The Philippines is made up of thousands of islands (7,641 to be exact). With idyllic beach towns peppered with culture and history, I’m lucky enough to have visited some of the islands that are known all over the world.
From remote landscapes to picturesque beaches, here are the best islands in the Philippines that I’ve been to so far.
Batanes tops my list of the best islands in the Philippines, and it’s easy to see why. The island is untouched, with lush landscapes greeting you from the skies right before you land at the airport. I have never been anywhere with air as fresh as on the island. You can actually smell the trees everywhere you go.
Apart from exploring the lighthouses and rolling hills in North and South Batan, there’s the heavenly Sabtang Island, offering white-sand beaches, picturesque cliffside views, and heritage sites with centuries worth of history. Sabtang Island is a 30 to 45-minute boat ride from Ivana Port in South Batan.
The locals are friendly and modest, making it easy to immerse yourself in the culture. Leave your revealing summer outfits back home because they are highly conservative. The seafood is fresh yet cheap, especially the lobsters, yet I can eat it every day.
If you want to try authentic Ivatan cuisine, visit Vunong Dinette in North Batan. This is the only restaurant on the island serving Ivatan dishes cooked the traditional way. Try the Vunong, which is comprised of turmeric rice, Ivatan bistek, luñis, uvud, and of course, tanige (mackerel) properly wrapped in kabaya (breadfruit tree leaf).
It’s hard to find a reception here so this is the place to hide if you want to disconnect from the world for a couple of days (or weeks). Don’t expect any wi-fi connection. There is no nightlife, no skyscrapers—you’re free to enjoy the beach at night staring at the moon. I stayed in Villa Hontomin, which is right across the beach and offers some of the best sunset viewing spots on the island.
I highly recommend local tours. It really feels different when you have a local guide to show you the history and culture of each place you’ll visit, compared to you merely hopping from one spot to another.
The only downside is that Batanes experiences the worst typhoons in the country. But when I spoke with the locals, they said it’s been a part of their culture and that they have gotten used to it. There’s a reason the Ivatans (locals) are known for their resilience.
Overall, Batanes is a must for your Philippine travel bucket list as this is the northernmost part of the country.
I went to Siargao as a solo traveler, and personally, I wouldn’t recommend it for introverts like me (unless you’re up for the challenge). Tourists and locals alike on this island are either couples or solo travelers looking to mingle. This is where I first experienced staying at a hostel (Lampara Siargao), signing up for a joiners tour, and well, actually befriending people.
As with any other Philippine travel, island-hopping is a must in Siargao. The most popular tour would be the Three Islands, namely Guyam, Naked, and Daku. This can be visited on a half-day tour, so some also pair it with Corregidor Island for some light trekking experience.
For more water activities, hop on a 2-hour boat ride to Sohoton Cove in Bucas Grande Island. It is not ideal for kids or older adults who get seasick easily as the waters can be rough. While there, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Jellyfish Sanctuary, where you can go on a small kayak and touch ball-sized jellyfish, and marvel at the stunning luminescent waters inside Hagukan Cave.
Meanwhile, Cloud 9 in General Luna is the prime surfing spot, with a lot of instructors roaming around the beach. It is also known for hosting the annual Surfing Cup, which takes place every October. Don’t forget to grab a refreshing smoothie bowl from Shaka, only a few steps away from the surfing area.
One of my favorite restaurants in Siargao is Greenhouse Cafe, especially their Same Same, But Different paired with Coconut Cold Brew. Kermit is also another well-liked restaurant for its pizza offerings, but I wasn’t in the mood for it with the beach around me.
As for the nightlife, the island is not as developed as Boracay, but it’s also well, wild. I attended one and left before it even started, which was already midnight. There is a “main party” happening every night that is passed on mostly through word of mouth. I’m not entirely sure where the information comes from but people just flock into the chosen venue for the night.
