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The dazzling tropical island of Boracay is no longer the hidden gem it once was – thanks to its photogenic beaches and picture-perfect landscapes, it’s become one of the most visited destinations in the Philippines. But while a flurry of interest from chic travel mags has made it a favorite destination among honeymooners and the fashion set, there’s a whole lot of fun to be had for families in Boracay. At just 4.5 miles long, the island punches above its weight when it comes to attractions and activities, and there’s a lot more to Boracay than the famous White Beach, golf and luxury resorts.  

Active families in Boracay will be in their element here, and it’s surprisingly easy to give crowds the slip and indulge a sense of adventure with activities and attractions that still feel refreshingly off the beaten track…at least for now.

Set the Alarm Early for Crowd-Free Kite Surfing

The aptly-named White Beach is without a doubt the most famous of Boracay’s strands, and the 3-mile long strip of soft white sand is the first port of call for visitors looking for long, lazy days swimming, shopping and sipping cocktails. Those who like their beach vacays a little more active tend to flock to Bulabog Beach, which has become the main hub for water sports adventures on Boracay. Once the sun is high in the sky the beach and the water get packed with kite surfers and wind surfers, but early risers will be rewarded with blissfully crowd-free waters and a stunning sunrise. There are any number of kite surfing schools along the water’s edge, and families in Boracay with not-so-little kids can rent equipment and get pro tips whatever their level of experience and expertise. (toddlers and kids too young to ride the wind can have immense amounts of fun paddling and watching parents and siblings splash around…) There are simple accommodations on the beachfront too, aimed squarely at the kitesurfing crowd, so visitors can just prep their own breakfast and head straight to the beach. Once the crowds arrive you can head back for a nap – or refuel and head off for adventures elsewhere.

Hire Bikes or Trikes

Bicycle hire is a good way to get off Boracay’s main thoroughfare (there’s essentially one main road on the island, full of honking horns and speeding scooters). There are several bicycle hire companies on White Beach, and kids whose little legs are not up to cycling can take it easy on the back of a tandem bike and let their parents or older brothers and sisters do the legwork. Families in Boracay can cycle through coconut palm-lined trails up to to some of the highest peaks on the island for glorious views – at around 100 meters above sea level, Mount Luho is the island’s loftiest vantage point, and families who brave the tough(ish) trails to reach the top will likely be rewarded with glimpses of 🐒 monkeys and colorful birds. A small viewing platform at the top is a good spot to rest and have a picnic. If that sounds too strenuous, families in Boracay can rent a manned ‘Trike’ – an adapted ‘taxi-bike’ with space to carry more passengers and luggage than most people would think possible (or safe). For peace of mind, families can hire the entire trike and driver for a few hours (agree a price in advance), and head off to hidden beaches and other beauty spots.

Enjoy Island-Hopping Adventures…Minus the Crowds

There are any number of companies offering beach-hopping boat trips around Boracay, ranging from boozy party boats to luxury ‘sail and dine’ options. But for only a little more than the price of a tour, families in Boracay can hire paraw sailboats (make sure you ask for life vests, and hire a skipper too if you’re not experienced in life on the open waves). Bring food and snacks, and set your own agenda – enjoy dazzling sunsets, head off to hidden beaches, escape to tiny, deserted islets…it’s your call. Ask for word of mouth recommendations about reputable operators, and be prepared to haggle for the best prices.

Get to Know the Taho Man

For cheap eats with real local flavor during your family trip to Boracay, you need to get to know Taho. Listen out for the call of ‘Tahoooo’ and you’ll soon spot a vendor strolling the sands (they are almost always on the sands), with metal pails slung over his shoulders. Catering mainly to the locals, they’re selling an energy-rich mix of silken tofu with tapioca pearls and a sweet, syrupy mix called arnibul (essentially a caramelized sugar syrup). Imagine a cross between custard and bubble tea, and you’re somewhere close, but this is way tastier than the sum of its parts, and the soft texture and sweet taste makes it an easy way to get protein into little ones.  Locals love it for breakfast, and as it costs mere cents, it’s an affordable way to fuel up for a day’s adventure.
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Here’s a list of family friendly hotels in Boracay
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With its incredible beaches, equally impressive diving spots, teeny tiny Tarsiers and famous ‘Chocolate Hills’, Bohol Island is one of the best destinations in the Philippines for families. It’s an easy ferry ride from Cebu, so it’s hardly surprising that the island attracts a fair number of tourists, all keen to see this tropical paradise for themselves. The grand Spanish-built churches add to the island’s appeal for architecture buffs (although kids may be less impressed), and there’s endless opportunity for snapping envy-inducing photos. But while the Instagram brigade are very much in evidence at this supremely photogenic island, there’s no shortage of opportunity for families in Bohol to leave the crowds behind and find off-the-beaten track adventures. Be prepared to spend some time gazing out the window of vans and buses, and you’ll be richly rewarded.

Paddle Through an Enormous Mangrove Plantation

Most visitors to Bohol make a beeline for the beaches, but some of the most awe-inspiring boat rides and stand up paddle opportunities can be found inland, at Banacon Island Mangrove Forest. Spanning an incredible 425 hectares, this watery region, in the north of the island, is said to be the largest man-made mangrove plantation in Asia, and is notable for its incredible biodiversity, with all manner of colorful fish and curious crustaceans hiding out under the water. Although it’s growing as an eco-tourism attraction, the island remains refreshingly under-the-radar, and it’s worth the effort to get here (a bus ride of around three hours from the provincial capital, Tagbilaran City, to Getafe Wharf, followed by fun 20-minute pump boat ride). Once on the island, families in Bohol can try their hand at kayaking or Stand up Paddle, or just let somebody else do the legwork by taking a boat tour along the waterways. It’s a glorious way to escape the crowds and see a different side to Bohol than the white sand beaches.

