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A Women's TravelCircle to Manila, Palawan & Cebu

BEACHES, CULTURE & PLAY IN THE PHILIPPINES

JANUARY 3-15, 2025

Welcome! I’m so very glad you landed on this page and are considering this special trip. In general, every trip we lead is focused on two main experiences: the best sightseeing in the country and connecting with women.

Our love of sightseeing means an itinerary that is as full of local culture as we can fit into an intimate, fun, and experiential trip. We want to see everything that is well-known in that country, when we can, and we also want to make sure there are some small and special experiences that leave us touched and connected with that country in surprising ways! We want to see the “must-sees,” but it’s also crucial to us to get off the beaten track and really connect with locals and their lives. To support that, we want all of our travel to live up to the highest standards of sustainability and ethical travel, so we place special emphasis on meeting the locals, supporting their causes, and making sure we frequent their businesses/hotels/restaurants to ensure our money is reinvested back into those who live wherever we visit. Plus, we've got our eye on adding the "little things" that really make a trip feel special: making your own perfume scent at a perfumeria, visiting a local spa, arranging for beautiful walks and hikes, attending rooftop concerts, sampling artisan chocolate, etc.

And when it comes to connecting with women, every trip is first and foremost about us supporting and connecting with the other women in our group, but is also about us connecting with women in our destination country. We will have a female guide and put special emphasis on meeting local women—learning about the causes that most affect them, being inspired by the contributions they’re making in their communities, and hearing about what life is like for women in their country. To that end, we will inevitably visit a couple of nonprofits that serve women, shop at co-ops to buy handiwork made by women, and have opportunities to interview local women. Our hope is that you feel more connected to women around the world and also feel like you made new friends!

So if you love travel and want an incredibly special curated trip with a group of amazing women you're invited to join us! xoxo

In the middle of winter, the perfect place to escape is the Philippines, a paradise of unspoiled beaches, one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, and locals as warm and welcoming as the weather! 


We start our 13-day/12-night trip in Manila, the capital city known for its rich history and street food scene. After 2 days of sightseeing, we’re off to Palawanoften voted the “Best Island in the World”—for 5 days in paradise. We’ll explore both El Nido and Puerto Princesa, reveling in the island’s crystal-clear waters, limestone cliffs, underground rivers, and mangrove forests. Then, we’ll spend our final 4 nights in Cebu, an island boasting incredible coastlines, beautiful waterfalls, and the famous Chocolate Hills, before enjoying our farewell dinner together!

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Discover the incredible history of the Philippines with visits to the UNESCO-designated San Agustin Church, Fort Santiago, and the Manila Cathedral

  • Island hopping in Palawan, with plenty of swimming and snorkeling opportunities!

  • Enjoy an underground river cruise through Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature & a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • Indulge in the Philippines’ foodie scene during a street food tour, cooking class, tasting at a chocolate factory, and so much more!

  • See the world-famous Chocolate Hills, the natural wonder that appears on Bohol’s flag

  • Take a dip under a waterfall in Cebu, an island renowned for its waterfalls and swimming holes

  • An animal lovers’ paradise! Watch dolphins at Pamilacan Island; visit the Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Conservation Center, a breeding center for crocodiles & other endangered animals; and see tarsiers in their natural habitat at the Corella Tarsier Sanctuary.

  • Swim with dolphins, sea turtles, and even sea cows in Palawan’s crystal-clear waters

  • Belt out your favorite tunes in one of the capitals of karaoke

  • Meaningful conversations and cultural experiences with locals, including an exchange in a Batak village

  • Shop for souvenirs at Divisoria Street Market, the mother of all markets in Manila & located in the world’s oldest Chinatown

