The Philippines is often overlooked by many traveling to Southeast Asia (largely because it’s outside of the traditional backpacker trail). But, as someone who grew up there and traveled extensively all over the country, let me be the first to tell you… it’s amazing.
With over 7,000 beautiful islands, nailing down the perfect 10-day Philippines itinerary can be tricky. Luckily, I’ve done all the hard work and put together an epic 10-day adventure using my personal knowledge and experience.
Table of Contents
- Day 1: Manila
- Day 2: El Nido
- Day 3: El Nido
- Day 4 + 5: Coron
- Day 6 + 7: Moalboal, Cebu
- Day 8 + 9: Boracay
- Day 10: Manila
- Final thoughts:
10 days is just about enough time to see some of the Philippines’ top sights, but you’ll be doing a lot of flying between destinations and you may have to take the occasional bus or ferry. This itinerary is also very beach orientated, but hey, with some of the best beaches in the world, can you blame me?
Day 1: Manila
For this itinerary, I’m going to assume that you’ve flown into Manila International Airport (NAIA). If you’re planning on flying into Cebu, this itinerary will still work, just substitute Cebu for Manila on your first and final day, and note that the flight times will be slightly different.
You’ve probably flown a long way and are quite tired, so you’ve got one night in Manila to relax, but, you can always head straight out to El Nido, your next destination if you wanna skip the city slog!
The traffic in Manila is notoriously bad, so you can choose to stay near the airport, or head into Makati, metro Manila’s economic hub. The best way to travel around big cities in the Philippines is to use Grab (similar to Uber). You can download the app before you arrive, or use a Grab stand at the airport.
If you do head into Makati, opt to take the NAIA Expressway when your taxi/Grab driver asks. It costs less than 100PHP, and you’ll save loads of time. Today is mostly for downtime, so I’d recommend grabbing some food and just relaxing.
What to do and see in Manila?
Manila isn’t really known as a huge tourist destination and it’s seen by many as more of a layover destination. However, if you’ve arrived quite early, I’ve got a couple of suggestions on what you could do, again, just bear in mind the awful traffic…
- Fort Santiago, Intramuros – a historic citadel that dates back to 1571 and a reminder of the Philippines’ colonial past.
- Ayala Museum, Makati – hands down my favourite museum in the Philippines and a great place to learn about the archipelago’s beautiful culture (the Gold Exhibit is particularly incredible, showcasing pre-colonial era gold artefacts).
Where to eat in Manila?
As the country’s thriving hub, Manila is a great foodie destination. You’ll find everything from cool cafes serving up freshly-baked pastries to high-end restaurants with gourmet cuisine. Here are my personal favourites when I’m in Manila:
- The Grid, Powerplant Mall – I eat at The Grid at any chance I get. It’s an upmarket food hall, with everything from ramen to tacos (get the ramen).
- Manam, Greenbelt 2 – Filipino food definitely gets a bad rap, but if you’re ready to expand your taste buds, head to Manam in Greenbelt 2. You’ll find classic Filipino comfort food as well as dishes with a twist. My all-time Filipino favourties are tortang talong, kare kare, sinigang, and sisig.
- Jollibee – With chains popping up globally, you might even have a Jollibee near you, but nothing beats the real thing. Two-piece chicken joy with rice and gravy, I’ll say no more…
Where to stay in Manila?
- $$$ – Discovery Primea – my go-to when I’m feeling like a little luxury (watching TV in the bath? Yes please!).
- $$ – Jinjiang Inn
- $ – Z Hostel
Day 2: El Nido
Travel time: Flight – 1h 25m
It’s time to leave the busy streets of Manila and make your way to the island paradise of El Nido in Palawan. The flight takes around one hour and 25 minutes, and when you arrive, it’s a short tuk-tuk (or tricycle in the Philippines) ride to El Nido Beach or Corong Corong Beach, where you’ll find restaurants, bars, and plenty of places to stay.
Since all the tours leave at 8 am, you’ll probably have no time for a tour today, but you can still get some beach time after checking into your hotel.
What to do and see in El Nido?
Rent a scooter to get around, or if you don’t have a driving license/aren’t confident driving there are plenty of tricycles milling around ready to take you where you need to go! Here’s what I recommend for today:
- Nacpan Beach – a gorgeous 4km stretch of sand lined by palm trees.
- Las Cabañas Beach – a fantastic beach to watch the sunset with views of neighboring islands.
Where to eat in El Nido?
