Home Guides Best Islands to Visit in the Philippines

Best Islands to Visit in the Philippines

by URBAN JOURNEY

How lucky are we that here in Singapore we’re only a short plane ride away from exotic locales where you can soak up all the sun, sea and sand that your heart desires? While most people skip off to Indonesia or Malaysia for a quick beach vacay, the Philippines is just next door and offers some pretty amazing islands that see far fewer tourists than say Bali or Langkawi. If you’re looking for a unique island getaway where you can sip cocktails on the sand, dive and snorkel in crystal clear waters, and play Robinson Crusoe in luxury digs, these Philippine islands won’t disappoint. 

 

Palawan

Palawan

Often called the ‘jewel of the south’, Palawan boasts soaring limestone karst formations, pristine beaches and stunning dive sites. The capital city of Puerto Princesa on the main island of Palawan is a good place to start your journey with a trip to famous Puerto Princesa Underground River. After that, you can do some island hopping to discover lush jungles, deserted stretches of sand, and crystal clear waters teeming with marine life.

 

Where to stay:

Live out your Gilligan’s Island fantasy at Amanpulo, a secluded five-star resort featuring casitas and villas tucked away in the forest canopy, perched on a hillside or set directly on the beach. Spend your days snorkelling the reef just 300 metres from the shore, getting pampered at the spa, and dining on everything from fresh sushi to hearty Mediterranean fare.

Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Philippines. p. +63 2976 5200

 

Siargao

Siargao

Surfers in the know head to Siargao for world-class breaks that form over the coral reefs just off the coast of this small teardrop-shaped island. In fact, the Cloud 9 break has been ranked as one of the top 10 surf breaks in the world. When you’re not riding barrels, you can explore sprawling mangrove forests, do some cliff jumping into the ocean or just chill out on one of the many white sand beaches. Be sure to check out the Tayangban cave pools and the gorgeous Sugba lagoon.

 

Where to stay:

It’s all about barefoot luxury at Nay Palad Hideaway, an upscale resort where everything is included in the rates from airport pick-up to gourmet meals and excursions around the Siargao archipelago. The breezy villas are decked out with hardwood floors, canopied beds, and beautiful bathrooms with rain showers. For an ultra-luxe stay book into the master villa with three bedrooms, a private pool and a treetop cabana.

Nay Palad Hideaway, Malinao, General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, 8419 Philippines. p. +63 917 701 7840

 

Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi

The Tawi-Tawi archipelago may be a bit of a trek to get to, but it’s well worth the effort for its stunning mountains, golden sand beaches and laid-back vibes. This chain of islands sits in the Sulu Sea just off the coast of Borneo and offers plenty of places to explore. Base yourself in the capital of Bongao where you can visit historic mosques and feast on fresh seafood, then organise boat trips to the surrounding islands where you might just have entire stretches of sand to yourself.

 

Where to stay:

Wake up just steps from the sea at Sandbar Beach Lepa and Restaurant. Stay in one of the modern villas nestled at the base of the mountain for fab views of the beach and lush greenery. The resort also has a beachfront restaurant that serves up fresh seafood caught that day.

Sandbar Beach Lepa and Restaurant, Pasiagan, Bongao Tawi-Tawi, Bongao Poblacion, Tawitawi, Philippines 7500. p. +63 68 268 1018.

 

Negros

NegrosThe island of Negros has it all from rugged mountains to white sand beaches, historic houses and monuments, and funky towns where you can soak up the local culture. Beachcombers can set up camp in the small city of Dumaguette for brilliant seaside views and trips to the beaches and small islands nearby. Adventurous types can trek Mount Kanlaon, an active volcano and the highest peak on the island. And if it’s local cuisine you’re after, Bacolod is an absolute must.

 

Where to stay:

Set in a seven-acre coconut plantation next to the beach, Atmosphere Resort & Spa is a peaceful sanctuary where you can escape from the stresses of everyday life. The rooms here are bright and spacious with beautiful open-air bathrooms and all the mod-cons you could ask for. The resort also has two pools, a dive centre, restaurant and a serene spa.

Atmosphere Resort & Spa, Maayong Tubig, Dauin, 6217 Negros Oriental, Philippines. p. +63 35 400 6940

 

Bohol

Bohol

Nature lovers are drawn to the island of Bohol for its beautiful beaches, terraced rice paddies, and vast swathes of jungle with winding rivers, waterfalls and caves. The island is also home to the famous Chocolate Hills, a series of rolling hills that turn brown in the dry season. You’ll never be bored on Bohol as there are tons of exciting things to do including ziplining, caving, kayaking, river tubing, diving, and island hopping to name just a few.

 

Where to stay:

Located on Panglao Island, the award-winning Henann Resort features luxurious rooms and suites with balconies overlooking the gardens and pools, as well as plush villas with private plunge pools. Stroll through the manicured grounds to the white sand beach where you can chill out on a sun lounger and sip cocktails at the beach club overlooking the ocean.

Henann Resort, Alona Beach, Tawala, Panglao Island, Bohol. 6340 Philippines. p. +63 38 502 9141

 

Boracay

Boracay

Boracay has always been the ultimate holiday island due to its stunning beaches and excellent kite surfing conditions. However, years of tourism took their toll, so last year the entire island shut down to undergo major restorations. Officially opened again in October 2018, Boracay now has a much more eco-friendly approach with a ban on single-use plastics and a limit on the amount of tourists allowed to visit per day. We reckon the changes should help the island retain its idyllic atmosphere for years to come.

 

Where to stay:

If you want to be right in the middle of all the action, White Beach is the place to stay and Discovery Shores Boracay is one of the best boutique hotels on this strip of powdery sand. The contemporary guest rooms and suites have plenty of floor space, huge windows, and balconies where you can take in the sea breezes and beautiful sunsets.

Discovery Shores Boracay, Station 1, Barangay Balabag, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, 5608, Philippines. p. +63 2 720 8888.

 

Malapascua

MalapascuaThe sleepy island of Malapascua sits just off the north coast of Cebu and is a haven for divers and snorkelers. Most people come to swim with the thresher sharks that circle the island year round. When you’re not exploring the underwater seascapes, you can explore the lovely beaches that fringe the island, cruise the quiet streets by bicycle, and gorge yourself on fresh seafood and local Filipino dishes.

 

Where to stay:

Perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, Blanco Beach Resort is an oasis of calm with clean white lines, direct access to the beach, and big rooms with sliding glass doors that open to allow fresh air to flow in. The staff are friendly and eager to help with anything you might need from scuba diving lessons to day trips to neighbouring islands and fresh feasts next to the sea.

Blanco Beach Resort, Malapascua Island, Logon, Cebu, Philippines. p. +63 977 803 4959.

 

*All images sourced from respective hotels.

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