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Travelers kayaking in El Nido, Palawan's Small Lagoon

7 Most Beautiful Islands in the Philippines: Palawan, Boracay, Siargao, Cebu

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Top view seascape of Guyam Island in Siargao, Philippines

IMPORTANT: The destinations and islands featured in this article may have COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements. Check our COVID-19 travel advisory page for details.

 

Discover the Philippines' most beautiful islands and find out why they get recognition for being the best in the world. Find out what island you should explore first from over 7000 islands to choose from in this guide.

As an archipelago, the Philippines is 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 island 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, including Palawan. Meanwhile, Mindanao's emerging top island destination is Siargao

If you’re visiting the country soon, check out this guide to the best islands in the Philippines and learn why they're a must-visit. 

7. Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan

Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan, Philippines

Pangasinan on the western side of Luzon is a travel-worthy destination in the Philippines because of its scenic islands, beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls, verdant hills, and many more.

One of its most popular attractions is called the Hundred Islands National Park, a protected area and the Philippines’ first national park. An island-hopping trip around the Hundred Islands National Park will give you access to some of the 124 islands and islets off Alaminos, Pangasinan. 

Some recommended islands to visit include Marcos Island where you can jump 20-30 feet into a cave, Martha and Ramos Island, Hernandez Island, and Turtle Island. 

You can avail of an island-hopping experience that includes lunch since there are no restaurants on the islands. Just make sure to leave no trace behind and bring back all your trash with you.

Aside from lounging on the white sand and swimming during your island hopping trip, you can also go snorkeling, helmet diving, kayaking, cliff jumping in Marcos Island, ziplining, rappelling, and parasailing. There are other fun water sports, too, like banana boat riding and jet skiing.

While you're in Pangasinan, spend an additional day or two to explore more of the province. Some activities in Pangasinan include the pilgrimage excursion where you can visit old churches and go on a food trip.

6. Bohol

Aerial view of Balicasag Island in Bohol, Philippines

Bohol in the Visayas is one of the must-visit Philippine destinations for beach lovers, nature lovers, and divers. The main island of Bohol gives you access to more than 75 islands and islets such as Panglao Island, Balicasag Island, and Virgin Island. 

Bohol is home to both natural and man-made wonders. A must-do here is the countryside tour where you can visit the top attractions in Bohol and Panglao Island.

Visit the majestic Chocolate Hills that has been hailed as the country's third National Geological Monument, Tarsier Sanctuary, where you can see the smallest primate and the Bilar Manmade Forest filled with mahogany trees.

One of the highlights of the countryside trips in Bohol is the Loboc River lunch buffet cruise tour. You can also do the Loboc River Ecotourism experience to try paddleboarding and ride mountain bikes.

Aerial shot of Alona Beach in Panglao, BoholPanglao Island's most famous attraction is Alona Beach, one of the best beaches in the Philippines. Some of the best resorts and hotels in Bohol are lined up or near Panglao Island's Alona Beach. 

The Balicasag Island experience is an excellent opportunity to snorkel or dive because of the island's vibrant underwater ecosystem. You’ll see a variety of corals that come in different shapes, colors, and sizes.  

Virgin Island is a long sandbar where you can relax, unwind, and wade in the shallow waters. There are vendors there selling fresh sea urchins; have some for less than a dollar!

For the more adventurous travelers,  visit the Danao Adventure Park. You can go caving, ziplining, rappelling, kayaking, root climbing, and best of all, do a canyon swing similar to bungee jumping.



5. Siargao 

Ocean viewpoint at Cloud 9 surf point in General Luna, Siargao Island

Siargao, a tear-dropped island at the northeastern tip of Mindanao, is best known for being the Philippines' surfing capital.

Local and international publications often hail this tropical paradise as one of the best islands in the world. It has stunning islands, powdery white sand beaches, natural lagoon pools, and a gorgeous mangrove forest reserve, to name a few. 

The island of Siargao shot to fame when international surfers discovered its barrel-shaped waves, considered one of the world's best 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 in Siargao isn’t the only activity you can do during your stay. Experiencing island-hopping in Siargao is also a must where you will be taken to Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island.

Aerial view of the Naked Island in Siargao, Philippines

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 trip. Bring some snacks and have a picnic, but always leave no trace behind. 

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.

There are plenty of other activities and attractions in Siargao aside from surfing and island-hopping. You can rent a van, tricycle or drive your own motorcycle to visit the palm-tree-lined roads of Siargao, the Magpupungko Rock Pools, Sugba Lagoon, Sohoton Cove, or plunge into the Maasin River with the tire swing.

4. Boracay

Aerial seaview during sunset in Boracay, Philippines

Boracay has always been on the top of the list when it comes to the best islands in the world. It has been hailed as one of the best islands in Asia and the world by international travel publications throughout the years.

This island in the Visayas is blessed with white sandy beaches, idyllic islands, and stunning views. These are just some of the reasons why Boracay is a tropical paradise and a tourist favorite. 

There are a lot of water sports you can do here, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, paraw sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and many more. Like many destinations in the Visayas region, island hopping in Boracay is one of the most popular activities. 

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 can join tours in Boracay for the full experience. 

When booking activities, 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 stay longer in some spots.

Sailboat during sunset in Boracay, Philippines

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

One must-try is the Boracay Pubcrawl experience, where you hop around different bars in just one night. Don’t forget to watch the iconic sunset on the island, one of the country's best sunsets before leaving.

