Deserted beaches, gin-clear waters teeming with sea-life, a welcoming population – they’re all part of the beauty of visiting the Philippines. To help you plan your ultimate Philippine island or beach holiday, we’ve asked Jonas Lopez, a Filipino local, to introduce you to some of his country’s best island and beach destinations for a romantic getaway, holiday or honeymoon.
A favourite with locals and travellers, Boracay Island in the central Philippine province of Aklan is known for its straight, four-kilometre white sand beach (aptly called White Beach).
Make your way here between November and May to get the best value accommodation deals, or visit during March and April for summer activities and thrilling beach volleyball tournaments. Whenever you come here though, make sure you stay at the divine Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa. A favourite with us here at H4C, the resort is a dreamy spot to call home during your Philippines getaway.
Related article: Blissed Out in Boracay
How to get to Boracay
Travelling to Boracay is easy – just a 50-minute domestic flight from the capital city of Manila to Caticlan Airport in Panay Island, then a 20-minute boat transfer to Boracay.
The Calaguas Islands
Situated in the eastern province of Camarines Norte, the Calaguas Islands are where you’ll find vast white-sand beaches with deep blue waters and romantic sunsets. Daytime activities include island-hopping, exploring the Mt Cadig Cave, scuba diving and camping, making the Calaguas Islands the perfect destination for adventure-seekers.
How to get to Calaguas
Getting to the Calaguas Islands requires an eight-hour bus trip from Manila to Camarines Norte’s capital of Daet but it’s well worth the effort. Alternatively, fly to Naga and travel to Daet by van (approximately two hours), then make your way to the fishing port of Vinzons town and sail out to the Calaguas from there.
Located in Ilocos Norte province, 561 kilometres north of Manila, Pagudpud sits at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. Although almost empty for most of the year, Pagudpud’s wide beaches are a popular destination between July and October when giant waves attract surfers, windsurfers and kite boarders. A great destination for active couples looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience, Pagudpud also boasts some of the most spectacular sunsets in the Philippines.
How to get to Pagudpud
Take a 45-minute flight from Manila to Laoag city, then hop aboard a shuttle bus to a terminal in the city. From here, take the provincial bus to Claveria,but stress to the conductor that you want be dropped off at the Baduang Market in Pagudpud.
Puerto Galera in the Oriental Mindoro province is famous for its breadth of stunning beaches and aquatic activities. With Biosphere Reserve status from UNESCO, the region is home to diverse marine life an array of incredible dive sites. Book a course with one of Puerto Galera’s many dive schools and discover a colourful wonderland under the water’s surface.
How to get to Puerto Galera
Travelling to Galera requires a three-hour bus ride from Manila to Pier Uno in Batangas City. There’s a regular ferry service to the island at the Pier, so hop aboard and enjoy the beautiful views.
Situated 528km east of Manila in Camarines Sur province, Caramoan is a hilly, rock-strewn area blessed with white-sand beaches, underground caves and azure lagoons. Taken from the name of a local sea turtle, Caramoan might sound familiar if you are a reality-show fan, as it was the locale for Survivor a total of 11 times (US and foreign editions combined). Aside from swimming in Caramoan’s beautiful waters, thrill-seeking couples will love the many hiking opportunities in the area. Insider’s tip: hike Mt Caglago and be rewarded with stunning views of the entire region.
How to get to Caramoan
Travelling to Caramoan requires an overnight bus trip from one of two terminal locations in Manila to Camarines Sur’s capital of Naga (an alternate will be a one-hour Manila-Naga domestic flight), then a four-hour bus ride from Naga to Caramoan.
Situate in the western island province of Palawan, El Nido is a favourite destination with beach-loving travellers. Packed with stunning scenery – think underground caves, waterfalls, towering limestone karats and marble cliffs – this little piece of paradise is quite possibly one of the Philippines’ most beautiful destinations.
Boasting up to 50 white-sand beaches and the Philippines’ largest marine reserve – 903 square kilometres teeming with aquatic creatures – El Nido is a must-visit spot. Make your beach getaway unforgettable when you go island-hopping or beachcombing, or get up close with the colourful marine life. One thing you have to do here though is visit the twin beaches of Nacpan-Calitang. Two hidden gems, these beaches are simply breathtaking.
How to get to El Nido
Fly from Manila to Palawan’s capital of Puerto Princesa and take a four-hour bus ride to the northernmost town of Taytay. From here, catch an outrigger boat to your preferred El Nido resort.
If you’re after coral reefs and vibrant marine life, Apo Reef Nature Park is the place to go. Located in San Jose in the Occidental Mindoro province (just 221km south of Manila), the Reef is the world’s second largest connecting reef (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) and boasts up to 400 species of coral and 500 species of animal. Above water, there’s also plenty of beautiful scenery – think pinkish-white beaches with clear waters.
How to get to Apo Reef
To get to Apo Reef, take a 45-minute flight from Manila to San Jose, then switch to a bus to Sablayan.
Bantayan Island, Cebu
Unspoiled white-sand beaches and a blissfully laid-back atmosphere make Bantayan Island ideal for couples seeking a little peace and quiet. A remote paradise with barely any commercial development (except for a few small resorts), the island is where you’ll find crystalline waters, blue skies and vibrant sunsets. If planning on visiting between late March and mid-April, book early as resorts will be filled thanks to the week-long Easter break.
How to get to Bantayan Island
From Manila, take a morning flight to Mactan International airport in Cebu City and from there it’s only a short flight to Bantayan where you’ll arrive around lunch time. This service is every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Located offshore from Davao City in the southern island of Mindanao, the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) is full of natural beauty and offers pristine beaches across its 118km coastline. Another reason to visit? Staying in the IGACOS puts you one step closer to popular attractions such as the Monfort Bat Cave, the Coral Garden Marine Park, and the Shanipaan Shoal.
How to get to Mindanao
Before flying to Manila, arrange for a connecting flight to Davao City. Upon arrival in Davao International Airport, take a taxi to one of two nearby wharves, which offer ferry services to Samal.
Just outside Cebu City, roughly 840 kilometres from Manila, Mactan holds a prominent position in Philippine history as the place where natives fought a victorious battle against Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition. Today the island boasts clean beaches, gorgeous coral reefs and high-end resorts. We recommend the expansive Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort & Spaand visiting Cebu City’s landmarks, like the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge and Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge.
How to get to Mactan Island
A handful of the main Filipino air carriers offer direct flights to Cebu International Airport. Alternatively, fly to Manila and enjoy a cosmopolitan stop-over before embarking on an easy 80-minute flight to Cebu airport and a 20-minute road transfer to Mactan Island.
Related article: The Ultimate Philippines Travel Guide for Your Dream Holiday or Honeymoon