Siargao honestly reminded me of Bali because of the tourists and the beach life and going around in your swimsuit on a motorcycle.
(And although I enjoyed being around people for once, it honestly would have been a more peaceful experience if I knew how to ride a motorcycle.)
One of the best islands in the Philippines, Palawan has three beautiful destinations—Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and Coron. El Nido is around 4 hours away by land from Puerto Princesa, while Coron is only accessible by plane. I’ve only been to Puerto Princesa (for now).
Island-hopping in Honda Bay is definitely the highlight of my Puerto Princesa trip. It’s best to visit early in the morning so you can watch the sunrise and enjoy a quiet time. Palawan is also known for the Underground River located in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
For food souvenirs, Baker’s Hill is a must. I really loved their chocolate crinkle cookies! There are also small restaurants offering crocodile sisig—if you’re into exotic food. They say it tastes like pork (I wouldn’t know).
There are plenty of bars lined up along the town proper if you’re looking for a night out. I wasn’t able to check the nightlife as I last visited in 2015 so there might have been new spots here and there since. Out of all the restaurants I’ve tried, Kinabuch Grill & Bar might be the best, enough for a cozy and intimate night out. Their sisig paired with beer is a must.
I was (kind of) lucky to have been to Camiguin right before the lockdown. It’s one of the most underrated islands in the Philippines so it’s a great destination if you want to go off-the-beaten-path. It offers both hiking and snorkeling opportunities.
Perhaps the most popular site in Camiguin is the Sunken Cemetery, which holds a rather haunting history. Underneath the big cross is a small village with a cemetery that sunk during the volcanic birth of Mt. Vulcan in the 1870s, burying alive those who lived in it. There are snorkeling opportunities to see the ruins (I didn’t dare to try).
For more snorkeling, I highly recommend the Giant Clams Sanctuary. Fun fact: you’ll see 7 out of 11 types of clams in the whole world.
For a pristine white sand beach, visit White Island, a long stretch of sand just 10 minutes off the northern coast. There is literally no shade here, but there are big umbrellas for rent that you can set up as soon as you set foot on the island. Pack some food if you plan to stay the whole day.
Meanwhile, Mantigue Island is a more developed island, although you need to be very flexible with your schedule as they typically cancel any boat trips if the weather is not good. There is a small restaurant on the island that serves fresh seafood.
Camiguin is still quite remote so there’s no high-end restaurant or hotel here. For couples, perhaps the best hotel option is Bintana sa Paraiso. It’s not a 5-star hotel but the decor and amenities are premium, including extra touches like Frette robes.
I stayed in their Binunsaran location and was able to try both the Glamping and TikiHut rooms. It was so peaceful, and the staff was genuinely friendly. As the location is quite remote (as in high up the mountains), you won’t have any other choice but to eat at their in-house restaurant especially if you’re not out for the day. They do serve up great food and refreshing cocktails (even wine and champagne).
It’s no surprise that Boracay has been regarded as the best island in the Philippines, with its white-sand beaches and high-end resorts brimming with amazing nightlife. These world-renowned beaches include White Beach and Puka Beach.
For nightlife, the most sought-after spot is Epic Boracay, a restaurant serving mouthwatering dishes all day that turns into a club once the clock strikes 10. It has the same owners as Manila’s hottest clubs like The Island, Valkyrie, Xylo, and Revel so you know you’re up for a good time.
If Epic’s savory dishes are not enough, though, other noteworthy restaurants include Nonie’s, Steampunk Burgers, and Los Indios Bravos.
I haven’t visited since Boracay re-opened after the rehabilitation project but I’ve heard the island has been better since. While it is solo traveler-friendly, I personally think it’s better to visit with friends (or family).
There are still a lot of beautiful islands in the Philippines that I haven’t been to. I’ll be sure to update this list when I do—I seriously cannot wait for the world to be normal again!
Which of these best islands in the Philippines have you been to and which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Philippine travel in the comments below.
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