Discover Hidden Waterfalls at Candijay

Boho’s tallest and most beautiful waterfalls have traditionally been overlooked by international visitors to the island, due to some slightly tricky transport options. Better roads and increased marketing efforts are starting to change that, but – for now at least – families in Bohol are likely to be the only foreigners in sight at Can-Umantad Falls, in the stunningly beautiful town of Candijay, some 90km east of Tagbilaran City. As well as vivid green rice terraces – widely regarded as the most beautiful in Bohol, visitors will find caves, mangrove swamp and the town’s biggest attraction  – the Can-Umantad Falls. The water that nourishes the rice paddies above rushes down here to create a series of cascades, the tallest of which crashes down from a height of 60 feet to reach a pool below. Getting here requires a bus or van ride of around two hours, followed by local cab or habal habal ride (the latter, a kind of modified motorbike capable of carrying multiple passengers, has a dubious safety record) to the rice paddies, and a 15-minute trek to the falls. Bring snacks, swimming gear and make this a worthy side trip by booking into one of the town’s guest houses and spending a couple of days exploring.

See a Super-Rare Double Barrier Reef at Danajon Bank

Divers – prepare to get excited. Danajon Bank is one of only six double barrier reefs in the world, and spans some 90-miles off the northern coast of Bohol. It’s home to some of the most incredible marine life anywhere on the planet, yet is virtually unheard of internationally. The super-rare geological formation sees two sets of coral reefs, thought to have formed over 6000 years,  teem with mind-boggling numbers of fish and sea creatures,can be reached as part of a dive trip either from Bohol or from Mactan in Cebu. Can’t dive? There are plenty of PADI schools in Bohol for adventurous families keen start their underwater adventures.

for more diving adventures click here.

Eat Here: Buzzzzz Cafe

Panglao Island is a top-spot for families looking for ridiculously scenic beaches and world-class diving. It’s no longer under-the-radar, but families in Bohol can still find virtually deserted stretches of sand after a little trekking. Reward little ones for their activity with a visit to Buzzz Cafe, tucked away on a little street next to Bohol Bee Farm. A kids’ play area will keep younger visitors happy, while the delicious ice creams – made with honey from the farm, as well as other delicious ingredients such as fresh ginger – mean this place is worth getting back on the tourist track for.

Spice up your Vacation With Some Under the Radar Family Adventures in Cebu City

The province of Cebu is home to nearly 170 islands in addition to Cebu Island itself. It stands to reason, therefore,  that many visitors coming to Cebu with kids head straight for the cool waters and sandy beaches. In their rush to get their snorkel on, many families overlook Cebu City more fool them, as this well-developed city has a lot going for it from both a kiddy and a parental perspective. In addition to the usual high adrenaline water parks, modern malls with soft play centers, ornate temples and plenty of green spaces, this friendly city has some more satisfyingly off-the-beaten track sights and activities, where you’re unlikely to be battling for space with an army of backpackers and cruise ship tourists. Cebu City also lacks the rush and crush of Manila and some other big cities, making it an ideal point of entry for families looking to get gradually accustomed to South East Asian cities.

Take a Tour of the San Pedro Fort

This centrally-located fort in the city’s port area attracts little by the way of crowds, but kids tend to love rampaging around the ramparts, while the tropical gardens provide respite from the city swelter. Entrance is less than a dollar (and kids go free!) and it’s even possible to arrange personal guided tours (again, these are free – making this a very cheap and cheerful day out). Built in the mid-1500s to defend the city from attack  by seafaring Portuguese, and the fort’s more recent incarnations have included stints as a prison and as a zoo. Today it’s a low-key attraction, but all the more appealing for that – families in Cebu City can take a slow-paced tour and soak up the silence in the scenic gardens. The nearby Plaza de Independencia is a good place to let the kids race around as you watch local life unfurl.

Check out Weird and Wonderful Stalls at the Carbon Market

Cebu city has its fair share of smart, modern malls, with family-friendly food courts, and dedicated kids’ play areas. Which is all very nice and handy, but few families come to the Philippines to sit in a shopping center. Head instead to the waterfront Carbon Market instead, for an altogether more colorful shopping experience. The oldest and largest market in the city, this waterfront trading center has been doing business for well over a century (the name comes from the massive quantities of locally-mined coal that used to be bought and sold here back) is where locals come to pick up clothes, culinary staples and everything in between, all at bargain bucket prices. It’s something of a sensory overload – from the yelling traders to the smells and the somewhat ‘out there’ nature of some of the culinary wares – but it’s well worth setting aside a few hours to really get the most out of the market. Come early in the morning for the freshest produce at the best possible prices (you can even turn it into a game and challenge the kids to find their favorite fruit or other edible treat at the lowest price, or to seek out ultra-rare culinary goodies such as kesong puti (white cheese). It’s also a good place to pick up local handicrafts and other souvenirs (just don’t try to haggle too hard, prices are already low and most products are a result of a lot of hard work!). Like many busy downtown spots, take the usual safety precautions, but don’t let safety fears putting you off a trip to the Carbon Market when visiting Cebu with your kids.

