The Philippines is an archipelago country in Southeast Asia, with about 7641 islands. It’s home to some of the worlds greatest biodiversity and most beautiful beaches, making it an incredible destination to explore!
There is a myriad of different cultures and ethnicities found throughout the islands, which make a trip to the Philippines a culturally rich and diverse experience!
The Philippines have been colonised by many different countries over the years, giving them influences from France, America and Japan, amongst others.
I’d been wanting to travel to the Philippines for ages, so finally being able to spend 3 weeks in the Philippines was a dream come true.
In this Philippines itinerary I have outlined day by day all the most awesome things to do if you only have 3 weeks in the Philippines.
Before you go, have you packed everything? Check my Philippines essentials list to make sure you’re not forgetting anything!
- 1 How to Spend 3 weeks in the Philippines
- 1.1 Day 1: Land in Manila
- 1.2 Day 2: Fly to Coron
- 1.3 Day 3: Do the Ultimate Coron Tour
- 1.4 Day 4: Go beach hopping in Coron
- 1.5 Day 5: Explore Coron
- 1.6 Day 6: Take the ferry to El Nido
- 1.7 Day 7: Go island hopping in El Nido
- 1.8 Day 8: More island hopping in El Nido!
- 1.9 Day 9: Hike Taraw Peak in El Nido & Visit Nacpan Beach
- 1.10 Day 10: Go kayaking in El Nido
- 1.11 Day 11: Fly to Cebu and travel to Moalboal
- 1.12 Day 12: Snorkel with Sardines and Turtles in Moalboal
- 1.13 Day 13: Canyoneering in Kawasan Falls
- 1.14 Day 14: Waterfalls Chasing and Osmena Peak
- 1.15 Day 15: Snorkel with whale sharks in Oslob
- 1.16 Day 16: Fly to Siargao
- 1.17 Day 17: Surf in Siargao
- 1.18 Day 18: Go island hopping in Siargao
- 1.19 Day 19: Visit Magpupungko Rock Pools and adventure around Siargao
- 1.20 Day 20: Surf and Chill in Siargao – Sunset at the Pier
- 1.21 Day 21: Fly to Manila & Back Home
- 2 Essential info for three weeks in the Philippines
If you’re wondering how to travel to the Philippines, or what to do during your 3 week Philippines trip, I’ve got you covered with this ultimate Philippines travel guide.
This itinerary is based on my own trip to the Philippines, with slight variations to the itinerary based on what I wish I had known before going.
After a long flight to the Philippines, you’ll want to spend the day chilling out and catching up on some rest.
We recommend booking accommodation at the Okada Manila, a fantastic hotel that boasts a five-star rating – and it’s easy to see why.
If you love living in the lap of luxury, this incredible hotel has a variety of great facilities and is perfectly located in the heart of the city’s entertainment centre.
If you feel you have the energy, make the most of your first day in the Philippines by exploring the city, there are lots of awesome things to do in Manila!
You can go for a stroll along the Baywalk, a waterside promenade in Manila Bay. It’s especially beautiful during the evenings when you can watch the sun setting over the horizon.
On the second day of your Philippines trip, you’ll be flying to Coron. This is a short trip, taking just under an hour and a half, allowing you to spend plenty of time getting settles in Coron and exploring the town.
An easy activity you can do kick off your time in Coron trip hike to the top of Mt Tapyas, this allows you to see the city from above and figure out the layout of the land.
There are 742 steps to the summit of the mountain, where you’ll find a Hollywood style “Coron” sign. This is the perfect viewing point of the city.
If you’re not too keen on hiking alone, why not take a guided half-day tour of Coron city, that will also lead you to the top of Mt Tapyas.
There isn’t a huge amount to do in Coron itself, so on your second day in Coron, I recommend doing the ultimate Coron tour. This tour will take you to all the must-see places on the island and around it.
The first stop is the picturesque Kayangan Lake, a really deep lake with clear blue waters that allow you to see right to the bottom.
You’ll get an opportunity to swim in the lake but just note that you’re not allowed to swim without a life jacket.
I used to do water polo and consider myself a strong swimmer so I found this a bit ridiculous, but if you try jumping in without a life jacket someone will yell at you through a megaphone to get out.
If you go there during a busy moment all the life jackets bobbing about make it look a bit like the Titanic wreck scene.
Our boat our set off a bit late so the lake was absolutely rammed when we first got there, but everyone left 15 minutes before us so we got to enjoy the beauty of the lake alone for a while (being late isn’t always a bad thing)!
