Filipino Food: 11 Delicious Things to Eat in the Philippines

Filipino Food: 11 Delicious Things to Eat in the Philippines

Ah, Filipino food… before we entered this beautiful country, we were warned by many that we may not enjoy the food here. We didn’t have the best experience in the beginning but we definitely had some memorable eating experiences as we tried more things. Simplicity is the key in Filipino food and we love how they put vinegar and soy sauce to a good use. Not just local delicacies but its interesting how they put their own spin to international food. So get ready to salivate and check out these 11 delicious things that we ate the Philippines which will make you want to try Filipino food:

01 | Pork Adobo

Best Filipino Food - Pork Adobo - (Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot at Tambayan Gastrobar)

Best Filipino Food – Pork Adobo – (Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot at Tambayan Gastrobar)

San and I hated Pork Adobo at almost every restaurant because it was too oily and chewy. However, we were lucky that we got to experience this famous Filipino delicacy in Manila’s Tambayan Gastrobar. We were invited for a meal and boy, we were impressed! Pork Adobo is their specialty and it’s called Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot in the menu. And what’s inside this pot? Juicy pork meat that was so tender that it melted in our mouths. As the name suggests, this pork was slow cooked in a pot with dark sauce and one full garlic. The result – succulent meat with gentle flavor in every layer. This meal was so good that we went back next day for lunch. This was the best thing that we ate in the Philippines.

02 | Cheese and Melon Ice cream

Cheese and melon ice cream at Alona Beach

Cheese and melon ice cream at Alona Beach

San has a weakness for ice creams and he orders one almost everywhere. He got this cone of cheese and melon ice cream when we were chilling on Alona beach. Much to his annoyance, I asked for one bite but I never returned his cone back. It was SOOO EFFING good! I never knew that cheese could taste so good as a desert ingredient. Oh and about San, well, he got himself a new one. We went back every day for this same ice cream while we were in Bohol.

03 | Simple village meal in Bohol

Simple Filipino Food in Panglao Island

Simple Filipino Food in Bohol – all this costed us less than 200 pesos

Perhaps our first “real” Filipino lunch, San and I couldn’t get over the variety. This roadside restaurant which was far from all tourist hubs in Bohol had a massive selection of curries, seafood and meats. We wanted to order almost everything here. The pink thing that you see in this picture was made from shrimp paste. The plate on its left contains squids. The plate next to fish is of fried eggplant. The steamed fish was only flavored with a little salt and vinegar. Simple and delicious flavors.

04 | BBQ – Everywhere

Filipino Food: Roadside Barbecued Meat in the Philippines

Filipino Food: Roadside Barbecued Meat in the Philippines

Filipinos surely know how to barbecue their meats! It’s funny how San and I had formed an aversion to meat for a few months before visiting the Philippines but we ate meat for every meal here. No matter which part of the Philippines we went, there was always a place (or a few) where we could find someone barbecuing meat on sticks. We even found it on our boat from Coron to Puerto Princesa. Pork, Chicken and some unrecognizable organs – whatever I ate was delicious. The best part – the sauces!

05 | Sting ray

Shredded Sting Ray

Shredded Sting Ray

This was our most delicious meal in Coron. This did not look like sting ray and could have been any other fish but we trust the restaurant staff. The sting ray was shredded and made in a curry way with a little bit of coconut and a hint of garlic with green chilies. It tasted heavenly with rice

06 | Halo Halo

Filipino Food: Halo-halo dessert

Filipino Food: Halo-halo dessert

Haluhalo or Halo-halo is perhaps the most famous Filipino dessert and is the perfect answer to a stressful day. This dessert is made by mixing everything delicious they can find around them – ice cream, milk, condensed milk, sweet beans, fruits, jelly fruit, cornflakes, etc. One distinct flavor that overpowered the Halo Halo I ate was of Ube. Ube is a local fruit and is also called purple yam. Its purple in color and the flavor is heavenly. This was at Tambayan Gastrobar of Manila.

07 | Seaweed Salad

Filipino Food - Seaweed Salad

Filipino Food – Seaweed Salad

To be honest, this was more interesting than delicious. We have eaten seaweed before but it was nothing like this. These little globes that you see, were full of some sort of gooey liquid. Kinda like gel. We ate this in a restaurant in Coron city.

08 | Clams in Cebu city

Filipino Food - Clam soup in Cebu city

Filipino Food – Clam soup in Cebu city

Bored of eating roadside food, San and I decided to visit a restaurant in Cebu city and we were definitely not disappointed. We ordered a big bowl of garlic clams and had a very good time eating it with salad and roasted pork belly.

