The Ultimate Philippines Itinerary: 3 Weeks in Paradise

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The beautiful islands of the Philippines are perfect for a tropical getaway. Enjoy your trip with this Philippines itinerary: 3 weeks in paradise.

phililppines itinerary 3 weeks

We visited the Philippines over a magical three weeks and saw only a fraction of the gorgeous places to see in this island nation. But we want to share just how we explored this island nation.

This is a perfect balance of the tropics and some amazing nature. Get ready to explore the vibrant city of Manila, soak up the sun in El Nido and Puerto Princesa, go on a thrilling adventure in Donsol, and discover the cultural wonders of Cebu. Join us as we curate the perfect itinerary for an unforgettable three weeks in paradise.

We’ll cover our Philippines itinerary for 3 weeks, Philippines costs, Philippines travel tips, and more!

This post is all about the ideal Philippines itinerary for 3 weeks.

The Philippines was one of our more expensive trips in Southeast Asia, and this was mostly due to accommodations and transportation. On average, a budget of $50 to $100 per day is recommended for accommodations, meals, transportation, and activities. 

Accommodation options range from budget guesthouses and hostels to mid-range hotels and resorts. Keep in mind that the quality of these locations ranges widely and is far less consistent than other destinations. Local street food and small eateries offer affordable dining options, while higher-end restaurants and international cuisine can be pricier. 

Transportation costs can be managed by using public buses, jeepneys, tricycles, and ferries, although private transfers and flights between islands may increase expenses. Excursions and activities such as island hopping, diving, and tours like swimming with whale sharks may require additional budget allocation.

Since you’ll be in the Philippines for such a long time, you will definitely need some data for your phone while you’re there. There are plenty of options, from using your US data plan (at sometimes higher rates) to finding a local SIM card (inconvenient at times). We personally always opt to download and set up an e-sim prior to visiting the country. This makes it so easy, so you have data when you land and can top-up at any time directly on your phone. 

Our data plan for the Philippines cost us $21 for 10 GB of data through Airalo’s E-Sim Store for four weeks. We definitely needed the data, especially for using Google Maps while renting motorbikes in Bohol, El Nido, and Puerto Princesa. 

Since the Philippines is an island nation made up of over 7,000 islands, transportation is not always easy. Transportation was actually the single hardest part of our trip to the Philippines. There are a ton of different options, though, and planning ahead is the ultimate key. 

While in big cities, be sure to download and use the Grab app (Southeast Asia’s ride-share app) for the best prices and wait times. Island hopping is best done in a private boat, and you can book ahead of time online (and use a credit card!). You can also fly between many of the islands or book a trip on the many ferries!

You can rent motorbikes for more off-the-beaten-path destinations (like Bohol, Sabang, or Donsol). Just plan ahead because it’s hard to find one at the last minute. We usually search for “motorbike” or “motor scooter” rentals on Google Maps and find a place with good reviews, but you can also talk to your hotel if you need help finding someone.

Jeepneys are big in big cities and a little hectic but super fun and very affordable. Just read the side of the jeepneys to see where they are going, and based on what side of the street it’s on, you’ll know which direction it’s going. Everyone was very kind and helpful as we tried to figure it out! 

Lastly, another unique Filipino form of transportation is the trike or tricycle. It’s a motorbike with an attached sidecar (barely big enough for two people) with a roof over it. It’s like a sidecar tuk-tuk. You always pay cash, and they aren’t always as cheap as you would think, but you can negotiate prices. 

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When packing for your trip to the Philippines, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll be visiting multiple destinations over the course of three weeks which means you’ll be moving quite a bit with your luggage. With that in mind, it’s best to pack light and focus on essentials in as few of bags as possible. Here are three must-have items to include in your packing list:

  1. UV Clothing: The Philippines has a tropical climate, so pack lightweight and breathable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, and dresses. Don’t forget to include swimwear and a cover-up for the beautiful beaches and island hopping tours.
  2. Insect Repellent: With the lush landscapes and tropical environment, mosquitoes can be quite common in some areas. Be sure to pack insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquito bites and other insects.
  3. Travel Adapter: The Philippines uses Type A, B, and C electrical outlets, so be sure to bring a travel adapter to charge your electronic devices.