After Kayangan Lake you’ll visit Siete Pecados Marine Park, where you’ll have the opportunity to do some snorkelling and explore Skeleton Wreck.
These spots are considerably less busy than Kayangan Lake and you’ll be able to enjoy swimming around without too many people or having to wear a life jacket.
The Philippines surprised me with its rich variety of marine wildlife. Almost everywhere we went we were able to do some incredible snorkelling, and Coron is one of those places.
After a bit of snorkelling we did a stop for lunch on the beach. My favourite part of all the boat trips we did in the Philippines was always the lunch (and the cool places we saw obviously).
These usually included some form of grilled fish, rice, vegetables and fresh fruits. The crazy part is that they’re cooked and grilled on the boat!
The final stop of the day for us was the twin lagoon. These are two lagoons connected by a short under water passage with sheer limestone cliffs.
If you’re not comfortable swimming under, don’t worry as there’s a ladder you can climb and walk down on the other side.
We visited at low tide and there was actually quite a lot of space to swim through without having to swim under water.
Besides our first stop at Kayangan Lake which was very crowded and felt very touristy, all the other places we visited during our Coron Ultimate Tour were much less busy and still felt somewhat untouched.
It may sound like a cliche tour, but it really does cover the highlights of Coron and you’ll love the natural beauty of the places you visit.
After seeing all the most famous landmarks in Coron, you probably want to go somewhere a little off the beaten track. I recommend doing Tour C on your third day in Coron.
This will take you to a couple of incredible beaches, including Malcapuya Island and Bulog Dos Island sand bar. When travelling to the Philippines, you expect to see beautiful tropical scenes.
However be prepared because the sight of these white powdery beaches, crystal clear waters and intricate rock formations will be beyond your wildest imagination.
The journey time is a bit longer than during the ultimate tour. We set off from the Coron harbour around 9AM and travelled for around 1 hour before reaching Malcapuya Island.
The long boat journey though is well worth it. Malcapuya Island is a true beach paradise, and when we were there it wasn’t particularly busy either. There are some shacks on the island where you can buy snacks and water.
On your last day in Coron, you’ll want to relax and explore the island a little better. After two intense days spent boat tripping I can imagine you will want to relax.
You can spend the day basking in the wonderfully warm sunlight on Banol Beach. The beach is usually very quiet, so you can expect to have it all to yourself!
When the sun starts to set, you can head to Maquinit hot springs for a very warm swim. This is the perfect way to end your final day on this paradise island.
During your time in Coron, I recommend staying at Hop Hostel. It’s by far one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The hostel is clean, new and offers extremely comfortable beds in a great location.
Set right near the beach, and just a 300-meter walk from Mount Tapyas. It also has an active social calendar, a cool mini-cinema room and a rooftop bar, all perfect for meeting new people.
On the 6th day of your Philippines travel itinerary it’s time to take the ferry from Coron to El Nido. This will take you about 4 hours depending on if you get the slow or fast ferry, and is a beautifully scenic trip.
There are ferries all throughout the day but I recommend getting one early in the morning, since they can be quite delayed and you don’t want to get to El Nido too late.
Once you arrive in El Nido you can get a tuk-tuk from the harbour to your hostel for around 100 PHP depending on where you’re staying.
When we got to El Nido we just spent the rest of the day wandering around the El Nido town centre and enjoying a dinner by the sea with sunset view.
On your first full day in El Nido, you’ll want to hit all the main landmarks and tourist attractions. El Nido is famous for its island hopping boat trips so you don’t want to miss out!
El Nido Tour A is the standard tour and the best one to hit all the main landmarks. You’ll discover the clear waters of Miniloc Island and you’ll get a chance to swim in its three breath-taking lagoons!
You’ll then go to Shimizu Island, where you can sunbathe on the white sandy beaches.
You’ll end the tour with some snorkelling in the pristine waters of Seven Commando Beach, while keeping your eyes peeled for the famous turtles that frequent the area.
I hope you’re not bored of island hopping just yet because there is more on the itinerary for today! On your second full day in El Nido you’ll want to do something a little more off the beaten track.
Seeing the main landmarks is great, but getting away from all the tourists and touristy activities can also be great! El Nido Tour B provides you with the opportunity to do just that.
On this tour, you’ll discover Snake Island, which is known for its unique sandbar in the middle of the sea.
You’ll get the chance to do some snorkelling in a unique location, before visiting historical caves that played a significant role in World War II.
You’ll also do some fun stops at beautiful beaches where you can swim, snorkel or just sit and sunbathe.
