If you’re having a hard time deciding which beaches make up the best beaches in the Philippines, closing your eyes and putting your finger on a map is no doubt a safe way to start your decision-making process. For those less interested in that level of improvisation –I wrote this handy article for you.
Top 10 Best Beaches in the Philippines, Written by a Local
The Philippines’ best beaches are a main draw for the millions of tourists who flock to the country every year. It’s undeniable that this country is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It rivals that of Maldives, Hawaii, Barbados, French Polynesia, Bali, and Puerto Rico. What probably makes the Philippines different is that here, you’ve got more pristine beaches to choose from in this tiny archipelago composed of 7,107 islands.
As a Filipino who likes to travel on a budget, I always thought it wasn’t necessary to go out of the country to see beauty when there’s already plenty of it here. To those who can’t afford full-time travel just yet, the Philippines offers a great selection of beautiful beaches that would make even the most veteran traveler envious. Most of the best beaches in the Philippines are affordable which means you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a little slice of paradise.
Each of the best beaches in the Philippines have a distinct character. Some are quiet and isolated while others are lively and vibrant. Some have a large expat population while others mainly attract scuba divers. Whichever category you may be, this article will help you find your “best beach” in the Philippines –one that fits your tropical aspirations.
To help you out, I have outlined the 10 best beaches in the Philippines that you absolutely must go to, and they’re not arranged in any particular order.
Each of these best beaches in the Philippines offer a distinct vibe that attracts certain types of beach goers. I describe each one to give you enough perspective of what the place is like. Hopefully, this allows you to decide which beach best describes the kind of Philippines vacation you’re looking for.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
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The 10 Best Beaches in The Philippines
1. Boracay, Aklan
Boracay inarguably has one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. Yes, it’s a bit touristy but for good reason: It has everything. Powdery white sands, unlimited watersport activities, fresh seafood, and a vibrant night life.
You can enjoy swimming in the still, shallow water and still have all your needs readily available from food and drinks to henna tattoos and souvenirs. Other activities on offer include snorkeling, kite surfing, and windsurfing. You can also go scuba diving in one of Boracay’s 27 dive sites which can easily be accessed via a short boat ride. Each site varies in difficulty and you are sure to find one that perfectly fits the level of expertise you are in.
Restaurants in Boracay serve delicious cuisine but if the price on the menu does not fit your budget, you can buy seafood at the D’Talipapa Market where you’ll find lobsters, crabs, clams, oysters, shellfish, shrimps, fish, and more. Once you’re done shopping, just go to one of the many restaurants along the strip who will be more than happy to prepare your seafood for you for a small fee.
By night time, you can enjoy yourself in one of the party venues along the sandy four-kilometer beach path. When you’re ready to retire, you won’t have any problems finding a place to stay as there’s plenty of accommodations to choose from cheap hostels to luxury hotels. However, as one of the best beaches in the Philippines, I recommend that you book a room ahead before you come here so your experience is seamless and stress-free as possible.
Where to stay:
2. Samal Island, Davao
Samal Island is another one of the best beaches in the (South) Philippines where you can relax, unwind, and forget about time. It’s located at the countryside of Davao and is conveniently situated outside the typhoon belt which means this island enjoys calm weather all year round. Colorful flowers, lush trees, interesting rock formations, mangroves, and coconut palms spread generously throughout the island.
Samal is half the area of Singapore island so there are plenty of places to go and things to do. You can do watersports like snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. You can also go bird watching, hiking, and caving.
Speaking of caving, you should definitely check out Monfort Bat Sanctuary which houses the largest colony of fruit bats in the world. There are over 1.8 million Geoffrey’s Rousette fruit bats in this cave and they are said to be responsible for the high number of durian fruit trees in the island.
If bats aren’t your thing, you can go explore the island’s diverse marine life instead. This is what makes Samal a favorite among divers. Here, you get witness marine wildlife like whale sharks, dugong, sea turtles in their sanctuaries, and coral reefs.
Don’t forget to try the island’s delicious fresh sea food. Samal is abundant with these and if you like, you can even join the fishermen as they look for fish in certain parts of the island.
Samal Island is one of the more or less unspoiled, best beaches in the Philippines where you can enjoy a quiet and relaxing time away from the city.
