Crystal clear waters, powder white sand, and the lushest set of islands imaginable. A trip to the Philippines to see its many beaches is nothing short of spectacular. With over 7,107 islands to choose from, and which only 2000 of those are inhabited, finding a stunning beach to visit while in the Philippines is not hard to do. Boasting of turquoise blue waters, palm fringed islands, and sandy beaches, hopping from one tropical beach destination is one of the best things to do while in the Philippines. With my previous profession being a so-called professional beach bum, here are my top picks on the best beaches and islands in the Philippines, a place I proudly call home.
- 1 El Nido, Palawan
- 2 Boracay Island, Visayas
- 3 Coron, Palawan
- 4 Calaguas, Camarines Norte
- 5 Siargao Island, Surigao
- 6 How to Get to Siargao
- 7 Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
- 8 Manjuyod Sandbar, Dumaguete
- 9 Bantayan Island, Cebu
- 10 How to Get to Bantayan, Cebu
- 11 Gigantes Islands, Iloilo
- 12 Siquijor Island, Visayas
El Nido, Palawan
Known for its limestone karsts and crystal clear waters, the entire island of El Nido is paradise on earth. Known as the last frontier of the Philippines, this place is full of many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Island hopping tours will take you to some unreal looking lagoons, secluded islands, and picture perfect beaches. Travel + Leisure recently named it to be the #1 best beach in the world for 2016. While there are multiple beaches in El Nido, choosing one particular one is difficult. A few ones that you shouldn’t miss are Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach, Corong-Corong (known for its magical sunsets and full moons), Seven Commandos Beach, and Papaya Beach). The later beaches are staples in most island hopping tours.
Insider Tip: Get a group together and charter your own boat instead of joining a regular island hopping tour! You will get to choose which beaches to go to and avoid the usual tourist tour route. From the town of El Nido, you can also arrange for an overnight beach camping trip- something I highly recommend doing!
What we love: Island hopping in Palawan is some of the best in the world as they take you to some of the best beaches within the area. While you’re busy frolicking and swimming in the crystal clear waters, the boat crew are busy cooking you up a fantastic grilled seafood spread to eat by the beach.
How to Get to El Nido
From Manila, you can either fly directly to El Nido via small chartered planes using Islands Transvoyager Inc. Alternatively, for those on a budget, you can fly from Manila to Puerto Princessa and take a van from the mainland to El Nido town proper (5-6 hours). If you’re coming from Coron, another town in Palawan, you can take a 6-hour boat ride.
Boracay Island, Visayas
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to call this place home for a couple of years. Yes, Boracay is very touristy, but it still is very beautiful. If you like partying and enjoy a good nightlife, a visit here is a must. Loosely dubbed as the “Ibiza of the Philippines”, Boracay is world famous due to its long 4km stretch of powder white sand and azure waters. In the 70’s Boracay was the epitome of paradise with only a handful of people inhabiting it. Now, you can find many luxury resorts, hostels, fantastic restaurants, and small beach bungalows to stay in. Despite the fact that this place is touristy, you can still find loads of hidden gems like Diniwid and Puka Beach where you can find solitude.
What we love: The powder white sand is unlike anything in the world! For the ultimate island experience, rent a sailboat and ride around the island on a paraw (tri-man sailboat). Have a beach picnic with a few bottles of rum by Puka beach and head back to White Beach during sunset. If you want to take it to the next level, consider joining the Philippine Sailing Challenge, an epic 10-day race while completing Amazing Race style challenges along the way.
How to Get to Boracay Island
You can either fly directly to Caticlan (the closest airport) and cross over via a 20-minute boat ride. Alternatively, you can opt to fly into Kalibo which is a 2-hour van ride away. Flights to Kalibo are usually cheaper and more reliable as Caticlan flights are easily canceled or rerouted.
Another favorite in Palawan Island is the small diving town of Coron. While underwater dive enthusiasts are fond of the many incredible dive sites and WWII shipwrecks you can explore, the town of Coron is also famous for island hopping. Here, you can find incredibly pristine lagoons and viewpoints which boast or postcard like views. Must visit places and beaches while in Coron are: Siete Pecados marine park for snorkeling, the Twin Lagoons, Barracuda Lake, and the famous Kayangan Lake. For those that have a bit more time, we recommend renting your own motorbike and driving inland to explore the other beaches and coves. We took a motorbike all the way to Calauit Island which is home to zebras and giraffes which were imported from Africa.
