What are the best Islands to visit in the Philippines? With over 7,100 islands, the Philippines is prime location for amazing vacations. Its biodiversity is also profound that every island promises different sceneries both above and underwater. Some islands are characterized by mountains, some flanked by limestone cliffs. There are some with beaches that stretch for miles with powdery white sand, and some boasting different sand colors like black, cream, and even pink.
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Best Islands to visit in the Philippines
The Philippines has also long been recognized as the world’s centre of marine biodiversity. Together with Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Malay region, the Philippines forms the coral triangle. From the name itself, this country is abundant with around 500 species of corals that are home to over 2,500 species of fish and other marine life. This makes the Philippines an excellent destination for snorkelling and diving.
It’s quite hard to decide where to go in the Philippines, but we’ve narrowed it down to the 5 must-see islands especially if you’ve never been to this beautiful country.
If you haven’t heard of Palawan by now, then it’s about time you find out. Hailed as top 3 most beautiful island in Asia by Conde Nast Traveler, this quiet island in the south of Luzon is one of the country’s most precious jewels.
Puerto Princesa, the province’s capital, and El Nido, and Coron used to be the go-to towns when visiting the island. However, more and more breathtaking nooks have been discovered and now Port Barton and Roxas are rising in fame. These towns have different personalities and highlights to boast of, but they do have something in common: pristine blue waters, thriving corals, and towering limestone cliffs.
The main airport is found in Puerto Princesa where several airlines operate flights. This town is home to one of the longest underground rivers in the world, also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its strange formations of millennium-old stalactites and stalagmites. From Puerto Princesa, you can take a 6-hour land trip to El Nido. However, if you don’t want to endure that long travel, Air Swift operates a direct flight from Manila to El Nido town. Here you will find Bacuit Bay, made up of several islands and islets to consume your days with the best island-hopping experiences.
For something a bit off the beaten path, you can fly into Coron. This rugged town barely has any beaches as it is built against limestone cliffs. It’s known as the more adventurous side of Palawan for its lagoons and lakes hidden behind cliffs and hills. Divers also consider Coron as a favorite for its rich marine life and amazing WWII shipwrecks.
The most recently discovered town is Port Barton. It’s a four-hour land trip from Puerto Princesa, or via directly flight on Philippine Airlines’ newest route from Clark to San Vicente, the neighboring town. Its undeveloped charm promises serene surroundings, untouched nature, and lots of snorkeling.
Boracay has been known the world over as the Philippines’ most happening party island. With an area of just over 10 square kilometres, this tiny island used to welcome thousands and thousands of tourists all year round. It’s hard to resist its powdery white sand, bright blue waters, and very trendy bars that line the shores and throw the best parties.
However, the island’s popularity came at a price - years of over-tourism resulted in overcrowding, commercialization, and unmanageable waste. In April 2018, the island was closed for an intensive 6-month rehabilitation program, and the effort was well worth it.
The "New Boracay" has restored the island’s beauty, especially with stricter rules and what you can and cannot do. While it’s no longer the party island that the world knows, Boracay has become a serene paradise for those who simply wish to detach and unwind. It’s the perfect blend of pristine nature and modern facilities as the most popular and hippest bars, restaurants, and hotels remain on the island. All establishments have also been brought up to par with strict environmental standards. Those who didn’t were closed down.
The vibe on the island is what it’s supposed to be - chill and relaxed but still somehow luxurious and trendy. There’s nothing like digging your feet into powdery white sand while watching the famous Boracay sunset throw the sky into different hues of oranges, pinks, and purples.
From Manila, the fastest route is to fly to Caticlan. From Caticlan, take a tricycle to the jetty 5 minutes away, and take a 15-minute boat ride to Boracay island. A cheaper alternative is to fly to Kalibo, which also connects to Malaysia and Korea. However, you’ll still have to take a 2 to 3-hour van ride to Caticlan.
The Philippines’ newest star, Siargao used to be known only to surfers as a secret spot for awesome waves. This tiny island in the Mindanao region shot to fame after a local movie filmed the beauty of the island that turned out not to be just restricted to surfing.
Siargao is home to over 15 separate surf breaks, hence its fame in the surfing community. The most legendary break is called Cloud 9, conquered by international pros like Kelly Slater and Anthony Kedis. However, the rest of the world has finally caught on, feeding the adventurous with enough discoveries that make travellers stay for weeks, sometimes even months at a time.