09 | Pulled Pork Burger

Pulled Pork Burger in the Philippines

Pulled Pork Burger in the Philippines

Did I ever mention that Filipinos definitely know how to cook their meats? Well, their forte is Pork and if you love burgers, Philippines is the perfect place to indulge. This pulled pork burger was at Tambayan Gastrobar in Manila. Yes, the same restaurant where we ate Pork Adobo and Halo Halo. You definitely need to eat here. You must be thinking that pulled pork burger is not Filipino food so why is this included in the post? Well, because they put their own touches and made it special!

10 | Calamansi (in salads, juices and rums)

Filipino Calamansi - Tanduay Rum with coke and Calamansi

Filipino Calamansi – Tanduay Rum with coke and Calamansi

Calamansi is a lemon like fruit which is available in the Philippines. Its darker and smaller than a typical lemon and the taste is a tad different. While in Palawan, I was hooked and I started my mornings with calamansi juice with honey.

11 | El Nido Salad

El Nido Salad - what's not to love about this?

El Nido Salad – what’s not to love about this?

Who wouldn’t love a salad which looked like that? This adorable plate of salad was prepared for us by our boat staff in El Nido in just a few minutes.

BONUS: Drinking in the Philippines

What do you do when you fill your stomach with so much food? You wash it with some good beer or rum! Yes we really enjoyed drinking in the Philippines and we recommend the below three:

12 & 13 | San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer and Red Horse beer

 

Drinking in the Philippines: San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer
Drinking in the Philippines: Red Horse beer on Alona beach

San Miguel is the perfect drink for a sunny beach day. Red horse is Philippines’ local brew and is stronger than San Miguel. I love how both these beers come in extra-large bottles. Look how happy San looks! He’s in paradise!

14 | Tanduay Rhum (rum)

Tanduay is also the local brew and is the perfect drink if you want something stronger than beer. On our first night here, we went to a Karaoke bar in Bohol where I got this free because of ladies night! This rum reminded us of Old Monk of India and we carried a bottle along in our backpacks wherever we went. It tastes the best with coke and calimansi.

If you think we put on a little weight after eating a lot of delicious Filipino food, you gotta check out our Instagram feed and let us know!

If you have visited or you live in the Philippines and you love Filipino food, I’d love to hear what your favorite is. Let me know in the comments.

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Filipino Food - Cheese and melon ice cream
Filipino Food - 11 Delicious Things we ate in the Philippines
Drinking in the Philippines - Tanduay Rum with coke and Calamansi

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? Or both? If you’re thinking of heading to Palawan for a quick trip and are not sure where to go or what to miss, this post will help you make some decisions. Moreover, this post will also act as an excellent guide if you’re visiting both these destinations in Palawan and are looking for information about how to reach, places to stay, eating options, costs, beaches, attractions, party and more!

Where and what is Palawan all about?

Palawan in the Philippines has been declared as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler for many years in the row. It’s not a single island but is a group of many islands of different shapes and sizes.

If you follow us on Instagram, you must be knowing that San and I spent a few weeks in the Philippines and a majority of our time in Palawan. We visited both El Nido and Coron but spent only one day in Puerto Princesa. However, before we visited Palawan, we were trying to figure out if we should only visit one of these two destinations. Our dilemma was – El Nido or Coron? We didn’t find adequate comparison online on several factors, so here’s something I wrote to help you pick El Nido or Coron, depending on what you want out of your Palawan experience.

 

01 | Ease of Reaching

How to reach Coron

You can reach Coron by a direct flight to Busuanga airport which is only 30-45 minutes away from Coron town. Philippine Airlines runs daily flights from Manila and Cebu to Busuanga. Alternatively, you can also reach Coron from El Nido by a ferry that takes roughly 7 hours. This ferry that runs between Coron and El Nido is a little shaky and reminded me of Thailand’s Lomprayah. If you want to save money, you can also travel to Coron from Manila by 2Go Travel, a “mega ferry”. This boat is less like a ferry and more like a cruise vessel with sleeping berths in an air conditioned area, lobby, restaurant, bar and deck.

How to reach El Nido

There were no direct flights to El Nido until recently. As of 2016, AirSwift runs direct flights from Manila and Cebu to El Nido. However, these flights are expensive. Alternatively, you can also fly to Puerto Princesa, which is serviced by budget carriers such as Air Asia. From Puerto Princesa, El Nido is 5-6 hours away by a van and will cost you around 1000 – 700 pesos per person. We paid ₱ 700 because we were 7 people that met at the airport and decided to book a van together but we had heard of people that paid ₱ 1000 pesos per person too. You can also take a bus between Puerto Princesa and El Nido but these buses take more than 7 hours because they stop often.

