Journey from the bustling city of Manila to the tropical paradise of Palawan on this 10-day Philippines getaway. Explore the many landmarks, markets, and malls of the capital before flying to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. Cruise down a subterranean river and visit a local Batak tribe, then head to El Nido, the gateway to the Bacuit archipelago. Lay on the white-sand beaches, swim in the turquoise waters, and cruise from island to island as you soak up the sun.


  • Explore Manila's many landmarks and shopping malls 
  • Learn about the Indigenous Batak tribe and tour their village
  • Cruise 5 miles (8.2 km) down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
  • Boat between the islands and lagoons surrounding El Nido 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Manila, Explore the Poblacion District Manila
Day 2 Full-Day Tour of Manila's Landmarks Manila
Day 3 Fly to Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island, Full-Day City Tour Puerto Princesa
Day 4 Visit the Batak Tribe in San Rafael Puerto Princesa
Day 5 Cruise Down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Puerto Princesa
Day 6 Transfer to El Nido, Home to Some of the Best Beaches in the World El Nido
Day 7 Hop Around the Islands of Bacuit Bay El Nido
Day 8 Boat Tour of El Nido's Islands & Beaches El Nido
Day 9 Fly to Manila, Shop at the City's Malls & Markets Manila
Day 10 Depart Manila  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Manila, Explore the Poblacion District

Stand amid the skyscrapers in Manila's Poblacion district

Welcome to the capital of the Philippines, Manila! Meet your driver outside Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport and transfer to your hotel to settle in. After some well-deserved rest, head out to explore Poblacion, a district in Makati full of restaurants, bars, and cafés. Start your evening with dinner at Señor Pollo, a popular Latin chicken chain serving roast or grilled chicken with a variety of delicious sides. Continue on to Lokal Hostel to admire the colorful murals painted by young local artists that line the building's interior and exterior.

Hopefully, you're not too full, as there's a lot of delicious street food to try in the area, such as kwek kwek, deep-fried quail eggs, or fish balls. Browse the array of stalls in Avenue Night Market next for handmade crafts, trendy fashion items, or some more delicious food. Grab a drink and find a spot to enjoy the live music around you. End your first night in the Philippines at City Garden Hotel for a chilled cocktail on the rooftop before returning to your hotel for the night. 

Day 2: Full-Day Tour of Manila's Landmarks

Browse the colorful market stalls in Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world

After a nourishing breakfast at the hotel, head out for a full day of exploring the city's landmarks. Start at Casa Manila, a replica of a 17th-century mansion showcasing the lifestyle of the Filipino elite during the Spanish colonial period. Admire the exterior of the opulent building before hopping on a horse-drawn carriage called a calesa to trot to the Manila Cathedral. Enter to admire the cathedral's intricate stained glass windows and towering spires, then walk to Fort Santiago, the former seat of the Spanish government, now a shrine and monument to José Rizal, a national hero who was imprisoned here.

Pass the Manila Chinese Cemetary, full of mansion-like tombs, on your way to the next stop, Quiapo, the oldest district in the city. Browse the market stalls lining the streets selling street food, herbal remedies, and souvenirs. End your tour in Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world and a food lover's paradise. Try savory dim sum dishes or sweet pastries as you walk down the narrow alleys and browse the vibrant market stalls. Return to the hotel to rest and freshen up, then venture out to the same district you visited last night, Makati, for dinner and a drink. 

Day 3: Fly to Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island, Full-Day City Tour

Visit the site of the first mass in Palawan, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Leave the bustling city behind as you head to the airport after breakfast for a 1.5-hour flight to Puerto Princesa, a coastal city on the island of Palawan. Transfer to your hotel and drop off your bags, then venture out for a guided tour of the city. Start at Palawan Museum for insight into the history, traditions, and natural wonders of the region. Continue on to Plaza Cuartel, a solemn site and former Japanese military base that's now a memorial for the American and Filipino soldiers who died during World War II.

Head to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral next, where the first mass on the island occurred in 1872. Admire the towering dual towers and the intricate Virgin Mary statue outside before visiting the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center to see creatures such as the Philippine crocodile, learn about their conservation stories, and participate in feeding sessions.

Continue to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, a jail without walls that focuses on rehabilitation and community reintegration, allowing prisoners to cultivate crops and raise livestock on the farm. Learn about some of the prisoners' personal journeys and tour the farm's lush landscapes and mangrove forests. You've probably worked up an appetite after all that walking, so enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at Ka Lui's Restaurant, where you can remove your shoes and sit comfortably atop pillows on the floor. If the weather is right, you can end this action-packed day spotting fireflies on a boat cruise down the Iwahig River

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Day 4: Visit the Batak Tribe in San Rafael

Watch as members of the Batak tribe create handmade crafts using traditional methods
After breakfast, head one hour out of the city to San Rafael to visit some of the island's Batak people, the oldest Indigenous tribe in the Philippines. On the way, stop at a local shop to buy necessities to donate to the community, such as rice, sugar, or coffee. When you arrive, tour the village, talk to the locals, and learn about their age-old traditions. Although there are only a few hundred members of the Batak tribe left, they've managed to maintain their ancestral customs, sustainable practices, and Indigenous language. Enjoy lunch with the villagers before returning to your hotel in Puerto Princesa for a free afternoon. 

