One Month In The Philippines

One Month In The Philippines

Four weeks of sun-kissed skin, dazzling blue waters, intrepid adventures and friendly locals.

 

BORACAY

2-3 DAYS

Getting There: Fly into Caticlan Airport, you will most likey require a stop over at Manila or Cebu. Boracay is a great first stop in the Philippines – everything designed with the tourist in mind. You wont find yourself short of tuk-tuk’s to take you to the Boracay Jetty, don’t pay more that 150PHP. Once here the check in process is smooth – just make sure you have proof of accomodation! A short and sweet ferry ride will deliver you to Boarcays‘ doorstep.

Day one: Swim in the alluring blue waters of White Beach, eat until your heart is content, drink a little too much (hello hangover) and dance the night away – repeat this for days 2 & 3! 

Boracay has eateries and bars densely scattered along the waterfront of White Beach. There are plenty of vendors trying to sell you tourist activities, but to be honest I would avoid it in Boracay; it’s pricey compared to the rest of the Philippines and more epic adventures await on the other islands.

Great coffee and great vibes from Sunny Side Cafe. If you’re after a flavour-full Mexican Fiesta try Tres Amigos. Finish up with a delicious coconut based ice-cream from Coco Nanas. Most of the bars along White Beach have happy hour deals – so definitely capitalise on this.

The options are endless for accomodation on Boracay, there truely is something to suit everyone.  For a more luxury hotel service try The Summer Palace Lovely staff and great location! The Mad Monkey Hostel on Bulabog Beach – if you’re not planning on sleeping. Seriously comfortable rooms and super clean hostel. If you’re all about location, location, location, check out the Sundown Resort. This resort sits at Station 3 which means less crowds and more beach to yourself. 

 

 

MOALBOAL

2-3 DAYS

Getting There: Fly into Cebu City airport, here you will get your first real taste of a Pilipino city. It’s busy and chaotic. If you came to escape the hustle and bustle, hop on a bus from the South Station (not in the airport terminal); and for 150PHP you can find yourself in Moalboal. If you’re tired and not feeling that thrilled about a 5 hour, no air-con bus ride –  get a Grab taxi and split it between 4 people. Significantly more at 700PHP, but hey we like our air-con and we got there in 3 hours. 

Day one: I can’t recommend Savedra Villas enough. Right on the water’s edge and in the middle of town. For NZ$43 you can have your own double private room with a balcony. So check yourself in, grab a San Miguel from the mini bar and enjoy the view. 

Day Two: We spent more time under the water than on land. Grab a snorkel or book a scuba dive and away you go. Activate your inner mermaid (or man) to spot countless turtles, sardines and other marine life in abundance.

Day Three: Visit the renowned Kawasan Falls! Yes, it’s busy but such an amazing experience. You must have a guide to go canyoneering, which can be easily sourced from Moalboal town centre. Go in the early morning to avoid the crowds. 

SIARGAO

5 DAYS

You will not regret the extra travel to this island! Fly from Cebu City to the only airport in Siargao. Your won’t find it hard to get a taxi from here to General Luna.

Day One: Check in to Bravo Resort, a stunning beach front resort with great rooms, tours and a restaurant. This resort has a great location right in the middle of General Luna.

Day Two: Surf safari! Siargao has an amazing nightlife scene so no better way to get rid of a hangover than hitting the waves. Get in touch with the office at Bravo and get either a lesson or rent a board. The locals know the best spots and best tides – so ask away.

Day Three: Hop on a boat tour from Bravo Resort. Check out the jaw-dropping neighbouring islands with a fantastic guide from Bravo. Enjoy a delicious meal on one of the Islands; of course rum & coke is included. 

Day Four: Magpopongko Rock Pools, rent a scooter or hire a van and head to these awesome pools. Infatuating crystal blue water fills the creavases of the pools; watch the surf roll in from the comfort of your own infinity pool! Make sure you visit on low tide. On your way you’ll get to see the “Million Dollar View” and other stunning spots around Siargao.

Day Five: Surf some more and enjoy your last day in this island paradise! If you’re not adventured out book a tour or rent a scooter and check out the Scuba Lagoon. Rum and cokes got the best of us, so we wrote this adventure off –  bear in mind it is a whole day mission to make it to this spot. 

