Over the past few years the Philippines have been making a name for itself as one of the best romantic destinations in the world. Couples from all over the world endure the long trip there, so they can enjoy its stunning beaches and tropical atmosphere. This has resulted in a huge boost to the tourism industry in the country, primarily the hotel business – with luxury hotels popping up on many of the islands there.
It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago you could hardly find a place with running water and stable electricity, and now there’s already a Shangri-La resort in most of the popular islands. Since prices are still relatively low, now is the best time to visit the Philippines – before it’s completely discovered by the hordes of tourists, then prices will go up and everything will be crowded.
One problem stemming from the fact tourism is still mostly undeveloped is how complicated it is to set up your itinerary in a sensible way. To make matters worse, we are dealing with an archipelago where every island is far from one another. Domestic flights and ferries suffer from constant delays and even cancellations, so careful planning is a must. Since most couples can’t afford to take more than a few weeks off, booking a vacation package through a travel agency is a good option. Currently, these are the best honeymoon packages available – by a local company that takes care of your entire holiday. Still, it’s possible to do everything on your own, if you don’t mind spending the time doing some research and planning. If that’s the case, here are some ideas that’ll help you get started with planning your dream vacation in the Philippines.
Spending a night or two in Manila – is it a good idea?
Many people don’t see the romantic side to a busy metropolitan, and who can blame them for that? Manila is noisy, polluted, crowded and busy all day long – hardly what you envision when dreaming of your paradise getaway. However, there are many hidden sides to this large city, and discovering these can be a true adventure.
For couples, the best thing about Manila is the endless amount of options it offers its visitors. Unlike most other tourist spots in the Philippines, this place is fully developed and can cater to every type of travel. Countless 5 star hotels, gourmet restaurants, art galleries and musuems cater to the upscale tourist, while people on a budget can enjoy one of the many vibrant hostels and the nightlife that never stops.
Depending on how much time you got, spending a night or 2 in Manila might not be such a bad idea. It will allow you for a softer landing, and a chance to explore a different side of the country. The capital is the best place to discover the local culture, arts and history, and is also where the culinary scene is the richest and most diverse.
Should you visit Cebu City and explore Cebu Island?
Many people consider Cebu an essential part of any short vacation in the Philippines and make a special effort to include into their itineraries. Even though it’s by no means a wrong decision, it’s important to first understand exactly what this place is all about. That way, you’ll have a better idea if it fits your needs, or maybe it would better to skip it altogether.
Most tourists who come to Cebu Island set their base at Mactan – a small island 30 minutes from the city and where the airport is located. This is also the only place where you can find good hotels to sleep at. From there, you can take day trip all around Cebu and even visit nearby islands such as Bohol and Siquijor. Another reason why Cebu, and Mactan in particular, have been so popular is there are no direct flights to it from several Asian countries such as South Korea and Singapore for example. The only issue with staying in Mactan is the fact the place is better suited for families and doesn’t really deliver a romantic experience.
While luxury hotels and resorts are abundant, most of them are too big and crowded to really provide privacy and peacefulness. To make matters worse, beaches in Mactan are quite underwhelming, so the swimming pool becomes the main attraction, even at the fanciest beach resorts. So, if you are planning on a romantic beach vacation, you might be better off skipping Mactan and going somewhere else. One good alternative is sleeping at the nearby island of Bohol instead– Alona beach in Panglao is often compared to Boracay as being one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines.
Does Boracay really have the best beach in the world?
The short answer is no, there are better beaches even in the Philippines itself. Boracay’s White Beach is a 4 miles long strip of white powdery sand which has garnered fame all over the world for its remarkable beauty, but is also a bit overhyped to be honest. This is also worsened by its growing popularity, which means the beach is always crowded and new hotels and shops keep invading the shoreline and pushing it further back towards the sea.
