If you’re dreaming of the perfect beach vacation to a tropical island paradise – white sand beaches, crystalline waters, tall coconut palms, and plenty of sunshine – take a trip to the Philippines, the ultimate destination for all beach lovers.
Ask any tourist who’s been to the Philippines, and they’ll tell you that this country’s beaches are some of the finest in the world, if not altogether the best. Indeed, nature has endowed this tropical nation with an array of the most spectacular beaches imaginable, making it a true paradise for beach enthusiasts.
Virtually the country’s entire coastline, which measures 36,289 km (22,499 mi) in total, offers a beach at one point or another. And with 7,641 islands, many of which are dotted with a beach or two, the Philippines has a beach to satisfy any whim and fulfill every dream.
The beaches, depending on the local minerals and geology, vary in composition. Some are strewn with rocks, some are covered in pebbles, and some are caked in mud, but most are finely-sanded. And the sands come in a stunning palette of colors – milky white, golden brown, light grey, rich black, and even vivid pink!
Here are some of the most beautiful beach destinations in the Philippines. Note that these are not ranked, but rather arranged alphabetically:
1. Anawangin Cove
The cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 was the second-largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. It devastated the surrounding lands, and forced the flight of thousands of people from their homes. But from the ashes came rebirth, and from the fateful eruption were new landscapes of dramatic beauty. Of these, Anawangin Cove is perhaps the most famous.
Majestic Anawangin lies hidden along the western shores of Zambales, opening towards the sweeping expanse of the West Philippine Sea. The cove is walled by lofty hills and mighty mountains clad and crowned with verdure, and at their sandy heels lie sprawled a vast forest of tall agoho trees.
Anawangin is unlike other beach destinations in the Philippines. Its shores, formed from sand and the ashes disgorged by Pinatubo, are of a light grey color, sometimes blackish – a stark contrast to the surrounding turquoise waters that turn a deeper shade of blue further out to sea. Along the ashen shore stately agoho trees also grow.
Anawangin is secluded, far removed from the tumults of the metropolis. There is no electricity and no mobile phone signal. Those of a mind to camp overnight can pitch their tents along the coast and within the woods. At night, the cove is lit by the starry expanse of the Milky Way Galaxy unfurled visibly and resplendently in the skies above.
2. Bantayan Island
Across the Tañon Strait from the north-western end of Cebu Island is Bantayan, a palm-covered island surrounded by the waters of the Visayan Sea. The island is known for its magnificent white sandy beaches that draw crowds of tourists both local and international.
Bantayan is a true tropical idyll. Numerous palms cover vast swaths of the island. Lucent waters of emerald and sapphire hues lap up softly against pristine shores of fine white sand. The summer sun holds a promise of endless balmy days. A calming and soothing aura suffuses the entire island, and the people are given to an unhurried and laidback lifestyle.
Despite being one of the top tourist draws in Cebu, the beaches of Bantayan are rarely crowded. On most days, the shores are fairly free of visitors, further adding to the island’s already irresistible appeal. There are a number of resorts around the island, many of which are clustered along the south-eastern shoreline, and in the northwest.
Beyond the beautiful sandy shores, there are plenty of other sights worth seeing. Ancient churches wrought of stone, and the ruins of a once-mighty fortress tell tales of the Spanish colonial era. Mangrove forests spread along the coasts. Numerous islets surround Bantayan, affording ideal destinations for island-hopping enthusiasts.
3. Batanes Islands
Sprawled on the northernmost reaches of the Philippines, surrounded by foaming and furious waves, and swept on all sides by mighty winds are some of the country’s most beautiful islands – Batanes.
Batanes is renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes that are unparalleled elsewhere in the country. Gently rolling hills and ancient stone houses form the most recognizable images of this northerly province. But its shores and seascapes are equally impressive, earning Batanes a spot among the best beach destinations in the Philippines.
The boulder beaches of Chadpidan on the northwest of Batan, the main island of the province, and that of Chanpan – more popularly known as Valugan – on the island’s southeast, are especially famed. Neither sand nor mud can be found on either shoreline. Instead, both beaches are strewn with innumerable boulders, pebbles, and gravel of various shades and sizes. The rocks are said to have been disgorged by the volcano Iraya in its ancient eruptions, and were then smoothed and polished over time by the waves of the surrounding sea.
