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FamilyNational ParksOff the beaten pathPhilippines

30 days in Philippines

May 25, 2015 — by Mama fish2

In 2013 we decided a family vacation on the beach was just the adventure we were looking for. Naturally, no just any beach would do. Here are some of the requirements that needed to be fulfilled for us, as we considered the perfect paradise destination:

  • Off the beaten path was a must. Not only for less tourist , but for authenticity as well.

  • Not very expensive, but a high value for the money spent is important. We like to have the choice to splurge, not the reverse.

  • Natural wonders and cultural spots are an absolute. Experiences must include: national parks, old monuments, nice beaches, and good food.

  • Safe to travel around with kids obviously. as we commented in our other post, One hundred percent safety while traveling is not guaranteed. However, we can try to minimize the threats and avoid certain (countries) areas, places or circumstances to reduce that risk.

After analyzing all these ideal requirements we usually end up with the perfect destination. In this case, our destination was the Philippines.

Palawan Philippines
Palawan El Nido, Philippines

We decided to go to Philippine Islands knowing we would need to avoid areas with high hurricane threats. Also, we would stay clear of the area below Mindanao because of kidnapping and guerrilla problems.

This was our itinerary of one month of Travel in the Philippines for our family vacation:
  • Day 1 Manila

  • Day 1 Cebu

  • Day 2 Bantayan Island

  • Day 7 Cebu

  • Day 8 Puerto Princesa (Palawan)

  • Day 11 El Nido (Palawan)

  • Day 16 Coron

  • Day 21 Cebu

  • Day 22 Mala Pascua Island

  • Day 29 Cebu

  • Day 30 Manila

Day 1 Manila

Thanks to an amazing upgrade to business class, we decided not to stay in Manila, as we were quite well rested from the flight. Manila is a big city and a bit chaotic, but ok for one night recuperation if need be. We choose to get on with our relaxing vacations with our children, from day one.

We changed airports because the international flights arrived in a different airport to the local departures of Cebu Pacific. It is a 15 min. drive with good traffic conditions. In our case it took 30 minutes, due to rush hour, and almost cost us our continuing flight. When we arrived at the national flight terminal it was packed with people. It is quite small and had a 200 meters slow line to pass through security control. This occurs before reaching the check-in desk of the different flight-companies. Luckily for us, there were not too many people taking our flight, so once inside, we had a very quick check in for our continuing flight to Cebu.

Day 1 Cebu

Cebu City is the second city of Philippines and the regional center of the Central Visayas. A population of less than 1 million people make the city a little more friendly than Manila. We stayed in at Alpa City Suites close to Cebu City the first time we arrived. We stayed one night. The hotel was perfect for a good rest, though far away from things of interest. The next day we started our trip to Bantayan Island. We hired a private driver to take us there. It took 7 hours to arrive to the island, including the ferry.

Day 2 Bantayan Island

We had a great tuck tuck/driver who drove us around to check the different accommodations on the islands. We tried several places, from different price ranges. Some of them where in fully booked, due to high tourist season. So, maybe a little further ahead planning would have saved us some time here. Nonetheless the kids loved the tuck tuck and were quite entertained. We ended up in a quiet hotel, where few people was staying. We got a 80 square meter, second floor basic room, with all we needed for ourselves and children. Bonus: it is close to the beach! We spent 3 lazy days recovering from our long trip and charging up for the rest of our trip. The beach offers fine white sand and would be rated as average compared to other beaches we discovered further in our trip.

Bantayan Beach
Bantayan Island Philippines
Day 7 Cebu

After Bantayan we decided to stay in a hotel more centrally located in Cebu to take advantage of our one night stay at Best Western Lex Cebu (known as “LEX Cebu” by the taxis). Great value for money with great service. Perfect hotel if you are planning to stay a couple of days to discover the city, go shopping to the malls, or or next day to the Airport.

Day 8 Puerto Princesa (Palawan)

Here we found the nicest place to stay with our children. Most of the flights going to Palawan fly into Puerto Princesa. Puerto Princesa is a small city with few attractions apart from the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Lake, which is part of a National Park. We did not visit the subterranean Lake because it was too crowded and touristic and we do not usually like these places. If you are not interested is seeing the Lake and are traveling from Manila it is probably worth a flight directly to El Nido Palawan.

