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7 Philippine Islands You Must Visit Before You Die

As central Philippines recovers from the devastation of Super Typhoon Haiyan, many of the nation’s 7,107 islands are ready to receive visitors. The monsoon season has come to a close, making now the ideal time for a beach getaway. Help kickstart the local economy by turning up on these shores. No two islands are the same in this archipelago, so here are 7 to get you started on your holiday planning.

Compiled by Abby Yao

1. Boracay, Aklan: Party Central

The fine white sands that made this island world-famous invite you to leave your flip-flops behind and go barefoot in their powdery softness. Island hopping and water sports will fill your days with discovery and adventure, while at nightfall, candlelit sandcastles, fire dancers and music of all genres lend a fun and easy-going atmosphere over the island. Bring your friends or make new ones at the bar—the world parties here!

Boracay CC BY Rick McCharles

Children playing near Willy’s Rock, a volcanic formation at Station 1 on Boracay’s White Beach CC BY 2.0 Rick McCharles

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies from Manila to Kalibo. From Kalibo Airport, it takes 1–2 hours by bus/van (from PHP 200) to Caticlan Jetty and 20 minutes by boat (PHP25 + PHP75 environmental fee + PHP100 terminal fee) to Boracay. 

2. El Nido and Taytay, Palawan: Limestone & Lagoons 

Once accessible only to the luxury travellers, El Nido and the islands off Taytay now welcome backpackers with a sense of adventure (and strong bottoms for rough roads). Snorkel and kayak amidst dramatic limestone cliffs and islands sans the crowds. You’ll surely discover your hiding place in this unspoilt paradise.

El Nido CC BY Jack Versloot

Villas on stilts at El Nido Resorts, Apulit Island, off Taytay town in Palawan CC BY 2.0 Jack Versloot

 

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies from Manila to Puerto Princesa. From Puerto Princesa Airport, take a van to El Nido town (5–6 hrs, PHP600–900). 

3. Oslob, Cebu: Close Encounters

“SHARK!” If that cry doesn’t drive you away with the fear of Jaws, then you belong right here! Whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet, are sighted every morning off the shores of Oslob town. After swimming with these magnificent giants, stop over at Tumalog Waterfalls for a refreshing dip, Moalboal for diving and Carcar town for Spanish colonial houses, belly-busting lechon (whole roasted pig) and crunchy chicharon (deep-fried pork rind).

Whale Shark Oslob, Cebu - Jay Kok

A gentle giant in the waters of Oslob, Cebu ©Jay Kok

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies to Mactan-Cebu International Airport from various destinations. From the airport, take a yellow coupon taxi  or a white metered taxi to Cebu South Bus Terminal (at least 30 mins, from PHP300) and catch a bus to Oslob (3 hrs, PHP120). 

4. Panglao Island and Pamilacan Island, Bohol: Beyond Beach Bumming

Timid, wide-eyed tarsiers and the unusual Chocolate Hills will pull you away from relaxing beaches—but only if you let them. The pure shores of Bohol and its surrounding islands, among them laid-back Panglao and the dolphin-watching and snorkelling haven of Pamilacan, are for beach bums who want more. Eco-tourism attractions and colonial heritage make the province one of the country’s best destinations for nature and culture.

Pamilacan 2 CC BY Ronald Belleza

Outrigger boats at Pamilacan Island CC BY 2.0 Ronald Belleza

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies from Manila to Bohol. From the airport, taxis (30–40 mins, from PHP500) and vans (PHP600 per van) are available to Panglao Island. Tours to Pamilacan Island range from PHP1000–PHP4000 depending on inclusions and group size. 

5. Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte: Beyond Pearls

The Pearl Farm luxury resort isn’t the coastal paradise’s only draw. Step into “the island that has it all”, with lush green plains, enchanting mountains and cerulean seas to add to its claim. Travellers are discovering tranquil Hagimit Falls, the underwater colours of Talikud Island’s Coral Garden Marine Park, the high tide mangrove sandbar of Vanishing Island, and Monfort Bat Sanctuary, home of 2,000,000 fruit bats.

Samal's Hagimit Falls CC BY Paul Lewin

Hagimit Falls, one of Samal’s well-hidden attractions CC BY 2.0 Paul Lewin

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies from Manila to Davao. From the airport, take a taxi to Santa Ana Wharf, Sasa Wharf or Sasa Ferryboat Landing (10–20 mins, under PHP200), depending on your destination. From there, take a motorboat or RORO ferries to Samal (15–45 mins, depending on resort location). 

6. Camiguin: Sleeping Giant

Now you see it, now you don’t. The island’s best beach—actually a sandbar—appears only during low tide. This is only one of Camiguin’s many secrets, among them an underwater cemetery, church ruins, hot and cold springs, waterfalls, and the extinct remnants of ancient volcanoes. The popular cream-filled Pastel buns and sweet lanzones (langsat) fruits will have you snacking non-stop as you go on the island loop.

