Category: Food

Hello Hue

The second stop of our north to south journey across Vietnam is Hue. Hue is located halfway the long thin shaped country. We travelled from Hanoi to Hue by nightbus. A 12 hour lasting trip, leaving at 7 PM. We arrived in Hue at 6 AM, guess we had a bus driver with a heavy right foot. Tickets for night busses are generally easy obtainable at your accommodation. We booked ours at the Rendezvous hostel in Hanoi.

Besides the fact that you don’t want to be traveling in a nightbus for more than 12 hours, Hue is a little city with some pretty insteresting sights. A two night stay here is long enough to see all things necessary. After these two nights you’ll be fully recharged to commence your epic motorcycle trip from Hue to Hanoi, crossing the beautiful Hai Van Pass. More on that later!

Imperial City

Probably the major tourist attraction in Hue. This ancient part of Hue is surrounded by walls. Several generations of emperors and their family and staff lived here. We visited this magnificent place on a beautiful sunny day. Which resulted in heaps of great photos! Check the weather forecast before visiting because it’s not worth visiting the  Emperor’s city on a rainy day.

One of the many beautiful structures inside the Imperial City
View of the gardens and the entrance gate

There are some tombs to visit around Hue. However the weather on our second day in Hue didn’t allow us to visit them. You can either rent a motorbike yourself or go on a tour with a local. Most accommodations can arrange this for you.
Where to eat

To be honest, Hue was not particularly a culinary highlight of our journey through Vietnam. There are some local specialties like Banh Xeo, a fried shrimp pancake, which I tried, but it’s not that big of a deal.

Risotto restaurant

Like I said, Hue is not the place for enjoying local cuisine, plus we had a secret craving for some western food. Going in to this touristy restaurant with TripAdvisor logos everywhere, was not a bad decision at all! They serve proper pizza here and the risotto with green peas and chorizo I had was delicious!

Boulangerie Francaise 

This tiny French bakery cafe is ideal for breakfast or lunch. Another thing which is to like about this boulangerie is that they teach underprivileged kids from the streets to work here.

Where to drink

Roots coffee

A nicely designed coffee bar which was located right next to our hotel. A Triumph bonneville as decor and great coffee and smoothies is wat we loved about this place. They also have a motorbike parking facility next door, where some pretty cool bikes are stalled.

Now that’s a good sense of style! A Bonnie as decor!

Bar next to Boulangerie Francaise

I’m sorry but I could not discover the name of this cost bar located next to the French bakery. We spotted it during lunch and decided to visit it later on. A nice place with ridiculously cheap beers during happy hour. There’s live music performed by locals every night from approximately 8PM!

DMZ bar

Located in the main bar street you can’t really miss the DMZ bar. They claim to be the first bar of Hue. With its cool army look interior and old school hip hop and R&B tunes, it’s a nice place to have a couple of beers.

Where to stay

Tanh An Guesthouse

You’ll get serious value for money here. It’s located in a little alley, but their sign is at the main road so it’s easy to find. Once you pass the reception on the corner you will most likely be welcomed by the hilariously funny and singing host. Comfy spacious double rooms at only 5 USD per person per night. The Imperial city and my recommended bars and restaurants are all within maximum half an our walking distance. Check for availability here.

Hue to Hoi An by motorcycle 

We were tipped by fellow travelers Asweroam to book a motorbike at Motorvina. They offer one way motorbike rental including a luggage transfer. Which means that you can just drop your bags at their rental office in Hue, get on your bike, ride the Hai Van Pass to Hoi An, leave the motorcycle there and collect your bags at the Hoi An office. Highly recommended if there’s two of you riding one motorbike! Check out the availability of their bikes here. I rented the Honda XR 150 which was a great bike to take on the Hai Van Pass! It ain’t cheap but the one way service with luggage transfer is very convenient!

Our XR150, a very decent bike to take on the Hai Van Pass with!

Hi Hoi An!

Getting from Hue to Hoi An by motorcycle

We arrived in Hoi An, soaking wet as a result of continuous showers during our Hai Van Pass trip per motorbike. Unfortunately we did not get to see the beautiful views from the highest point of the pass. All we saw were raindrops in grey clouds, with a maximum sight of 30 meters. Accepting the fact that the rain water had reached body parts you’d rather keep dry, we kept on going. As soon as we crossed the top of the pass, the weather conditions improved.

We cruised through Da Nang and had our minds blown by the overwhelming amount of mega hotels and resorts. What surprised us even more, were the number of construction sites, developing even more tourist accommodations. We were glad we didn’t plan to stay in Da Nang and we continued our route towards Hoi An. At the point we nearly dried up, the rain came back, half an our later we were happy to arrive at our homestay called Holy Land, where we found a comforting hot shower.