  • Plenty of time to relax, including sunset yoga, beach days, and massages

  • What are TravelCircles?
    TravelCircles are international trips, hosted by author and social relationships expert, Shasta Nelson, and organized by Altruvistas travel agency, designed to bring people together for meaningful travel. These are group travel experiences with the primary intention of seeing as much of the “must-sees” as possible in our destination countries, but with a secondary intention of meeting new friends and having fun together as a group. We take special delight in planning magic moments off the beaten path, curating meaningful conversations with locals, and scheduling unique hands-on experiences in each country, and similarly, we are just as intentional about fostering belongingness among those who choose to travel with us!
  • What is the focus of TravelCircles?
    These TravelCircles are unlike any other trip you could ever go on because of two special features: ​ Bond with new friends! Most travel is either with people you already know or with groups of strangers where you're herded like cattle . . . Ours is a beautiful mix between the two: a small group of strangers committed to traveling as new friends! With social relationships expert Shasta Nelson as our host, her goal is to help us connect in casual but meaningful ways. We love the diversity of ages and backgrounds that come together to share their love of travel with each other. We keep our groups small and meaningful—anywhere between 10-16 women—which ensures our circle is small enough to connect and yet large enough to ensure there is always someone excited to go with you on a side excursion (the group doesn't have to be together all the time!). Enjoy the focus on women! We'll still see all the famous sites and experiences of every destination, but we're also being super intentional about adding some experiences that will connect us with women in each country: cooking classes, visits to agencies that are helping women's issues, dance classes, meaningful conversations with local women about their life in that country, etc. So we're not just traipsing through a country; we're doing so with some intention to respect and meet our sisters in other countries!
  • Are these trips for women only?
    Historically, these trips were women-only trips and our goal is to always have 2 new trips every year for women. However, in response to demand, Shasta also occasionally invites her husband, Greg Nelson, to join her and opens those trips up to both men and women! Watch the list as it’s our intention to have at least 1 trip each year that is also open to men!
  • What is the style/philosophy of travel?
    Eco-consciousness & Social Responsibility: Our travel partner Altruvistas is committed to making sure that as much of our travel money as possible is used for supporting the local economy. Their goal is that we really connect with the country and people by getting off the tourist trail, connecting with locals in conversations, and supporting philanthropic organizations along the way. This means, for example, that rather than stay in familiar US hotel chains, great care is given to stay in locally owned hotels that, on a rare occasion in certain countries, may be more humble than we’re accustomed to in the US but will always be chosen because they are clean and safe. Diverse Itinerary: Some groups cater to the outdoors/adventure, some to literature and art—we try to do a little bit of everything! That means we will always see the famous sites and pick a few important museums, try to show you a bit of the country, connect you with a few community organizations so you can find out the needs of the country, and then schedule some really special moments like a cooking workshop, a craft class, or a concert. Plus, there is always time for meaningful shopping excursions. Multi-Generational: Some of our best feedback has come from women who were surprised how much they loved the multi-generational connections made on these trips. There is something really magical about reminding ourselves that we can connect and love far more people than those who are most like us. On most trips we have women spread out through ages 21-65! Loving Connection: Shasta, a social relationships expert, hosts all these trips to help facilitate some connection and foster healthy group dynamics. Our goal isn’t just that you travel with others, but that you get to know them and love them! You’re an adult! We trust you! While we hope everyone is as conscientious of the group as possible (i.e. showing up on time, being kind), we most definitely don’t see our role as babysitters! If you need a day off—take it! If you would prefer to skip the museum and sit in a café instead—do it! Just let us know what you need and prefer—we’ll aim to please!
  • What sizes are the TravelCircles?
    Our groups can be anywhere between 10-16 people. That means we’re small enough to rent our own private van, fit into cute restaurants, and not feel like we are lost in a huge tourist group, but we're also big enough to find someone we relate to, to learn from each other, and to ensure we can schedule special features only available to groups.
  • Who exactly is in charge of these trips?
    While social relationships expert Shasta Nelson chooses the destinations and approves the itineraries of every trip, it is Altruvistas, a registered and licensed travel agency, who will oversee our trip. Altruvistas is an eco-conscious and socially responsible company in charge of communicating all trip details, answering your questions, hiring guides and translators, contracting all lodging, ground transportation, and activities, etc. We chose Malia and her team because of their integrity, strong reputation in the ecotourism industry, and passion for scheduling local experiences that are off the beaten path. All your liability forms are with them directly and we are covered under their insurance. Once on the trip, you are in the care of two people at all times—a local guide who oversees logistics (hired by Altruvistas) and Shasta, who is there to love on you and foster healthy group connections!

We are a proud partner of Altruvistas, the socially responsible and philanthropic travel company that is organizing all our details. We are thrilled to have Malia and her team overseeing our trips to ensure that our itinerary is as authentic of an experience as possible while making sure that our money is spent in an eco and socially-conscious way. Malia and her team will work with you one-on-one to make sure you are all ready for our amazing adventures.

If you have questions about this trip, please email malia@altruvistas.com

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