Camiguin 2 CC BY Allan Donque

Camiguin’s White Island, as seen from a viewpoint CC BY 2.0 Allan Donque

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies from Manila to Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan Airport).
Short route: From the airport, take a van to Cagayan de Oro city centre (PHP199, 45 mins–1hr). From there, it’s a 20-minute ride to Macabalan Port by taxi (PHP80) or jeepney (PHP7). Ride the Ocean Jet ferry (2 hrs, PHP550–PHP750, one trip daily at 8:30am) to Camiguin-Benoni Port.
Long route: From the airport, take a van to Agora Bus Terminal (2–3 hrs, around PHP200). Hop aboard a Butuan-bound bus (2–3 hrs, PHP143) and alight at Balingoan Bus Terminal. Walk or take a motorela (PHP8) to Balingoan Ferry Port, where fast craft depart for Camiguin-Benoni Port (1 hr, PHP150). It is also possible to take a taxi (1.5 hrs, around PHP3000) straight to Balingoan from the airport. 

7. Tubbataha Reef: The Last Frontier

Technically not an island but two large atolls in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha is a World Heritage Site for its natural richness. Set at the apex of the Coral Triangle, it is described by divers as a true underwater jungle. Shark sightings are guaranteed and the sheer amount of marine life is among the best in the world. If you’re a marine explorer at heart, this should be on your bucket list. And if you don’t dive, it’s time to earn your certifications as this is for experienced divers only.

Tubbataha Reef on an afternoon dive

Wall to wall corals and marine life at Tubbataha Reef

HOW TO GET THERE AirAsia Zest flies to Puerto Princesa from Manila. From Puerto Princesa, access to Tubbataha is via liveaboard only (10–12 hrs), arranged through accredited dive operators. Dive season is from mid-March to mid-June. Packages start at USD1600. Book in advance, as there are limited slots. 

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  • rftreyes

    Five down, two to go. Tubbataha is calling me :D

    • http://www.airasia.com/travel3sixty Travel 3Sixty

      Wow, that’s a great record! Tubbataha is a milestone for any diver, so it’s worth saving up for it. Do share your photos in our Photoblog: http://www.airasia.com/travel3sixty/photoblog

  • Erwin

    Actually, White Island in Camiguin only appears during LOW TIDE. And you forgot to include Bantayan Island in Cebu and Siargao in Surigao in your list. :-)

    • http://www.airasia.com/travel3sixty Travel 3Sixty

      Thanks for spotting that, Erwin! Will correct our oversight shortly. We really wanted to include Bantayan and Malapascua to the list, but they were still badly damaged by the typhoon at press time. They should be clear for visits by now. Agree that Siargao is fantastic, especially for surfers–a place Pinoys can be proud to call among the best in the world. There are just so many amazing islands and beaches that we had to limit ourselves to seven or else the list would get really long! :-)

    • paul

      Have you gone to that Island? am sorry to say Erwin that it wont disappear during high tide. The island will deform only but it wont disappear.

  • Jon

    Love this article. It’s exactly the 7 islands i had in mind too :)

    • http://www.airasia.com/travel3sixty Travel 3Sixty

      That’s cool, Jon! Now how do we tackle the next 7,100? Suggestions are welcome. :-)

  • John Japhet

    there is more to this in the Philippines!

    • Guest

      *of

  • JLC

    how about the Hundred islands in Pangasinan

    • ER Abanico

      Since the number of islands in the collective of islands that you speak of varies depending on the season, giving this article a ‘correct’ title would be very difficult.

      • GungGung

        Gumawa ka nalang ng article mo.

  • JayMark

    Marinduque should have been included in this list with Maniwaya Island, Tres Reyes Islands and Elephant Island (where Bellaroca is located).

  • ER Abanico

    Ang husay naman ng nagbigay ng pamagat. Hindi ba pwedeng ‘…visit in your lifetime” imbis na “…before you die”? Ok na sana ang laman, sa pamagat naman binawi.

    • Guest

      Pareheas lang ibig sabihin nun. Kelan ba matatapos lifetime mo? Diba after you die? Haha bobo.

      • neutralperson

        yun nga point niya eh parehas lang. negative lang approach ng isa, so point being sana yung life time na lang ginamit instead of before you die. maka sabi ka pa ng bobo eh no, eh mas bobo ka naman mag isip!

        • Chx

          Kung yan ang e title mo e di walang babasa ng article mo!haha ka katawa ang awkward pakinggan hindi pang article!

        • Guest

          Yeah right. That doesn’t make a difference, dear. Say it any way you want. 1.) the “before you die” thing has established itself as a tag line. 2.) Bobo kung bobo, I have the right to say it. You do too, but that doesn’t mean I should listen to you :p

      • Jeey

        Tama nmn un point ng iba dpat tlga when u make an article u should be positive in all aspect esp. kung ang topic mo is about positivity dn nmn…pero kung bubuntutan mo ng morbid phrases eh…mas ngiging unbecoming un article…kya mas bobo k nga nmn mag-isip!!!

