- Explore the capital of the Philippines, Manila, at your own pace
- Cruise down the Puerto Princesa Underground River
- Visit the pristine islands around El Nido
- Snorkel to the World War II shipwrecks surrounding Coron
|Arrive in Manila, Capital of the Philippines
|Fly to Puerto Princesa, Visit Iwahig Prison & the Butterfly Eco-Garden
|Cruise Down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
|Transfer to El Nido via Fort Santa Isabel, Enjoy a Free Afternoon
|Full-Day Island-Hopping Tour in Bacuit Bay
|Visit the Secluded Darocotan Island
|Transfer to Coron, the Third-Largest Calamian Island
|Explore the World War II Shipwrecks of Coron
|Fly to Manila, Explore at Your Own Pace
Day 1: Arrive in Manila, Capital of the Philippines
Welcome to the Philippines! Upon arrival in the capital of Manila, your driver will be waiting to transfer to your hotel. Once you've settled in, it's time to venture out and start exploring the city on your own. A perfect place to start is Intramuros, the historic walled city that contains most of the city's main landmarks. Here you'll find Fort Santiago, a Spanish military base turned memorial to the victims of World War II. Enter at the well-preserved main gate to explore the courtyards, dungeons, and museum showcasing artifacts and exhibits.
Continue to Casa Manila, a replica of a 17th-century mansion, helping you understand what the lifestyle of the elite was like during the Spanish colonial era. Admire the opulent exterior or head inside to discover the period furniture, ornate fixtures, and detailed decor as you walk among the rooms and courtyards. End your first day in the Philippines in the Poblacion district, a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and cafés. You have your pick of international and Filipino cuisine, so eat to your heart's content before returning to your hotel for the night.
Day 2: Fly to Puerto Princesa, Visit Iwahig Prison & the Butterfly Eco-Garden
Leave the city behind today for the tropical paradise of Palawan, the largest province in the country and home to some of the best beaches in the world. Fly to Puerto Princesa International Airport and head straight to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, a corrections facility that focuses on rehabilitation and community integration. Inmates are free to roam the grounds and take care of the farm, and you'll hear some of their personal stories before continuing to the Butterfly Eco-Garden and Tribal Village.
When you enter, you'll immediately be greeted by colorful butterflies flitting among the lush greenery. Learn about the life cycles of these enchanting insects, then explore the tribal village for a glimpse into the traditional way of life of the Indigenous Batak tribe. Speak with the villagers to gain insight into their customs, rituals, and craftsmanship, then head to your hotel. Settle in and relax before venturing back out to end your night with dinner at Rizal Avenue, a main street lined with eateries serving Filipino and international cuisine.
Day 3: Cruise Down the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Today you're off on an adventurous underground excursion, starting with a transfer 1.5 hours north of Puerto Princesa. Your destination is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a natural wonder and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival, hop in a boat and enter the limestone cave to cruise down the 5-mile (8.2 km) river.
Guided only by flashlight, follow the river past caverns, rock formations, and chambers. As you get deeper into the cave, you'll come across unique flora and fauna that have adapted to this subterranean environment. Look up if you're feeling brave to see the hundreds of bats hanging from stalactites. Exit the cave and cruise into the South China Sea before returning to Puerto Princesa.
Day 4: Transfer to El Nido via Fort Santa Isabel, Enjoy a Free Afternoon
Say goodbye to Puerto Princesa as you transfer four hours north to the star of Palawan, El Nido, renowned for its limestone formations, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. On the way, stop at Fort Santa Isabel, a 17th-century fortress built to defend the island against pirates and Moro raiders. Walk through the well-preserved stone walls, see the watchtower and cannons, and enjoy a panoramic view of Taytay Bay. Dine at the nearby Casa Rosa Restaurant overlooking the fort before continuing to El Nido. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and stay in to relax or venture out on your own.