Ride the Jeepneys

It’s impossible not to notice Cebu City’s jeepneys – those brightly-painted, jam-packed little buses that race their way through the city streets. But while they sure as heck look like fun to ride, they’re not about putting on a show for tourists – these are in fact by far the cheapest way to get around the city, and the public transport option of choice for most locals. Just one problem – working out how to use these blinged up vehicles m can be a bit of a mind-boggler. There are pretty much no ‘official’ jeepney stops other than the beginning and end of a line, so it’s fine to flag one down pretty much anywhere. Note down your intended destination, and show this to a friendly-looking face among the crowds that gather along major roads. Maybe best to aim for somewhere at the end of a route if it’s your first jeepney journey, and have emergency taxi fare in case it goes awry – the ride itself is a fun experience for families in Cebu. Show the driver where you want to get off (if you’re able to get close enough, otherwise show a fellow passenger), carry small change for your fare, and be prepared to shout or loudly clink coins on the handrail when you want to jump off 🙂 Get the hang of it, and you’ll be seeing the sights for an awful lot less than the price of a cab, and having fun into the bargain.

🍉 Eat here:  Ga-as Adventure Cafe

This is definitely one aimed squarely at tourists, but it would be rude not to take your little adventurers to Ga-as Adventure Cafe, a kid-friendly paradise where diners can zip-line, rappel and trek their way to hearty appetite. Part of the Ga-As Eco Adventure Park, the Adventure Cafe is a destination in its own right, and there’s even a ‘stress wall’, where visitors are encouraged to throw plates at a wall and get those travel stresses right out of their system. It’s billed as the Philippines’ first Adventure-Themed restaurant, and while it’s a 35-45 minute ride out of town in Balamban, it’s worth a trip out, and  the menu has plenty of fairly-priced dishes that range from local favorites such as tinolang manok (a gingery chicken broth) to guaranteed kid-pleasers such as pasta, burgers and steaks.

The Philippines offer the very best of exotic vacations. It has everything you imagine when you think about a luxurious beach vacation. The soft white sandy beaches, the clear turquoise water, the fresh coconuts, sweet juicy fruits, happy-get-lucky locals (that speak English!), and lots of green jungles. An immense feeling of freedom.

Cheaper than Thailand.

And most importantly- jumping (real life!) dolphins! Free! We saw them while on ferries several times. They just show up, whole pods of them, swimming and jumping right next to the boat.

A few shorts words on the Philippines:

The Philippines are divided to four main districts. North (Luzon), center (Visayas), the south (Mindanao), and the island Palawan which is west of Visayas, towards Malaysia.

The archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands, and the main venues of transportation between them is by using the excellent ferry network (depending on the distance between islands, sometimes it’s a small ferry, sometimes a big one, almost a bus, and sometimes it’s a huge ferry that takes you 24 hours or more on the ocean waves), or by flight. You can also take a bus, I mean- you take the bus, and it goes on a ferry, and continues on another island:-).

The locals are charming, welcoming and hospitable, and always happy to help. But there’s two things they don’t believe in in the Philippines that it’s important you know about: hot water in the shower, and blankets.
Meaning you’ll only have hot water in medium level hotels and above. And the same goes for blankets.

It’s simply too hot there for either anyway.

The capital: is Manila, and she’s not welcoming to families. There’s a lot of traffic and sometimes the city just doesn’t feel safe. There are areas that bunch together strip clubs and gambling establishments. But together with all that- it’s the place to go shopping, there are crazy big malls there, with all the biggest brands. Personally I only go there to freshen up my wardrobe. My favorite place is called ‘Glorietta’ and it’s actually 4 connected malls. There are also some pretty big attractions (which I haven’t visited) like chinatown.

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

Money: the local currency is called Peso. $1=50 Pesos. You can find ATM mechines, but it’s not always easy, especially if you leave the highly touristic areas. Anyway the feeling is that there aren’t enough of them. Sometimes the line is very long. What they do have there are lots of money changers, and international money transfer. There are everywhere.

Visa: most people get free visa upon arrival of somewhere between 21-30 days but it always pays to check in advance. The most important thing is to have an exist ticket to somewhere.

Best seasons: it’s always hot in the Philippines. They have a rainy season and a typhoon season. December to May is the best time to visit. For vacations- Christmas! But summer vacation can also work, provided you can stay for a longer time, allowing for flexibility.

Food: it’s a tropical country so there’s a wide selection of fruits, dozens of types of Mango and Avocado, Coconuts, Jackfruit, and a lot of other we don’t even know about in the west. Most of their food is rice based, they have different kinds of white and pink and red rice… and a ton of seafood (goes without saying) as well as chicken and pork. They love their barbecue, and grill every type of meat they can find. You’ll see people fanning the flames everywhere. You choose the slice and they grill it for you on the spot. Try the chicken legs, a local favorite.

I will now write a recommendation for a fun route you can go on with the kids, based around central Philippines. I built it around the center on purpose as it’s considered the area best protected from typhoons, and therefore better at summer (and summer vacation). It’s flexible from a days-per-location perspective, so you could twist it to fit however long you have available.

1. Cebu

The route starts in Cebu. The second largest island in the Philippines.

You can stay in Cebu city, of find quieter places. I like recommending this hotel, on Mactan Island that is connected to mainland(ish) Cebu by bridge (the international airport is also on this island). It’s not cheap but will provide an excellent opening to any vacation.

Take two-three days to get over the flight and just have a good family time, then fly from Cebu to the tiny volcanic island “Cameguin”.

2. Cameguin

During the flight the staff entertains the passengers with riddle games. There are even prizes:-).
This tiny island sits on a volcano, which turns some of the beaches black. Beyond that, despite the size of the island it has many fun activities. There are some nice waterfalls (where you can swim), a site with a few hot spring pools, each with a different temperature. There’s a Zipline near the beach that goes above a sweet water lake, kayaking and other sea activities, and a site with giant clams (careful, they swallow everything!). A few museums and even an ostrich farm.

