10 Most Beautiful Beaches in the Philippines
I've always known that my country, the Philippines, is a piece of paradise on earth. But it was only a few years ago when I started working and earning my own money that I realized that my home country is truly unlike any other place. The more I traveled, the more I discovered the beauty of the Philippines.
The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands (only 2000 are inhabited), each one offering a rich biodiversity ranging from tropical rain forests, mangroves, and coral reefs to mountain ranges, world-class beaches, beautiful islands and a diverse range of flora and fauna. Conservation International identified it as one of 17 megadiverse countries in 1998.
The country also offers one of the longest white sand coastlines in the world, one of its many tourist attractions. So, if you’re looking for a tropical getaway and still don’t have a destination in mind, odds are you’ll find something you like in the Philippines.
Here is my list of the Philippines' best beaches.
1. Boracay, Aklan
Boracay is a small island 315 km south of Manila in the province of Aklan. Famous for its powdery white sands and pristine blue waters, Boracay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. It has over 350 resorts and about 2,000 rooms to accommodate guests, which range from luxury hotels to budget-friendly inns.
This island has something for everyone, from water sports, scuba diving, and snorkeling, to nightlife with great pubs, bars, and restaurants, to a relaxing and tranquil environment.
If you do go scuba diving or snorkeling, you’ll see many species of aquatic life that are indigenous to the Philippines. You could also take the opportunity to go helmet diving, which is where you simply put on a helmet with glass plates, climb a ladder down ten feet to a (shallow) ocean floor, and walk around as if you were on land.
The best and most famous beach in Boracay is the White Beach, which has been called the "finest beach in the world.” In 2012, Boracay Island was named “Best Island in the World” by international travel magazine Travel + Leisure. Puka, on the northern side of Boracay, was also on CNN's 100 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.
For 2016, international travel magazine Travel + Leisure ranked Boracay island as the 2nd best island in the world after Palawan which is also a famous Philippine island off the southern part of main island Luzon.
While the western side of the island is known for the White Beach, the eastern side is home to Bulabog beach, which is a great place for extreme sports like wind and kite surfing since it has strong winds all year round.
When to Visit: Waters are calm off of White Beach from November through May. Monsoon winds blow June through October. Unless you enjoy being soaked, aim to visit between November and May, though you'll have fewer crowds June through early October.
How to Get There: There are no direct flights into Boracay. To get there, you either need to fly into Caticlan (the closest airport) or Kalibo (an airport further away that sometimes offers cheaper flights). Then, you’ll need to take a vehicle to Caticlan Jetty port for the 10-20 minute boat ride to Boracay.
What to Do: For extreme sports, visit the east side of the island for your fair share of kite and windsurfing. For the resort lifestyle and relaxing on the beach, stay on the west side and party it up at night.
What It’s Known For: The White Beach
2. El Nido, Palawan
According to CNNGo, the travel news website of CNN, El Nido in Palawan is one of the Philippines’ best beaches and island destinations because of its "extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem." It is frequently called the Philippines' last frontier and is ranked No. 14 among the CNN's Top 100 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World. And for 2016 Palawan bagged the #1 spot for the "best island in the world" according to the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure.
There are about 50 white sand beaches on the island, five types of forest, three major marine habitats, and many different species of birds. The water is also rich in sea life, which includes marine mammals like dolphins and dugongs of which six are endemic, over one hundred species of coral, and almost one thousand different kinds of fish.
El Nido is also the largest marine reserve and sanctuary in the Philippines with a total area of 903.21 sq. km. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country and its flora and fauna is protected, along with its geologic formations such as its limestone cliffs, home of the swiftlets (apodidae birds whose nests are entirely built from threads of their own saliva, an ingredient also used for the famous bird's nest soup).
When to Visit: The best time to visit is December through March because the weather is nice and dry and there are fewer visitors. If you're traveling during Holy Week or high season (April and May), be prepared for more tourists and higher prices.
How to Get There:
- By air: Islands Transvoyager Inc. flies from Manila to El Nido, and you can also fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa then drive to the tip of mainland Palawan. You’ll ride on an outrigger boat to reach parts of El Nido. SEAIR also flies from Manila to Taytay daily. You can also fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa, and then take a four-hour bus ride to Taytay.
- By sea: From San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa, there are buses bound for El Nido. Travel time is five to six hours.
What to Do: Scuba dive, snorkel, relax on the beach, visit a secret lagoon, eat bird’s nest soup, and take an island hopping tour.
What It’s Known For: Bird’s nest soup, beautiful lagoons, limestone cliffs
3. Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
A UNESCO-protected site since 1973, Puerto Galera is located in Oriental Mindoro Province about 130 km south of Manila. The name Puerto Galera is used among travelers to refer to the area surrounding the town as well, including Sabang and White Beach.