- Tahan – This is a great little vegan place tucked away in the town (although it feels like you could be in the jungle). It’s got some serious tree-house vibes and the food is delicious! Currently (October 2022) it’s only available by reservation only, you can find their contact details here.
- Happiness Beach Bar – A really cool place for healthy meals and cocktails (make sure to take advantage of happy hour).
Where to stay in El Nido?
- $$$ – Maligaya Beach Bungalows
- $$ – Sampaguita Villa – I absolutely loved staying here last time I was in El Nido (we were a group of four). It’s a little out of the way, but if you want a quiet base then it’s fantastic. Just be aware that the second bedroom is a loft, so it can get a bit cramped if you’re a tall person! However, it’s definitely #instaworthy.
- $ – Happiness Hostel
Day 3: El Nido
Today’s the day to hop on one of the infamous El Nido tours. There are four to choose from (more on that below), and as I mentioned earlier they all depart at 8 am, usually from Corong-Corong Beach returning at 4 pm. So, it’s a pretty full day. It’s probably better to arrange the tour the day before to make sure there’s space.
You can take group tours or private tours, and they all include a delicious buffet lunch usually consisting of grilled seafood, pork, rice, fruits, and Filipino eggplant salad.
What to do and see in El Nido?
You only have time for one tour during this short 10-day Philippines trip, so choose wisely.
- Tour A – The most popular tour, stopping at Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach.
- Tour B – Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave, and a snorkeling spot.
- Tour C – The second most popular tour, stopping at Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Talisay Beach, and Hidden Beach.
- Tour D – My personal favorite (and normally one of the least crowded tours), stopping at Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Island, Natnat Island, and Bukal Beach.
Where to eat in El Nido?
- Bella Vita El Nido – If you’re craving authentic Italian food right on the beach, then this is your spot.
- Sunset at Las Cabañas – Head here for a killer sunset view and some cocktails.
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Day 4 + 5: Coron
Travel time: Flight – 1h 45m or ferry – 3h 30m
On day four you’ll either be hopping on a flight or ferry to another one of Palawan’s gorgeous islands, Coron. You’ll probably recognize Coron’s azure-blue waters and hidden limestone lagoons from social media, which helped to introduce this idyllic spot to the masses.
What to do and see in Coron?
Aside from its mystical lagoons, Coron is well known for scuba diving, more specifically, its wreck diving. If you’re an avid diver, then I recommend diving on the same day you arrive (day 4), to make sure you have at least a 12-hour preflight surface interval before flying to Cebu on day 6.
Unlike El Nido, there are numerous tours and tour operators in Coron, so I’d recommend picking one that includes the attractions you want to see most. Most tours last around 8 hours (or more) and include a buffet lunch. Here are my top attractions and recommendations for Coron:
- Kayangan Lake – Undoubtedly Coron’s most famous attraction, and dubbed the ‘cleanest lake in Asia’.
- Barracuda Lake – Another lake with astounding blue waters, Barracuda Lake is still highly popular, but tends to be less crowded than Kayangan Lake.
- Twin Lagoon – A gorgeous spot and another good choice if you want somewhere a little less crowded than Kayangan Lake.
- Snorkelling at Skeleton Wreck – This is a great choice for someone who wants to see one of Coron’s infamous wrecks, but doesn’t have diving experience. The wreck is relatively shallow, and good visibility means you should be able to see its ghostly remains.
Scuba Diving at one of the ‘Big 6’ Wrecks – These are known as the best wrecks in Coron, although there are countless other wrecks to choose from. The ‘Big 6’ are: Akitsushima (seaplane), Irako, Kogyo Maru (cargo vessel), Olympia Maru (freighter), Okikawa Maru (oiler), and a Japanese Freighter without a name.
Where to eat in Coron?
- Pacifico Coron – Head here for a classic burger and fries washed down with some local craft beers. They also have lots of vegetarian options.
- Trattoria Altrove – Brick-oven pizza and pasta dishes.
- Sakura Ramen – Best place to get some ramen if (like me) you need to eat Japanese food on a regular basis.
Where to stay in Coron?
- $$$ – Paolyn Houseboats Coron Island – Not a 5-star hotel by any means, but the location is unbeatable.
- $$ – Kokosnuss Garden Resort
- $ – Dayon Hostel
Day 6 + 7: Moalboal, Cebu
Travel time: Flight – 1h 40m and bus/van – 3h
It’s time to leave Palawan and fly over to Cebu, where you’ll be spending a couple of days in Moalboal. Moalboal is a chilled-out coastal town known for its sardine run, diving (scuba diving and freediving), plus its proximity to Kawasan Falls.
