Planning the perfect Philippines 10 day Itinerary

Philippines 10 day Itinerary planning

Welcome to the Philippines, the country with over 7000 islands! It has so many islands in fact, that some of them are even un-named! If you are looking to combine culture and adventure with a tropical paradise then the Philippines is definitely the place for you. I spent just over three weeks in the Philippines back in 2016 and it was an amazing experience, so now I’m planning to return again to explore some other islands. Today I’m here to help you to plan the perfect Philippines 10 day itinerary.

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Is 10 days long enough for a trip to the Philippines?

Quite honestly, you could do a 4 day stop off in an island city such as Iloilo, Bacolod or Cebu and get a good taste of the Philippines. However, you would feel like you were massively missing out if you did this. The ideal amount of time to spend in the Philippines is at least 2-3 weeks, which would give you chance to explore 2-3 cities and do plenty of island hopping from each of those. However, if you don’t quite have that much time to spend, then it is possible to come up with a decent 10 day itinerary for the Philippines and have a fantastic experience, with a mix of Manila and islands.

Honda Bay solo travel
Here I am enjoying Honda Bay!

Is the Philippines suitable for Solo Female Travellers?

I went to the Philippines as a solo female traveller and so I would say absolutely, yes!

I would even go as far as to say that it is the easiest country in Asia to travel as a solo traveller, because there is rarely a language barrier. The Philippines is over 80% Christian and the culture there (including things like music) are very similar to UK culture.

If you want to read more on solo travel in the Philippines, then I have written a full article here.

When to go to the Philippines

The best time to visit the Philippines is between January and April when it’s comfortably hot and not too humid. June to November is the rainy season in the Philippines which you will want to avoid. It’s also a good idea to watch the local news and keep up to date with the local weather, because the Philippines is prone to tropical cyclones, which you do NOT want to be stuck in!

Also consider some of the festivals that happen in the Philippines. For example, Bacolod is famous for its MassKara Festival (many faces), which occurs in October and was started in 1980 to bring smiles to peoples faces during times of hardship. There is also the Sinulog-Santo NiΓ±o Festival – an annual cultural and religious festival held on the 3rd Sunday of January in Cebu City. These are both amazing festivals to attend if you can get the dates to match up.

MassKara Festival Bacolod Philippines
MassKara festival, Bacolod, Philippines

Key Tips for Planning your Philippines Itinerary

First off, you need to be prepared to take internal flights, because the best island destinations are quite a way away from Manila, which is where most international tourists fly into. Secondly, you need to focus on just 1 or 2 destinations, otherwise you are going to exhaust yourself. Finally, be open to guided tours that you can book online or through your hostel – some of the islands in the Philippines are remote and difficult to get to without a guide. Most travellers in the Philippines have a budget for tours, and it is so cheap to eat out and book accommodation anyway that you won’t break the bank.

Luli island Honda Bay Palawan
Luli Island, Honda Bay, Palawan

Focus on one or two Island Destinations

If you think that you can see Manila, Palawan, Coron and Cebu within a 10 day itinerary, you would be very wrong. Think about the geography of this country – as I have mentioned there are over 7000 islands in the Philippines, and the best ones to visit are not so close to Manila.

I would recommend that you fly into Manila, spent 2 days in Manila (3 days max) and then fly to either Puerta Princesa (Palawan) OR Cebu (Cebu Island) and focus on those destinations and surrounding islands. If you are more about adventure, snorkelling and diving then head to Palawan. If you are more into culture and architecture (including nice Churches) then head to Cebu and consider travelling to Bacolod and Iloilo.

DO NOT try to do all of this in one 10 day trip – you will be exhausted and not have enough time to enjoy it.

solo travel Philippines guide

And finally….a word on Boracay. I skipped it, don’t be afraid to do the same! What was once referred to as the world’s best party island has since been so overrun with tourists (pre-Covid) and covered in litter that the government of the Philippines have had to limit entry to Boracay to allow the island and its ecosystem to recover from the negative impacts of over-tourism.