EL NIDO

5 DAYS

Catch a flight from Siargao to Puerto Princesa. There are flights which go directly to El Nido, but these triple in price. Puerto Princesa is a gorgeous sea-side town – why wouldn’t you want a stop over here!.

Day One: Make a bee-line for Puerto Princesa Boulevard and join in on local festivities. We arrived on a weekend so there was a colourful market in full action. Don’t forget to check out the op-shops in town – I made some outstanding purchases for less than 70PHP. 

Day Two: Book a van to El Nido, this can be booked through your accomodation (most places will offer this). Prepare yourself for 6 hours of driving! The scenic drive helps you pass time. Check into Outpost Hostel if you’re up for a bit of party combined with stunning views. 

Day Three: Boat tour time! We did a combination tour of tour C & D which we loved. It is a bit overwhelmed deciding which one to do – they all see some pristine islands. Two tours combined was definitely enough for us. You won’t have trouble booking these, majority of accomodation and street stalls will provide them. 

Day Four: Hangover recovery! There is some great nightlife in El Nido which can make for sore heads the next morning. Spend the morning basking in the sun, rent some kayaks from Outpost Hostel and sweat out the alcohol voyaging to near-by islands. 

Day Five: Give yourself a day to explore El Nido town and surroundings. The town itself has epic views of the islands nearby – pretty hard to tire of! Great food options and the nicest shopping I had spotted in the Islands. Note of caution: many people catch food posioning in El Nido so be a little careful of what you’re eating. 

 

The Best Kitesurfing Spots in the Philippines

The Best Kitesurfing Spots in the Philippines

Consistent wind, turquoise blue waters, friendly locals and plenty of authentic experiences, are just a few of the many reasons the Philippines should be on your kitesurfing holiday bucket list.

There are two windy seasons in the Philippines. One called Amihan (northeastern monsoon), which runs from November to March. There is another windy season called Hagabat (southwestern monsoon) which makes an appearance between the months of May to October. The former is known to be more unpredictable and inconsistent, therefore I would recommend traveling between the months of November to March.

1) Bislig Beach, Mindoro.

Our first kitesurfing stop set remarkably high standards for the rest of the trip. The quaint Bislig Beach is situated 1 hour 30 minutes away from the St Jose Terminal in Mindoro. This is an easily accessible slice of paradise, located a mere 30-minute plane ride from the hub of Manila. We stayed with the team at Amansinaya Resort who arranged for a taxi to come to pick us up. This is pretty much the only accommodation option if you want to kitesurf Bislig Beach.

On arrival we experienced a wee bit of sensory overload – beautiful bungalows lined the property, rows of palm trees neatly surrounded the beach front and of course, there was wind; lots of wind. A 10-second walk to the beach in the morning will determine the urgency of your need to hastily arise from slumber to kite, or return back to bed. The beach is protected by a small reef which flattens out the windblown ocean. Due to Amansinaya Resort only having limited spaces, you’ll never find the kite beach overcrowded.

We managed to get on the water 8 out of the 9 days we stayed there – pretty good statistics considering we visited in November (the start of the season). We found our quiver size ideal, one 9m and one 12m . In the midst of the season, you may want to consider something slightly smaller, dependent on your weight of course.

I can’t recommend this place enough, the raw beauty of Mindoro conveys an extremely pure vibe to it – definitely something you wont find in other tourist hotspots such as Boracay and Palawan. There are plenty of non-kiting activities should you find yourself kited-out; these include pristine waterfalls, free-diving, sunset watching at a local village and exploring the neighbouring towns.

2) Aslom Island

Located just a short boat ride away from Bislig beach, Aslom is a must if you’re visiting Amansinaya Resort . 

After a 15-minute boat ride, questioning whether I’d need to get out and swim, due to the suspiciously unstable nature of the narrow boat – my fears were adverted and we arrived dry.

A small sand spit extends out one side of the island to offer butter flat water. We kited the day away, taking turns to rest on the sand bar – this way there was flat water for all. Local kids were joyed with our presence and we even halted the work of nearby fishermen.

The kitesurfing here is pretty sensational, but the experience in its-self sure contributed to the high levels of stoke after kiting this spot.

3) Sugicay Island

Another spot we experienced thanks to the help of Amansinaya Resort. A short downwinder from this picturesque island led us back to the main kite beach at Bislig Beach. This secluded island is enveloped by crystal clear water and is home to a sleepy village.

