As I prepared for my trip to the Philippines, one of my biggest questions was: which are the best islands in the Philippines? Why should I choose one and not the other?
There are 7,641 islands in the Philippines, but not all are inhabited, or you can visit them. But everything I read about each island was so positive that it really took me a while to know where to go. So in this article, I am going to talk to you about 11 best islands to visit in the Philippines. Read on!
Let me start with the main and one of the best islands in the Philippines: Luzon, because it is hard to beat in terms of diversity. With an area of 108,172 sq. km, Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines and is approached by most holidaymakers. This is also because the capital of the Philippines, Manila, is located here.
I was privileged to visit various museums, churches, and historical buildings that gave me an insight into Filipino culture. I tell you that if you come to the Philippines because of the beautiful nature, you will not be disappointed in Luzon.
The rice terraces of Banaue are located 370 kilometers north of Manila and are definitely worth a visit. At 1,500 meters above sea level, rice fields shape the landscape and offer a wonderful sight. They have even been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. But that’s not all you can discover on Luzon. Hike through the seemingly endless hilly landscape of Mount Pulag National Park, enjoy the view from the unique suspension bridges of the Masungi Georeserve nature reserve, swim with whale sharks in Donsol, and explore the incredible Sumaguing cave system Cave.
2. Palawan Island
I am sure that you have heard of the Philippine island of Palawan. It is an absolute paradise: shimmering turquoise water, fairytale bays, and incredible diving spots promise an unforgettable vacation on Palawan. If you are looking for adventure, I recommend visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and taking a canoe across the underground river.
Also, visit the fishing village of Port Barton, where you can get to know the Philippines from its authentic side and relax on secluded beaches. If you are a diving fan, you will be happy at Barracuda Lake and can explore the underwater paradise, while the city of El Nido as an all-rounder promises countless highlights.
My recommendation: In front of Palawan in the north is the island of Coron, which delights with beautiful bays. It’s best to plan an island hopping tour here – it’s worth it!
3. Bantayan Island
According to many tourists, Bantayan is one of the best islands to visit in the Philippines for holidays. There is beautiful nature, beautiful beaches, low prices and no crowds of people. The local population is just over 10,000.
Bantayan is a small island in the northwest of the country, which is distinguished by a developed infrastructure, an abundance of hotels and restaurants.
There are only three cities on the island:
- Santa Fe
I found Santa Fe to be the most famous resort on the island. There are low prices for accommodation both in hotels and in the private sector. It is also possible to rent diving equipment. The underwater life is rich. Almost near the coast, you can find sea urchins, beautiful corals, and jellyfish.
Among the best places I can recommend to visit in Bantayan are:
- Paradise Beach: It is a very quiet and secluded place with clear transparent water and fine, like powder, white sand;
- The old church St Peter and Paul Church: It amazes with the beauty of the interior decoration and unusual stained-glass windows;
- Virgin Island: This is a small uninhabited island with a clean virgin beach. You can visit here as part of an excursion.
I think Bantayan is more suitable for a relaxing beach holiday and unity with nature: there are almost no people on the streets, there is no nightlife.
This island is one of the most popular after the capital of the state. Its warm equatorial climate and short rainy season make it the best resort center in the country.
I started to explore the island from its capital, Cebu City. It offers numerous impressive buildings and museums in the high-rise jungle. And as the birthplace of Christianism, I also had a chance of visiting some of the churches steeped in history. If you are drawn to nature again, you can look forward to great nature experiences. Take a bath in the famous Kawasan Falls.
The best thing I love about Cebu is that you can relax on the beach, swim with sharks, go diving or go on excursions. There are several cities located along the coastline. The center of the island is occupied by the National Park, where you can get acquainted with the picturesque landscapes of the country and with the richness of its flora and fauna.
If you rent a scooter, you can cruise along the endless palm groves and explore the island in all its facets. Cebu is also the perfect starting point for discovering breathtaking neighboring islands. You can find some of the most beautiful beaches on Bantayan or Pacijan Island. Be sure to visit the Chocolate Hills on Bohol. Cebu is full of surprises!
This small island, just 7 km long, is considered one of the best Islands to visit in the Philippines. What I found interesting in this island is the many kilometers of White Beach, which is a strip of clean, fine, and soft sand. There are several hotels with a developed infrastructure, organized leisure activities, and a lot of entertainment for children.
In addition, Boracay Island is also the purest paradise for divers and snorkelers. There are impressive shipwrecks and a species-rich underwater world that you can explore. I found this island generally popular with athletes: whether golfing, paragliding, kite surfing, or windsurfing.
If you are chasing the most beautiful beaches like me, you should definitely head for White Beach. The name says it all, because the snow-white powder sand stretches endlessly along the shimmering turquoise sea. Diniwid Beach is also one of the most popular spots.
The climate on the island is typically tropical. From May to November, it is the rainy season, and there may be typhoons. But even at this time, the sun shines every day, and the temperature does not drop below 25 degrees. The best time to relax is December-April.
