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Last updated : Nov 2009
7,107 Islands!?! Where Should You Go? A Brief Guide...
Rating :

Sep 07 '00 (Updated Sep 07 '00)

Pros: The Philippines is full of beautiful islands to choose from
Cons: Not enough time, not enough time.....

The Philippines is best known for its beautiful island paradises and there are many to choose from. Here are my top choices with a description of each.

Boracay

Arguably one of the Philippines' best beaches, this popular destination site is highly recommended by almost everyone who has been there. It's been frequently ranked as one of the world's Top 10 Beaches. Why? Boracay is known for having the finest, whitest sand around, and its crystal clear waters make for a top quality beach. The island is relatively small, everything is within reach, food is great and entertainment is awesome. It's one of the more expensive places in the country to visit though, and it takes some effort getting there. From either Manila or Cebu, you will take a 30-45 minute plane ride, 2.5 hour bus/van ride and a 20 minute boat ride to the elusive island. It's well worth it though and I highly recommend a trip there.

Best features: breathtakingly beautiful beach, great restaurants, offers a multitude of sports and recreational activities, beautiful people, wonderful parties, wild bars/clubs, ideal for romance, excellent massages!

Worst features: becoming "too touristy", during certain months the beach is full of seaweed, not so accessible, sandfleas abound, more expensive than other Philippine destinations, no cultural places of interest, and generally, not as nice as it was years ago.

Perfect for: almost anyone. Boracay has something to offer to everyone, from sports, bars, and entertainment.

Interesting facts: Among the stars who've been on its sands are Brooke Shields and Jean Claude Van Damme.

Last say: A definite must-see. It's a destination everyone can enjoy.

Palawan

Coined the Philippines' last frontier, Palawan is filled with rainforests that extend to the seashore, miles upon miles of white sandy beaches, pristine water that abounds with tropical life, and awe-inspiring natural scenic wonders. It's known as the haven of Philippine Wildlife, teeming with all sorts of animals from monkeys and bearcats to mousedeer and sea cows. Palawan is the country's largest province, which makes traveling within the island quite tedious. The jump off point is usually Manila. Easiest way to get there is by plane to Puerto Princesa (1 hour), where you take a bus or van ride to your destination. Unlike Boracay, Palawan sports numerous beaches on all sides of the island. There is an unbelievable variety of things to do and places to visit in Palawan: the underground cave, Tubataha reef and the surrounding forests. The island is well known for its world class diving spots. The popular Tubataha reef is said to rival Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Best features: unbelievable variety, beautiful beaches, everything under the sun from rock climbing, scuba diving to nature watching, world class dive sites, a protected environmental zone, unspoiled nature, more private and secluded than most tourist destinations.

Worst features: expansive island, much inter-island travel is required to see the sights, one of the more expensive Philippine destinations, night life is not too hot

Perfect for: explorers, nature and animal lovers, beach lovers and those with a flair for adventure

Interesting facts: Jacques Costeau named it one of his favourite travel destinations; Top Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman often visit "Amanpulo” - one of the most exclusive and beautiful resorts in the world which costs about $500 a night.

Last say: Highly recommended. Much to see and do. My personal favourite.

Siargao

Known for its world class reef breaks, Siargao is the ultimate surfer's mecca. Most popularly known is a point called Cloud NINE, often rated one of the best surf sites in the world. Cloud Nine is known for its "perfect waves" and draws professionals and neophytes alike from the world of surfing. Popular surf champions, such as Kelly Slater, often frequent the island and have been known to leave a surfboard or two behind for the locals. For the more tentative, Siargao is also a great place to lounge by the beaches and bask in the sun. Many tourists become hooked to the rural charms of the city whose 17 islands and its surrounding waters beckon you to return. To get there, take the comfortable 3 hour fastcraft ride to Surigao and a ferry to Siargao. Alternatively, there is a 45 minute plane ride directly to the island from Cebu. Siargao's vacation spots are not commercially developed yet so it remains to be a special hideaway of rustic charms and beauty.

Best features: excellent surf, great beaches, inexpensive, unspoiled, the 27-mile long white sugar-fine sand strip of Gen. Luna, Cloud Nine, International Surfing Championships

Worst features: hard to reach, no cultural places of interest

Perfect for: Surf goons, beach lovers and adventurers who want to try something different.

Interesting facts: The world's top surfers travel all this way for its famous waves.

Last say: Siargao is not very well known, and this is its greatest appeal. Its sites and attractions remain to be one of the best kept secrets where unspoiled islands and beach hideaways are concerned. I highly recommend it.

Cebu

The Queen City of the south, Cebu is the second most developed city in the country after the capital Manila. It's a well rounded destination: modern city with the pretty beaches only 30 minutes away. Cebu is a must see when you're in the Philippines. Aside from having much to offer, it's the jump off point for great destinations in the Visayas region such as Bohol and Siargao. Most tourists lodge in one of the beach resorts on the Mactan island and take day trips into the city for nightlife, sightseeing and shopping. Cebu is well known for its places of cultural interest which include the LAPU LAPU shrine, Fort San Pedro and Magellan's cross. Although the beaches aren't as beautiful as those of Palawan and Boracay, they are definitely worth visiting. Cebu is also popular for its dive sites in Moalboal. If not for any other reason, go to Cebu to eat! They have great delicacies which I HIGHLY recommend such as lechon (roasted pig), puso (rice in banana leaf) and seafoods like baked mussels, scallops, and fish of various kinds.

Best features: friendly people, reasonable prices, great food, interesting history and culture, modern city with nearby beaches, easy to get around the island

Worst features: city is rather congested and polluted, beaches are not what they used to be

Perfect for: those who want a mix of cosmopolitan and tropical holiday

Interesting facts: among the Philippine islands, Cebu has frequently been named the best place to live in

Last say: If you want a little bit of everything, travel to Cebu. Access to other Visayan destinations is convenient from the island.

Bohol

Only two hours by fast-ferry from Cebu, the island of Bohol is a popular tourist site. It offers unspoiled beaches, underground caves, scuba diving sites and the famous chocolate hills. Bohol is also the home of the tarsier: the world's smallest monkey, an animal indigenous to the Philippines. The quaint town of Tagbilaran holds the country's oldest church, a beautiful large, stone edifice that's visited by Filipinos from all over the country. Lately, more and more tourists have been coming for whale and dolphin watching. These gentle giants can be seen all year round, especially during warmer months. Bohol easy to get to, not as busy or touristy as places like Boracay, and a lot more inexpensive.

Best features
: pristine waters, good beaches, scuba diving sites, warm people, cultural places of interest, laid back lifestyle, very inexpensive, whale watching

Worst features
: beware of jellyfish!

Perfect for
: those who opt for a more laid back and tranquil atmosphere by the beach

Interesting facts
: home of the tarsier, the world's smallest monkey

Last say: Captivating beaches and scuba diving will be your reason for travel to this little island.

Recommended
: Yes