Besides Boracay, where else do you hit the beach in the Philippines? Top travel photographers and travel experts lead us to their holy grail.
Little Boracay Beach
Location: Sta. Maria, Davao Del Sur
Main draw: Named after the famous Boracay Island in the Visayas, Little Boracay, just like its namesake, has beautiful powdery white sand beach — a shorter stretch at 2km — but without the tourist crowd.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia fly from Manila to Davao daily. From Davao City, take an airconditioned bus bound for Malita (P80-P150 or about US $2-$3). From the town of Malita, take a tricycle (P20 per person) to Sta. Maria town. From Sta. Maria’s poblacion or town center, it’s another 15-minute tricycle ride to Little Boracay.
Location: Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Main draw: Maira-ira Cove’s picture perfect blue waters and white sand are especially dramatic when viewed from the top of a hill near the cove.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily from Manila to Laoag, where waiting vans regularly serve Pagudpud. There are also deluxe buses that ply the Manila-Pagudpud route daily.
Location: San Antonio, Zambales
Main draw: Nagsasa Cove reminds some people of the film Brokeback Mountain. The stunning Nagsasa mountain range wraps around the unspoiled hidden cove, where you can pitch a tent for the night if you are adventurous enough.
How to get there: Take a Victory Liner bus from Manila to Iba or Sta. Cruz and get off in San Antonio.
Location: Cadiz Viejo, Negros Occidental
Main draw: Coconut and talisay trees line Lakawon Island. It offers a gorgeous nine-hectare white-sand beach and a panoramic view of Panay Island.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily from Manila to Bacolod in Negros Occidental. To reach the island from Bacolod City, take a 45-minute bus trip to Kaduha-an in Cadiz City. From Kaduha-an, take a tricycle to Cadiz Viejo where you will find small motorized boats to take you to Lakawon Island.
Location: Mambajao, Camiguin
Main draw: The delicate 2km sandbar with Mount Hibok-Hibok and Mount Vulcan in the backdrop.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air flies to Camiguin from Manila every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. From Camiguin airport, take a tricycle or multicab to Barangay Yumbing, where you can catch a boat to White Island for P480. Or you could fly from Manila to Cagayan de Oro (CDO), where fastcraft depart for Camiguin's Benoni port, a two-hour travel. From Benoni, take a tricycle or multicab to Barangay Yumbing, Mambajao. Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily from Manila to CDO.
Location: Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Main draw: Dubbed the “Palawan of Bicol”, Caramoan has pristine beaches with unique, towering limestone cliffs, caves, and lagoons.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily from Manila to Naga City. Buses such as Philtranco and DLTB ply daily from Manila to Naga. From Naga City, take a shuttle bus to Sabang, and from its Caramoan-Naga port, take a two-hour boat to Caramoan.
San Vicente Beach
Location: San Vicente, Palawan
Main draw: The 14km stretch of unspoilt beach, the longest in the country, and its abundant wildlife.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa daily. From the city, it’s a two and half hour land travel to Port Barton, San Vicente. From the public market in Puerto Princesa, jeepneys leave daily for Port Barton at about 8am.
Location: Babuyan Islands
Main draw: Secluded beaches and a chance to see 45-foot-long humpbacks.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly to Tuguegarao daily. From Tuguegarao, hop on a jeep to Aparri, a two-hour drive. From Aparri, take an eight-hour ferry ride to Camiguin Island. You can hire a private bangka or boat in San Vicente or in Aparri to take you to the Babuyan Islands. Best to time your trip from April to June to avoid rough crossings.
Location: El Nido, Palawan
Main draw: Your perfect beach — white sand, clear waters, stunning views of centuries-old limestone cliffs.
How to get there: From El Nido Resorts' Miniloc Island, take a boat to Matinloc Island (less than an hour) where Hidden Beach is located. ITI (Island Transvoyager, Inc.) offers regular flights to El Nido. From El Nido’s port, several boats offer island hopping tours to Hidden Beach. You could also fly to Puerto Princesa via Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, or AirAsia. El Nido Resorts arranges van transfers from Puerto Princesa for P2,000 per passenger, one way, including light snacks. The shuttle leaves Puerto Princesa airport at 10 am daily.
Our thanks to our insider guides Rajah Travel's executive vice president Aileen Clemente, travel blogger Ferdz Decena, underwater photographer Gutsy Tuason, photographer Caloy Legaspi, actor and TV host Marc Nelson, and photographer Rhonson Ng. Beaches are listed in no particular order.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller April 2012. Updated July 2015