The Philippines, a country located in Southeast Asia, boasts 7,641 islands. Below are five of the most popular beaches in the archipelago.
Nicknamed internationally as “The Pearl of the Orient”, the Philippines, has a lot of islands and beaches to discover. Crystal blue and pristine waters, fine white sand beaches, and beautiful sunsets are always available year-round. With 7,641 islands, some are already open for tourism like Boracay, while some are yet to be discovered like Siargao.
Famed for its pure white and fine sand, Boracay island, which is in the Province of Aklan, was voted one of the Top 30 best islands in the world and ranked 1st in Asia in US-based luxury and lifestyle magazine “Condé Nast Traveler” in 2014. It was first discovered during the early 1970s and had a large influx of tourists starting the 1990s. Without a doubt, it is the country’s most famous beach and usually, the first beach explored by foreign tourists.
In order to reach the island, tourists should take a one-hour domestic flight from the capital of Manila, or from the Philippines’ second-largest city, Cebu, which would also take one hour. Then upon arriving at the Caticlan airport, vacationers can reach the port going to Boracay by a van, bus, or you can opt to ride a motorcycle if you are the ‘backpacker’ type. You will then take a ferry ride of around 20 minutes to finally arrive at the famed, pristine beach.
The island is also famous for its nightlife, with a lot of restaurants, pubs, bars, and other establishments catering to all tourist types. The choices are limitless. The 3.5-kilometer-long white sand beach of Boracay is divided into three stations: Station 1 is where you can find the best and finest stretch of white sand on the entire island, and also where most luxury resorts are found. Station 2 is the busiest station, where most of the island’s commercial establishments are situated such as restaurants, bars/pubs, and shops. Station 3 is where you can find cheaper accommodations serving the backpackers or those who are on a budget and do not want to splurge. Finally, just like the rest of the country, Boracay has two seasons, the rainy or ‘wet’ season runs from June to October, which is also considered to be the island’s low season. The ‘dry’ season from November to May is the time when most tourists arrive at the island.
The island of Coron, found in the northern part of the province of Palawan, is famous for its beaches, lagoons, lakes, shipwrecks, and other natural wonders. With that being said, it offers an array of activities that could be perfect for families on vacation, solo, coupled, or group travelers such as island hopping to see lagoons and lakes of different sizes. This island offers undoubtedly bountiful scuba diving, snorkeling, and local seafood cuisine. Just like the island of Boracay, this equally beautiful beach destination can be reached by plane from the capital Manila which will take an hour or by ferry which will take approximately 11 hours.
As mentioned above, you can visit shipwrecks on the island, as Coron was a battleground for Japanese/U.S. fighting during World War II. Imagine going to a beach destination where diving tours can take you to see historical shipwrecks dating back to World War II, and some are close enough that you can snorkel if you prefer. Sounds so cool, right?
With its endless choices of landscape views in every angle (thanks to the numerous cliffs, hills, and small mountains dotted over the island), this destination is perfect if you like posting travel photos on Instagram. A well-known mountain called Mount Tapyas offers a spectacular view of the island. At its summit, one can find a big sign of Coron in letters patterned from the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign in the United States.
Whenever the name of Siargao is mentioned, Filipinos or foreigner travelers in the Philippines would immediately think of surfing. The easiest way to go to the island just like the other islands or beach destinations in the archipelago is by plane from the country’s main domestic airports: Manila, Cebu, or Davao, to the island’s small Sayak Airport. From the airport, which is in a town called Barangay Del Carmen, most of the tourist accommodations are located 45 minutes away and are reachable by public transportation like jeepney, van, or you can rent a motorcycle for your whole stay on the island.
Unlike Boracay, which is always associated with nightlife or referred to as a ‘party beach’ (think Ibiza or Phuket), Siargao similar to Palawan is a beach destination you will go to if you prefer tranquility over beach parties. Siargao, to this day, remains untouched by mass tourism. Tourist packages from tour agencies do not exist yet on this island unlike other beach destinations in the country which means touring there is arranged privately with the locals. Renting a scooter is a popular way to discover the island and is possible if you have an international driving license.
The most famous surfing point on the island, which is a world-known surfing spot, is called Cloud 9. Besides being a beach and surfing destination, not many people, even other Filipinos, know that it has one of the largest mangrove reserves in the country. Other interesting points within the island are lakes and lagoons, such as the Tayangban cave pool and Sugba lagoon.
El Nido, Palawan
The island of El Nido, in the province of Palawan, is known for its white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs. It gained the international spotlight in 2012 when the Hollywood film The Bourne Legacy, based on Jason Bourne novels, shot scenes there. Just like in Coron, El Nido’s most famous activity is island hopping. Numerous travel agencies offer private or group tours that cater to different budgets, ranging from your usual boat rentals to exclusive luxury yacht rentals!
It has its own small airport with direct flights coming from Manila, Cebu, Coron, and other major cities in the Philippines. Land travel is also possible if you prefer seeing the province’s capital first, Puerto Princesa. The city also has its own tourist attractions like the famous Palawan underground river, beaches, animal sanctuaries, and the only Vietnamese village in the country. The province of Palawan hosted Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War, some of whom stayed in the country for good to settle and establish businesses.
It is highly recommended you try the local specialty, bird’s nest soup. The nest that can be found attached to the island’s limestone cliffs in Palawan comes from the bird called Balinsasayaw. In fact, the name El Nido is the Spanish term for “the nest.”
Found on the south-western tip of the Cebu province, Moalboal is a small town reachable by both public and private transportation that is two hours south of Cebu City (the province’s capital and the country’s second-largest city). The town’s tourism attractions are mainly the beach and recreation. About 3 kilometers off the coast south of the town is an island named ‘Pescador’ where one can find the most popular diving site of the town due to its underwater cave known as the ‘Cathedral.’
Well-known for its scuba diving and snorkeling activities, most of the accommodations for tourists in the town can be found in Panagsama beach thanks to a unique town activity called ‘Sardine Run.’ The Sardine Run is a unique underwater activity that is a once in a lifetime experience! The best part of this activity is that it is free because you do not need a boat or a private tour.
While Moalboal is known for its Sardine Run, the nearby town of Oslob which is 3 hours by car or bus from Moalboal is famous for its whale shark watching activity which started in 2011. Even though this activity remains ethically questionable to this day, (mostly for ecological reasons) it attracts local and international tourists year-round. During the diving/swim tour with the whale sharks, the fishermen feed these whale sharks in order for them to approach the boats where the tourists are swimming nearby.
Other countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia are also famous for their equally stunning tropical beaches, but perhaps what makes the Philippines unique is the easier navigation experience. Everybody can speak English, and the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people are unmatched. As one foreigner whom I encountered abroad would always say: “Filipinos smile a lot, it seems to me that they are born already with a smile plastered on their face.” And our official tourism slogan is: “It is more fun in the Philippines.”
How about you? Did you already have your vacation this summer? If not yet, what is your ideal summer holiday destination? Does going to a tropical beach sound interesting or exciting to you? Leave your comments below!