El Nido Philippines
El Nido Palawan

During our days we spent in Puerto Princesa, we stayed in one of these hotels your children will remember forever. The hotel is the Microtel Inn & Suites. Do not come to this hotel if you expect to find an amazing white sand Philippine beach. But if you are looking for a place to relax, nice food, right price, nice pool, a 500 meters low tide full of Mangles, this is the right place for you. Our children sat in the low tied and played for hours. We even had an hour of major rain, where we swam in the pool. They loved it.

Day 11 El Nido Palawan

We hired a private taxi. The road to the north is amazing with a great view. Lots of jungle and greenery. In our case, the ride was a bit of stress because our driver kept nearly falling sleep most of the journey. There is a half way stop where most of the buses, vans, and private taxis stop for a break. There is only one place to place to eat; of course paying a commission to all the drivers and having a tourist price. The restaurant offers small Portions, no fancy food and is ridiculously expensive for a shack in the middle of the street. Bring your own food or spend more than you’d like to. We were both quite grouchy at the minimalistic option offered.

El Nido Palawan is a small town located next to the protected area of Palawan with its characteristic rocks and limestone cliffs. The town of El Nido is a “by chance” town which has developed around an amazing place. Nothing really interesting and developed as a backpacking destination for now. The beach front of El Nido is full of boats that take you to the A/B/C/D/E Tours around the islands. The beach is nothing special, not very wide, full of ropes and people coming and going constantly. Normally backpackers dedicate their time to rest during the night while doing trips during the day. In our opinion, the ambiance could be more appealing, the locals should consider the opportunity around the beauty of the beach as well and reduce the boats/litter on the main beach.

The protected area around El Nido is absolutely beautiful. We calculated each tour and decided that we wanted to experience a mix of the A/B/C/D/E tours that everybody offer. We pay 3000 PHP (80$) to hire a private boat and visit only the places we wanted of each tour. This is the best value for money if you are a family of 4. Included was lunch on a paradise island with not a soul in sight. We opted to only visit places where most of the tourist did not go and it was perfect. We stayed our second night at Periking El Nido. This was a much better accommodation compared to our first, which was suggested by the driver.

Day 16 Coron

We took a boat from El Nido to Coron from the El Nido Ferry Terminal. The boat itself is an experience if you are traveling with kids. Seven to eight hours in a small boat, where your kids can not really walk, not alone run. We were surprised that we made it without any problems.

Ferry from El Nido to Coron
Boat from El Nido to Coron in Philippines

The Captain made us all wear the Life Jackets, before leaving the port, but after a couple of hours, people start removing them and use it as cushion on your back or under.

Note: There were enough Life Jackets for everybody on the boat, but not for children under 4. We bought one in Spain for our one year old before leaving as anticipated lots of ferry and boat travel.

Coron is little town that has some interesting hotels, but all of them far away from the main town. The town itself does not have a beach, just a muddy, dirty low tide area which was full of boats. The town is constructed very close to the shore. Not sure what happens if they have a rise in water here. Coron is perfect for Scuba Divers and backpacking tourist who wants to discover the islands around.

We stayed in two amazing hotels:

La Natura Resort: is located in the middle of the jungle and may cost you some time until a driver will take you there. So, if you have the patience and or are a great negotiator this place is in the middle of the jungle, nice design, quiet and nice service.

La Natura Hotel Coron
Coron Philippines

Sophia’s Garden Resort is probably the best hotel in Coron. It is a small, cute, boutique hotel, with fantastic service and an international restaurant. Do not miss a night or two here if you are around. It took us a couple days to get a reservation here. Plan ahead if you are looking to stay in Coron.

We had 10 more days planned in Coron, but could not find any other accommodation available towards the north: direction Manila. We were forced to back track back to Cebu. We tried hard to find something else but tourism infrastructure in Coron has not developed enough to allow for an itinary northward bound. Possible without children, there are “adventurous” option which may lead you north.

