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Philippines 1 month travel & diving itinerary

Bohol Chocolate Hills

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If you are planning to travel the Philippines, love diving and are on a budget, this 1 month travel & diving itinerary might be exactly what you’ve been looking for! I explored Philippines in November 2023 during my year-long Southeast Asia adventure. While you can easily find general travel plans online, the ones that highlight the famous dive spots are a bit of a rarity. What makes this itinerary special as well is its focus on vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The Philippines isn’t the most vegetarian-friendly place compared to others in Southeast Asia. Being a vegetarian there can be a bit challenging and and not as cheap as almost all local dishes are meat-heavy.

This 1 month Philippines travel itinerary includes exciting activities, diving trips, island hopping tours, the best vegan and vegetarian food spots, low budget accommodation and a full cost overview. Think of it as more of an inspiration for your own trip. The days per stop are suggestions and I’d recommend planning your Philippines adventure according to your individual timeline and your preferred travel pace. Personally, I like taking it slow, allowing for a few days of rest or to catch up on some online work. Let’s dive in!

The best time to visit the Philippines

I visited the Philippines in November 2023 which was a great time to travel! The temperatures were around 30 degrees, so all in all hot and humid, but bearable! The best time to visit the Philippines is during the dry season, which spans from November to April. During dry season the weather is sunny and dry, so ideal for beach days, water activities and outdoor exploration. December to February are considered the cooler season. The wet season in the Philippines is from May to October, with occasional heavy rain. Low season also means fewer crowds and lush green landscapes!

Have you been to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia? Check this 3 months itinerary!

Finding the ‘best time to travel’ is always a bit tricky, as I experienced too many examples which prove the opposite. Even though May is a good month to travel Koh Tao, we’ve had mostly rain for two weeks straight. Regarding the Philippines I therefore would even include September, October, May and June. You probably want to avoid the rainy season peak months though, as the diving conditions tend to be better in dry season.

Coffee at the beach of El Nido in Palawan
Chocolate Hills Bohol Philippines

Things to consider when travelling the Philippines

The Philippines is a very special country. It consists of more than 7,640 islands, each offering diverse landscapes, from pristine beaches and coral reefs to lush mountains and vibrant cities. I experienced the vibe on Palawan for example very different to Cebu! Each island comes with its own charm, cultural diversity and cuisine. The national languages in the Philippines are Tagalog and English. Additionally, there are numerous regional accents. Before visiting the Philippines there are a few things you should consider in order to have a great trip.

1. Costs are higher than in other SEA countries

In 2023, I explored nearly every country in Southeast Asia, with the exception of Myanmar and certain parts of Malaysia. I quickly noticed that the Philippines stands out as the most expensive country in SEA. We usually travel with a budget of 30 Euros per day, which also covers transport costs and accommodation. In the Philippines we had to adjust our budget to 40 Euros per day! The adjustment wasn’t even attributed to a higher standard of living or more reliable travel services. What contributed significantly to the overall expenses as well were ferries and planes we had to take to hop from one island to the next. Flights cost around 40-60 Euros, especially if you don’t book them far in advance. Ferry fares are similar high. Hence, my recommendation is to arrive with the right budget to fully enjoy your Philippines experience.

Here is a 3 month itinerary for Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos including budget!

2. DIY trips are not as easy

I’m a huge fan of do-it-yourself (DIY) trips! Meaning you rent a scooter, drive to the attraction yourself and end up saving more than half of what a tour operator would charge. Plus, the flexibility and freedom you get. In the Philippines the DIY trips weren’t really possible. Given the predominantly island-based travel, reaching certain spots often requires a boat journey. Now, renting a boat and steering it yourself is unfortunately not possible. To explore extensively and join the main attractions, you’re pretty much bound book a tour and pay a higher price.

scooter DIY trip Busuanga island

3. Come if you love sun, beaches and ocean activities

The Philippines are the perfect spot for you if you love being close to the ocean, going snorkelling or diving and if you want to explore beautiful beaches. After travelling this country for 1 month, I realised that travelling in the Philippines is mostly revolves around that. It doesn’t boast the same depth of cultural and historical exploration as I encountered in Indonesia, Cambodia or Vietnam. There are good spots to do jungle hikes. It’s worth noting, however, that the temperatures tend to be consistently hot and humid. If you are planning to visit the Philippines, you should therefore come with the right mindset and expectations.