Where to stay:
3. Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte
Whether you’re a surfer, a scuba diver, or just a good ol’ beach bum, you are sure to love Siargao. This island is located in the province of Surigao del Norte and is touted as the surfing capital of the Philippines because of the great waves that hit the island’s coasts. The best time to surf here is between August and November. Around September is when the annual Siargao Cup competition is held where surfers from around the world gather to ride the thick hollow tubes called Cloud 9.
Non-surfers alike can also enjoy Siargao for the abundant list of activities it offers. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving where get to see unexploited marine life. Another must-see spot in Siargao is Sohoton Cave where you’ll find bats and sting-less jellyfish.
Also try island hopping to know what the island life is like in Siargao. Here, you’ll have the option to go to islands like Guyam, Daku, Naked, Casulian, and East Bukas Grande. Tour packages for island hopping revolve around these areas and they take almost a whole day so be sure to have everything you need including food, drinks swimming gear, and sunblock!
Resorts and restaurants in Siargao have all kinds of seafood but again, if the price is out of your range, you can buy seafood at the public market in General Luna and have one of the restaurants prepare your food for you.
For a fun-filled vacation minus the wild parties and loud music, Siargao is definitely the best beach in the Philippines to go to.
Where to stay:
4. El Nido, Palawan
El Nido rivals Boracay in popularity as the king of the best beaches in the Philippines. It boasts spectacular views of majestic limestone formations, crystal blue lagoons, and prehistoric caves. If you’re not the party animal type but you like adventure, El Nido is just right for you.
The most popular activity, and one you must do when you’re here is the island hopping tour. You get to choose from different packages that will take you to various islands around El Nido. There are tours where you’ll pass through the famous Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon while other routes take you to secluded islands that you and you group can have all to yourselves (if it’s low season). In between stops, you can snorkel, canoe, or simply enjoy a delicious meal. If you’re feeling brave and are physically fit, you can rent a kayak and explore these islands yourself.
Divers can explore more than 50 species of marine life here including whale sharks, sea cows, manta rays, dolphins, and endangered turtles. Mountain climbers won’t miss out either as they can take in the beautiful views of El Nido from the peak of Taraw Cliff. If you’d rather sit back and relax, there are beaches within the island like the Seven Commandos or Nacpan and Calitang beach where you can laze around, drink beer, and play sports.
To fully experience El Nido, we recommend you rent a scooter. You get to drop by the unspoilt beaches and drive along the shore without having to rely on a driver or a guide to take you there. All you need is a map and the courage the ask locals for directions.
The only downside to El Nido is the slow internet connection. Unless your lifestyle revolves around using the internet for a good part of the day, this won’t be really a problem as El Nido has plenty of picturesque attractions enough to distract you from your phone.
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5. Panglao, Bohol
Another quiet, less crowded of the best beaches in the Philippines you can travel to is Panglao, Bohol. It is located South West of Bohol and is just a ferry ride away from Cebu, the second central city in the Philippines next to Manila.
The more popular area that tourists go to in Panglao is Alona beach but if you want a quieter, less crowded place, go to Dumaluan beach. Both offer equally stunning stretches of creamy white sand and blue waters. If you happen to find locals offering massage services, don’t hesitate to get one. They are cheap and are done right at the beach! Not bad.
The night life in this island is not that crazy but you can find plenty of eateries and bars where you can have a romantic meal or drink with a loved one or with friends while listening to acoustic music.
Dolphin watching is also a must when you’re in Panglao. Yes, it requires waking up early in the morning (read: 4:30) but the scene is totally worth it. You get to see dolphins rise to the surface as they pass through the Panglao’s waters. Just don’t touch them or try to swim with them. Wildlife like this are better off watched and appreciated. Touching, chasing, or provoking will only scare the dolphins away. Not good.
If you’d like a closer view underwater, you can go scuba diving. Panglao is known as a haven for scuba divers for its diverse marine life. Here you get to see barracudas, jackfish, sea snakes, and coral formations. Just hire a dive boat that will take you to Balicasag island and Pamilacan island which has some of the best diving and snorkeling spots.
Touring Panglao is best done when you hire a car or tricycle driver. Better yet, rent a motorbike so you can explore the beauties of this island for yourself.