4) Boracay

This wouldn’t be a post about kitesurfing Philippines without the mention of the infamous Boracay. The island is well renowned for being a kitesurfing mecca. To be perfectly honest I didn’t have high expectations, due to horror stories of 300+ kiters in the bay. However, I was left pleasantly surprised; the kite beach wasn’t overcrowded, relatively clean and the wind was consistent.

With an array of dining options you won’t find yourself going hungry. The Island is well known for the nightlife too, so if this is your cup of tea certainly pay a visit. We stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel which is close to the kite beach and certainly lives up to it’s social reputation.

5) Caticlan

Caticlan is a quick transit point for many on their way to Boracay, the ferry is located seaside, in this vibrant town. While most only spend a total of a few hours in Caticlan – we decided to unfollow the sheep to Boracay and spend a few nights. This was well worth it.

We stayed at Blue Orange Kite Villas right on the lagoon’s edge, one that’ll make you drool. Not quite the butter-flat of Boarcay but it makes up for this in lack of crowds and minimal sea-urchins inhabiting the sea-floor.

The contrast between the two islands is remarkable, in Caticlan, not another tourist remains in sight. We went to explore further into the region and discovered some pretty spectacular sights.

6) Siargao

What an island! Although the wind here is pretty fickle you can definitely keep yourself occupied with some world-class surfing if the wind doesn’t pull through. I wouldn’t recommend going here if you’re solely looking to kite, nevertheless this was one of my favourite islands on my trip.

Getting to Siargao can be tricky but is well worth the effort. It is easily accesible from Cebu (arond 30 minsute flight) other options are some rather lengthy ferry journyes.

It is important to note the rainy season is different in Siargao . Between the months of December to March is the supposed “rainy season”. We visited in December which definitely wasn’t rainy at all. I have heard stories of people getting stuck here due to poor weather, but I wouldn’t let this effect your decision too much.

Gatorade blue water fills the epic lagoon, while waves break around the outer edge. This sensational flatwater spot is a dream when the wind works. Unfortunately, there was only one possible kitesurfing day out of the week we stayed there. A few kite schools line the beachfront making renting of gear feasible.

Other Kite Spots in the Philippines

There is an oasis of untouched islands in the Philippines, many I’m sure are kiteable. Unless you’re spending a year here it’s impossible to make it to all these spots, but I’ve compiled a list of pretty rad looking kite spots I will be back to check out someday.

Cuyo Island

This place is relatively out of the way, but check out the huge sandspit and you’ll instantly be seduced. Have a look at this site which has a range of accommodation options.

Kingfisher Point

This place received glowing reviews from multiple kiters on our trip. Definitely one to look into if you enjoy wave kiting. In saying this there is flat water kiting before the edge of the reef – everyone wins! The travel of this place did put me off, it sits at the northern most point of the Philippines. Google maps says an 11 hour drive, but would recommend doubling this with traffic and limited transport options!

El Nido

I did visit El Nido but didn’t manage to go kiting here. The wind didn’t really seem worth it. There are some pretty amazing looking spots here though, about 1-2hours away from the tourist hub of the west side beaches.

Travelling and kitesurfing the Philippines was a pretty surreal experience. The diversity between the mecca of islands felt like we were travelling through different countries, not the same, yet Philipino culture still managed to intertwine itself across the 7000 plus islands. I will be back Philippines!

Things to do on Carabao Island

Things to do on Carabao Island

Carabao Island sits a mere 30minute boat ride from the tourist hub of Boracay. The contrast is stark between the two sister islands; on one hand, Boracay is packed to the brim with travelers, on Carabao you’ll struggle to find another tourist in sight. Whilst Boracay is beautiful, the serenity and authenticity of Carabao island make it a sure winner if you wish to unwind without the crowds. If you’re up for an adventure check out this list of must-do’s whilst exploring Carabao island.

 

Getting to Carabao Island 

While close in proximity to Boracay, the new regulations mean that there is a limited number of boats that can go directly from Boracay to Carabao. Your best option is to get a boat or ferry from Caticlan to Carabao. The first ferry leaves the Caticlan port around 8-9am daily and will cost you150php (but be sure to confirm this with your accommodation). We ended up catching a private boat organized by our accommodation Lanas beach resort. There are two ferry’s that make the trip from Carabao to Caticlan one at 6am and one at 9am.

