Experts' top 10 favorite beaches in the Philippines

We talk to locals who frequently holiday or spend their working lives by the sea to share their favorite beaches, from white-sand cliches to wild surf spots

By Jan Lao, Cielo Flores. Research by Klarisa Villavieja

 

#1 Bamboo Beach, Kawayan Cove, Nasugbu, Batangas

Kawayan Cove By Jocas See

Chosen by Anne Arcenas Gonzalez, Havaianas Philippines owner. 
Bamboo Beach at Kawayan Cove is one of the finest patches of sand in the Nasugbu area of Batangas and is easy enough to get to from Manila. The waters here are usually clear and calm for most of the year, except from July to September when the waves are best for surfing. Kawayan Cove is a private 68-hectare residential community with Bamboo Beach, a 650-meter crescent cove of white sand and sparkling blue waters, the main attraction. It’s exclusive to Bamboo Beach Club members made up of Kawayan Cove’s lot and residential unit owners.

Also try Meditation Point in Kawayan Cove, a favorite place for weddings. Up here you hear the sound of birds, the crashing of waves, and enjoy the commanding view of the South China Sea. Another nice beach that is quite close to Kawayan Cove is Canyon Cove, a non-membership beach resort. It has 217 beachfront rooms with rates starting at P5,800 (about US$125) for two, inclusive of breakfast and access to the pool and beach. Tel +632 908 1111

Where to stay Munting Buhangin Beach Camp has an entrance fee of P180 for day tour and P380 for an overnight stay. For more information call +632 818 4798 or email muntingbuhangin@gmail.com. For interested Kawayan Cove lot or home buyers, call +632 845 1246.

How to get there
Call Manila Rent a Car at +632 484 8888.

#2 Pagol Beach and Paguriran, Sorsogon

Pagol Beach By Gutsy Tuason

Chosen by Gutsy Tuason, Underwater photographer. "The first time I went to Donsol, the son of the mayor of Sorsogon told me about Pagol Beach, a great secluded beach in Barangay Bontot, Bacon District, Sorsogon City. It’s my favorite beach. The place is almost invisible from the road, but as soon as you find your way, you are greeted by this simple little piece of white, even almost pink-ish beach covered with swept corals and lined by a thick forest of coconut trees and coastal plants. The water is usually calm, and is filled with beautiful corals, tempting you to snorkel or dive right in. The sand and the water are comparable to the more popular beaches on the southern part of the province, in Rizal, Gubat; but what’s great about Pagol is that it’s secluded and unexplored by people despite its beauty. Probably one of the few beaches in the area where one can be near the city but feel totally isolated, as chances are you’ll be the only city-dwelling soul in sight.

“As part of this lengthy stretch along the road of Bacon District, all the way to Sawanga, Pagol is sandwiched by two other more visited beaches. It starts with the beach of Tolong Gapo in Barangay Bonga, where you can find three rocks not far from the shore, which legend says were once a cat, a carabao, and a boy turned into rocks by lightning.

"Then further up the road in what feels like the end of the earth is Sawanga looking out to Paguriran Island. The island is so beautiful that it beckons even to those who have sworn to stay out of the sun. From the shore, Paguriran can be reached by walking in knee-to waist-deep water during low tide. There is a lagoon in the middle that opens into the bigger ocean, great for snorkeling. These three beaches can take all of one day at the minimum.”

Instagram does not have many snaps of Pagol Beach. This one here shows the beach at its brilliant white.

 

Unang hirit sa tag-init :-) #summer2015 #pagolbeach #sawanga #sorsogon #vsco #vscocam

A photo posted by Sherica Sandra Deuna (@shericasandra) on

 

Paguriran island on Instagram.

 

???? #PaguriranIsland #Happines #Adventure #Selfie #Pinoy #TravelPh #Sorsogon #Bicol #Island #Beach #Beachin #Summer2K16

A photo posted by Leonard Villadolid Erlano (@ulomarss) on


Also try
Donsol’s butanding (whale sharks) encounter tour from December to May. Book a tour with Donsol Ecotour. Tel +632 576 5934.

Where to stay
Paguriran Island Beach Resort
in Sawanga, Bacon is 5 minutes away from Pagol Beach, with views of Mount Mayon across the Albay Gulf. Their cottage rates start from P2,000 a night good for two persons, to P5000 a night good for six people. For inquiries and reservations, call +63920 418 3592.

