The Philippines, 'The Pearl of the Orient'
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. Combining all its shores would make it one of the longest coastlines in the world. Bugbog believes that these islands contain more of the world's great beaches than any other country, and low cost too - but it's just not that easy to get there!
Although this has been one of the world's best beach holiday destinations for many years there is still plenty of undiscovered paradise potential among these lush and lovely islands.
The Philippines is a hot and humid tropical country in southeast Asia, populated by
attractive, relaxed people and scattered with tropical jungles, hideous cities and glorious beaches
considered by many professional travelers to be the world's top seaside spots.
The country costs little to travel in unless you stay at a fancy
beach resort, and that's not necessary as there are plenty of cheap
hotels and down market guest houses available.
Manila, the capital, is polluted, uninteresting and not short of
crime, but you'll probably have to stop over briefly en route to your chosen island
paradise. Unless you have a lot of time you'll fly and possibly boat (banca) too.
Friendly locals; low-cost travel, accommodation and beach life;
sand is perhaps the best in the world - soft white coral sand that
never heats up; live coral and marine life is also superb and much loved by snorkelers and scuba divers.
The humidity is a killer; Manila is a grimy pain; the Philippines is not
as safe as neighbouring Malaysia; pricey planes and bouncy boat rides may be necessary to reach
your perfect strand under the palms.
Philippine Beaches organised by region
1 North (on/near Luzon, the mainland).
2 Central (including some of the most famous beach zones such as Cebu and Boracay.
3 distant south Mindanao.
North. On or near Luzon Island, the 'mainland' and home to Manila
Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan, east Luzon
250 km north of Manila, Pangasinan's coast of Lingayan Gulf is blessed with great beaches such as Abrak Beach in Bilinao, but some of the Hundred Islands near Alaminos town are even better, isolated, beautiful, irresistible - white powder beaches backed by pine trees and coconut palms with a view over extraordinary mushroom-shaped islets. This is a national geological monument and only the three islands of Quezon, Children's and Govenor's have facilities, though plenty of accommodation is available in the towns of Bolinao and Dasol from where tours to the Hundreds can be easily arranged.
Getting there: 5 hours ( 254 km/159 miles) by land from Manila to Alaminos, then take a boat from Lucap Port.
Saud Beach, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, far northeast Luzon
Situated on the north tip of Luzon Island, tranquil Pagudpud (aka Tongotong) offers three wide white beaches; Saud Beach was picked as Asia's best beach by an Aussie newspaper; the calm, blue Maira-ira Point (also know as Blue Lagoon or Malingay Cove), and Pansian Beach which sees hardly any tourists.
Accommodation, food and drink are affordable, the sea is clear, the sand is as white and fine as Boracay, but there is no party scene there.
To enjoy more of scenic Pagudpud, hike to Nacatnagan Cliff, or drive along the winding Patapat viaduct, the Philippines' 4th longest bridge for a
spectacular coastal landscape.
Best weather: December-April.
Getting there: Take a 45 minute flight or 9-12 hours drive from Manila to Laoag City, then another 1.5 hours from there by whatever land transport you can find.
Caramoan Islands (aka Caramoan Peninsula) southeast Luzon
The Caramoan islands, dotted around the coast of Camarines Sur are regarded as Philippines'
secret gems and a (another! the Philippine dream!) future Boracay. They are limestone islets, resembling Thailand's Ko Phi Phi, and particularly great for island-hopping and water adventures such as kayaking, caving and diving. Although Caramoan has become the country's hottest destination since being introduced to the international market by French TV, this area is still unspoilt due to its remoteness.
- Gota Beach with champagne-coloured sand and an imposing rock is the most popular strand, though rather busy thanks to the TV exposure. It's 5km from Caramoan town. The following beaches are only accessible by boat from Gaijalo port, Caramoan town:
- Lahuy Island has the longest sandy shore in the islands.
Malarad Island's Tayak coral pebble beach and nearby Tayak Lagoon has a vast coral garden and is an excellent site for snorkelling.
- The sheer white sandbar of Cotivas Island is a dreamy strand, with coconut palms, clear shallow water and simple huts can be hired for shade. Note that it disappears at high tide!
Sabitang Laya Island offers a 2km long sandy shoreline, marvellous for beach combers and its tall cliffs are great for rock climbing.
Best Caramoan weather: February-June.
Avoid: October-January, the northeast monsoon brings rain, wind and rough seas.
