Of all the trends in the past decade on travel and tourism, the buzz about the Philippines being a fabulous travel destination has consistently grown louder. Whether you’re from North America or Europe, chances are you have seen immortalised images of the Philippines’ mile-long white sand beaches and tranquil azure waters on the net or a magazine.
Out of all this hype, what’s most surprising is the fact that this Southeast Asian country has over 7,000 islands that boast of absolute natural beauty — that means that you can end up almost anywhere in the country and be taken by picture-perfect sights and sounds that will affirm your presence in paradise!
If you find this hard to believe, then have a go at 20 of the Philippines’ top beach getaways. Remember, this is but a sneak peek at what the country has to offer!
1. El Nido, Palawan
El Nido has become an all-time favourite destination for locals and foreigners alike. Composed of four main islands – Apulit, Miniloc, Lagen, and Pangulasian, all their magnificent beaches, clear blue waters, and watersport activities will help you escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. While you’re there, grab every opportunity to go diving or snorkelling to appreciate El Nido’s beautiful marine creatures. If you don’t feel like snorkelling or swimming, a resort such as Miniloc features board games and cultural performances at night that will keep your family entertained.
2. Coron, Palawan
When not in the otherworldly and romantic islands of El Nido, travellers can be found flocking to Coron in northern Palawan. Unlike El Nido, its outlying island destinations exude a more laid-back and homely atmosphere which are preferred by absolute beach bums and nature lovers. You can choose from at least three island hopping tours that will take you to the area’s stunning white sands, rich marine life and all in all, the most Instagram-worthy tropical backdrops you will ever see. Destinations like Malcapuya Island and CYC Beach, the only public one in Coron, are specifically great for getting up close with beautiful coral reefs through snorkelling.
3. Balabac, Palawan
It’s a place you probably haven’t heard of often. This municipality, located at the southwesternmost tip of Palawan, is everything that a true paradise stands for. Imagine having a colossal sheet of fine white sand all to yourself, because that is likely how you will spend your visit in Punta Sebaring Beach, one of its top beach destinations. While it is especially popular to those who prefer going to off-the-beaten routes, it is not that hard to get there. In fact, it’s even cheaper to go there than to other islands in Palawan. What makes it even more captivating is the presence of wildlife candidly minding their business in the inner part of the island.
4. Boracay Island
Many will say that Boracay is the ultimate beach destination for those who just want to bum and have a good bonding experience with a group of friends, and it’s true. Boracay’s beaches aren’t only beautiful, with their white sand and picture-perfect sunsets, they offer a range of accommodations that cater to everyone. For instance, the White Beach has three stations. Station 1 offers luxury resorts, Station 2 has mid-range resorts, while Station 3 offers budget-friendly hotels for backpackers.
White Beach is also a good place to shop and to experience Boracay’s nightlife. Alternatively, there are beaches like Puka Beach, which are more quiet and spacious where you can indulge in kayaking, swimming, or even get a relaxing massage.
5. Caramoan Group of Islands, Camarines Sur
Bicol may just be one of the most underrated places in the Philippines, which should be a good thing. Caramoan Islands, in the lower eastern side of Camarines Sur, will give you the impression as if you were actually in Palawan because of its 4,000-hectare limestone forest that towers above deep blue water and white sand beaches. Its islands have already taken the spotlight for being the location of several Survivor seasons. But apart from that, they are almost unspoilt and unknown to local and foreign travellers.
An array of adventures including scuba diving, kayaking, snorkelling, rock climbing and caving await anyone who dares to travel this far out of the rest of the province. Some of the main attractions here include Gota Beach in Lahos Island, which completely disappears during low tide, and the coral pebbled Tayak Beach in Malarad Island.
6. Calaguas Group of Islands, Camarines Norte
In recent years, Calaguas has steadily made its way to the beach lover’s bucket list. Its white sand rivals that of Boracay and Palawan, and travellers have claimed it to be share-worthy on social media. Tinaga Island stands out in Calaguas for its Mahabang Buhangin beach. Beachgoers don’t just enjoy the long stretch of white sand here, they also relax and meditate under the calm sky and palm trees. You can rent a cottage or a tent, and spend time trekking the hills to be close to nature or watch the sunset. The soft breeze in Calaguas also helps in keeping a relaxing ambiance. If you’re looking for some “me time” or a space to reflect, this is a good place to start.
