The Philippines is the closest thing you’ll find to heaven on earth. Home to some of the best beaches in the world, breath taking lagoons and an endless amount of exciting tours and adventures, it is really a perfect choice for a romantic vacation.
The thing which sets the Philippines apart from other Southeast Asian countries is the unbelievable diversity it offers, both in terms of attractions as well as different islands to choose from. Still relatively undeveloped, this country offers the perfect opportunity for couples who enjoy mixing adventure and exploration into their holiday. This guide will help you plan your honeymoon in the Philippines, with a focus on the best islands to visit, but also including advice on the best time to go, estimated costs and other useful information.
Best Time to Visit the Philippines
The Philippines has two main seasons: the rainy and the hot season. As their names suggest, you can expect heavy monsoon rains during the rainy season, and extremely warm and humid weather during the hot season. There are pros and cons to visiting the country in either of the two, but most people obviously prefer the hot season as it increases your chance of having clear skies and being able to enjoy the beaches.
The rainy season lasts between June and October. During those months you should expect heavy rainfall on a daily basis, and the chance of seeing the sun come out is quite slim. The biggest upside to visiting the country during this time is of course the prices. Most hotels and airlines offer discounted rates, which means you can cut you budget by at least 30% if you don’t mind risking a bit of rain. Fewer tourists at this time also mean the top sights will be less busy.
The hot season covers the rest of the year, with its peak being between February and May. While these months provide the perfect beach weather, it also means many locations become much more crowded and prices go up significantly. All in all, the absolute best time to visit the Philippines is between November and January when the rain has already stopped but the temperatures haven’t risen too high yet.
How Much Does it Cost
People usually visit the Philippines for 10-14 days and focus on 2-3 islands. Assuming you’d want to experience as much as possible, going out on an excursion every other day or so is recommended. There are enough activities to fill out all of your days, but that means you won’t have time to relax and enjoy the fantastic beaches, which would be a real shame!
For a mildly packed itinerary of 14 nights, the average cost of a Philippines trip would be somewhere around $1400 per person if staying at 4-star beach resorts. If you want to upgrade to 5 stars then prices vary quite a bit depending on the exact islands you choose to visit, but generally speaking you should expect to pay somewhere around $2500 per person for the whole trip.
How to Get Around
The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of approximately 7100 different islands. This makes moving around various locations quite complicated and somewhat expensive, as the most popular mode of transportation is flight. Some islands are close enough to one another that a ferry ride is sufficient, but in most cases these ferries are slow and taking an 8 hour (or even more!) boat ride doesn’t really fit well with the whole luxury honeymoon theme most people envision.
For that reason, you need to plan carefully and do proper research while building your itinerary. Alternatively, this might be one the rare cases where booking a honeymoon vacation package could actually be the most cost effective choice. Sure, you’d have to pay the agency a commission, but in return you can have a worry-free vacation and actually save a lot of money by having an expert organize a sensible itinerary for you.
When it comes to getting around on the islands themselves, the most popular mode of transportation is renting a motorbike. Most of the smaller islands don’t have taxis, so if you don’t want to rent a bike, you’ll have to ride a tricycle, which is like a local version of a tuk-tuk. Of course, you can always just ask your resort to organize a van or car pickup for you from the airport or pier instead.
How to Choose Between the Different Locations
As mentioned, there are literally thousands of different islands to choose from. When it comes to activities and attractions, while each has its own unique style, they are all surprisingly similar. Almost all islands offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy pristine sandy beaches, exciting island-hopping tours and world class diving spots, as well as a wide selection of natural landmarks such as lagoons, waterfalls and thick jungles.
So, instead of focusing on activities, the best way to approach choosing the right island is based on your standards of luxury and comfort. These should be measured against your desire for privacy and a romantic setting, as well as your preferred budget. The more developed and tourist-friendly an island is, the more tourists it has at any given moment and the prices go up accordingly as well.
Below, you can find a solid mix of suggestions that cover both options. The great thing about the Philippines is that no matter what you choose, it is never really a compromise! Even the most remote islands usually have at least a couple of luxury boutique resorts, and in the same vein the most crowded and popular destinations are still relatively quiet and peaceful, especially when compared to other nearby places such as Thailand or Bali for example.
Boracay – the Ultimate Beach Experience
Boracay is probably the most famous and surely the most popular tourist spot in the Philippines. It’s a very small island, which means it can also feel quite crowded very easily, especially if you visit during the high season or a local holiday. On the plus side, it is also the most developed location in the country and the perfect choice for those in search of luxury and comfort.
With more than 500 different hotels and resorts, there’s absolutely no problem finding one that fits your tastes. The main attraction in Boracay is White Beach – a long stretch of pure white sand which is often hailed as one of the best beaches in the world. White beach is also where most resorts are located. The beach is divided into 3 different areas, called “stations”. Station 1 has the widest beach area and is generally less crowded, so that’s where you’d find most of the luxury resorts.
If you want to get away from the crowds consider booking a boutique resort at station 3 instead. Station 3 has the narrowest beach and attracts mostly backpackers due to the lower prices it offers, but there are a couple of really nice romantic resorts over there as well. It’s only 15 minutes’ walk away from the nice beach of station 1. Out of the resorts in Station 3, Villa Caemilla is by far the best one, and in fact it has a higher rating than most luxury resorts on station 1 do!
When it comes to activities, Boracay is admittedly quite lacking. Just like any other island in the Philippines, you can book diving sessions here, as well as embark on island hopping tours. However, these tours in Boracay are much less exciting than similar ones on other islands. Instead, it is best to spend your time in Boracay just enjoying the beach and going out for a drink or two at night.
