Words: Emma Love    Photography: Tom Epperson


With 7,107 islands to choose from, just where do you start looking for the Philippines’ most beautiful beaches? Let us help...

The Philippines boasts a wealth of coastal pleasures, with many of its numerous islands having at least one idyllic beach. Our selection features must-see shorelines, each with something different to offer and all within easy reach of Manila.

Above: a gaily painted tourist boat docks at Bounty Beach, Malapascua Island, Cebu


Malcapuya Island, Coron

Home to the Tagbanua, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Philippines who manage marine life, Coron is renowned for having some of the best resources in the country. Snorkelling and diving trips take in sites such as Coral Garden, the Siete Pecados reef and a Second World War Japanese supply shipwreck. Above water, you’ll find beautiful beaches on Malcapuya Island (you’ll need to rent a boat from Coron Townto get there). The main stretch is wide, with hammocks for hire, and at the rockier far end there is an unparalleled panoramic view of the neighbouring islands. Of course, you can snorkel from here, too: just don a mask and wade right in.

Above left to right: beachcombers’ treasures on Malcapuya Island; scale a rocky wall to sample the gin-clear waters of Barracuda Lake

Insider tip: don’t miss Lake Kayangan and Lake Barracuda on Coron Island. The first is accessed by a steep 10-minute climb; the second involves clambering over a rocky wall — both are worth it for the gin-clear waters that await. Be sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds.

Getting there: a 60-minute flight to Busuanga, a 40-minute drive to Coron Town and a 90-minute boat ride to Malcapuya.

Above: an idyllic shoreline on Malapascua Island, Cebu


Bounty Beach, Malapascua

This is a small island — you can walk round it easily in two hours — where life moves at a gloriously unhurried pace. Most people come for the chance of a close encounter with the tailed thresher sharks that congregate in the shallow waters around Monad Shoal.

When you’ve had your dive fix, the place to relax is beautiful, palm-fringed Bounty Beach, which curves around the southern end.

Above left to right: fresh fish and vegetables combine in the Filipino version of ceviche; the captain of a tourist boat keeps a watchful eye

Insider tip: Gato Island is a must-dive day trip. A marine reserve and sea snake sanctuary, it boasts a handful of dive sites, including Whitetip Alley, named after the whitetip sharks that call it home, while bolder divers should venture into The Cave, a tunnel under the island where puffer fish and cat sharks lurk.

Getting there: a 70-minute flight to Cebu, a 2½ -hour drive to the port of Maya, then a 30-minute boat ride to Malapascua.

Above: an outrigger fishing boat on Paliton Beach


Paliton Beach, Siquijor

Located in the Central Visayas, this island is famous among Filipinos for the shamans who live in the mountains and heal with herbs, but it also has the dreamiest castaway beach to discover. Just four kilometres from the town of San Juan (take the turning by the church in Paliton Village and head for the sea), Paliton Beach has views to both the Negros and Apo islands. At around 150m long, it isn’t big, but that’s part of its charm, along with the fact that, for now at least, it remains undeveloped and often deserted. A grove of swaying palm trees frames the beach and, at the far end, fishermen line up their colourful bangkas (outrigger boats) along the fine white sand.

At the far end of Paliton Beach, fishermen line up their colorful bangkas on the fine white sand

Above left to right: exotic, tropical vegetation provides shade for the traveller; the eponymous owner of Lilibeth’s Pan Bisaya, a roadside bakery in Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor

Insider tip: head for the hills. The island’s interior has some great waterfalls, including Cambugahay Falls near Lazi and Lugnason Falls behind Napo, where fearless locals jump from the cliffs into the water.

Getting there: a 80-minute flight to Dumaguete City, then a 50-minute ferry to Siquijor.


White Island, Camiguin

The beaches on Camiguin are all covered with black sand (a remnant of past eruptions from the island’s seven volcanoes), but the real draw here is White Island, an uninhabited white sand bar that can be accessed via a five-minute boat ride from the northern tip. It’s popular at weekends with locals, who come early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Be warned: there are no trees for shade, so you’ll need to bring your own parasol. There is also only one makeshift shop, found under a cabana selling drinks and snacks. With active volcano Mount Hibok-Hibok as a backdrop, a few hours spent lazing here is a blissful way to bookend the day.

