best-islands-philippines

Discover the beautiful islands of the Philippines. How many islands are in the Philippines? Which ones are worth visiting? What island hopping tours are highly recommended here? Check out this guide to the top islands in the Philippines recommended for both locals and tourists alike.

As an archipelago, the Philippines is very rich in natural resources. With over 7000 islands and islets, it is natural that island hopping is one of the best things you can do here. 

The country has three main geographical regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Many popular island destinations can be found in the Visayas, like Cebu, Bohol, and Boracay, but there are some in Luzon as well, including Palawan, rated as the best island in the world in 2016 and 2017.

If you’re visiting the country soon, check out our guide to the best islands in the Philippines. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. El Nido (Palawan)      
6. Bohol Island      

Coron Island (Palawan)    

Kayangan Lake by Solitary WandererKayangan Lake is included in island hopping trips in Coron. Photo by Solitary Wanderer.

Coron is a must if you want to go island hopping in the Philippines because of its crystal clear waters and gorgeous landscapes.  Many operators in Coron offer tour packages that make different stops to popular destinations; most accept joiners (i.e., a shared tour), while others can be booked for private tours. 

A shared tour in Coron usually has a fixed itinerary. Some destinations you need to include in yours are Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, and the Twin Lagoon.

Kayangan Lake is the iconic photo you often see online and in magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and postcards. It deserves the hype; the lake itself is beautiful and the mix of fresh and saltwater is cool. It is so clear you can’t tell how deep it goes until you make it to the bottom. 

Dimakya Island, CoronFish ball off Dimakya Island in Coron.

Twin Lagoon is another thing of beauty; towering limestone formations flank the lagoons that have sky-blue waters. You can jump off the cliff or swim under the passage to get in.

Other stops included in the Coron day tours are Banol Beach, Smith Beach, CYC Beach, the coral garden, and Siete Pecados. These have fine white sand beaches and spectacular underwater ecosystems, especially Siete Pecados where you’ll see a variety of fish and corals.

If you prefer a more relaxing trip, go on an island hopping tour in Culion, specifically in Malcapuya and Ditaytayan Islands. These have pristine beaches and swaying trees, and blue waters that all make for an idyllic backdrop for your photos. 

How to Go to Coron, Palawan

Barracude Lake, Coron, PalawanAerial view of Barracuda Lake in Coron.

There are flights to Coron from Manila and Cebu multiple times a day via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and AirAsia. Note that the airport is in Busuanga; once you arrive, you will see shuttle vans outside the airport taking passengers to Coron town proper.

Let the driver know where you're staying so he can drop you off if the hotel is right by the highway. Alternatively, if you have a big group, you might want to book an airport pick-up service online or via your hotel.



Coron Hotels and Other Accommodation

Coron has a range of accommodation options depending on your budget and interest. There are backpacker hostels, boutique hotels, kid-friendly, romantic, and business hotels scattered in and around Coron town. The cheap backpacker hostels can be found downtown, with beds costing Php 500 and up.

There are also mid-range hotels in town (Php 1,500 up), while a lot of the high-end luxury resorts (with spas, swimming pools, and other luxurious amenities) are located a bit further for privacy. 

Other Things to Do in Coron

While island hopping in Coron is the best thing you can do there, another very popular activity is wreck diving.

There is a very good reason why Coron is one of the best diving destinations in the country, and it has something to do with the Japanese shipwrecks that plenty of marine life now call home. Snorkeling is also highly recommended, as well as hiking and soaking in a hot spring.



El Nido (Palawan)      

Secret Lagoon, El Nido

El Nido has turned from a small, idyllic village to a bustling tourist destination. This is where you can arrange island hopping tours around the area, and you can do one tour a day or combine some during your trip.

El Nido Tour A includes going to the Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Seven Commandos Beach, and Shimizu Island. These stops provide you with a bit of everything El Nido has to offer, like towering limestone formations, lagoons with crystal clear waters, and of course, powdery white sand. This is a popular day tour for those who only have a full day to explore.

Tour B covers Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave, and Entalula Island. These destinations have talcum powder-like sand and waters so clear you can’t tell how deep it is. Pinagbuyutan Island offers some of the best snorkeling, too, with its vibrant and colorful corals near the shore.