Take your pick of one of the local beaches, such as Nacpan Beach, to sunbathe and swim. If you're looking for a little adventure, trek up Taraw Cliff instead for panoramic views of the town and its surrounding landscapes. This hike isn't for the faint of heart, though, as it involves a steep ascent and proper footwear. Walk through dense vegetation and limestone formations to reach the summit. If you timed your hike right, you can enjoy a sunset view from the top. Walk back down the cliff and stroll to Rizal Street, a beachfront avenue bustling with dining options, to find somewhere for dinner.
Day 5: Full-Day Island-Hopping Tour in Bacuit Bay
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Discover the islands, caves, and lagoons around El Nido on a full-day boat tour around Bacuit Bay this morning. Cruise to Shimizu Island, where you can jump in the clear waters and explore the vibrant coral gardens teeming with marine life. After your underwater escapade, continue to Payong-Payong Beach, a secluded stretch of shoreline that offers the perfect environment for relaxation. Bask in the sun, stroll the sandy shores, or go for a leisurely swim before cruising to the Secret Lagoon, a hidden gem only accessible by kayak or swimming through a small opening.
When you enter, you'll be greeted by emerald waters, lush vegetation, and limestone cliffs. After swimming in this secluded paradise, head to the Big Lagoon, known for its towering rock formations that circle the lagoon. Cruise across the lagoon and marvel at its natural beauty from the boat. End your island-hopping adventure with a visit to Seven Commando Beach, named after the Japanese commandos who lived here after the war. Enjoy a barbecue lunch of fresh seafood and a final swim before returning to your hotel in El Nido.
Day 6: Visit the Secluded Darocotan Island
Day 7: Transfer to Coron, the Third-Largest Calamian Island
After a final morning enjoying El Nido's beaches at your leisure, leave one tropical paradise for another as you head to the harbor to catch the 3-5-hour ferry to Coron Island. The third-largest island in the Calamian archipelago, Coron, is considered one of the Philippines' most spectacular beauty spots, with a landscape of soaring limestone peaks, dense mangrove jungles, and countless hidden lagoons. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel, where you'll have the rest of the afternoon free.
Relaxing at Maquinit Hot Springs is a great way to wind down after the long ferry ride. Enter the hot spring nestled amid lush vegetation and soak in the therapeutic waters. After a peaceful afternoon, head into Coron Town for dinner and a drink. There are plenty of international and Filipino restaurants, but fresh seafood shines here. Once you've had your fill, you can join a firefly-watching tour through the dark mangrove forests if the weather is right. Watch as hundreds of fireflies light up the trees with their soft, bioluminescent glow before returning to your hotel for the night.
Day 8: Explore the World War II Shipwrecks of Coron
Full of Japanese shipwrecks from World War II, the waters around Coron are a paradise for snorkelers and divers. Today, you get to explore two of these wrecks, starting with the Lusong shipwreck. Cruise to the sunken vessel, put on your snorkeling gear, and jump in the water to discover what's below. Admire the vibrant coral formations inhabited by an array of marine species that have taken over the site before continuing to the next shipwreck, East Tangat.
Snorkel around the underwater landmark, absorbing the serene beauty of the coral-clad shipwreck. Climb back on board and set sail to Pass Island, one of the smaller Calamian Islands. Enjoy a seafood barbecue, then relax on the sands under the swaying palm trees. Go for a final swim in the turquoise waters before returning to Coron.
Day 9: Fly to Manila, Explore at Your Own Pace
Bid farewell to Coron as you fly back to Manila this morning. After the 1.5-hour flight, meet your driver outside Ninoy Aquino International Airport to transfer to your hotel. Stay in to relax or spend your penultimate day in the Philippines exploring more of Manila on your own. Visit Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, to discover historical temples, stroll the colorful streets, and sample delicious Chinese cuisine.
In the afternoon, head to the National Museum to browse the collection of artifacts, artworks, and historical treasures that offer a comprehensive insight into the country's heritage. Continue your cultural tour of the city at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to enjoy a Filipino dance performance, a classical music concert, or a contemporary play. End the night with dinner in the Ermita district, known for its array of local eateries, fast-food chains, and international restaurants.