Those in search of the ultimate tropical getaway have been flocking to the Philippines’ crystal blue seas, white beaches, and swaying palms for decades because of the country’s excellent weather, music, food, and fun-loving people. Top and multi-awarded destinations like Boracay and Palawan are certainly the spots you’ve wanted to live out your tropical fantasy in. But if you’re searching for some holiday ideas that will keep you far away from the crowds, nothing beats a relaxing day spent on a hidden beach, soaking your feet in the water and just unwinding.
Once international travel resumes, travelers will once again be able to visit the Philippines’ popular beaches as well as under-the-radar island destinations that offer the ultimate escape from the feeling of confinement, with wide-open spaces and friendly smiles from the locals.
With more than 7,000 islands in a beautiful archipelago, definitely more fun awaits visitors for their next beach escape to these pristine and quiet little pieces of paradise.
Bantayan Island, Cebu
Located at the northernmost tip of Cebu, Bantayan Island boasts stunning white sand beaches and eco-tourism sites. From the Mactan Cebu International Airport, the island is easily accessible by boarding a bus at the Cebu North Bus Terminal to the Hagnaya Port. The journey will take you on a scenic ride to the northern tip of Cebu, including a short ferry to the Santa Fe Port on the island. From the latter, you can take a tricycle to your accommodation.
Bantayan Island boasts a range of accommodation options, from upscale hotels and oceanfront resorts to budget fan rooms, hostels, and homestays. If you’re on a budget or simply prefer lounging right under Bantayan’s blue skies, you can also opt to bring and set up your own tent in any of the campsites located across the island.
Activities in Bantayan include swimming, cliff diving, island-hopping, kayaking, and even skydiving. One can soak in the local culture by approaching locals who engage in fishing and the production of savory dried fish as their primary source of livelihood.
Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
The waters surrounding this long stretch of beach are crystal clear, with a white powdery sandbar perfect for a long solitary stroll and for taking lots of photos.
Kalanggaman is derived from the word “langgam,” which means bird in the local dialect, as the two ends of the island seem to flap like bird’s wings when viewed from above.
There are no big resorts on Kalanggaman Island, and crowds are kept at bay, with the Municipality of Palompon putting a cap on the number of tourists that can visit per day. Those who want to spend the night can stay at native cottages or set up camp along the strip of beach and watch the stars put on a show against a gorgeous velvet sky. The nearest hotels are in Ormoc and Tacloban, both of which are several hours away from the island.
Traveling to the island is most convenient through Ormoc or Tacloban. Although there are currently no direct international flights to these cities, visitors can fly to Mactan-Cebu International Airport and take a connecting flight to either of the two municipalities. Flying to Ormoc is your best option as it will take just an hour and a half by bus or van to reach the Palompon Ecotours Office, where you will need to pay a conservation charge before boarding a 90-minute ferry trip to Kalanggaman Island on a rented boat.
Secret Beach, El Nido, Palawan
Framed by towering cliffs and turquoise-hued waters, Secret Beach in El Nido is a hidden paradise waiting to be discovered by travelers who want to experience the thrill of finding a treasure from Mother Nature. The beach is accessible only by swimming through a crevice among the limestone rocks that’s just above the water.
The quickest way to El Nido is a direct flight from Manila to Lio Airport, which is about 30 minutes away by land from the El Nido town proper. Alternatively, you can fly to Puerto Princesa and take a five-hour bus or van ride to the town center.
El Nido is known for its luxury hotels and exclusive resorts, but budget-conscious travelers can also find basic hostel and cottage accommodation options across this world-class island destination. Secret Beach itself is located on Matinloc Island, which is a boat ride away from El Nido town proper. To access this hidden gem, you can book the El Nido Tour C through any of the town’s travel operators, which will take you to the beach as well as Matinloc’s other sites.
Sugar Beach, Sipalay, Negros Occidental
This aptly-named beach in the sweet province of Negros Occidental is a destination known mostly to locals as Langub Beach. Locals love to spend their lazy summer afternoons swimming in its azure waters. Here, one can catch a beautiful sunset while listening to the waves and relaxing on the warm brown sand. Among the activities to try are snorkeling and paddleboarding or simply taking a refreshing dip in the cooling blue waters.
This secret oasis isn’t easy to get to, but it’s well worth the effort. From Manila or Cebu, you can take a flight to Bacolod City, and from there take a five-hour bus ride to Hinoba-an at Ceres South Terminal. You should get off the bus at Gil Montilla junction near Sipalay City Hall, along the highway. Get on a tricycle from here and head to Barangay Nauhang river. You may rent a small boat to transport you to the southern end of Sugar Beach, where you’ll have to walk to your preferred resort. Flying into Dumaguete City is another option, which takes about the same travel time.
