With 7,107 islands to choose from, it’s not hard to find a beach in the Philippines. Knowing where to start is the problem. Here's our pick of the best...
Located about 25km off the coast of Dumaguete, most visitors arrive on the small volcanic Apo Island as part of diving or snorkelling day trips. It’s little wonder. Even in the shallows the chance of encountering wild sea turtles here are high; those able to go deeper will discover an underwater universe of 650 fish species. Yet the island also has some beautiful shores. The main beach is a busy thoroughfare, and best visited once the daytrippers have departed. Those seeking solitude can hop north to Apo Island Resort beach, or south to where lone strips of white sand can be found scattering the coast. Better still, hire a boat between dives to discover your own private smudge of shore cut off from the rest of civilisation.
Get there: Take a jeepney from Dumaguete to the port at Malatapay; from there you can get a boat to Apo Island.
The archipelago of Batanes has an air of frontier land about it. Few are willing to venture this far from mainland Luzon, meaning even its better known beaches are blissfully quiet. Morong, on Sabtang Island, is famed for its stone arch, which has become something of an iconic photo opportunity. But its wild setting is the appeal here, sandwiched between rolling green hills and some of the gentler waves in the islands (Batanes is known for its rough waters). There’s little accommodation on the island, so the only company you’ll see are daytrippers from Basco. Be sure to combine with a few days ferry-hopping the archipelago, where tiny stone villages and some great hillwalking can be found across the archipelago.
Get there: Fly to Basco. Boats leave Ivana port for Sabtang Island.
The tiny isle of Camiguin is famed for its White Island, a pale sandbar as Instagrammable as it is busy. But what sets apart the sands here are how much there is to do around them. The island is riddled with volcanoes, the highest topping 1,600m, as well as crater climbs and jungle waterfalls. Offshore, divers plunge the Burias Shoal for shark spotting opportunities or explore the remarkable Sunken Cemetery, a submerged necropolis now overtaken by coral. When you’re done, skip the busy White Island for its less-visited doppelganger, the quiet, bleached sands of Mantigue Island which lies about 3km off the east coast. Bring a snorkel and float the waters of this marine sanctuary looking for turtles and scouring wild coral gardens.
Get there: Fly to Camguin Airport. Boats leave for Mantigue Island from San Roque port.
At the tip of Carmarines Sur province, the Caramoan Peninsula fractures into myriad green-tufted specks of land, each wrapped by spiky karst and milk-white sands. Umpteen hidden beaches scatter its islands, with boat-hopping tours depositing visitors on lone stretches of shore surrounded by mysterious caves, warm coral waters and grassy hikes through rural island life. Alternatively, hire a kayak and discover them for yourself. Tiny Matukad is known for its fine sand and storied lagoon; Guinahuan gives way to lush hills and a long sand bar ripe for strolling; and the larger Lahuy has a couple of shores (Nipa and Bugtong) perfect for relaxing away from the crowds.
Get there: Fly to Naga City where boats leave for the islands of the Caramoan Peninsula.
As remote as it is beautiful, Palaui Island is a small spit of land that lies off the northernmost tip of Luzon. It isn’t easy to reach. There are no resorts or big hotels here, just a handful of homestays and a campsite; the rest is jungle, mangrove and sand. Trails scatter the island, leading through thick forests where luminescent blue flycatchers dart among the branches. Finish your walk on Cape Engaño. Beneath its century-old Spanish lighthouse lies a near-white stretch of arching sand flanked by forest and grassy hills. From here, snorkellers can explore pristine coral gardens then lie back on the fine shoes and soak up views to the islands beyond in perfect solitude.
Get there: Boats for Palaui depart the town of Santa Ana, Luzon, which is reached by van from Tuguegarao.
For that true Robinson Crusoe experience, Cresta da Gallo ticks every castaway’s box. It’s an hour’s boat trip from the lesser-visited Sibuyan Island, and while many similar isles have swiftly been absorbed by crowds, this speck is far enough off the tourist track to have avoided all but the most determined Instagrammers. It’s a true desert island. No one lives here, and in truth there’s little to do but contemplate your fortune. The waters are a piercing blue, narrow sandbars jut into the shallows at either end, and rocky jungle tufts the island’s core. You could stroll the length of it in little time at all, but therein lies the joy. Snorkel the coral waters, dry off on the sand, and repeat, blissfully marooned until the boat’s return.
Get there: Ferries stop on the island of Sibuyan. From there, private boats can be chartered from the village of San Fernando to Cresta da Gallo.
For those willing to travel to escape the crowds, there’s the golden shores of Jomalig. This small island lies about five hours by ferry from Real Quezon, and while everything here claims to be a ‘resort’, there are no high-end hotels, only small lodges and homestays. Salibungot beach is its most celebrated stretch, a glistening golden shore wrapped in a thick fir collar of agoho pines. But the sands of Kanaway are the more adventurous option, reachable only by a habal-habal (bike) ride. Camp overnight on its wild shore and wake up to sunrise over the water, then hire a boat to visit rocky Manlanat Island offshore, a noted seabird nesting spot.
Get there: Real Quezon is around three hours drive from Manila. Ferries leave for Jomalig from there.
Everything you need to know about the Philippines – including getting there and around, where to stay, and heaps of inspiration for things to see and do – can be found on the official Philippines website.
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