Summer days are upon us and for most of us summer-loving juanderkids, summer means one thing: the beach! To say the Philippines has no dearth of impressively beautiful beaches is an understatement. Ride a banca and you’d go crazy choosing among the innumerable beaches that make our country the island destination in Asia. There is definitely a beach for every juan!
Here are ten of these beach destinations (as they appear on my list and ranked according to the unique experience and convenience they offer). Prepare your bikinis and boardshorts and be ready to be sun-kissed. 🙂
10. Guimaras. The good thing about Guimaras is that it is just next to Iloilo City, where you probably just eat the entire time you’re there. So the moment you crave for a relaxing afternoon by the beach after a heavy lunch that includes grilled managat (red snapper) and kansi (Iloilo’s version of bulalo), head to Guimaras. The island of Guimaras is easygoing and provincial. You can actually say nothing is really special about its beaches, but the fact that you can have the world’s sweetest mango as you read your favorite book by the beach, makes Guimaras a sweet retreat.
The province attracts all kinds of tourists – from college barkadas to honeymooners.
9. La Union. If you’ve been to some of the country’s finest beaches, La Union might bore you. But people go here not really to swim, but to hit the waves. Popular among surfers who value proximity from the city, La Union attracts both the laidback crowd who wants to try their hands (make that feet) on surfing and the more adventurous travelers who know the waves like the palms of their hands. Surfing lessons are offered for a minimal fee and surfboards can be rented for hours.
La Union’s waves are perfect for surfing beginners. Get some lessons from locals who have been riding the waves since they were seven!
8. Masbate. The province is not yet popular among travelers, but Masbate has some interesting rugged beaches that are waiting to be explored. Most of the tourists who go to Masbate dive with the manta rays in Ticao Island, but there’s more to the province than just diving. Limestone formations that remind you of Palawan, a waterfall that runs directly to the sea, and a rural coastal appeal make Masbate an emerging summer destination.
Unique rock formations make for a very interesting playground.
7. Anawangin Cove. Talks of it losing its charm and being overly commercialized have been making the rounds lately, but still, Anawangin Cove in Zambales provides the much-needed summer break for those who want an easy, inexpensive escape from the city. Pundaquit, the jump-off point for Anawangin, is just five hours from Manila and the rate for boat rentals that include side trips to nearby islands Camara and Capones goes from PhP1,000 to PhP3,000 (depending on how big your group is). The presence of tall pine trees in the area sets Anawangin apart from the usual beach destinations. Bring your tents with you if you want to stay overnight as no resorts are to be found here.
A short distance from the cove is Capones Island, famous for its century-old lighthouse. The view as you climb to the lighthouse is an unforgettable treat.
6. Puerto Princesa. There is a reason why Palawan is referred to as the country’s Last Frontier and you get a taste of that in Puerto Princesa, its capital city. Although it can get really crowded and touristy (what with all the arranged tours to see the different islands), the beaches of Puerto Princesa is a worthy prelude to what awaits you in El Nido, in Northern Palawan. Island-hopping tours that bring you to Snake, Starfish, and Pandan Islands can be arranged at your hotels and lunch that includes only the freshest seafood can be had in one of the islands (most of the time in tourist-jampacked Snake Island).
Do not be overwhelmed by the number of people who flock to Puerto Princesa as you can almost always find a spot for you and your friends away from the madding crowd. The far end of Snake Island, for example, makes for a momentary escape while a little walk towards where the mangroves are also offers a welcome respite from the big crowd.
5. Bohol. If you do not like Boracay’s crowd but long for the kind of convenience it offers, Bohol is for you. Panglao Island in Bohol hosts different beaches that you can choose from, the most famous being Alona Beach, the island’s little version of Boracay. Come dusk, restaurants that serve different cuisine line up the beach. Don’t stay up late though, as the dolphin-watching and island-hopping tours start really early at 5am. Do not skip snorkeling in Balicasag Island, it’s a marine sanctuary that’s truly a feast to the eyes! If it’s starfish that amazes you, you will never run out of them in the nearby Virgin Island, a long stretch of fine white sand that disappears when it’s high tide.
