Deciding on the perfect gay honeymoon destination when we got married in 2017 was difficult to say the least. You want to go somewhere beautiful, a once in a lifetime destination where you can openly be yourselves and enjoy the first few weeks of married life together.
The last thing that you want to experience on your gay honeymoon is any form of discrimination or prejudice, which is why it can be tricky to find that perfect place. Many of the stereotypical ‘go to’ honeymoon destinations such as the Maldives or Mauritius aren’t safe for gay couples. In these places same-sex activity is actually illegal, with severe consequences, and that’s not something you ever want to have to worry about, let alone on your honeymoon.
However, after lots of research we did find the perfect gay honeymoon destination for us: the Philippines!
It ticked every single box for us. Stunning beaches, perfect turquoise waters for scuba diving, lots of islands to explore, and a great mix of adventure and relaxation. Plus there are lots of romantic places in the Philippines making it perfect for honeymooners! Taking into account that the Philippines has been ranked as one of the most gay friendly places in Asia, we knew we were onto a winner.
We spent three weeks in the Philippines – one week on the island of Cebu (Mactan Island), one week in Palawan (El Nido) and one week in Boracay. Read on to learn everything you need to know. Fair warning – by the end you will want to book a flight right away!
- 1 About the Philippines
- 2 A Week in Cebu: Itinerary
- 3 A Week in El Nido: Itinerary
- 4 A Week in Boracay: Itinerary
- 5 How to get to the Philippines
- 6 LGBT Rights in the Philippines
- 7 Is the Philippines Expensive?
About the Philippines
The Philippines are a collection of islands in South East Asia in the Philippine Sea, and the number keeps growing! The current count by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority is 7,641 islands in total!
Whilst there may be a lot of islands, the most popular to visit as a tourist include Cebu, Palawan, Boracay and Bohol. Many people fly in to Manila (the capital) and spend a few days there but we opted not to as we wanted to focus on the beach destinations.
The Philippines is known for its warm culture and stunning scenery. A natural comparison would be Thailand, however the Philippines is currently less touristy and so retains more of its natural unspoilt beauty. In fact, some places in the Philippines such as El Nido have been voted as the most beautiful places on the planet. That is no small feat!
If you love crystal clear waters, powdery beaches, stunning landscapes and a welcoming culture, this is the place for you!
A Week in Cebu: Itinerary
Our first stop was the province of Cebu. We decided to stay on Mactan Island which is just 1 mile off the coast of Cebu Island, as this is where most of the 5 star hotels can be found.
Our Cebu itinerary was very straightforward – relax for the majority of the time, and see the island whilst doing a few activities. Cebu is also one of the islands with an international airport so this made things easier from a logistics perspective too!
Our Hotel in Cebu
This was our honeymoon so we wanted the best in 5 star hotels. We stayed at the beautiful Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island. This hotel has its own private beach and a classy ‘Ibiza style’ beach club.
We loved the beach club for its over water hanging hammocks, delicious cocktails, (they had a happy hour too!) and on an evening the food and entertainment. We were very excited to see ostrich steak on the menu here – one of our favourite dishes from South Africa. If you have never tried it, think of fillet steak but better!
The staff at the hotel were all very friendly, and the service was impeccable.
The cost of the hotel was approximately $150 per night.
What to do in Cebu?
We spent a lot of time relaxing by the pool and on the beach, however we also needed some activities to keep us going. We love our luxury hotels but we also love our adventure activities.
Canyoneering in Badian
We had seen a video on YouTube of people canyoneering in Badian and knew we had to do it!
If you have never heard of canyoneering before its very straightforward. You get your swimwear on, a life jacket, helmet and jump straight into the rivers and pools.
There are natural rock water slides, small caves to swim through, and lots of man-made and natural platforms to jump from if you are feeling brave. This was quite the adrenaline rush as the final platforms to jump from were up to 10 metres high! Sion does not like heights but nevertheless went for it!
This is a lot of fun in itself, but is also worth doing for the stunning location you are in. The water in parts can only be described as the colour of blue Gatorade and the jungle itself is beautiful.
To get to Badian, transport from Mactan Island took a few hours and was arranged by the tour company. The company we used at the time was called Planet Action Adventure Tour Services.
If you go to Cebu make sure you make time to go canyoneering in Badian, you will not regret it! Check out our full ‘Guide to Canyoneering in Cebu‘.