7. San Antonio, Zambales
Do the names Anawangin, Nagsasa and Silanguin ring a bell to you? If not, then that gives you one more reason to head over to Central Luzon, specifically in San Antonio, Zambales. What once were rocky stretches of land have been turned into complete paradise after Mt. Pinatubo’s explosion. Unlike other beach destinations whose charm gets taken away from having relatively more visitors than what people usually prefer, it’s the opposite when it comes to these coves. Why? Because of their camping opportunities! So if you’re the kind who likes to meet new travellers and climb hills all the time (on top of going to the beach), then these places are definitely for you.
8. Puerto Galera, Mindoro
When someone mentions Puerto Galera, you know that there’s more than just a familiar ring to it. You know that Puerto Galera is a must-visit destination if you’re ever planning island hopping and weekend getaways. Its white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters are at par with the best ones, and you can do just about anything in this place. From snorkelling, diving, surfing, kite flying, lying on hammocks, to stargazing, you’ll never run out of things to try and sites to admire.
One of Puerto Galera’s most known beaches is the White Beach. It is also called “Small Boracay” because of the smooth sand; groups of friends will have a blast on this beach where they can have henna tattoos done and go banana boat riding.
9. Baler, Aurora
If you ever wanted to learn surfing and willing to spare extra hours of overland travel from Manila, the coastal town of Baler is pretty much your place. Although heavily filled with historical attractions and land attractions, Baler will always be one of the top surfing destinations in the Philippines. No more is it the quaint little town people knew it to be, as the town is now rich with commercial establishments that cater to the usually high amount of tourists it welcomes on most times of the year. If it’s plain surfing you seek, Sabang Beach provides shallow waters but with strong enough waves to let you practice the sport. Just go to one of the many surfing shops nearby, hire an instructor and you’re all set to catch some waves!
10. San Juan, La Union
Known as the surfing capital of Northern Luzon, San Juan is one of the premier locations to surf in the Philippines. If you’re looking for beach activity that’s different from your typical scuba diving or snorkelling, surfing in San Juan might suit your interests. Its peak season runs from October to March because that’s usually when the big waves come about, but if you’d rather stay and relax at the beach, you’ll find their beach restaurants a convenient place to chill and have a drink with your buddies. This beach is also close in proximity to other tourist attractions such as the Tangadan Falls and Ma Cho Temple. San Juan offers a breathtaking view of the sunset and the West Philippine Sea, so don’t worry about whether the view from this beach is shareable on social media or not. It definitely is.
11. Bantayan Island, Cebu
Cebu is a good alternative if you’ve already visited Palawan or Boracay, but want to experience something similar in a new destination. Bantayan Island is a perfect place to see Cebu’s natural beauty of white sand, clear waters, and looming palm trees. The beaches found on this island make sure to give their visitors the most relaxing environment, such as the Alice Beach which regularly cleans its shore of seaweed, branches and broken bottles. You can walk barefoot on this beach, making it all the more enjoyable and safe for those travelling with young children. From Bantayan, you can even island hop to the Virgin Island where you can enjoy a picturesque view of the horizon or enjoy a peaceful afternoon boat rowing or fish feeding.
12. Malapascua Island, Cebu
Diving with sharks, anyone? This island located north of Cebu has been known for many things travellers consider ‘tropical’. But above all, it is considered a diver’s haven, probably the most popular in the country, due to its opulent marine sanctuary where you can get up close with thresher sharks at the Monad Shoal dive site all year ‘round. But whether you’re into that type of adventure or not, the island itself is also home to mesmerising beaches like Bounty Beach, the main one in the island, as well as Lighthouse Beach and Guimbitayan Beach, both of which are accessible on foot. All of them are ideal for snorkelling and your afternoon siestas, may it be on the shore or the hammocks available in the area.
13. Panglao Island, Bohol
Bohol is most known for the Chocolate Hills and tarsiers, but it also has its share of world-class white sandy beaches. You will find Bohol’s Panglao Island to be a tropical paradise teeming with coral reefs and marine life. There are many diving spots for underwater adventures, and tourists can also go dolphin watching while hopping from island to island. Alona Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Panglao due to its many resorts, watersport activities, and nightlife. It has disco bars, restaurants, and clubs for those who want to keep their beach nights exciting.
14. Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
Looking for a simple island to have fun on the weekend? Kalanggaman just might be the island of your prayers. It’s a place where you and your friends can enjoy the clear water, take lots of photos, and indulge in freshly caught fish by local fishermen. Since there are no eateries on this island, there are grill stations where you can prepare your food, or arrange your own picnic. It’s a great place to camp after spending the afternoon swimming, kayaking, scuba diving, and aqua-biking. Kalanggaman is generally a peaceful place because the local government also limits the number of visitors to 500 tourists a day. It’s a beautiful location and amazing opportunity to bond with friends and family, don’t you think?