What to pack for 10 days in the Philippines

The Philippines is a great destination for light packing because you spend so much time in your bikini and sarong on the beach! When you do need actual clothes, floaty dresses, shorts and T-shirts are ideal and so you don’t need to cart around a massively heavy bag. Here’s what to pack for the Philippines…

  • Travel documents, flight tickets and passport (I keep mine together in an A5 plastic wallet)
  • Filippino Pesos and USD, plus debit/credit card (My Barclaycard worked in many hotels in the Philippines).
  • Unlocked mobile phone (so that you can buy a Philippines SIM), charger and battery pack.
  • Laptop and charger – I recommend a Macbook Air for travelling as it is light to carry.
  • Sunglasses (or normal glasses with reactive lenses/prescription sunglasses if you wear glasses daily).
  • Medication – regular medication, Dioralyte sachets (for dehydration), paracetomol, Antihistamines (for bites or allergies), plasters, triangular bandage, antiseptic cream and any antibiotics you may need.
  • Sun cream (at least factor 30) and after sun (I like Ambre Solair as its great value).

sun cream for the Philippines

  • Toiletries – Solid shampoo and conditioner work well, soap or shower gel, travel toothpaste and toothbrush, brush or comb, face wash.
  • Minimal make up – it’s way too hot for foundation and thick make up will not be necessary in such a tropical climate (it will slide right off your face!) – if you must bring it, pair it down to a tinted moisturiser (I like Estee Lauder Day Wear) lip gloss, blusher and one eyeshadow.
  • Bug spray with DEET (I use Jungle Formula) or alternative – remember to top this up after swimming as well!

10 day Philippines itinerary Jungle formula

  • Comfortable trousers – cotton or linen floaty pants work well, or hiking trousers.
  • A pair of comfortable shorts (cycling shorts or denim shorts).
  • A pair of leggings (I lived in my black leggings in the Philippines as they were so comfy and stopped my legs getting bitten!)
  • Bikini and swimming costume (swimming shorts for men) and beach sarong or cover up.

sarong for Philippines

karrimor walking boots for Philippines

  • A waterproof jacket (lightweight) or rain shell incase it rains while hiking.
  • Head lamp – for hiking and walking around at night as some remote places are not well lit.
  • Soft fold up bag for beach days or to keep dirty washing separate.
  • Lonely Planet Philippines β€“ I love to have this paperback guidebook handy to read at night, on flights or during WIFI outages.

Lonely Planet Philippines

  • A pair of sandals and pair of flip flops for the beach.
  • Aqua shoes – these are great to have for snorkelling, but you don’t need to take your own snorkel kit which will be too bulky to travel with (and you can rent one there).
  • A few gifts from your country (e.g. keyrings, cookies) for friends who you may meet and who may help you on the journey ‘Pasalubong’ in Tagalog.

And finally a tip for the Philippines – it is not necessary to pack lots of toiletries unless you have particular shampoos and face washes that you always want to use. In the Philippines they sell toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel) and household essentials (such as washing powder/liquid) in little packets and they are very cheap and convenient for travel. So, you may want to pair down your packing even further and just buy these as you go. They are easy to find – just look for the local street vendor or nearest market.

Philippines 10 day Itinerary planning

Getting around in the Philippines – Forms of Transport

There are lots of forms of transport that you will come across in the Philippines and there are apps for taxis and tuk-tuks (download the GRAB app to your phone which is the Asian alternative to Uber). Here are the forms of transport that you may come across….

  • Taxis – use the GRAB app to order these so you know how much you are paying.
  • Tuk-tuk – a small three wheeled bicycle with three seats at the back covered with a roof. They are popular in the Philippines and their style varies from island to island (Palawan’s look like space ships!!!) You can also book tuk-tuks with Grab.
Tuk Tuks in Palawan
  • Jeepneys – These converted jeeps have two rows of facing seats and are popular shared transportation in the Philippines (especially Manila). Pass the money to the person next to you who will send it up the line to the driver. Miraculously, your change will come back!
  • MRT – Manila metro rail transit system which is basically the Manila Metro. Easy to use metro, can get busy in peak times.
  • LRT – Light rail transit in Manila. The only real difference between the MRT and the LRT in Manila is the company that runs them and the different routes that they take (Manila is massive!)
  • Ferries – Ferries between the islands are a popular way of transportation in the Philippines.
  • Coach buses – A great option to transport you between cities in the Philippines
  • Internal flights – the quickest way to get between the islands in the Philippines. Most popular air companies are Cebu Pacific and Air Asia.
Philippines Jeepney solo female travel
Meeting the Jeepneys of Manila!

What to avoid in the Philippines

  • Avoid packing too much into your itinerary.
  • Avoid driving in Manila – the traffic and roads are horrendous and there is no need.
  • Avoid drugs – you don’t want to end up in a prison or even worse, with the death penalty.
  • Avoid the taxis waiting at airports and bus stations who are likely to rip you off – download and use the GRAB app.
  • Avoid giving an outright ‘no’ to an invitation – a played down ‘we’ll see’ is less offensive and more polite.
  • Avoid disrespecting your elders – don’t use first name terms with someone older than you unless invited to.
  • Avoid arriving on time or early – Filipino time is around 15 minutes after the agreed time!

