How to island hop your way around the Philippines

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With over 7,100 islands, the Philippines is a huge mixture of different cultures – it would be almost impossible to predict what to expect from each place. For example, while English and Tagalog are the official languages, there are some 170 other dialects that remain the main mode of communication for the more remote or less touristy areas.

So, how does one embark on a dream island-hopping adventure in such a diverse country? Read on to find out, and, when you’re ready, start your flight search on Cheapflights.co.nz.

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Use price to determine your starting point

First things first, you’ll need to decide which islands you want to explore and, after that, which airport you should fly into.

For example, if you’re going to Palawan (for islands such as El Nido and Coron), it will be more cost-efficient to fly into cities in Mindanao, such as Puerto Princesa and Busuanga. If you’re doing Bohol or Boracay – also great islands to explore – you may want to book flights to Cebu or Bohol directly. Comparing prices and starting where flights are cheaper is a great way to make the most of your time and money. And where better to search that on Cheapflights.com.au?

Bamboo pedestrian suspension bridge over river

Consider emerging destinations

While some of the islands have become quite popular with tourists and can be a bit pricey (Palawan, for example), you can save by exploring some of the equally beautiful, but less touristy islands. For example, Siargao, the island made famous by its year-long surf breaks, is making waves (get it?) with travellers locally and all over the world. Aside from beautiful beaches, the island is also surrounded by equally stunning isles you can hop to for a day trip. From Siargao, you can visit Naked Island for some snorkelling, Daku Island if you want a little more relaxation and Guyam Island for romantic sunsets. You can find day tours that include all 3 islands for around P1500. It might even be less if you DIY and hire boats or canoes.

A little closer to Manila is Anilao. Located in the province of Batangas. The famous dive spot is also a good base for a bit of island hopping in the Luzon area. From Anilao, you can easily hire boats that could take you to tiny, picturesque isles such as Sepoc or Sombrero. There are lots of photo opportunities on these islands, so don’t forget to bring your camera.

the Philippines

Pack smart 

What are the most important things to bring when island hopping in the Philippines? First, do bring a waterproof camera because you wouldn’t want to miss out on the great views over and under the water. Also, since you’ll be taking boats all the time, it would be wise to pack zip-top bags for your electronics. Plus, as you’ll be exposed to the sun (and small towns tend to lack supermarkets), don’t forget to bring your own suncream. Wear comfortable clothes and, of course, bring swimwear. Don’t depend on credit cards and always bring cash in the local currency, which is the preferred (and sometimes only) form of payment.

Time your trip wisely

There are only 2 seasons in the Philippines: wet and dry. If you want to make the most of your island-hopping adventure, it’s best to visit during the summer months (from March to May). The only downside with guaranteed summer sun is that it means more crowds. Accommodation and tours book up faster during these months, so booking in advance pays dividends.

Not a fan of crowds? The months from December to February are quieter and cheaper and it’s also not as humid. There may be occasional rain showers, but the weather will certainly be better than the typhoon season which typically runs from June through to the end of November.

beach in the Philippines

Get around on the cheap

If you are island-hopping around the Philippines, flying is definitely the easiest option. Apart from the numerous local airlines (budget airlines Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are the most popular, while new boutique airline AirSWIFT has opened connections between Boracay and El Nido), there’s also an airport on almost all the main islands. Most small islands will have ferry terminals with regular boat trips. For example, you can take a 15-minute boat ride from Caticlan’s ferry terminal to Boracay or a 1-hour ro-ro (a roll-on/roll-off ship) from Batangas Pier to Puerta Galera.

Consider our sample itinerary

From Manila, take a flight to Tagbilaran in Bohol, which is the home of the famous Chocolate Hills. The next day, take a ferry from Tagbilaran to Cebu. There are regular ferries that travel to and from both islands and it only takes around 2 hours. We suggest spending at least 3 days in Cebu before sailing to the neighbouring cities of Bacolod or Ilo-Ilo, where you can stay overnight (visit both if you have the time and budget). From Ilo-Ilo, you can take a 5-hour bus or van ride to Caticlan and, from there, the white sands of Boracay are only 15 minutes away by boat.

Looking for more inspiration? 

Are you thinking about island hopping the Philippines? Share your own tips and itineraries in the comments, and start searching for flights on Cheapflights.co.nz.

How to island hop your way around the Philippines was last modified: October 24th, 2017 by L. Bautista
Author: L. Bautista (118 posts)

A self-confessed breakfast-skipper, who likes to spend her time exploring new places and cultures.