15. Isla de Gigantes, Iloilo
Isla de Gigantes in Iloilo is a great island hopping destination for beach lovers. Its beaches are covered with pristine white sand and surrounded by emerald green water, which is perhaps a refreshing take from the typical clear blue water you usually see in commercialised beaches. Its main attractions are Antonia Beach, Bantigue Island, Cabugao Gamay Island, Pawikan Cave, and Tangke. Some have interesting rock formations, while others have caves to explore, but most of all, you can’t miss out on the fresh and abundant seafood found in Isla de Gigantes.
16. Malalison Island, Antique
Locals call it the “Batanes of the East”, and looking at its landscape, you’ll probably agree in a jiffy. But Malalison Island (also Mararison) takes pride in its own beauty that seems largely untouched. It is among the three island barangays of Culasi in Antique which travellers can marvel at the captivating union of the land and sea, especially from the summit of the highest peak of Panay Island, Mount Madja-as. Aside from the trekking opportunity, you can also explore a small cave nearby, visit the Nablag Islet during low tide, snorkel and embark on a boating adventure from the island.
17. Siargao Island
Where do we even begin with Siargao? It’s pristine and entirely fascinating that it would be almost irresponsible for you not to see it in person at least once in your life. Through the years, it has grown from a surfing capital in the south to an all-around beach getaway even among foreigners. Restaurants and hotels are widespread in the central town of General Luna so you should have no problem with finding a place to eat and stay here even for a prolonged period.
Booking island hopping tours here typically include the Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island, all of which have a unique ‘thing’ about them that it’s difficult to even compare them from one another. Guyam Island, for instance, stands out because of its smaller size, yet it provides a variety of scenery, from rocky shores to a white sand beach, that are simply wallpaper-ready!
18. Britania Group of Islands, Surigao del Sur
The name Britania is derived from the Greek term “Brettaniai,” which pertains to a collection of islands with individual names, making it the perfect collective name for these 24 islands in Surigao. Brgy. Britania, San Agustin has multiple resorts and is a strategic base if you want to go island hopping in Britania. A lot of local tourists are surprised when they go from island to island because the white sand and blue water are as pristine as the ones in Palawan, and they say that the view is just as Instagram-worthy. The different island destinations vary between beaches and sandbars, wherein you may swim or snorkel at each stop, and even eat lunch and buy souvenirs in particular places such as Boslon Island.
19. White Island, Camiguin
Thinking of Camiguin, it’s easy to pick out the image of a long, naked sandbar that has nothing on it except colourful umbrellas every now and then, and of course, the travellers themselves. The rest of the beaches in this side of the country are known to be rough and nowhere near white, so consider yourself lucky if you get a chance to visit White Island. The island takes the shape of a boomerang on most days but adjusts depending on the tide. Some people have also compared the views here to some places in Hawaii because of the towering Mt. Hibok-Hibok and other mountains in the backdrop. To best enjoy your stay here, you can also go snorkelling in the water surrounding it. This also gives you a break from the sun especially since there is almost nothing to hide behind from its rays during the day.
20. Mati, Davao Oriental
Mindanao may be off of many travellers’ radars, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring its provinces more. Just in Davao Oriental alone, you will find that its capital city, Mati, is filled with natural wonders that could leave you in awe for days. Aside from eating their delicious pomelos, which are what Mati is famous for, you can also go to the city’s premier beach destination, Dahican Beach, which is just a 20-minute habal-habal (tricycle) ride from the centre. The best way to start your day here is by taking an ultralight plane ride at sunrise that will surely get your adrenaline pumping early. After that, you can go right ahead to the beach for some surfing or skimboarding and even see pawikans lay their eggs on the shore, only if you’re that fortunate, of course!
You could travel all across the globe and find that the best beaches truly belong to the Philippine islands. These destinations aren’t just portions of land covered with white sand, and shaded by huge palm trees. These are natural treasures that help tourists, local and foreign, be closer to nature and enjoy a life away from the stress of daily routines. Whether you’re booked in a luxury resort or sleeping in a tent, these different beach destinations will recharge your spirit and mind when you see that beautiful sunset, walk on the spotless sand, and swim with marine creatures in their natural habitat. You can’t have this quality experience anywhere else in the world, only in the Philippines!