The best place though for a relaxing day is Bohol Beach Club. Its powdery sand is reminiscent of Boracay’s, but here, you enjoy the solitude that has become so elusive in the Philippines’ most famous beach.
4. Caramoan. Thousands and thousands of Swedish, Israeli, Serbian, and French nationals have already seen the rough mountains and beaches of Caramoan (albeit only on their television sets), so do not miss this island destination when you go on a Bicol journey this summer. Thanks to several international franchises of the reality television series Survivor that used Caramoan as its backdrop (the latest buzz is that Survivor USA is shooting on the island), the once-obscure and hardly heard of islands of this town got to public attention. The trip to the Caramoan is long and tiring, but it is definitely worth it. Not too many lodging houses are found in the area, but if you want an experience ala Survivor, you can arrange to spend the night in one of the islands.
Some of the islands are closed to the public when a Survivor shoot is happening, but if you’re lucky, you can actually try on some of the show’s challenges that can still be found in the area.
3. Boracay. No matter how much Boracay is getting commercialized at a rapid scale, it’s still one of the country’s best beaches. Its sunset, the feel of the finest sand between your toes, the undeniable vibrancy of the dining scene, the warm hospitality of the locals, the tireless partying, its to-die-for fruit shakes, and the fairy tale-like weddings (among others), can sure make you feel that once on this island, you can be carefree and giddy-happy as a kid. And it doesn’t hurt that this year, Boracay has been voted world’s second best beach (and Asia’s best!) by travel website TripAdvisor.
Puka Beach is as stunning as the White Beach, minus the crowd.
2. El Nido. With more than 45 islands to choose from, this is Palawan (and possibly Philippines) at its finest! Whenever I talk with foreign travelers, I tell them with excitement to visit Palawan. When speaking about the country’s Last Frontier, it is almost always that I end the conversation with “I tell you, you’re gonna fall in love with El Nido.” Because everyone who had been to these fascinating islands did. El Nido’s beaches were said to have been the inspiration behind Alex Garland’s The Beach and just recently, the film franchise The Bourne Legacy had also just wrapped filming there. You can choose among the three different island-hopping tours (and there could be more when the weather permits), one of which takes you to a secret beach and lagoons. Stay for at least four days to experience what these amazing islands can do to your soul.
Whatever it is that you are looking for in a beach, you are bound to find your soulmate here.
1. Calaguas. A jaw-dropping beauty like this can’t be kept a secret for too long. Calaguas is the kind of paradise you want to just keep to yourself lest you want it to be the next tourist-infested Anawangin or highly-exploited Boracay. The trip to Calaguas can be tiring, but it’s nothing once you have seen its crystal clear water that changes into four different hues of blue throughout the day. When I went to Calaguas’ Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) for the first time in 2010, I was so taken by its beauty that I had to come back after eight days. The second visit did not disappoint. The other side of the island evokes a different enchanting vibe while not too far from it are rolling hills that remind you of Batanes. Calaguas is the kind of destination that makes summer an easy breezy walk in the park and one that gets everybody asking you, “Where on earth did you just go!?”
This is Boracay thirty years ago.
The sun is out and the beach is calling. Let’s make some summer lovin’!
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 🙂
- Watch out for full accounts on these beach destinations. Happy summer mapping!
- Except for the Guimaras, Caramoan, and Puerto Princesa photos, all other photographs were taken with a Sony T90 camera. Guimaras photos were taken on January 2012 with a Canon 550d and Nikon d300; La Union, Masbate, and Anawangin photos were taken on April 2010; Puerto Princesa photos were taken on May 2011 with a Canon 550d; Bohol photos were taken on February 2010; Boracay photos were taken on November 2011 with a Canon 550d and on October 2009 with a Sony T90, respectively; El Nido photos were taken on October 2010; Calaguas photos taken on May 2010.
- Caramoan photographs were used with permission from R. Labitag, whose friend took the photographs on April 2011.
- Featured image shows Calaguas, taken on May 2010 with a Sony T90. Closing image was taken in Boracay on November 2010 with a Sony T90.