A Choice of two 10 day Philippines Itineraries

And now for my two itineraries, I am offering….

  • Philippines 10 Day Itinerary A – Manila and Palawan with Coron (great for wildlife, island hopping, snorkelling and diving)
  • Philippines 10 Day Itinerary B – Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo (great for Churches, history and island hopping)

Philippines 10 Day Itinerary A – Manila and Palawan

Here is the perfect Philippines 10 day itinerary for Manila and Palawan at a glance…

  • Day 1 – Manila – Visit Manila city hall, the Rizal Monument and Rizal Park and then explore Intramuros – the old Spanish centre of Manila (Casa Manila, San Agustin Church, The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Fort Santiago). Add Chinatown (Binondo) if time allows.
  • Day 2 – Manila – Museums of Manila (Museum of Anthropology and/or National Museum of fine arts, followed by the Malls and eating out in Makati (Modern Manila).
  • Day 3 – Fly to Puerto Princesa, Palawan and do a half day city tour.
  • Day 4 – Underground river bat cave Palawan.
  • Day 5 – Island hopping from Honda Bay.
  • Day 6 – Travel to El Nido and explore El Nido town.
  • Day 7 – Island Hopping and kayaking in El Nido.
  • Day 8 – El Nido to Coron Ferry and explore Coron town.
  • Day 9 – Snorkelling or Diving on Coron – Kayangan Lake and Coral Garden Snorkelling, and if you are not too tired, climbing the steps to Mount Tapyas for sunset.
  • Day 10 – Coron Island Hopping tour – Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, Snorkelling at Skeleton Wreck, Twin Lagoon. Optional evening activity (depending on your internal flight back to Manila) – relax in the Maquinit Hot Spring.
Philippines 10 day itinerary Manila and Palawan
Philippines 10 day Itinerary – Manila, Palawan and Coron

Day 1 – Manila: Rizal Park and Intramuros

On day 1, fly into Manila and depending on the time of your flight, you may be able to visit Manila city hall, the Rizal Monument and Rizal Park and then explore Intramuros – the old Spanish centre of Manila.

The Rizal monument is the most famous monument in Manila and it’s often said that you haven’t been to Manila unless you can show a photo of yourself in front of this monument!

Rizal Monument Manila Philippines
Me in front of the Rizal Monument, Manila

Casa Manila, San Agustin Church, The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Fort Santiago) are key sites that you shouldn’t miss in Manila. If time allows, add Chinatown (Binondo) – the Manila Chinatown is actually the oldest Chinatown in the world!

Day 2 – Manila: Museums and Malls

On your second day, you will have time to explore the Museums of Manila including the Museum of Anthropology and/or National Museum of fine arts. followed by the Malls and eating out in Makati (Modern Manila).

Day 3 – Fly to Puerto Princesa

On your third day, fly into Palawan and do a half day city tour of Puerto Princesa, the island’s capital. Don’t miss the Cathedral of the Immaculate conception, informally known as the Blue Church.

Cathedral of Immaculate conception Blue Church Puerto Princesa
Cathedral of the Immaculate conception

Day 4 – Underground river bat cave Palawan

While you are staying in Puerto Princesa it’s absolutely essential that you go on the underground river trip in Palawan to see the bats in their natural habitat. This will be a full day trip from Puerto Princesa and you can book your tour online here. Most tour companies will pick you up from your hotel or hostel in the capital, or arrange a central place to meet.

It will be an early start at around 7am and will take around an hour to get to where you board the boats for the cave. Most drivers will make a stop off at Buenavista, a beautiful viewpoint where you can get photos of Ulugan Bay. When you get off the bus ready for the underground river, expect a transfer boat to the mouth of the cave where you will change to a canoe to go through the underground river. Going inside the cave it will be very dark and wet, but you will see a lot of bats and there is other wildlife around the mouth of the river including lizards, monkeys, snakes and other local wildlife.

If you are scared of the bats, my top tip is DO NOT sit at the front of the boat! A woman at the front43% on our tour had a bar actually fly into her face!!!

underground river Palawan tips

Day 5 – Island hopping from Honda Bay

Honda Bay island hopping was my favourite day in Palawan – great people, food and beaches. What more can you expect?! This tour includes Star Fish Island, Luli Island and Cowrie Island and is not to be missed. This tour will fill your fifth day as it is a jam packed trip.

It’s important to pack your sun cream, bug spray, snorkelling gear (you can hire this) and aqua shoes on all island hopping tours in the Philippines.