Winner: Coron Both (Coron had this edge over El Nido till early 2016)

02 | Cost Comparison

02.1 | Places to stay

Places to stay in Coron

Upon reaching Coron, we found many places with affordable rooms starting from ‎₱ 500 pesos per night for a double room with fan and internet. We stayed at Coron Guapos which was just a three-month old property in Coron town at the time of our visit and was well managed. This place is right next to the more popular Marley’s guest house. We also booked our tour from our hotel and had the experience to remember.

Places to stay in El Nido

It was difficult finding budget rooms in El Nido, so we decided to book two hostel beds instead. The most affordable place was Our Melting Pot Hostel which cost us ‎₱ 450 pesos per bed and was full but we were lucky to get two bunk beds. We highly recommend this hostel and their tours. Even though this hostel is a typical party hostel, their dormitory area was always quiet and our sleep was never disturbed. Another hostel option in El Nido is Spin Designer Hostel, which is a boutique hostel(‎₱ 800 pesos per bed).

02.2 | Eating options

Eating in Coron vs El Nido

After spending a few days in Bohol’s Panglao island, we found the food in El Nido to be expensive, even the street food! We smiled with relief upon reaching Coron town because we found a variety of affordable eating options. The food in Coron was much cheaper as compared to that in El Nido, even the street food. We recommend Levine’s restaurant for their all day breakfast.

02.3 | Cost of Tours

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

The tours in Coron started from as low as ‎₱ 650 pesos per person but were for ‎₱ 1200 pesos per person in El Nido. While in El Nido, we did tour A and tour C where the cost to use a kayak during our tours was ‎₱ 100 pesos per person for 30 minutes. Coron also has a tour called “the ultimate Coron tour” with an unlimited use of Kayak. This is the most expensive tour in Coron and costs ‎₱ 1400 pesos per person. But we were able to negotiate a price of ₱ 1000 per person by making our own custom tour which was like “the ultimate Coron tour” but minus one attraction.

Overall costs

The cost of moving around on a tricycle was lower in Coron. Even scooter rental prices were lower in Coron than El Nido. This could be because the demand was higher in El Nido due to more visitors.

Winner: Coron

03 | Viewpoints

Viewpoints in Coron

Coron Viewpoint – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

Coron Viewpoint on the way to Kayangan lake – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

If you’re a sucker for viewpoints and don’t shy away from making an effort to climb for hours just for a bird’s eye view, you’re going to love Coron. Coron has three main viewpoints. The first is Mt. Tapyas in the main Coron town which you will see from a distance. The second is the spot as shown in the above picture on the way to Kayangan Lake as you climb on top of the rocks that surround the lake. The second one is the one that’s usually featured in every travel article and webpage about Coron. The third as shown in the below picture one can be seen on the road to Busuanga town from Coron town and there’s no need to climb anything to view it. I don’t have a picture of the first because we climbed Mt. Tapyas in the middle of the night after getting a kick of energy from Tanduay rum.

Viewpoint on Coron - Busuanga road

Viewpoint on Coron – Busuanga road

Viewpoints in El Nido

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

The only viewpoint we found in El Nido was on Matinloc Shrine island. The climb is of little effort but is on pointed rocks. The view is spectacular.

Winner: Coron

04 | Beaches

Beaches in Coron

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

When in Coron, the beaches can’t be accessed by just walking. The nearest beach is there is Cabo beach which is 30 minutes away from Coron town. Unlike other beaches of Coron, there’s no need to take a boat to reach Cabo beach. Other noteworthy beaches are Banol beach and the beaches on Banana island. We visited Banol beach just by chance while we were snorkeling around the skeleton wreck which is right next to it.

Beaches in El Nido

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

El Nido has more beaches than Coron. Just like Coron, the best beaches only be accessed by a boat or a long scooter ride. But El Nido wins points over Coron here because the main beach is just walking distance away from the main town area. This beach kind of reminded me of Railay’s beaches with limestone formations but was five times more crowded! Our recommendation – seven commandos beach, Talisay island beach, hidden beach and Matinloc Shrine beach. Oh and El Nido fans will hate me for saying this but I found Bohol‘s beaches to be much better than El Nido’s.

