depart a bit earlier, and to visit the key locations in reverse order, and you’ll be rewarded with near empty oasis’s that are usually littered with tourists in orange life preservers.