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Home Travel Guide Philippines Travel Guide Top 10 Islands to Visit in the Philippines

Top 10 Islands to Visit in the Philippines

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The Philippines, an enchanting archipelago in Southeast Asia, is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and vibrant culture. With over 7,000 islands to explore, choosing the best Philippines islands to visit can be a delightful challenge. Whether you’re in search of pristine white sand beaches, lush rolling hills, vibrant coral reefs, or unique cultural experiences, this list of the top 10 islands to travel in the Philippines has something to offer every traveler. From the iconic Palawan to the lesser-known gems, these destinations promise unforgettable adventures amidst stunning landscapes and warm hospitality.

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1. Palawan: The Last Frontier of the Philippines

Palawan, home to El Nido, boasts 45 stunning islands with limestone cliffs, clear lagoons, and pristine beaches, making it a top destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. El Nido offers diverse activities, including island hopping, snorkeling, and kayaking, allowing visitors to explore its vibrant marine life, which includes dolphins, whales, turtles, and colorful coral reefs. Not far away, Coron is famous for its World War II-era shipwrecks, now vibrant underwater ecosystems, and other attractions such as Kayangan Lake, the Twin Lagoon, and the therapeutic Maquinit Hot Spring. For a quieter escape, Inaladelan, or German Island, offers camping, kayaking, and the chance to observe nesting green sea turtles on its private white-sand shores. With additional activities like volleyball, frisbee, board games, and bonfires, Inaladelan provides a serene island experience.

Philippines Palawan Island
Embark on a Island Hopping Tour to Palawan

2. Boracay: The Island of Fun and Sun

Boracay, renowned for its 4 km stretch of white sandy beach on the island’s west coast, is divided into three sections, each with its unique charm. Station 1 is the upscale and tranquil area, featuring luxury resorts. Station 2, bustling and lively, teems with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Meanwhile, Station 3 is the relaxed, budget-friendly option with affordable accommodation and fewer tourists.

Boracay caters to various activities such as parasailing, banana boat riding, island hopping, and kitesurfing for visitors seeking adventure. Parasailing offers a breathtaking aerial view, while banana boat riding guarantees fun as you glide behind a speedboat on an inflatable banana-shaped boat. Island hopping tours let you explore nearby islands and coral reefs through snorkeling, and kitesurfing allows you to glide on water using a kite and board.

When the sun sets, Boracay’s vibrant nightlife comes alive with bars, clubs, and parties, offering live music, dance shows, fire performances, and fireworks. Notable nightlife spots include Epic Bar, Club Paraw, Exit Bar, and Cocomangas Shooter Bar, each with its unique style and atmosphere, ensuring a memorable evening on this island paradise.

Philippines Boracay
Philippines Boracay

3. Bohol: The Island of Wonders

Bohol, a captivating Philippine island, offers diverse attractions, including the famed Chocolate Hills, a cluster of over 1,000 cone-shaped hills transforming into “chocolate kisses” during the dry season, accessible from various viewpoints like the Chocolate Hills Complex and Sagbayan Peak.

For wildlife enthusiasts, the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella is home to the endangered world’s smallest primate, the Philippine tarsier, best observed in their natural habitat with a focus on quiet respect.

Panglao Island, connected by two bridges, is a beach haven with its white sandy shores, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life, offering activities like swimming, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking, along with nearby spots like Alona Beach, Dumaluan Beach, and Doljo Beach, while Balicasag Island and Pamilacan Island beckon with coral gardens and underwater caves.

Philippines Bohol Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills in Bohol

4. Siargao: The Surfing Paradise of the Philippines

Siargao, a teardrop-shaped island in the Philippine Sea, is celebrated as the country’s top surfing destination, drawing global wave riders to Cloud 9, host to international competitions. Beyond surfing, Siargao boasts natural marvels like Sugba Lagoon, offering blue waters framed by mangroves and cliffs for kayaking and bamboo rafting. Magpupungko Rock Pools emerge at low tide, ideal for swimming and snorkeling among distinctive rock formations. Sohoton Cove National Park reveals caves, lagoons, and a jellyfish sanctuary on boat tours. Daku Island, the largest among standard island-hopping stops, presents serene shores and reef surfing. Guyam Island offers two contrasting sides for beach relaxation and Naked Island stands as a pristine sandbar, both great for sun and sea, though shade is scarce.

Philippines Siargao
Philippines Siargao

5. Cebu: Blend of History, Nature, and Luxury

Cebu, both an island and a province comprising 44 municipalities and six cities, including the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu City, founded in 1565 by Spanish colonizers. With historical significance etched into its heritage, Cebu was the site where Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer responsible for the first circumnavigation of the world, landed in 1521, meeting his fate at the hands of local chieftain Lapu-Lapu. Additionally, Cebu witnessed the planting of the first Christian cross in the Philippines by Magellan’s crew.

Beyond its historical importance, Cebu offers a plethora of natural wonders, from cascading waterfalls and towering mountains to mesmerizing caves and idyllic beaches. Must-visit destinations include Kawasan Falls, Osmeña Peak, Moalboal, Badian, Malapascua Island, Bantayan Island, and Mactan Island, a resort haven boasting luxury accommodations, casinos, and a wealth of aquatic activities such as water sports, diving, snorkeling, and island hopping.