Massive and mighty waves render swimming from the boulder beaches of Chadpidan and Chanpan (Valugan) nigh impossible. However, the rock-mantled shores nestled between the frothing sea and towering cliff-walls make for incredibly stunning pictures.
4. Boracay Island
Off the north-western coast of Panay is the island paradise of Boracay, a veritable tropical Eden bounded by magnificent shores of soft white sand and ringed by crystalline waters of turquoise, aquamarine, and cerulean hues. Along its sandy shores groves of coconut palms grow tall and lithesome beneath the summer sun, their vast and verdant fronds swaying softly in the gentle sea-breeze. Resorts, restaurants, and a variety of shops are arrayed along the coast.
Further out to sea, numerous paraw sailboats of beautiful designs and diverse colors glide gracefully through the silken waters. Resplendent fishes, colorful corals, and a vast host of marine life populate the sapphire depths of the encircling sea.
Boracay’s fame is legendary. It is ranked not only as one of the premier beach destinations in the Philippines, but one of the world’s as well. It has been lavished with copious awards and accolades by numerous travel publications and agencies, not to mention the praise by everyone who has ever been to the island.
Multitudes of tourists from around the world are drawn to this fine patch of tropical beauty each year. Beach bums, sun worshippers, scuba divers and snorkelers, sailors, windsurfers and kiteboarders, and all manner of people who seek sun, sand, and sea find home and happiness here.
5. Calaguas Islands
PROVINCE: Camarines Norte
The paradisiac islands of Calaguas lie on the verge of the Philippine Sea, a two hour-long boat ride from the eastern shore of Camarines Norte. The surreal beauty of the islands was once a secret known only to the most adventurous of souls. But these days, there is nothing hidden that cannot be disclosed. Once considered as an off-the-beaten path destination, Calaguas has since then climbed high up on the list of the Philippines’ top beach spots.
The beachscapes of Calaguas are exactly every beach lover’s dream, seemingly lifted straight from the pages of a travel magazine. Viridescent isles, each as beautiful as the other, rise out of the blue waters, their shores covered with fine white sand. Tall palms abound along the coasts, behind which gradually rises a rolling landscape of verdant hills and knolls. There is no electricity and no mobile phone signal, only nature. Everything is at peace. The only sounds are the sweet whispers of the glimmering sea, the soothing caress of waves on sandy shores, and the gentle sighs of palm fronds kissed by the sea-breeze.
The influx of tourists has so far not ruined the pristine beauty of Calaguas. Save for a number of resorts that have cropped up along the coasts, the islands remain relatively unspoiled. The local community, as well as tourists, have been urged to safeguard the well-being of Calaguas.
PROVINCE: Camarines Sur
Hemmed in on one side by the vast expanse of the Philippine Sea, and on the other by lofty forest-clad mountains, the coastal town of Caramoan and its nearby isles are a true paradise for any and all beach lovers.
Untamed, unspoiled, and until recently unheard of, Caramoan rose to prominence as one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the Philippines after hosting several versions and editions of the competitive reality television show Survivor. This tropical idyll is renowned for its surreal natural beauty – sublime, pristine, and suffused with an aura of peace and serenity. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, Caramoan is an almost hidden paradise, far removed from the chaos of the city.
All along its mainland coast, and laid on the fringes of its nearby isles are majestic shores of fine ivory sand lined with coconut palms, bedecked with seashells of resplendent hues, and strewn with colorful pebbles. The white sand beaches offer the perfect spots to relax, unwind, get a lovely tan, or indulge in a game of beach volleyball, among others.
The surrounding green isles seem like brilliant jewels scattered across a sapphire board, awaiting island-hopping enthusiasts. Rising from impossibly clear waters are magnificent rocks and limestone cliffs overhung with verdure. Spectacular dive spots dot the waters where marine life flourishes in remarkable wealth, wildness, and wonder.