Puerto Galera boasts beautiful white sand beaches that are good for swimming, relaxation, snorkeling, and sailing. It also offers one of the most diverse diving sites in Asia and has the densest population of marine species in the world according to research conducted by the University of the Philippines.
When to Visit: Visit in the high season (April through June) if you don't mind the heat and the crowds, or during the low season if you don't mind slightly colder weather.
How to Get There: Puerto Galera is pretty easy to get to from Manila by car and only takes about three hours. Simply drive through South Luzon Expressway, turn right to STAR Tollgate and then head to Batangas Pier. When you get there, you can either park your car and ride a ferry going to Puerto Galera or have your car ride a RoRo (roll on, roll off) ship so you can take your car with you to Puerto Galera.
What to Do: The marine sanctuary makes for great diving, which is what Puerto Galera is known for. You can also do your standard beach and resort activities: water sports, spa days, lounging, etc. This is not your best destination for incredible food, however.
What It’s Known For: It’s often considered a good alternative to Boracay if you haven’t got the money or the time to get there.
4. Samal Island, Davao City
Samal island is also known as the Garden City of Samal. It’s approximately 2 kilometers away from Davao City, the capital of Mindanao, and a whopping 1400 kilometers from Manila.
It has the distinction of being one of the most developed vacation destinations in the Philippines and has a good number of white and pink sand beaches as well as world-class resorts including Kaputian Beach Resort, the famous Pearl Farm, and the Paradise Island.
With 70 different resorts around the island, you can take your pick from the best (or not best, depending on your budget). It also boasts numerous marine reefs and crystal blue waters good for relaxation.
When to Visit: Expect crowds and heat in high season and August, and cooler weather from December through Feb but less crowds.
How to Get There: Fly into Davao City. From Davao City, it’s very easy to take a ferry to reach the island.
What to Do: Enjoy relaxing at a resort and exploring the many islets and beaches. Also, check out the vanishing island, which disappears as the tide comes in.
What It’s Known For: There are some truly excellent places for diving, along with all the other excitements that come with island life like hiking or lounging on the beach. If you can, you should check out Montfort Bats Conservation Park, where you can see more than two million fruit bats, a number which has earned it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most fruit bats in a cave. Also check the highest mountain in the country, Mount Apo. Visit the pink beach and indulge in the many tropical fruits that are only found in Davao...
5. Panglao Island, Bohol
Located off of Bohol, Panglao is similar to Boracay, boasting fine white sands and crystal clear blue waters. The diving spots around the island are among the best in the Philippines and marine species are abundant on the island, with about 250 different species of crustaceans and 2500 species of mollusks, some of which are newly discovered.
In fact, the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project discovered that Panglao Island has more marine species and biodiversity than both Japan and the Mediterranean Sea combined. Currently, Panglao Island is being developed and the government has plans to build an airport to further boost the island's tourism.
Alona Beach, the best-known beach on Panglao island, can be congested and overpriced, but has some great diving. Dumaluan and Doljo beaches are also popular.
When to Visit: The dry, cool season between December and March is the perfect time to go. The summer heat between April and July breaks up with the onset of the rainy season.
How to Get There: Panglao Island is accessible from Bohol, which you can reach by flying into Tagbilaran Airport (about one and a half hours from Manila). It takes about 30 minutes by land to get to Panglao.
What to Do: If you like architecture, you should check out Our Lady of the Assumption Church, which combines Byzantine and Romanesque influences and has some impressive frescoes as well as a small well that is believed to hold miraculous healing water. It was slightly damaged in the 2013 earthquake but is still worth a visit.
What It’s Known For: Explore the underground lagoon at Hinagdanan Cave. Visit the famous chocolate hills in Carmen. Rent a motorcycle and explore the island. Ride a floating restaurant boat and cruise along the green waters of Loboc river while being serenaded by Filipino musicians and eat delicious sea foods.
6. Coron Island, Palawan
Coron is both the name of an island off the coast of Busuanga and the name of Busuanga’s largest town. Coron Island is inhabited by the Tagbanua people and is a gem of natural beauty with steep limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, and seven mountain lakes. It's actually been listed among the top 10 best scuba diving sites in the world by Forbes Travel magazine.
In addition, behind majestic rock formations, there lies a secret lagoon with crystal blue-green waters encircled with limestone formations and white sand shores. This secret beach is really a paradise! You’ll have to make an effort to get there, however, either by climbing over cliffs or swimming through a sea tunnel. It's totally worth it!
When to Visit: Though Coron isn't as packed with tourists as other beaches, visiting in the low season can still be nice to avoid the chance of crowds.