With so many boat tours and limited time in El Nido I know it can get a bit overwhelming deciding which one you want to do, if you need help figuring out which one is right for you check out this El Nido island hopping guide.
You’ve seen the islands of El Nido, on day 9 it’s time to explore some of the inland beauties of El Nido!
For the adventurers out there I recommend getting up before sunrise, so that you can climb Taraw Peak in the dark and be in a prime viewing point when the sun starts to rise.
The jagged cliffs that hang over the town may look impossible to climb, but there is a fairly easy route to the summit. I still recommend going on a tour as the trail isn’t always well marked so you don’t want to get lost in the dark.
From the top you can enjoy incredibly picturesque views, so be sure to take a camera along for the hike.
After a sweaty hike, there’s no better way to cool off than to visit Nacpan Beach, often considered El Nido’s most beautiful beach (which is really saying something).
Take a refreshing swim, or walk the expansive 4-kilometre sandy beach.
After all the boat trips and early mornings you probably want a chill day in El Nido.
One of the coolest things you can do in El Nido is to explore its beaches by kayak, as it’s one of the best ways to explore the clear blue waters and get away from the crowds.
If you’re staying at Outpost Beach Hostel you can rent the kayaks directly from the reception for around 500 PHP for the whole day. You can also go on a tour that includes kayaking, if you’d prefer to be guided along the way.
From Outpost you can easily kayak to Rainbow and Seven Commandos Beach. These are beautiful areas that provide views of jagged limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and a variety of marine wildlife.
It will take around 40 minutes to get to Rainbow Beach, Seven Commandos is just next to it and is only an additional 10 minutes.
Seven Commandos Beach is one of the stops of the various El Nido island hopping trips so it can get quite busy, Rainbow Beach was much less busy.
In El Nido you have to stay at Outpost Beach Hostel. It’s 2.5 km away from the centre of El Nido so will have to get a 10 minute tuk-tuk into town every time, but it’s honestly worth the distance.
If Hop Hostel in Coron is the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed at, Outpost in El Nido is by far the most fun. It has a bungalow vibe, located right on the beach, and it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunset every evening.
Every day at sunset the staff hand out free shots for everyone staying at Outpost, and they welcome new guests to the Outpost family with a sunset shot.
It has a very lively bar and active social schedule, but also a strict 10:30PM curfew. Perfect for socialising but also without taking too much from your sleep time!
You can also arrange all your boat trips directly through the hostel which is going to be super fun, as you’ll be sharing the boat with your hostel peers and future friends, as opposed to complete strangers that you might not see again (and they usually include free-flowing rum and cokes).
It’s time to leave Palawan and head to the island of Cebu. Cebu is a beautiful island with lots of exciting nature activities, beyond just the beaches, but it can be a bit of a trip getting there!
If you have a bit of extra time in your itinerary you could also spend some time in this part of Palawan, as there are lots of fun things to do also in Puerto Princesa.
However Cebu City doesn’t offer much, for your Cebu adventures you will want to be based in Moalboal, a cute seaside town close to all the waterfalls, hikes and best beaches.
From Cebu City you can take a bus to Moalboal that also takes around 4 hours. All this travelling should take about 12-hours, leaving you little time to do much else except settle into your hotel for the night.
On the 12th day of your Philippines itinerary, you’ll be visiting some of the best snorkelling spots in the area.
On the Moalboal and Pescador Snorkeling tour you’ll get the chance to feed and swim with the fish at Pescador Island Marine Sanctuary.
You’ll swim alongside Pescadors sardine run, before heading to Talisay Point to watch the dolphins glide through the water.
You’ll also be able to customise your snorkelling experience by going on a private tour with the same company, which makes for a truly unique experience.
Keep your eyes peeled for Hawksbill turtles that pass through the area.
You can swim with turtles and sardines in Cebu also without going on an organised tour.
If you’re staying in Moalboal you can just walk down to the seaside and search for the SeaQuest Dive Centre (click here to see the exact location) and head for the beach right in front of the diving school.
You can rent snorkelling gear from them for 200 PHP for an afternoon, jump in the sea right there and you’re likely to spot both turtles and sardines.
If however you want more guarantee it’s better to go with the tour (plus all the benefits that come with doing a tour like having a tour guide, lunch included, potentially making new friends and more).
On day 13 it’s time to travel to one of the main tourist hotspots in the Philippines; Kawasan Falls, which have become one of the most popular places to visit in Cebu.
You’ll spend the day in the heart of the canyon, exploring it from all the way from the top to bottom.