We’ve visited this island twice. Zig-zagged all across it on a bike we rented and discovered some lovely isolated corners. Climbed one of the mountains, and at the top we found a beautiful waterfall and remnants of volcanic ash.

When we went to the Zipline booking office the kids really wanted to go. For me it was enough to just see the cable stretched over the water to give up the pleasure. But the Zipline rules say you have to go in twos, so found myself being launched (twice! It’s a two-leg journey…) together with my youngest daughter.

I recommend to sleep in the hot spring campus called “Ardent”, that way you could go for a swim any time you want (the pools are open 24 hours), even after the kids fell asleep… :-). They have simple rooms with an A/C and a family room. Costs $80 a night.

There’s a restaurant there that’s not fantastic but it’s not bad either and the staff is nice. There are also a few stands just outside the campus. Basically, sausages and corn are readily available.

After three-four days of rest, day trips and being spoiled, take the ferry to Bohol Island. The ferry leaves every day at morning and by noon makes port in the city Jagna at central Bohol.

The journey takes about three-four hours.

My kids like Jagna because you can find the Filipino delicacy Calamay everywhere. Calamay is a sort of a sweet spread/jelly made of coconuts that they sell in a coconut shell packaging.

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3. Bohol

A word about ferries in the Philippines: I recommend that you bring some food with you, because the food on the ferry is expensive and the options are usually very limited.

And another thing- there’s no problem getting tickets in the port. Just make sure to get there some time ahead. Usually, especially before the ferry leaves, there are long lines. You’ll need to pay for the tickets (=first line), harbor tax (=second line), and for your suitcases (=third line). Children under 10 get a discount. Ask for the A/C class (=most expensive), or outside (=cheapest, and there’s a breeze:-))

When you get to Jagna you’ll have two options:

You can take a taxi or a minivan (air conditioned) to the biggest city in Bohol called Tagbilaran. Most tourists on the island go to its most famous beach, which is near Tagbilaran. It’s called “Alona beach” and it really is a nice beach with many nice restaurants, an ATM, agencies offering day trips and island-hopping, stores for beachwear, etc…

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

If you don’t want to party with all the tourists, you can always look for a guesthouse or a hotel in the city proper (it has a few nice malls, my favorite is ICM that has some video games in the top floor and even a 3D cinema). Or you can look around the road that surrounds the island, and soak in the magnificent ocean view. Another nice area is the town “Anda”, and near it the resort “Peace 1”, that has a private beach frequented by some sea turtles.

A minivan from Jagna to Tagbilaran costs 100 pesos per person.

Bohol is a relatively small island but it has a lot of attractions, and it’s a fun place to spend a few days. You can go on tours and watch dolphins, snorkel in the oceanic nature reserves near the island. There are kayak trips, an Extreme Park, river boating, a beautiful natural phenomenon called “chocolates hills” (yeah yeah) and some incredibly sweet creatures called “Filipino monkey” that became the island’s symbol. Professional name: Tarsier.

You can get almost any tye of food there, from real local food to big fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and domino’s pizza. And of course Dunkin Donuts, that took over the Philippines and apparently conquered them.

We lived in Bohol twice, for a few months each time. We rented a small house with a private beach in a small fishing village and just lived with the locals and the ocean. We would shop at the local market, go for walks in the village, play with the locals, and learn from them about sea life.

We loved going to some nearby islands called Pamilican and Balicasag. On the way to them we usually saw dolphins. Near the islands there are beautiful reserves and we would jump off our little boat and snorkel for hours. We even saw small sharks and sea turtles. The boat’s driver would throw some breadcrumbs to attract the fish to us, to the great joy of my youngest daughter, that didn’t want to go too far from the boat.

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4. Siquijor

After Bohol, take another ferry to Siquijor. This is a small, peaceful island, with incredible quiet beaches. It’s also called the “Isle of Fire”, because of the millions of fireflies that fly near its beaches at night.

The island itself offer a number of activities, most of which are nature related (waterfalls, springs, ancient trees, night walks to see the fireflies).

And of course there’s diving and snorkeling.

We arrived there completely on accident. While visiting Dumaguete, we met at the hotela Filipino friend. After an interesting conversation with him, he told us that he has a resort in Siquijor (a quick boat ride away from Dumaguete) and invited us to stay there. So we found ourselves, a few weeks afterwards, in Siquijor :-).

Most of our time there we spent in the great swimming pool in the resort. It was so fun and relaxed we didn’t even need to leave.

4.5 Optional: Dumaguete

From Siquijor you can go slowly to Cebu Island. Before that take a short ferry to Dumaguete.if you have time you can explore it, it’s another nice island with plenty of activities.

Another article giving details about those four places, including costs, you can find here.

The Philippines have two types of public transport that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Tricycle, which is a bit like the Thai Tok-Tok or the Indian Rickshaw, meaning, they took a motorbike and added a contraption with seats on it. The Filipinos like stuffing as many people as possible into those. It comes in different sizes, some only fit three people, and others fit six or more. The other vehicle is called a Jeepney and it’s actually a jeep that has been turned into a bus. They make it themselves, so every Jeepney looks a little different. They paint it in screaming colors, add some designs and sometimes even add a few quotes. It’s similar to an open bus, and there too they stuff as many people as they possibly can. Try to ride both those vehicles at least once. It’s an experience of a different type:-).