Honda bay and star fish island
Here I am introducing my favourite island in the Philippines – Star Fish Island

Star fish island was my absolute favourite – you will see star fish bigger than your own hand! It is possible to hold them, but don’t take them out of the water for more than a few seconds and don’t handle them too much, otherwise they can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, which causes them to die from asphyxiation. They can also die from stress as a result of over handling them.

star fish island
A star fish on Starfish Island, Palawan

On Cowrie island you will find the beautiful Cowrie shells and on Luli island you can see the houses built on stilts to withstand the change in the tide. It’s a fantastic day out.

Day 6 – Travel to El Nido

On your 6th day you will travel to El Nido and explore El Nido town. The transfer from Puerto Princesa to El Nido will take around 6 hours and cost around $13 (book your bus transfer online here).

El Nido itself has plenty of hotels, beach bars and restaurants. However, bear in mind that El Nido is struggling to keep up with the influx of tourism to the area, so prices can sometimes be high and you will need to book your accommodation in advance, especially in high season. If you are looking for some cheap eats, I recommend Taste El Nido (Vegan cafe). I also loved ‘Piece of Sky El Nido’ for seafood with amazing views.

Now, it’s time to get ready for several amazing days of island hopping, snorkelling and diving!

Day 7 – Island Hopping and kayaking in El Nido

You now have a day of island hopping and kayaking to enjoy in El Nido.

This tour is the one I recommend because it includes Bacuit Bay, the Big Lagoon, Corong Corong Beach, Seven Commandos Beach, and the Secret Lagoon.

Day 8 – El Nido to Coron Ferry

On day 8, take the El Nido to Coron ferry which takes around 5-6 hours (depending on weather conditions). if you have time on your arrival, you can check in and explore Coron town.

Day 9 – Snorkelling or Diving on Coron

Today you should take a trip Kayangan Lake and Coral Garden for Snorkelling. If you are not too tired, climbing the steps to Mount Tapyas for sunset.

Day 10 – Coron Island Hopping tour

For your second day of island hopping on Coron, take this tour which includes Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, Snorkelling at Skeleton Wreck, Twin Lagoon.

If you still have energy after that, consider an extra optional evening activity – relax in the Maquinit Hot Spring.

If you have time, you may choose to take an additional beach day before your internal flight back to Manila, ready to go home.

Slowing it down!

The above itinerary is very intense and doesn’t offer many days off from travel and tours. If you are a fan of slow travel and want to take it easy, there are two options here. The first is to spread this itinerary over 2 weeks, and the second is to skip Coron and add in Port Barton between Puerto Princesa and El Nido. Port Barton is famous for its beaches and relaxing village atmosphere.

Map Palawan Puerta Princesa Port Barton and El Nido
Philippines 10 day Itinerary for slow travel – Manila and Palawan: Puerta Princesa Port Barton and El Nido

Where to stay in Manila, Palawan and Coron

  • Manila – Z Hostel Makati
  • Puerto Princesa – Sheebang Hostel
  • Port Barton – Coco Rico hostel
  • El Nido – Frendz Hostel El Nido or Outpost beach hostel
  • Coron – Hop Hostel or Bam Bam

Philippines 10 Day Itinerary B – Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo

  • Day 1 – Cebu City (historical centre) – Including Cathedral and Taoist temple
  • Day 2 – Panagsama Beach to swim with turtles
  • Day 3 – Kawasan Falls or alternative optional trip to Sinbonga Monastery
  • Day 4 – Whale sharks in Oslob
  • Day 5 – Internal flight from Mactan-Cebu International to Bacolod Silay airport (50 minutes) and explore main sights of Bacolod city.
  • Day 6 – The ruins and old houses of Silay city
  • Day 7 – Mambukai Mountain resort or island trip to Lakawon
  • Day 8 – Travel by ferry from Bacolod to Guimaras island and explore (Mango island!)
  • Day 9 – Travel from Guimaras to Iloilo by ferry (around half an hour) and explore Iloilo (Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, Molo Mansion, Camina Balay nga Bato heritage house)
  • Day 10 – Island hopping from Iloilo – Gigantes and Agho island.
Philippines 10 Day Itinerary Cebu Bacolod and Iloilo
Philippines 10 Day Itinerary – Cebu Bacolod and Iloilo

Cebu has a high expat and digital nomad community and is one of the best cities to base yourself as a blogger in the world.

Cebu Taoist Temple
Cebu Taoist temple
Jaro Cathedral Iloilo
Jaro Cathedral, Iloilo, Philippines

Where to stay in Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo

  • Cebu – Nacho Hostel Cebu or Hostel Seven Cebu
  • Bacolod – Acacia Hotel Bacolod
  • Guimaras – The Lazy Tiki, Natures Eye Resort
  • Iloilo – Park Inn by Radisson (Iloilo city) or The Grand Dame Hotel

Further Reading on The Philippines

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