Whale Sharks in Oslob
This is something we seriously considered doing as we would love to see a whale shark. To get to Oslob from Mactan Island is about a 6 hour journey there and back with only about 20 minutes in the water with the whale sharks.
We decided not to do this activity after some further research. It has become so touristy and popular that the whale sharks are now being affected in a negative way. Take a look here to understand the reasons why.
One day we hope to see them in the wild during a scuba dive. A much more natural and special way to have this experience!
If you want a more detail, take a look at this itinerary for Cebu from a fellow travel blogger.
After a week of relaxing in Mactan Island it was time to move on to somewhere even more beautiful and adventurous – El Nido in Palawan.
A Week in El Nido: Itinerary
El Nido has been voted one of the most beautiful places in the world and we can see why. El Nido is a small town on the island of Palawan. It is famous for island-hopping boat tours and scuba diving. The waters here are some of the most beautiful and crystal clear we have ever seen. When the sun is directly above, you can see all the way down to the ocean bed.
How to get to El Nido
The easiest way to get to El Nido is to fly to El Nido Airport. Once you land (it is the smallest airport ever) it is a short and cheap taxi or tricycle ride to the main town. El Nido airport is only served by certain airlines flying from certain locations so do bear that in mind. For us, we could fly direct from Cebu, but for example, there were no flights between El Nido and Boracay (our final stop). Since we have been this may have changed.
The other option is to fly into Puerto Princesa. From here you have a 6-8 hour journey to get to El Nido. You can either pay for a private car (up to $60) or find yourself a group minibus where you are more likely to pay around the $15-20 mark.
Our Hotel in El Nido
We stayed at the beautiful Mahogany Resort & Spa. This resort is on the Corong Corong beachfront and offers individual and locally designed cottages all with large terraces. One cottage even has its own plunge pool!
For us, given that this was our honeymoon and we wanted to spend time in romantic places in the Philippines, this was the perfect place. The main town of El Nido on the harbour has a great atmosphere with lots going on, but it is very much a backpacker place and that is not what we were looking for.
El Nido Mahogany was just a 5 minute tricycle journey ($2) from the main town meaning it was much quieter and secluded – perfect for a romantic honeymoon.
We loved that the breakfast was served on your own private terrace at the time you request it. Knowing it was our honeymoon they even had some extra special touches such as covering the bed in flower petals on arrival (which we messed up by walking in and putting the fan on!)
There are no other meals served here but there are many options nearby including a restaurant at the nearby El Nido Coco Hotel which we used for a romantic dinner.
The owner here was from France and she was a very lovely host, we highly recommend!
The cost of a cottage here was approximately $165 per night.
What to do in El Nido
We had already had a week of relaxation in Cebu so we wanted to be more adventurous and explore in El Nido. Here is what we did.
Boat tours in El Nido – Tours A, B, C and D
You absolutely must do a boat tour in El Nido – it’s one of the activities we enjoyed the most. These are full day tours on a boat with up to 20 other people exploring nearby islands, lagoons and snorkelling spots.
The tours are named Tour A, B, C or D. The most popular ones are A and C as these are considered the most beautiful. These are the ones we did and we were blown away by the beauty of the places we were taken to. All tours are similar prices, around $20 per person with lunch and snorkelling gear included. All should be bookable through your accommodation.
Take a look at our videos here, you won’t need any more convincing!
Ziplining in El Nido
El Nido is simply stunning from every angle, whether you are sailing on the ocean, 20 metres below the surface scuba diving or just taking a stroll along the beach. However, ziplining in El Nido gives you a whole different perspective.
The zipline can be found at Las Cabanas Beach. You will have to walk up a pretty steep hill but it is well signposted and easy to find. You can either opt to go in a seated position or the Superman position (lying on your front). Both cost around $15-$20 and you will fly across to Depeldet Island. From here you can walk back across the water to Las Cabanas – given it is low tide!
Most people will get a tricycle from the main town to this beach however we suggest something much better! Instead, get a taxi to Corong Corong beach. From here you can walk South all the way along the coast until after about 40 minutes you arrive at Las Cabanas beach. The walk is very romantic, you won’t see many people and it gives you a chance to see more of the island. Some parts may involve scrambling over rocks, so take care – water shoes are recommended over flip-flops!