How to Get There: Fly into Busuanga and then take a van to Coron (takes about 45 minutes). You should also know that no one can stay on the island overnight, though lodging can be found in the city of Coron, Busuanga.
What to Do: Go scuba diving! This is one of the best places in the world to do it.
What It’s Known For: Beautiful limestone cliffs and shipwreck diving sites.
7. Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley
CNN, which put Palaui Island in the top ten on its list of the world’s most beautiful beaches, describes it as a raw beauty where nature unfolds with flora and fauna, volcanic rocks, powdery white sands, and rich marine biodiversity.
You won’t find hotels or other luxury items here; it is literally an untouched paradise. If you want to stay, you’ll have to find a homestay or camp on the beach (though camping is now prohibited near the lighthouse).
When to Visit: Similar to Coron.
How to Get There: Make your way to Sta. Ana, Cagayan either by bus or car from Manila. If you fly, you can fly in to Tuguegarao or take a bus the rest of the way. Once in Sta. Ana, make your way to San Vicente and then you can hire a boat to Palaui.
What to Do: Hike, beach bum, see the lighthouse.
What It’s Known For: Unspoilt beaches and a colonial lighthouse. Also, in 2013, the popular American television show Survivor filmed a season here.
8. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is often referred to as the Boracay of the North because of its fine white sands, numerous water activities (for those who are staying at private resorts) and of course crystal blue waters. However, unlike Boracay, it is a simple municipality. This is not the place to go for shopping or malls. In fact, there aren’t even any ATM’s so make sure to carry cash with you when you visit the place. Its Blue Lagoon beach is now becoming more famous but not many tourists go there, yet.
If you drive to Pagudpud from Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, there are many attractions on the way such as the Patapat Viaduct and the Bangui windmills. You can also visit the Kabigan Falls and the Kapurpurawan Rock formation.
How to Get There: You can fly into Laog City in Ilocos Norte and then hire a bus or a car from there. Many hotels and tour agencies include Pagudpud as part of their itinerary as well. This area is a nice place to drive, so many tourists rent cars as well.
What to Do: See the Bangui Windmills and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. Or just relax on the beach! Head to Vigan Cty which is a few hours away from Pagudpud and be lost in time as you explore the old spanish houses along Calle Crisologo. Eat the famous Vigan empanada and longganisa! Vigan city is now officially one of the wonder cities in the world so make sure to put it on your list as well...
What It’s Known For: Its beautiful white sand that is reminiscent of Boracay. It's also one of the top kitesurfing destinations in the Philippines.
9. Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte
Siargao island is a tear-shaped island in Surigao del Norte. It has the largest mangrove forest in Mindanao which is a source of rich marine biodiversity. The island is a great location for diving, snorkeling and most specially, surfing.
It's actually a surfer's paradise. Adrenaline seekers from around the globe enjoy the large waves that form at Cloud Nine Reef, driven by winds that flow uninterrupted over the Pacific Ocean. This reef is where the annual Siargao surfing cup is held.
When to Visit: Don’t come between June and October (unless you’re a surfer). Better to come in the off season or before the big waves hit. If you're a surfer, of course, this is reversed.
How to Get There: You can fly to Siargao Island, take a boat or a ferry, or take a bus.
What to Do: Go surfing! Also, anything nature-related. This is the nature-lover’s destination and isn’t overrun with hotels, bars, and shops like some other destinations. Game fishing is also big.
What It’s Known For: Cloud Nine waves (the thick, hollow tubes that form at Cloud Nine Reef).
10. Mactan Island
Just recently, Cebu island was ranked 6th among the "best islands in the world" by Travel + Leisure, an international travel magazine. Mactan Island which is located in Cebu is home to 430,000 people. It is the most densely populated island in the Philippines and has many tourists spots and attractions. As a coral island, Mactan offers rich marine biodiversity which is good for diving and snorkeling.
While you’re there, you should be sure to island hop since the island is composed of numerous islets. There are also numerous water sports activities, like jet skiing, sailing, para-sailing.
When to Visit: Try to visit in the off-season to avoid overcrowding. January through May are the driest months, and you should expect rain the rest of the year. Even the driest months have rain though, since Cebu is one of the wettest areas of the Philippines.
How to Get There: You can fly or take a boat to Mactan. Mactan Island is also connected by two bridges to Cebu city.
What to Do: Live up the resort life in one of several world-class resorts or check out the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary or the aquarium, the only one in the Visayas region.
What It’s Known For: A popular in-and-out holiday destination with plenty of world-class resorts to choose from. Also check out other nearby towns as they offer loads of potential for nature trippers like waterfalls, lagoons, lakes, beaches and mountains.
The Beaches on the Map
© 2013 Jennifer Gonzales
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