The province of Palawan is known as The Last Frontier, a sprawling cluster of some 1,700 islands and islets bounded to the east by the deep waters of the Sulu Sea, and to the west by the vast expanse of the West Philippine Sea. Palawan is home to a world of wonders, a sheer paradise so pure and pristine it echoes the ancientry of the Earth. On its northern reaches is Coron, a living embodiment of the natural beauty of Palawan.
The town of Coron encompasses the eastern half of Busuanga Island, all of Coron Island, and about 50 of the surrounding islets that form part of the Calamianes Archipelago. Coron stands as one of the finest island and beach destinations in the Philippines and across the world.
Its islands are bounded by magnificent shores where the sands are dazzlingly white and remarkably fine, and palms grow tall and lithe beneath the sun. The beaches are wide and numerous. The waters that lie between the isles are vast, clear, and populated by a high concentration of marine biodiversity. Crystalline lagoons and pristine lakes are nestled between lofty limestone cliffs.
Coron is also one of the best diving destinations in the world, with colorful marine life and extensive reefs. Beneath Coron Bay lie the sunken remains of some dozen World War II Japanese ships that have become popular spots for wreck-diving.
The province of Pangasinan lies on the western coast of Luzon, on the edge of the vast West Philippine Sea. Numerous beaches line its shores, for which the province has been widely known. The more popular beaches, many of which are arrayed around the Lingayen Gulf, draw most of the crowd and traffic. But the less popular beaches in the province are no less beautiful. A case in point – Dasol.
Dasol is a small seaside town along the western shores of Pangasinan, opening towards the blue waters of Dasol Bay. Its coastline is marked by a succession of rocky ground interspersed with beautiful strips of white, cream, or beige sands. Getting to the town involves a jarring ride along rough roads and rugged terrain, but the journey is well worth it.
The more popular beach spots include Tambobong Beach, a stunning stretch of soft white sand running beside the highway. Along its length are groves of palm trees. The waters here are extremely clear. Boats are moored close to shore, while the boatmen await tourists to be ferried to the nearby islets. Other popular beaches in Dasol include those in Caboangan, Macalang, Magunao, and Osmeña, among others.
The islets sprawled on the midst of Dasol Bay are popular island-hopping destinations. Of these, the most famous is Colibra Island, a speck of land fringed with a white sandy beach, and an excellent spot for watching the sun rise and set.
9. El Nido
There is a place on Earth where the very likeness of Eden still endures, a last remaining piece of Paradise long hidden from the outside world until its fateful discovery. This place is a masterwork of Nature, a living tapestry woven of emerald isles and sapphire waters, and embroidered with countless wonders. This place is El Nido.
El Nido is a coastal town on the northernmost tip of Palawan Island, encompassing the numerous surrounding isles known altogether as the Bacuit Archipelago. Recent years have seen this tropical idyll gain legendary fame, for its natural beauty is as wondrous as it is ancient. It is unrivaled elsewhere in the world, doubtless among the most beautiful places to ever exist on Earth.
El Nido boasts more than fifty stunning beaches sprawled along the mainland coast and on the shores of the Bacuit Islands. All are of radiantly white sand exceedingly soft and fine to the touch. Its waters are overly clear that one can see far into its crystalline depths, and witness the immense wealth of marine flora and fauna teeming within. Cliffs of marble and limestone all clad with verdure rise to towering heights, home to innumerable birds. Pristine pools and lakes, and enchanting lagoons lie hidden at every turn. Vast jungles shrouded in mist abound with wildlife, many of which have yet to be identified.
El Nido is no ordinary beach destination. It is the experience of a lifetime.
10. Great Santa Cruz Island
PROVINCE: Zamboanga City
Not far from the coasts of the bustling city of Zamboanga is an oasis of calm and beauty, an island renowned for its magnificent shores unrivaled elsewhere in Asia – Great Santa Cruz Island. While the island forms part of the city, it somehow feels distant, remote, far removed from the city itself.
Though its name belies its actual size, this little island is famed worldwide for its beautiful pink sand beach – the only one of its kind in the whole of Asia and among a handful of pink sand beaches in the world. The soft rosy hue of the beach is incredibly lovely, especially when set in contrast to the encircling translucent waters of teal and turquoise shades.