Scuba Diving in El Nido
You must go scuba diving in El Nido. We have mentioned how perfect the waters are here and we are not exaggerating. Snorkelling is amazing, but for us, scuba diving is magical and this is one the best places we have done it.
We chose to go on a three tank dive taking us to three different sites and paid around $120 each to do so. For those that scuba dive, visibility is key and the visibility here was perfect. We saw an abundance of sealife and spent most of the dives in awe.
There were plenty of dive schools to choose from. We chose Turtle Divers, based on cost, availability and their Tripadvisor reputation.
Visit Nacpan Beach
El Nido is known for its beaches. We loved the place we stayed at but that beach was not one of the best. Equally if you were to stay in the busy backpacker area there aren’t any good beaches there either. However, take a 45 minute ride on a tricycle and you will arrive at the beautiful Nacpan beach.
We really wanted to do this because we wanted a mix of fun activities but also some down time. At this point it won’t surprise you if we tell you the waters are crystal clear and the sand white and powdery soft. There are a few small places along the beach where you can grab food and drink.
To get here, you can either rent a motorcycle, take the once a day jeepney from El Nido town or hire a tricycle. We recommend getting a tricycle. You can haggle with the drivers between $15-$20 for a return trip, they will take you and then either wait around by the beach until you are ready or ask for a time when you want to be picked up. The road to Nacpan is fairly undeveloped so be prepared for a bumpy ride!
After we had finished in El Nido is was time to move on to the well known island of Boracay!
A Week in Boracay: Itinerary
Finally, after being a little bit away from the tourist track we wanted to go somewhere with a bit more life. Like everywhere we went, Boracay is a very beautiful island and one of the more well known and established destinations in the Philippines.
Boracay is a relatively small island split into three ‘zones’ with each zone centred around a bus station, 1, 2 or 3. The main and most popular zone to be in is zone 2. From here you can walk to all the main restaurants, bars, shops and straight onto the main beach; White Beach.
How to get to Boracay from El Nido
To get here, we had to travel from El Nido to the larger town of Puerto Princesa by a private transfer to get to Puerto Princesa airport. This was because there were no flights from El Nido to Caticlan airport (the nearest to Boracay).
There are other airports nearby including Kalibo airport. This is a little further away but is served by larger planes so you may find it easier to fly into this one instead if you are arriving from larger islands.
How to get from Caticlan Airport to Boracay
If you need to know how to get from Caticlan airport to Boracay you will be pleased to hear it is fairly easy.
Once you arrive at Caticlan airport (aka Godofredo P. Ramos Airport) you can get a taxi to the nearby Caticlan jetty for $1 and from there get a ferry to the island of Boracay. For the ferry you need to pay for 3 things at 3 different windows; PHP25 for a ferry, PHP75 environmental fee and a PHP100 terminal fee. This comes to a total of roughly $4. Once on land you will then need to find one more taxi to take you to your hotel.
However, if you plan on doing this as a honeymoon like we did, you deserve a treat! We stayed at the Henann Lagoon Resort and paid $25 each for their private round trip transfer service. This was excellent! They have their own lounge just outside the entrance to the airport where you can wait, next they transport you to the ferry port to another private lounge before you get on their private boat. This takes you to Boracay in 15 minutes and then there is one more private bus to take you to the door of the hotel – so much easier. Plus, all of the different fees were already incorporated into the cost.
Our Hotel in Boracay
We spent a long time deciding on the perfect hotel in Boracay for our gay honeymoon. This was the final stop so we needed somewhere beautiful!
After a lot of deliberation, we chose to go with Henann Lagoon. The Henann group have three different hotels on the island. Regardless of which one you stay at you can use the facilities of all and even charge to your room from the other Henann hotels on the island. This was good because we loved the pool at the Lagoon but enjoyed having lunch at the other hotel on the beachfront.
At the Henann Lagoon we loved the swim up bar, the quality of the cocktails and the staff were top class. They also served an excellent breakfast buffet.
Top activities in Boracay
This was the end of our trip so our time here was not quite as intense as El Nido. We spent a lot of time by the pool, cocktail in hand, or by the beach.
Beaches in Boracay
We made sure to get a lot of beach time here. Boracay has long stretches of beaches all around the island.
