If you remember our post about our Curious Plans for 2015 you’ll recall we were a tad nervous about our stint in the Philippines…..anticipation was anxious and we were steeling ourselves for a rocky 6 weeks on the road. I really thought we’d bitten off more than we could chew this time. It was our most adventurous travel with the little ones and certainly more off the beaten track than we’ve ventured before. We were pushing boundaries being on the move so frequently, tackling long faffy journeys and spending 3 ½ weeks straight in teeny-tiny rooms together (seriously our bathroom back home was bigger). How would the kids cope with so much travel and how would I cope with the lack of space? So halfway through our trip I thought it was high time we shared how we’re getting on. We’re delighted, and mightily relieved, to report that we’re having the absolute time of our lives. The Philippines has swept us off our feet and we’re so glad we listened to our friends raving about it and urging us to go there. Yes, the rooms may be rustic and the bus rides bumpy, but there’s sun, sand and sipping out of coconuts… its as gloriously cliche as it sounds. There is so much to love about the Philippines – it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and easy (ish…) to get around. English is widely spoken and its home to probably the happiest and most welcoming people we have met on our trip so far. One of the largest archipelagos in the world there are 7,107 heavenly islands to discover; so it’s easy to create your own adventure and escape the crowds. The tropical paradise of the Philippines is situated in Southeast Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean. For anyone out there who is feeling geographically challenged by that it’s between Borneo (Malaysia) in the South and Taiwan in the North. It's easy to navigate and increasingly affordable to get to, as regional budget airlines add Manila to their route maps. There are also plenty of low-cost airlines to help you hop around the islands once you’re here - AirAsia, Jetstar and CebuPacific. It’s quickly becoming an increasingly popular destination for people seeking something a little different to the well-trodden paths of Thailand, Malaysia and Bali. With such a wealth of islands on offer, it can be tricky to choose your spot. Here are the areas we picked to hone in on. Palawan The archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes for a tropical paradise: endless white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming - all of it protected by UNESCO. It’s no wonder it was voted the World’s number one best island by Condé Nast readers. It certainly has the wow-factor and it knocked our socks off in our 12 days there. We split our time between Puerto Princesa and El Nido. Puerto Princesa is a short flight from Manila and we spent our first 4 day on the island here. The town itself is a bit dusty and bustling but it’s an ideal base to explore the islands of Honda Bay and Subterranean River at Sabang - one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. The coastal town of El Nido is literally heaven on earth; surrounded by tiny uninhabited islands full of deserted bays with turquoise waters. One of the reasons El-Nido remains so beautifully quiet and rowdy tourist-free is the effort it takes to get there. But it was worth every minute of that 5 hour winding, meandering, hair-raising, tummy swishing bus ride. Flabbergastingly idyllic this is a truly special place to enjoy splendid isolation….for now. If we’re ever lucky enough to find ourselves back in Palawan we’d go back to El Nido in a heartbeat. We’d also head further north to explore the island of Coron - a step too far for our kiddos this time around - but looks utterly incredible. We’d also poke around the hidden beaches of sleepy Port Barton and peaceful San Vincente before word gets out and everyone else piles in. El Nido - Paradise in pictures The tropical islands of Cebu: Next stop for us was Cebu - a gem of an island at the heart of the Philippine archipelago. The ocean around Cebu is dotted with small islands to explore and teeming with nature and wildlife. We spent our 3 weeks here hopping around it’s tropical islands. Bantayan: This little piece of paradise is found at the northern tip of Cebu island. Nestled in the Visayan sea in the Philippines the beaches will blow your mind, powdery white sparkling sands slipping into the bluest sea you will ever clap eyes on. There is no easy way of getting to the island, but all the faff of buses, ferries and tricycles will quickly fade away when you discover this laid-back tropical island. We were gobsmacked by the gorgeous beaches, spectacular sunsets and a sky lit up with the brightest stars we’ve ever seen. Beautiful Bantayan Island Camotes: Located a couple hours boat ride from the main island of Cebu, Camotes Islands is home to Santiago Bay. A peaceful village with an incredible bay of wide white sand lapped with pristine, aqua-blue gentle water. At high tide you can wade out for miles in shallow, calm waters - just incredible for little ones to splash around and poke about in rockpools. Camotes offers an authentic slice of island life but be warned it took us a flurry of ferries and buses to get here. Well off the beaten track it’s untouched by mass tourism so expect more rustic charm than five-star luxury! Bohol: Thankfully this island is just a quick ferry journey from Cebu. Of all of Cebu’s islands Bohol is one of the best all-rounders with a tranquil get-away-from-it-all vibe. We’re staying a hop & skip from Bohol’s most famous strip of white sand Alona Beach. Bars, restaurants and resorts are scattered along shoreline but thankfully the low rises and lack of chain hotels keeps the laid back vibe intact. Construction is going on in spades though so won’t be long before this changes…. Bohol has something for everyone. Panglao Island is fringed with golden beaches and with a bit of luck you can still find a stretch of deserted sand all to yourself. Head inland into the lush jungle and see the the most iconic landmark - the surreal Chocolate Hills. Visit the bug-eyed Tarsier, the smallest primate in the world, and hop on a cruise up the Loboc River. Snorkel, watch dolphins at sunrise or head off on a spectacular days island hopping; the options are endless. We can’t wait to explore Cebu further one day - our bucket list for next time includes: Apo Island: This tiny volcanic island is known for it’s gorgeous white coral beaches and some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the Philippines. The underwater life here is extraordinary and the island is surrounded by colorful corals, hundreds species of fish and giant sea tortoises. Malapascua Island: The tiny and idyllic island of Malapascua offers world class diving, endless beaches and a warm, welcoming, laid back atmosphere making it one of Cebu’s most popular destinations. Diving with the thresher sharks is the main highlight. Boracay: We finish up in Boracay an itty-bitty island in the Western Philippines and another one of Condé Nast Top islands of the world (#12). A tropical paradise with postcard-perfect endless beaches and incredible sunsets it’s become one of the top drawcards for tourists in this region. The word is most definitely out on Boracay and it’s the most heavily advertised holiday destination of the Philippines. Now a world-famous resort it will no doubt be more developed, busier and pricier than our other destinations but with that comes convenience and modern comforts - food and fun for everyone! No bad thing to wrap up our time in the Philippines. We’re also looking forward to basking on beautiful White Beach - this 4km of white sand and calm waters is consistently named as one of the finest beaches in the World. We’ve completely fallen in love with the Philippines - it’s natural beauty, underwater life, gobsmackingly gorgeous beaches and cheerful, friendly locals have blown us away. We’re so glad we listened to our friends urging us to go there. Now it’s our turn to share the secret with you - pack your bags and go now - you won’t regret it! Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.