The flushed color of the shoreline comes from red organ pipe corals (Tubipora musica) that have been pulverized over millions of years, and then washed ashore and mixed in with the white sand. Some of these scarlet corals, most likely those newly-come from the sea, remain intact, and one may chance upon these half-buried in the sand.
Besides its beautiful pink coralline beach, the island is also known as an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving, as the surrounding waters teem with a vast wealth of marine flora and fauna.
11. Honda Bay
Honda Bay lies along the eastern shore of Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan. To its east is the broad expanse of the Sulu Sea. On its midst lie sprawled a cluster of green isles fringed with beaches of soft and fine white sand that would awe even the strictest and most scrupulous beach connoisseur. Its pellucid waters are home to a diverse array of marine life – perfect for diving and snorkeling.
Recent years have seen the bay and its islets grow as one of the best beach destinations in the Philippines. While admittedly not as popular as the premier tourist draws of El Nido or Coron, which lie on the northern reaches of Palawan, Honda Bay is beautiful on its own. Its proximity to Puerto Princesa and the city’s air and sea ports makes it a good choice for those seeking a quick beach weekend getaway, or as a precursor to a thorough exploration of Palawan.
The various isles in the bay, which are accessible by outrigger boats, are named after their certain peculiarities. For instance, Starfish Island is so named because of its abundance of starfishes, while Bat Island is home to thousands of those flying mammals, and Pandan Island abounds with pandan plants (Pandanus amaryllifolius). Cowrie Island is shaped like a cowrie shell, while Snake Island bears resemblance to the shape of that slithering reptile.
12. Mactan Island
Off the south-eastern coast of Cebu Island is Mactan, a tropical island paradise where the trappings of modernity meet the tranquillity of nature, where sprawling resorts and skyscraping hotels rise alongside brilliant shores of powdery white sand and idyllic waters bright and blue beneath the sun.
Mactan is undeniably modern, and yet has retained much of its natural beauty. It is regarded as one of the best beach destinations in the Philippines, and an exceptional tourist draw overall. It is an excellent option for tourists and travelers looking to spend a day or two at the beach without going far from the comforts and conveniences of modern, even luxurious, living.
The white sand beaches of Mactan are incredible, affording visitors a unique and truly unforgettable beach vacation. A wide selection of resorts, ranging from affordable hostels for the budget conscious to five-star luxury hotels for the extravagant, offer outstanding accommodation facilities and a variety of amenities.
Mactan is also hailed as one of the best diving destinations in the country. Impressive dive sites dot the waters around the island, all teeming with multitudes of diverse and colorful marine life. The island offers some of the best diving, snorkeling, island hopping, jet skiing, sailing, and other recreational pursuits of any island in the Philippines.
13. Malapascua Island
Across a shallow strait from the northernmost tip of Cebu Island is Malapascua, a tiny island known chiefly as one of the most remarkable diving destinations in the world. A number of spectacular dive sites are scattered near the island. The most prominent of these is Monad Shoal, the only place on Earth where thresher sharks – elusive sharks with unusually long tails – can be sighted consistently just before and during sunrise.
But Malapascua is as much of a haven to beach bums and sun worshippers as it is to divers. Indeed, before the island gained fame for its dive sites, it was known first as one of the top beach destinations in the Philippines on account of its magnificent beaches. All along the island’s coast are white sandy beaches looking towards cool and clear waters.
The island’s main draw is Bounty Beach, a vast stretch of fine white sand extending along the southern shoreline. Tall coconut palms with fronds swaying in the breeze are ranged along the beach, some of which have woven hammocks fixed among them. The beach is incredibly scenic, and the water is startlingly clear. Bounty Beach is almost always free of crowd, allowing tourists to have sections of the beach all to themselves.
There are other beaches around the island, such as the beaches of Guimbitayan and Langob along the northern coastline. Several islets near Malapascua also have white sandy beaches.