Winner: El Nido

05 | Underwater Life, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and Diving in Coron

Colorful Corals and Clams in Siete Pecados marine park, Coron, Palawan
Shipwreck Diving and Snorkeling - Skeleton Wreck in Coron, Palawan
Nemo - a clownfish family in Siete Pecados marine park in Coron, Palawan

Snorkeling in Coron was perhaps the best snorkeling experience of my life. I saw the most colorful corals in Coral Garden – it was like an underwater rainbow! I had tears of happiness in my eyes while snorkeling in Siete Pecados marine park because I had never seen such beauty. We saw some of the most colorful fishes or many sizes here and also a Clownfish (Nemo) family. Our friend who was snorkeling with us saw a sea turtle here. Moreover, Coron has eleven Japanese shipwrecks that you can explore if you love diving. We weren’t able to dive because we ran out of money, but we snorkeled around the skeleton ship wreck. The water around was clear and the visibility was unbelievable.

Snorkeling and Diving in El Nido

The underwater life in El Nido pales in comparison as compared to Coron. No doubt we saw a lot of marine life but it was definitely not as colorful as Coron, especially the corals. Plus, El Nido doesn’t have any shipwrecks around unlike Coron.

Winner: Coron

06 | Lakes and Waterfalls

Waterfalls and Lakes of Coron

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan - Asia's Cleanest Lake

They say it’s the cleanest Lake of Asia – Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

Coron boasts of 11 lakes out of which Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake are the most famous ones. They say Kayangan Lake is the cleanest lake in Asia but I don’t know if that’s true. However, I do know that I have never seen water as clear as this where I could see the bottom of the lake. The water in this lake is 70% fresh and 30% salty. Swimming in this lake is an experience I will not forget in my lifetime.

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

On one of the days in Coron, we rented a scooter and drove to Busuanga town and visited Concepcion Falls. We spent a relaxed day swimming and chilling in a natural pool around this waterfall. This pool also had a school of doctor fish, which is the same fish they use in a foot spa. But don’t be afraid, they don’t bite you anywhere except a little peck on the toes. Moreover, Coron also has Maquinit Hot Spring with a natural hot water pool but we didn’t go there because it was too hot.

Waterfalls and Lakes of El Nido

El Nido doesn’t have lakes but we got to hear of Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall, the only one waterfall here. It is on the way to Nacpan beach. Again, with 11 lakes in Coron, El Nido can’t win on this point.

Winner: Coron

07 | Lagoons

Lagoons of Coron

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

The twin lagoons in Coron are perhaps the most famous ones. The water here is 70% salty and 30% fresh and these two lagoons are separated by a rock. The best part? Swimming through a hole in the rock to reach the inner lagoon here. The water clarity in the outer lagoon was much better than any of the lagoons in El Nido. There are more lagoons such as the green lagoon, sunset lagoon, and hidden lagoon.

Lagoons of El Nido

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido boasts of many different lagoons out of which a few are open for public. We visited the small lagoon, the big lagoon, the hidden lagoon, the secret lagoon – all were beautiful. Some of the lagoons also had a little beach attached. Seriously, El Nido wins hands down if you compare the lagoons.

Winner: El Nido

08 | Town Area

Coron Town is technically on Busuanga island, not Coron island. Confusing, no? The town area is bigger and more spread out as compared to El Nido with more budget friendly eating and staying options in comparison. El Nido town is a smaller and cramped if you compare it to Coron town. There is now a new ATM as well here but it was not working while I was there.

Winner: Coron

09 | Which one is more crowded?

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

With an easier access due to a cheaper direct flight, you’d think that Coron would be more crowded? Wrong! El Nido was definitely more crowded as compared to Coron. It was sad to see El Nido’s main beach which must have been beautiful a few years back but was completely destroyed due to an unbelievable amount of people and boats. We met many people in El Nido who were not even considering heading to Coron but everyone we met in Coron had been to El Nido or was heading there next. Even all the main attractions were crowded due to too many tours.

Loser: El Nido

10 | Places to Drink and Party in Coron and El Nido

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Although our main motive to visit Palawan was not to party but we couldn’t help ourselves from enjoying a few nice evenings. After all, we had made a few friends on the road! For a low-key party evening, I recommend Coron’s offbeat Rasta bar – Obra Natural Art & Coffee. This place is next to Coron School of Fisheries. It’s not your “typical” party place with loud music but is a small café with a seating space for barely 15 people. We loved it so much that we ended up visiting it every evening. We couldn’t get enough of listening to live didgeridoo (didjeridu) and djembe music. If you end up going there, say our hello to the owner – Rodney. Alternatively, you can also check out No Name Bar which is in the main Coron town for a louder party. While in El Nido, you can visit many beach bars on the main beach for a fun evening. Our Melting Pot hostel in El Nido was a party hostel where we ended up playing beer pong for a few hours.