3. Cebu

Top view of Malapascua, Cebu

Cebu in the Visayas is blessed with pristine islands, white sand beaches, diving spots with colorful underwater ecosystems, and historical and picturesque land attractions.

It's one of the most popular island destinations in the Philippines and is often included in the world's best islands. Cebu also has its own international airport that services direct flights from different countries. 

In northern Cebu, you can go island-hopping in Camotes Island, Bantayan Island, or Malapascua. When you go to the south, you can travel to Moalboal to experience the sardine run, join the adrenaline-pumping canyoneering tours to Kawasan Falls, or hike Osmeña Peak

Island-hopping in Mactan is a good option if you have limited time since it's the nearest to the airport. Common stops include a trip to Nalusuan Island and Hilutungan Island, Olango Island, and Pandanon Island. 

Trips often begin at Hilutungan Island since it is the nearest to the mainland and is a protected area. Hilutungan is Cebu's oldest marine sanctuary. 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 from Siberia and China, including some endangered species. Commonly seen here are egrets, herons, terns, kingfishers, fly-eaters, and totlers.

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 the best chances of seeing them, as they come out to feed during these hours. 

Diver swimming with millions of sardines in Moalboal, Cebu

You can do so many things in Cebu aside from island hopping trips, snorkeling, and diving. You can also go on a food crawl at Carcar and find out why Anthony Bourdain loved their Cebu lechon (roasted pig) so much.

You can also visit historic places; after all, Cebu was where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first set foot in the Philippines 300 years ago.

2. El Nido, Palawan

Top view of El Nido, Palawan's limestone karst and turquoise waters

El Nido in Bacuit Bay, Palawan, west of Luzon, has 45 unspoiled islands and islets, proving its well-deserved title given by Forbes as heaven on earth.

El Nido’s pristine islands, each more breathtaking than the next, offer various water activities such as island-hopping, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and more. 

The famous El Nido Island Hopping tours A, B, C, and D have been updated. There are now seven tours to choose from, including three luxury tours to the most popular destinations each with its own booking system called The 7 Wonders of El Nido. You can choose either a morning or afternoon trip, with three different locations you can enjoy exploring. You can spend up to an hour and a half at each destination. Combination tours are no longer permitted, so tourists are required to visit only the destinations included on a given tour.

El Nido has a lot to offer, like towering limestone formations, lagoons with crystal clear waters, and of course, powdery white sand. Some of Its top attractions include Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Seven Commandos Beach, Snake Island, and Secret Lagoon.

The Big Lagoon has become well-known as one of El Nido’s most beautiful attractions. Its aquamarine waters and the beam of light peeking through the top of its calcareous rock formations are some of the sights you’ll see when entering the Big Lagoon. The Small Lagoon, on the other hand, is also popular for its serene body of water with high cliffs. It’s a great site for swimming and kayaking.

Seven Commandos Beach is a stunning attraction situated below breathtaking cliffs made of limestones. Swimming and snorkeling are some of the enjoyable things to do here. Snake Island, famous for its three-kilometer-long S-shaped sandbar, connects mainland Palawan to the islet. It is best visited at low tide, when the unique sandbar is most visible.

The Secret Lagoon is a tiny and secluded spot concealed in steep cliffs. Even though the entry to the lagoon seems difficult, the views are worth it. It is located on the southern part of MinIloc Island, a well-known tourist attraction partially sheltered by towering limestone walls and has an abundant coral reef.

Aside from island-hopping, you can also explore the mainland of El Nido like joining day trips to Nacpan Beach, climb the Taraw Cliff, or eat seafood at the restaurants by the beach.



1. Coron, Palawan   

Top view of Twin Lagoon in Coron, Palawan

Coron, located at the northern tip of Palawan, tops the list of most publication's picks for the world's best islands. Its stunning islands, idyllic beaches, crystal-clear freshwater lakes, and out-of-this-world shipwreck diving sites are just some of the many reasons why it's a must-visit. 

A shared island-hopping adventure in Coron usually has a fixed itinerary. Some destinations you will be visiting are Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, and the Twin Lagoon.

Kayangan Lake, the top attraction in Coron, is one of the cleanest water bodies in the Philippines. It's a mix of fresh and saltwater that offers the coolest and most refreshing swim. The water in Kayangan Lake is so clear you can’t tell how deep it goes until you make it to the bottom. 

Twin Lagoon is another thing of beauty thanks to the towering limestone formations flank and sky-blue waters. You can ride a kayak or swim under the passage to get in.

Other stops included in a Coron day trip 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 various fish and corals.

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



While island-hopping in Coron is the popular thing you can do there, another highly-recommended activity is the shipwreck diving. 

Coron is one of the best diving destinations in the Philippines because of the war-time Japanese shipwrecks in its waters that plenty of marine life calls home.

Snorkeling is also highly recommended, as well as hiking and soaking in a hot spring.



Plan Your Trip to The Best Islands of the Philippines

Travelers kayaking in El Nido, Palawan's Small Lagoon

Unspoiled fine white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, incredible underwater sights, and towering limestone formations await you in the best islands of the Philippines! Delicious food and friendly locals will also make the experience more memorable. 

Find island-hopping adventures that you can add to your itinerary when exploring over 7000 islands in the Philippines.