Jenny is a girl who loves many things. She loves street foods, traveling, nature, music, cats, and dogs! She's crazy about purple & writing!
I've always known that my country, the Philippines, is a piece of paradise on earth. But it was only when I started working and earning my own money that I got to travel. I quickly realized that my home country is truly unlike any other place. The more I traveled, the more I discovered the beauty of my homeland.
The Philippines is made up of more than 7,500 islands (only 2,000 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, which is 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 that you’ll find something to like in the Philippines.
The Top 10 Beaches of the Philippines
- El Nido, Palawan
- Boracay, Aklan
- Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
- Samal Island, Davao City
- Panglao Island, Bohol
- Coron Island, Palawan
- Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley
- Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
- Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte
- Mactan Island, Cebu
1. El Nido, Palawan
According to CNNGo, 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 CNN's 100 Best Beaches Around the World. For two years in a row (2016 and 2017), Palawan bagged the No. 1 spot for the "best island in the world" according to the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure. Conde Nast Traveller also listed El Nido as the fourth best beach in the world for 2017.
Forests, Marine Habitats, and Limestone Cliffs
There are about 50 white sand beaches on the island, five types of forests, three major marine habitats, and many different species of birds. The water is also rich in sea life, including: marine mammals like dolphins and dugongs (of which six are endemic); over 100 species of coral; and almost 1,000 different kinds of fish.
El Nido is also the largest marine reserve and sanctuary in the Philippines, with a total area of 903.21 square kilometers. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, and its flora and fauna are protected. It also has amazing 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): For more private and high-end flights, Islands Transvoyager Inc. fly from Manila to El Nido directly. The small private airport in El Nido is only serviced by a chartered aircraft. The most popular way is to 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, then take a four-hour bus ride to Taytay. (Update: There are now flights available from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and back, so it is now more convenient. Compared to a four- to five-hour van commute, a flight takes only 40 minutes.)
- How to Get There (by car): 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.
2. 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.
Water Sports, Nightlife, and Helmet Diving
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 10 feet to a (shallow) ocean floor, and walk around as if you were on land.
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Important Update: Boracay's rehabilitation is over and it has since been re-opened. The island has new set of strict rules for its visitors to ensure that tourism on the island remains organized and properly handled. It is necessary to check with your travel agency about these rules before going to Boracay.
The White Beach
The best and most famous beach in Boracay is the White Beach, which has been referred to by many as 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 Best Beaches Around the World.
For 2017, international travel magazine Travel + Leisure ranked Boracay island as the third best island in the world. In 2017, the famous travel site TripAdvisor ranked Boracay's white beach as the 24th best beach in the world.
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 kite and windsurfing, 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). You’ll then 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, kite and windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, helmet diving, nightlife
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 km away from Davao City, the capital of Mindanao, and a whopping 1400 km from Manila.
It has the distinction of being one of the most developed vacation destinations in the Philippines. It 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 the best, depending on your budget). It also boasts numerous marine reefs and crystal blue waters, both of which are good for relaxation.
- When to Visit: Expect crowds and heat in high season and August, and cooler weather from December through February but fewer 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 2 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 out 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. Marine species are abundant on the island, with about 250 different species of crustaceans and 2,500 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 it 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 90 minutes 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. It 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 eating delicious seafood.
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 though!
- 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
Placing Palaui Island at No. 10 of their Top 100 Best Beaches Around the World list, CNN described 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, and see the lighthouse.
- What It’s Known for: Unspoiled beaches and a colonial lighthouse. Also, the popular American television show Survivor filmed a season there in 2013.
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.
Unlike Boracay, however, it is a simple municipality. This is not the place to go for shopping or malls. In fact, there aren’t even any ATMs, 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 Wind Farm. 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 City, 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 longanisa! 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 Cloud 9 Surfing Cup is held.
- When to Visit: Don’t come between June and October (unless you’re a surfer). Better to come in the offseason 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: The Cloud 9 waves (the thick, hollow tubes that form at Cloud 9 Reef).
10. Mactan Island, Cebu
Just recently, Cebu island was ranked sixth among the "best islands in the world" by Travel + Leisure, an international travel magazine. Located in Cebu, Mactan Island 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, and parasailing.
- When to Visit: Try to visit in the offseason 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, check out the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, or visit 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
Questions & Answers
Question: Which island of the Philippines should I visit in June?
Answer: June is the start of the rainy/typhoon season in the Philippines but typhoons can be anywhere in the country so check travel advisories first before traveling. Palawan is accessible all year round as well as Cebu and Bohol.
Question: I was wondering if the beaches in the Phillipenes are good to travel by the end of September or early October? I know Boracay is closed for a bit. What is the best island that has beautiful resorts for us to be beach bums and for our little one to crawl around?
Answer: The rainy season in the Philippines starts in June and lasts until November, so your plan of going may be subject to typhoons and rainy weather. It can also be bright and sunny depending on where you go. Boracay is indeed closed for six months. I can recommend Panglao in Bohol. There are many resorts in Bohol to choose from. If you have more money to spend, El Nido would be nice. For a more exotic experience, Siargao is highly recommended.
Question: Is Boracay still closed? I am planning to visit the Philippines in April-May 2019.
Answer: Boracay has long since been opened and you can enjoy it when you visit in April. But you need to have an advanced hotel booking before you are allowed to set foot on the island. There are some stricter rules now to ensure the protection of the island from mass tourism. I suggest consulting with your travel agency first when planning for your vacation.
Question: Should I visit both El Nido and Mactan Island? Which island is easier to travel to directly from Manila? Is it easy to travel between these islands?
Answer: Mactan Island is easier to get to from Manila. Traveling to El Nido from Cebu is possible.
Question: Which one do you recommend to spend 2-3 nights leaving from Panglao... Coron or Siargao? From either of these locations, we will be heading to Manila to catch home abroad.
Answer: Both Coron and Siargao are beautiful and lots of places there to explore. It really depends on what you want to see and do. Both have direct flights to Manila so going to Manila is not a problem from both areas. If you love to surf and the beach, Siargao would be a perfect choice. But if you want to go diving, island hopping, and trekking, I would recommend Coron. So it is up to you to decide what you really want to do for three days.
Question: What would be the best island in the Philippines?
Answer: There is no definite answer to that because the popular islands (Palawan and Boracay) are not always the best and the most beautiful. This question is subjective because what is best for me may not be for others. But they are all beautiful. The people make all destinations memorable. Palawan is a crowd favorite especially El Nido.
Question: What is the best place for soul searching when visiting the Philippines?
Answer: Tanay, Rizal is a good place for soul-searching and it is a couple of hours away from Manila. Tagaytay is also a nice place with temperate weather. If you like to wander off to sea then I suggest Puerto Galera but travel to this place constitutes a ferry ride and quite along road travel. From Manila it is more or less 4 hours.
Question: Have you tried to visit Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu?
Answer: Yes, and I loved it there. It is beautiful and laidback. Exploring the island on a motorcycle made it all the more exciting and awesome.
Question: Where is the best place to visit the Philippines in October?
Answer: October can still be a rainy season in the Philippines but places like Bohol, Cebu, and Palawan are not always battered with typhoons so you can visit these places even in October. I do recommend checking weather advisories first when planning your trip.
© 2013 Jennifer Gonzales