Winner: Tie between Coron and El Nido

11 | The atmosphere and vibes

Call us hippies but vibes are important for us. We found the atmosphere in Coron to be more relaxed and laid back as compared to El Nido. Maybe it was because El Nido was a little too crowded for our liking. Arriving in Coron from El Nido was a refreshing change because it felt that everyone was there to scam us in El Nido and charge extra for every small thing. Moreover, I had read warnings on the internet to be careful about food in El Nido because a lot of people reported suffering from food poisoning. Keeping this in mind, we were careful about what we ate but shockingly San suffered from an upset stomach. Strangely, every friend that we made in El Nido had a bad case of diarrhea and food poisoning and one of them even spent an entire night in the hospital. Upon reaching Coron, everyone in our hotel told us that they suffered from an upset stomach while they were in El Nido. Luckily I was the only one who did not. Maybe it’s because of my Indian stomach or the fact I wore a hat in the sun but I’ll never know the truth.

El Nido or Coron – Our choice?

We spent more time in El Nido than Coron, but we rate Coron much higher than El Nido.

Where should you go in Palawan? El Nido or Coron?

If you have enough time then we highly recommend you visit both. However if you’re heading to Palawan for a quick trip and can visit only one destination, I will try to make things easy for you. If you like having an easy access to the beaches and don’t mind crowds, then El Nido is where you should go. However, if you want to scuba dive or just snorkel around to see underwater beauty, then Coron is your place.

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Entering Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan
Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Panglao Island, Bohol – Our Favorite Place in the Philippines

Panglao Island, Bohol – Our Favorite Place in the Philippines

Panglao Island is a tiny island attached to the south-west tip of the main island of Bohol in the Philippines. It is very close to Cebu island as well.

We wanted white sand, blue water, beautiful nature and loads of peace. A little research suggested that the Philippines was the place for it all. Boracay or El Nido? These are the two main destinations we heard about when we booked our tickets to visit the Philippines. The more we read about Boracay, the more we did not want to visit. A deeper research suggested we pay Bohol a visit for its famous chocolate hills, tarsier sanctuary and Loboc river. But where to stay in Bohol? We were looking for a place that was not crowded and where it was possible to explore on a scooter. With a little luck, we found a place called Panglao Island.

Too Lazy to read this post? Watch this video!

If you’re lazy like us, we urge you to watch this video that we have made with a lot of love. This is our second travel video and you’re gonna LOVE the underwater footage that we made using our brand new GoPro Hero 4 (Black). Oh and if you’re wondering how come we didn’t lose our GoPro in the sea is because we have this awesome Go Pro outdoor kit which has a yellow float-able stick that prevents the camera from sinking, even if you’re clumsy like us!

SPOILER: this video has a cute little tarsier, a banded eel that’s pretending to be a snake (Belcher’s sea snake) and more!

 

Why we fell in love with Panglao Island

Panglao was our first destination when we visited the Philippines in February and March 2016 and towards the end of the trip we realized it was the best out of all. Here’s why:

01 | Affordable rooms, food, scooter – this of course tops our list because we’re budget travelers. When compared to the other destinations we visited, Panglao island was cheaper in every aspect. It’s easy to find many places to eat where only locals visit unlike many other places that we visited in the Philippines.

Simple Filipino Food in Panglao Island

Simple Filipino Food in Panglao Island – everything here costed us less than 200 pesos

02 | Not yet crowded (unlike Palawan / Boracay / Cebu, etc) – The only crowded place on this island is Alona beach and even that’s not as crowded as El Nido’s or Boracay’s main beaches.

03 | Stunning beaches and a few of them were empty! – Panglao Island’s beaches are exactly how you see them in travel magazines. They have white sand, blue water and are fringed with trees.

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

04 | Many places to explore on our own without taking tours – The Philippines is a beautiful country and every corner has many natural attractions that are worth a visit. While in Palawan, we had to opt for a few tours to see some attractions because it was extremely expensive to hire our own boat and explore ourselves. However, on Panglao island it was possible for us to visit pretty much whatever we wanted on our own and at our own pace on a rented scooter.

05 | Typical “Island Vibe” – Panglao island has a very laidback and typical “island vibe” that reflects in its slow life. This is exactly what we wanted from our vacation but unfortunately did not feel this way when we were in other destinations.

How to Reach Panglao Island

Fly to Tagbilaran airport and catch a tricycle to Panglao Island for around ₱ 200 – 300 pesos. The ride takes 20 minutes.