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5. Cebu

From the city Dumaguete leaves a (air conditioned) bus that goes on the ferry to Cebu with you inside it, and continues until Cebu City. You can also get off halfway there, in south Cebu there is a (debatable) attraction that offers diving/swimming/watching Whale Sharks. These are sharks that feed only on Plankton and, despite their huge size, they’re very gentle creatures. This activity is not cheap at $150 per person.

After you get back to Cebu City, you can finish the journey with some shopping in a few of the huge malls in the city. All the brands you know and then some:-).

More details to help you plan your trip and budget for it you can find here.

Christmas/ hanuka and Easter/passover vacations are the best times to take the kids and go on an amazing vacation in the Philippines.
Granted, there is summer vacation, but it’s actually the summer that isn’t a very good season in the Philippines, and if you go there during summer vacation there’s the chance you’ll get some rains and storms. Nothing terrible, but it’s something to consider.
What else, I heard from many families recently that they are looking for an interesting and different destination, something to refresh the annual vacation in Europe.
And hence the Philippines are the perfect destination 🙂

First of all- check out our best tips for family travel in the Philippines.

And now- Here are four places that are simply wonderful for a vacation in the Philippines with kids:

1. This hotel in Mactan, on the island Cebu. An awesome start to a vacation. It’s not cheap, at around 200$ a night, but it’s well worth it. Everything you need in a vacation without moving too much :-). A huge swimming pool, complete with slides and bridges, SUP (stand up pedal surfing) and sea Kayaking, and if you ever leave the swimming pool you’ll find a climbing wall and a kid’s playroom, a private beach, free bicycles to move freely inside the hotel grounds and more…

There are many things to do in Cebu, here are few of the lesser known attractions for families.

2. After few days in this hotel, book a (very) short flight to an amazing island called Camiguin. It’s a tiny island with a few interesting attractions. It has beautiful black-sand beaches. And hot springs, and giant Clams that are definitely worth a visit. You can go snorkel-diving around the island, or even tour around it on a bicycle on the friendly island surrounding road.
You should quietly spend a few days on that island. Enjoy the hot springs, the massages, and sleeping in your favorite guest-house right next to them. That way you could go on a tight romantic dip after the kids went to bed…❤
Staying there is very cheap. Staying in a family room in the guest-house will cost no more than 50$ a night. And it includes free entrance to the hot springs 24/7

3. From there continue to the marvellous island Bohol. Recommended hotels you can find here . OR – you can stay at a private beach house. In Bohol you can enjoy all sorts of attractions like the Chocolate hills, the Extreme park, sailing on the Loboc river, and most importantly- Dolphin watching. Don’t miss  it! It’s an amazing experience.
Estimated costs per day will be around 150$-180$, including accommodation, meals, and attractions.
By the way, in Bohol’s biggest city, Tagbilaran, there are a few nice malls that have cinemas (with 3D) restaurants and shops. One of my children’s biggest enjoyments was the arcade in ICM (island city mall), that they always left with some nice prizes.
To divers, that’s also the place from which you can go on breathtaking dives in the area. In Bohol there are also several interesting underwater reserves. I’ll never forget the sea Turtles we saw while snorkeling around Bohol. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.
If you don’t dive and want to take a course, in Bohol you can find a few good options for that.
There are also sea-Kayaking tours that you simply must check out.
To more adventurous families I warmly suggest going on an independent tour around the island. Bohol allows for a fascinating view into the life of the locals, with the tiny fishing villages, fragrant markets, jungles, and virgin beaches. Tourist free gems are hidden around every corner if you only go in deep enough.

Bohol also offers few Adrenalin-rush activities. check them out here.

4. From Bohol you can move on to the enchanted island Siquijor, with its white beaches, snorkelling, night sailing and watching thousands of fireflies, kayaking, and quiet. The hotels here are good and don’t cost much, only about 60$a day all expenses included. I wrote about it here.

-From there the move is pretty simple back to south Cebu, where the bravest can swim with Whale Sharks. The experience is not cheap (I haven’t done it, my youngest wouldn’t let her mom swim freely like that with sharks. I am waiting for her to grow up…), and costs about 150$ per person.

-Finish the trip in Manila, the shopping city.

“Whoever Said That Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness Didn’t Know Where to Shop”
~Blair Waldorf

Shopping is an inseparable part of almost every trip abroad, and Southeast Asia is no exception. It’s a well-known fact that after a two week trip in Thailand with the kids, you dedicate two-three days to shopping. Because it’s so much cheaper. And it’s so much fun to go shopping, and convert everything to your local currency and see just how cheap everything is.

But Thailand is no longer the only destination where it pays to go on a crazy shopping spree and come back home with a new wardrobe and a truck’s worth of furniture. In fact, if you ask me, there are some places I much prefer, from a quality perspective, from a price perspective, and even from a design perspective. A few years ago, I was in Ho Chi Minh City with my kids, and we planned on going to Bangkok from there. Of course I gave up the shopping in Vietnam, thinking I’ll do it all in Bangkok. But when I got there I discovered that their products weren’t nearly as good, and of a much lower quality, and more expensive. And I was very disappointed.

Only Two Phrases Can Change A Woman’s Mood….

1) I LOVE YOU
2) 50% OFF

And so here are the three places I recommend for shopping in Southeast Asia:

1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

in Saigon you can’t not want to buy everything. When you walk in the street and see the small designer stores, or even the street vendors with the cut-paper greeting cards, and it’s all so cheap, it’s hard to stand the temptation. I love walking around the streets of Saigon, and breathe in inspiration. In fact, Saigon is one of the only places where I enjoy going to the mall.