 

Cathedral Cove Cliff Diving

This one sits at the top of the list for a reason. Get ready to be awestruck with handcrafted cliff jumps which lean out over dazzling blue water. The attraction sits at cliff’s edge with multiple height options – so there’s fun to be had by everyone. A small entrance fee of 100php will grant you access to the spot for however long you desire.

Cathedral Cove Caves 

For no extra cost, you can take a short guided tour through the underground caves and small pools. After crawling through gaps and clambering over rocks, you’ll reach a small inlet of water where you can take a dip and feel like a true mermaid! The lovely tour guides will provide you with helmets and carry any bags you wish to take.

Tan-agan Beach

The beautiful beach sits on the East side of the island, which is about a 30-minute scooter from where the main tourist resorts are. The gnarly factor of the roads are extremely high, there is an option to take a guide with you – which I would probably recommend if you’re not a confident scooter driver. The humble beach is sheltered by palm trees and has its own bar and restaurant, a great excuse to venture to the other side of the island and check out daily life.

The Lookout Point

Hard to miss if you’re heading from the resorts into the main town, this beautiful vantage point allows you to view the palm tree oasis below. The perfect spot for a snack or a rest if you’re on your way to explore the rest of the island.

Catch the Sunset 

Extremely achievable if you’re staying in one of the few beachfront resorts, yet it never fails to impress. Grab a drink and relax as the sun signs off for the day. We stayed at Lana’s Beach resort which we all found really enjoyable, the resort was beachfront meaning we could savor our beers whilst watching the beautiful sunset.

Carabao Island gives a true taste of authentic filipinio lifestyle that Boarcay will never be able to offer. So if you’re planning to head to Boracay definitely add Carabao to your travel list; easily acessible and will give you a true taste of the Philippines.

Five Adventurous Things to do in Southern Mindoro

Five Adventurous Things to do in Southern Mindoro

If Mindoro isn’t on your bucket list it should be. Forget the congested beaches of Boracay, and overflowing tour boats of Palawan. If you’re after a truly authentic experience; one where hoards of local children excitedly greet you into their village, you’re the only group at a pristine waterfall and dodging rice collections drying out on the roads becomes a part of the daily routine – Mindoro is the destination for you.

Just a short 40-minute plane ride from the hustle and bustle of Manila brings you to San Jose, Mindoro’s only airport. We headed to Mindoro with kitesurfing intentions so went straight to Bislig Beach to stay at Amansinaya Resort. From the quaint San Jose terminal, a one-hour 30-minute drive will lead you to kiters paradise. Whilst our main intentions were to kitesurf, there are plenty of other non-kiting options.

Even if you’ve never touched a kite before Bislig Beach would sure be a memorable way to learn – just remember booties! The small bay is crystal clear with constant wind from November to February. We visited in early November and kited 7 out of 8 days, around 18 knots blows through each day. It’s not butter flat but the surrounding reef smooths out the windblown ocean. Whilst the kiting is great, the atmosphere makes it even better. Idyllic bungalows sit on the edge of the property and rows of palm trees form perfect lines on the beach. The welcoming environment of the team at Amanisnaya has guaranteed we will return for another trip. A note of caution; stay away from the shoreline where spiky bushes and palm trees linger, ready to destroy your kite.

Drone shot of Bislig Beach

There are so many unspoiled islands to discover in Mindoro, Aslom is just one of them. A sand spit protrudes out of land lathered with palm trees. The most heavenly gradient of blues colour the water around the island – not a single other tourist in sight. We went here for kitesurfing which offered butter flat water on the offshore sand spit. To reach it you’ll have to catch a boat from one of the local fishing villages which will cost you around 100php, depending on numbers. Excited Filipino children came out to watch us kiting, and we even halted the work of local fishermen.

This is one from the postcards; white sand beaches and alluring blue waters. We only passed through here quickly on our way to a kiting downwinder, but we could have easily stayed much longer. The island is far bigger than that of Aslom, and is home to a sleepy village. Like most places in the Philippines, there is an entrance fee if you wish to stay the day, around 100php. Don’t forget your snorkel, the marine life here is plentiful.