Remember, you can always purchase toiletries and other necessities locally if you prefer to pack light and save on luggage space.

Philippines Itinerary: 3 Weeks

Embark on a three-week adventure in the Philippines, exploring the diverse beauty of this tropical paradise. Begin your journey in the vibrant capital city of Manila, immersing yourself in its rich history and modern charm. From there, venture to El Nido and Puerto Princesa, where you’ll be captivated by stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and unforgettable island-hopping tours. Continue your exploration in Donsol, swimming alongside majestic whale sharks, before concluding your trip on Cebu Island, where you’ll encounter breathtaking waterfalls, pristine beaches, and cultural wonders like the Chocolate Hills. This Philippines itinerary offers the perfect balance of nature, culture, and relaxation, creating memories to last a lifetime.

  • Days 1-3: Manila
  • Days 3-9: El Nido
  • Days 9-12: Puerto Princesa
  • Days 12-16: Donsol
  • Days 16-21: Cebu Island

Days 1-3: Manila

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Manila, the vibrant capital city of the Philippines, is the perfect starting point for your three-week itinerary in paradise. Spend two nights in Manila and immerse yourself in its unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. Explore the historic walled city of Intramuros, where you can walk along the old walls and visit iconic landmarks such as Fort Santiago and San Agustin Church.

Indulge in the local cuisine and try popular dishes like adobo and halo-halo. Experience the bustling energy of the city as you stroll through popular shopping districts like Makati and Bonifacio Global City. Manila offers a glimpse into the rich heritage and cosmopolitan charm of the Philippines, setting the stage for an unforgettable journey ahead.

If you are really willing to try something new, try taking a Jeepney to your destination. Traffic is already crazy in Manila, and a Jeepney is a fun way to wait out the endless bumper-to-bumper traffic. You read the side of the Jeepney to see where it’s going and find one that’s heading in your direction and hop on! 

Top Activities in Manila

Makati is a bustling business district with upscale hotels, shopping centers, and vibrant nightlife. Intramuros is perfect for history enthusiasts, as it is home to colonial-era architecture and iconic landmarks. For a more laid-back atmosphere, consider staying in Quezon City, known for its parks, entertainment venues, and diverse culinary scene. We personally stayed along the water near the Mall of Asia and liked the ease of getting around from there.

Days 3-9: El Nido

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From Manila, you are heading out of the crazy, crowded city to absolute paradise. The only way to fly into El Nido is to fly directly from Manila. So, while you will have a few stops on Palawan Island, you’ll want to start here.

We only booked a few days in El Nido and absolutely wished we had stayed longer. This is what you think of when you think of the Philippines. There are hundreds of islands that you can take tours of, with clear blue water, fine white sand, and sunshine for days. It truly was gorgeous. We took El Nido Tour A and loved our experience. Since we went for a private tour of Tour A, we got an entire boat to ourselves and could spend as long as we wanted at each stop. Our guide even took us to a secret spot where we had to dive through a hole in the rock to see! It was incredible.

There is also Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D. We booked our tour online, and they made it so easy to meet down at the beach and head out for the day. Plus, we got to pay with a credit card. Most of the local places only accept cash.

Since you are spending six days in El Nido, you’ll have a chance to try out a few of the island hopping tours and head to some of the beaches on the main island. Do not miss Nacpan Beach. You can rent chairs for the day, and there are plenty of hotels with restaurants all up and down the beach to grab lunch.

Top Activities in El Nido

To get around El Nido area, we rented a motorbike with Bella’s Motorbike Rental for less than $10 per day. It was in good shape and they were really sweet to us. Riding was pretty easy for the most part, but be careful driving after dark since the roads can be pretty questionable.

They also have some great restaurants in El Nido since it’s such a popular spot for tourism. We loved Basil and Fowlmouth!

