When somebody asks me “Where to go in Philippines?”, I always ask in return: “And what would you like to see?” Because Philippines – it’s 7000 islands in the Pacific, and distance between them sometimes can reach 1000 km, and they are so different!
On some of them you can enjoy classical tropical paradise – coconut palms, white sandy beaches, tender waves (like Boracay or Bohol), some are covered with sharp rocks, with thermal lakes and severe beauty (like Coron and Palawan), on some islands you can do volcano tracking (like Mayon at Legazpi or Taal on Luzon) and enjoy magnificent rice terraces (famous Banaue in Luzon). Some of the islands have beautiful diving but no beaches (Koron, South Leithe), somewhere other way around – amazing beach but underwater reefs are quite boring (like Boracay), in some islands you can find these both things, but they are quite distant from civilization and night life like Pandan / Apo reef or Malapascua. (It might be an advantage for some people though). To help you to figure out where to go I will give you a brief description of0 the spots in Philippines I or my friends have been to.
Koron (Busuangs) isl: there’s no proper beach, only bays, coves, cliffs with sharp rocks and trees growing through them. Nature in Koron is severe but gorgeos. It is famous with amazing thermal lakes Barracuda and Kanangayan. In the first one, you can go scuba diving. Semi-fresh water with 28 C on the surface becomes hot (35 C) and salty by 10-15 meters. The water remains crystal clear down to 30 m, suddenly getting murky and chilly below. At about 35 meters you can’t see your computer at arm’s length. Diving in Barracuda lake was one of the most memorable experience I’ve ever had. But the main divers’ interest here are wrecks – Japanese fleet from WW 2. Wreck lovers will definitely appreciate those huge ships, lying quite deep though, at 30-40 m, almost technical diving depth.
Palawan isl. El’Nido. This place is truly considered one of the top spots to visit in Philippines because of nature beauty. There are lots of small islands, rocks, secret bays and tiny clean pristine beaches… Nature above the water is amazing beautiful. Locals offer daily boat trips to the coves and beaches, this is must have while being here. Diving is ok but not something special. The largest issue of this place is logistics. There aren’t enough flihts to Palawan. And all of them go only to the capital of the island – Puerto Princesa. From there it takes you another 5 hours by van to El Nido. Also the electricity is an issue in El Nido, it has been supplied for a couple hours a day only. Though, now a small 20-sits planes began to operate, but they are not really cheap. I strongly recommend not to stay in El Nido but in a small village 5 km away called Coron-Coron. The huge benefit to stay there is that from Coron-Coron you can enjoy sunsets, the sun goes down straight to the sea, which you can’t do from El Nido as sun hides behind the rock. It takes only 5-7 minutes by tricycle or half an hour walk to get from one village to another.
Sunset in Boracay
Boracay. Party island! This island is very lucky with natural resourse – long white sandy beach, palm trees and easy water entry. And it is also lucky with geographic location – the sun is going down right in front of the beach to the sea, that’s why sunsets here are absolutely gorgeous! Night life is super active, all the restaurants along 4-km beach open their doors in the evening and also tourists go out in the evening, and you see crowds on the beach. Boracay is a beautiful place if you like beach, party, beautiful sunsets and kite surfing.
Bohol. Is famous for it’s white fine sand of the beaches, Chocolate hills and tarsier. And it especially loved by divers for it’s abundant marine life. Most of local beaches have the same issue as the most part of Philippine coastline – long shallow entry. Means when it’s hight tide it still possible to enter the water and swim (and in some areas even have a good snorkeling) but when it’s low tide you can hardly do that. Besides, there are a few nice waterfalls in the jungle of Bohol where you can swim, beautiful rice terraces up in the mountains and many small islands around where you can get by boat.
Mindoro. Another big island in Philippines. One of the most popular divers’ destinations mainly due to easy accessibility – it takes only a few hours by bus from Manila and 40-50 min by boat to Sabang or Puerto Galera. Sabang perfectly fits lonely men due to many go-go bars around. Beaches are not too good here, more or less okay I can call White beach. For diving the best places are Verde and Anilao located not far from this area.
Mindanao. The second large island after Luzon on the very south of the country. Recently was considered not safe for tourists despite nice beaches. The very southern part bounding Malaysia is still not recommended for visiting. Yet just a few years ago there were lots of pirates doing a lot of crimes and even kidnaping. But for the last few years situation significantly improved. And northen part is quite safe for tourists now, they come to do deep sea fishing and surfing at Surigao and Siargao.
Malapascua. This tiny secluded island one hour away from the top point of Cebu island (Maya town) by boat takes very special place in my heart. Such a piece of paradise on Earth. Quiet local fishing village, beaches, dive-centers and bungalow resorts – there are all the premises of the island. It’s very famous among divers due to thresher shark diving. And among travelers – with quietness, white sandy beaches and divine tranquility…
Kag-Umantan waterfall, Bohol