Four of my favorite places:

Saigon Square– a colorful market with a lot of finds, some of them even original (ZARA, GAP, H&M)- all for really funny prices of only a few dollars. Even the fake’s quality is pretty high and the designs are in good taste. A lot of clothes and products for children and babies. A few years ago I bought my daughters some very cheap designer clothes and they’re still wearing them to this day (the older one gave the younger and all that). I always shop there when we visit Ho chi Minh city.

Vincom center– a wonderful mall, with a whole floor with only kids stored including a mindblowing stored like Lego, Corolle (an amazing doll company), a huge bookstore, children’s playroom, food court and more. The rest of the mall is dedicated to woman’s products, cosmetics, shoes, etc…
Diamond plaza- another mall, this time more luxurious. Everything looks very well thought of. I especially like the cosmetics floor that is simply stunning. With products of the world’s best companies, and attendants that give you free samples and put makeup on you (they’ll be happy to help the girls too ), and of course everything has testers. The joy! The prices are lower than the rest of the world, but for Saigon they’re pretty high. Other than that, they have designer stores with international fame.

Ben Thanh market- one of the places all the guides recommend. It’s a market where they sell anything you can possibly want, from cheap clothes to souvenirs, local produce like Coffee (a million kinds and flavors), tea (ditto), Vietnamese Coffee filters, baby products. It’s a huge compound, crowded and loud, with a number of exits and entries. And a food court to those interested. You should go there if only for the experience, I sometimes buy there the Vietnamese Coffee (I know exactly which brand and which type of coffee, and how much the locals buy it for)- if I can find it at a low price. It’s customary and recommended to bargain and bargain hard.

2. Manila, Philippines

Alright this one isn’t really new. Manila is THE place for shopping, if you happen to get there. Manila is full of shopping centers, from all sorts of markets to expensive luxurious malls.

My four favorites are:

Glorietta- we’re talking about a compound of a few malls made into one. Something huge. There’s everything you can possibly be looking for and then some. In Glorietta there are the biggest and most diverse stores I’ve found yet of brands like GAP, Old Navy, and Banana Republic (even in Thailand I never found the like). ZARA has a very large shop. If you get there- look for the Vietnamese restaurant in the food court. The food there is just like in Vietnam.very very tasty.

Robinsons– a department store chain with pretty much the same stores all over and a wonder of a supermarket with ingredients that are almost impossible to find elsewhere. I like their prices, and I also like their home products section- where you can find a wide variety of mosquito repellents (I collect those…) and a number of other necessities.

Greenbelt– a nice mall with a selection of big brands and large cosmetic stores where you can find some really nice bargains. My daughters and I spent a whole afternoon just in one of those cosmetic stores, impressed by everything.

SM mall chain– not specific to Manila, you can find these malls, in all sizes, all over the Philippines. If you’re in Cebu you should give it a visit. Even if you’re in Manila it’s still worth going to. Some of these malls are in the top10 biggest malls in the Philippines and indeed the whole world. They also host all kinds of afternoon activities (for free), and we once took part in a Zumba class that happened in the mall, to the great joy of all shoppers. They also have some of the best stores from, with well-known international brands. In every mall there is also a nice local book store with a collection of nice English books booklets for all ages.

∴ by the way, one of our little pleasures, whenever we go to a mall in the philippines, is the Buka. A drink of coconut water and ice with some sugar (to those who want it). Not something anyone should miss.

3. Pushkar, India

if you’re looking for shanti clothes, Yoga pants, colorful skirts, dresses and tunics, jewelry, perfumes, and oils, Pushkar is the place for you. Pushkar is a gathering place for wholesale traders from all of India and the world. To the little picturesque market come shop owners from Europe and the rest of India to buy whole stocks of clothes. And we get the lowest prices :-). The diversity is huge, and of course they’ll saw anything you ask of them. In our last time in Pushkar I had some dresses, Yoga pants and shirts (and, of course some really eye-catching skirts) made for me and my daughters for hilariously little money. Pushkar’s market really is charming and if you get there don’t miss Sanu’s fruit & juice shop.

please check out our favorite hotels in vietnam and in the philippines.

My new ebook is now available on amazon. click here, and find out how to travel the world with your kids for less then 1400$ a month (yes, even when shopping at those really trendy shops :-)).

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For almost a month now we’re enjoying ourselves on a private beach that sits in the middle of a small bay on a beautiful* island in the Philippines.
We drink fresh Coconut milk, and eat pineapples and watch the Starfish. The water is clear and warm and we swim every day.
We’re in an area that lies outside the tourist road, and so we get the local Filipino experience in all its glory.
Meeting the village people, going fishing with them, play basketball with them, go out for some barbecue in the tiny local restaurant, that also fixes bicycles.
In the local market they offer fresh cocoa beans just like that, in baskets. And all sorts of fruits and vegetables and pastries we’ve never even seen before. Actually… today on the way to the ATM I saw in a small bakery store the little sweet pastries we loved so much in Vietnam. Where they sell it very cheaply in carts. Immediately I bought some for the kids. How fun it is to remember something we loved to eat in another country.

Click here to get a month’s worth of food filled adventure in the Philippines.

“Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and it’s fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment”.~Paul Fussell, Abroad.