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Corong-Corong is known for its stunning beachfront resorts and laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those seeking a tranquil stay. The town center of El Nido is a hub of activity, offering a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and shops, making it a great choice for travelers. For a more secluded and exclusive experience, consider staying in the nearby area of Lio Beach, which boasts luxury resorts and pristine beaches.

Days 9-12: Puerto Princesa

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To get to Puerto Princesa from El Nido, you can book a transfer shuttle. Just be aware that the roads are windy, the space is cramped, and it’s definitely an adventure. Don’t forget your motion sickness remedies! 

Near Puerto Princesa, there are several incredible destinations to explore within a 3-day timeframe. One of the must-visit places is the stunning Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Embark on a boat tour and venture into the underground cave system, marveling at its impressive rock formations and diverse ecosystem. Another highlight is Honda Bay, known for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. Take island-hopping tours to explore breathtaking islands such as Pandan Island, Starfish Island, and Luli Island. Additionally, don’t miss the chance to visit the enchanting Sabang Waterfalls, where you can take a refreshing dip surrounded by lush greenery. With its natural wonders and idyllic landscapes, spending three days near Puerto Princesa is sure to be a memorable experience.

Top Activities in Puerto Princesa

The town center of Puerto Princesa is super busy and has a ton of options for accommodations and places to eat. If you prefer a more secluded and exclusive experience, consider staying in the nearby area of Sabang, which is known for its stunning beachfront resorts and tranquil atmosphere. We liked staying off-the-beaten path at the Ocean Green Eco Lodge and renting a motorbike directly from them to get around. 

Days 12-16: Donsol

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Donsol, located in the Philippines, is a must-visit destination during your three-week itinerary in paradise. This charming town is renowned for its incredible whale shark experience, where you can swim alongside these gentle giants in their natural habitat. The warm waters of Donsol attract these magnificent creatures, offering a unique opportunity for an unforgettable encounter.

Apart from the whale shark experience, Donsol is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, with nearby volcanoes adding to the allure. Mount Mayon, known for its perfectly symmetrical cone shape, and Mount Bulusan, with its lush vegetation and scenic trails, are just a short distance away. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and rich marine life of Donsol and create lifelong memories in this tropical paradise.

Spend your days snorkeling along the shore, and don’t forget to stop by Baracuda Seafood once the sun goes down for the most amazing food! 

Top Activities around Donsol

When visiting Donsol, there are a few neighborhoods that offer accommodation options. Dancalan is a popular choice for its proximity to the whale shark experience and beautiful beachfront resorts. Poblacion, the town center, offers convenient access to local amenities and transportation. For a more secluded and tranquil stay, consider staying in nearby barangays like San Jose or Gimagaan, where you can enjoy the peaceful ambiance and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

Days 16-21: Cebu Island

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Cebu Island, located in the Philippines, is a vibrant and diverse destination that offers a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors. With its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rich cultural heritage, Cebu Island is a paradise waiting to be explored. One of the highlights of visiting Cebu Island is taking a day trip to Bohol, a nearby island known for its unique attractions. Don’t miss the chance to visit the mesmerizing Chocolate Hills, a geological formation of perfectly cone-shaped hills that turn chocolate brown during the dry season. 

Explore the enchanting Loboc River and cruise along its emerald waters while enjoying a sumptuous buffet lunch. Cebu Island is also home to breathtaking waterfalls, such as Kawasan Falls, where you can take a refreshing dip and marvel at the cascading waters amidst lush tropical surroundings. Embark on an adventure-filled journey and create unforgettable memories on Cebu Island, a tropical paradise offering a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and exciting experiences.

Top Activities on Cebu Island

Cebu City, the capital, is a bustling urban center with a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls. You can do quite a few day trips from here, including Bohol. For a more beachfront experience, consider staying in Mactan Island, known for its stunning resorts and beautiful beaches. If you prefer a more laid-back atmosphere, head to Moalboal, a small town famous for its diving spots and serene coastal views. 

This post was all about the ideal Philippines itinerary for 3 weeks in paradise.

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