The Philippines is a captivating island nation located in Southeast Asia. Scattered across the western Pacific Ocean, there are over 7,000 islands, each possessing its own distinctive charm – from thrilling volcano treks to authentic Filipino homestays and spectacular diving opportunities.
The Philippine islands offer an ideal setting for a castaway-style getaway. You can spend your days relaxing on idyllic beaches, enjoying coconut refreshments, and exploring crystal-clear waters for snorkeling and diving adventures around remarkable coral reefs. Whether you seek an active or leisurely vacation, you’ll discover it in the Philippines.
Palawan, officially referred to as the Province of Palawan, has earned the distinction of being one of the world’s top two islands to visit, as recognized by Travel & Leisure, second only to Sri Lanka. The island’s allure is attributed to its breathtaking limestone karsts, exquisite beaches, secluded coral reef coves, and lush, jungle-clad mountains, making it a veritable paradise even when measured against the high standards of Filipino beauty.
Serving as the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa acts as the primary gateway to the island and the surrounding mangrove islands of Honda Bay. Other notable destinations that merit exploration include the beachfront haven of Port Barton, the historic stronghold of Taytay with its impressive old fortress, the pristine sands of Long Beach, and the enchanting El Nido with its astonishing lagoons.
However, many parts of Palawan remain non-touristy and undeveloped, presenting a compelling case for a visit, if not an even more compelling one. Among these are the charming fishing village of San Vicente and the attractions of southern Palawan, including the Neolithic relics found in the Tabon Caves and the conservation sanctuaries for turtles and cockatoos in Narra.
While in Palawan, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Calamian Island group, situated just off the northern tip of Palawan. This region is celebrated for offering some of the finest scuba diving experiences in Asia, particularly at the World War II shipwrecks that lie beneath its waters.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Palawan Island
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Palawan: Best Areas & Hotels
Boracay stands as one of the most renowned islands in the Philippines, to the extent that it underwent a six-month closure to rehabilitate the island due to the overwhelming influx of visitors. Today, it has reopened its doors to tourists while imposing a daily limit on the number of visitors it can accommodate.
While the primary attraction on Boracay remains its pristine White Beach, the island offers a multitude of other small beaches and coves where you can indulge in a variety of activities, from scuba diving and snorkeling to kitesurfing.
The vibrant multi-day beach parties, featuring beach bonfires and fire dancing performances, are now a thing of the past on Boracay due to stricter regulations. Activities such as bonfires, smoking, and alcohol consumption are prohibited on the beach. Instead, visitors are encouraged to embrace a more relaxed pace of life, whether it’s sipping cocktails at a beachside bar, exploring the island by tricycle, or embarking on a cruise aboard traditional paraw sailing boats.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Boracay
Bantayan, situated in the Visayan Sea to the west of Cebu Island, is a secluded island cherished for its pristine and unspoiled white-sand beaches and its relaxed, unhurried ambiance. However, there isn’t much hustle and bustle on this island even during the best of times. If you’re seeking a leisurely beach vacation away from the main tourist hotspots, you’ve discovered the ideal destination.
With a scarcity of cars on the island, exploring on a scooter becomes a delight. Santa Fe, a quaint village with its own beach and an assortment of bars, serves as an excellent home base. Additional points of interest encompass Bantayan Town, the island’s administrative center, and the picturesque islets dotting the nearby waters.
Bantayan remains tranquil for most of the year, but during Holy Week, it experiences an influx of visitors. You can fill your days with activities like swimming, cliff jumping, cycling, island hopping, snorkeling, sea kayaking, and even skydiving.
Panglao, an island situated in the northern Bohol Sea, is among the rare islands in the Philippines that you can access by road. Linked to the island of Bohol via a bridge, it stands as one of the most conveniently reachable islands in the archipelago.
The waters surrounding Panglao provide an underwater haven for divers, teeming with a vibrant array of colorful fish, nudibranchs, and anemones waiting to be explored. Most renowned for its Alona Beach, a popular coastal resort on the southern shoreline, Panglao also offers a lively nightlife scene, especially on weekends and major holidays.
Panglao is ideally located for those wanting to explore Bohol, one of the largest islands in the Philippines, while still providing a laid-back retreat to return to at the end of the day. Popular activities on this island include snorkeling, sea kayaking, and, of course, scuba diving.
