First stop……Manila, Philippines
The first stop on our Philippines adventure was Manila – the capital city of the Philippines and the largest city in the Philippines by far.
Most people in the Philippines live in smaller town, villages, or the countryside so Manila is unique.
We stayed in Manila only two days/one night but that was enough time to see the ‘old city’ area as well as a couple local neighborhood areas. Be sure to check out a nighttime view from one of the rooftop bars in downtown.
If you are into WW II history (or even if you are not!) good day trip is to Corregidor Island. Really some great history to learn as well as some cool sites.
Pro Tip: Probably the most unique tour you can take in Manila is the ‘Smokey Tour’. It is a tour of the Manila slums build on top of a garbage dump – some of it still burning. It is run a charity and the tour is given by people who actually live there. Really enlightening. Below is a link to check that out.
After our first couple days in Manila, our next stop was Cebu – a short one hour flight. Cebu island itself is usually a stopping off point to going somewhere else nearby. We went just across to Mactan island.
We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel – Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island. We upgraded our room to a suite, which was an extra $45 per night but well worth it. This hotel is within walking distance of a great little massage place and great Italian restaurant.
For our first full day, we decided to book a private boat tour (instead of booking a larger group tour). In fact, we booked it from a guy on the street outside the hotel – wow, that was taking a risk! but it worked out!. We found it not really more expensive than taking a group tour but your personal experience is so much better. The funny thing was that the boat was not near the shore due to low tide so we had to wade through the seaweed (and some garbage) to climb onto the boat, crazy!!!!! It was pretty old school as our captain actually tied his big toe to the string to get the boat to stay in gear – hilarious. Anyhow we had a great day of snorkeling and glad we were able to do it – such a unique ‘locals’ experience to do it this way.
Loboc River Resort
Our third stop was Bohol Island. This is ~2 hour ferry ride from Cebu.
We stayed at the Loboc River Resort which were little bungalows along side the river in a relatively remote area. We’d really recommend this resort – great service, great rooms, inexpensive food, and good location.
Pro Tip: They offer a great evening tour right from their dock which takes you on a boat ride to see fireflies along the river. Have to say it was quite incredible seeing thousands of fireflies light up like little white Christmas lights up in the trees.
With our “off the beaten path” mentality in front and center, we decided to rent a scooter for our 3 days in Bohol. The cost was a modest ~$10USD per day and each day we spent scooting around exploring a different part of Bohol! – just us and our scooter 🙂
There are a couple of loops we’d recommend with things not to miss like: Ziplining at the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park, seeing the Tarsiers at the Tarsier Conservation Park and visiting the Chocolate Hills in the afternoon as the sun begins to set (great pics!).
There are a lot of great backroads and some nice waterfalls to explore all around you.
Pro Tip: One of the best waterfalls to see (and quite secluded with no tourists) is Dimiao Twin Falls. The road to the waterfall is rather challenging and several times we thought we might not make it but we did. You travel through several small local villages so make sure you wave to the children and say hello. Once we got to the parking spot a the top of a hill, the waterfall was a 25 minute hike down into a secluded ravine with beautiful falls and a great swimming hole. You very likely will be the only ones there!
Ziplining in Bohol, Philippines
Ziplining over the Loboc River was quite an exhilarating experience. We have done a lot of ziplining in a lot of areas and this was one of the very best – really high, really long, really fast, and really cheap! The cost is ~$7.60 or 400 pesos.
My fear was that it was maybe too cheap! How many times have they checked the lines, do these guys know what they are doing, just how many people have actually died on this thing! Guess I’m a brave little girl cause I did it anyway! 🙂
The zipline is 560 feet over the river and the top of trees – wow what a view. Check out my GoPro 38sec video below. Keep in mind you go across the valley and you still have to come back. Or you can ride a cable car back – certainly not as thrilling…
First off, Chocolate Hills is a kinda tourist trap. We normally like to stay away from places like this but I am glad we rode the scooter out to check things out.
This Chocolate Hills are located in the middle of the island and took us about 25min from Loboc River Resort. The entrance cost is $11 USD.