What to do and see in Moalboal?
Once again (like so many destinations in the Philippines) Moalboal is a good diving spot, so if you plan to do some diving, try to do it on the day you arrive. Otherwise, book your flights accordingly. Here are my top things to do in Moalboal and nearby:
- Snorkeling with the sardines off Panagsama Beach – Known as the ‘sardine run’ this natural phenomenon results in thousands of shimmering sardines gathering just off the shore (it’s honestly incredible). Best seen from November to May.
- Scuba diving/freediving off Pescador Island
- Canyoneering in Kawasan Falls – Note: Kawasan Falls was heavily damaged by a typhoon in 2021, and as far as I know the waterfall is still closed (October 2022). However, canyoneering is still possible, and a good way to experience the aqua waters of the area.
You may have heard of whale shark tours in Oslob, Cebu, or seen them on social media. I do not recommend this as it’s a highly unethical practice that results in harm to the whale sharks. You can read all about it here on LAMAVE’s (an NGO doing research in the area) website.
Where to eat in Moalboal?
- Venz’s Kitchen – A great place to try some local Filipino dishes with options for vegans.
- Hungry Monkeys – Head here for a mixture of Filipino and European dishes, plus nice sunset views from their balcony.
- Lola Tanciang’s Sutukil Seafood Paluto – Highly recommended for anyone craving seafood, with a blend of local and European seafood dishes.
Where to stay in Moalboal?
- $$$ – Dolphin House Resort
- $$ – Cebu Seaview Dive Resort
- $ – Cebu Seaview Dive Resort
Day 8 + 9: Boracay
Travel time: Van 3h and flight – 1h
For your last few days, you’ll be heading to Boracay, a world-renowned island. It got a bit of a bad rep in the last few years due to over-development and over-crowding, but a government-mandated closure in 2018 followed by the COVID-19 pandemic means that there’s no better time to visit the island than now (I went in 2021 and it was a dream).
Boracay is the ultimate luxury beach destination, with powdery white sand, turquoise blue waters, and lush palm trees. So, get ready for a couple of days chilling out on the beach, eating great food, and doing some watersports.
What to do and see in Boracay?
- Go kitesurfing on Balabog Beach –The kitesurfing season generally runs from November to March. It’s great because while Balabog Beach can get super windy, White Beach on the other side remains calm. You’ll find a few centres along Balabog Beach.
- Take a sunset cruise on a traditional sailboat – The sunsets on Boracay are legendary, and what better way to see them than from on the water?
- Walk along White Beach – White Beach is around 4km long, and it’s great walking along the beachfront looking for restaurants, bars, and cafes to pop into.
- Party it UP – The nightlife in Boracay is great, and you’ll find lively bars on White Beach (Epic and Exit Bar to name a couple).
Where to eat in Boracay?
One of my favorite things about Boracay is the blend of island life and ‘city’ comforts like great food and amazing accommodation. Here are my top places to eat:
- The Lemoni Cafe – Whether it’s for a coffee and a cake or a delicious breakfast, I adore the Lemoni Cafe and its central location in D’Mall a short walk from White Beach.
- Trattoria Stella – You’ll find Trattoria Stella near Diniwid Beach, one of the island’s quieter beaches. If you love authentic handmade pasta, this is the place to go.
- Cafe Maruja – Cafe Maruja is my top pick for a seriously instagrammable cafe with a hipster menu (think smoothie bowls and matcha lattes). It’s right on the beach with awesome outdoor seating under the palms.
Where to stay in Boracay?
- $$$ – Shangri-La
- $$ – Levantin Boracay – I stayed here for three weeks in 2021 and had the best time. It’s on Balabog Beach, so it feels more peaceful, but the hotel bar is lively with tourists and locals. The place is beautiful and the owners and staff are super nice.
- $ – Boracay Backpackers
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Day 10: Manila
Travel time: Flight – 1h 10m
Today you’re heading to Manila to catch your final flight home. If you’ve got a bit of time check back to my suggestions for day 1 and where I recommend staying if you have another night before your flight.
There’s no denying that the Philippines is a stunning country filled with beautiful scenery and wonderful people. While you could easily spend years traveling around the country (trust me, I have!), this 10-day itinerary covers what I think are the must-sees.
If you have any more suggestions to add about places to eat that you love or where to stay, feel free to drop us a comment below!
Traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out our itineraries for Cambodia and Thailand.