PROVINCE: Ilocos Norte
Along the most northerly shores of the island of Luzon is the coastal resort town of Pagudpud, a beautiful seaside idyll nestled between looming mountains and the vast sea. This secluded town is famed for its remarkable white sand beaches and its blue crystal clear waters, earning it a spot among the most impressive beach destinations in the Philippines.
Two of the best beaches in Pagudpud are those in Saud and Blue Lagoon. Saud Beach boasts a long expanse of fine white sand and mesmerizingly blue seawater. Coconut palms grow in abundance along the coast. There are only a handful of resorts, and fewer people relative to other beach destinations in the country. Thus, visitors are afforded ample space and freedom to do as they wish, even during the beach’s peak days.
The white sandy shore of Blue Lagoon extends alongside crystalline waters of turquoise, aquamarine, and cerulean hues. On certain months, the water is as calm and still as those in ponds; during the rest of the year, it is churning with massive and mighty waves.
Pagudpud is dubbed as the Boracay of the North because it has all the postcard-perfect views of that Visayan tropical haven, but with less of the crowd and traffic. Pagudpud is far more peaceful, quiet, and serene. Unrestrained commercialization has not yet ruined its natural beauty.
15. Palaui Island
Off the extreme northern coast of Luzon lies a land long sundered from time and the outside world, where Nature through the march of years untold wrought a veritable paradise of living wonders – the island of Palaui.
An emerald speck in the vast sapphire sea, Palaui is a hilly and heavily forested island, with sheer cliffs towering along its coasts. Its shores are marked by swaths of jagged rock between which run long strips of fine white sand beside sparkling turquoise waters.
The white sandy beaches of Palaui are of such beauty that many have likened them to the ivory shores of Boracay. But Palaui, because of its remoteness and seclusion, and its raw and pristine natural beauty, is incomparable with the heavily developed and excessively commercialized beach destinations in the Philippines.
Palaui is so far-flung. It can only be reached by outrigger boats that must first run the gauntlet of a capricious sea often livid with furious waves. Thus, visitors to the island will often find entire sections of the beaches all to themselves. Beneath the tropical sun, they can frisk and frolic, caper and cavort upon the sand to their heart’s content. And should they wish to take a break, they can always trek inland and explore the green wilderness of Palaui.
16. Panglao Island
Panglao Island is situated off the south-western coast of the larger island of Bohol, hemmed in on all sides by the deep and vast Bohol Sea. The island is one of the premier beach destinations in the Philippines, offering a spectacular tropical beach and island experience. Attractions are abundant, including beach bumming, swimming, island hopping, scuba diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and fishing, to name but a few.
Panglao is especially renowned for its white sand beaches. Of these, the most prominent and popular is Alona Beach, a stunning shoreline of brilliantly white and exceptionally fine sand extending along the island’s south-western coast. On both ends of the beach is a wall of rocks, and along its length is an array of tall coconut palms leaning towards turquoise waters.
Alona is the most developed beach in Panglao. Numerous resorts, restaurants, and various other shops line the beach. Near the shore are moored several outrigger boats, awaiting the tourists to be ferried to and fro the nearby islets.
All along the coasts of Panglao is a range of equally beautiful beaches, including the beaches of Danao, Dumaluan and Libaong (together known as White Beach), and Bikini on the southern shoreline; and Doljo and Momo Beaches along the northern coast. The popular island-hopping destinations – Balicasag, Gak-ang, and Virgin Islands – are themselves fringed with white sandy beaches.
17. Puerto Galera
PROVINCE: Oriental Mindoro
On the northern coast of the island of Mindoro lies stunning Puerto Galera, a town widely regarded as one of the top beach destinations in the Philippines. This tropical Eden is founded along beautiful sheltered bays looking towards the rich waters of the Verde Island Passage. At its back looms a lofty range of forested mountains.
For beach bums, the main draw is White Beach, a lengthy strip of white sandy shore lined with groves of coconut palms and a variety of shops. White Beach is a favorite among locals; on weekends and during the holidays, many Filipino families and local travelers gather here.