Ideas to keep the budget low

Let’s have a look at some ideas to keep the budget low while travelling the Philippines! Firstly, opt for low-budget accommodations and prioritize local food. Local food is not always the easiest for vegetarians unfortunately. However, there are a few more tactics to keep the budget low.

1. Find a volunteer placement

Volunteering while travelling is an amazing way to experience a culture in a genuine way and to gain an insight you wouldn’t get on the standard traveller route. There are platforms like Workaway which give access to over 50,000 projects around the whole world. In the Philippines there are a lot of opportunities in areas like social work, farm work and animal welfare. To contact the hosts on Workaway you will need a one year membership, browsing is free though. Most placements offer free accommodation and food in exchange for your work, so you will quickly save money which makes the membership worth it. It lasts for a year, so maybe you can even do more projects in other countries!

Read about my first Workaway experience in Cambodia!

Click here to sign up on Workaway through my link & get a free month added to your membership! All in all volunteer projects are a great way to save money and be able to stay in a place for weeks and even months. If you don’t want to use Workaway, have a general browse on the web or check Facebook, maybe there’s a project as well! Otherwise you could also reach out to hostels and check if they’re looking for volunteers.

2. Bring your own gear

If you are planning to do some island-hopping trips, it might be worth investing in your own snorkelling gear. On all the tours we joined, there was a standard charge of around 150 PHP (around 2.50 Euros) to rent snorkelling equipment. You can easily save that money by bringing your own gear! And on top of that, you are eliminating the uncertainty of getting stuck with a shitty snorkel and mask. If you’re into diving, having your own dive computer can be a smart move as well. Some places might require you to rent one, but bringing your own ensures both comfort and savings on your underwater explorations.

Are you travelling long-term and sometimes feeling exhausted? I felt the same way!

3. Check local transport options

A great way to save money is to always check if there are local transport options available. On Palawan it was comparatively hard to find local transport, it felt a bit like a developed public transport didn’t really exist. On Negros and Cebu however it was much easier to get from one to the next stop. If you are taking the public transport you pay a third of what a transport agency would charge! For example, a 30 minute bus ride from Dumaguete to Dauin (Negros) only cost 30 PHP (0.50 Euros).

Girl drinking iced coffee
North Beach Malapascua Island

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Travel & diving itinerary Philippines

Let’s have a closer look at the 1 month travel & dive itinerary. I added some activity ideas per spot, the suggested duration, the best vegetarian food spots and low budget accommodation. Down below you can find the map for a general overview of the whole route. I added the different spots of the trip as well as my favourite vegetarian restaurants. You can save this map on your phone and access it during your travels at any point!

1 month itinerary Philippines

1. Manila

If you are flying in from Europe, you will most likely land in Manila. Manila is the capital and one of the oldest cities in the Philippines. Personally, I recommend spending 1-2 days here to acclimatize, rest and get a first taste of the Philippines. I experienced Manila as a quite relaxed city. In areas like the ‘Intramuros’, the influence of the Spanish colonial era is still visible. I only spent 12 hours in Manila, but if you decide to stay a bit longer, consider visiting attractions like the Manila Baywalk, the tranquil Rizal Park, or one of the museums. Malls are also very popular in the Philippines and it’s fun to stroll through them and immerse yourself in the local lifestyle.

  • Low-budget accommodation: G Square Residences
  • Suggested duration: 1-2 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Shawarma Snack Center, Purple Yam Malata Kitchen
Manila Skyline
Streets of Manila

2. Palawan: Puerto Princesa

From Manila take a 1.5 hour flight to Puerto Princesa, the capital of the island Palawan. Click here to check the available flight options. Palawan is popular for its pristine islands, with crystal-clear waters and stunning landscapes. Puerto Princesa is a small city with nice cafés, restaurants and a handful of attractions. It’s the hub to do island hopping tours to Honda Bay (I would recommend to rather do them in El Nido and Coron!) and the gateway to the renowned Underground River.

Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour
Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour
Puerto Princesa Underground River

A visit to the Puerto Princesa Underground River is really worth it! It’s the most amazing cave system I’ve ever explored. What makes it so special is that you will be taken on a boat ride through the cave. The Subterranean River is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. We booked the underground river tour through the Casaoro hostel, where we were staying. Another option is to rent a scooter, drive to Sabang (takes around 1.5 hours) and hop onto the tour there. If you’re connfident doing this trip on your own, I’d recommend to not book a tour. We left our hotel at 9 am thinking that we would drive to the underground river straight away. However, we spent the whole morning waiting at tourist attractions we hadn’t booked or intended to visit, only to find out they were optional and could spontaneously be booked. Well, as we already paid around 2,500 PHP (40 Euros) for the whole trip, we didn’t want to spend more money and ended up waiting for the other guests for a total time of 3 hours. A visit to the river is worth it, but spending that much money on a tour that makes you wait a lot isn’t really. Make sure to check with the tour operator what the agenda for the day looks like or rent a bike to drive yourself to see this mesmerizing cave system! In case you want to do a tour, have a look at this one: Click here. The waiting time here is only one hour, unless you would like to join the zipline experience as well.

  • Low-budget accommodation: Casaoro homestay (super basic & low budget! but you need a scooter)
  • Suggested duration: 2-3 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Ima’s Vegetarian Restaurant, Bersian, EATadakimasu Japanese Grill, Namaskar Vegetarian house

3. Palawan: El Nido

Next stop in Palawan is the little town El Nido. El Nido is a tropical paradise that captivates with huge limestone mountains and vibrant marine life. The town serves as the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago, a cluster of islands that can be explored by doing an island hopping trip. El Nido itself has a laid-back charm, with a lively atmosphere, local markets, and a variety of dining options. From Puerto Princesa you can take a van to El Nido. The whole journey takes around 5-8 hours. It’s best to ask your host about the transport options and directly book it through them.

Island hopping

The best thing to do to explore the natural beauty of the surroundings of El Nido is to join one of the four island hopping tours. The decision of which tour to do is quite a hard one, as they are so similar but different at the same time. We ended up doing Tour B, as it is supposed to be one of the less busy ones. Here is a low budget tip! Go and visit the restaurant ‘Brunch’. They offer the same prices as the other tour agencies, BUT it includes a free breakfast with a value of around 300 PHP (4.95 Euros). We thought that was a really good deal! Pop by their restaurant and check if they still have this offer. Here’s a quick overview of the tours:

  • Tour A (1,200 PHP – 20 Euros): Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimiz Island, Small Lagoon
    Great tour to explore the lagoons, go snorkelling and do some kayaking as well!
  • Tour B (1,300 PHP – 23 Euros): Cudugnon Cave, Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach
    Offers a mix of island landscapes, caves, and coral reefs. Snorkelling, but no kayaking!
  • Tour C (1,400 PHP – 23 Euros): Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island, Helicopter Island
    Emphasizes hidden gems, historical sites and scenic landscapes.
  • Tour D (1,200 PHP – 20 Euros): Cadlao Island, Paradise Beach, Bukal Island, Natnat Beach
    Focuses on less crowded and laid-back destinations.

If you can’t decide which tour to join, don’t worry about it too much! I think in the end, they’re quite similar anyway. On Tour B we drove past Helicopter Island for example which is part of Tour C. Driving past and still seeing its beauty was fine though! Overall the stops of Tour B weren’t really busy and didn’t feel crowded. The trip included lunch and lasted from 9 am to around 4.30 pm. Make sure to rent snorkelling gear beforehand (unless you have your own).

Island Hopping El Nido Palawan
Island Hopping El Nido Palawan Girl and Boat
Taraw Cliff Canopy Walk

Apart from the island hopping tours you could do the Taraw Cliff Canopy Walk. The entrance fee is 400 PHP (7 Euros) and includes a helmet, harness and the guide. Put ‘El Nido Taraw Via Ferrata’ in Google Maps to check the tour operator. The canopy walk takes you up the giant limestone cliffs overlooking El Nido and giving a breath-taking view over the bay.

Diving and beaches

El Nido also features diverse underwater landscapes and rich marine biodiversity. I recommend to stroll through town, stop by at different dive shops and choose the one that gives you the best feeling! We chose not to dive in El Nido as there was nothing spectacular to see. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate every marine life I see, but after working as a dive guide and diving in different places around the world I became a bit picky when it comes to paying for diving. I prefer doing the dives where I can see things I can’t see anywhere else.

Read more about my journey of becoming a divemaster!