How to get there
Bicol Region is only 45 minutes by plane from Manila. Cebu Pacific has round trip flights from Manila to Legazpi for about P2,943. Legazpi is an hour and a half away from Sorsogon via public vans. Travel by bus takes 13 hours from Manila. DLTB Bus has trips from Manila to Legazpi City for P810 per person, tel +632 227 1933. You can also hire a car from Viajero Rent a Car, tel +632 546 6742.


#3 Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Palawan

Amanpulo Photo Courtesy of Aman Resorts


Chosen by Katrina Tantoco-LobregatAmanpulo, located in the private island of Pamalican, is a known holiday haunt of international celebrities and wealthy guests. Only 360km southwest of Manila, the low-lying coral island of Pamalican, with an area of 5.5 kilometers, is covered with a sandy jungle of shrub and thorn-bush thickets, and sparkling white beaches. Its waters are teeming with marine life. At low tide, baby sharks chasing families of bat fish are sometimes seen in the shallows at the southern end. Starlings, kingfishers, white-breasted wood swallows, black-naped orioles, and sea eagles have been spotted in the area. Green and hawksbill turtles also nest on the island every year from March to October. Females come to the beach at night to lay their eggs. And further on are sandbanks and a channel where whales, dolphins and sea cows have been sighted. Seven square kilometers of pristine reef surrounds Pamilican Island, 50m to 300m off shore, making it and ideal place for diving.

Where to stay
Amanpulo has 40 casitas, which are 65sqm bungalows fashioned after the Philippine bahaykubo (nipa hut). Book casita 39 and 40 for sunset views as well as views of the Sulu Sea and neighboring islands. Amanpulo also has private holiday villas for rent. Rates start at about US$1,700 (P79,079) for the one-bedroom villa good for a maximum of three adults and two children below 12 years old.

How to get there
Amanpulo arranges a chartered 70-minute flight from Manila. Guests are met at the Manila international Airport and go on a short drive to a nearby hangar where they wait at the Amanpulo lounge for the direct flight to Pamalican Island. Roundtrip air transfer, Manila-Amanpulo-Manila, is P495 per adult and baggage is limited to 20kg, including carry-on. To book, email amanpulores@aman.com or call +632 976 5200.


#4 ABCD Beach, Calicoan Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar

ABCD Beach By Ena Molina
Chosen by Paolo Manuel Soler, surf coach and president of the Philippine Surfing Academy. ABCD Beach is the Philippines’ next epic surfing destination. It’s like Boracay, but with consistent world-class waves and not too touristy. There are no crowds. All you get are beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters, and consistent powerful swells rolling in from the pacific, with waves hitting eight feet or more during peak surfing season. Hugged by the Pacific Ocean in the east and the Leyte Gulf in the west, Calicoan’s 1,800-hectare island is a rugged landscape, half covered by lush virgin tropical forests, home to the civet cats, monitor lizards, rare species of birds and curious Macaque monkeys. The beach has gnarly world-class breaks, with the approximately 150-meter right-hand break working on a south swell. Surfing seasons are between April and November with waves of eight feet or more. Summer months produce gentle two- to three-foot waves. Other surf spots are at points north of Homonhon Island and north of Suluan Island. Suluan is the location of the infamous Jurassic Point, perhaps the largest rideable wave in the country at 15 feet. Hike north of ABCD and within a few minutes you’ll hit Ngolos Beach, a 3km stretch facing the Pacific Ocean, ideal for swimming as the beach extends out for so many meters. Lobsters can be caught just offshore.

 

Camwhoring at the beach with @miel_melq #calicoanisland #abcdbeach #surfingparadise

A photo posted by Kristine Cyrelle Mae Vejera (@cookiemonsterdoll) on



Also try
Kantican Island (Pearl Island), a 52-hectare fish sanctuary and a pearl culture farm, or try bird watching on the island.

Where to stay
Villa Calicoan,
has rooms and cottages for rent. The room rate is P1,500 a night for two and the cottage rate is P1,000 a night for two. It is located right on ABCD Beach, tel +63917 206 9602.

How to get there
Cebu Pacific
has round trip flights from Manila to Tacloban for about P3,996. From Tacloban, there are regular rented or chartered vans for P160 per head going to Guiuan, a two- to four-hour journey.