Cebu and Nearby Islands
The island of Cebu is not only one of the largest and most important islands in the Philippines, but also a gateway to many smaller, fantastic islands nearby. Cebu island itself has many attractions and activities, and it’s definitely worth it to spend at least 2 or 3 nights in a Cebu hotel before heading out to the smaller islands around it.
When staying in Cebu island, the most logical choice is to sleep in Cebu City. This is the 2nd largest city in the Philippines, right behind the capital Manila, and is very well developed and tourist friendly. If staying in a city environment isn’t to your liking, then you can also book a resort at the nearby Mactan island. While Mactan is mostly a family vacation preference, there are a handful of very nice luxury resorts that are better suited to couples as well.
The most exciting adventure in Cebu island is the canyoneering to the Kawasan Falls. In fact, when you read the reviews you see that most people say this was the best time they had during their entire vacation – even better than the famous lagoons of Palawan! This tour consists of a 3-4 hour trek downstream, and includes rappelling, swimming and cliff jumps. The difficulty level is low to moderate and even children above the age of 10 can do it. The hike ends at the Kawasan Falls which are one of the most impressive ones the Philippines has to offer.
Another thing Cebu is famous for is diving. Located right at the heart of the coral triangle, it has the largest marine biodiversity ever surveyed anywhere in the world. You can drive for 2 hours and reach the sleepy beach town of Moalboal, where you can dive among the shoal of millions of sardines, or you can spend a couple of nights at the island of Malapascua – where diving with thresher sharks is the main highlight. It’s worth mentioning Malapscua is also one of the most peaceful locations there is, and it’s also home to a few boutique yoga retreat such as Ocean Vida – so it can be a great choice for a romantic getaway.
Another fantastic nearby island is Bohol, famous for it’s Chocolate Hills, a vast area with over 1,000 rounded mounds that turn brown during the dry season. This place combines the amazing beaches of Boracay with the exhilarating adventures found in Cebu. You’ll need to take a 2 hours ferry ride from Cebu City to get there, so it can also be done as a day tour – but spending a couple of nights in Bohol is much better!
The downside to Bohol is that hotels are quite expensive, especially high-end ones. You’d want to stay in Alona Beach if possible, as that’s the best beach on the island and also where almost all of the bars and restaurants are located. From there, you can explore the vast selection of marine based activities Bohol excels at – with diving and snorkelling being the most exciting ones. Bohol is the place you should go to if swimming next to dolphins and sea turtles sound like your idea of fun.
Donsol – Volcanoes and Whales
There are numerous places all over the world that offer incredible whale watching experiences, from the Galapagos Islands and the southern coast of Sri Lanka, to Canada and Iceland. Yet here at Donsol you can take it a step further. If you are lucky enough to catch one of the many whale sharks that frequent this area, you’ll be able to actually swim next to them, and dive or snorkel around them. Whale sharks are called “the gentle giants” for a reason – swimming in their presence is perfectly safe and there’s absolutely no reason for concern! If you do decide to go diving with whale sharks, it’s worth investing in an underwater camera as this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Another fantastic attraction which is often combined with the whale shark experience is hiking to Mt. Mayon – one of the most beautiful and impressive active volcanoes in the world. Reaching its summit and coming back actually requires 3 full days and 2 nights of outdoors camping, but shorter single day hikes are also available.
The only problem with Donsol is the fact it’s very far from anywhere else and it’s not so simple to incorporate into any type of short itinerary. Additionally, this area of the country is far less developed – be prepared to sleep at modest resorts as there’s no real luxury there. For these reasons, visiting Donsol is only recommended if it’s not your first time in the Philippines or if you really feel like you can’t pass up on the opportunity of swimming with whales.
Palawan – the Best Island in the World!
Whenever one of the few prestigious travel magazines publish their list of “top 100 islands”, Palawan seems to nab one of the top 3 spots. The reason for that isn’t just the sheer beauty it offers, but also the amazingly wide selection of different activities and locations you can choose from. Palawan is a very big island, and it offers something extraordinary for any type of traveller.
When it comes to romantic vacations, the most popular place to visit is undoubtedly El Nido town. This small beach town is famous for its breath taking lagoons, as well as an endless number of smaller islands and hidden beaches. You can rent a private speedboat, go to a remote beach where you’ll be all on your own, and truly feel like you are in paradise.
Another reason why El Nido is so popular among honeymooners is the fact it is home to some of the most amazing private island resorts. If you were considering the Maldives for your honeymoon but the prices scared you off, here you can find the same type of resorts for only a third of the price! Does your idea of a perfect honeymoon consist of staying at an all-inclusive luxury resort? If so, El Nido should be the first place you visit – there are plenty of El Nido hotels to choose from.
For those of you who want to mix in some more adventure and excitement into their Palawan experience, adding Coron into the mix is a great idea. You’ll need to take a 4 hours ferry from El Nido to get there, but it is well worth it. The nature and scenery in Coron easily match El Nido’s and in fact Coron is often hailed as the most beautiful place in the Philippines.
While slightly less developed than El Nido, Coron still has plenty of luxury and boutique resorts for you to choose from. Prices are generally lower, although the private island resort here is actually more expensive because it’s the only one, as opposed to El Nido where you can choose from 5 different resorts. In terms of activities, Coron offers the same type of adventures as El Nido does, with the lagoons and hidden lakes being a particular highlight. On top of that, Coron is also considered a world class diving destination – with some of the best wreck diving spots anywhere on the globe.
Have you enjoyed a holiday or honeymoon in the Philippines? Share your tips with us below.