I feel that this experience, like many others we’ve had, both for me and for the kids, is incredibly enriching. Just as is, natural and wild and real and pure. Without make-up. But in comfort and with all the luxuries (we actually have a tv after all…).
The combination of the beautiful waters, of passively watching the tides, the effects of the moon and the weather. Walks on the beach and seeing dozens of living creatures, the refreshing swim. Playing with the village children. And so much more.
From time to time the owner of the house we stay in comes to visit. She stays a few days. In those days she takes us on a journey deep inside the Filipino culture. She teaches us to cook Filipino dishes, explains to us about the oceans life and the creatures in the ocean. Opens the door to experiences like fishing at night using a flashlight, coconut peeling and explaining everything you can do with coconuts. She explains about the leafs they put in the soup and why they’re very healthy, and why in all the gardens around people cover their plants in empty eggshells.
Today she told me exactly where I can see dolphins. And how to get there.
For me the stay here is the peak of the good life. Sun, ocean, soft sand, and fresh coconuts. You don’t really need anything more. Just let me lie in the hammock and look at all that blue.
And if I can write to you a bit more personally, I feel like this place is drawing me deep into myself. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the quiet. Maybe it’s the dream coming true in living here. One dream of many :-). Both for me and for the kids there is a sort of understanding, realizations that pop up, and a type of maturing. Of sharpening.
And the love I hold for life and the world bursts out in joy.
♦ So how did we get here?
We make friends fast, fall in love fast, stay very open, brave and free. All those create non-internet-opportunities that express themselves in exceptional and exciting friendships and experiences. When you start your own journey pull your nose outside of the internet. From the guides. Give the road a chance. Don’t be scared. Come to it with your love, and you’ll see how it rewards you. There’s a whole world outside. An exciting world full of love.
♦ Ok ok. So bottom line: how much does it cost me?
◊ The whole house, all three rooms, the amazing gallery, the handmade furniture, the balconies, the accessorized kitchen, the barbecue station in the yard, the fertile coconut trees and all their coconuts, the banana trees, the privaaaaaate beeeeeeeeeeaaaaach.
◊ Laundry.
◊ And transportation (cause a girl need to go on the back of a motorbike from time to time)
All that costs me 15$ a day.

*the island is called Bohol and it’s one of the better known and more touristic islands in the Philippines. It’s a beautiful island but its tourist centers are very small and focus in very specific areas. the rest of the (pretty big) island is tourist free.

You can watch the girls talk about this experience here.

A first aid kit is one of those things that make you feel safe, even when you’re in the middle of nowhere in southeast Asia, and especially when you are with kids. When you always have one in your bag, you can be as spontaneous as you like and still be a ‘responsible adult’. It’s important, though, to never forget it in your room because that will be the one time you actually need it. Yes… I learned that the hard way :-).

Things I recommend taking:

  • Basic first aid- sterile pads, disinfectant, plasters of different sizes, bandages, tourniquet, and something special for burns.
  • Hand sanitizer (a small bottle just in case you really need but don’t have one).
  • Mosquito repellent. I always have some in my bag, but in my first aid kit I always carry some wet wipes with mosquito repellent, just in case.
  • 2 hygienic bandages in a sterile wrap.
  • And empty plastic bag.
  • Multiple purpose disinfecting liquid-  a little bottle that can disinfect anything, cuts, surfaces, toilets.
  • A salve to sooth the skin- stings/sun burns/nettles.
  • Antihistamine.
  • Two unopened tooth brushes+paste. The small kind they give in hotels and airplanes. Yes, sometimes you have dinner at a friend’s home and the girls decide to stay to sleep there.
  • Lavender oil for everything- scratches, cuts, burns.
  • Soap pages in a travel pack.
  • Lipstick for dry lips.
  • Hair bands.
  • A lighter.

In addition, it’s best if you give your kids a few basic safety rules. Whatever seems important to you. For example, my kids know to beware of certain plants that irritate the skin- you just need to point it out to them and tell them to be careful. They also know not to touch shoe soles or anything off the floor, or to come close to a motorbike’s exhaust pipe (in southeast Asia there are more bikes than cars)

You can buy a ready-made first aid kit and just buy a few more things that are important specifically for a trip in southeast Asia with kids. That’s what I did to begin with, but as time went on the bag got ripped and ruined so I bought a camera bag. A square bag, waterproof, opening from the top and divided to several compartments. I chose the size that fits comfortably in the bottom of our bag that still goes everywhere with us, and put everything in it.

A big fear many parents have is about the hygiene of foods and drinks in developing countries. Even doctors specializing in travel medicine recommend to be extra careful with those. I wrote here the ways we deal with it.

Drinks:

  1. Many of the worst diseases originate in water.

2. That’s why I always go under the assumption that the water anywhere is not fit for drinking. Not taking any chances.

3. The most effective way to disinfect water is by boiling.

4. That’s why any dish containing water must be well boiled.

5. Drinking water- you can find different qualities of drinking water anywhere. From mineral water from abroad to locally treated and disinfected. Buy a few types, pick the one you like best and stick with it. And of course, pay attention to the lid signature.

6. Juices- fresh fruit juice is one of the ways to keep the kids healthy. It’s important to make sure they don’t mix it with water or ice. Also, pay attention to how clean the dishes are.

7. Cold drinks- sodas and the likes are perfectly safe to drink.

8. Hot drinks- usually there’s nothing to fear, the water is well boiled and even if they add milk- they boil that too for you.

Food:

  1. The best way to disinfect food is by boiling.

2. That’s why it’s always better to eat food that was cooked in high temperatures, baked or well fried.

3. Meat is one of the biggest sources of disease, that’s why rule no.2 is twice as important if you’re going to eat meat. Don’t eat meat that hasn’t been well coocked!