Snake Island, El Nido, PalawanSnake Island in El Nido.

Tour C makes stops at Star, Hidden, and Secret Beaches; Matinloc Shrine; and Helicopter Island; this trip takes longer because of the distance the boat needs to cover. However, the long wait is worth it as the beaches are pristine, the limestone formations spectacular, and the photo opportunities are aplenty.

Tour D isn’t in the usual circuit of tourists which is the reason many operators don’t offer this often. However, you can charter a boat to visit its destinations such as Bukal Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Natnat Beach, and Paradise Beach.

If you go early enough, there might be no one else visiting. Paradise Beach fits the description "tropical paradise" perfectly, while Cadlao Lagoon is the ideal place to swim around because of its clear waters and raw beauty.

As with Coron, traveling solo isn’t a problem when visiting the beautiful beaches of El Nido as you can easily join any of the tours scheduled daily.

Dilumacad Island, El Nido, PalawanDilumacad Island (aka Helicopter Island) in El Nido,

How to Go to El Nido

Most visitors arrive in El Nido via Puerto Princesa. There are multiple flights daily to Puerto Princesa, and several vans and buses leaving for El Nido the same day. It's a 5-6 hour trip so it can be grueling. A better alternative, although definitely pricier, is to take a direct flight from Manila to El Nido via AirSwift.

If you’re coming from Coron, another option is to go to El Nido via ferry (Bunso Transport), fast craft, or cargo ship. Duration of the trip ranges from 3.5 hours (fast craft, Montenegro Lines) to 8 hours (cargo, Atienza Shipping Lines).

Note that there are no food stuff for sale on board, so bring all food and drinks, and whatever gadgets you need to pass the time. Bring some motion sickness tablets, too. You'll need it if the weather gets rough!

Like Coron, El Nido has a variety of accommodation options as well, ranging from backpacker types (Swinging Carabao Hostel, Php 247/night) to ultra luxury (Cauayan Island Resort, Php 26,000/night), and lots in between.

Other Things to Do in El Nido

Island hopping is definitely the best thing you can do in El Nido. There are tours daily going to different islands, islets, and cave systems. If you want to maximize your day, it's best to rent the whole boat and agree on an itinerary with the boatman.



 

Cebu Island Hopping       

Malapascua Island, Cebu\

Visayas has many provinces and islands that are worth a visit, and one of the most popular tourist destinations when it comes to islands is definitely Cebu. It is blessed with white sand beaches, a colorful underwater ecosystem, and accessible destinations whether you take public or private transportation. 

In northern Cebu, you can go island hopping in Camotes, Bantayan, or Malapascua. When you go to the south, you can stay in Moalboal for the sardine run and then go to Pescador Island. Tour operators offer a day trip, too, from Cebu City to Moalboal and Pescador. 

Another option from Cebu City is to do an island hopping trip from Mactan. This is best for those visiting the Queen City of the South but are pressed for time. Common stops include the islands of Olango, Pandanon, Nalusuan, and Hilutungan.

Trips often begin at Hilutungan Island, since it is the nearest from the mainland (accessible within 30 minutes) and is a protected area. Hilutungan is Cebu's oldest marine sanctuary, too; it is excellent for snorkeling and diving because of the rich diversity of its marine life. Keep on the lookout for schools of giant trevally and a lot of batfish!

Blessed with hectares of mangroves and mudflats, Olango Island is great for bird watching. It is one of the stops for migratory birds coming from Siberia and China, including some endangered species. Commonly seen here are egrets, herons, terns, kingfishers, fly-eaters, and totlers, among others.

Birds can reach more than 40,000 during peak season, which is between November and May. Be sure to drop by at sunrise or sunset for best chances of seeing them, as they come out to feed during these hours. 

How to Go to Cebu

Moalboal, Cebu

The easiest way to get to Cebu is to fly there. All local carriers such as Philippine Airlines have multiple flights to Cebu daily, and flying time is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Manila. You can also land at Mactan International Airport from other local airports. As a major hub for domestic and international flights, you can generally find a flight to Cebu from most airports in the Philippines. 

You can also get to Cebu by sea, though it’s not generally advisable unless you have a lot of time. Cebu has a bustling port complex, and you can get fast ferries from Manila, Bohol, Leyte, and Negros.  