After I returned the motorcycle to the Hoi An branch of Motorvina and collected our backpacks, I took a taxi back to our home stay. It was time to head into the city for something to eat!

Walking through the very charming old town we instantly felt this was a place where we would want to stay longer than the initially planned 3 nights. There’s just too many good street food stands, restaurants, bars, tailors. Read on to learn more about our favorite places in Hoi An!

Hoi An by biycle!
Tip: discover Hoi An by bicycle!


Where to eat

Hola Taco

After our motorcycle trip we were starving. We heard promising stories about this Mexican place so we went straight for Hola Taco the afternoon we arrived in Hoi An. Looking the prices we assumed they had a shared dining concept going on here. When our food order arrived we learned this wasn’t the case. The servings of nachos with pulled chicken and cheese, tacos with slow cooked beef and chicken enchiladas were humongous! And it was delicious too! I wonder who teached the all Vietnamese staff to cook this way! After taking numerous breaks from eating we managed to empty our plates. Ready to be rolled out of the restaurant.

Hola Taco Hoi Ain
Satisfy your Mexican food craving at Hola Taco!

Banh Mi competition

When traveling in Vietnam you can’t really miss the famous mixed pork meat sandwiches called Banh Mi. In Hoi An there are two places who claim to serve the very best Banh Mi pork sandwich of Vietnam. So it’s time to find out who’s right.

Banh Mi Phuong

It was actually celebrity foodie Anthony Bourdain who said this is the  place to get the best Banh Mi in Vietnam. Due to this claim Banh Mi Phuong is now extremely popular and you have to cue around lunchtime to get your hands on a fresh crisp French baguette stuffed with BBQ pork, cold cut pork meats and a special spiced pork pathé. Grab a seat inside the restaurant and wait to be served, otherwise get in line and order for take away. In my opinion ‘number 9’ on the menu is a delicious mixed pork sandwich, but my vote for best Banh Mi evaahh goes to the Banh Mi Queen. Another very good sandwich they serve here at Phuong is the hot tuna baguette!

Banh My Phuong
‘Number 9’ at Banh My Phuong

The Banh Mi Queen

Where there’s a menu to choose from at Banh My Phuong, it’s just one specific sandwich which is served at the Banh Mi Queen. Take a seat in the living room like setting, choose your drink and order the number of sandwiches you would like. Your only choice is wether you like chili or not, the rest is decided by the Queen. I usually ate two Banh Mi sandwiches with chili, because they are too damn tasty here to just have one! By the way, it is possible to order a Banh My Op La here, which is a vegetarian version with omelette, strongly recommended by Daphne.

Best Banh My at The Banh My Queen in Hoi Ain
The Banh My Sandwich made by the Queen, my absolute favorite!

Chips and Fish Café

So, the name and location aren’t this place’s strongest points. It’s located on the far left corner on the south bank of the river. It’s a quiet spot where you do still get nice views over the water. They  serve Bia Hoi at 15 cents plus the seafood here as well as the local specialties White Rose and Cao Lau are very tasty. A good place to eat when you’re on a budget!

Jim’s snackbar

Telling you about this place betrays us of craving some western food every now and then! The Dutch owner Jim stands for serving high quality fast food. And he’s serious about this! We ate the best burgers here since Fergburger in Queenstown New Zealand. Jim uses a blend of Australian beef kinds to make the perfect patties himself. He also serves special beers from all over the world. A must go! Check out my Stamp account for the exact location! Jim told us he was going to move his restaurant to a bigger building soon, so check the location before you visit and don’t miss it!

Best Burger in Hoi An, and beyond!
One of the best burgers I ever had at Jim’s Snackbar in Hoi An

Where to drink

Reaching Out Teahouse

Looking for a quiet place to completely relax with a cup of tea? Look no further. At reaching out you will be served by hearing and speaking impaired people. You order by filling out your choice on paper menu sheets. The Reaching Out Teahouse is an initiative of Reaching Out, an organization creating chances for disadvantaged people. There’s a workshop in Hoi An where disabled people craft the most beautiful traditional Vietnamese ceramic tea sets but clothing too. The shop is called Reaching Out and is located one block south behind the Teahouse. Bring a fat wallet as you visit because it isn’t cheap! If you’re not buying the shop is still worth paying a visit.

Enjoying tea and cookies at Reaching Out Teahouse
Not your ordinary cup of tea at Reaching Out Teahouse

Cocobox Hoi An

Easy to find, as there are two Cocobox locations in Hoi An. Niceley designed coffee houses serving great juices, smoothies and food. Look for some Dutch details in the interior when you’re there.

