There was a time when Philippines was Southeast Asia’s hidden gem. It wasn’t too long ago, really, because the archipelago’s rise in fame happened almost as quickly as the overnight sensation of social media itself. But it was almost expected though– because with the beauty of our beaches and the authenticity of the island life here, it’s impossible to stay far from the radar for too long.
The bad news is that the experience isn’t entirely the same anymore. There are pros and cons, the pros mostly being the convenience being more available for all types of traveler. When there are hundreds of tourists around you in a remote island, it just doesn’t feel the same as it did when we landed there seven years ago. With no one in sight, it felt like we discovered the place ourselves. Bohol isn’t as heavenly, Palawan isn’t as magical, Cebu isn’t as much of a “cool find” anymore, and don’t even get me started with Boracay. But don’t worry, those places are still beautiful and wouldn’t fail to mesmerize any first timers. Or even me, considering I find myself in Boracay every single year. But the islands itself isn’t what makes them less of what they really are, but it’s the experience. The full original island experience where there aren’t 20 other people on your boat, or hundred others in a small beach.
The good news is that the Philippines has over 7k islands and a lot of them haven’t been affected by the social media curse yet. Many of them has instantly become a favorite of mine. So if you’re all about one of kind island experiences, don’t worry, there are plenty of fabulous islands that will give you just that all over the Philippines. I’m only giving you seven so we don’t spoil the fun. However, if you’d rather join the bandwagon, then by all means, book a ticket to Palawan now.
Disclaimer: Don’t ask me what I’m doing contributing to the exposure of these because I’m pretty much one of the problem, aren’t I. Just consider it a gift from me to you.
Batanes offers a different light than what you’d get in most Filipino islands. Though it’s got beautiful beaches, it’s the cliff views that will take your breath away. Dubbed as the New Zealand of the Philippines, Batanes , in my opinion, is actually so much more than that. It’s like New Zealand meets California coast, and together they had an affair with an English countryside in the past. Absolutely stunning without lacking culture and originality, Batanes is a must for offbeat lovers. Flights are limited, making the province maintain its rawness. Lobster is cheap here so that’s one good reason to splurge on a plane ticket for. (READ: 10 Non Touristy Ways To Experience The Best Views Of Batanes)
Dumaguete is a nice little seaside University town. Though peaceful, slow, and quiet, it’s still popular with the backpackers so weekend evenings can be quite the opposite. Dumaguete is the pit stop for Apo Island, known for its turtle sanctuary. But there’s much more to see– from waterfalls to fine sand bar beaches! This province is a short 20-minute ferry ride from the ever so famous adventure-filled province of Cebu so definitely do not overlook this one. (READ: How To Successfully Chase Turtles In Apo Reef)
Davao City is no offbeat destination, but what lies outside is absolutely worth taking a flight for. Davao is known to be home of the nearly extinct Philippine Eagle and they’re quite majestic to meet. But if you’re like me whose heart aches for the beaches, Samal Island is a short ferry ride from the city where they boast more than just blue beaches, but they’ve got waterfalls and the biggest bat cave too!
Magic, witches, and voodoo– that’s what they’ll tell you. But upon reaching the port, all I see is turquoise water, lots of coconut trees, and warm locals who were always eager to help us. It was a bit of a journey to get here, coming from Cebu City, to Dumaguete, and then finally a ferry to this mystical island. But guess what, it was worth every second and this has become my favorite island in the Philippines. Or ever. (READ: The Quick And Painless Guide To Siquijor)
Antique is the epitome of a hidden gem. Overshadowed by its busy neighbor, Boracay, Antique’s beauty is unassuming yet it could take your breath away if you let it. I like to call it the mini Bali of the Philippines with its abundance of rice terraces, waterfalls, and gorgeous beach hikes. The only difference? It’s 100% more authentic. (READ: There’s A Mini Bali In The Philippines You Don’t Know About Yet)
Bicol is a province I’ve yet to explore more. The food is good, especially if you live for spicy food, the beaches are known to be otherworldly, and the people are wonderful. The only island I’ve been fortunate enough to visit is Calaguas, which was extremely remote, but nonetheless it was paradise. No electricity, no signal– it was the perfect location to disconnect. The beach was one of the best, with a stretch of white sand so soft and almost pillowy, worshipped by my favorite shade of turquoise water as it continues to kiss the shore. Unbelievable. (READ: You Need To Go To Calaguas Island And You Need To Go Now)
Siargao, located in the southern part of the archipelago, may be popular with the Aussies, but the authentic vibe is untouched. I wanna compare it to Bali, but it’s completely different. The only things they have in common are the smoothie bowls, vegan options, and the abundance of Aussies in the island. But the island itself is just oozing with humble tropical paradise vibe that hints of westernization is so minimal. The beaches are incredible and the surfing culture is mesmerizing. It’s so local and chill that it’s hard to really compare it to any other island. Siargao isn’t just one of the top places to visit in the southern Philippines, but the entire country! (READ: Siargao Guide For The Young And The Lonely)
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