We spent a lot of time on White Beach. Walking along this beach there are many small bars with bean bag chairs and hammocks on the beach. We made sure to stop at a few of these for some romantic sunset cocktails.
Other popular beaches around the island include Bulabog, Puka and Diniwid.
What is important to know here, is that bright green algae is an important part of the ecosystem. It’s well respected by the people here and it is nothing to be alarmed by if you arrive at certain times of the year. The beaches are still beautiful and the sea warm and clear.
Scuba Diving in Boracay
Like everywhere we went in the Philippines, the scuba diving is excellent. Here we did a two tank dive and headed out by speed boat directly from the beach.
Just like El Nido, there was an abundance of sealife and we enjoyed every second.
Eating Out in Boracay
Here you have a much wider selection of restaurants than anywhere else we went on our honeymoon. If you are looking for something romantic, find a restaurant with tables on the beach at sunset. We ate one evening at the Henann Crystal Resort on the beach and had an amazing meal.
Nightlife in Boracay
We had not experienced any nightlife on the first two weeks of our honeymoon, and while Boracay does not have any gay bars or clubs, we found with it being so touristy it was very open for gay couples. We felt comfortable having a night out, dancing together and being affectionate with no trouble at all. There were even a few local gay couples out dancing together too!
Head to Epic Boracay for some music and dancing. This is one of the main places and main areas for nightlife in Boracay.
After all that, it was time to head home! We were only home for a week though before we headed to Gran Canaria for Maspalomas Pride! Read about it here.
How to get to the Philippines
There are over 50 airports throughout the Philippines ranging from those taking only propeller planes to the large international airports.
You are most likely to fly in to the main airport in the capital Manila, or Cebu, which has a smaller international airport. From here you can then take your connecting flight to whichever island you wish. However, this is not as straightforward as you might think so you need to plan ahead else you will end up back tracking and getting unnecessary flights.
We suggest taking a look at AirSWIFT. They fly to destinations you are most likely to travel to including Palawan (El Nido and Puerto Princesa), Cebu, Manila and Caticlan (for Boracay).
Flights are not as cheap as in other parts of Asia, however this is the easiest way to get around.
LGBT Rights in the Philippines
Whether you are going to the Philippines for your gay honeymoon or just for a holiday, knowing the LGBT rights beforehand is important.
Thankfully, when it comes to LGBT rights, the Philippines is ahead compared to most of Asia. We are not saying it is perfect; there is still work to be done as with most places in the world, but you can feel confident visiting the Philippines as a gay couple.
The history of LGBT rights here is very interesting. Prior to any outside influences, the indigenous people celebrated homosexuality and gave homosexuals special roles within the community as spiritual leaders. However, with the influx of Islamic movements and the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (named after King Phillip II) the attitude towards LGBT people changed for the worse. Since then it has improved and here is what you need to know today:
- Same-sex sexual activity: Legal
- A survey completed in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre reported 73% of adults agreed homosexuality should be accepted in society.
- Same-sex marriage: not recognised but also not prohibited
- Discrimination protections: None at the national level but many anti-discrimination ordinances exist at the local government level
- Government officials: there are a number of openly LGBT individuals within the government
While the laws are not perfect, the attitudes of the majority of people are positive. For us this was especially true being tourists in hotels and doing tourist activities. We had no problems whatsoever.
Is the Philippines Expensive?
Looking at the hotels we stayed at a lot of people asked whether the Philippines is expensive. The answer is quite straightforward: no.
The Philippines caters to everyone budget, from backpackers to luxury travellers. Even for us, on a honeymoon wanting the best 5 star hotels we only paid on average $150 a night for accommodation. In other places in the world you would have to pay $400+ per night for the same standard of accommodation. Eating at these hotels is quite pricey in comparison to eating out, however we decided to do a bit of both.
Taxis and tricycles to get around when you are on each island is cheap. Flights can be quite expensive if you do not plan in advance. Overall, a very affordable destination!
We absolutely loved our honeymoon in the Philippines, it was the perfect destination for us and we highly recommend it to all couples including other gay couples.
We hope to do an extended trip back to the Philippines in the future to learn more about this amazing country.
Check out these posts for more about this beautiful country and the rest of South East Asia:
- A Complete Guide to Kawasan Falls: Canyoneering in Cebu
- Gay Philippines: Local Gay Stories
- South East Asia: Gay Travel Asia, a Complete Guide
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