The natural landscape of Siargao is very varied. There are enough white sand beaches to go around, but there are also rock formations, waterfalls, tide pools and lagoons to fill an itinerary. Island hopping is a popular activity, visiting undeveloped nearby islands for a day of snorkelling, fishing, and lunch picnics.
It sounds very much like any other island destination, but the tropical charm of Siargao paired with its strange natural formations and famed blue waters earned it its recognition as the best island in Asia. Restaurants and resorts have also stayed in pace with the rising fame of the island, becoming destinations in themselves just as much as the beaches.
Romblon Island is an underrated tropical paradise. Romblon Island belongs to Romblon Province in Luzon. Together with Tablas and Sibuyan Islands, and smaller surrounding islets, Romblon province is a great alternative to the more crowded Boracay just a 30-minute to one-hour boat ride away.
The most popular destination on Romblon Island is Bonbon Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the country. Aside from the cream-coloured powdery sand and the crystal-clear blue water, the main draw of Bonbon Beach is the sandbar that connects it to a small islet called Bang-og Island. There are many other beaches to discover on the island, such as Dolphin Beach and Tiamban Beach. There are also many lagoons to swim in, waterfalls to trek to, and cliffs to jump off from.
As the central hub of the province, Romblon Island also enjoys some modernity at the town centre. There are several bars and restaurants serving local delicacies, and hotels and AirBnBs are pretty decent. You won’t find cars or taxis to bring you around, however. The best way to explore the island is via moped or motorbike, which will be pretty easy to find.
In short, Romblon Island is a great mix of Boracay and Siargao without the big crowds, rowdy bars, and commercial establishments. It’s also quite possible to explore nearby Tablas and Sibuyan Islands that offer unique beaches and adventures on their own.
One reason why Romblon Island is not as popular because it's slightly less convenient to get there. You can fly into Tablas Airport from Manila, which is operated by Cebu Pacific four times a week. From Tablas Island, you need to catch a ferry to Romblon Island. A cheaper alternative is to take a ferry from Batangas Port, a two-hour drive from Manila, all the way to Tablas then to Romblon Island. However, this ferry ride will take at least 18 hours.
Siquijor has always been a mystical island wrapped in folklore and magic. It’s believed to be home to local witchcraft hidden in the forested centre of the island. Of course, these age-old legends only add to the allure of Siquijor. Whether you believe in this mystique or not, one can never deny the natural beauty of its white sand beaches, centuries-old trees, and marine sanctuaries.
There is only one road on the island, which goes around the perimeter of its approximately 345 square kilometre area. It’s quite possible, in fact, to make a complete round of the island within two hours. Most visitors only take a day trip to the island from nearby Dumaguete City, but it’s well worth the time to immerse yourself in the many adventures of the island.
There are many falls to visit, and treks won’t take an hour to get there. Cambughay Falls is the most popular for the elegant and gentle cascade of water into a clear lagoon. Obviously, the beaches are a big draw here as well. Rarely crowded and always beautiful, Siquijor beaches are flanked with palm trees and forests. You can also hire a tricycle at the port to do a tour of historical sites, parks, and top landmarks around Siquijor. At night, the skies will be illuminated by fireflies, earning the island its nickname “Islas del Fuego” or “fire island”.
For the brave, the adventurous, or the extremely curious, the search for a healer is a big thrill. You won’t see advertisements for healing. You’ll have to talk to locals, make friends, and trust that they will bring you to a real healer. Visitors do anything from asking for love potions, placing curses, or simply cleansing their auras. It goes without saying to be vigilant and careful about this as the healers usually reside in the forest. While there never has been any untoward incident in Siquijor, it’s best not to be lulled into a false sense of security on the island.
From Manila, you’ll have to fly to Dumaguete City then take a tricycle from the airport to the city port. At the city port, you’ll take a ferry ride to Siquijor Island.
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Travelling to the Philippines means travelling to a tropical paradise. There are many islands to choose from, all beautiful and memorable in their own way. But if you’re coming to the country for the first time, these five islands guarantee that you see the best that this country has to offer. Who knows, you might just find yourself coming back again and again and discover the perfect island for your kind of adventure!