Fly to Cebu city, head to Pier 1 and board a ferry for Tagbilaran for ₱ 400 pesos. To save money, you can catch a bus from Cebu city airport to the closest point and then take a taxi to Pier 1. You will notice the bus sign as you exit the airport. Ask the staff at the counter for more details. The ferry will take around 2 hours. Once you reach Tagbilaran pier, you can catch a tricycle to Panglao Island for around ₱ 200 – 300 pesos.

Option 1 makes more sense but usually the airfare to Cebu city is much lower as compared to Tagbilaran, so pick option 2 if you don’t mind a longer journey to save money.

Where to stay on Panglao Island:

Alona Beach is the most famous and crowded part of this island because its where most of the people stay. To avoid the crowds, we found an affordable place which was 2.5 KMs ahead of Alona beach – Mabuhay Breeze Resort. This place was exactly what we wanted because it was on the empty part of the road with hardly anything around. We did find a karaoke bar near this place which was just a few steps away. Our first night in the Philippines was spent singing in this Karaoke bar with a few locals and drinking Tanduay rum.

This is Panglao Island, Bohol

This is Panglao Island, Bohol

We paid around USD 15$ for a charming hut for two (around ₱ 700 pesos). The reception area had a bar, a free water refilling station, charging points, free Wifi and a few adorable cats. There was a large swimming pool after the reception area with huts around it. Alternatively, you can also stay at Panglao Chocolate Hills Resort which is 5 KMs before Alona beach and very close to another beautiful beach of this island – White Beach. Other affordable places are Moon Fools Hostel, Bohol Coco Farm Hostel, and Dormitels PH Alona Beach.

Things to do in Panglao Island (and around)

01 | Beach bumming: Alona beach, White Beach (Libaong White Beach), Doljo Beach

Even though Alona beach is the most crowded of all, it’s definitely worth a visit because it’s pretty. The best part of this beach is towards the extreme left side as you enter.

Alona Beach of Panglao Island, Bohol

Alona Beach of Panglao Island, Bohol

If you want to avoid the crowd, I highly recommend you visit White Beach, which is 5 KMs before Alona beach. Many locals did not know about it (maybe they have a different name for it) but we found it on google maps. It has a few wooden cabins near the beach where you can keep your stuff and head for a swim. It was empty whenever we visited it.

White Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol

White Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol

We found another beautiful beach on this island just by accident when we lost our way – Doljo Beach. It’s a very large beach with shallow water that was full of pretty little starfishes.

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

There are other beaches such as Bikini beach, Momo beach but are not as nice as the main three.

02 | Hire a scooter and drive around aimlessly

Riding around in our scooter was perhaps the best thing we did while we were here. It was definitely one of our most beautiful drives because the roads were empty and the scenery that surrounded us was spectacular. We saw many villages, beautiful paddy fields, buffaloes chilling in the water, banana plantation, Loboc river, many dense trees that formed a tunnel over the road and a lot of cute Filipino children that were excited to see us and hi-fived us as we rode around them.

03 | Scuba diving and Snorkeling

Head to one of the beaches with your snorkel and you are guaranteed to see a lot of underwater beauty. Look at this banded eel which we saw on Alona beach! (Yes we thought for a while that it’s a Belcher’s sea snake).

Looks like Belcher's sea snake but its a Banded Eel on Alona Beach

Looks like Belcher’s sea snake but its a Banded Eel on Alona Beach

If you swim around Alona beach, the seabed looks like a garden with many sea urchins, starfishes and small fishes. If you want to see more, then do sign up for a dive at a PADI dive shop.

04 | Drive to Carmen to see the famous Chocolate Hills!

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines

The drive to the famous Chocolate hills from Alona beach area was around 3 hours but it was definitely worth it as you can read in point 2. As you reach Carmen, a town in Bohol that’s famous for these hills, the landscape changes drastically and these hills start popping up on both the sides. After paying a fee of ₱ 50 per person, you can climb on the highest of these chocolate hills for a stunning view. You will notice thousands of these cone shaped symmetrical hills around you that are covered with grass. During the dry season, the grass on these hills turns chocolate brown and these hills resemble Hershey’s kisses, hence the name – Chocolate Hills. As per scientific research, these grassy hills were once coral reefs that erupted from the sea over hundreds of thousands of years ago. Do remember to carry water in your backpack because it’s expensive on the main hill. Please drive around the hills too! The village is beautiful and it’s easy to get lost in the nature here.

05 | Visit Tarsier Sanctuary

When in the Philippines, a visit to a tarsier sanctuary is a must do. Tarsiers are super cute monkey like animals that are unfortunately endangered. These animals are just 8 – 16 cms big, which is usually the size of a grown up’s hand.