Above left to right: bougainvillea flourishes on these islands, its splashes of brilliant colour in hues of pink and orange punctuating the greenery; the three-tiered Cambugahay Falls in the interior of Siquijor Island near Lazi

Insider tip: if you’re feeling active, sign up for an intrepid jungle trek to Camiguin’s waterfalls, hot springs or volcanoes. Rappelling and canyoning are also on offer.

Getting there: a 70-minute flight to Cebu City, then a 45-minute flight to Camiguin.

Above left to right: the far end of Puka Shell Beach on Boracay is often deserted; fishing boats pulled up on the sand


White Beach, Boracay

Word about Boracay’s sensational four-kilometre White Beach is definitely out, but there are still secluded spots squirrelled away, if you know where to find them. Station 2 — the middle section of the beach — is by far the busiest, with restaurants, cafés and chilled-out bars right on the sand. Keep walking until you get to Station 1 and beyond: the further you go, the emptier it becomes. Eventually, there is nothing but a few shady trees at the back of the sand — ideal for leaving your towel under while you cool off in the clear water.

The further you go, the emptier it becomes with nothing but a few shady trees at the back of the sand

Insider tip: ff White Beach is too busy, hop on a tricycle to Bulabog Beach (brilliant for kite surfing, opposite Station 1), Tambisaan Beach (near Station 3) and under-the-radar Puka Shell Beach at the island’s tip.

Getting there: a 40-minute flight to Caticlan, a 15-minute drive to the jetty and another 15-minute boat ride to Boracay. White Beach is a further 15-minute drive.

Above left to right: Jonah’s Fruit Shake and Snack Bar at Station 1, White Beach, Boracay; Tambisaan Beach has some of the best snorkelling on the island


Paradise Beach, Bantayan Island

Paradise Beach certainly lives up to its name. A bumpy tuk-tuk ride from downtown and a 10-minute stroll through the woods reveals a quiet 200m-long beach.It’s looked after by a guard, which does mean that there’s a small entrance fee, but also that the sand is perfectly pristine and the garden-like vegetation well maintained. There’s often hardly anyone here, so chances are that you’ll have the sand to yourself — just bring your own picnic, as there is no shop for supplies.

Insider tip: from the beach, take a bangka boat to Kota, at the north of the island, to enjoy the absolutely stunning sunsets.

Getting there: a 70-minute flight to Cebu City, then a 40-minute flight to Bantayan (with Air Island Tours).


Cloud 9, Siargao

Surfing is taken very seriously in the Philippines: the official season runs from August to November (although there are good waves all year round) and the annual International Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup competition is a major event on the world circuit. Join the crowds on the jetty to watch the pros in action. There are also surf schools for beginners and other water-based activities on offer, such as kayaking and fishing

Insider tip: other nearby surf spots to check out include “Cemetery” — named because the surf breaks between a gap in the reef directly in front of the General Luna cemetery — and the shoreline off Dako Island.

Getting there: a 130-minute flight to Siargao, via Cebu, then a 60-minute drive to Cloud 9.

Above and below, left to right: an easy tricycle ride from El Nido town is Marimegmeg Beach, famous for its sunsets, which can be enjoyed, cocktail in hand, from one of the many beach bars; the local boatmen are highly skilled sailors, adept at keeping propellors from fouling in the shallow, rocky waters


Marimegmeg Beach, El Nido, Palawan

El Nido, at the northernmost part of Palawan Island, is the perfect starting point for exploring the Bacuit archipelago, a group of islands identi ed by their dramatic karst cliffs. Yet whatever secret sandy coves you discover on an island-hopping tour, hightail it back to Marimegmeg Beach (also known as Las Cabañas) — four kilometres south and an easy tricycle ride from El Nido town — in time to see the sunset. Bag a seat at one of the lo-fi beach bars and sit back with a cocktail as the sun dips beneath the skyline.

Bag a seat at one of the lo-fi beach bars and sit back with a cocktail as the sun dips below the skyline

Insider tip: book a day trip with Palawan Sailing on monohull Aquilone, which takes up to six passengers. The boat drops anchor at a number of tiny picturesque bays and, if you’re a keen sailor, the crew will happily let you take a turn at steering.

Getting there: a 75-minute flight to El Nido.

You might also like...