Budget destinations to make your vacation in the Philippines even cheaper
In past posts we showed how cheap a vacation in the Philippines could be. The majority of the time we spent in Palawan, with a short stop in Manila. Both are prime destinations in the Philippines, but there are many others not less beautiful. If you’re willing to go to some lesser known spots you’ll be saving big time. In this post we’ll cover 4 destinations that are very affordable, that even if you plan to stay in finer resort and indulge yourself a bit, it’s not going to cost that much.
The places we’ll discuss in this post are Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin and Siargao, which are located in central Visayas and Northern Mindanao. They are perfectly safe, a little less touristy, cheaper, and unlike Palawan, they are better to travel during the off season. Many areas in the Philippines suffer great rains and typhoons during the wet season (June – October), but go to these places and you’ll be fine, as they are less affected by the seasons. By the way, traveling during the low season, you can get better deals on accommodation and attractions.
Try to fly into Cebu directly
There are many international airlines (all are Asian airlines) that fly directly into Mactan in Cebu. If you can fly into Mactan with a layover in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, or even Tokyo, consider yourself lucky, because then you have the chance to land directly in the tropical paradise of the Philippines’ beaches. If you land in Manila you can catch a flight to Cebu almost immediately, but there are some stuff you shouldn’t miss once you’re there.
Now Cebu is a place you definitely want to visit. Start off with a quiet day in the city, taking it easy after your flight. Kach and Jonathan from 2 Monkeys Travel Group wrote a detailed list of their favorite hostels in Cebu, and there are two specific ones in Cebu City on that list, that really look amazing.
The first one is Tropical Hostel in Cebu city. It is very close to SM Cebu City and Ayala Malls. It is a central location, close to many bars and restaurants, and they have great facilities. It is located in 571 MJ Cuenco Avenue, and dorm rate are about 8$. They have private rooms too that start at 20$ and go up depending on the number of beds. This hostel is 20 minutes away from the airport, so it’s better staying here if you plan a trip outside of Cebu City (like we’re about to recommend you).
The other hostel that Kach and Jonathan are recommending is Good Vibes Hostel, where the dorm rate is just 4$! The private rooms are about the same prices as in Tropical Hostel. It is recently renovated with spacious rooms, it’s packed with travelers, and very close to the airport. This is also a good option and better to stay in Good Vibes before your flight back from Cebu.
Your next stop after resting a bit in the City is going to be Moalboal. It is one of the best spots for adventure in Cebu, with the main attraction: canyoneering in Kawasan Falls. The best place for you to look for accommodation is Panangsama Beach. It is where all the backpackers go to, and this is where you’ll find the cheapest places to stay. You can also do it as a day tour from Cebu City, and save time.
We recommend staying in Rosita’s Cottages if you’re looking for a private place to stay. On the low season prices start at 10$. The cottages are clean and spacious, with free WIFI, a good spacious kitchen if you cook your own food, and a small balcony you can sit and relax. It is located on the southernmost point of the beach, after you’ll pass all of the dive clubs. They have no website, so you’ll just have to go there and see if they have available rooms.
If you want to stay in a dormitory, <a href=”http://www.moalboal-backpackerlodge.com/”>Moalboal Backpacker Lodge</a> is the place you should go to. Prices start at 6$ for a space in the most basic dorm room, and private solo rooms go for 9$ a night, and they also have twin rooms available. Check out their website for updated rates (because prices can always vary), and also for booking.
Whether you choose to take the canyoneering tour (that costs 50$) or not is up to you, because spending time in Kawasan Falls is an amazing experience anyway you’ll do it. This is a unique place with water so clear that they practically define the color azure. Besides, there are three waterfalls, that two of them offer high cliff jumps (for free of charge adrenaline rush). Taking the guided tour is going to stretch the extremeness from 09:00 to 16:00 (including a free BBQ lunch, making it quite a good deal).
If you decide to visit Kawasan on your own then, and you’ll do it early enough in the morning, you will have the time to squeeze another cool adventure. Rent a boat to take you snorkeling in the waters of Panangsama. The cream of the crop of the snorkeling tour will be snorkeling with the huge sardine shoal that lives in the waters just in front the beach (tip – you can try and rent a mask, and ask the local kids where to find the sardines, it’s not far from the shore). That will sum up your Moalboal adventures and you’re ready to move to the next ones.
Back to Cebu City, and hop on the ferry to Bohol!
Ferries to Bohol from Pier 1 in Cebu Port are very frequent. There are many shipping lines that provide this service, and the 2 prominent ones are 2GO (also known as SuperCat), and Ocean Jet. SuperCat is usually cheaper than Ocean Jet if you buy the tickets in the pier, but also check out the schedules and see what fits you best. And always check out their websites for promo fares, as they usually cut the prices in 50%.
There are two main reasons for you to come to Bohol, one is the world class diving, and the other because it’s an essential stop on the way to Camiguin, and unless you want to take a straight flight from Cebu (there is one daily flight at 06:30 am) that casts around 50$. Bohol is slightly more expensive than the other destinations described in this post. So if you’re tight on time and budget, and you want to skip it, it kind of makes sense.
That being said, Bohol is great fun, with beautiful white beaches, superb diving and so many things to do. The main beach is Alona in Panglao, so after reaching the port in Tagbilaran, you’ll need to take a tricycle to Alona or around it. There are a few places in Panglao that we know of, that offer really cheap prices and good value for money. Alona Bamboo House is one of them offering rooms for as low as 13$, in a very convenient location, less than a 5 minute walk from the beach.
If you’re willing to compromise on a less central location, you can go to Muro Umi Resort in Doljo Beach, the facilities are similar to Alona Bamboo House, and it is even a little more expensive than it, but you’ll get a beach resort. As really on the beach, beach resort.it also has a nice restaurant and bar for you to relax in. If you choose to stay here, renting a scooter is recommended, as you will be a little isolated.
Another good reason to rent a scooter (10$ a day, and even less if you know how to haggle), is that you can explore the island on your own, and it’s actually cheaper than going on organized tours. All of the attractions (besides of the island hopping) in the paragraph below are possible to do on your own. It will be quite a long ride, but you’re here for the adventure anyway right? Beside of those places, there are many beaches in Panglao alone woth to explore like Doljo, Danao, Alona, Momo Beach, White Beach, Bikini Beach and more.
What are the things to do in Bohol? Visit the famous chocolate hills, a unique geological phenomenon of 1300 almost identical hills filling the horizon. Check out the tarsier sanctuary where you can see these small primates in their natural habitat. Also, try to go to Bohol Bee Farm. It is not the usual tourist spot, but it is a very good one, as you can tour the farm, take part in organic farming, shop their organic homemade products, and dine in their super delicious and healthy restaurant.
Island hopping is not something to be missed, because it visits three beautiful paradises: Virgin Island (more like a huge sandbar) for the perfect beach experience, Balicasag for the best snorkeling, and Pamilican – a small fishermen community island, where there are dozens of turtles in the water.
If you wanted to dive in your trip, this is a good place to do so. It is more expensive, but Bohol is considered one of the best places to do so. It is also a great place for big fish encounters, as there are many dolphins, mantas, and even whale sharks around. In fact, if you go to Go Deep Dive Club you can go for a snorkeling tour with whale sharks straight from Bohol (many people go especially to Oslob to do so, which is in our opinion a waste of time). In general Go Deep is one of the most professional dive clubs in Panglao.
After you’re done, your next stop is Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island is accessible from Bohol. You have to catch a ferry from Janga Port (which is about 2 hours from Alona Beach), that leaves daily at 13:00, and arrives in Camiguin’s Balbagon Port at 16:00-17:00. It is a short and pleasant boat ride, and will save you the flight from Cebu to Camiguin.
Being a relatively untraversed, prices here are really low. A private room can go as low as 11$ a night. Well the cheapest place you can stay, which is also great fun, and the cheapest dive club in Camiguin is Camiguinsouldivers. A dorm bed is only 4$ a night, and 11$ for a private twin room. They also have a house reef 20m from the shore for morning snorkeling, and the friendliest owners and staff. They are located in Looc Tupsan, very close to Anito Elementary School (if you need to tell the driver where to drop you).
Very close to Benoni Port (also the port where you’ll leave for Balingoan Port on your way to Siargao), there is a place called Laguna Lodge, a very beautiful Balinese style building, and a nice pool. It is built directly over a lagoon, and overlooking the ocean. The building is made almost entirely of bamboo, which give you a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. They also have a Japanese style hot tub. And… it’s almost as cheap as Camiguinsouldivers.
Rocky Village Yumbing is a great place for budget travelers too, as there are many cottages for rent for a very low price, like Paguia, Pabua’s Cottages, July’s Heaven Seaside Lodge, and others, so look around. All of them offer private rooms/ cottages for around 11$ a night. If you’re traveling during the low season, negotiate, as it is expected from you, and you’ll be able to lower the prices by at least 30%, because unlike more touristy places, the number of tourist coming to Camiguin fluctuates strongly according to the season.
So what is Camiguin famous for? It is famous for its many natural tourist spots, which are very scenic. It is a small volcanic island, with as many as 7 volcanos. There are many great hikes, with the most famous one being trekking to the crater of Volcano Hibok-Hibok. This trek has to be done with a local guide (if you don’t want to get lost in the tropical jungle), and takes around 9 hours. Other than that, you can explore the two beautiful waterfalls of the island, Katibawasan – a 76m tall waterfall located in the middle of the forest, and Tuawasan the smaller one near the village of Compol.
The island is also abundant with hot spring, so if that’s your thing consider yourself lucky. The most famous one is the Ardent Hot Water Spring, closer to Yumbing. Other great attractions are snorkeling in the Sunken Cemetery (caused by a volcanic eruption), and the giant clam sanctuary. Island hopping is really good here too (like most places in the Philippines actually), with White Island being the best stop (the iconic sandbar visible from the Hibok-Hibok peak) – a bare white island where you can relax and sunbath for a while.
Diving, the most expensive activity one should have in a vacation in the Philippines, is very special here because the many volcanic eruptions shaped the underwater terrain of Camiguin in a distinct way. You will dive around an underground moon shaped ocean bottom sometimes black in color. Moreover, diving here is among the cheapest in the Philippines, especially during low season when prices are easily negotiable.
The long and excruciating journey to Siargao Island begins now
You didn’t think it’s going to be that easy, right? Plus, it’s all part of the adventure. Well, now you can choose the degree of hardcoreness you’re willing to undertake. It’s either you do it in one go, which is possible for those who show true grit, and staying a night in Surigao/Butuan. We’ll just describe to you the one go option, and you can choose to break it as you wish.
From Benoni Port in Camiguin, (might be good to stay that night in Laguna Lodge that night) you’ll take a ferry heading to Balingoan Port in Northern Mindanao. The first ferry starts at 04:30am and that’s the one you should (there are ferries until 06:00pm, if you want to take it slower). After arriving in Balingoan immediately walk to the bus station and catch the bus bound to Butuan (the CDO – Butuan line of Bachelor Express). From Butuan take the Bus Bound to Surigao City.
If you followed this instruction carefully, you’re supposed to be in Surigao City a little before noon (when the lasts boats to Siargao are leaving). Rush to the main pier (Pier 1) to catch the RORO Montenegro Ferry leaving to Dapa in 12:00. If you missed it, your last chance is to take the 12:30 ferry to Del Carmen Municipality in Siargao (this is the lesser option). You will reach Siargao at around 15:00-16:00. From both places, Dapa and Del Carmen, catch a tricycle to Tourism Road in General Luna. There you’ll find a place to stay and rest from the 10 hour long journey.
There are many great options for you to stay in. The Smiling Pig Hostel rents beds for as low as 4$, and is just on the main road. Jing’s Place has dorms and also some private rooms, and next to Jing’s there is a small place with 6 bungalows for rent for around 10$ a night, that has no name, so just look for the owner Ramon. If you travel alone, so go to Paglaom Hostel, as they accept only solo travelers, so it’s the best place to meet new people.
Siragao is not only for surfers though it is known as the surfer capital of the Philippines. Facing the Pacific Ocean, Siargao has more than 15 major surfing spots, and Cloud 9 is the most famous one. So when you’re here, don’t you want to try surfing already? In all of the hostels recommended above can arrange surfing guides and surfing boards starting at 8$. Even if you never surfed in your life expect the island lifestyle to grow on you very quickly.
But as we promised, there is a great deal of activities for you to enjoy in Siargao other than surfing. A daytrip to Socorro/Bucas Grande (two name for the same place) is something that’s worth your time and money. Though not the cheapest activity, it is a very magical place, with a hidden lagoon full of caves and waterfalls (Sohoton Cove), and snorkeling among stingless jellyfish in Tojoman Lagoon.
Pure white sand beaches are just waiting for you to find them, while everybody is so busy surfing. Island hopping in Siargao Island is also among the finest in the Philippines, with many people taking nude pictures in Naked Island – an island made entirely from white sand. Dako and Guyam Islands are two more stops and flawless tropical islands. Magpupungko Tidal pools on Siargao Island are also a natural wonder you shouldn’t miss, as well as Sugba Lagoon (Cheaper to go to, and somewhat similar to Socorro, so don’t do both).
Some places in Siargao offer a variety of activities like kayaking and kitesurfing, day and night jungle trekking, hiking and caving, game fishing and more. So as you can see, you’ll not run out of activities. Nightlife on the island is very good as well, so this place is a full package.
Once you feel you had enough (or more likely that you have to go back because you ran out of time), go back to Surigao City (last ferry from Dapa – 13:00 but better to aim for 11:00). You’ll have some time to burn in Surigao unless you want to take a flight to Cebu (there is one in 11:30 and one in 13:35 so you’ll have to leave early in the morning), because a better way to go is by a night ferry that leaves everyday (except of Mondays) at 19:00 and arrives in Cebu at 05:00. The trip is very pleasant, as long as you take the tourist class (you get linens, air-conditioning, more spacious beds and much cleaner toilets for additional 4$, so don’t be cheap this time!).
A last stop in Cebu City before your international flight
There are plenty of things to see in Cebu, like visiting the Taoist temple, Fort San Pedro, the Mactan Shrine, the Mactan beaches, the Sky Experience Adventure, or just hanging out in the malls. If you don’t want to finish your trip in a low energy vibe, you can easily skip the Cebu Island part that we recommended you in the beginning of your trip, and save it for the last.
The travel plan in this post is perfect for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on your pace. If you have less time just skip parts of it, and you’ll still have a wonderful vacation. You can also take flights to save time and effort. By traveling to these destinations that are still far from overdevelopment, you’ll discover the lesser known parts of the Philippines, absorb genuine Filipino culture and hospitality, and spend a lot less than if you went to the most popular places. So travel outside the box and have fun!