You can also rent a scooter and drive to one of the surrounding beaches! Marimegmeg, Las Cabanas and Lio Beach are only a 15 minute drive away.

  • Low-budget accommodation: Hanna’s Inn
  • Suggested duration: 3-4 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Hole Smoke, Taste El Nido, Garlic & Mint, Maa’s Grill (local food!)

4. Palawan: Busuanga Island / Coron

Coron is a stunning location north of Palawan. Even though it is quite far away, it is still part of Palawan and can be reached within five hours by ferry from El Nido. The port is in El Nido town and you can easily walk there. I don’t really see any reason to take a flight for this comparatively short distance. I recommend to purchase the tickets a few days before at ‘Atienza Ferries Office’. Fun fact: You are not actually going to Coron Island, but towent to Pangal Coron Town Proper. Coron Town is located on Busuanga Island. Coron Island is close by and can only be reached by doing a day boat trip. Overall this part of the Philippines is worth a visit, also because there are amazing wrecks for diving!

Mt. Tapyee viewpoint Coron Busuanga Island
Views from Mount Tapyas over Coron Town & Coron Island
Viewpoint, fireflies & exploring the island

In and around Coron Town there are a few nice things to do! The best way to explore the island is by scooter. I’d suggest checking out Jed’s motor rental, they offer hourly and day rates and are super friendly. During the day you could visit the Maquinit Hot Springs. We also wanted to drive to Marcilla Beach, but as the road wasn’t the best we decided to turn around halfway. What we saw on the way there was very beautiful though – lush jungle, overgrown mountains and an insight into the local life. For sunset you should put some sneakers on and walk up the over 700 stairs to Mt. Tapyas! The viewpoint is overlooking the town, harbour and the surrounding islands.

I also highly recommend a visit to Kingfisher Park, where you can see thousands of fireflies and bioluminescent plankton! While there are organized tours for 1.500 PHP (25 Euros) per person, you can also do it yourself. The drive takes around 30 minutes and you only pay 300 PHP (5 Euros) to see the fireflies, and an extra 500 PHP (8 Euros) to go out on the lake by kayak. The Kingfisher Park was definitely one of my highlights in Coron and something you don’t get to see everywhere!

Kingfisher Park sky stars
Milkyway from Kingfisher Park Busuanga Island
Island hopping

Similar to El Nido, there are a few different island hopping tours you can do to explore the beauty of Coron island. We really wanted to see Barracuda Lake and therefore booked tour B (1.500 PHP / 25 Euros). Why Barracuda Lake? This Lake for one has a unique thermocline, meaning that there is a distinct temperature change as you dive deeper. At around 3-4 meters you can feel the water getting warmer and warmer. The lake itself is just stunning, both on land and underwater. It’s enclosed by limestone cliffs which stretch down to the bottom of the lake. The rock formations are truly breath-taking. Another distinct feature is the fresh and saltwater layers which also result in the temperature change.

Overall I would recommend to include Barracuda Lake in your island hopping tour! If you have a little bit more budget, you should consider upgrading to the ‘Ultimate tour’, as this one includes the Kayangan Lake and kayaking. We were put on a boat with the ultimate tour group and again… had to wait until the guys visited the first lake and while they were out kayaking. The day trip lasted from 9 am to 5.30 pm and included lunch, snacks and water. You have to pay around 150 PHP (2.50 Euros) extra, to rent snorkelling gear.

Island Hopping Coron Palawan
Island Hopping Coron Palawan
Wreck diving

Finally it’s time to go diving! Coron is a wreck diving paradise. There are numerous shipwrecks from World War II with lots of history. As their sinking wasn’t planned, you can still find goods in some of them. It’s like diving through history. Another impressive thing is that the top of the wrecks, doesn’t look like part of a ship anymore but rather a beautiful coral garden featuring a variety of marine life. We saw Lion Fish, Scorpion Fish, Banded Pipefish, Razor Fish, different kinds of Nudi Branchs, Hawksbill turtle, Electric Clam, Skeleton Shrimp, Barramundi, Crocodile Fish and many more! We did three dives with Easy Diving Coron. They are a bit pricier (3 dives incl. lunch and fees 7,700 PHP / 127 Euros) in comparison to other dive schools, but this definitely reflects in their quality and professionalism. They only host 6 divers per boat, the boats are very fast and the experience overall very enjoyable. They usually combine two wrecks with one coral divesite.