Getting there: Caramoan, in the Bicol region, is accessible from Manila by land, though it takes 8-10 hours. Alternatively take a 45-minute flight to Naga City from Manila, then a 2 hour drive to Sabang Port and a boat to Gaijalo, Caramoan's port.
Beach, Catanduanes Island, just off southeast Luzon
in the Pacific Ocean just off southeastern Luzon and is one of the Philippines'
major surf venues. White sandy Puraran Beach is very appealing,
with panoramic views, but its waves - known as majestics by international surfers - are fast, huge and close to shallow reefs so can be very dangerous in the surfing season July - September. Experienced surfers only.
There are more white sand beaches such as Pamangal
Beach near San Andres town or Igang Beach.
Getting there: An hour and a quarter flight from Manila to Virac, the capital of Catanduanes plus two and half hours from there or a long long journey by land and water is also possible.
Best Catanduanes weather: March - June, the driest, with April - May being the hottest.
Catanduanes is called 'the Land of Howling Winds' and this is one of the wettest provinces of the country.
Worst: July - August with gusty winds and November-January rains.
Central Philippines, south of Luzon
Puerto Galera Bay, Mindoro Island
Galera, a world-class diving site, is an ideal place to do island-hopping or a place
to laze on pristine white sands and snorkel clear warm water.
popular places for swimming in the area are White Beach and Tamaraw Beach,
while Sabang Beach has the best facilities for diving and coral-cruising. If your aim is tranquility, Puerto Galera is not a great choice, especially in the peak season.
For less crowds try Big La Laguna and Small La Laguna beaches or strands on Boquete Island or San Antonio Island.
also offers excellent inland nature walks. UNESCO has listed Puerto Galera as 'a Man and Biosphere Reserve' and noted it as one of the world's most beautiful bays , it has suffered from coral-bleaching due to tourism overdose.
The best diving is found off the coast of Sinandigan, Sabang, between the islands of Boquete and Mendio, all reachable by a short boat ride; try a an hour banca ride trip to Verde Island for reefs that host nearly 60% of the world's known species of inshore fish.
Best Mindoro weather: December-April, though during the peak season of April and May room rates can be very high.
Getting there: Puerto Galera is 2 hours by land from Manila to Batangas port, then ferries. Fast 1.5 hours.
Beach, Boracay Island, near Panay island
Boracay has a tranquil atmosphere with friendly locals, though can be congested with tourists and hawkers at times and noisy in places, it depends where you stay, where you wander and what month you go there. There's no airport on the island but there are plenty of trike taxis and some trucks creating a racket inland.
sand is exceptionally white, soft, never gets hot and stretches
for 3 miles, though the finest sand is found at the north end near boat Station 1, the prettiest part of the beach.
Hotels: Station 1 is where the better beachside, upscale hotels are based. The cheapest hotels and guest houses can be found around Station 3 at the south end, while the Station 2 stretch is the place for action, busy buzzing.
Boracay hosts a huge variety of hotels, restaurants and bars offering
cosmopolitan cuisine just off the beach, laid-back, cheap and comfortable.
If you are fed up with White Beach you could try the little hideaway of Balinghai Beach (northwest) or Puka Shell Beach (north Boracay, also known as Yapak Beach), but beware strong currents. Both are accessible by road or sea.
There is no coral off White Beach, but plenty of dive boats can
take divers to good dive sites.
For those who enjoy a good pampering try the well recommended Tirta Spa.
Best Boracay weather: Ideal months are January-May. Best windsurfing months are
OK: June- September (with some rain);
April and May are local school holidays and the place gets
noisy and crowded then.
Worst months: Don't consider October-November when it's windy,
grey and wet.
Getting there: Boracay island, 315km/200miles south of Manila, has no airport so visitors fly to Panay island from Manila by domestic airlines such as PAL (Philippine Airlines) and SEAIR, then it's a one kilometre, 20 minute ride by banca, an outrigger boat.
Boracay is a part of Aklan Province, known for the lively Ati-Atihan Festival in January.
Bounty Beach, Malapascua
tiny island (2.5km long, 1km wide), situated at the northeast tip of Cebu Island, is relatively
new to the international market, but already rates highly on the
the list of world's best beaches - some say it is the (another) new Boracay.