Day 5: Cruise Down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

Cruise down the 5-mile (8.2 km) Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Leave the city behind again today as you head 1.5 hours north to the village of Sabang to explore the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the longest navigable underground rivers in the world. Hop in a boat and cruise down the 5-mile (8.2 km) river through the cave system before emptying out into the South China Sea. Pass stunning rock formations, cathedral chambers, and ancient trees while keeping your eyes peeled for the wildlife, like monkeys, monitor lizards, and squirrels, that calls this UNESCO World Heritage Site home. Return to your hotel in Puerto Princesa after this adventurous activity.

Day 6: Transfer to El Nido, Home to Some of the Best Beaches in the World

Relax on one of the many white-sand beaches in El Nido

Say goodbye to Puerto Princesa, as this morning you're headed to El Nido, a coastal town renowned for its postcard beaches, turquoise waters, and towering limestone cliffs. Arrive at your hotel after a five-hour transfer and stay in to relax, or leave your bags and venture out to explore the town on your own. Head to one of the many beaches, such as Nacpan Beach or Las Cabanas Beach, to swim in the crystal-clear water and lay under the swaying palm trees. When it starts to get dark, visit one of the beachfront bars or restaurants for dinner and a refreshing drink as you watch the sunset over the water.

If you're looking for a more adventurous activity, you can trek to Nagkalit-kali Waterfall, nestled in the untamed tropical forest. This moderate hike takes 40 minutes to an hour as you cross flowing streams and traverse rocky terrain. The rewarding view of the cascading falls will be worth the trek as you jump into the refreshing water. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the falls before returning on the same path. End your day with dinner and singing your heart out at a local karaoke bar. 

Day 7: Hop Around the Islands of Bacuit Bay

Snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Bacuit Bay

The best way to see El Nido is from the water, so today, you'll embark on an island-hopping cruise around Bacuit Bay. Start at the Secret Lagoon, where you'll have to jump off the boat and swim to the narrow entrance hidden in the limestone cliffs. Swim through the small hole to surround yourself with the jagged rock formations, lush vegetation, and calm waters of the lagoon. Enjoy a swim in the serene environment before cruising to Shimizu Island. Dive in here with your snorkeling gear to discover the colorful coral reefs while your guide prepares a delicious meal onboard. 

Enjoy your lunch on the boat, then cruise to the Big Lagoon, where colorful fish are always feasting in the waters. Put your snorkel back on to catch glimpses of marine life or simply relax on the white-sand beach while enjoying breathtaking views of the dramatic cliffs and azure waters. End your tour at Seven Commandos Beach, named after seven Japanese commandos who lived on the island after World War II. Take a leisurely stroll on the soft sand lined with beautiful palm trees, or enjoy a final swim in the warm, inviting sea before returning to El Nido.

Day 8: Boat Tour of El Nido's Islands & Beaches

Visit Dilumaclad Island and try to make out the helicopter-shaped limestone

Spend another day discovering the islands around El Nido, starting with a boat cruise to Dilumaclad Island, also known as "Helicopter Island," since it resembles the shape of a helicopter from a distance. Lay on the island's powdery-white sand and swim in the turquoise waters before continuing to Tapiutan Island. Put on your snorkeling gear and jump in the water to see the colorful fish and coral, then cruise to Matinloc Island, home to the Matinloc Shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 

Hop off the boat and swim through the small crevice in the cliffs to get to Secret Beach for a swim in this hidden paradise. Dry off and trek up one of the cliffs to see the shrine, which is full of religious sculptures, and enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding islands and azure waters. Head back down the cliff to the boat and cruise to Star Beach, another great snorkeling spot with vibrant coral reefs. While you discover the underwater world, your guide will prepare a traditional lunch for you on board. When you finish your meal, cruise back to El Nido.

Day 9: Fly to Manila, Shop at the City's Malls & Markets

Take to the massive Mall of Asia for a little shopping

Bid farewell to the island paradise of El Nido as you return to Manila this morning. If you feel like seeing more of the capital upon arrival, join a shopping tour to discover the city's best malls and markets. Start at Greenhills Shopping Mall, which has a combination of upscale and mass-market shops. Head to one of the largest malls in Southeast Asia next, the Mall of Asia, where you can find everything from high-end brands to local boutiques. Shopping isn't the only thing to do here either, as the mall features an amusement park, an Olympic-sized ice rink, and an IMAX theater. 

Go bargain hunting at Divisoria Market in the afternoon, as vendors sell their wares in bulk. Browse the stalls full of every item you can imagine, including home decor, clothing, and toys. Once you're done shopping, you can continue to explore the city at your own pace. Head to the National Museum of Fine Arts to admire the collection of Filipino art. If museums aren't your thing, take a leisurely stroll along Roxas Boulevard, a waterfront avenue lined with palm trees, parks, and historical landmarks. End the night in the Ermita district for a delicious seafood dinner and drinks at one of the many bars or clubs.

Day 10: Depart Manila

Visit the colorful fish, sharks, and rays in Manila Ocean Park

Your 10-day Philippines adventure draws to a close today. If you have a lot of time to kill before your flight, drop by Manila Ocean Park, a marine-themed park with a massive aquarium housing 14,000 marine creatures. Visit the sharks and rays, watch an animal show, and interact with the many educational exhibits. Just keep an eye on the clock as a driver will meet you back at your hotel to take you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels! 

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Map of City Break to Island Escape in the Philippines: Manila & Palawan - 10 Days
Map of City Break to Island Escape in the Philippines: Manila & Palawan - 10 Days