Where to Spend A Summer Holiday in Winter


Summer is officially over in Australia and many are itching to go abroad for a holiday where the sun is shining warmly.


Instead of going to popular destinations like Bali in Indonesia, New Zealand or even Japan,  try flying to the Philippines. The Philippines is a southeast Asian country, and is the second largest archipelago with 7,107 islands.


Famous Beach


Australia is well-known for beaches of the Gold Coast in Queensland and the iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney. However, for a holiday, most Australians flock the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast, like Surfers Paradise.


Image Credit: gags9999

According to Queensland tourism website, the Gold Coast is famous for its “patrolled beaches, vibrant Cavill Avenue and Skyscraper skyline.” The Gold Coast’s Surfers Paradise attract 20,000 people a day offering wild parties from different clubs, bars and malls in the area.


In the Philippines, it’s Boracay.” It is hailed in almost every travel magazine and websites as one of the best beaches in the world. In fact, it was named by an international magazine Travel+Leisure as the Best Island in the world in 2012. Boracay’s 4 km white sand, clear blue waters and magical sunsets  attract locals and foreigners alike.


Image Credit: BoracayIsland.org

Aside from being idyllic, Business Insider considers White Beach in Boracay as one of the best party beaches in the world. Conde Nast Traveler even puts the island at the #2 spot next to Baie de St. Jean, St. Barts in the Caribbean.


There is no direct flight to Boracay from Sydney or any point of Australia. To get here book a flight to Manila , from there to Kalibo Airport or Caticlan Airport. Caticlan Airport is closer to Boracay than Kalibo, however, the latter has cheaper fares.


Caticlan is only a short walk or tricycle ride away from Caticlan Jetty Port. From there, hop on a boat going to Boracay Island. Boats to Boracay are available at the Caticlan Jetty Port . The boat is only a short 15 minute ride.


On the other hand, Kalibo is another 1 ½ hour bus ride away.


Fees to Ready (Converted to AUD based on current foreign exchange rate)

Surfers Paradise



Air fare

(roundtrip from Sydney airport)

Gold Coast Airport $98.47

Sydney to Manila Starts at $700

Manila to Kalibo  starts at $673


Manila to Caticlan starts at $1,087.50

Environmental fee




Route 761 and 777 bus, public buses, Gold Coast Tourist shuttle, taxis, coaches, light rail, and cars for hire are available to access Surfers Paradise with ease

Taxis cost around $40

Buses, Trains cost around $5 per trip

Van/ bus $5.82

Jetty Port $5.85

Boat $0.73

Accommodation/ night

Hostels around $22

Guest accommodation $69

3 star hotels $61

Apartment $200

5 Star Hotels $600

Hostels around $17

Guest accommodation $47

3 star hotels $40

Apartment $134

Dormitory rooms $8.56

5 Star Hotels $300


Restaurant Breakfast $12

Restaurant Dinner $20

Restaurant Beer $7

Store price 375ml beer bottle, 24/pack  $32.95

Restaurant Breakfast $4.12

Restaurant Lunch $5.49

Restaurant Dinner $8

Restaurant Beer $1.50

Budget $8.56

Happy hour beer $0.86

Store Price Beer $.30


Boracay has 3 stations. Station 1 houses 5-star and expensive accommodations like Discovery Shores, Station 2 holds the loudest parties and most nightlife while budget accommodations can be found in Station 3.


If you want to visit other beaches around the island, visit Puka Beach which also offers kiteboarding and surfing. You may also find serenity in Diniwid Beach found on the same island.


The Most Beautiful Beach


El Nido in Palawan consistently lands the list of the most beautiful beaches in the world together with Australia’s very own Whitehaven Beach in Whitsunday, Queensland.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach, Image Credit: Living Australian

Whitehaven Beach is renowned for its postcard perfect, pure silica, white, powdery sand, blue waters and picturesque views.


On the other hand, El Nido, as one writer puts it, is so breathtaking that no words can explain its beauty. It’s otherworldly as if you stepped into paradise.

El Nido

El Nido, Image Credit: Tourist-Destinations

However, like most paradise, it is a challenge to go to the beaches of El Nido, again, having no direct flight. Common amenities for westerners like hot water, A/C and 24-hour electricity is not a given, contact the hotel first to know what to expect.


Whitehaven on the other hand,  is easier to get to. There are a couple of ways to reach the place, the Hamilton Airport and the Proserpine Airport. Landing on the Hamilton Airport, a ferry is available to bring you to Airlie beach or any of the island resorts around. The pricier Proserpine airport offers for hire buses, taxis, cars and even a limousine to Whitehaven beach and other islands.