4. You don’t have to eat meat.

5.Eggs- go under the assumption that the Eggs have been fertilized. If that doesn’t bother you, I recommend you to put Eggs in the same category with meat- make sure all parts of the Egg have been well cooked (I don’t order fried, boiled or scrambled Eggs, I order an omelet and ask it to be well done).

6. The locals prefer to be healthy and know all these rules even better than us. True that their digestive system is designed to those conditions, but they’re not immune either.

7.That’s why the local foods are always healthy and nutritious, while keeping to the hygienic rules relevant to that place.

8.On the other hand, it’s the western foods that are made only for the tourists are those that aren’t prepared properly according the hygienic rules and hence have a higher chance of making you sick.

9. In addition, take under consideration that the local food is what the locals cook best. Western food won’t be ‘like home’, and especially the meat- not always worth the risk (depending of course on the destination of your trip)..

10. In short, it’s recommended to just order the local food.

11. Another important detail- people are always warning of the cooling and keeping conditions of the food, but in local restaurants they never prepare food in advance. They only start to make it when they get an order. It takes a while (take a deck of cards with you J)… but together with that you can be sure the food is the freshest it can be.

Fruits and vegetables:

  1. Fruits and vegetables that were watered with polluted water are not recommended to eat, because their peel is contaminated.

2. That’s why you have to make sure they were properly cooked.

3. Or properly peeled..

4. Or properly washed..

5. If there’s no way to wash/cook you should always pick the fruits or vegetables with a thick peel (Papayas, Oranges, Coconuts, Pineapples, Bananas). And those that grow on trees/bushes and not on the ground.

6. Many restaurants in touristic areas are aware of the problem and clearly mention that they wash their fruits and vegetables with disinfectant (iodine usually). Even with that, I don’t take risks and don’t allow the kids to eat fruits and vegetables that aren’t peeled.

Buying snacks or packed food:

  1. One thing you have to remember: pay attention to the expiry date. If that’s not written, or if it’s expired, DON’T BUY!

Eating at food stands:

  1. Usually their food is very fresh (and tasty!), they always make it that same day.

2. In large, the rules are the same rules, don’t forget them.

3. Pay attention how many locals eat from that stand. Don’t buy from an empty stand.

4. Pay attention to their utilities and where they sharpen their knives (there are stand owners that sharpen their knives against the sidewalk..).

5. Don’t forget to ask a number of times ‘not spicy’.

6. Or come with a ready-to-pull bottle of waterJ.

7. It’s best to come with your own disposable utilities.

8. And yet, I wouldn’t eat meat in stands.

General hygiene:

  1. The utilities are washed with regular water, usually with soap..

2. They have a different way of washing dishes: they soak the dishes in a big bowl full of water, then scrub with soap, wash and leave in the sun.

3. Their use of the sun is not only to dry but also to disinfect.

4. They serve the silverware on a plate.

5. Table cleaning: oh well, it’s usually not very clean. You can ask them to clean, you can use a wet wipe yourself, or you can simply not mix the silverware with the table.

6. You don’t have to use glasses, drink straight from the bottle..

7. You can buy a packet of straws and drink through them for maximal hygiene.

8. Remember to wash your hands before every meal.

Bottom line:

  1. Wash your hands before every meal.

2. Prefer local foods.

3. Cooked in high temperatures.

4. always suspect the water. Drink only purified water/fresh juice/sodas/hot drinks

5. Check the date of expiry on all packaged snacks.

It looks complicated but within a few days you get used to these rules and they become habit. Even the kids learn fast and the rules become a part of their life. they don’t even think about it anymore.

Mui Ne is a wonderful stretch of beach in Vietnam, sweet and relaxing. i like to stay there with my kids for few weeks at a time, every chance we have.

I recommend it to any family or couple or really anyone looking for a welcoming place, where he can live like a millionaire (literally), and pay fair or even low prices.

Amazing hotels, excellent beach front restaurants, an atmosphere of freedom, bars and night-life, some water sports and bicycles. And everything is clean, air conditioned and has decent internet.

And here are some recommended hotels you should check out if you plan to travel to Vietnam with your kids:

Coco Beach Resort– a charming hotel, prices starting from 140$.

Saigon Mui Ne Resort.  one of the sweetest places.one of our personal favorites. Prices starting from 75$ a night.

Casa Beach House  costs 100$ a night for a family room, including breakfast. With a lovely beach, a special atmosphere and all the extras you can think of. Very warmly recommended.

Herbal Hotel & Spa Mui Ne–  a wonderful hotel, in an excellent location with excellent service.

Two places I come back to every time I visit:

Shades Resort Apartments Mui Ne-. a breathtaking apartment hotel, with a charming view and wonderful atmosphere. Great fun. The apartments themselves are indulging, they have everything you need and the price includes laundry services! Prices starting from 65$ a night for a whole apartment

Tien Dat Resort– we like this hotel very much, the clean rooms, the amazing shower, the fun swimming pool (with a slide straight into the water) and mostly their breakfast, which is the best we got anywhere. There are all sorts of little things, like free bicycles the guests can use, a trolley that takes you back and forth, a bar on the water and more. we even shot one of our videos inside this hotel’s pool :-). prices starting from 40$ per room per night.

My new ebook is now available on amazon. click here, and find out how to travel the world with your kids for less then 1400$ a month (yes, even when staying at those really nice hotels :-)).

Want to keep looking yourself? You’ll probably be interested in this post: how to look, find, and book a hotel online -simple, easy and cheap.

And you might also be interested in this article:

Vietnam with kids- things you should know before setting off

And if you are a sexy plus-size woman, check out this shop, to show some beach hotness.