What we love: Similar to El Nido, the island hopping in Coron is fantastic. The variety in lagoons and islands are stunning. However, the real star of the show in Coron is the snorkeling and diving. Divers can easily spend over a week exploring the many awesome dive sites within the Bacuit Archipelago.
How to Get to Coron Island:
From Manila, you can either fly directly to Busuanga airport. If you time it correctly, you can also catch the 2GO ferry which departs Manila (Batangas Port) once a week. If you’re coming from El Nido, Coron is a 6-hour boat ride away.
Calaguas, Camarines Norte
This beach has only recently gained popularity and is a great escape from the usual route. Located in the province of Camarines Norte, Long Beach in Tinaga Island has gained popularity due to its pristine waters and sand. This long stretch of fine white sand surrounded by volcanic rocks is a staple for locals who want to escape the hustle of the city for a few days of seclusion and beach camping. Resorts have recently opened on the island but don’t expect anything fancy. There will be a few beach bungalows but for the most part, people bring their own camping gear and supplies to stay for a few days. If you want to rough it out castaway style, this is the place to be.
What we love: The long stretch of white sand and palm fringed beaches is truly the picture of paradise! We also love rugged camping experiences so this beach and island suites that perfectly.
How To Get to Calaguas Islands
From Manila, you can take a 7-8 hour bus ride from Cubao/Pasay bus station to Daet. From there, you can catch a ride to Vinzons towards Pandawan fish port. Here, there is a daily boat that leaves at 11 AM. Alternatively, you can also charter a boat to take you to the islands. Other bus routes are from Manila to Paracale where you can also charter a boat to take you to Calaguas Islands (P2500-3500) for a boat for 6 people.
Siargao Island, Surigao
Once upon a time, I went to Siargao Island with the plan of staying for three days. I ended up staying for a week and a half. Slowly growing in popularity, Siargao is a world class surfing destination that is frequented by many. Regardless if you’re a surfer or not, there are still many pristine beaches that you can enjoy while in Siargao. Charter a boat and take a ride to some of the most beautiful beaches imaginable. The beaches in General Luna, Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island are a few popular spots which I highly recommend visiting. Another popular day trip is to Bucas Grande to see the popular Sohoton Caves. Here, you can rent a kayak to explore the cave tunnel and swim with stingless jellyfish!
What we love: Apart from all amazing surf, we love the laid-back lifestyle in Siargao. People are pleasant, overall creating a perfect island beach vibe.
How to Get to Siargao
You can fly directly to Siargao via Cebu Pacific (no direct flights from Manila) Alternatively, you can fly to Surigao City and catch a 2-3 hour ferry to Siargao Island. Overnight ferries to Surigao City from Manila and Cebu are also available. I took the overnight ferry from Cebu to Surigao and needless to say it was an interesting experience!
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Pagudpud is a beach in Northern Philippines popular for its long stretch of sandy beaches. From Manila, this place is an overnight bus ride away and is a popular spot for those who want to get away from the city. Saud beach and Blue Lagoon is a popular beach with a few beach bungalows and resorts where you can relax and unwind. I’ve spent a few days camping in this idyllic beach and loved the whole experience (even the part where our tent collapsed due to the torrential downpour). Depending on when you go, there is also relatively good surf in Pagudpud, right outside Kapuluan Vista Resort.
What we love: Incredible waves, warm friendly people, and the incredibly peaceful atmosphere.
How to Get to Pagudpud
The best and cheapest way to go to Pagudpud is via bus. From Manila, it is a 12-hour overnight bus ride that will take you directly to Pagudpud. You can also go to Laoag and catch a local bus from there for another 2 hours. For those who are pressed for time, you can fly to Laoag City via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. When taking buses in the Philippines, don’t forget to bundle up! The buses are notoriously cold so packing a hoodie and scarf is something I strongly advice.
Editor’s Note: Traveling around the country? Check out our list of the best places to stay in the Philippines for hotels & hostels
Manjuyod Sandbar, Dumaguete
Known as the “Maldives of the Philippines”, Dumaguete is one of the most underrated islands in the Philippines. One of the best places to visit there is the Manjuyod Sandbar, in Bais. With native houses built on stilts, this sandbar is best accessible during low tide. Now imagine yourself right smack in the middle of this huge sandbar with crystal clear waters and virtually nothing else in sight. From the sandbar, you can also go dolphin watching at the Tañon Strait where playful bottlenose, Spinner, and Striped dolphins come out to play.