5. Caramoan Islands
The Caramoan islands are defined by their rugged cliffs, a sparkling aquamarine sea, and slivers of pristine sand that vanish at high tide, creating a castaway’s paradise famously used as a filming location for Survivor. In recent years, this region has grown in popularity as a weekend getaway for local Filipinos, so expect to share the experience with other visitors.
Paniman serves as the primary resort and the launch point for many island-hopping boat excursions. You can spend your day exploring nearby tiny islands like Lahos or Matukad, with its hidden lagoon. Nature walks and birdwatching are popular activities here, with the national park providing a habitat for the endemic green racket-tail.
Caramoan town on the Caramoan Peninsula serves as the gateway to the stunning beaches, dramatic limestone cliffs, and caves of Caramoan National Park. While there is now a newly paved road for vehicular access, the true essence of the area is best appreciated when arriving by boat.
6. Coron Island
Coron Island, distinct from Coron Town, which is the largest town and a fishing village on the nearby Busuanga Island, ranks as the third largest among the Calamian Islands in northern Palawan. It can be reached by a short 20-minute boat journey departing from Coron Town.
Coron Island is characterized by its landscape, featuring dense and nearly impenetrable jungles, serene lakes, and enchanting lagoons. Managed by the Tagbanua, an indigenous community of fishermen and hunter-gatherers, access to the island has been restricted due to concerns about the impact of tourism. Presently, only two of the island’s numerous lakes are open to visitors.
While on the island, you can make the most of your time by snorkeling in Kayangan Lake, diving in Barracuda Lake, basking in the sun on Banol Beach, and swimming in the Twin Lagoon. The waters surrounding Coron Bay are renowned for the enigmatic Japanese shipwrecks from World War II, making it a true haven for divers.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Coron Island
Palaui is a picturesque island that is part of the town of Santa Ana in the Cagayan province. With its waterfalls, mangrove forests, farmlands, and volcanic landscapes, it’s no surprise that it has earned the status of a national park and marine reserve. Notably, two-thirds of the island is covered in a lush forest, providing a habitat for a diverse array of wildlife and birds.
Palaui gained recognition when it served as a filming location for Survivor: Blood vs. Water and secured the tenth spot on CNN’s list of the world’s top 100 beaches. Visitors can relish the swimming, diving, and snorkeling opportunities at Siwangag Cove.
As there are no hotels or restaurants on the island, Palaui offers a rustic, back-to-nature experience. Overnight stays are possible through local homestays or DIY camping. The best time to visit Palaui is during the summer months, from February to May when the seas are typically calmer for boat access.
Additional activities include fishing and jungle trekking. The island features two main hiking routes, with the trail leading from Punta Verde (the island’s sole village) to Cape Engano Lighthouse (the most-visited attraction on the island) highly recommended.
Siquijor is a petite island province located in the Central Visayas region. It has earned the moniker ‘Island of Fire’ due to the profusion of fireflies, and it’s also renowned for its ancient traditions of witchcraft, where mountain-dwelling mangkukulam (healers) craft natural ointments and treatments using ingredients sourced from the natural world.
Over the years, the island has experienced gradual development and now presents a diverse range of reasonably priced luxury beach resorts. Many of these tourist retreats focus on diving and offer the services of certified diving operators who can guide you to the best-known local dive sites.
The most exceptional dive locations can be found around the coral-rich areas of Sandugan Point and Tambisan Point. Paliton Beach is also notable for its three underwater caves, where you may have the chance to observe slumbering reef sharks. Other dive sites around the island offer opportunities to spot manta rays and barracudas.
Nonetheless, you need not be an avid diver to appreciate the charms of Siquijor. Additional activities include snorkeling, cycling, trekking to waterfalls, exploring caves, and basking in the sun on its inviting shores.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Siquijor Island
Mindoro is a rugged and largely undeveloped island within the Philippines archipelago, boasting abundant protected natural beauty both on its land and underwater. Mindoro presents pristine beaches, exceptional scuba diving opportunities, and fascinating wildlife.
Divided into two provinces by the nearly impenetrable High Rolling Mountains, the island is composed of Mindoro Occidental and the more developed Mindoro Oriental. Collectively, Mindoro provides an authentic island getaway. You can savor the genuine Mangyan culture in the island’s interior, explore the marine resorts around Puerto Galera, and snorkel in the diving paradise of Apo Reef on the west coast.
