The Philippines is one of the best countries to visit in Southeast Asia and the world! With its stunning islands and beaches, less-explored waterfalls, rolling hills and hiking spots, fresh and plenty supply of seafood and friendly locals; the list is never-ending. It is a tropical paradise waiting to be visited and explored.
Top 10 Best Islands to Visit in the Philippines
The country has more than seven thousand islands to choose from so we know it is difficult to pick out the best ones to visit. To make it easier for our dear readers, we asked our blogger friends to recommend the best islands to visit in the Philippines.
Recommended by Peta and Jonas of Exit45 Travels
Palawan is a stunning province in the Philippines that often gets overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours. The island offers pristine beaches, stunning limestone cliffs, and a diverse ecosystem.
The island of Palawan is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. The island is also home to some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world, which makes it a great place to dive, snorkel, and explore. Palawan is also home to an amazing variety of marine life including tropical fish, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.
The best known areas amongst travellers are El Nido on the northwestern-most tip of mainland Palawan, and Coron, just a 30 minute ferry ride away from El Nido. Travellers will be in heaven island hopping in El Nido and Coron, exploring massive coral gardens, underwater shipwrecks, hidden coves and deserted beaches.
Palawan is not only beautiful beaches, but is also home to some of the most lush and tropical jungles on Earth. The mountains that make up the island’s backbone are some of the most dramatic and scenic in the Philippines. There are also many interesting historical sites and attractions on Palawan, making it a great destination for travellers of all ages.
The culture is very welcoming and friendly, and the people are very proud of their heritage. A visit to Palawan is incomplete without seeing the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. There are also plenty of activities to keep you busy from diving and snorkelling, to hiking, climbing and mountain biking.
If you’re looking for an amazing tropical destination that’s still off the beaten path, Palawan is definitely worth considering. With its incredible natural beauty and friendly locals, this is a place you won’t want to miss.
Recommended by Holly of Globeblogging
Ranked multiple times as the best island in the world, Boracay needs to be on the list of any visitor to the Philippines. Featuring stunning aqua coloured water and soft sand Boracay also features amazing food and a bustling nightlife, while still offering a great holiday on a budget.
The small island is serviced by the airport on the nearby island of Caticlan, which is s short boat trip away. It is a long island with a stretch of beach on each side. If you are seeking the tourist experience you will want to head for White Beach. This aptly named 4km stretch of beach is lined with accommodation, restaurants and at night, bars. It is a hive of activity both day and night, the daily stalls giving way to beach bars once the sun goes down. This side of the island is sheltered from the winds that are channeled onto the other, quieter side of the island, which is famous for its kitesurfing. It is about a 15 minute walk to cross from one side to the other.
Be sure to visit the D’Talipapa if you are a seafood fan. Here you can buy the seafood fresh from the fisherman in the centre of the marketplace, then choose from a selection of restaurants which line the marketplace and hand it over to be cooked to your liking. The seafood is very cheap, but be aware bargaining is expected and you will be given the tourist price to start!
Walk along White Beach at sunset to be gifted with spectacular colours stretching across the sky, or take a sunset cruise to watch it from the water. The Boracay sunset will rival the best you’ve seen in the world!
Recommended by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
Bohol is one of the most popular islands in the central Visayas – mainly because of the Chocolate Hills. More than 1260 hills, some of them as high as 120 meters, cover an area of around 50 square kilometers. The hills are covered in grass that turns brown in the dry season, thus looking like chocolate balls peaking up from the lush jungle. But there are a lot of other things to do in Bohol.
The island is famous for being home to the smallest primate on earth, the Philippine Tarsier. Unfortunately, they are widely exploited for tourism, but truth is, they commit suicide when being handled by people. So avoid any activity that includes holding them or taking selfies with them. If you go to a sanctuary to see them, make sure you do your research first to assure it is an ethical place. Responsible tourism is an important step towards their protection.
Bohol is also a heaven for waterfall lovers. Rent a scooter to go waterfall chasing independently or join a tour. The island also has amazing beaches and is perfect for lazy days at the beach with a coconut in hand. Snorkeling and scuba diving is one of the best activities with a mesmerizing underwater wall that invites for diving with unique sea life both day and night.
Recommended by Arrianne of Travel Habeat
Siquijor is probably one of the underrated islands in the Philippines. You might hear the controversial witchcraft stories about the place but really, there is nothing to fear about.
Quiet and laidback, there are interesting sites you can visit around the town like the enchanting century old Balete tree where you can even try a fish spa just in front of it. Pay a visit to important historical sites like the Lazi Convent, one of the biggest convents in the country. If you’re an architecture aficionado, there is also the beautiful St. Isidore Church (also known as the Lazi Church) made of stones and wood that is situated next to the convent.