Cebu Hotels and Resorts

Like any major city, there's a range of accommodation options in Cebu City. Most luxury resorts are concentrated in Mactan, although some nice resorts can also be found in Malapascua, Moalboal, and Bantayan. Budget travelers and backpackers won't run out of places to stay whether in Cebu City or on the outlying islands of Cebu province.

Other Things to Do in Cebu

There are so many things you can do in Cebu aside from island hopping, snorkeling, and diving. You can go on a food tour in Carcar and find out why Anthony Bourdain loved their lechon so much. You can visit historic places; after all, Cebu was where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot over 300 years ago.

For adventure lovers, Cebu doesn't lack things to do as well. There's canyoneering in Badian, freediving with millions of sardines in Moalboal, and hiking the beautiful Osmeña Peak in Dalaguete.



Boracay Island      

Boracay Island. Photo by Solitary Wanderer

Often cited as one of the best islands in the Philippines, Boracay underwent rehabilitation recently. Just like many destinations in the Visayas region, island hopping in Boracay is a popular tourist activity. 

After a relaxing day on the fine, white sandy beaches of Station 1, get on a boat and explore nearby attractions such as Magic Island, Ariel’s Point, Puka Beach, and Crocodile Island, among others. You don’t have to worry about finding a tour to join, many operators offer island hopping tours.

When booking a tour, it's highly recommended to get a private one as you can customize your trip to exclude or include certain destinations. This is ideal for small or large groups who want to save money and stay longer in some spots.

Boracay Island

Some activities in Boracay to try when hopping from one island to the next include snorkeling, cliff diving up to 10 meters or more (for the courageous), swimming, or just enjoying each other’s company.

After a day’s worth of hopping between islands, Boracay has plenty to offer in terms of dining out and entertainment. There are a number of restaurants, bars, and shops that cater to various budgets.

Before leaving, don’t forget to watch the iconic sunset on the island, which is one of the best sunsets in the country.



Siargao Island      

Sugba Lagoon, Siargao

Siargao shot to fame when international surfers discovered its barrel-shaped waves, considered one of the best in the world, in General Luna. They dubbed the place Cloud 9, and it has since become the place for surfers to test their mettle, improve their skill, or compete against some of the best in the sport. 

However, surfing isn’t the only activity you can do during your stay in Siargao. Island hopping is a viable alternative when the sea is flat. Itineraries often include Naked, Daku, and Guyam islands.

Naked Island got its name because there are no structures or vegetation on it. It’s just a patch of fine white sand in the middle of the sea. You can spend an hour or so here beach bumming or wading in the clear waters.

Daku Island is the biggest of the three (“daku” is their local word for “big”) and also has huts for rent. The long stretch of powdery, white sand and the swaying trees make for an idyllic backdrop for those who want a relaxing half day trip. Bring some snacks and have a picnic, but always leave no trace behind. 

Naked Island, Siargao

Guyam is a small island that is picturesque with its emerald-colored waters, a few trees, and powdery sand. The waters are shallow, making it easy to wade or swim around.  



Bohol Island      

Balicasg Island, Bohol

Bohol is another destination where you can enjoy island hopping in the Philippines. The tour often includes dolphin watching (if you’re lucky, you’ll see more than one), and stops at Balicasag Island and Virgin Island. 

Balicasag is an excellent place to snorkel (and dive!) because of its vibrant underwater ecosystem. You’ll see a variety of corals that come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Take note, though, that you have to pay extra to go snorkeling as this is an additional fee that most operators don’t include in the initial payment. 

Virgin Island is a long sandbar where you can relax, unwind, and wade in the shallow waters. It’s not so "virgin" anymore because of the construction currently ongoing (part of it is privately owned). There will be vendors there selling fresh sea urchin; have some for less than a dollar!

Going To and Getting Around Bohol

From Manila, it's best to fly to Bohol. Local carriers such as AirAsia have multiple flights in a day, and rates are competitive. There are several ferries coming from and going to Cebu, Negros, and other neighboring ports.

When in Bohol, you can rent a van to take you around the countryside, rent and drive your own motorcycle, or even explore with a bicycle. There are several tour operators offering mountain bike rentals and even guided mountain bike tours around Bohol.