Day 21 Cebu

We flew back to Cebu from Coron with a cheap flight from Cebu Pacific and stayed the night at the Best Western Lex Hotel once again. Just in front of the hotel you can enjoy a darn good burger. They offer a hall of fame reward if you can eat their quadruple hamburger in x amount of minutes. The clock beat me by10 seconds, so no hall of fame for me .

The next day we took a taxi and a boat to Malapascua Island. We stayed at the perfect resort: Ocean Vida – Beach and Dive Resort. The resort is locate on Bounty Beach and has all you need to relax. Super friendly service, nice restaurant, cozy rooms and on the main beach of Malapascua Island.

If you have time and like us are not interested on Scuba Dive (Nikol does not have the open water license), you can walk the island yourself or hire some motorbikes to take you to the other side.

In our opinion, the best beach on the island and one of the best we have seen around the world is Langob Beach. It is towards the north end of the island. Go there and enjoy the presence of just your family, amazing white sand beach and clear like no other water.

Bounty Beach Malapascua Island
Malapascua Island in Philippines

We stayed in Malapascua Island almost one week. It was one of our best descisions we made. Our children had an amazing experience, got to know all the locals, played lots on the beach and drank mango smoothies and coconut water all day long.

Note: Unfortunately, 40 days after we were in Malapascua Island, a hurricane hit the area. After two months of reconstruction apparently almost everything was back to order, but the skeleton palm trees are still there. I do not know if they have cut them or wait until other palm trees grow in the area. We are pretty sure the island is as amazing right now as it was for us in the past.

Day 29 Cebu

Back to Cebu by boat and private taxi. We stayed at the Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel, located in Mactan Island, just in front of Cebu City. The hotel has access to a small beach which is perfect to relax before leaving the country. The hotel was like a resort hotel in any other country. Everything, moder, nice, and clean. The hotel is 20 minutes afrom Cebu Airport, making it a great option for a last place stay before your flight back to Manilla.

Day 30 Manila

Flight back to Manila from Cebu and the same day we took a plane to Madrid, Spain.

Visiting Philippines was one of the best family vacation ideas we had. If you and your family do not want crowded places, nice lonely beaches like Thailand, nice food, super service orientated people… visit the Philippines.

We will cover in detail each one of this places in future post. Keep visiting us and safe travels.

2 comments

  • leanne

    September 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Looking for tips on travelling the Philippines. We are looking to go in Apirl-May of next year with our daughter who will be 11 months by then. Travelling with a baby is making us a bit nervous. Seeing that you visited with your 1 year old, could you maybe get in touch with us with more details as to how it was? More specifically, El Nido. Been reading that it’s not a place to bring a baby but I would hate to miss it.

    Reply

    • Big Fish

      September 3, 2016 at 2:36 am

      Hi, thank you for your comment!
      We did not have any problem with our kids while in Philippines, at all. The only thing we were worry about it, before going there, was:
      1.- Where the baby will sleep in case we don’t have a proper bed or if it an open space: we bought a portable mini tent for babies. Very good option if you are planning to be outside, camping, etc. In our case, we only use it twice, so if you are going to hotels or apartments, don´t need it.
      2.- Life vest: we knew that we were going to take some boats to cross islands, so: we bought the baby his own life jacket. It a little extra weight, but the standard size in the boats will not fit a baby and you never know what will happen.

      Apart from that, taking your kid to a third world country, is just a decision. We had some conversations with friends about taking the baby there, because if Philippines..but we did our research, we found nothing, not high risk, nothing. People will always judge you for taking the baby with you, but probably they have never been in Philippines. People there, helped us always. We never had a problem, we took boats, rented boats, dive, sunbathing in lonely islands..
      El Nido, is a little town in the middle of nowhere, most of times with backpackers tourist. Safe, clean, small. What can be the special problem about it? Manila, is a different thing, too big, that we did not want to be around with the kids. But even in Cebu, we were several times, several days.

      Ask anything about it, we will try to help you.

      Hope you love it as we do!

      Alejandro

      Reply

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