Smoothies at Cocobox Hoi An
Wake up call smoothie and something healthy with carrot. And a cool Sportster in the back.

The Espresso Station

If you really want to get your caffeine kick, halt at the espresso station! It’s tucked away in a little alley. There’s a small sign on the wall hinting you to turn right from the main street . Try their espresso to taste their craftsmanship. They roast their own beans in the coffee shop! Cool off with their delicious iced coconut and coffee treat!

Me trying out my new camouflage shirt at the Espresso Station’s terrace.


You’ll probably be attracted automatically by this pretty building close to the bridge crossing the river. It looks like a museum, which it is, for Gems and Artstones, explaining the name. There’s a Teagarden inside. Or you could soak up some sun and slurp some rosé at one of the benches at the front, like we preferred. A very nice place for a drink or two overlooking the busy main street .

Winebar at the GAM in Hoi An
Sippin’ rosé at the GAM winebar

K’noy Cafe

We accidentally discovered this place after we biked over the big bridge behind the market. A cool bar nicely designed out of recycled material only. Oil barrels serve as stools and when modified even as couches. Owner Phong has spent the last three months building up his bar. Relaxed place for a coffee, beer or cocktail, whatever works for you. It was also here where I met Roc, who took me to this cool workshop in Hoi An!

K'noy Bar Hoi An
The cool looking K’noy bar at the other side of the big bridge in Hoi An


The first thing you’ll notice when wandering through Hoi An’s old town is the excessive amount of tailors. This is where you can get custom clothing made at very competing prices! Think of suits and shirts in endless color and print possibilities. And custom made dresses and jumpsuits for girls. The shops have big portfolios inside too choose a design from. Next, simply pick the color or print of your taste. It usually takes one day for them to make it. There are tailors everywhere in Hoi An, and most of them are on tripadvisor so you can check out some reviews. Daphne had two jumpsuits and a dress made at Thinh Cuong. This cothing shop is situated outside of the city centre on the way to the beach. We were browsing some shops there and noticed that the lady from the Thinh Cuong shop was very friendly and not pushy at all. Therefore we thought she deserved the business. At first, Daphne had only one jumpsuit made, to see wether this tailor would be any good. Of course, it turned out to be a success and another jumpsuit was ordered. One day later, when we went to collect it, the order for a custom dress was placed.

El Nido views

How to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Getting from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Where to eat, drink and what to do

Palawan was definitely one of the highlights of our trip through the Philippines in January 2017. The Island’s nature is breathtakingly beautiful. While on the road you’ll be overwhelmed by the abundance of palm trees and forrest packed mountains. If you keep traveling up north you’ll reach the much visited El Nido archipelago. After staying here for one week we totally get why this little town and her surroundings are so immensely popular. Read on to learn about my recommendations on where to eat, drink and ride!

Epic El Nido views
This is the payoff for the long trip to El Nido

But first, you’ll need to get there. And to put it straight, the trip there is not going to be easy. But hey, it’s one of the best places we’ve visited during our journey, and trust me, it’s worth the hassle. You’ll have forgotten about it after being there for five minutes.

It’s most likely you fly to Palawan Island. Palawan’s main airport is located in the city called Puerto Princesa. Having a super romantic name like that you’ll probably imagine it to be a pretty little idyllic harbour city. Well… it’s not, but it’s alright to stay for a night or two if you wish to relax a bit after your flight.

Where to stay in Puerto Princesa

When we were there we stayed at the Bamboo Backbackers Lounge. A brand new hostel built by travelers for travelers. You can choose between staying in an open bamboo hut with 8 mattresses on the floor (mosquito nets are provided and already set up) or in private double rooms. We did the latter and payed just 500 pesos in total for a double room. (Fresh waffle and a coffee for breakfast included!) There’s a small bar to have a beer with your fellow travelers and a very relaxed atmosphere. The Scottish girl who manages the place is super kind and always in for a friendly chat! Check here for availability.

Where to eat in Puerto Princesa

For diner in Puerto Princesa check out Bona’s Chaoling. A Vietnamese place serving great bowls of noodles in beef stew soup at incredibly low prices. The value for money here is really good. Try the garlic bread with it. Only if you’re not planning on going out afterwards 😉. Pay as you order, take your number to your table and wait food the good stuff to be served.

Waiting for the pho!
Waiting for the good stuff to be served!

Going directly from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

You could also choose not to stay in Puerto Princesa and continue traveling up north towards El Nido straight away. Depending on your time of arrival in Puerto Princesa this is a plausible option.
You have two options to get to paradise. Option 1: go by bus. Option 2: go by Minivan.