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6. Bantayan Island, Cebu
Close to Panglao, Bohol is Bantayan Island which offers a quick escape from the busy urban life in Cebu. Unlike some of the best beaches in the Philippines like Boracay or Palawan, Bantayan Island is less crowded except for Holy Week when Filipino tourists flock the island to have a vacation. There are no five-star hotels, malls, or high-end shops so it’s less touristy and the beaches remain pristine and crystal clear.
You can go snorkeling to see the rich marine life and if it gets too hot, just head over to Ogtong Cave which has fresh cool waters that you can lounge in. If you’d like to explore the nearby islands, you can rent a boat that will take you to Virgin Island or Hilantagaan Island. Once you arrive, feel free to do some snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing.
If you’d rather stay within Bantayan Island, don’t worry as there are still many things that you can do here such as kayaking in the secluded parts of the island, strolling through the white sand and crystal blue waters of non-private resorts, and visiting the old grand churches that were built during the Spanish colonization.
Like other spots mentioned in this post, you can take the seafood that you bought and have the resort cook it for your for a small fee. Just drop by the Panglao Public Market and buy some fresh shrimps, crabs, and scallops. Come early because by 10am, all the good stuff might have run out already. If you’re a seafood lover, this is an absolute must-try. It doesn’t get more authentic than buying your own seafood to eat.
Bantayan isn’t just limited to seafood since there are many expats living in the island. There are also other savory international dishes that you can try including Mediterranean, Asian, Southwestern, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Thai, and Greek.
Biking is the best ways to go around Bantayan thanks to the light traffic. Locals are considerate of tourists and you’ll forget you’re under the heat of the sun thanks to the cool breeze.
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7. Siquijor Island, Siquijor
Siquijor may be best known as a mysterious island filled with myths and stories about witchcraft but don’t let that discourage you from seeing the beautiful, multiple best beaches in the Philippines this island has to offer. It’s the third smallest province in the country but it hosts many majestic places that you can explore.
Here, you can swim in the clear waters of Salagdoong Beach where the water turns bluer the deeper you go. If you’re feeling a little more daring, you can go cliff diving from one of the two diving platforms (20 feet and 35 feet). You can also visit the other beaches nearby like Solangon beach which has idyllic stretches of sand you can stroll on or Paliton beach where you can enjoy a lazy, quiet afternoon.
Siquijor also has waterfalls and springs that you can go to so be sure to drop by in one of them. You can view the surreal waters of Lugnason Falls, jump into Cambuhagay falls with a Tarzan swing, or get a foot spa at the Lazi Balete tree.
Since these spots are a bit far away from each other, be sure to hire or rent a motorbike which allows you to go from one place to another without hassle.
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8. Caramoan Island, Camarines Sur
Named after the local sea turtle, Caramoan is best known as the place where the popular reality show Survivor was filmed. The island features long stretches of white sand, huge boulders, and rock formations. Here, you can do island hopping on neighbouring islands Manlawi, Sabitang Laya, Pitogo, Cotivas, Gota, Matukad, Lahus, and Hunongan.
If you’d rather stay within the island, you can hang out in one of its many beautiful bodies of water such as the Tayak Beach, Bugtong Beach, Tayak Lake, and Hunongan Cove. Some of these places are great for shallow dips and swimming while others are perfect for snorkeling and diving.
Caramoan Island also amazing has spots for spelunking and climbing. There’s the Umang Cave which has huge limestone, stalactite, and stalagmite formations and the Rock Cliff in Matukad Island where you can catch a splendid view of the island and the Tayak Lagoon.
Mount Caglago is also another mountaineer’s favorite as it offers equally stunning views of the island and islets from the summit. There, you’ll also see the largest statue of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. This 26-foot statue serves as a guide for the fishermen in the island as well as a pilgrimage site for Catholicans in the island.
Should you decide to camp in Caramoan, be sure it’s not in the same island used by the producers of Survivor. The show rented the island for 25 years in 2008 which means it remains private until 2033 when the contract ends. Other than that, Caramoan is a beautiful secluded town with islands and islets scattered in the Pacific Ocean. The people are laidback and friendly and all necessities can be bought at the town center, making this an obvious choice when you’re looking for the best beaches in the Philippines.
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9. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Pagudpud is another surfing haven that can easily be accessed from Manila. No need to get on a plane and fly all the way to Mindanao to ride some waves. You can travel by land from Manila but if you’d like to get there faster, you can travel by air.