 

Again, dazzling blue waters. Noticing a theme here? We packed the standup paddleboards and snorkels for a relaxing day in the sun. We caught a fishing boat from Balatasan – a 15-minute boat ride later and we arrived at the marine life sanctuary. The action is all under the water here; coral reefs, giant blue starfish, colourful fish, and even a bandit sea snake sighting – their mouths are so small they can only bite the thinnest points of your body! You can enter the island by foot too, again a 60php entrance fee. There is a small resort here where you can enjoy an ice cold beer. There is also an option for a jungle walk, but we were too content with our beers and beach huts to do so.

 

Whilst a little bit tricky to find, this waterfall is perfect for those scorching hot days. Follow the road past the hospital until you reach a very easy to miss sign on your right, proceed to the path through the village where you will pay a 50php entrance fee. From here, a scenic walk through rice fields and a crossing of a slightly dodgy bridge will lead you to the falls. The rock formation means footholds are conveniently placed for you to climb the waterfall and jump from the top. You can also continue up the river into a jungle oasis where you will find more pools and falls.

These options are barely scratching the surface of what Mindoro has to offer. There are other activities such as hiking Mount Baco and Pandan island, we just didn’t get the chance to do them. A fast ferry has been put in place which means a three-hour ride to Boracay is on the cards. Coron is a little harder to get to, but plans are in place to set up a fast ferry there too. Currently, the ferry’s run every second day from San Jose which will take over 5hrs. Its proximity to Manila and ease of access to places like Boracay could make Mindoro one to add to your travel plans. Check out the Crazy Tourists posts for things to do in Northen Mindoro.

Is Boracay Worth the Hype? An Honest Opinion

Is Boracay Worth the Hype? An Honest Opinion

Maybe I’m one of few to say this but my friends and I entered Boracay with rather low expectations. I’ve heard horror stories of overcrowded beaches, rubbish, algae and the one that haunted me the most – around 300 kitesurfers in the relatively small Bulabog Beach. Despite all this, I wanted to go see what all the fuss is about. We made the journey in Nov’18 after Boracay reopened and were left pleasantly surprised. Yes, there are still plenty of people around the main stations. Yes, the island looks as though it’s been hit with a natural disaster due to construction. But, it is easy to see why so many people return time and time again.

So should you add Boracay to your Philippines itinerary? It’s the perfect destination to relax, as long as you’re willing to share the beach with many others. The food options are endless and the mesmerizing blue waters of White Beach become difficult to tire of. Adventurous folk may get restless as there isn’t a lot to do aside from eating, sleeping and drinking until your heart is content – unless you’re brave enough to give into one of the many hecklers offering overpriced boat tours. We eased our need for physicality by kitesurfing Bulabog Beach. The season runs from November to March, so don’t be afraid to sign your life away to one of the many kitesurfing schools.

Beyond Station 3

Empty Boracay, a bit of a juxtaposition.

White Beach at golden hour

Beers with a view

Coconut and mango ice cream

You definitely won’t find yourself short of accommodation options on Boracay – just remember in order to enter the island your booking must be from an accredited list you can find here. We stayed at the Summer Palace one night which was on the expensive side, although for a good reason. Smiley staff, air-conditioned rooms, and a luscious pool made our stay extremely comfortable. It was not beachfront but in the midst of all the action around Station 2. We checked out the Sundown Resort which was around 2000 php a night, waterfront at Station 3. The room wasn’t amazing but the location sure made up for it. We also found it far less crowded around Station 3, something to take into account when booking. Last but not least we spent a few nights at the Mad Monkey Hostel, definitely not one for the introvert! If you’re after a party scene you will be sure to find it here. The hostel is also located within walking distance to Bulabog Beach.

Getting to Boracay is relatively easy as it’s sole purpose is a tourist destination. Make your way to Caticlan either by plane or ferry, from here just about every tricycle and van will offer you a ride to the jetty port.  Follow the hoard of other holidaymakers onto the boats from the Jetty – the ride is approximately 15 minutes to Boracay, this will empty your pockets about 100php.

Overall, Boracay is definitely worth a visit. Whilst maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, the beautiful white beaches, infatuating blue waters, and hustling, bustling vibe are hard to resist. If you’re on a schedule, I probably wouldn’t recommend more than one week here, as the Philippines has so much more to offer.