Going by bus will take you about 7 hours getting to the El Nido. There are two major bus companies, Roro and Cherry. They basically run the same service with buses leaving every two hours. Roro starts at 04:00 AM and then every two hours. Cherry starts at 05:00 AM and then every two hours. The prices are the same for both bus companies, 280 pesos for non-aircon and 370 pesos for aircon.

Tip: some buses have air conditioning and some don’t. Every second bus has aircon, so the one leaving at 04:00 AM doesn’t, the one at 06:00 AM does, and so on.  We prefer and recommend traveling in non-air conditioned buses after catching a severe cold during a 5 hour trip in a freezer on wheels once on Cebu Island. The non-aircon coaches have the side windows opened which supplies more than enough fresh air while riding. It only gets a little hot inside during a few longer stops on the way. But trust me, that’s better than being sick while you’re traveling.

These buses depart from the San Jose bus terminal. Getting there from Puerto Princesa Airport is easy and fast by tricycle. It will take about 25 minutes depending on traffic and will cost between 100 and 150 pesos depending on your negotiating skills.

Negotiating Advice

know the average prices for your trip. You can always ask this at service desks on the airport. When negotiating, be the first to mention a price. Avoid making it sound like a question, this will make you look insecure. Just say: 100 pesos to San Jose bus terminal. And see what he comes back with. If you feel he’s asking too much, just walk to the next tricycle driver. This trick always works, he’ll probably come after you lowering his price. Unless you’re trying to get a unrealistically low price.

If you have stayed at Bamboo Backbackers in Puerto Princesa, they can arrange you a tricycle to get to the San Jose bus terminal. The ride will take approximately 15 minutes and cost you between 50 and 100 pesos depending on your hassling skills.

Option 2 go by minivan

If you go by minivan the trip takes about 5 hours. There are loads of minivan drivers racing up and down from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and vice versa. The minivans get filled with as many people inside as possible. The drivers even build in extra seats added to the existing interior to carry as much travelers as possible. This results in a uncomfortably cosy 5 hour lasting journey being pushed into your neighbor in every corner, as the minivan drivers race like maniacs. But the upside of it all is that you will get to you’re desired destination fast. Most minivans cost 500 pesos one way per person. They can often be booked from your accommodation or directly at the bus terminal.

Tip: Don’t take the departing times too serious. Most of the times the driver won’t leave before he got the most out of his minivan’s capacity. But in case things are really taking too long,  don’t be shy and open your mouth. They will keep on waiting as long as no one says anything.

Tip: when taking a minibus make sure you get the seat right behind the driver, in most cases this is the most comfortable and spacious seat.

Puerto Princesa to El Nido
The route from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Optional overnight stay in Taytay

On our way from Puerto Princesa to El Nido we travelled by Roro bus. Since we had plenty of time, we decided that we didn’t want to be traveling all day long. So, to break up the trip, we decided to stop in Taytay.
Taytay once used to be the capital city of Palawan. You wouldn’t say that when you’re walking around in this little town. We stayed here for two nights and dined at all restaraunts in town, all two of them! We stayed in Pem’s Pension, good value private cottages and a very hospitable host. Breakfast is included in the room rate. While the breakfast isn’t that special, the food served during diner is amazing. Try their sizzling dishes, they’re delicious!

As I already mentioned, there’s one other restaurant in town, it’s at Casa Rosa. High up on the hill overlooking the little town you can enjoy an extensive menu ranging from typical Filipino dishes to pizza and pasta. I tried the Filipino fish in creamy coconut and it was delicious.

Discover Taytay by motorbike

When you stay in Taytay it’s best to hire a motorbike and discover the area. There’s not many things to see but the ride through the area alone is a treat. We went to Lake Danao, the biggest lake on Palawan island. Prepare yourself for a bit of off-road riding to get there. When at the lake there are canoes for hire. It’s free when the manager is not there, the paddles are hidden on the roof of the boat house, but you didn’t get that from me.

Taytay, the Hollywood of Palawan! Haha not! But okay for a stop on the road to El Nido.

Fort Santa Isabel

Back in town there’s the Fort Santa Isabel to visit. A 300 year old fort once built to back off the Spanish. Today it’s open to the public during the day. At night it’s closed down, as too many locals were drinking and making love in the fort, we were told by the owner of Pem’s Pension. He gave us a private tour at night after we found the fort closed at 17:00. He happened to have the key to the fort, how cool is that.

Fort Santa Isabel in Taytay
Fort Santa Isabel in Taytay at dusk

Getting from Taytay to El Nido

From Taytay it’s just a short trip going to El Nido. Again you can choose between the minivans or the Roro and Cherry bus companies. We took a minivan as it suited our timing best at that time. From Taytay to El Nido we payed 200 per person.