Fees (Converted to AUD)



El Nido

Air fare

(roundtrip from Sydney airport)

Hamilton Airport $500

Proserpine Airport $600

Sydney to Manila Starts at $700

Manila to Puerto Princesa Airport $1040

Sydney to Palawan via Philippine Airline $1050

Environmental fee



Transfers via van, bus or ferry

Ferry (to and from point A and B)

Hamilton Airport

Arlie and Daydream Island $50/ person

Proserpine Airport

Daydream $59/ adult, $38/child

Hamilton $79/adult, $47/child.

Port of Airlie

Daydream $39/adult, $26/child

Hamilton Island Airport Marina $50/ person

Hamilton Inland Marina $59/ adult, $37/ child

***rate from cruisewhitsunday.com

Van $17.44

Roro Bus $11.63 (non-A/C)

        $14.53 (with A/C)

** trip takes 5-8 hours

Ferry tours


$44.17 for Filipinos

$52.90 for foreign nationals

***includes terminal fee

Accommodation/ night

Hostels around $21

3 star hotels $28

Apartment $100

Resort Accommodation $300

***cheaper accommodations are kilometres away from Whitehaven beach.

Hostels around $7

Guest accommodation $11

Bed and breakfast $24

Resort Accommodation $63

3 star hotels $75

Tour Packages

Whitsunday and Daydream Island full day cruise with lunch package from $170/person

Tour A and D $34.90/person

Tour B $37.80 / person

Tour C $40.70/person

***minimum of 4 people per tour. Tour package promos may include lunch.


Provided for by boat if on sailing tour

Outside the boat starting at $20

Fast food $2.50

Budget meal $1.43

Restaurant Beer $2.86

Beer in stores $1

Best months to visit


December to March


Both Palawan and Queensland also happen to have the best dive spots in their regions.


Divine Dive Spots


Australia and the Philippines are both home of underwater ecosystems.


In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef comes to mind and one of the top places to dive is in Yongala. The 110-metre ship that sank in 1911 is the site of the wreck dive, 25-30 meters deep.

Yongala Shipwreck Dive

Yongala Shipwreck Dive, Image Credit: TripAdvisor

The ship is home to different marine animals including different sharks and during winter, graceful minke whales and singing humpback whales may be spotted.


In the Philippines, the Tubbataha Reef is “an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with lagoons and two coral islands” according to Unesco’s World Heritage Centre. Tubbataha sits on the Coral Triangle, the “birthplace of coral species and the world center for hard coral diversity.” This is where most of the corals around tropical seas migrated from. Aside from a variety of hard corals in the area, water animals here are also diverse including threatened species.

Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha Reef, Image Credit: Le Solivagant

Diving 5- 60 meters, divers can expect to see 300 different types of corals and 379 fish species including sharks, rays, unicorns and many more.


This magnificent dive spot is 182 km south of Palawan. Liveaboard trips should be contacted if you want to visit.


Fees (Converted to AUD)




Air fare

(roundtrip from Sydney airport)

Townsville Airport $352

Sydney to Manila Starts at $700

Manila to Puerto Princesa Airport $1040

Conservation fee



Transfers via van, bus or ferry

Taxis, limousines and other chartered vehicles are available at the airport.

Transfers free from Puerto Princesa


Yongala Dive accommodation/night

Dorm $29, Queen $68

Dive and accommodation packages starting at $270

*pus $21 taxes

Accommodation provided by registered and licensed Liveaboards.

Expedition Fleet rates per person

Standard room  $3,204.24

(double occupancy)

Deluxe $3,472.43

(double occupancy)

Premium economy  $3,339.75

(double occupancy)

Premium economy  $ 2,805.29

(triple sharing)

economy $ 2,805.29

(twin sharing)

***rates per person staying 7 days, 6 nights or regular trips with several package inclusions including meals and some gears for 4 day and/or night dive. Please check the link here for more details.

Tour Packages

SS Yongala Day Trip starting at $241

Yongala Wreck Dive Trip from Townsville and Magnetic Island from $255

*** plus online administration fees 1.5% for Master, Visa and Debit, 2% for Amex. None for POLi payments


Breakfast is included with accommodation while lunch and snack are provided on day trips.

Bringing of own food for dinner and snacks are advised as well.

Food and drink is provided during the whole trip.

Best months to visit

June to December

March to June

***rates from yongaladive.com.au and expeditionfleet.com


However, for those who rather surf than dive, then look no further.