Malapascua has become a major dive centre with superb coral gardens and underwater plateaus; dive sites including Gato Island, Deep Rock, Pioneer Wreck and Monad Shoal are famous for thresher sharks and manta rays using the marine highway between Cebu and Leyte
Take a day trip to Bantayan Island (see below) or Kalanggaman (Calanggaman) Island for its two gorgeous sand bars longer than the island itself. It's a two hour boat trip from Leyte Island, normally as part of dive safari. Go early to avoid the strong winds and currents in the late afternoon.
Best Cebu weather: Driest February-May.
OK the rest of the year too with mostly
short spells of rain.
Getting there: Fly to Mactan-Cebu International Airport and take a 4 hour bus ride to Maya, the northernmost tip of the Island, then a 30-40 minutes boat ride.
Bantayan, 15km from the northern tip of Cebu is well-known for its
powder white sands and crystal clear water, especially along the
island's southeast coast, such as Sugar Beach and Kota Beach - named after their resorts. Bantayan is a low-key, laid-back place with friendly
locals offering some of the country's most inviting
and reasonable beach resort hotels in native style, particularly around Santa Fe. If you looking for an untouched
paradise, try nearby the islet of Puo or Virgin Island, via a short boat ride.
Best Cebu weather: see above.
Getting there: Take a half hour flight from Mactan-Cebu International Airport or take 3 hour bus ride plus one hour Island Express Ferry crossing to Santa Fe.
Virgin Island, off Panglao Island,
Bohol (near Cebu island)
Bohol Island, just across from Cebu, is best known for its curiously bumpy
Chocolate Hills landscape but is popular locally as the region's
best beach destination, with superb bleached sand and some world class
diving sites, though they are mostly off the adjacent island of Panglao and its peaceful resorts.
- The 800m long, picturesque Alona Beach, with plenty of accommodation,
restaurants and dive centres, is for action folk, though
it has sea grass that conceals sea urchins, so sand shoes are useful.
- The 3km of unspoiled Doljo Beach located at Barangay Doljo, is
a more secluded, less developed, shallow water option.
- Best of all is the crescent shaped sandbank of Virgin Island, a few km off Panglao, though it lacks any facilities. Rent a banca to get there or go with a dolphin-watching trip.
Island on the west coast of Bohol has some splendid diving
sites and exceptionally clear water. A few resort hotels in ethnic style are found there.
And don't forget a trip to visit the 1,000 30m high chocolate hills
in Bohol's centre!
Best Bohol weather: Like Cebu it's best February-May.
OK the rest of the year too with mostly
short spells of rain.
Getting there: Fly from Manila to Tagbilaran, or fly to Cebu and take a fast ferry for 90 minutes.
Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, Palawan
its outstanding natural beauty, Palawan's 1,770 islands including the spectacular Bacuit Archipelago, have been
one of the least developed holiday destinations in Southeast Asia, apart from the famous El Nido resorts in the north of the island.
So far the lack of commercialism has kept Palawan special,
but this long, skinny 'Island of Gods' is becoming more popular with scuba divers and adventurers and can be crowded in places.
- The ideal place for sun seekers and snorkellers is Honda Bay located in the centre-east of the island, with several gorgeous islets including Cannon Island, Bat Island and Starfish
Island, with coral reefs breaking crystal clear water onto deserted,
fine white sand beaches. The best way to explore these coral delights is to island-hop the bay by banca.
Arreceffi Island contains the luxury Dos
Palmas Resort; lesser accommodation can be found on other
islands, or stay in the capital city of Puerto Princesa, 12km away from Honda Bay, and take a half hour boat trip
to your favourite deserted beach.
- Palawan also offers the Philippines' best dive spot at the Tubbataha
Reef National Marine Park, a UNESCO's Natural World Heritage Site. Dive boats operate from
March to June and can be arranged at Puerto Princesa. It's 182 kms into the Sulu Sea.
- Puerto Princesa also offers all sorts of jungle eco-hikes and a must-do 8.2 km
underground river trip from the village of Sabang.
If you feel like a splurge, try the country's, if not Asia's most elite and exclusive beach hotel, the Amanpulo
Resort on Pamalican Island in the archipelago of the Cuyo Islands.
- Looking for new Palawan resorts? Try Busuanga Island and the nearby Coron Island, known for wreck diving as well as white beaches in the north.
Best Palawan weather: December-May. Possible heavy rains June-
November, but not necessarily.
Getting there: Direct flights or over-night ferry from Manila are available.
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