And then, after 1,5 hours, you have finally arrived in paradise. When you’re getting closer you’ll start to get what all the fuss is about. The magnificent views on the mountain like islands escalating out of the ocean are surreal.

Where to stay in El Nido

During our stay in El Nido we slept in the Our Melting Pot hostel. Locally better known as OMP. A bed in a 9 persons mixed dorm will set you back 600 pesos per person. This is including breakfast. We would definitely recommend this place if you’re traveling on a budget. Check for availability here!

Where to eat and drink in El Nido

In the town of El Nido and Corong Corong, the little town before El Nido, you will find many different restaurants. In one week obviously we weren’t able to visit them all, but these are the venues we visited. Read on to find out what’s goood.

Republica Sunset Bar

Definitely our favorite spot in Corong Corong and beyond! It starts with the location of the place. There’s not many bars in the world that offer a view like this. The menu exists out of tapas. And as the owners are from Spain, they know what they are doing. Authentic tortilla, paella, bravas, gambas al ajillo, it’s all there! And man, it’s all so damn tasty. We couldn’t get enough of this place. The staff is so friendly and super quick. ​Make sure you get there around 16:00 pm for a nice seat with a stunning view.
Two of the hombres who own Republica also happen to be the proud owners of Lakwatsero Motorcycles, check out the article on this start up custom scrambler workshop in El Nido right here

Sea Jane Resto Bar

The place looks kind of shabby, however the fresh seafood here is amazing. While seated right on the beach with your feet in the sand you’ll get rich servings (7 pieces) of gamba’s for only 250 peso’s. Just have your pick from the broad selection of seafood at the entrance, order a beer at the bar, take a seat and wait for the goodness to be served.

Grilled fish, gambas and squid


If you fancy a more stylish restaurant, visit Mezzanine. This two story restaurant boasting nice views over the El Nido harbour serves great Italian food. From antipasti to homemade pasta and of course pizza. They also serve a broad selection of cocktails and theres a happy hour from 16:00 to 19:00, buy one get one free!

Altrové trattoria

If pizza is your thing, but you care less about the ambiance and views, try Altrové! Located in a little alley off the main street parallel to the beach, serving authentic Napolitan pizza. Using imported tomatoes from Italy for the sauce. Their mozzarella and prosciuto crudo are also genuine Italian. If you really dislike the restaurants ambiance, you can always order take away and take your pizza to the beach or any other place you prefer.

V & V bagels

A rare find in the Philippines, but El Nido has it all; a New York bagel shop. Serving ridiculously good fresh baked bagels. You can either have your bagel in or take it away to the beach. I suggest the latter as the restaurant’s ambiance isn’t their strength. 

Art cafe

Our mistake while in El Nido. We went here because of the high rating on tripadvisor. However we didn’t have a good experience at all. We don’t know what the fuzz is about. Lousy service, careless staff, and the food from the endless conceptless menu was below average.

Marber Bar

Big club house style bar at the beach playing classic soul, blues and rock. Plus they have a pooltable! Extremely friendly staff who already recognize you on the second day you visit, I love that! Great place for a relaxed beer (or six). We didn’t eat here but the food passing by looked okay, mainly burgers and pizza. The place is owned by a very friendly German living the dream, owning a bar at the beach in paradise. Check out their special hangover menu, it’s hilarious.

Sava Beachbar

Stylish lounge bar right at the beach. Chill in the beanbags while enjoying a cocktail and great old school disco tunes. Every Tuesday and Saturday things get a little bit more uptempo from 23:00 till late thanks to techno dj Electronido.

Pukka bar

I you really want to drink your head off, go here. This backpackers packed place goes crazy from 00:00 till late with DJ’s and live music.

Maremegmeg Beach Bars

When you feel like you have been misbehaving at the El Nido beach bars you can always lay low for a night at the bars on Maremegmeg beach. A tricycle ride here will take about 15 minutes and costs between 120 and 150 pesos. When there, walk down the long stairs and try out these great sunset bars.

Sun Bar

This is the first bar you’ll find down the stairs. If you really need to quench your thirsty hangover, take a seat here. The tunes are good, and while you’re there try the garlic and chili gambas to bring your tastebuds back to life.

The rest of the bars is located on the other end of the beach, but they are worth the walk!

Maremegmeg beach club

Nicely designed bar with comfy canvas beach chairs, good for a drink or two. Food is nothing special, the thick cut fries with aioli are good though.

The beach shack

Great bar with happy hour from 4 till 7: ice buckets full of 6 San Miguel beers for only 300 pesos. Great tunes, bean bags, feet in the sand and an amazing sunset going on right in front of you. Definitely our favorite pick at Maremegmeg beach.

