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10 Best Destinations for Backpacking in the Philippines in 2020

Backpacking in the Philippines is affordable if you know where to do it.
IMAGE Joshua Berida
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The Philippines has many beautiful towns and provinces that have made it on the lists of the world’s best islands. Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao are common destinations included on such lists. The country boasts some of the finest, white sand shores, clear, turquoise waters, a vibrant underwater ecosystem and friendly locals.

Traveling around the Philippines doesn’t have to be expensive. Both local and international tourists can enjoy the fields, rice terraces, beaches and mountains at an affordable price. If you’re planning to backpack around the country here are possible destinations to include in your itinerary.

El Nido

Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Photo by Joshua Berida

El Nido has transformed over the years because of its soaring popularity with both local and foreign tourists. It was still a sleepy town in 2013, but after subsequent trips, I have seen El Nido change into a bustling tourist destination. This comes as no surprise because of the many beautiful islands and beaches you can visit. You have the option to join a tour or rent a private boat and go at your own pace. 

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Activities: Island hopping (Tours A, B, and C), day trip to Nacpan Beach, scuba diving, snorkeling

How to get there: There are now direct flights from Manila to El Nido, but these are often expensive. Alternatively, you can book a flight to Puerto Princesa and take the bus or van to town. You don’t have to look for the vans. As soon as you leave the baggage claim area, many drivers and operators will offer their services.

Budget: P2,000 to P2,500 a day

Coron

Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Palawan has many must-visits for travelers backpacking around the country. Coron is one place you should definitely include in your itinerary. The unassuming town is chill compared to El Nido. It is quaint and has relaxing charm that is perfect for families and couples. The town serves as a jump-off point for island hopping tours to famous attractions such as Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Banul Beach, Malcapuya Island, and others.

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Activities: Island hopping, day trip to Calauit Safari, wreck diving, snorkeling, short hike up Mt. Tapyas, Maquinit Hot Spring

How to get there: Coron is an accessible destination from Cebu, Clark, and Manila. There are regular flights to the island. Book tickets months before your trip to get the lowest possible fares. Tickets are often expensive so plan accordingly. There are also overnight ferry trips operated by 2Go.

Budget: P2,000  to P2,500 a day

Puerto Princesa

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Photo by Jordan Balintac | Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by Brendan02 | Wikimedia Commons.

Puerto Princesa is the capital of Palawan and is the jump-off point to other places on the island such as El Nido, Port Barton, and others. The city isn’t as big as Manila, Davao, or Cebu, but is slowly turning into an urban jungle with malls and all types of accommodations. The city also serves as a base for day trips to the UNESCO-listed Underground River. The city also has one of the most modern airports in the country, the Puerto Princesa International Airport, which features Filipino architecture. 

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Activities: Underground River, city tour, Honda Bay island hopping

How to get there: There are frequent direct flights from Manila, Clark, or Cebu to Palawan’s capital. Buy your plane tickets months before the date of your departure to get the lowest possible airfare.

Budget: P1,500 to P2,000 a day

Bohol

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Photo by Andrewhaimerl | Wikimedia Commons.

This island in Visayas has been a popular tourist destination for some time. It is a noteworthy stop for backpackers because of the many affordable guesthouses and a few hostels in Panglao and in Tagbilaran. There are also many attractions and transportation options to reach them. You can join a group tour or rent a car, tricycle, or motorbike to reach them on your own. Famous spots include the Chocolate Hills, Alona Beach, Tarsier Sanctuary, and Bohol Bee Farm.

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Activities: Island hopping, scuba diving, visiting the Chocolate Hills, beach bumming

How to get there: There are direct flights from Manila to Bohol. From Cebu, you can also take a fast craft to Bohol.

Budget: P1,500 to P2,000 a day

Siargao

Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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This destination has risen to the top part of itineraries in the Philippines because of its idyllic charm, beautiful beaches, and surfing waves. It first became popular as a surfing spot, then further development and increased tourist traffic launched it to worldwide fame. Famous spots include Cloud 9, Sugba Lagoon, the islands of Daku, Naked, and Guyam, and Tayangban Cave to mention a few.

Activities: Surfing, island hopping (Naked, Guyam, and Daku Islands), swimming in Magpupungko Rock Pools, cliff diving in Sugba Lagoon

How to get there: You can book flights from Manila, Clark or Cebu to reach Siargao. This is the most convenient option compared to traveling by fast craft from Surigao City.

Budget: P1,500 to P2,000 a day

Siquijor

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Siquijor or the “Island of Fire” is a quaint destination in Visayas. Its rustic ambiance and pristine beaches have attracted both local and foreign tourists. The island is small enough to drive around in one day if you only make a few short stops, and has a number of attractions to fill your itinerary. Some places to visit include Cambugahay Falls, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach and the St. Francis of Assisi Church just to name a few.

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Activities: Beach bumming, cliff diving, scuba diving, road trip

How to get there: The nearest airport is in Dumaguete. From Dumaguete, make your way to the port and buy a ferry ticket to Siquijor.

Budget: P1,500 to P2,000 a day

Batad

Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Batad rose to fame because of the stunning rice terraces that look like an amphitheater. The time and effort it takes to reach the village and walk along the terraces is worth it. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views and a dip into the cool pool of the waterfalls.

Activities: Hiking

How to get there: Take the bus from Manila to Banaue. From there, board a jeep bound for Batad or hire a tricycle to take you. You’ll need to hike for a few minutes to reach the village.

Budget: P1,500 a day

La Union

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Photo by Judgefloro | Wikimedia Commons.

If you don’t want to book a flight for a backpacking trip, La Union is a possible destination. This province became famous because of its waves during the right season. The beach doesn’t have the same powdery and whiteness of more famous ones in Palawan or Boracay, but still nice. There are things to do and see while in La Union. You can visit the waterfalls, see the old churches, visit the Ma-Cho Temple, or eat and drink in the restaurants.  

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Activities: Surfing, swimming, beach bumming, trip to Tangadan Falls

How to get there: There are many buses from Metro Manila to different towns in La Union. Many also go here as a road trip from the city.

Budget: P1,500 a day

Davao City

Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Davao City combines urban comfort and nature. There are parks, a conservation center and nearby Samal Island for a fun (and affordable backpacking trip). The island provides plenty of things to see and do for nature lovers, such as beaches, caves, and cascading waterfalls. There are many affordable accommodations and restaurants whether you are traveling alone or with a group.

Activities: Island hopping, beach bumming, swimming, trip to Hagimit Falls, hike up Mt. Puting Bato

How to get there: There are direct flights to Davao City from Manila or Cebu. Book months or weeks before your chosen dates to get the lowest possible airfare.

Budget: P1500 to P2000 a day

Romblon

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Fort San Andres, Romblon

Photo by Myand | Wikimedia Commons.

Romblon is a laid back destination with pristine beaches and a beautiful countryside. The towns are small, the people friendly and the overall vibe is just chill. Going on a road trip on a bike, rented car, or a tricycle is a nice way to explore the island and visit the beaches.

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Activities: Swimming, beach hopping, sunbathing, buying marble products or souvenirs

How to get there: There are now direct flights from Manila to Tablas Island, Romblon. Save money by buying tickets months or weeks before your trip.

Budget: P1,500 a day

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Joshua Berida
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Joshua is a thrifty traveller.
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