Where to Stay in Bohol

Bohol has a range of accommodations catering to different types of travelers. There are luxury resorts concentrated mostly on Panglao Island and the capital Tagbilaran City. 

Backpackers have lots of budget-friendly options around Panglao, as well as family-owned homestays and inns.

Loboc River, Bohol

Other Things to Do in Bohol

Most tourists do a one-day countryside tour of Bohol aside from island hopping. Tours already include transportation and entrance fees and would cover historical sites and churches like the Blood Compact Site, Baclayon Church, Tarsier Sanctuary, Loboc River, Bilar Man-made Forest, and Chocolate Hills, among others. 

For the more adventurous travelers wanting to spend a day at an adventure park, the Danao Adventure Park in Danao is highly recommended. You can go caving, ziplining, rappelling, kayaking, root climbing, and best of all, do a canyon swing which is similar to bungee jumping.

In Loboc, where you can go cruising in the river, you can also go on SUP (stand up paddleboard) tours and guided mountain bike rides.



Hundred Islands National Park (Pangasinan)      

Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan

Around a five-hour drive from Manila is one of the best island-hopping experiences in the country. This is where you’ll find the Hundred Islands National Park, a protected area and the Philippines’ first national park comprising 124 islands and islets off Alaminos, Pangasinan.

While it would be most convenient to have private transport going to Hundred Islands, it is also accessible via public transport. There are regular buses that travel from Manila to Alaminos. 

Once in the park, you have the option to do just a day trip or spend the night on one of the islands. The latter option requires you to pay more for boat rental and entrance fees. For example, renting a boat for up to 5 persons is only Php 800; however, if you want to stay overnight, you will need to pay Php 1,400.

There are two kinds of boat tours to Hundred Islands. The regular tour takes you to three islands (Quezon, Children's, and Governor's Islands) for Php 800 per person while a service boat tour costs Php 1,400 per person and will take you to other islands. 

Some recommended ones include Marcos Island where you can jump 20-30 feet into a cave, Martha and Ramos Island, Hernandez Island, and Turtle Island, among others. Note that you should bring your own food and drinks; there are no restaurants on the islands. Just make sure to leave no trace behind and bring back all your trash with you. Afterwards, you can check more tours in Pangasinan.

Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan

How to Go to Alaminos, Pangasinan 

You can get to the Hundred Islands National Park via Alaminos City. Five Star Bus, Victory Liner, Solid North Bus, Dagupan Bus, and Philippine Rabbit have a number of trips daily to Alaminos from Manila and Quezon City. It takes approximately five hours to get to Alaminos. Alternatively, you can also rent a car in Manila and drive there yourself.

Once in the terminal in Alaminos, head to the Tourism Office located in Lucap Wharf, which is also where you'll leave for the islands. If you're commuting, take a tricycle. They charge Php 15 per person (which will only leave when it's full) or Php 100 for a private trip (leaving immediately). 

Register at the Tourism Information Center plus pay all the fees -- entrance, environmental fee, insurance, boat rental, plus camping fee and tent rental if you're planning to stay overnight there.

Where to Stay and Other Things to Do in the Hundred Islands

If you want to stay overnight, there are some accommodations available on Governor’s Island. Camping on some islands is also allowed; just make sure to pay the camping fee before leaving Alaminos, and rent a tent if you didn't bring any. 

You can also choose to go back at the end of the day to stay in Alaminos city proper. There's a range of accommodations available depending on your budget; some affordable guesthouses are located near the Lucap Wharf.

Aside from island hopping, there are many other things you can do in Hundred Islands. You can go snorkeling (ask the boatmen for snorkeling gears for rent), helmet diving, kayaking, cliff jumping (Marcos Island), ziplining, rappelling, and parasailing. There are other fun water sports, too, like banana boat riding and jet skiing.

These are some of the best islands in the Philippines where you can do multiple island-hopping trips. You’ll see fine, white sand beaches that are sometimes deserted, towering limestone formations, developed tourism facilities for a comfortable stay (though in some places you can rough it out), delicious food during the activity, and friendly guides that can tell you what you need to know about the place.

Plan your trip to any of these island hopping destinations in the Philippines. Learn more about what island hopping tours you can add to your itinerary when exploring over 7000 islands in the Philippines.