Foreign tourists usually base themselves on Sabang Beach. Here, numerous resorts, restaurants, and bars are arrayed along the shoreline, and the nightlife is vibrant and thriving. Sabang Beach is a jump-off point to the remarkable snorkeling and dive spots nearby and further out to sea. After all, Puerto Galera, with its extensive reefs, and its veritable hoard of marine biodiversity – considered one of the richest in the world – is hailed as an absolute diving Mecca.
A number of less-popular but equally beautiful pocket beaches dot the coastline of Puerto Galera. Further inland and into the mountains are a variety of sights and attractions for those looking to take a break from the sand and the sea.
PROVINCE: Davao del Norte
Samal, officially the Island Garden City of Samal, is a massive and sprawling resort city and the largest of its kind in the Philippines. It encompasses the entire Samal Island, the smaller Talikud Island, and several other nearby islets on the northern expanse of the Davao Gulf.
Samal is a choice destination for beach enthusiasts. Pristine sandy beaches line the shores of the islands, some of white sands, others of cream, beige, gold, or light grey. Broad swaths of the islands are covered with tall coconut palms and numerous other tropical trees. The surrounding waters of the Davao Gulf are cool and clear, through which fleets of the brilliantly-colored vinta boats sail gracefully. Extensive reefs within the gulf house crowds of colorful marine life, making for excellent dive spots.
Samal was designed to be one of the premier beach destinations in the Philippines. Thus, the city is a literal cornucopia of resorts. Most are arrayed along the shoreline, while some are built further inland. All offer guests a variety of amenities and numerous activities over water and land.
Besides beach bumming, swimming, and island-hopping, there are plenty of other worthwhile distractions to indulge in. Water-based recreations include snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and fishing. Adventures further inland include cycling, spelunking, and mountain climbing.
19. Siargao Island
PROVINCE: Surigao del Norte
Siargao, a teardrop-shaped island off the north-eastern coast of Surigao del Norte, is famed for its exceptional surf breaks. The island is hailed as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, a premier destination among surfing enthusiasts both in the local and international scenes.
But beyond its deep swells and mighty waves, this veritable tropical idyll has more to offer. Nearly the entire length of its coastline, for instance, is dotted with a number of magnificent beaches, many of which are of powdery white sands. Groves of coconut palms, which flourish on the island in vast numbers, line the beaches. The crystal-clear waters of the Pacific are warm and welcoming.
Besides, three islets off Siargao’s south-eastern coast – Daku, Gulam, and Naked Islands – which are popular destinations for island-hopping enthusiasts, are also fringed with white sandy beaches. When the shores of Siargao get a bit crowded, then tourists will find more room in the three nearby islets.
Siargao is a genuine utopia. All about the island is a calming and soothing aura. The people are unhurried and given to a laidback lifestyle. The very air exudes tropical vibes. The sunrises and sunsets look so much more dramatic. While it has begun its reputation as a surfers’ paradise, Siargao now ranks among the best beach destinations in the Philippines and in the entire world.
20. Siquijor Island
The island province of Siquijor was once a no-go area for many travelers, and few then would have thought of putting it on their bucket list. The island was rumored to be the abode of horrors, the land of witchcraft and sorcery. Frightful tales spoke of demons prowling the island’s shores, and witches holding covens beneath starless skies.
But those who have actually gone to Siquijor have found otherwise. Instead of demons, they found a landscape of unrivaled beauty – rolling hills, sheer seaside cliffs, lofty mountains, primeval forests, extensive caverns, and enchanting waterfalls. Instead of witches, they found magnificent shores of fine white sand sprawled along the island’s coasts, fronting waters of wonderful crystalline blue. Apparently, the island of witches is in fact the island of beaches.
Siquijor doubtless holds some of the finest beachscapes in the Philippines. Paliton Beach – a breathtaking strip of brilliant white sand – extends on Siquijor’s western coast, alongside Solangon Beach and other equally impressive beaches. To the north are the beaches of Sandugan and Dumanhog, to name a few. East lie the white sandy shores of Salagdoong, Talisay, and Camugao, among others. South of the island are the spectacular ivory sands of Kagusuan Beach. Numerous other beaches dot the coastline of Siquijor, all incredibly peaceful and every bit picturesque. Besides, the island is also reputed to have fantastic diving sites.