#5 Puntod Island sandbar, Panglao, Bohol

Puntod Island By Darius Pimentel
Chosen by Oudine Santos of Breathe (yoga.healing.juicebar). Commonly known as the Virgin Island by locals, Puntod Island is an uninhabited island across Panglao Bay. It is only 10 minutes by pumpboat from the town of Panglao. Its main attraction is a 1.2 hectare stretch of crescent-shaped white sand sandbar dotted at one end by shrubs and coconut trees. There is no accommodation on the island except for a skeleton of a house used by fishermen. If you’re okay to rough it out, try camping on the island, and be lulled by the waves and sea breeze and woken in the morning by chirping birds.

 

Puntod Island. (Virgin Island Bohol)

A photo posted by Jaymar Alvaran (@jalvaran) on


Located at the southwest side of the island, three kilometers southwest of Panglao Island is Puntod Island Wall Dive, a dive site 35 minutes from Alona Beach by boat. Check out nearby islands such as Balicasag Island, home to manta rays, and of late, to a newly discovered species of mollusks; Pamilacan Island, famous for dolphin and whale watching; Snake Island, and excellent dive site; Gak-ang Island, ideal for swimming.

Also try: A Bohol countryside tour, inclusive of lunch during river cruise, dolphin watching, Balicasag and Virgin Island tour, roundtrip airport to resort transfers plus three-day stay based on twin sharing at Dumaluan Beach Resort in Panglao. The package costs P7,100 per person. Call +6338 502 9092. For a wedding in Bohol, the Peacock Garden Resort, a luxury resort, offers all year-round services for weddings. For inquiries and reservations, call +63917 729 8888.

Try an adventure in Bohol. E.A.T (Extreme Adventure Tour) in Danao, located outside the area of Panglao Island, promotes ecotourism and outdoor activities such as river kayaking, river trekking, caving and root climbing. For inquiries and reservations call +63917 302 1700. 

Where to stay
Oudine’s pick is Ananyana Resort located on the shores of Doljo Beach. It has 13 stylish rooms. The room rate for a double room is P9,460 a night good for two. Rates include transfers to and from any point in Tagbilaran City. Tel +6338 502 8101.

How to get there: Flights from Manila to Bohol takes about an hour and a half. Cebu Pacific has a rate of about P3,503. From Tagbilaran Airport, take a cab or rent a car for a 25-minute drive to Panglao Island, contact Bohol Rent a car at +63917 668 9074. Then hire a boat for about P1,500 to P5,000, to Puntod Island. For more information and tourism assistance, call Christopher Boncales at +6338 501 9186.


#6 Long Beach, San Vicente Beach, Palawan

San Vicente beach By Michael Marasigan
Chosen by Marc Nelson, World Wide Fund National Ambassador. Marc Nelson first visited San Vicente while on assignment for his former TV show Sports Unlimited. “I fell in love with the place and when the opportunity arose to invest in a piece of this paradise myself, I jumped at the chance. It has a beautiful 14km stretch of white sand beach – Long Beach – making it the longest in the Philippines, so that’s pretty hard to beat. Palawan also has a wonderful in-harmony-with-nature kind of vibe that is rare to find elsewhere.”



Located in the northwestern part of Palawan, San Vicente sprawls just above Puerto Princesa and below El Nido. It has pristine waters, rich marine life, vast mangroves, verdant virgin forest that’s home to some of the country’s endangered wildlife, majestic waterfalls and caves. Long Beach is not as creamy white as Boracay’s and some parts of Palawan, but it still is quite secluded, unspoilt and presents you with some of the most beautiful seascapes in the country.

Where to stay
Club Agutaya
, located in Long Beach, San Vicente has a superior room for about P8,000 a night for two people. For inquiries and reservations call +63917 898 1047. Or try Coconut Garden Island Resort at Cagnipa Island with room rates from P850. For inquiries and reservations call +63926 721 0112. 

How to get there
Cebu Pacific
has flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa for a round trip airfare of P3,178. From the airport, take a San Isidro bus to Port Barton for P250 per person, or a van for P350. Travel time is about 3 hours. There is also a San Isidro bus from Puerto Princesa to San Vicente for a bus fare of P150. For more information call +63919 445 5021.