 

These cuties are shy and like to stay in dark areas because exposure to light can damage their big eyes.  They are nervous little things that get stressed out when they are touched or if there’s noise around them.

A cute little Tarsier in Bohol

A cute little Tarsier in Bohol

The fee to enter the tarsier sanctuary was ₱ 40 per person we could stay inside for as long as we wanted. This sanctuary is located in Loboc town of Bohol and it takes only 1-2 hours on a scooter from Alona beach. It is on the way to Carmen so it’s possible to visit the Tarsier sanctuary and chocolate hills on the same day.

06 | Dive with a whale shark

San with a whaleshark in Oslob, Cebu

San with a whaleshark in Oslob, Cebu

Diving or snorkeling with whale sharks is possible in Oslob (Cebu) but it’s easy to access this area from Panglao Island. We did not want to stay in Oslob because it appeared to be crowded but we rented a boat from Alona beach that took us to Oslob. We paid ₱ 700 per person for the round trip boat ride but we found this price after a lot of bargaining. Once in Oslob, we paid ₱ 1000 per person to snorkel for 40 minutes with the whale sharks.

A whale shark in Oslob, Cebu

A whale shark in Oslob, Cebu – Look at the size!

We had heard all sorts of horrible things about Oslob but we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is crowded and expensive but they don’t let a lot of people in the water at the same time. They also don’t let people wear sunscreen because it harms the whale sharks. We were asked to maintain a distance of a meter from the whale sharks but these overly friendly underwater giants did not want to leave us alone. It was a surreal experience swimming with them. Many people say that the whale shark diving should not be encouraged because they pull these animals out of their natural habitat by luring them with shrimp which causes imbalances in nature.

07 | Hinagdanan cave or Cambagat Cave

It costs ₱ 50 to enter Hinagdanan cave which has many stalactites and a lake at the bottom. It costs extra to swim in the lake. You can skip this attraction if you have seen other bigger caves.

08 | Visit Loboc River

Loboc River, Bohol

Loboc River, Bohol

Loboc river is a clear water river in Bohol. Many people opt for river cruises but I suggest you just drive around it and find a corner where you can sit next to it. We saw many cute little huts around this river. As we crossed the bridge over it, we could see the bottom of the river because the water was very clear. A few tour operators organize firefly watching tours along this river and there is a floating restaurant on it.

09 | Shell Museum

Nova Shell museum has a massive collection of shells of many different shapes, sizes and colors.  All these shells have been collected by Quirino Hora and they form one of the biggest collections in the world. It costs ₱ 50 to enter the museum and it’s open from 8 am to 5 pm. Arrive early because the collection is massive.

10 | Dolphin Watching

We did not do this but this is one of the many things you can do while you’re on Panglao island. These tours leave early morning from Alona beach. Why did we not do this? Because we are not fans of group tours and we have already seen dolphins in their natural habitat in Gokarna, India.

11 | Island Hopping – Virgin Island and Balicasag

You will find many boat operators on Alona beach who will try to sell you a tour to these islands. Virgin island is famous for its beautiful beach and Balicasag Island has its own marine sanctuary. You can skip this if you are planning on visiting Siete Pecados marine park in Coron.

Overall, we felt that our time on Panglao Island was the most fun that we had in the Philippines because of variety of possibilities of things to do in and around this place.

Have you visited Panglao Island and have a few tips of your own to add? Let me know in the comments section!

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Panglao Island, Bohol, the Philippines - Pin it!

Panglao Island, Bohol, the Philippines – Pin it!

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila – A Love Affair to Remember!

Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila – A Love Affair to Remember!

Goodbye Beaches, Hello Manila!

Our time in the Philippines was about to end when we decided to spend a day in Manila. After many days of island hopping, camping and staying in dirty hostels, San and I needed one day of comfort and good food.  Our few attempts to eat local Filipino food had ended horribly after realizing most of the food was either fried or filled with pork fat. Don’t get me wrong, the Filipino islands do have good food but we didn’t find a lot of variety and had to survive on barbecued meat and rice with soy sauce. Although it was delicious in the beginning, we got really sick of eating the same thing for every meal.  We wanted some veggies or curry!

Anyway, tired as hell we got out of our metro at Manila’s Pedro Gil LRT Station and decided to walk to Tambayan Capsule Hostel, our hostel in Manila. It appeared to be an upmarket area with a massive mall called Robinson Place Manila on one side and little dance bars on the other side.

The SURPRISE – and love at first sight with our Hostel

We reached a Victorian looking building with a rooftop restaurant that appeared to be full and buzzing with activity. The sign did say “Tambayan” but we were sure this was not our hostel because it was quite swanky!