But like most islands in the Philippines, Siquijor has its share of stunning natural attractions. Don’t ever leave the place without exploring Cambugahay Falls and Salagdoong Beach. Cambugahay Falls is a three-tiered waterfall. Small as it may be, its waters are alluring and clear. Adding more fun is a rope swing hanging from a tree that you can take to plunge into the cold waters of Cambugahay Falls. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, Salagdoong Beach has got you covered. Aside from its nice shore, you can go cliff jumping at the place.
There are no direct flights from Manila to Siquijor. You can fly to Dumaguete or Cebu and then take a ferry to the island. To make the most of your travel, you can opt to explore Siquijor together with these equally fascinating destinations.
Recommended by Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
One of the best islands to visit in the Philippines is Cebu, also the second largest city in the archipelago and one of the most historic cities. Established as a Spanish Colony, the historic district of Cebu is beautiful with gorgeous churches, civic buildings and homes that are now living museums that you can visit.
Around the city are other historic treasures worth visiting from the gorgeous viewpoints above including the Cebu Taoist temple, Magellan’s cross brought over from Spain, Fort San Pedro on the waterfront to outdoor markets at Mactan Island and the resort areas with gorgeous oceanfront areas. You can catch many local boat cruises that visit many of the nearby islands and go for snorkel or diving cruises in the region complete with a wonderful lunch experience of local food specialties prepared and served on the beach typically in pavilions.
You can also drive to different areas of the island that are unspoiled and natural with gorgeous waterfalls, coastline drives and even swimming with the giant whale sharks at Oslob where you can swim with these 15 meter sharks that stay in the warm waters in this region of Cebu and a major attraction in this region. After all those fantastic excursions, you’ll love dining at many local restaurants that serve the delicious local specialties like Cebu lechon or suckling pig, fresh seafood specialties, Pochero or beef soup and Sutukil which is typically fish prepared three ways, grilled, stewed and also cooked in vinegar offering a variety of different flavors for one dish.
Cebu is easy to get to from Manila and less than an hour flight with many regional carriers, making it a very accessible island to visit easily and you will love exploring here and the neighbor islands close by.
Recommended by Dea of HowSheWanders
This tiny island province in Northern Mindanao may not be the most popular destination, but definitely one of the best when it comes to unspoiled natural wonders, history, and adventure. Camiguin Island has an abundance of attractions from relaxing hot springs and pristine islands, to refreshing cold springs, majestic waterfalls, and mysterious historical attractions. This paradise is complete with everything a curious adventurer seeks.
A Camiguin Island itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its star attraction: the White Island. It’s an uninhabitable island with nothing on it but a heap of white coral sands. What makes it incredible is the majestic view of Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan and the inviting water that surrounds it — you wouldn’t see anything like it anywhere in the country!
Camiguin is small enough that you can travel over the whole circumferential road within a couple of hours. Visiting multiple attractions in a single day is also possible that’s why it’s a popular side-trip destination for travelers doing a Northern Mindanao expedition. It’s also easy to DIY even though the sites are quite spread out since many motorcycle/multicab rentals are available. For commuting, it’s possible but not that efficient.
Camiguin may not be as massive as other island destinations but it is loaded with beauty and charm. So if you’re on the lookout for a gorgeous island that will give you an unforgettable island experience, Camiguin is the place to be!
Recommended by Greta of Gretastravels
If you’re looking for the most beautiful islands to visit in the Philippines, you have to add Siargao to your bucket list. Siargao is still relatively off the beaten track, while it is not completely undiscovered, it is much less touristy than many other islands in the Philippines.
The island is a paradise for any outdoors, beach and nature lovers. It’s especially famous for its many surf spots, but surfing isn’t the only things to do on the island. There are many natural rock pools, pristine white sand islands just off the coast of Siargao, green lagoons, and endless palm tree forests.
Siargao has a rugged and wild natural beauty, which travellers looking to visit places away from the main tourist radar are sure to enjoy. Make sure to do a Three Islands boat trip while in Siargao.
This tour, on a traditional wooden Filipino boat, is the classic tour that starting in Siargao, will take you to Naked Island, Guyam Island and Daku Island. These are the three islands just off the coast of Siargao, where you can find crystal clear turquoise water, fine white sand, beaches lined with palm trees and even a unique sand bank (known as Naked Island).
Another must-see in Siargao is Magpupunko Rock Pools. Popular with both tourists and locals alike, these rock pools are the perfect place for an afternoon of dives, sun bathing and floating in the sea.
In Siargao you won’t find countless tourist resorts, but a more genuine and wild island experience. It’s without a doubt one of the best islands to visit in the Philippines, especially if you’re searching for something unique.