#7 Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union

Urbiztondo beach Joel Garcia
Chosen by Luke Landrigan, Pro surfer. Urbiztondo Beach, more known as “Seabay Beach” in San Juan, La Union, considered the Surfing Capital of Northern Philippines, is a firm favorite of resort owner and pro surfer Luke Landrigan. The beach is less than a kilometer long, the sand grayish and the water clear. There’s a beautiful right point break on one side, a left hand reef break that is just fantastic on a south swell on the other end, and in between both of the breaks is a beach break ideal for beginner to intermediate surfers.

 

The heat is making me miss this view. ????

A photo posted by Joy Sallegue (@purplejoys) on


The surf break just offshore called “The Point,” otherwise also known as the “Monaliza” is the main surf area in the vicinity. Boards, specifically longboards, are readily available for rent and it’s not difficult to find instructors. What makes this place even better are the locals, like Luke, who are friendly and accommodating. La Union has two surf seasons, one running from July to October and the other from November to March. There are over a dozen breaks in La Union, including Luna, Darigayos Reef, Cement Factory, Tubok, Rivermouth, German Sunset Break, The Point, Dalumpinas, Car-rile, Sea and Sky, Poro Point, San Fernando Airport, Southern Palms, and Buang.

Also try
When you pass by Barangay taboc in San Juan, you will be amazed by the export quality pots (dalikan, a traditional cooking stove made from red clay and soil, also jars, bricks and lamps, are made by local villagers) displayed on this stretch. A number of pottery-making stalls are located in this area where one can actually stop to watch craftsmen at work. 

Where to stay
The San Juan Surf Resort
has budget and standard rooms, bungalows and condo units, a bar and restaurant, and a surf shop that offers surfboard sales and rentals. Room rates range from P1,980 to P7,780 a room night. For inquiries and reservations call +63917 887 5470.

How to get there
San Juan us a five-hour journey by car from Manila via North Luzon Express Way (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Express Way (SCTEX) and then MacArthur Highway. For car rental, call Transavia rent a car at +632 519 6814.
 

#8 El Nido, Miniloc Island beach, Palawan

El Nido Photo Courtesy of El Nido Resorts


Chosen by Actress Tetchie Agbayani. About 420KM southwest of Manila and 238KM northeast of Puerto Princesa, El Nido has an amazing scenery of tall dark cliffs, thick green forest, white sand beach, and sparkling blue waters. “El Nido is nice because the staff are very attentive and I like the fact that the guest relations staff would come to you at dinner time and ask what you what you’d want to do the following day. I always tell them I want to go to an island where there is no one else. And so in the morning after breakfast they would take me on a boat to an island we can have all to ourselves so you could bathe nude if you want to. And before lunchtime, around 11:30am, the resort boat would arrive with monoblock table, chairs, table cloth then serve the food. In El Nido, they have this small lagoon and the big lagoon so we took a boat there. I convinced the musicians to come with us. As we entered the lagoon they started playing the violin. The wild monkeys came out, curious. I took a dip in the water, which was so calm it was like glass, and floated listening to classical music."

Also try
Visit Cudugnon Cave, an old cavern that was formed by million years or erosion located near Lagen and Miniloc Island. One must go inside a small hole to step into the cave. It is also believed to be a historical site. Other islands to discover in El Nido are Dimulacad Island, Pinasil Island (Cathedral Cave) and Virgin Island (Snake Island). Tel +632 668 1958 for package tour. Price starts at P4,200 per person based on a group of two.

Where to stay
Miniloc Island Resort
has seaview rooms on stilts over the water. Rates are from about P27,450 for three nights. Rates vary according to season.

How to get there
Airswift has flights from Manila, take an hour and 15 minute flight to Lio Airport in El Nido for about P6,344. Lagen Island Resort is about four kilometers from the main town and they provide clients land and boat transfers.

#9 Coron beaches, Palawan

Coron By Ferdz Decena
Chosen by Jeena Llamas Lopez, sports enthusiast. Coron in Palawan has some of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the country and the region. It also presents excellent diving this side of the planet with more than 200 islets, mostly uninhabited, and its coastline is fringed with white sand and clear waters. It has towering limestone cliffs, sheltered lakes, lush mangroves, and thriving marine reserves. Check out Banol, a small strip of beach lying at the foot of a towering limestone cliff, Debatoc at the entrance of Coron passage, with its white sandy beach and steep limestone cliff partly bordered by coral reefs, Lagat, a small island 334-feet high surrounded by a reef with narrow passage, and Malcapuya, said to be better than Boracay. Sports enthusiast Jenna Lopez’s favorite beaches are Sangat, Gutob, Malcapuya, Magenguey, and all the uninhabited islands that you pass by on your pumpboat ride: “It is ideal to hire a boat and travel as far as you can, then turn back and explore the different uninhabited islands that catch your interest,” says Lopez. Attractions in the area that she adores are Makinit Hot Spring, Twin Lagoons and Kayangan Lake. Also, submerged at the narrow passages at Sangat, Gutob and Black Islands are Coron’s biggest attractions – 11 World War II Japanese naval wrecks.

