A quick research online and you’ll be surprised to learn that the archipelago of Philippines comprises 7,107 islands and only 2,000 of them have been inhabited so far!
Most of these islands are blessed with white sand beaches, sparkling blue waters with thriving underwater ecosystems and rich tropical forests. Yet, only a couple of them like Boracay and Cebu have gained popularity among tourists.
For your next trip to the Philippines, give a miss to Manila and Boracay and instead take some time off to explore the hidden island beauties dotting the Pacific!
Here’s a little list to begin with.
The sleepy and unexploited province of Antique that lies on the western side of Panay Islands will surprise you with every step you take. Famous for hot water springs, waterfalls, pristine beaches and rice paddies, a must-do on experience while you are in Antique is their hot Kawa bath. Soak and relax in large kettles turned hot tubs, which were used in sugar mill factories and is a perfect way to relax after a day of adventure.
You can also take a boat ride to Antique’s famous Malalison Island for snorkeling and the secluded Seco Island for some kite surfing (the best spot in the Philippines).
2. San Antonio Cove Network
If you happen to be in Manila and are looking for a way to escape the busy city life, your best bet will be the town of San Antonio in the Zambales province.
The coastline of San Antonio is covered with white sand beaches created by ash from the volcanic Mount Pinatabu. However, what make this town irresistible are its hidden coves (coastal inlets) of Nagasa, Anawangin and Talisayin.
Pitch your tent on these uninhabited beaches and spend your night star gazing in the company of the gentle hull of the waves.
3. El Nido, Palawan
If you’re looking at a tropical island getaway and don’t mind some commercialization, may we recommend El Nido group of islands in Palawan, which is the southernmost province of Philippines almost close to North Malaysia.
Blessed with powder white sand, cliffs, hidden coves and caves, clear waters and tropical forests, El Nido is also home to some of the world’s best resorts and spas. You can try a wide range of adventures at El Nido such as kayaking in the Small Lagoon, snorkeling, surfing and diving. The island also has some great restaurants and music cafes that will keep you entertained throughout the night.
4. Apo Island
A tiny beach island, Apo is the Philippines’ most favoured diving destination and one of the world’s best known marine sanctuaries. The waters surrounding the island have fantastic year-round visibility, making it a perfect diving destination.
The island is also home to nearly 400 species of soft and hard corals, 650 species of fish, turtles and underwater geographic formations such as lava bubbles that will make you come back for more!
5. Guimaras Island
Known as the mango capital of Philippines, Guimaras Island has nearly 50,000 mango plants scattered across the land. The mangoes from this region are absolutely delectable, and you are likely to run into cafés on the island selling mango infused pizzas, burgers, carbonaras (Gasp!) and amazing mango flavoured desserts!
Beside exploring the many mango plantations, you can also unwind at the spectacular Guis beach with its many hidden coves and rock formations, or go island hopping to the nearby Turtle Island, Ave Maria Island and Baras cave.
6. Tikling Island
Located off the cost of Matnog port in Sorogson, Tikling Island is perhaps one of the very few islands in the Philippines that boast of pink coloured sand, which is actually a mixture of white sand and powdered red corals! The water around the island is crystal clear and there are many great snorkeling spots nearby.
If you’re looking for a couple of hours of tranquillity or just a spot to lie in the sand, swim and catch up on some reading, Tikling Island is the place to be.
**Traveller Tip:- The island is privately owned and only day tours are allowed here. If you are keen to spend the night, you need to pitch your own tent, carry your own supplies and take permission from the caretaker who is the only living resident on the island, along with his family.
7. Olotayan Island (Roxas City)
Olotayan Island, often referred to as Mini Boracay, due its white sand beaches and crystal clear water, is a 45-minute boat ride away from Roxas City, Capiz. Despite being near a city, life on the island is very rural with limited electricity and no fresh water.
The very absence of these commodities is what makes Olotayan special. You can spend hours snorkeling in its pristine waters, lying on the beach, walking around the island and indulging in some freshly caught seafood and coconuts, both of which are available in abundance on the island.
8. Jomalig Island (Quezon)
The smallest and farthest island of Quezon province, Jomalig is commonly known by travellers as a deserted paradise in the middle of the ocean. Golden sand beaches span across the coastline of the island and mangrove forests add more allure to its natural beauty.
The best way to enjoy the island is to camp on the golden Salibungot Beach, watch the sunset and relish in the island’s exotic seafood comprising fresh shrimp, crab, lobster and unicorn fish.
Although it takes nearly 5 – 6 hours from Manila to reach the island, the journey is worth every bit for the spectacular beauty Jomalig Island offers.
9. Sicogon Island, Iloilo
Sicogon Island first gained popularity in the early 1970s and 1980s when it was the site for the luxurious high end Sicogon Island Resort. The resort is long gone, but the island has still retained its beauty.
Coconut trees, thatched huts and the looming Mount Opao, the summit of which can be reached by a 1 – 2-hour hike, dominate the landscape of Sicogon. With its picturesque sandy beaches, unexplored shoreline, diving spots, nature trails and fresh sea produce, Sicogon is truly a gem of Iloilo province.
10. Balut Island, Sultan Kudarat
Perhaps not a popular destination for a vacation due to its negative press coverage, Balut Island, Sultan Kudarat, is Kalamansing’s best kept secret. Aside from its stretch of white sand beaches, turquoise waters and crashing waves, Balut Island has a remarkable underwater ecosystem.
Scuba divers from all across the Philippines flock to this island to catch a glimpse of the flourishing corals and the life within.
Along with great spots to dive and snorkel, the island also offers breath taking sunrises, sunsets and loads of anchovies which can purchase for your journey back home.
With clear turquoise waters, scenic beaches and walking trails, the islands of the Philippines give a unique opportunity to be one with nature. There is so much you can do here, without swiping your credit cards or spending more than you need.
Laze around on the beach, read your favourite book, swim in the open lagunas, hike up a mountain, chat with the locals, stargaze in the clear skies and remember, that the best things in life are most certainly free!