Philippines Cebu Island
Philippines Cebu Island

6. Siquijor: The Island of Fire and Magic

Siquijor, a Philippine island province, is steeped in a vibrant history and culture, earning its nickname “Island of Fire” from the mesmerizing sunsets illuminated by fireflies. It draws tourists with its mystique and offers a range of attractions, from folk healing and enchanting natural wonders like Cambugahay Falls and Salagdoong Beach to historical landmarks such as Lazi Convent and Church. The centuries-old Old Balete Tree is believed to house spirits and fairies and offers a unique fish spa experience. Siquijor’s vibrant culture shines through cultural events like the Bugwas, Solangon, and Sikihod Festivals, each celebrating traditions and legends.

Philippines Siquijor
Philippines Siquijor

7. Camiguin: The Island Born of Fire

Camiguin, a small Philippine island province, is renowned for its history, culture, and natural beauty, earning it the moniker “Island Born of Fire” due to its seven volcanoes, including one that remains active. Notable attractions highlighting its volcanic heritage include the Sunken Cemetery, marked by a large cross in the sea, memorializing a cemetery submerged after Mount Vulcan’s eruption in 1871.

Visitors can take a boat to explore underwater tombstones and graves. The Old Bonbon Church Ruins, a 1624 Spanish missionary church in Catarman, were buried under lava and ash in 1871 during Mount Vulcan’s eruption, leaving only remnants, including the belfry. The site is now a National Cultural Treasure and a popular tourist destination. Camiguin’s Mount Hibok-Hibok Protected Landscape, a 2,227-hectare natural reserve, is home to diverse flora and fauna, offering scenic vistas and opportunities for hiking, camping, and birdwatching.

Philippines Camiguin
Philippines Camiguin

8. Leyte: The Island of History and Heroism

Leyte played a pivotal role in World War II, hosting the historic Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the largest naval battle in history, resulting in a crucial Allied victory that marked the beginning of the Philippines’ liberation from Japanese occupation. It’s also where General Douglas MacArthur famously returned to the Philippines, declaring, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” on October 20, 1944.

The island is not only historically significant but also boasts natural attractions. Its natural beauty shines with Lake Danao National Park, a 148-hectare protected area with a guitar-shaped lake encircled by lush hills, offering activities like boating, kayaking, fishing, and camping. The Philippines’ longest San Juanico Bridge, stretching 2.16 kilometers over the San Juanico Strait connecting Leyte and Samar, delights with its unique S-shaped design and panoramic views. Meanwhile, Kalanggaman Island beckons with its kilometer-long white sandbar, fringed by clear turquoise waters for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, accompanied by coconut trees, cottages, and a lighthouse.

Philippines Leyte
Philippines Leyte

9. Bantayan: The Island of Peace and Simplicity

Bantayan Island stands as one of the Philippines’ finest, celebrated for its pristine white sand beaches, clear waters, vibrant marine life, and welcoming locals. Here’s a taste of what this island gem offers:

  • Island Hopping: Explore nearby treasures like Virgin Island and Hilantagaan Island, reveling in snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, and savoring fresh seafood. Virgin Island, privately owned, presents a restaurant, cottages, and hammocks. Hilantagaan Island is a quaint fishing village featuring a lengthy sandbar and a charming lighthouse.
  • Ogtong Cave: Discover this natural cave with a refreshing pool of crystal-clear water. Take a dip in the cave’s cool waters or unwind in the surrounding resort, complete with a swimming pool and a beachfront.
  • Kota Beach: Bask in the beauty of Kota Beach, renowned for its picturesque sandbar and gentle waves. Explore Kota Park’s historic fort, dating back to the 1970s, offering panoramic views of the sea.
  • Skydiving: For thrill-seekers, Bantayan Island offers the exhilaration of skydiving. Leap from a plane at 10,000 feet and relish breathtaking vistas of the island and the ocean, a rare experience in the Philippines.
  • Scallops: Savor the island’s famous, plentiful, and affordable scallops, readily available in restaurants and markets. Delight in unlimited scallops for as little as PHP 150 (USD 3) per kilogram, typically served with delectable ingredients like butter, garlic, cheese, or chili.
Philippines Bantayan
The azure sky and clear seawater of Bantayan

10. Batanes: The Northernmost Jewel of the Philippines

Batanes, a picturesque archipelago in the far north of the Philippines, enchants visitors with its stunning landscapes and unique cultural heritage. It features rolling hills like Vayang Rolling Hills, Marlboro Hills, and Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint for hiking and relaxation, dramatic cliffs along the coastlines at Valugan Beach, Morong Beach, and Nakabuang Arch, and strategically placed lighthouses including Basco Lighthouse, Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse, and Sabtang Lighthouse. The region’s iconic stone houses, such as those in Savidug Village and the House of Dakay, boast unique architecture and colorful flora. Ancient churches like St Dominic de Guzman Cathedral, San Carlos Borromeo Church, and San Jose de Ivana Church showcase the area’s rich religious heritage. Moreover, Batanes is a place of warmth and honesty, as experienced through homestays and the renowned Honesty Coffee Shop.

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