Surf Junkie


Australia has some of the most awesome waves for surfing. As a matter of fact, 3 surf beaches made the list of “The World’s 50 Best Surf Spots” by CNN in 2013. Favorites like Byron Bay is at #32 while Gold Coast’s Super Bank is up ten notches at #22. Perth’s the Box, in Margaret River valley owned Australia’s surf waves at #20. According to CNN, it has the “world’s most venerable slab wave.”

The Box at Margaret River

The Box at Margaret River, Image Credit: Coastal Watch

Margaret River has several surfing spots aside from “the Box” found at Surfer’s Point.  It is possible to create a whole 5 day itinerary to try all these surf spots. Also, visit the Margaret River website and scroll down to avail of special surfing classes.


You can also try Cloud 9 in Siargao Island, Philippines. Ranked at number 9, it has “dramatic and powerful reef break, which crashes onto razor-sharp coral, offers left and right rides.”

Cloud 9

Cloud 9, Image Credit: Ocean Island Travel

The only direct flight to Siargao is via Cebu Airport but flights are not available all the time. Other means of going to Siargao is by Surigao City. Outside the airport go to the port and ride a trigger boat or a RoRo ferry to Dapa Port of Siargao dock. From Dapa port grab a tricycle to Gen Luna or walk to the market and get a tricycle for a cheaper rate.

Surfing lessons may also be offered by individual resorts in the area for a price.


Fees (Converted to AUD)

The Box

Cloud 9

Air fare

(roundtrip from Sydney airport)

Perth  Airport $344

Sydney to Surigao $1508.20


Sydney to Manila $553 then

Manila to Surigao $244.36


rented car, bus, coach or the RAC (an electric vehicle running on WA’s electric highway.

Trigger boats $8

Roro Bus $7

Tricycle $8

(special fare from Dapa to Gen Luna)

Tricycle $1-1.50

(from market to General Luna)

Transfer vehicles may also be arranged by accommodation.


Hostels $20

Guest accommodation $87

Apartment $116

Resort $9

Hostels around $11

Lodge $12

Bed and breakfast $30

Guest accommodation $51


Breakfast $5

Meals $16

Restaurant beer $8

Breakfast usually free from resort/hotel

budget meal S8.70

drinks $4.36

store bought beer $1

Best months to visit

September – April



Going around the Philippines, you may encounter some curious modes of transport. Know more about them here.


Runner Ups


Other places worth visiting in Australia are Cable Beach in Western Australia famous for its sunset and its stairway to the moon. Also, Hyam Beach in New South Wales which holds the Guinness Book of Record for having the whitest sand in the world.


In the Philippines, Palaui Island in Cagayan found fame when America’s Survivor shot a season on the island. Thankfully, it is still “untouched” by modernization and commercialism. Old favorites are also beaches in Camiguin, Camarines Sur and Apo Island.


Surely, there are other beaches that are yet to be explored and a lot that were left off the list due to limited space.


Once you decide to visit the Philippines, secure your money and make the most out of it. Although you are richer in the Philippines because Australia has a stronger currency, a P200 or almost $6 charge for every AU bank to PH bank ATM withdrawal will burn a hole in your pocket. Besides, you are only allowed to withdraw P10, 000 (A$203)  5 times within a day


The best way to handle your money matters is to remit them to your name for only A$9– and you can remit and claim over than P50,000 (A$1,462.50).

  1. Register and remit money online using your  AU bank (you can do while in the Philippines as long as you have internet connection!).

  2. Choose how and where you want to pick the money (BDO bank, SM malls, Metrobank, Cebuana Lhuillier, Mlhuillier , LBC  or other pick up locations) – these are available almost everywhere in the Philippines.

  3. Send and pick the money as soon as it is cleared from the bank. No more charge upon pick up, just bring your valid ID.

Australia and the Philippines are both blessed with beautiful coastlines and thriving marine ecosystems but it is difficult to compare them directly since their beaches offer different things. Besides, beauty is subjective.


This article aims to help the readers feel how one place compares with another. Hopefully, we will see you on one of the Philippines’ spectacular shores.

*** The months of March to May are peak seasons in the Philippines. Most rates soar although discounts and promos are also plenty. It is possible to find accommodation and food that cost less than what is reported here.

  Special thanks to Greg Scales for the main image.
Rica J

I am a mother, a wife and a technology loving Filipina who loves reading hi-fiction books (dragons!) , good stories, dancing, laughter, lying on the grass and eating balut. I am born and raised in the Philippines and now resides in Australia but finds myself in the Philippines for at least 3 months a year. I am part of the Filipino Australian Community and have been living between Australia and the Philippines since 2007.


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