When it comes to describing the Philippines’ bewilderingly beautiful islands and beaches, we could spout more clichés than a whale spouts air: sugar-soft sands, turquoise waters and untouched idylls really do abound here. Instead, we’ll let these pictures do the talking. Here’s your top 10 beachy-island hot list (sun lotion and big hats: obligatory).
El Nido, Palawan
While living in the municipality of El Nido, author Alex Garland wrote his famous novel, The Beach: it’s easy to see why El Nido’s white-sand beaches and colourful coral reefs inspired Garland’s fictional paradise lost. We can’t promise that you’ll produce a best-selling book while you’re here, but we do guarantee that your eyes will pop at the bonkers-beautiful beaches that await you, at the gateway to the blissful Bacuit Archipelago (also famed for its dive sites).
If you do a Google-image search for Coron and don’t end up uttering ‘wow’ in hallowed tones, we advise you to check your pulse. A duo of glittering lakes – Kayangan and Barracuda – are two of Coron’s top draws, along with turquoise lagoons and a dramatic skyline, shaped by rocky escarpments. Banol Beach’s shaded areas guarantee prolonged sunbathing; the island is a 20-minute bangka boat trip from Coron Town. Tick off Twin Lagoons while you’re here, too.
Did you know, Palawan has been hailed the Best Island In The World, 2017 by Travel+Leisure International!
Cebu, Central Visayas
The Philippines’ most densely populated island isn’t short on idyllic beaches and stellar diving: items for bathing belles’ hot lists include the northern tip of Cebu, at Bantayan and Malapascua Islands, plus the south-west coast at Moalboal. Other islands to visit within the Cebu province (you’ve got a whopping 167 to pick from) include Mactan, Sumilon, Badian and unspoilt Camotes. Go off-grid, in the most romantic way.
Southern Negros, Central Visayas
Sweet-tooths will love the Philippines’ fourth-largest island, Negros, where more than half of the country’s sugar is made (don’t tell your dentist you’re coming). Get a flavour of the region by nibbling sugary kalamay-hati, a treat made from sticky rice, muscovado sugar and coconut milk, or caramel cake. For the best beaches, head to Sipalay City – nicknamed the ‘Jewel of Sugar Island’ – for prime lazing, diving and snorkelling.
Boracay, Malay, Aklan
Despite its diminutive size – it’s 7km long and just 500m wide – Boracay frequently tops ‘best islands in the world’ lists. This is largely thanks to aptly named White Beach, a flawless 4km stretch of sun-bleached sand, dotted with resorts, restaurants and bars. Boracay is a party island, so pack your sociable side (and some shoes/clothes to dance on the sand in). There are a dozen beaches to tick off here: don’t miss Bulabog, Yapak and Ilig Iligan.
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Pagudpud ticks all the classic tropical beach requisites: crystalline, aqua waters, coconut trees, unclouded skies, unspoilt sands… This little town on the northern tip of Luzon is still a little too off-radar to top most tourist lists (yet); get there now, and have it to yourselves. Even the coastal drive to get here is worth writing home about: the Maharlika Highway cuts through the tropical countryside and dazzling coast. If you like lively beaches, hit Sauda; for something quieter, while away days at Blue Lagoon in Barangay Balaoi, where you can spy on local fishermen grappling with their bounty of lobster and lapu-lapu (grouper).
Siargao, Surigao del Norte
The island may be the shape of a tear drop, but don’t expect to do any crying here – unless you’re prone to shedding tears of utter bliss, that is. The Philippines’ surfing capital is 800km south-east of Manila, in the province of Surigao del Norte. Bring your surfboard, by all accounts, but the island has beaches designed for landlubbers to laze on, too, plus plenty to please nature-lovers. Island-hop from Naked Island to Daku Island and Guyam Island; also tick off a dip in Magpupungko Pool, a natural pool that’s separated from the ocean by a reef, a day on the beach in General Luna, and a trip to Bucas Grande to see the Sohoton Caves.
Baler is a surfer’s paradise, whose waves are best between September and March; film buffs might recognise Baler’s breaks from Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now. When filming finished, the crew left their surfboards behind, sparking local interest in the sport. Sabang Beach is the hub of the surf scene, lined with surf shops and schools. If you’re after lazier beach days, head to quieter Ampere Beach and Cemento Beach.
Panglao Island, Bohol
Rainbow-coloured coral reefs, diverse dive sites and enough sunbathing spots to please a hundred mermaids await on Panglao Island, south-west of Bohol and east of Cebu. Start with Aluna Beach, a 1.5km expanse of sand that’s lined with restaurants and resorts (remember to bring some jelly shoes, because there are quite a few sea urchins in the water). Dumaluan Beach, Momo Beach and Doljo Beach are all picture-perfect, too. You can easily hop from Panglao to some of the Philippines’ top attractions, including the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River and the Tarsier Sanctuary.
Also dramatically nicknamed the ‘island born of fire’, thanks to its volcanic origins, Camiguin’s natural thrills include: lush green vegetation, crashing waterfalls, dramatic volcanic landscapes and shimmering waters. Off the north coast of Mindanao, Camiguin is the second smallest island in the Philippines (barely 240 sq km in land area), but it punches way above its weight when it comes to attractions. Go swimming, snorkelling and diving at White Island and Mantigue Island, chase waterfalls at Katibawasan and Tuawasan Falls, then confuse your body temperature by dipping in the Santo Niño Cold Spring and Ardent Hot Spring.