You’ll make your way down the canyon using a variety of techniques including, climbing, diving, hiking, swimming and plenty of other fun activities.
Although most people can go canyoning, you need to be a bit of an adventure junkie to really enjoy it! Be ready for lots of thrilling jumps, slides and swims.
Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls was one of the most fun things we did in the Philippines.
The day starts early with a 8AM pick up from your hostel, a 45-minute transfer to Kawasan Falls and then 3-4 hours of fun canyoneering at the falls!
One thing to note is that you should never go canyoneering without a guide. If you don’t know the river it can be extremely dangerous.
If you do a canyoning tour the guides will show you exactly where it’s safe to dive and guide you throughout the whole canyon, plus the tours usually include transfers and lunch!
After all the fun beach and water activities, you’re probably itching for a bit of a different type of adventure by now. If you love hiking and epic views, you have to hike Osmena Peak while in Cebu.
With 360 degree views of Cebu, there really is no better viewpoint in the area!
The hike itself however is quite short, about 20 minutes, so you will want to pair your trip to Osmena Peak with a tour of also some other landmarks in the area.
My suggested itinerary would be an early start from Moalboal so you can get to Kawasan Falls before the crowds, then a quick stop at Cambais Falls, and on to Osmena Peak for sunset.
On your final day in Cebu you can choose whether to relax or go on more adventures around the island. Cebu is famous amongst travellers for being one of the few places in the Philippines where you can swim with whale sharks.
This is a very controversial tourist activity, since it has lots of negative effects on the whale sharks. However like many controversial practices when it comes to animal tourism, there is the argument “better fed than dead” supporting them.
You can read more about it here and decide whether you want to experience this or not.
If you do decide to go swimming with whale sharks you can take this Oslob whale shark and Tumalog falls tour, where you can swim with whale sharks but also add a couple more waterfall adventures.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel by your tour guide before heading out to Oslob. There you’ll then be given a brief crash course in snorkelling before heading out into the water to swim with whale sharks.
These splendid creatures are far more gentle and friendly than you would ever have imagined. You’ll then get a chance to explore the reefs, before climbing the incredible Tumalog waterfalls.
Where to stay in Cebu
Cebu Island is pretty big and you will want to be based in Moalboal, a small seaside town towards the south of the island.
Most of the cool waterfalls and activities in Cebu are in the south so you will want to be based there instead of Cebu City to reduce travel times for daily excursions.
We stayed at MoHo Hostel which was a very spacious, clean and friendly hostel, but we found out only once we arrived that it was a bit of a party hostel! Great if you want to socialise but not if you want to sleep.
If you want something that is still budget but a bit more quiet my friend Annie stayed at West Coast Beach House, closer to the sea, and said it was great.
After spending an amazing 4 full-days in Cebu, it’s time to fly to Siargao. The flight will only take you about an hour, but you need to take into account the 4-hour car journey to go from Moalboal to Cebu City.
We got a flight around lunch time so that we wouldn’t have to wake up too horrendously early, which also allowed us to arrive in Siargao at an acceptable time that would also give us some time for exploring.
In Siargao you will want to stay in General Luna, this is the main spot on the island for backpackers and travellers, where all the shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation are concentrated.
If you get there on time, I recommend heading down to the boardwalk pier for sunsets.
It’s not a particularly touristy spot, you will probably only be sharing the pier with a group of children that are having fun diving off it. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset on your first day in Siargao.
Siargao is quickly becoming the new backpacker destination in the Philippines, mostly because it is a surfers paradise. Siargao consistently deliver great waves all year round, and surfers come from all over the world to test their skills.
There are lots of surf spots around the island but Cloud 9 is the most popular, if you’re an experienced surfer, this is by far one of the best surf spots on the island to ride a barrel.
Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s still fun to spend a day at the beach in Cloud 9. You can have lunch at one of the cute beach shacks and watch the surfers.
For a fair price, you can also take a boat to an island break just an hour away from Siargao and spend the day surfing waves in the middle of the ocean. This is a must-do experience for any avid surfer!
Siargao isn’t quite like El Nido when it comes to boat trips, but there are a few islands around it that will amaze you with their natural beauty.
The most popular island hopping tour is the three island tour to Guyam, Daku, and Naked island. Each island is very different from the others.
For example Naked Island is just a huge sand bar, with no trees, houses or anything of the sort, whilst Daku is the largest island with shacks on the beach where you can have a fresh seafood grilled lunch.
