PHILIPPINES

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    IS EL NIDO ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE?

    When the reality doesn’t match the hype – if you’ve heard that El Nido is a paradise on Earth, you might just want to read this first

    3 HIDDEN GEMS TO TRY IN THE PHILIPPINES

    Avoid the crowds and try these three gems from The Philippines – they’re a challenge to get to, but that’s kind of the point

    THE MAGIC OF SIQUIJOR

    It’s not just the tales of witchcraft and shamanistic healing that makes Siquijor so special – why Siquijor is a must for your Philippines itinerary

    THE TURTLES OF APO ISLAND

    The crystal clear waters off Apo Island are a magnet for these beautiful creatures – and we were privileged to be able to swim with and observe them for two days

     

    WHERE WE’VE STAYED

     

    PANGLAO ISLAND

    Alona 42 Resort
    Alona 42, Panglao Island

    Alona 42 Resort

    Nights
    5

    Cost
    2050 pesos per night

    What that included
    Room only, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 3 Comfort 5 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    What could have been a bit of a disaster turned out fine in the end. We arrived there after a hellish journey to be told that we hadn’t confirmed our booking (we had) and that they were full. But they did have an apartment available, which we could have for the five days – which turned out to be excellent and twice the size of any of the normal rooms. It’s set back from the busy beach area which was something of a bonus as it meant we could get some decent sleep at night. No food available after breakfast.

    Website

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    TAMBOBO BAY

    Kookoo’s Nest
    Kookoo's Nest - Toko cottage to the right

    Kookoo’s Nest

    Nights
    4

    Cost
    1250 pesos per night

    What that included
    Room only, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 4 Food 4 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    6 beautifully crafted bamboo bungalows (the co-owner is a carpenter by trade) overlooking the beach. Ours was the Toko Room, built on top of a huge boulder between the jungle and the beach. Snorkelling on the gorgeous house reef was only marred slightly by the mediocre visibility, but the diving was good too. Not a place to stay if the thought of jungle and water animals wandering in and around your bungalow is an issue. We had a gecko, water monitor lizard and large hermit crab all pay us a visit, and they were just the wildlife we actually saw – we heard plenty more after lights out! Recommended.

    Website

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    APO ISLAND

    Liberty’s Community Lodge
    Liberty's Community Lodge

    Liberty’s Community Lodge

    Nights
    2

    Cost
    3150 pesos per night

    What that included
    Bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***1/2
    Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Comfortable, large room on the top floor, only spoiled by the loud noise all night from dogs and cockerels in the nearby village. Very much a back-packer feel to it but the service and food were good, and the diving package was great value.

    Website

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    SIQUIJOR

    Goldsky Seaview Guest House
    Goldsky Seaview Guest House

    Goldsky Seaview Guest House

    Nights
    4

    Cost
    950 pesos per night

    What that included
    Room only, air-con, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food n/a Value for money 5

    What we thought
    Great value and location – just off the beach and close to the excellent Baha Bar for meals and drinks. There was even an outdoor BBQ and kitchen facility although we didn’t use it.

    Facebook page

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    MOALBOAL

    Quo Vadis Dive Resort
    Quo Vadis Dive Resort

    Quo Vadis Dive Resort

    Nights
    3

    Cost
    1550 pesos per night

    What that included
    Room only, air-con, wifi

    Rating **1/2
    Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 3 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 3 Value for money 2

    What we thought
    We thought this place was pretty soulless, despite its beachfront setting and large dive shop. There didn’t seem to be any personal attention from the staff and we ended up using a different dive company who actually treated us as if we mattered to them.

    Website

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    PUERTO PRINCESA

    Green House
    Green House, Puerto Princesa

    Green House

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    1250 pesos per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 2 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Run by a lovely lady who picked us up from the airport, we loved it here for our one night stay. Our room was fairly basic but it was clean and comfortable and it’s obvious the owner really cares.

    Airbnb page

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    EL NIDO

    Swiftlets Inn

    Nights
    2

    Cost
    2900 pesos per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating **1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 3 Comfort 2 Facilities 3 Food 1 Value for money 1

    What we thought The fact that we’d booked in for five nights, yet left after two tells you all you need to know about Swiftlets Inn. The place itself might not have been so bad had the whole of the third floor been under construction while we were there – which meant continual banging and circular saws throughout the day. And there was a bar about 50 metres away which featured East Europeans playing drinking games until the early hours of the money. To cap it all, breakfast was poor and there were numerous things wrong inside the room, too. Having called over the manager to complain we received a full refund (minus the Agoda fee) for the remaining three days, which was pretty decent of him.

    Website

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    SAN FERNANDO

    Santeria Guest House
    Santeria Guest House

    Santeria Guest House

    Nights
    3

    Cost
    1000 pesos per night

    What that included
    Room only

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 3 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 4 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    Remote and quiet, this was a major escape from the ugliness of El Nido. Owned by English couple, Luke and Dana, who are more than happy to chat with you over drinks and join you for dinner. The two cottages are small and basic, but comfortable. Electricity via the generator is only available a couple of hours in the morning and for a few hours during the night. Recommended.

    Website

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    PORT BARTON

    Thelma & Toby’s Island Camping Adventure

    Palawan Camping

    Nights
    5

    Cost
    3200 pesos per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, lunch, dinner

    Rating ****1/2
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 3 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 5 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    Fantastic place on a gorgeous, private and clean powder-soft white beach. Just seven luxury tents with proper double beds, and some of the best food we’ve had anywhere. Toby and Thelma have been running this place for over 20 years and it shows. We simply didn’t want to leave. It’s a “glamping” experience rather than camping, although the toilet/bathroom facilities are pretty primitive. Access is via private boat only which coast 300 pesos each way. Highly recommended.

    Website

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    PUERTO PRINCESA

    La Dolce Vita Hotel
    La Dolce Vita

    La Dolce Vita Hotel

    Nights 
    1

    Cost
    1750 pesos per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 4 Location 3 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 3 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    As an overnight stop before catching the early flight the following morning this was perfect. Quiet location and a free transfer to the airport, too.

    Website

    Trip Advisor reviews

    IMAGES OF THE PHILIPPINES

    SALAGDOONG BEACH, SIQUIJOR

    To be fair, the beach isn’t anything special but the incredibly turquoise water just begs to be jumped into from the rock ledges above. Which is exactly what dozens of children do at weekends.
    Read more at The magic of Siquijor.

    SIQUIJOR SUNSET

    Sunsets in The Philippines are every bit as good as you’ve heard. And those to be seen on the island of Siquijor are up there with the best. Read more at The magic of Siquijor.

    SARDINES AT MOALBOAL

    Diving with close to a million sardines just off the shoreline of Moalboal is an unforgettable experience. But don’t worry if you can’t dive as you can snorkel with them, too.

    TURTLE OFF APO ISLAND

    Even more of a thrill is the opportunity to swim with turtles in the crystal clear waters around Apo Island.
    Read more at The turtles of Apo Island.

    TOBY & THELMA’S

    Forget the building site that’s El Nido and opt instead for the gorgeous serenity of Toby & Thelma’s Island Camping Adventure near to Port Barton. “Glamping” right on the white powder beach and food to die for.
    Read more at 3 hidden gems to try in The Philippines.

    TAMBOBO BAY

    Another island, another incredible sunset! This time at Tambobo bay on Negros Oriental.
    Read more at 3 hidden gems to try in The Philippines.

    MORE ON THE PHILIPPINES

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