Tambayan Capsule Hostel Manila

Tambayan Capsule Hostel Manila

Ten steps later we realized that it was the same building with a bar, a restaurant, and a hostel – OUR HOSTEL. A chat with an extremely pretty and smiling receptionist confirmed our guesses, Tambayan Capsule Hostel & Bar and Tambayan Gastrobar were different parts of the same establishment. While the atmosphere outside was filled with sounds of laughter and clinks of glasses, inside was surprisingly calm and peaceful – just like a lobby of a high-end hotel.

The interiors at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

The interiors at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

After having spent many days in simple island rooms and bunk beds we were happy to see a luxurious private room with wall mural and an attached toilet. The room had everything we needed – a powerful (but silent) air conditioner, a desk, hangers, a flat screen television which we were not going to use and a hair dryer! The bathroom was swanky with gold fittings, hot water, and sufficient toiletries. Just outside our room was a section for tea and coffee and a water station.

Our Private Room at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

Our Private Room at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

Curious about the capsule beds, we decided to check out the rest of the hostel. True to their description, these were capsule like bunk beds with total privacy because of shutter like blinds that could be pulled down. Each capsule was super spacious and had its own fan, reading lamp, plug point, and a little mirror. If we had a few more days in Manila, we would have loved to stay in one of the capsules for the experience.

Inside a capsule at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

Inside a capsule at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

The dorm rooms were extremely clean, airy and well lit due to natural light that came entering from big windows. The walls were stark white with subtle wall art and the floor was completely wooden. The shared toilets were separate for men and women had many spacious stalls inside. There was a little sitting area upstairs with board games that overlooked the restaurant.

The Dorm Rooms and shared toilet

The dorm rooms with capsule beds and shared toilet at Tambayan Capsule Hostel, Manila

The Mouthorgasm.. Mmm

With the thought of skipping local food and grabbing burgers, we entered Tambayan Gastrobar. A smiling staff member, who introduced himself as Chef Charlie recommended we try the house specialty – Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot or simply put – Pork Adobo! Since it was our last night in the Philippines, we decided to give a last try to experience local food and agreed. Best decision ever.

The first thing on our table was a plate of fresh Oriental Salad that San and I were delighted to eat because of fresh veggies. This salad was crunchy because of nuts and a little tangy because of mango and had a generous amount of shrimps.

Oriental Salad at Tambayan Gastrobar Manila

Oriental Salad at Tambayan Gastrobar Manila

A few minutes later, a ceramic pot followed the salad which filled our noses with an aroma as soon as the cover was removed. What we saw inside made our jaws drop! This pot had a big chunk of pork meat with dark sauce with fried onions on top and an entire garlic inside that was apparently cooked with the pork in the same sauce. This was our Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot.  The base of the curry was soy sauce and it had flavors of vinegar, pepper and of course garlic. The best part? Juicy chunks of pork that were so tender that they melted in our mouths! Mmmm mouthorgasm!

Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot at Tambayan Gastrobar

Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot at Tambayan Gastrobar

We finished our meal with Halo-Halo, which was a massive portion of purple dessert that had something called “Ube” with a lot of fresh fruits, sweet beans, ice cream, milk and a lot of goodies. Ube (or purple yam) is a flavor that I only got to eat in the Philippines. It’s delicious!

Pulled Pork burger, Tambayan Burger and Halo-halo at Tambayan Gastrobar, Manila

Pulled Pork burger, Tambayan Burger and Halo-halo at Tambayan Gastrobar, Manila

We ended our evening with a few beers on Tambayan’s roof top bar that overlooked Robinson Mall and a few dance bars. The atmosphere upstairs was lively and gave us our dose of Manila’s hipster night lift.

Overall:

We came here to stay but they made us fall in love with Filipino food and “WOW”ed us with their hospitality. The food was so delicious that we went back next morning to eat the same thing for our brunch and tried their pulled pork burger which was also made with pork adobo. If you’re heading to Manila, then do stay at Tambayan Capsule Hostel. Seriously, we can’t recommend this place enough! Click here to book yourself a stay to remember at this lovely hostel.

Have you ever slept in a capsule? If yes, do share your experience with us in the comments!

Note: our stay and dinner at Tambayan Capsule Hostel and Tambayan Gastrobar were complimentary but the opinions in this article are honest. We were so impressed with this place that we spent most of our time in Manila in Tambayan. We also went to their bar and ate the same things next day because it was the best meal that we had in the Philippines. Seriously, their Slow Cooked Braised Soy Vinegar Pork Belly Pot was unbelievably good.

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Tambayan Capsule Hostel in Manila

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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