Beautiful beaches nearby El Nido

While walking around in El Nido town, you’ll constantly hear tricycle riders offering you rides to nearby places of interest. My advice, don’t go by tricycle but hire a motorbike yourself. It’s an amazing way to discover the area. For only 500 pesos per day you’ll have your own great fun Honda XRM, a semi-automatic off the road style 125cc motor scooter. The bigger manual shift off-road bikes set you back 1250 pesos per day, in my opinion it’s not worth the difference. As an experienced motorcycle rider I still had good fun on the XMR.

Maremegmeg Beach

Close to El Nido, a nice beach boasting amazing views and various great bars! See above for our favorite picks here!

Nacpan beach and Twin beach

About half an our away you’ll find Nacpan Beach. A wide stretched beach with endless rows of palm trees and nice views on the adjacent Twin Beach. Beware of some pretty big waves. I almost lost my GoPro camera and Daphne lost her sunglasses, and almost her bikini top, which delivered more great views!

Endless rows of palm trees at Nacpan beach
Endless rows of palm trees at Nacpan beach
Climbing palm tree
Climbing the inclined palm tree at Nacpan Beach, it’s more slippery than you think. See how high you can get!

At the time of writing Twin Beach was closed to the public, if we understood the vague notice sign correctly, there seems to be a conflict going on between the locals and an investment company about who owns the land.

Duli beach

A bit further up north is Duli Beach. Popular amongst surfers. Not very suitable for beach bums. There’s a strong wind and many sand flies!

Tip: You could tour the entire north road of El Nido. While on the map this looks like a main road, bear in mind that most of the eastern section consists of unpaved roads. But still it’s a beautiful route with great views!

Amazing views north of Sibaltan!

El Nido Island Tours

Probably the most popular tourist activity in El Nido, the island tours. There’s four different tour options to choose from, A, B, C and D. According to other travellers tour A and C are the most interesting tours. We did tour C, which takes you to Hidden Beach, Secret Beach, Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine and some very cool snorkling spots inbetween. Our guide said we were ‘lucky’ to get on this tour as the coast guard had cancelled this tour for over a week due to rough sea conditions. Still it was pretty intense during our trip. We weren’t able to get to Secret Beach as we would probably have been smashed against the cliffs due to the massive waves. One of the others on our boat lost his wedding ring after his hand got stuck between some underwater rocks . The poor guy got married a week ago and was on his honeymoon. On the next snorkeling spot we got slammed to a coral reef, cutting our feet and legs which is not a pleasant experience 😬. I think the coast guard was feeling very optimistic that morning.

The tours will cost you 1200 to 1400 pesos, plus you have to pay an environment tax at 200 pesos, this is also necessarily for going to beaches and other tourist activities. Note that you only have to pay this fee once! Always keep the ticket you receive with you and never give it to a tour operator. In our opinion the tour was nice to see the beautiful islands of El Nido and the lunch included in the tour price was great.

TAO Experience

However, if you have time and money on your side, book a tour with TAO experience or Buhay Isla for an multiple day expedition to uninhabited islands where you will camp. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this but we heard great stories about these trips from fellow travelers.

Hire a kayak in El Nido

This was definitely a highlight of our visit in El Nido. We rented a duo Kayak at the Maremegmeg beach club for just 100 pesos an hour. From here you can paddle out to some beautiful abandonded beaches. The big advantage compared to the organized boat tours is that you are actually the only one at the locations you go to. While with the boat tours there’s at least 150 other tourists there… It’s a great workout as well. Here’s some free advice, follow the coastline, as the currents are less strong. Check out the photos and video below for an impression.

Paddling a duo Kayak
Paddling duo Kayak requires good team work

The El Nido Zipline

Another popular and fun thing to do while in El Nido is the island zipline. You can get to the platform from Maremegmeg beach or from the main road. I suggest the latter as it is a shorter climb up. Still it is a pretty intense climb, especially after a heavy night of drinking. Bring a bottle of water as there are no shops up there. The ride will cost you 500 pesos. Make sure you get there before 4pm as you have to walk back which is not possible during high tide. In first instance were planning to go down during sunset but unfortunately this is not possible.

Aloha Alona

What to do in Alona Beach?

Alona Beach is a popular place on Panglao Island, the small peninsula southwest of Bohol. It’s connected to Bohol by two big bridges. We arrived at the Tagbilaran harbour by Oceanjet ferry coming from Dumaguete. From the Tagbilaran harbour it’s easy to get a tricycle which will bring you to Alona for about 250 pesos, depending on your negotiating skills. The ride will take about half an hour, so 250 peso’s (€5) is a good deal and a ride in a tricycle is always good fun!

