The Philippines is well known for its stunning islands and white sandy beaches. However, there are only a handful of destinations that people know of. There are a lot of secluded beaches, magical islands, and hidden natural beauties waiting to be discovered that you’ve probably never heard of. If you’re planning to visit the Philippines, here are my favorite off the beaten track destinations that I personally fell in love with…
Love turtles, snorkeling, or diving? You’ll never want to leave Apo island! This small island in the province of Negros Oriental is a paradise for marine lovers and was in my bucket list for a long time until my husband and I visited last year. Only a few meters from the beach, you’ll find large sea turtles eating and swimming around.
Just remember to not touch these majestic beings. Aside from the sea turtles, Apo island is also famous for its marine life. You can dive or snorkel and feast your eyes on the most colorful coral reefs you’ll ever see in the Philippines.
A lot of people know about Cebu island but not everyone knows about its neighboring island, Siquijor. If you’re into laid-back travel destinations, you’re sure to fall in love with Siquijor island.
Some of the best things to do in Siquijor includes trying the Tarzan swing in a gatorade-blue waterfall, beach bumming in white sandy beaches with only a handful of people in sight, snorkeling around marine sanctuaries, pigging out in local restaurants, and a lot more!
Found on the northern coast of Mindanao, Camiguin is one of the Philippines’ islands you can’t miss! From white sandbars, sunken cemetery, and recently-declared National Heritage Sites, this island will keep you wanting for more. Its rural charm is what makes it so irresistible!
Bantayan island is one of Cebu’s fishing villages turned into a go-to place for laid-back island life. Go island hopping or rent a tricycle for the day and have your local driver bring you to the best places the island has to offer.
The seafood here is pretty cheap. Here’s a tip. Hang out at Kota beach and wait for the locals selling cooked scallops early in the morning. These are one of the best and cheapest seafood to try on the island!
So what’s more to see in the Philippines? Volcanoes! And active ones at that. Want to visit one? Hiking Mt Pinatubo in Luzon should be on your bucket list!
To get to the jump-off point, you’ll have to hop on a 4×4 for an exciting and adventurous ride. Then, hike up to the crater.
What makes Mt Pinatubo unique is its crater lake which changes from deep blue to blue-green depending on the season.
Ever watched the Survivor series? It was filmed on this island years ago.
Palaui island is not like any other island you’ve ever visited. Here, you’ll find hundreds of giant narra trees, several unspoiled beaches, and a 500+ year-old lighthouse which is still in use.
Palaui island offers a raw beauty of what the Philippines probably looked like centuries ago. Currently, it’s declared as a protected landscape and only several dozens of families live on the island.
If you’re planning to visit, don’t miss the nearby beach, Anguib beach. You can ask one of the local boatmen to bring you there. It’s known as the “Boracay of the North” for a reason and you’ll find out why when you visit.
Islas de Gigantes
Islas de Gigantes is a favorite island hopping experience for the locals. But for me, it’s scallop heaven! Scallops here are sold for as low as 1 peso each! No kidding. That’s like 50 to 54 pieces of scallops for 1 US dollar. Wow!
Scallops aside, Islas de Gigantes is composed of several neighboring islands boasting of turquoise blue lagoons, sandbars, rock formations, snorkeling sites, and a lot more. To get the best experience, I’d recommend booking a tour with Gigantes Island Tours and Services. They offer several tour packages and will provide you with buffet-style meals (with loads of seafood)!
Maligcong Rice Terraces
What’s there to like about rice terraces? Nothing much except for their stunning majestic beauty, that is! If you’re looking for an off the beaten path with lots of greeneries, consider a hike to Mt Kopapey for the best view of Maligcong Rice Terraces. Not only that but the local communities around the terraces are brimming with culture. So if you’re into discovering new cultures, consider visiting the nearby towns.
One of my high school friends work there as a tour guide and told me the best months to visit would be from May to June. Do note that late May to June is the start of the rainy season in the country so bring raincoats, umbrellas, and waterproof everything.
Davao is known for its amazing food scene and water rafting adventures. But did you know that it boasts of a small island just 30 minutes away from the city? It’s a quick escape at its finest! Samal island is blessed with abundant marine life, white sandy beaches, stunning rock formations, waterfalls, bat sanctuary, and much more. There are also several neighboring islands you can visit from Samal that are sure to take your breath away.
You’ve probably heard of Palawan before but I bet you haven’t heard of the Balacbac islands. At the southeastern tip of Palawan, you’ll find the islands of Balacbac with virgin island beaches. The Balacbac islands are composed of more than 30 islands and islets but the best ones to visit would be:
- Bugsok/Sebaring Island
- Canibungan Island
- Onuk Island
- Camiaran “Pink” Island
- Sicsican Island
- Canabungan Island
- Candaraman Island
- Patawan Island
- Patongong Island
- Pulaw Bato Island
Dao falls is truly a hidden gem and an epic destination if you’re in Cebu. It’s one of the best Cebu waterfalls to visit and my personal favorite. Imagine yourself walking through a knee-deep tiffany blue river as you’re immersed in a jungle hike past narrow canyon walls, and limestone paths until you finally find yourself staring at a beautiful cascading waterfall over a huge rock wall into a Gatorade-blue wide basin. Sounds like a dream? It does but this one’s real.
Dinagat islands is a neighboring island of the famous surfing spot – Siargao island. Dinagat is filled with pristine beaches that are not yet known to travelers.
The best thing to do here is to go island hopping and discover its hidden beauties – maybe even stay a night or two to fully experience the islands. You might find it challenging to visit the Dinagat islands as there are no direct flights but once you visit, it’ll all be worth the effort!
Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always been a sucker for an adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued his taste for seeking out new cultures. So much in fact he now travels the world as a trading digital nomad, exploring everything from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, street food, playing carrom, and fine wine and knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations.