Planning My Philippines Beach Bum Bonanza

Oh man, it’s been an awfully long time since I crafted one of these posts highlighting my upcoming travel plans. The truth is, I’ve been TERRIBLE about planning my travels these past couple years. It certainly doesn’t help that I’ve been booking trips relatively last minute due to imposed quarterly visa runs, leaving little time to do much research. But mostly, I’ve just been intentionally hanging out on the “wing it” side of the travel planning spectrum. And you know what? Not planning or researching for trips has resulted in me missing out on some really cool stuff.

So this time, I’m doing things differently. I booked my flight to the Philippines a few months ago because it’s somewhere I’ve been DYING to visit for years, not just because I have to leave the country again. And with thousands of islands beckoning, I figured it couldn’t hurt to do a little research to determine which ones I most wanted to see.

Welp, “a little research” turned into me reading my Lonely Planet cover-to-cover and planning out every single day of my month-long stint in the Philippines. I’d forgotten how fun it is just to plan my travels! Instead of having one month of excitement, I got to squeeze out another two months’ worth before takeoff.

Don’t worry though, I’m not doing a whirlwind tour of the country! Slow travel is more my jam these days, so I’ve planned about a week per location. I think this is especially smart for traveling the Philippines, since it takes awhile to get around the country (be it flights between islands or long-ass bus rides across them). I’ll be island hopping, doing ALL of the water activities, and staying in some really cool accommodation along the way.

Here’s where I’ll be frolicking from September 18 – October 18:

malapascua
Photo via Trover.

Malapascua

I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the awesome diving in the Philippines and maybe even get my advanced open water certification, so early on in my research I set out to find the best island for diving in the Philippines. There probably isn’t a “best” here simply because there are SO MANY dive sites in the Philippines, with such a variety of marine life and wrecks. Suffice it to say that my short list was, er, not so short.

Then I met someone who had recently been diving on Malapascua and couldn’t stop raving about it, and once I glimpsed her Instagram photos I was sold! I feel like Malapascua offers a great blend of gorgeous white sand beaches and unique marine life (including thresher sharks and the uber-colorful mandarin fish), which makes it a great fit for my interests.

I’ll be partnering with Evolution Diving to complete my advanced diving course and will be staying in their beachfront accommodation.

thresher shark in malapascua
Photo via Trover.

Cebu

The island of Cebu is a major hub in the Philippines and tends to be a popular jumping-off point for the surrounding islands. I’m using it for exactly that, and as a result I’ll be passing through Cebu city 3 separate times. I’m a little wary of the internet situation on the smaller islands I’m visiting, so I’m counting on Cebu to provide more reliable wifi so I can get all my work completed on time.

In my research I came across the devastatingly cool Henry Hotel in Cebu and initially balked at the thought of paying $80/night for a hotel room. I almost never spend that much on accommodation because I’d rather spend my time outside exploring and my money on outdoor activities. But then I thought, well, since I’ll mostly be working and hardly exploring, and since I’m still lusting after this hotel weeks later, maybe I can justify the splurge. Plus, I feel like this room could easily go for close to $300 in the western world. $80 is such a steal.

SO I BOOKED IT!! I’ll have two nights at the Henry Hotel in a massive room that looks something like this (though really, all 24 rooms of the size I booked are completely unique, so it could look nothing like this):

henry hotel cebu
Photo credit: Booking.com

Siargao

I probably wouldn’t have known about Siargao had I not stumbled upon this blog post, but I’m so excited to be staying on this little island! Siargao is an aquatic adventurer’s heaven and a world-renowned surf spot. I’m partnering with Kermit Surf Resort to bring you coverage of ALL the outdoor adventures on Siargao, including surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, island hopping, yoga, rock pools, caves, and kayaking.

siargao
Photo via Trover.

I didn’t realize that a big international surf competition would be going down during my stay and that accommodation has been mostly booked out for months, so I’ll be jumping between 4 different resorts in 7 days. It’s cool though, as I’ll get to experience a variety of accommodation options from hostel to surf resort to boutique hotel.

Also, can we talk about me FINALLY learning how to surf?? I mean, shouldn’t I have taken care of this ages ago since I now live in Australia? I suppose now’s a good time to confess that I’m actually scared to surf. Equally I’m fascinated by it and love to watch surfers do their thing, so I think this will be a worthwhile challenge for me. Wish me luck! (Slash offer me tips!)

lux siargao
Photo Credit: Lux Siargao

El Nido

El Nido is what really put the Philippines on the map for me and catapulted it to the top of my bucket list. I mean look at it!

el nido
Image via Trover, edited by me.

Island hopping is the thing to do here, and I have zero objections to that. I have a full week at El Nido and will be staying at Spin Designer Hostel for most of this time, so I’m hoping to meet some adventurous travelers there to explore more of Palawan with (read: drive me around on their motorbike to check out nearby beaches and waterfalls!).

el nido
Image via Trover.

Manila / TBEX

Okay, so the main reason I booked my Philippines trip well in advance is because I’ve had it in my mind for months and months that I wanted to try to make it to a TBEX on this side of the world. I’ve been a travel blogger for nearly 4 years now and somehow have never attended TBEX – I feel like that must be some kind of record!

For you non-travel blogging (i.e. normal) folks, TBEX is a travel blogging conference held annually in 3 regions around the world (North America, Europe/Middle East, Asia) where travel bloggers and travel industry professionals get to network. This year, TBEX Asia is happening in Manila. There are workshops, talks, seminars, and parties to attend too, but mostly it’s about the schmoozing (aka my least favorite thing to do next to cooking and cleaning). Between learning how to surf and forcing myself to network more, I’ll be well out of my comfort zone at times on this trip – but I think it’s a good thing. Here’s to coming out stronger on the other side! Also, if any fellow bloggers have any advice for TBEX, kindly leave it in the comments, TYIA!

taal volcano
Taal Volcano. Image via Trover.

Unfortunately all the TBEX press trips take place after the conference (and after I fly back to Australia), so I’ll miss out on those. But I did get onto a Pre-BEX day trip to Taal Volcano which involves a hike or horse ride up the summit. Even cooler, Taal is the world’s largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island (did you follow that?).

I thought about booking one of the TBEX partner hotels near the convention center, but they’re more expensive than the Henry Hotel and don’t seem to be worth the splurge so instead I’ve booked a one-bedroom Airbnb apartment nearby for a fraction of the price. (Use this link to get $35 off your first booking on Airbnb. It’s an awesome way to live like a local while you travel! And it’s what I’ve been using in-between house sits in Australia.)

Have you been to the Philippines? Got any tips for me for surfing or attending TBEX? Please share in the comments below!

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

Where in the World is This?


  • MK

    First comment – why aren’t you going to Coron!! It’s my absolute favorite of all the islands.
    Anyway a local here :) Lemme help you out I really want you to enjoy my country.

    El Nido – do the tours I think it’s 27 USD or something…my favorite was tour A with the Big Lagoon. Tip for el nido, get one of those waterproof things for your phone, valuables because they will get wet. there is a bagel resto there forgot the name, it’s good but expensive (around 4 usd I think each). you might want to also try Squidos for stuffed squid and Altrove for pasta. Also, if you are taking the plane to puerto princesa then taking the bus to el nido, do consider daytripper (http://www.daytripperpalawan.com/). twice the price of the normal bus but 100x more comfortable! book it online.

    Siargao – haven’t been but all my friends love it! :)

    Manila – stay in Makati ! It’s just safest. Then go to Poblacion/Burgos area. it’s known as the redlight district but it has somehow evolved into the hippie area (we jokingly call it williamsburgos). Eat tacos at El Chupacabra, then walk 3 minutes to Don Pedro St have a drink at wild poppy (http://ph.phonebooky.com/blog/the-wild-poppy-poblacion-makati/) then walk a bit further maybe a minute then at z hostel go up the rooftop for a drink (this is ok even if you arent staying there). It’s a good view of makati and always a chill vibe. Finish your night by going to finders keepers bar (https://www.zomato.com/manila/finders-keepers-san-lorenzo-makati-city). It’s hard to find so i would suggest an uber for you while going around makati. Hopefully you enjoy it! Just reply if you need more help! :)

    • Oh man, I swear Coron *just* missed the cut! I was thinking of splitting my last week between El Nido and Coron but I’m really not up for a long-ass boat ride (I get seasick!) or tacking on a few extra flights to my trip so it’ll have to wait for another trip :( Coron looks incredible though!

      I’m so psyched about the El Nido tours! A and C seem to be the best from what people say. Great tip on the comfy bus, I’m into it! :D

      Your Manila tips are super helpful as well! I haven’t really looked into things to do there at all, so that’ll be perfect :) I feel like I’ve also heard Intramuros is worth exploring too, yes? Maybe?

      Thanks for your thoughtful insight, I appreciate it!