For nature enthusiasts, Mindoro offers the chance to spot rare wildlife species, such as the Mindoro dwarf buffalo at the Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Mindoro
Life on Bohol, an island within a province of the same name, can be as leisurely or as adventurous as you desire. Just an hour’s flight from Manila, arriving in Bohol feels like stepping back in time. Most of the island remains undeveloped, but you’ll find a larger concentration of tourists on the nearby Panglao Island – a renowned diving destination connected to Bohol by a bridge.
Bohol is distinguished by its scenic rice paddies, charming fishing villages, and dense mangrove forests. The island is famous for its iconic Chocolate Hills, which have a distinctive dome shape, and its unique population of endangered tarsiers, believed to be the world’s smallest primates.
Yet, Bohol offers more than just these attractions. You can visit the Blood Compact site, explore the adventure center in Danao, enjoy a meal at a floating riverside restaurant, and discover the island’s Spanish coral-built churches. Other activities include snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
By the way, if you visit in May, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in or witness a multitude of celebrations, festivals, and beauty pageants.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Bohol
Luzon stands as the Philippines’ largest island, housing Manila (the national capital) and the primary international airport. The island boasts self-sufficiency, with a robust agricultural sector that produces rice, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, sugarcane, and grains, as well as mineral resources like iron, manganese, copper, and gold.
However, it is not only the fertile farmlands that make this verdant island so alluring. Luzon offers a multitude of authentic villages, stunning beaches, imposing volcanoes, remarkable coral reefs, and breathtaking sunsets. Moreover, its impressive Spanish-colonial architecture, historical monuments, and museums add to its charm.
Given its size, Luzon is divided into two regions – North Luzon and South Luzon. The north beckons explorers with its terraced rice fields, untamed jungles, and secluded beaches. Adventure seekers are drawn here for trekking, caving, and mountain biking.
The south, on the other hand, is known for its active volcanoes and pristine white-sand beaches. You can spend your time trekking to volcanic craters, snorkeling with whale sharks, and riding the fantastic waves stirred by the island’s frequent typhoons.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Luzon
Shaped like a teardrop, Siargao, with its abundant coconut groves, serene lagoons, and pristine white-sand beaches, embodies the very essence of paradise. It was recognized as the world’s best island by Conde Nast Traveller, and the reasons are abundantly clear.
This relatively underdeveloped island is about as far from a tourist hotspot as you can get. In fact, it’s home to just a few hundred thousand inhabitants and lacks its own airport, which makes access a bit challenging. However, this obstacle serves to naturally sift out the crowds, rendering it all the more gratifying when you finally feel the remote sands beneath your feet.
Siargao holds the title of the Philippines’ surfing capital, featuring 15 well-known surfing spots, including the renowned Cloud Nine. Surf schools and rental shops are abundant, and there are also opportunities for stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and various other water activities.
Back on solid ground, you can explore highlights ranging from mangrove swamps and winding rivers to dramatic rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and captivating wildlife. Be sure not to miss a visit to the primary port town of Dapa.
13. Batanes Islands
The Batanes Islands, situated between Taiwan and the Philippines, occupy a remote northern location that makes them the most isolated part of the country. This isolation contributes to their authenticity, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, language, weather, and traditions that differ from the rest of the Philippines. A visit to the Batanes is akin to a journey back in time.
Out of the Batanes archipelago, only three islands are permanently inhabited: Batan, the primary island, the traditional Sabtang, and the secluded Itbayat. Each island possesses its own distinct character, featuring a blend of jungle-clad volcanoes, rolling hills, fertile yam and cattle farms, and narrow stretches of silvery beaches.
While the Batanes may appear as pure paradisiacal landscapes in photographs – and they certainly are – they are also vulnerable to frequent typhoons. You’ll notice that the buildings are all designed to withstand these natural disasters, constructed on raised platforms with sturdy limestone walls and thatched roofs.
Q: What is the best time to visit the Philippines?
A: The best time to visit is during the dry season, from November to April, to enjoy pleasant weather and avoid typhoons.
Q: Are there any visa requirements for traveling to the Philippines?
A: Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa, but many countries offer visa-free entry for a limited period.
Q: Is it safe to travel to the Philippines?
A: While most areas are safe for tourists, it’s essential to stay informed about any travel advisories and take standard safety precautions.
Q: Which island is ideal for a romantic getaway?
A: Boracay and Palawan offer romantic settings with beautiful beaches, making them popular choices for couples.
Q: Can I find vegetarian or vegan food in the Philippines?
A: Yes, many restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options, especially in larger cities and tourist areas.