Guyam was my favourite island, smaller than Naked Island but with some trees and a basketball pitch on it, and a shack that served incredible smoothies.
After the surfing and island hopping today it’s time to explore the inland adventures of Siargao. One of the most famous spots in Siargao are the Magpupungko Rock pools.
These are a mere 45-minute drive on a moped from General Luna, the main tourist area in Siargao.
If you don’t want to drive a moped (like me) you can get a tuk-tuk for a whole day for around 1,000 PHP, and ask them to take you to the rock pools and then around the island.
The Magpupungko Rock pools are an area along the coast of Siargao where when the tide goes down it leaves these rock formations exposed, creating pools that you can swim in sheltered by the big ocean waves.
The crystal clear water will take your breath away and leave you completely in love with the surrounding area.
One thing to note is that these pools aren’t the idyllic secret spot you see in photos, they’re a fairly big attraction in Siargao with a big parking lot, tons of food and drinks shacks along the beach, and big crowds.
We had to walk along the coast for a while before reaching pools without as many people in them.
After exploring the rock pools you will want to drive around Siargao and explore the island. There is a famous viewpoint where from the road you will be able to see coconut trees in every direction and for miles.
There are literally just coconut trees as far as the eye can see. Once you’ve seen the coconut tree viewpoint you can either adventure further inland to the famous bent tree of Siargao, or go further north to Paradise Beach.
After a long day of scootering around Siargao I imagine you’ll want to spend some chill time by the beach. You can spend your last day on the island surfing at some of the best surf spots in the Philippines.
If you’re looking for the best spot for beginner surfers, Jacking Horse is a great spot that’ll give you easy access to surf lessons. You can surf and spend the rest of the day on the beach, basking in the sun.
We recommend visiting the Santa Monica Pier in the evening, one of the very few non-touristy spots on the island. And surprisingly, one of the only places you can watch the sun as it sets over the ocean.
Where to stay in Siargao
The best area to stay in in Siargao is General Luna. General Luna is where all the backpacker hostels, bars and restaurants are based. It’s also close to the Cloud Nine surf spot.
We stayed at Salty Nomads, a very fun and sociable hostel but extremely basic (think non flushing toilets that you had to pour water into with a bucket to flush). If you want something a little fancier, you can check out the White House.
It’s sadly time to wrap up your Philippines trip. On your last day in the Philippines you’ll have to catch a flight from Siargao to Manila, which will take around two and a half hours.
If you plan your stop strategically, you can do something a little exciting in Manila during your layover. I recommend stopping off for a quick bite to eat at the Dessert Museum, before heading back to the airport to catch a flight home.
Now that you know where to travel in the Philippines, let’s take a look at a few more tips that will help you along the way during your three weeks in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, they use Peso (PHP) as the currency. You’ll find 10, 20, 50, 200, 500, 1000 Peso notes.
When I visited, 1 US dollar was equal to 50 Peso. You can expect to pay around 50 – 150 Peso for a meal, which is the equivalent of $3 USD.
You’ll find many delicious meat and seafood street dishes! These are generally fairly cheap and the mere smell will make your mouth water!
The preferred drink in the Philippines is rum, so if you’re a fan, don’t worry as there’ll be plenty to go around. I was also surprised to find quite a lot of Western food, and easily available in most restaurants.
If you’re not daring with food when you travel don’t worry, as the Philippines offer more Western variety than other countries in Asia that I have travelled to.
As you may be aware, the Philippines is a rather large archipelago. Often flights are required to get between the islands, but where the islands are closer, it’s a great idea to travel by boat or ferry.
While travelling around an island, taking a bus is a great and affordable way to get around. It’s not a great idea to rent a car anywhere in South East Asia unless you’re very familiar with the driving style of those who live there.
At times it can be rather scary. Hopping on a rickshaw is also a great way to get around. It’s cheap and they’ll take you to places a little off the beaten track.
Most people hire scooters in the Philippines (in Siargao they were renting them for as little as 200 PHP for a day!) but I would be careful with this.
The local driving can be quite crazy so I wouldn’t rent a scooter unless I was a comfortable driver.
Have you been to the Philippines before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! The Philippines is a wonderful place to vacation!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Philippines itinerary, and that you will find it useful in planning your own Philippines trip. Be sure to add some of these amazing activities to your Philippines itinerary to make the most of your time there.
If you love crystal clear water, incredible limestone cliff faces, mountainous regions with cascading waterfalls and many more awe-inspiring adventures, then the Philippines is the perfect destination for you!
What are you waiting for? Paradise awaits!