Diving in Coron
Island Hopping Coron Palawan
  1. Low-budget accommodation: Coron Backpacker House
  2. Suggested duration: 3-4 days
  3. Vegetarian food spots: Fresh Bites, Full Lotus Mindful Kitchen, Verde Rekado (we went there literally every day!)

5. Cebu: Cebu City

It’s time to explore Cebu and it’s surrounding islands! To get to Cebu from Coron you will need to take a 1.5 hour flight. There is the option to go via ferry, but it takes days and I have no idea how comfortable the journey is. It also doesn’t save you any money. The cheapest way to get from the airport to the city is by public bus. It costs around 50 PHP (0.80 Euros) and takes you straight to the SM Mall. From there you can take a Grab to your hotel. This way is cheaper than taking a taxi from the airport.

If you love cities you might want to spend another night in Cebu City, explore its historical landmarks and malls. For this 1 month journey Cebu City is the hub to reach the next stop: Moalboal. We therefore only stayed one night.

  • Low-budget accommodation: Gplace Hotel
  • Suggested duration: 1 day
  • Vegetarian food spots: COOEE, The Green Canteen (local Filipino food), Shawarma Gourmet, Vegan Cebu City, Wellnessland

6. Cebu: Moalboal

Getting around Cebu island was super easy! The bus network is well developed so you can easily take public transport and save lots of money. To get to Moalboal, go to the Southern Bus Station where busses depart every hour. I recommend to take a bus at around 9 or 10 am to avoid heavy traffic. The whole journey takes around 3-4 hours, including one stop. The airconditioned bus was very comfortable and spacious for only 205 PHP (3.40 Euros). Once you arrive in Moalboal you need to take a tricycle towards the beach. The distance is around 4 km. Expect to pay around 100 PHP (1.65 Euros) per person for this journey. All in all I was amazed by how smooth and easy this whole trip was. We didn’t know the bus schedule or anything really. When we arrived at the terminal we could buy the tickets and were sitting on the bus after waiting for maybe 10 minutes. Go with the flow!

Cebu South Bus Station Ticket Terminal
Ticket Counter of Cebu Southern Bus Station
Diving and Snorkelling

Moalboal is widely known for huge shoals of Sardines hanging along the coral reef, also called the ‘Moalboal Sardine Run’. The area is protected from fishing which is why the sardines are there in such big numbers, we are talking millions. You can observe this natural spectacle by going snorkelling or diving. Snorkelling is super easy and can be done by yourself, as the sardine spot is pretty close to Panagsama beach. Diving with the Sardines gives you a very different perspective. You can see the swirling formations moving from the bottom, which is very special as well. We went on a shore dive (1,200 PHP / 20 Euros) with Floi diving. The dive basically lasted until our air ran out and we had a good time! Apart from the Sardines you can see lots of different types of Puffer Fish, Nudi Branchs and other small critters.

Check this blogpost to read more about my favourite travel backpack!

This is the only diving we did in Cebu, as we wanted to focus on the dive highlights in the Philippines. There is also diving with Whale sharks in Oslob, but I’m not a fan of it. The animals are being fed and the way the people interfere with their natural behaviours is not okay. Whale sharks are migratory animals which should not be trained to only be in one place. If you are lucky you can see them in their natural habitat in Indonesia, Thailand and on other diving trips around the world, swimming in the deep ocean instead of hanging at the surface waiting for food. As a responsible diver you should avoid going to Oslob.

Sunset Moalboal Beach
Sunset in Moalboal
Diving Setup Moalboal
Ready for a shore dive
Canyoneering DIY trip

A super fun and adventurous activity close to Moalboal is the canyoneering trip to Kawasan Falls! If you are not scared of water, heights and jumping, you should definitely give it a try! I’m not the most confident person when it comes to jumping down into the water, but I challenged myself and it was great fun. Honestly, I don’t know the last time I screamed so much and felt a little bit like a child again.

To visit the Kawasan Canyoneering on a DIY trip, all you need are the tickets and a scooter. You can rent a scooter in Moalboal town for around 300 PHP (5 Euros) per day. On this page you can book your tickets, which include the safety equipment, guides and a filling lunch. We paid 2.100 PHP (35 Euros) per person, and had two guides for ourselves. The guys were amazing! One of them took loads of videos and photos with my phone and kept it dry during the whole experience. First I was a bit stressed, as he was swimming through the water with my phone in one hand. But, he definitely knew what he was doing. The whole experience took around 3 hours. We did lots of jumps, swum through the water and went down little slides. Against my worries, I even managed to jump the highest one with 10 meters. The tour ended at the famous Kawasan Falls.

Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Cebu Moalboal
Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Cebu Moalboal
Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Cebu Moalboal
Kawasan Falls Canyoneering Cebu Moalboal
Hiking and viewpoints

If you love viewpoints and hiking you should visit Casino and Montaña Peak. They offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trek to Casino Peak is a moderate climb with views of lush green hills and turquoise waters of the Tañon Strait. Montaña Peak shows the beauty of Moalboal and its coastline. The best way to reach the peaks is by taking a scooter.

  • Low-budget accommodation: Indinos Guesthouse
  • Suggested duration: 3-4 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Mila’s (local Filipino food), Shaka, Hummusta, Smooth Café

6. Negros: Dauin

You should add Dauin to your itinerary if you are interested in macro dives. Macro diving is all about finding small creatures in the sandy bottom of the ocean. You’d be surprised what’s actually living there! I couldn’t go diving due to a blocked nose, but Brad my partner found marine life like a Seahorse, Pipefish, Cowfish and different types of Shrimp. Dauin is a cute little town at the coast of the island Negros. From Moalboal you can easily get there by bus and ferry. It’s also very convenient to continue to Bohol from Negros, as it only takes 2 hours on a direct ferry.

How to get from Moalboal to Dauin

To get from Moalboal to Dauin it takes around 5-6 hours. First, take a tryke (100 PHP /1.70 Euros) from Panagsama beach to the Moalboal bus station. It’s not really a bus station, you rather wait at the side of the road. Raise your hand when you see a bus going to Bato (140 PHP / 2.30 Euros). At Bato bus station there are already drivers waiting for you. Tell them you want to go to Liloan port to get to Dumaguete (50-75 PHP / 1.20 Euros). There are boats departing to Dumaguete (Sibulan port) every hour (120 PHP / 2 Euros). At Sibulan port, take a jeepney (the vehicles you share with other people, 50 PHP / 0.80 Euros) to the Dumaguete bus station. The bus from Dumaguete to Dauin takes 30 minutes and costs only 30 PHP (0.50 Euros). It’s a lot of different transport modes involved, but the distance is not too far! As you are only taking public transport with other locals it’s a very genuine and adventurous experience!

Ferry Cebu to Negros
Public Ferry from Cebu to Negros
Ferry Schedule Cebu to Negros
Ferry Schedule Sibulan (Negros) & Lilo-an (Cebu)
The best diving hostel in Dauin

In Dauin I can highly recommend to stay at Bongo Bongo Divers. It’s a very social hostel focused on diving! We could’ve easily stayed much longer. They have a pool, a hammock area and a big café with lots of seating options. You can easily sign up for a day dive trip to Apo island or join one of the four daily muck dives at the house reef. If you don’t want to dive you can just relax at the hostel, chat to one of the many people hanging out there as well, or go to the beach which is like a 1 minute walk away. In general, Dauin is a lovely little town with a charming vibe. It’s still very local, except for the handful of dive shops.

Bongo Bongo Divers Dauin Negros Beach
Beach in Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers Dauin Negros
Hammock Area at Bongo Bongo Divers
Bongo Bongo Divers Dauin Negros island
Bongo Bongo Divers
  • Low-budget accommodation: Bongo Bongo Divers
  • Suggested duration: 3-4 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: anahaw restaurant, MML eatery (local filipino food)

7. Bohol

Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills and lush green picturesque landscape. It also has beautiful beaches and is therefore the perfect mix of adventure and tranquillity. From Negros, Dumaguete port, there is a daily ferry at 1 pm leaving straight to Bohol. The journey takes 2 hours. What I loved most about this trip was that they showed a movie on the ferry – free cinema yay!