Some parts of the island are exposed to winds from the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean making it ideal for surfers, windsurfers, and kite boarders. The best time to do these is between July and October.
If you’re not into those activities, you can chill at the Blue Lagoon or Saud Beach which both have powdery white sands and clear blue waters. Maira-Ira beach is also perfect for catching an attractive view of the Tres Marias Islands. Depending on the season, the sea might bring strong waves or calm waters. If the waves are too strong, be careful not to swim too far from the shore.
The beaches at Pagudpud are a bit harder to access compared to other best beaches in the Philippines which means they are not always full. If you’re lucky, you might just have the beach all to yourself where you can spend some alone time bumming around, swimming, and surfing. Don’t forget to drop by Kapurpurawan to witness the pristine rock formations that resemble a beautiful sculpture.
Despite attracting many visitors every year, the coastal town remains a quiet, sleepy, and rural area that makes for a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Manila.
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10. Apo Island, Negros Oriental
For the ultimate snorkeling and diving experience, Apo Island is the best beach in the Philippines to go. This volcanic island features a diverse marine life along with amazing visibility underwater. They also have complete diving facilities so you need not worry if you forgot your gear at home. To get there, you’ll be taking a bumpy boat ride which might get you and your stuff wet. Be sure to wrap your gadgets in a plastic bag so they don’t get damaged.
Once you’re there, you can go snorkeling either in Apo Island or in the Marine Sanctuary and look for sea turtles. You don’t need to go too far as some of the turtles and fishes swim in shallow waters. You’ll need a guide to go snorkeling with you so make sure this is arranged before you begin.
Also, don’t forget to wear sunscreen! You’re going to want spend hours snorkeling and the waters in the island are so cool that sometimes, you forget that it’s actually hot. Be sure to put on sunscreen every now and then to avoid getting sunburnt.
Once you’re done snorkeling, you can hike up to the light house which is the highest point in the island. Here, you can marvel at the beauty of the surrounding waters while waiting for the sunset.
You can’t stay in the island too long though. By 4pm, visitors are not allowed to leave Apo for safety reasons. If you decide to stay longer, you can spend a night in one of the basic board and lodging options available in the island. Be warned though that electricity goes out by 10 and won’t be back until the afternoon. A couple power banks are a must.
Where to stay within Apo Island:
Where to stay near but outside Apo Island:
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Philippines Beach Ettiquette:
Here are some things to keep in mind when visiting these best beaches in the Philippines.
- Don’t leave behind trash in the sand, water, or anywhere that is not a bin (even though the locals do a terrible job of it). If you can’t find one in the island, keep it until you get back to the mainland where there’s a proper bin. You’ll get serious beach cred if you do.
- Help preserve the beauty of a beach/island by not taking home bits and pieces of the coral reefs, sands, stones, and shells as souvenirs. Imagine if a million visitors took home bits o’ the reef from the island, the place would be left with nothing for the other visitors to enjoy (and the obvious fact that you would be destroying the natural habitat for sea life). And people do. Camiguin, for example, prohibits people from collecting sand from the White Island because it might shrink. The island might shrink! The Philippines does get enough tourists to make that happen, so don’t kid yourself, your actions matter.
- Don’t smoke (or carry an Altoids tin around with you to stick your used up lung darts). Cigarette butts don’t decompose in sand or water and will get swallowed, choked on, kill, and then go on to survive the decomposition of several victims before they turn to plastic dust and ‘just’ cause cancer for all the cute and cuddly sea life you won’t see for much longer. Many beach towns have designated smoking areas where you can have a puff.
- Be respectful of other beach goers. Unless you own the resort, the beach is a shared space for all people in the resort to enjoy. So with that in mind, it is important to be conscious of others. Keep your distance and don’t crowd other people. Don’t throw sand at people. If you shake your towel, make sure it’s not aimed at anyone or else you might get sand on their stuff, or worse, their eyes. Avoid playing music on full blast. And don’t forget to fill back holes you dug in the sand.
- Be attentive to warnings. Warning signs of strong currents, rip tides, jelly fish, and other harmful elements should be taken seriously. No one is liable for your safety but you.
When visiting the best beaches in the Philippines, take as many pictures as you can –but don’t forget to experience the beauty of these beaches without a camera stuck to your face.
I hope you found this list helpful. Are there other Philippine beaches you recommend? Share your suggestions in the comments!