When you visit Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, or even Cambodia in Southeast Asian, it’s fairly easy to find good, up to date information about where to go, where to stay, what to do, etc.

Your perfect Philippines vacation itineraryBut with the Philippines, it’s still somehow shrouded in mystery – and complete utter chaos once you touch down in-country. But with 7,500 islands, 151 languages (6 main ones spoken) and a hodgepodge of religions, ethnicities, and disjointed provinces, it’s also part of its charm – and the adventure. You have to EARN it in the Philippines.

But let’s be honest- you don’t want to earn shit if you only have a week or two vacation and you’re spending thousands of dollars along the way. In fact, I’ve wasted a whole lot of time and money visiting the wrong places, not having my travel arrangements in order, and buying into the hype – and I live here!

So, when a friend hits me up and tells me that they have a week, ten days, or two weeks or more in the Philippines and asks my opinion, this is what I tell them:

Vacationing in the Phillippines

Fly into Manila or Cebu if you can, but don’t plan on lingering there. In fact, book an airport hotel and get some rest and then get ready for your flight out early the next morning.

That’s when you’ll jump on a plan right to the island of Coron in the Palawan Island province. The beautiful thing is that you can fly directly into Coron’s small and charming airport, and then take a van only 40 minutes or so to the bayside town. From there, you’ll do a day or two of island hopping that will absolutely blow you away. You don’t need more than 2 or 3 total days if you’re on a tight schedule, and then you can fly right back to Cebu or Manila.

From there, jump the next available flight to Siarago. Instead of boating around small islands, you’ll be in the surf capital of the Philippines, and one that’s fast becoming THE #1 hot spot in the country because of its natural beauty, expansive coastline, multitude of waves, and its Caribbean/Rasta vibe.

Three days or more is perfect in Siargao (although a month is better), but you still have stuff to see.

Fly from Siargao to Cebu and then have the next flight booked to Dumaguete. Your flight will be a comical 27 minutes long, but you’ll have access to some really cool tourist attractions from the small city of “Gentle People.” From Dumaguete, take a ferry over to the island of SIjiour for a day trip with incredible waterfalls, beaches, and the like. The next morning, take the ferry over to Oslob, where you can swim with whale sharks and then kick it at the sandbar on Similan Resort Island. The Manjuyod Sandbar is also only 50 minutes from Dumaguete, and Apo Island – famous among scuba divers – is even closer.

If you have a couple of days left, “sell out” and fly to Caticlan and ferry over to the island of Boracay, the most visited tourist attraction in the country. While it’s way too crowded, commercialized, and the beach is trampled these days, it’s still really nice and damn fun!

You can probably fit all of those in within 10 days if you really hustle, and it will be the best vacation of your life! (Weather permitting.)

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post, Business.com, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo, Hotels.com, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.