There’s a range of luxury and budget resorts and hotels in Sipalay City, where Sugar Beach is located. These include beachfront accommodations, each with its own sunbeds, cabanas, kayaks, and ample space for various beach activities.
Mantigue Island, Camiguin Province
A 20-minute scenic boat trip from the eastern side of the alluring Camiguin Island brings travelers to this gleaming white sand island framed by lush greenery. Mantigue Island is a four-hectare slice of tropical wonderland famous among divers because of the endangered hawksbill turtle frequently sighted in its clear waters. This island is indeed a diver’s dream because it is teeming with colorful and rare marine creatures such as colorful clownfish, nudibranchs, frogfish, sharks, and dense schools of fish with a backdrop of amazing gardens of corals and seascapes.
To complete your experience, you can admire the local wildlife of its mini tropical jungle, frolic among the waves, laze on the powdery sand, or you can grab a bite of the sea urchin (uni) offered by the locals on the beach right out of the ocean! There are no big crowds on the island as it is only open for day tours, and the number of visitors is limited to help preserve its natural beauty. If you need to spend the night, there are inexpensive beach resorts, hostels, and homestays in Mahinog and nearby towns.
The fastest way to travel to the island is to fly from Manila or Cebu to Cagayan de Oro City. From the CDO airport, you can take a shuttle to Agora Bus Terminal, then board a bus to Balingoan Port, where you can take a boat to Benoni Wharf. At the Wharf, you can hire a tricycle or motorbike to take you to the Mantigue Island departure area in Barangay San Roque, Mahinog.
Guyam, Daku, and Naked Island, Surigao del Norte
Siargao is fast becoming a favorite surfing destination for local and foreign enthusiasts, but for those who want to experience the more idyllic side of the province, they can book a boat tour that will take them island hopping for a whole day of enjoyment among small secluded sandbars. Guyam, Daku, and Naked Island are destinations for those who want to feel what it is like to live on a tiny remote island. Guyam is a small circular island with swaying coconut trees and beach huts, while Naked Island, as its name implies, is a bare beach with deep waters suited for scuba diving. Daku, which means ‘big’ in the local dialect, is large enough to be home to a small and friendly fishing community.
Traveling by air is the most efficient way to reach these islands. If you’re flying in from another country, you’ll need to fly into either Manila-Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, or Davao International Airport. And then take another flight to Siargao (Sayak Airport), located in Barangay Del Carmen, about 45 minutes from General Luna, which is the favored home base of most tourists visiting the province. There, you can choose from a variety of accommodation options ranging from traditional resorts to chic boutique hotels and hostels. The town is also home to tourist booths where you can book island hopping packages that will take you to both Guyam, Daku and Naked Island.
Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte
The white sand and blue seawater of Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte has become a popular destination among local beach lovers who want to experience a quick getaway from urban life. If you like a peaceful beach environment, Calaguas is the ideal location to rest and unwind. Relax on the beach, swim in the clear water, explore the island, and connect with your friends, and you will enjoy the island’s uncomplicated pleasures. Scuba diving/snorkeling (bring your own equipment), island and beach hopping, sunrise/sunset viewing, swimming, and camping are some of the other activities available. You may also choose to trek the rolling hills of the nearby Tinaga Island.
To reach the island, Naga in Camarines Sur is the closest airport with regular commercial flights from Manila. From Naga, Daet is around two hours drive. Once in Daet, get on a public van bound for Paracale (entry point to Calaguas Island). The trip takes another two hours. After arriving, look for the fish port and rent a boat bound for Mahabang Buhangin.
Tents, huts, cabanas, and air-conditioned rooms are available at beachfront resorts in Calaguas. Alternatively, you can stay in resorts and hotels in Daet and other neighboring towns.
The Tourism Department, which has been awarded a SafeTravels Stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in recognition of its adoption of “health and hygiene global standardized protocols” that will ensure safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, conducts thorough inspection and assessment to ensure that only those who are accredited are allowed to open and receive guests.
To ensure safe travels to these beautiful beaches, the Tourism Department enhances its health and hygiene protocols, with tourism workers undergoing constant training and tourism establishments implementing standardized safeguards in their premises to protect their guests and employees.
Through its Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the Philippine government is constantly updating its protocols to safeguard Filipinos and foreign nationals traveling to the Philippines. To know the latest updates and travel advisories about the Philippines, visit https://www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.