Insider Tip: For the best experience, contact Dumaguete Outdoors for seamlessly organized day trips to the sandbar and everywhere else in Dumaguete.
What we love: While on the sandbar, fishermen with fresh seafood will swing by, selling you fresh scallops and sea urchin (uni). Trust me, it really doesn’t get better than this.
How To Get to Dumaguete
From Manila, you can easily catch a direct flight to Dumaguete. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Cebu, you can get on a fast craft boat (4 hours) or a bus (5 hours). Upon arrival in Dumaguete, take a bus to Bais where you can head to Canibol Wharf or Capiñahan Wharf. Here you will catch your boat which will take you to the sandbar. We recommend arranging for a boat ahead of time or just bartering for a chartered boat as soon as you get to the pier.
Bantayan Island, Cebu
Bantayan Island is one of the most beautiful islands located off the Northern part of Cebu. While getting there is a bit of a mission, the entire island itself is worth a visit. Decked out with powder white sand and tropical blue waters, the island is worth exploring for a couple of days. Rent a motorbike and drive around the entire island, discovering hidden coves and beaches along the way. Stop by Ogtong Cave Resort where you’ll find a cave pool where you can swim and relax.
What we love: After the big typhoon Yolanda, the entire island is slowly rebuilding itself and opening up once more to tourists. The island itself is very laid back and is a good getaway while you’re in Cebu.
How to Get to Bantayan, Cebu
From Manila, you can fly directly to Mactan Cebu. From here, head to the North Bus Terminal where you can catch a bus (3 ½ hours) to Hagnaya Port. Here, you can catch a ferry to Santa Fe, Bantayan (1 ½ hours).
Resources: Where to Stay in Cebu
Gigantes Islands, Iloilo
To date, one of our fondest adventures was when we spent a couple of days in the Gigantes Islands. Here, we swam endlessly, island hopped to secluded beaches, slept in tree houses and camped in an unknown random beach. While getting there is a mission in itself, it is something we highly recommend doing, especially for off-the-beaten-path travelers. Charter a boat and go island hopping as you go to one stunning island to the next. A few of the must visit beaches while in Gigantes are: Antonia Beach, Bantigue Sand Bar, Cabugao Gamay, Puting Baybay Gamay- (cliff diving), and Tanke (Enchanted Lagoon). Although getting there is a bit of a mission, it is highly worth it as the entire place is just stunning.
What we love: The seafood!! As Gigantes is a coastal town, seafood is ridiculously cheap and affordable. Every meal we had we had fresh scallops, squid, and crabs all eaten picnic style in the beach.
How to Get to Gigantes Islands
From Manila, you can either fly to Roxas airport where you take a van (1 ½ hrs.) to Carles. If you’re coming from Boracay Island, you can catch a 3-hour bus from Kalibo heading to Carles. From Carles, it’s another hour and a half boat ride to reach the island.
Resources: Gigantes Island Hopping Travel Guide
Siquijor Island, Visayas
This magical and mysterious island is an enchanting place whose locals are famous for being mystic healers and sorcerers. Magic aside, this island is absolutely gorgeous and very underrated. Dubbed as Isla del Fuego or Island of Fire due to the breathtaking sunsets and the fireflies that light up the trees during sundown, the best way to see the island is by renting a motorbike. Visit the popular Cambugahay Falls and go cliff jumping the bluest water imaginable by Salagdoong Beach.
What we love: Compared to the other islands in the Visayas region, Siquijor is still very laid back and underdeveloped. There is plenty to see within the tiny island and is a wonderful to explore on your own.
How to Get to Siquijor
You can fly directly to Dumaguete-Sibulan airport which is just a few minute away from the port heading to Siquijor. Alternatively, you can also fly to Cebu where you can catch a ferry which leaves for Siquijor on a daily basis.While I could go on and on as I have only scratched the surface, the bottom line is, there are so any wonderful beaches in the Philippines, with some just waiting to be discovered. Between the many sand bars, and secluded palm-fringed islands, finding paradise, or at least your own version of it is not hard to do. Happy trails!
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our other articles about the Philippines
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