Bohol Chocolate Hills
Bohol Chocolate Hills
How to get from Dauin to Bohol

This is how you can get from Dauin to Bohol: In Dauin, go to the bus station (it’s next to the mall at the main road, ask some locals and they will show you) and take the next bus (30 PHP / 0.50 Euros) to Dumaguete. They are leaving every 15-30 minutes. In Dumaguete you can then book a Grab or taxi to the port (around 50-100 PHP / 1.50 Euros). Make sure you go to Dumaguete port! The ferry to Bohol leaves from the one in town, not the Sibulan port. We bought our tickets at the port, but depending on how busy it is you can also purchase them online beforehand. The price is 900 PHP (15 Euros) for the ferry ticket, and another 120 PHP (2 Euros) for each check-in luggage.

Where to stay in Bohol

In Bohol we stayed in Tagbilaran City, which is the capital of the island. Most tourists stay in Panglao / Alona beach area. First, I was worried that we made the wrong choice with staying in Tagbilaran. But in hindsight I can only recommend to stay there! You get a more genuine experience and are surrounded by mostly local people. It’s super interesting to walk around town, go to the malls and just witness the daily life first hand. Also the Chocolate Hills and sights of Bohol are on the bigger part of the island – if you drive from Tagbilaran City instead of Panglao, you save more than 30 minutes of driving time. On top of that you can walk to the port and save money on transport when coming to Bohol and leaving! One afternoon we went to Panglao and I found it way too touristy. While towns like Moalboal and Dauin are touristy as well, they have a rather laid-back atmosphere and mostly individual travellers are visiting. Panglao felt very commercial and too much.

Tagbilaran City Bohol Philippines
Tagbilaran City
Panglao Bohol Philippines
Alona Beach
Explore Bohol by bike

Make sure to add these sights to your day trip in Bohol:

  • Chocolate Hills: A series of cone-shaped hills that turn cocoa-brown during the dry season. Entrance fee is 100 PHP (1.70 Euros).
  • Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary: Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for a visit, but this sanctuary seems to be a good one!
  • Bilar Man-Made Forest: Beautiful forest, man-made over 60 years ago. The drive through the trees is stunning!
  • Loboc river: This river winds its way through lush, tropical landscapes. You can go on a cruise or rent a SUP. We enjoyed a Mango Float at Fox & The Firefly, a beautiful restaurant next to the river.

The best way to explore Bohol is to rent a scooter and do it yourself! I love travelling that way as I can set my own pace, and adapt the plans spontaneously. We rented a scooter in Tagbilaran for 280 PHP (4.60 Euros) per day. Make sure to add around 50 % of the suggested driving time on Google Maps. Driving on a scooter takes way longer than in the car! Apart from the sights above you can also drive to Panglao for a beach day and visit one of the coffee shops there.

Man made Bilar forest Bohol Philippines
Man-made forest
Vegan Food Bohol Philippines
Vegan food in Bohol
Mango Float Bohol Philippines
Mango Float at the fox & firefly
Loboc River Bohol Philippines
Loboc River
  • Low-budget accommodation: JAZ-M Pensionhouse
  • Suggested duration: 2-4 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Veganize, The Vegan Shack, The Fox & Firefly

8. Malapascua

Malapascua is a 2.5×1 km small island north of Cebu. It’s a must visit for every diver! Why? Because there is a 99 % chance to see Thresher Sharks. Diving with these creatures has been one of the most exciting days of my diving career.

Malapascua is a quiet, laid back island. Most of the dive shops, hotels and restaurants are located in the southern bit. I recommend to stay around there, as you have access to more shops and restaurants. Even though the infrastructure in Malapascua is good enough to have a pleasant stay, it has been one of the quietest islands I’ve been to – which was very nice, you barely get that anywhere these days! I think most of the people visiting are divers.

How to get from Bohol to Malapascua in a day

We left on the 7 am Oceanjet ferry from Bohol, and arrived two hours later in Cebu City. After some breakfast in the city, we took a Grab from the port to the Northern Bus Terminal right next to SM Mall. From the bus terminal there are busses departing to Maya Port every 30 minutes (320 PHP / 5.30 Euros). The journey takes 3 hours according to Google Maps, but rather 5-6 hours in reality. The bus drops you directly at Maya Port, where you can check in for the boat. They usually wait for around 10 people. At the port you have to pay an environmental fee (200 PHP / 3.30 Euros) and the boat fee (200 PHP / 3.30 Euros). Another 30 minutes later you have finally arrived on the small island Malapascua. The last ferry leaves Maya Port at 4.30 pm. With the 12 pm bus leaving from Cebu City we were at the port right on time to catch the last boat.