6. Bohol Island
The best island I found perfect for eco-tourism is Bohol. It is also called the “land of miracles.” It is especially popular because of the unique chocolate hills from which you can view the entire island. There are more than 1500 of them. There is also a reserve of small tarsier monkeys with big eyes. These are some of the rarest animals on the planet.
I found the beaches of Bohol good, although they are always crowded with tourists. They became famous thanks to the purest white sand, which is even exported to other countries. I don’t recommend walking barefoot along the coast, as there are many sea urchins in the thickets.
I think this is the perfect place to relax because of the mild climate, although even in the holiday season it rains a lot and typhoons are possible.
Bohol is considered the best diving destination due to the abundance of marine life and the clarity of the water. Swimming with sharks is possible, dolphin and whale migration can also be seen. Not far from the island, you can see beautiful corals and the remains of ships sunk during the war. I recommend diving accompanied by a guide, as there are many caves under the water and there is a strong current.
7. Sumilon Island
At the southern tip of Cebu, not far from the coast, lies Sumilon Island, declared in 1974 as the first biosphere reserve in the Philippines. Its area is only 24 hectares. Despite its diminutive size, I found Sumilon to be one of the best islands in the Philippines. There are a couple of bungalow hotels where divers stay, and the pristine beaches of wondrous beauty can be reached by boat rented in Cebu.
The island has a lagoon with mangrove trees growing directly from the sea, and several caves are hidden in the thickets. The coastal coral reefs are home to octopuses and crabs, thousands of species of fish, and shellfish.
However, the biggest attractions I enjoyed on the island were diving and snorkeling. Off the island are unique diving areas with beautiful coral reefs and vibrant, colorful underwater life, where I swam with whale sharks a short distance away. And yes! It was breathtaking.
8. Panglao Island
In the Philippine province of Bohol, there is one beautiful island that can’t miss on this list of the best islands to visit in the Philippines: Panglao.
The island is famous not only for its stunning white beaches (Doljo, Alona Beach, and Dumaluan), but also for its numerous dive sites. Panglao is considered one of the best diving spots in the Philippines and in the whole world. Thousands of unique species of marine life have been discovered in the waters of the island. According to scientists, there are even more of them than in the entire Mediterranean.
When diving, I recommend that you pay special attention to exploring the underwater caves and studying mollusks and crustaceans. However, on the land of the island, you will not get bored either: there you can see the sights and taste delicious seafood.
9. Coron Island
The triangular islet of Coron, like a compass needle, points exactly to the south. The island is famous for its stunning diving locations, which are among the ten most famous in the world.
And if you like scuba diving like me, you will be able to enjoy the amazing sight of a dozen Japanese warships sunk by American aircraft in the battles of World War II. Among them is the 115-meter aircraft carrier “Akitsushima,” on which the seaplanes were based. Divers recently discovered a huge karst cave here, which can only be accessed through an underwater passage. It was called the Cathedral. At noon, sunlight penetrates into the bowels through a hole in the vault, filling the cave with a ghostly radiance.
Other local natural attractions I enjoyed on the island are the picturesque lakes lying among the green hills. Three of them are connected to the sea by underground tunnels. Lake Kayangan is recognized as the cleanest body of water in Asia.
10. Britania Group of Islands
Britania is a group of Islands situated in San Agustin Surigao del Sur. There are about 24 islands here, but only three or four are available to tourists.
I had to use the only means to access the island, which is by boat. The island hopping tour allowed me to enjoy each island for only 20 or 10 minutes. This cost me 3000 pesos, but this may change depending on the type of boat that you’ll rent. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to drive because a crew will be coming with you.
For the best experience, I suggest that you rent the boat for the day. This will cost about 3500 – 4000 pesos. Nevertheless, the payment will be worth it because you’ll decide when to leave or transfer.
Overlooking the entrance of Manila bay, sitting at the southern tip of Bataan, is the historic island of Corregidor.
This island has lots of beaches that are great. However, the thing that Corregidor has, which others don’t, is the Corregidor fort. I wanted to visit this fort, and upon arrival, I was welcomed with remnants of World War II. In the surroundings are numerous bunkers, reinforced buildings, and cannons. There are also strategic pathways for moving personnel and armaments efficiently.
Under Corregidor fort are numerous tunnels that were used for housing wounded soldiers during World War II. Up until now, an olden popular belief circulates on the mouth of the locals living near Corregidor fort. According to them, eerie happenings occur at Corregidor fort at night. For example, if you stroll in the evening, the marching of the soldiers can be heard. You might also hear the screams of people getting tortured from the tunnels. However, I did not stay here till late to verify these claims.
But due to such claims, Corregidor has been a famous topic for different documentary shows in the Philippines.
These are some of the best islands in the Philippines that were my favorites. Each of them has its own characteristics. And after reviewing them, I’m sure that you’ll be able to choose a vacation spot of your liking.