Recommended by Veronika of Travelgeekery
Kalanggaman is a little speck of paradise in the Visayan Sea. The small remote island is ideal for those who want to just relax on a perfect white sand beach and enjoy the shade of tall palm trees.
Kalanggaman features a long sand bar that runs far out into the sea. Strolling along it comes highly recommended. You can swim on one side of the beach, watch crabs on the other side, walk around and enjoy the peace and quiet. You need to bring your own food and take all your trash back with you. On and off, there’s a rental of water equipment for snorkeling. There’s hardly any signal and the remote location means also no insects!
Kalanggaman is ideal as a day trip destination or, if you feel adventurous, you can spend the night under the stars. Since Kalanggaman is so tiny, the number of people who can get there per day is limited. The local Palompon tourism board in Leyte province takes care of that. If you don’t take an organized tour, you need to arrange your visit with the tourism board as well and get a traditional Filipino pump boat to get you to the islet from Palompon. The boat ride takes about 40 minutes and you may even spot dolphins on the way!
Recommended by Irish of TravelMoments
Not many tourists have heard of Panay Island as it is located in the western part of central Philippines. Although the most popular destination is Boracay, Panay Island actually has more to offer in terms of beaches, waterfalls, and rich eco-tourism destinations. It has also earned the 20th spot in TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards for Popular Destinations in Asia category in 2020.
Panay Island is composed of a group of islands in the Western Visayas region, including four provinces Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, and Capiz. Each of these provinces has unique tourism attractions that would cater to any travelers interest. In Antique you can find one of the world’s largest vertical springs; Malumpati Cold spring. It measures 30 meters (94 feet). In Iloilo, you can find old and ancestral houses in the suburbs and enjoy the different cuisine being offered in the city.
Guimaras Island which famous of the sweetest mangoes in the country can also be visited a short ferry away from Iloilo. It’s a small area with caves, empty and pristine beaches, and fresh seafood. If you’re into hiking and nature, visit Antique and Capiz too!
So if you’re visiting Boracay, go to its main island and you’ll surely find something truly special — a hidden gem of an island.
Hundred Islands National Park
Recommended by Eloise of SocialsCo
The Philippines has more than seven thousand islands, and it is definitely hard to choose which one to visit. What if I told you that you can visit more than one island at a time? That’s a hard pass!
The Hundred Islands National Park is composed of 124 islets which are scattered in Lingayen Gulf. It is also the first national park and protected area in the northern part of the Philippines. Only four of these islands have been developed for tourism, but you can island hop to many of them.
To go around, you can rent your own boat for a day tour or a couple of nights hopping to some islands. They also have lots of water activities to choose from. You can also climb the 263 steps to see the 56-foot Christ the Savior statue atop Pilgrimage Island (formerly Martha Island). Don’t miss the scenic viewpoint at the Governor’s Island!
Did we miss anything else? Let us know in the comments!
|GO AROUND PHILIPPINES USEFUL TIPS AND LINKS|
|BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS|
To travel around the Philippines, there are 3 local commercial airlines. Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia and Philippine Airlines. Smaller airlines called AirSwift (El Nido, Boracay) and Royal Air also fly to limited destinations. Book your local flights here.
For international flights, I found Kiwi and Trip.com have cheaper flight options to the Philippines.
|BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION|
There are many choices of hotels, hostels, apartments and guesthouses to stay in the Philippines. Book through AGODA for the cheapest options and Booking.com. I also use Hotelscombined to see all prices from different websites to choose from.
|BOOK YOUR BUS/FERRY/VAN/CAR|
The Philippines can be difficult to go around because many buses, ferries and even private vehicles are offline. The best websites to book them are through Bookaway.com and 12GoAsia – they have many partners in different destinations and you can purchase tickets online.
Car rentals are also available for you to choose from here.
|BOOK YOUR PACKAGE TOURS|
If you don’t know where to go and just want a hassle free trip to the Philippines, you can find package trips to different destinations with Klook – I recommend them for local tours and activities or Get Your Guide.
|DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE|
|It is very important to be safe and ready whenever accidents happen, especially in the Philippines where some places don’t have quality hospitals and clinics. I use Safety Wings for whenever I travel in the Philippines or abroad.|
|Have you got any questions about traveling to the Philippines? Join our Philippines Travel Planning FB Page to get your answers.|
Don’t know how to start planning your Philippines trip? You can start here.
Angie is a travel consultant and blogger who has started by writing her travel memoirs on her blog and then got published on international travel sites. She’s now focused on creating in-depth travel itinerary and articles about planning trips to the Philippines.