        • Guest

          Bobo ka rin. Tingnan mo nga pag type at pagsalita mo. Why on earth should i listen to someone like you?

      • PertyQert

        hindi,tinuturo talaga yan sa writer kung anong mas catchy na mga title…sa ganitong case mas catchy ang at mas may bigat ang “before you die” kesa sa “in your lifetime”,..tama si LaLaLoopsy na mag urgency yung tone kapag may die na word…..pinag-aaralan po itong strategy na ito..hindi lang ito basta-basta kaya sana wag kayong basta-basta na magcomment ng bobo.kasi halos lahat ng pilipino eh alam naman anong kaibahan ng dalawang katagang iyan…marami namang english words eh…pero pinag-aaralan talaga ng mga writers kung anong mas akma at anong mas may dating sa mga mambabasa

    • LaLaLoopsy

      On my opinion, if you’d say “in your lifetime”, subconsciously you’d think na “Oo, ang ganda nga, but I’m still busy right now.”, When you say “before you die”, there is a sudden urge to actually plan out, since as they say “life’s too short”. At times, negative statement equates to a positive impact. It depends on how you take in the message actually.

      • Cute

        Turuan mo pa writer e mas convincing nman basahin title na toh. Nsa marketing strategy lng yan walang papansin article mo pg title plang boring na like ur face po :)

        • Misty eye

          True. Titles should be catchy and since no one wants to die soon, he/she would be captured to view these tourists destinations. But everyone has different views on matters, so let them be. But for me, I opened the article, read it and got an idea to where I should spend some of my holidays. Our reactions simply means, the title captured our attention, thus the arguments… hehehe. Enjoy lang po!

          • ao

            have you guys heard of the terms “bucket list”? by saying you should visit these before you die..the writer is trying to make a point that you should include this to your bucket list…as simple as that!

        • aom

          narinig mo na ba ang mga salitang bucket list sa tanang buhay mo?..the writer is just trying to make a point that these islands are worth it to be included in
          your bucket list.

  • http://www.LakbayDiva.com/ Lakbay Diva

    yay! been to six :D

  • WanderLuster

    Batanes, anyone? ;p

  • Ian Viray

    Good list but I had bad experience with Zest Air. Amazing destinations indeed though!

    • Lemon Chase

      I guess they have to standardize service delivery. In my case, we had a good trip with Zest Air under Air Asia. We just recently had a trip to CDO-Camiguin-Bukidnon. We flew in via Laguindingan Airport. I was surprised with their service needless to say as I was expecting bad service based on reviews from previous customers. When was your last trip with them?

  • BURAOT

    maraming maggandang isla sa pinas di lang 7…….

  • kenglen

    Panglao indeed…. a golden sand and water sparkling in the morning breeze of the sun…Magnificent!

  • owel

    id been to camiguin, magnificent. wanna spent the rest of my life there.. (seemingly)

  • Sandra Pickins

    Nice article. I think you should include Coron, Palawan as well. It is a lovely place. The islands that surround it are breathtaking. My favorite were the Kayangan Lake and Malcapuya Island.

  • kae7

    i would add caramoan islands in the list :) it’s paradise! and if you’re lucky you get to have the island all to yourself

  • Xessy Pearl

    Hey just visit and include Palaui island & anguib beach sta ana cagayan north. . Its paradise! Swear!its a breathtaking experience and view when u get there. British survivor choose to shoot dat place ;)

    • Frence

      Yeah, I agree with Palaui Island… Very breathtaking! Awesome trip we had there. :)

  • Cy Cruz

    5 down, 2 more to go. Camiguin and Tubbataha soon. ;)

  • Frozen

    I also suggest Nagsasa Cove in Zambales. Very relaxing and paceful. Overnight stay on a tent after a bonfire. Aww… :)

  • Jimmy N Ruby Deloso

    Theres actually a lot that people don’t explore yet…. in Sulu archipelago….

    • juan dela cruz

      probably because people are scared to go there. rebel groups dominate that area right? not to mention the terrorist groups O.o

  • :)

    CamSur is a really nice place :) i would suggest the Caramoan islands but it’s not that modern yet. you can barely get signal regardless of the network.

  • Chamille Mallari

    I think that Tawi-tawi should also be included in the list. It’s actually one of the best places i’ve seen in the country. Forget everything you’ve heard about the terrorists in the area ’cause it’s really safe there.

  • http://noypistuff.blogspot.com/ Noypistuff

    There are a lot more places in the Philippines worth visiting but you cannot go wrong with starting with the ones mentioned.

  • jun

    why hundred island not in the list???
    hundred island is the first natioal park in the philippines…….