Maya Port
Maya Port – the gate to Malapascua
Diving in Malapascua

We joined a day trip with Atlas Divers. The total cost for 3 dives including equipment, breakfast, fruit and lunch was 4,500 PHP (75 Euros). We did two dives at Kimud Shoal, which is the Thresher Cleaning station. The dives were breath-taking! At some point all other divers were gone and we had three of the Thresher’s circling us. The third dive was at Monad Shoal. This one wasn’t too exciting. Sometimes there are sightings of Tiger Sharks, but we weren’t lucky. All in all it was a great diving day!

They also recommend to visit Gato island, which is famous for its coral reef and Blacktip Reef Sharks. We decided not to do this one as we didn’t want to fully blow up our budget. If you can’t do much diving in general and haven’t been diving with other sharks, you should consider going!

Threshure Shark Malapascua Island
Diving with a Thresher Shark
Dive sites Malapascua Island
Dive Sites around Malapascua
What to do in Malapascua apart from diving

On the non diving days it’s worth going on a walk to the northern side of the island. It takes around 30-40 minutes and you will walk through small island villages. Before the tourism boom, Malapascua was a little fishing island. It’s super interesting to still get a glimpse of its past. Stop at Tablea cafe for a snack or iced coffee, it’s a lovely little place.

You can also go snorkelling at Cemetery Beach and swim towards Dakit-Dakit island. Some snorkellers were telling us about baby sharks and eagle rays (lucky sightings though!). Other than that there is not too much to do. In general Malapascua a nice spot to wind down, enjoy a coffee at DevoZen café and chill at the beach.

Sunset Malapascua Island
North Beach Tablea Cafe Malapascua Island
  • Low-budget accommodation: New Villa Sandra
  • Suggested duration: 3-5 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: Filipino eatery next to Atlas Divers, Villa Potenciana (literally had every meal there), K.B. Merk, Bebot’s

9. Cebu City

Time to go back to Cebu City! The way back is basically as easy as going to Malapascua. You wait at the pier in Malapascua until a boat leaves to Maya Port. At Maya Port there are probably already van drivers waiting for you. We got a seat for 350 PHP (5.80 Euros) per person. Taking the van was very comfortable and a bit faster than the bus! We left Malapascua at 11 am and arrived at our hotel at 4 pm. In Cebu City you can then either take a flight back to Manila or to another place in Southeast Asia!

Cebu City
Streets of Cebu
Robinson Gallery Cebu Cinema
Cinema in Robinson’s Hall

On our last day in Cebu City we decided to stroll through some malls, have mango float and spontaneously got tickets for the cinema in Robinson’s Gallery Mall! Going to the cinema is something I really love doing while travelling as it gives me a feeling of ‘normality’.

  • Low-budget accommodation: Gplace Hotel
  • Suggested duration: 1-2 days
  • Vegetarian food spots: COOEE, The Green Canteen (local Filipino food), Shawarma Gourmet, Vegan Cebu City, Wellnessland

Total cost overview

Now we’re coming to the interesting part! Here’s an overview of all my travel costs when I visited the Philippines in November 2023. I stayed for 26 days.

CategoryCost in €
Other (atm fee, laundry)25

Compared to my other travels in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is definitely more expensive when it comes to accommodation. I usually spend half of what I spent in the Philippines. You can also see that diving makes out a huge amount of the costs. However, it’s worth it, the Philippines has some unique dive sites! In general I would recommend to plan with a budget of around 40 – 45 Euros per day per person. This allows you to have a good time, see the most stunning dive sites & enjoy some balanced vegetarian food.

  • Average price per vegetarian meal: 250 PHP (4 Euros)
  • Average price accommodation double room with AC: 1,000 PHP (16 Euros)

Final thoughts

The Philippines is a really beautiful place to travel! The landscape the different islands have to offer is something special I haven’t seen in other Southeast Asian countries yet. I have to admit that I first had some troubles adjusting to the higher prices despite no changes in quality and comfort. Overall though, this country is worth a visit!

Here are 14 useful gifts for digital nomads & travellers!

Make sure to bring your own snorkelling gear to have an even better time! It’s also worth taking your own dive computer if you have one. If you bare these things in mind and choose public transport as well as DIY trips over tour agencies then you will have a great, affordable time.

I hope you could get some inspiration from my 1 month travel & diving itinerary for the Philippines. See you soon!

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