Tricycle ride
A ride in a colorful tricycle!

Where to stay?

We stayed in the popular Moon Fools hostel. Make sure you book ahead as this place is often fully booked. I highly recommend picking a bed in the 10 persons mixed dorm. You’ll get your own cosy cubicle there. You’ll have your own light and socket to charge your electronic devices. The 8 person dorms have the usual bunk beds which offer less privacy.

There are hot showers in the spacious and clean shared bathroom, a rare find in the Philippines!
In the morning you can make your own free oatmeal breakfast with banana, nuts, raisins, cinnamon and marshmallows, yummy! And there’s a big drinking water dispenser which you can use to fill up your bottle! Plus they have superb wifi which even worked in the bedroom.

The only less pleasant experience in this close to perfection hostel was the creepy little Philippino from housekeeping who was very eager to sneak in the shower with me and offering me ‘massaaahhge?’ all the time. So watch out for this horny little man.

Rent a motorbike to discover the area

I rented a great fun Yamaha XTZ 125 off-road bike to discover the area and to visit the spectacular Chocolate Hills on Bohol. The Moon Fools hostel advertises for Bohol Bikes who will hook you up with a Honda Zoomer. Which is fine if you enjoy riding on a scooter. But if you’re more into riding a real motorbike, ask the reception staff to arrange this. I don’t know where mine came from,but it was just there the morning I requested it. I payed 1500 for two days. The bike was brand new and technically in great condition!

Yamaha xtz 125
The Yamaha xtz 125, a great bike to discover Panglao and Bohol!

The sightseeing route

Instead of taking the most driven way to get to Bohol’s prime tourist attraction, the Chocolate Hills, we chose to take the spectacular scenic route. This route will take you along the south coast of Bohol. Once you have reached the city of Jagna, turn left to start climbing your way up to Sierra Bullones. In this stage of the route I was glad to be on the Yamaha XTZ with its large off the road tires. While the majority of the road in the Philippines are well maintained, we crossed some pretty rough tracks. We saw many people struggling on there scooters. But it was good fun on the agile Yamaha. We overtook everyone with a big smile on our faces.

Once you’ve reached the town of Sierra Bullones go left towards a charming little town called Carmen. From there on you’ll see the directions to the road which takes you towards the Chocolate Hills. Once you’ve crossed Sierra Bullones take a left towards a charming little town called Carmen. From there on you’ll see the directions to the road which takes you towards the Chocolate Hills. You can’t really miss the left turn towards the geographic wonder. Actually we did, twice, speeding past the absurdly big sign 😂.

Nice route to the Chocolate Hills
This is the route we took to the Chocolate Hills. Highly recommended!

Link to google maps here!

As usual in the Philippines, you will be charged a small fee to use the road which gets you to the lookout post, 50 pesos per person at the time of writing. A pretty steep road up the hill will take you to the parking platform. Try not be overrun by busses packed with Koreans backing up. Like at most tourist attractions you will find numerous little vendors trying to sell something, like chocolate milk, very creative 😉.

After you’ve climbed the more than 200 steps up the stairs you will have a great view. At least, on a clear day that is. As you can see we picked a pretty wet day to go. Not recommended. So here’s some advice, check the weather in Carmen before you leave sunny Alona. We left with sunshine but ended in up riding through the actual rain clouds in the heights of Sierra Bullones. This will get you wet to the bone. We were passed the point of giving a shit when we arrived at the look out point where it was raining like hell. Just keep on smiling and enjoyed the unvisible amazing view.

Chocolate hills Bohol
Great grey views over the chocolate hills…

After taking a couple of grey and rainy shots and selfies we headed back towards Alona. This time taking the faster most travelled way, passing Quezon, Loboc and Albuquerque. The first part of this route is stunning. Taking you along endless twisting roads through a forrest with tremendously tall trees. It’s like riding through a tunnel crafted by nature. Along this road you’ll find the Tarsier sanctuary. Here you’ll find the super cute looking little creatures with their enormous eyes. To us it looked like a mega tourist trap. There was a huge line of tourists waiting to get in the sanctuary. So we skipped it. I just kicked down a gear and continued enjoying the curling roads.

The second part of the return to Alona follows more straight roads and isn’t very exiting. So we were happy to have travelled through Sierra Bullones on the way there. Of course you could also reverse the trip. If you leave Alona Beach around noon you’ll be able to see the sunset on your way back as you ride down the southern coastal road of Bohol which is pretty awesome!