 

Sweet escape. #Crewron2016 #cycbeach #coron #palawan #vscocam

A photo posted by Kei Ran (@okeiranyan) on


Also try
Visiting CYC Beach located five minutes away from the town proper. Snorkel its gin clear water or have a picnic on its white sand beach. Or take a 30-minute trek up Mt. Tapyas and view the breathtaking scenery of Coron Island. A hotel located at the back of the mountain called Mt. Tapyas Hotel offers a three-day package for P6,360 per person. The package includes airport transfers, accommodation, can service, packed lunch and entrance fees on tours. For more information call +63917 500 5566.

Where to stay
Sea Dive Resort
is built over water, with rooms from only P450 to P1,600. It has a very large restaurant, a bar, a good dive shop with pocket friendly rates. For inquiries and reservation call +63920 945 8714. Puerto del Sol Resort and Dive Center has charming rooms with sea views, with rates from about P4,600 a night. Sangat Island Dive Resort has room rates from P4,620 per person for one night. For a luxurious stay, try Club Paradise on Dimakya Island. Tel +632 719 6971. Tripadvisor has a list of top ranking resorts in Coron.

How to get there: Book a flight with Cebu Pacific for about P5,832 for Manila to Busuanga. Flights land at Busuanga airport, about 45 minutes land travel to Coron town in Busuanga Island, a major jump off point to neighboring islets. For more information, contact Calamianes Expeditions and Ecotours at +63 984 7795. 


#10 Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte

Cloud9 By Mike Alcid
Chosen by JV Borromeo, Stoked Philippines founder. Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte is home to the famous Cloud 9 surfing spot, a favorite of JV Borromeo and many other surfers. It is also the site of the annual Cloud 9 International Surfing Invitational. Siargao Island is greatly influenced by the winds and currents coming uninterrupted from the Pacific. Its reefs are situated on the edge of the Philippine Trench, and the extremely deep offshore waters assure the ocean swells have undiluted power when they encounter the many coral and rock reefs. Excellent surfing conditions run particularly during southwest monsoon, when the prevailing wind is offshore. “Another thing I love about Cloud 9 is that I can go barefoot on the beach. It’s so clean and pristine, untouched!” said Borromeo.
Siargao boasts of the largest mangrove forest reserve in Mindanao, with a coastal landscape of palm trees and sparkling seas. It has several beautiful beaches offshore including Dako Island and Naked Island.



Also try
Watching the 20-meter Bitaugan whirlpool in Biyagan Island. The whirlpool, located 10 meters from the shore presents quite a sight especially during high tidal change but is dangerous and not for swimming in. For a night out, visit Drop Inn Bar located between General Luna and Cloud 9. It has a lounge area and an open air bar. Buddha Surf Resort has acoustic jam every Thursday.

Where to stay
JV suggests Siargao Inn with rates from P1,800 to P3,800 and Sagana Resort with rates from P3,600 to P4,600. At the higher end, try Kawayan with a rate of P4,500, and Kalinaw with rates from P7,900 to P13,900. Buddha Surf Resort has top ratings on Tripadvisor. If money is no object, check out the stylish Dedon Island Resort

How to get there
Cebu Pacific has direct flights from Manila to Siargao Island for an airfare of P5,100. 

For more on Philippine beaches, read Romblon's top 6 beaches with wow factor.

David Dalton, author of the original Rough Guide to the Philippines, on My five favorite islands in the Philippines...ever.

Read Travel blogger Estan Cabigas' top 13 beaches.

The Best beaches of the Philippines by Lonely Planet.

San Vicente, Palawan cover photo used on Twitter and Facebook feeds is a screengrab from @richard.soriano on Instagram.

 

Originally published in InFlight Traveller February to March 2013. Updated May 2016