One the way there, you will pass many rice fields and also ride through another tourist attraction called The Mohagany Forest in Bilar.
There are approximately 1,260 grassy hills which turn brown in the off season – how this area got its name of the Chocolate Hills. There is a lookout point/park from one of the largest hills with great photo ops all around. Be sure to come later in the day when the shadows begin to make magical images along the landscape.
We took a short video of our ride up to the top of the hill. Really such an amazing view, we were there when everything was green, it would be interesting to see them looking like chocolate mounds in the off season.
Looking for your very own private waterfall?
Dimiao Falls are well worth the effort to get to. We arrived by scooter passing several villages along the way and you pay a small fee at the very end to ride all the way to the top where the road ends. At that point, be prepared to do a little hiking! Do not wear sandals, or at least bring them with you in a bag. You really need good shoes as the steps and rocks are steep. Families with little ones need to be careful.
Once you are down to the bottom you can put on your sandals and go get wet! There is a large pool at the bottom of the falls which is great for swimming and there is also a bamboo bridge you can use to walk to the other side of the pool and jump in.
When we arrived there was only one other couple at the falls. They left pretty quickly and it was like our own private waterfall : )
Use Google maps to get to the location because it is kinda tricky. Do not miss this opportunity if you are in the area. You will not be disappointed.
Tarsier Conservation Area
Another stop on our Bohol scooter adventuring was a visit to the Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsier’s are little guys with big eyes. They look like little monkeys but they aren’t. Entrance to the sanctuary is ~$1 USD. That’s a pretty good price to see the smallest primates in the world. *Note that you cannot bring selfie sticks or use any kind of flash photography.
Tarsier Fun Facts:
- Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, but as you visit the center they have numerous employees that can show you where they are – they like to hide under huge leaves for cover from the rain (kinda like an umbrella)
- They are part of the primate family but built more like a lemur than a monkey.
- They are only found in Southeast Asia
- Scientists believed they have been in existence for 40 million years.
- Tarsier can rotate their necks 360 degrees.
- When they are born they are the size of your fingernail. As a full adult they weigh just 5 ounces.
- The size of their eyes is bigger than the size of their brain.
Bohol Bee Farm
One of our last days on Bohol we rode to the smaller isle of Pangloa at the south side of Bohol to visit the Bohol Bee Farm. They offer a quick 30 minute tour and show you how the locals make handmade gifts as well as you can see part of the production of the honey.
You get a chance to get up close and personal with the bee hive and see all the worker bees busy making honey.
They even let you hold part of the bee hive with all the honey and bees on it. Just be sure not to drop it or they become angry and attack you.
It was very interesting. We got to learn the role of the queen bee and the worker bees and learn how honey is processed. You just don’t realize there is so much involved to make a spoonful of honey for your tea!!!
After the tour we went to the gift shop to have a taste of the honey. *Note before purchasing any honey make sure you ask about restrictions on taking honey in your suitcase or into your home country.
Pro Tip: If you purchase anything from the gift shop over $20 you receive a free scoop of their ice cream – I have to say their ice cream was not my favorite, but try the berry one as it seemed to have the most flavor. They have a restaurant, coffee shop and bakery too – all quite charming.
What to bring to the philipinnes
Money belts are great for security and practicality. Whilst traveling, the last thing you want on the back of your mind is to worry about your money, valuables or room key is lost or stolen. The great thing about a money belt is that nobody can tell that you’re wearing one.
In the Philippines mosquitoes pose the threat of malaria and dengue fever so it’s important to protect yourself and wear mosquito spray. Additionally, you can wear mosquito repelling bracelets.
Despite what anyone says, Polaroid cameras will never go out of style. There’s something so authentic about being able to capture your moments and hold them in your hand instantly. I love carrying a Polaroid camera with me on every trip.
In the Philippines, you’ll most likely go on day trips and island hopping tours so it’s great to have a daypack. This daypack is lightweight, water-resistant, with multiple compartments and best of all it’s compact.
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