There is good a reason however why Boracay is considered one of the best island destinations in the world. First of all, the beach is still spectacular and doesn’t fall short when compared to any other popular tourist spot in Asia, such as Palawan, Bali or Thailand for example. On top of that, Boracay is small and offers a multitude of attractions, all located in roughly the same area. Even though it can be crowded at times, the island still offers the best beach experience in a tropical playground.
White beach is divided into 3 areas – station 1,2 and 3. Getting from end of the beach to the other will take you less than 30 minutes by foot. This means it doesn’t matter where you choose to stay, everything will be just a short walk away. Station 2 is where most of the nightlife takes place, and is also the point from which most day tours go out from. This however also means it’s the most crowded and noisy. Station 1 offers the best part of the beach, where it’s the widest and least crowded, but resorts there are priced accordingly. The beach at station 3 is the most narrow, and the resorts are also of generally lower standard – this is a good place for backpackers and travelers on a budget.
How long should you stay in Palawan, and where exactly?
Palawan is a huge island with many different places to visit. Hidden lagoons, stunning private islands, and the amazing marine wildlife make it one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. So, going there isn’t even a question, it really is a must visit for anyone who is planning to spend some time in the Philippines. It is recommended to spend at least two weeks there, but you can already get a decent taste of what Palawan is all about even if you stay there for just 5-6 nights.
Palawan is divided into three major areas – Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron. Then there are also countless smaller islands surrounding it, some are uninhabited and offer the perfect escape from reality. Puerto Princesa is the least romantic and is actually more of a family-friendly type of destination. Still, you wouldn’t want to miss it unless you absolutely have to, even if it’s just so you can see the famous underground river park.
El Nido is the most suited for couples, and will probably be the most romantic place you’ll visit on your vacation. Scenic tiny islands and pristine beaches make this place really feel like paradise lost. The private island resorts offer the ultimate feeling of luxury, and their prices are actually quite affordable. If you are looking for a Maldives-like experience at only a fraction of the price, this is where you should head to. Pangulasian island and Cauayan island resorts are the most luxurious and best fitted to honeymooners, while Lagen island resort is a great, cheaper alternative.
Lastly, there is Coron – when you reach there you’ll understand why Palawan is nicknamed the last frontier of the Philippines. This area is much less developed, but it offers some of the most picturquese views anywhere in the world. When you see the stunning images on websites promoting the Philippines, chances are extremely high these were taken in Coron. It’s also one of the best places to try out wreck diving, as it served as a major marine battlefield during WW2 and the waters are full of sunk vessels. Even though the area is rural, there’s a good number of nice hotels and resorts to choose from – so don’t worry, it’s not like you’ll have to sleep in a dorm or something.
Are there any other less known places you should check out?
Everyone who visits the Philippines should make an effort to visit at least one off the beaten track destination. It will allow you to experience the true rawness of nature and enjoy a real feeling of what a vacation in a tropical paradise is really like. This is especially true for couples, as these places provide the best chance for privacy and romance. Afterall, what could be more romantic then having a stunning white sand beach all to yourself?
The important thing is to keep a balance between the remoteness of the island and how developed it actually is. The last thing you want is to reach some small island, only to discover your hotel doesn’t have regular electricity or running water. That is why proper research is required and it’s important to get feedback from people who have actually been there already. You’ll only have one honeymoon, so hiring a professional to plan your vacation is also something you should consider, especially if you plan on visiting these smaller islands.
Since there are more than 7000 islands in the Philippines, the list of places you could visit is endless. Out of these, the 2 most recommended destinations for couples are Siargao and Camiguin. Both of these islands offer the perfect balance between privacy and comfort. While not many tourists go there yet, the infrastructure is good and hotels are decent. Don’t expect 5 star resorts like in El Nido or Boracay, but you can easily find very posh boutique hotels that are just perfect for couples. Nightlife is also good, as the islands attract a fair amount of young travellers, but the real reason to go there is the chance to experience nature at its purest form.
Hopefully by now you have a better idea of what to expect from your Philippines vacation. Planning the trip is no easy task, but visiting one of the most romantic places on earth is hugely rewarding.
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