Sunset ride
Riding the south coast of Bohol during sunset

Where to drink and eat

There’s loads of restaurants at the Alona beach strip, but only a few nice bars for those delicious sunset drinks. These were our favourite picks:

Alona Beach Lounge

A good spot to start and end your night. We did both in one continuous shift one night. A everlasting happy hour from noon till 19:00 gets you very happy before the night has even started. The bar is owned by an English guy who actually bought it while he was on his holiday in Alona last year. They have some seriously strong mango, banana and pineapple infused rum shots for 60 pesos each. You can order snacks and food from the neighbouring restaurant.

Name Unknown: Reggae bar

The first bar you’ll find if you turn left after the beach access road. You can’t really miss it with the loud but relaxed reggae tunes blasting from the speakers. A cool place with hilarious staff members.

The Birdwatchers cafe

Very relaxed atmosphere at this bar. And great live music by Frankie on Sunday’s. He’ll play all requests, no exceptions made. Varying from Whitney Houston’s I will always love you until raging death metal. Yes, we heard both that night. Very friendly staff, there’s a funny guy running all over the place ensuring nobody’s glass is empty.

All bars in Alona beach offer you these pretty views!

Alona Beach view
View from the Alona Beach bars

Where to eat

To be completely honest Alona Beach is not a great place to be if you’re looking for amazing restaurants. Below you’ll find what I would really recommend. It’s not much, similar to the number of places serving good food.

Buzz Bohol Bee farm Café

At first glance it looks like they jus serve ice cream here. Which is delicious by the way! But if you enter the shop and go up the stairs you will get to their restaurant overlooking the ocean. This was our favorite restaurant in Alona. Healthy and organic food is served here. That doesn’t mean it’s al non fat and green stuff. Try out their tasty burger or the extremely tender spareribs in sweet marinade. And definitely don’t forget to order the fresh spring rolls served with peanut sauce. Another must try here is the mango peanut butter smoothie, it may sound weird but it’s delicious 😋.

Spareribs at Bohol buzz bee farm cafe
Who wouldn’t look this happy at a plate of delicious spareribs? 😉

Alona Beach isn’t the place to try out the local Philippine cuisine. Not that their local cuisine is that special. There are many restaurants serving western food. It’s mainly pizza, pasta and burgers here. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as it’s good pizza!

The Alona Beach Pizza Contest

When wandering on the Alona Beach strip in Panglao we were amazed by the amount of ‘fresh’ seafood displays. To be honest the displays looked pretty good, even though there might have been some protected species on display. But when we asked for the cost for a nice serving of gamba’s, crab or lobster we soon lost our appetite. The prices were almost similar to what we would pay back home in Amsterdam! So way out of proportion for a Philippine restaurant which catches its seafood directly from the ocean in front of them and definitely not fit for our daily budget.

Unfortunately for us we experienced several successive rainy days in Alona Beach. So the time right for some serious daytime drinking and a constant craving for comfort food. Yes, we did that for four days in a row…

After a considerable amount of drinks at one of our favorite bars at the beach, the Alona Beach Lounge, we were craving for pizza. Because that’s what we all want after drinks right? I’m a big fan of pizza and I think I can be trusted when it comes to judging what a proper pizza is.

Here’s the top 3:

3. Hayahay Resort

These guys have a big sign outside screaming that they have the best Pizza on Alona Beach. Well, perhaps they mean that they sell the best pizza literally on the beach itself. We tried it and to be honest it was OK. But the crust was too thin, it was baked too hard, the toppings were all right though. They seem to love small shrimps here at Hayahay as you’ll find them as a topping on most of their pizza’s.

2. Noah Pizza

Noah pizza is located at the intersection of the Panglao main road and Alona street (street towards the beach). It’s the super bright white tungsten lights and the plastic red and white checkered  tablecloths that make this place look super romantic 😜 But I must say the pizza’s are very good and that makes up for the shabby scenery . First of all they are huge! So you could easily share a pizza if you are two and not dying from hunger. Second, the ingredients used on the pizza are top quality. The only thing was that they didn’t put a lot of these top quality ingredients on top, that’s why Noah’s places second in this super official Alona Pizza Contest 🏆

1. Giuseppe Pizza

There can only be one winner, and that’s Giuseppe! The location of this Italian restaurant is a bit out of bounds. You’ll find it if you just keep on walking out of town. It just sits there on its own separated from the other restaurants. But it’s well worth the walk! The pizzas here are amazing. They are humongous! So again, just like at Noah’s you could easily share here. We didn’t, because we were starving after having too many drinks on rainy day number 5 in Alona. What makes Giuseppe stand out above the other pizzas in Alona Beach is their rich toppings and high quality ingredients! They serve fairly priced OK wine here by the way!