The Philippines is made up of over 7,600 islands – and no two islands are the same! Exploring these islands transports you to a world of white, sandy beaches, thick jungle forests, and stunning mountain ranges. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll have the time to explore all 7,640 islands. So, we’ve made things a little easier for you with this list of the top five islands you need to visit in the Philippines.
Forbes famously gave Palawan, Philippines, the title of “heaven on earth.” And, it’s clear as to how Palawan has earned that title. Palawan is a series of small islands, and the El Nido Islands in Palawan are the most popular among tourists. In recent years, El Nido has become the star tourist attraction of the Philippines.
You can island hop and fill your days with diving, swimming, taking small hikes to waterfalls, or simply relaxing on the beach. Kayak throughout the waters of El Nido and you’ll take in views of over 45 stunning limestone cliffs with caves and lagoons.
Palawan is also a favorite among divers. The waters in this area typically have whales, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, sea cows, and turtles.
When it comes to accommodations, you can stay in the lively central city of El Nido. Here things will be busy and loud, but you can guarantee you’ll get yourself into some fun adventures. If you’re looking for a more private experience, you can also book private huts directly on the water.
Cebu is the Philippines’ oldest city. This island was the first region the Spanish settled and later became the first capital of the Philippines. Cebu is one of the busier regions of the Philippines, so getting there is usually easy and affordable. The area is made up of 168 islands and one of the most popular activities is to book a boat island-hopping tour to explore the region.
While you’re in Cebu, you’ll have to seek out the fantastic waterfalls. In total, there are over 90 waterfalls in the region to explore. Canyoneering In Kawasan Falls is also an amazing experience for travelers.
We also highly recommend going on some hikes to take in Cebu’s beautiful jungles and mountain ranges. In particular, tackle the Osmeña Peak for stunning views of the islands and the water.
If you love cave exploration, Cebu is the place to be. Many of the limestone rocks throughout the Cebu islands have eroded into enormous caves that are safe to explore. Although these caves are safe, it’s still advised that you always book a cave exploration with a professional tour guide.
If you’re looking for an island that is all about the beach and water activities during the day but can also offer you a fantastic nightlife scene, then Boracay is your answer. Boracay definitely has a reputation as one of the Philippines’ party towns. Young tourists love to come here for the inexpensive pub crawls, chic restaurants, and famous beach parties that don’t stop until the sun comes up.
The years of parties did take a toll on the region, and in April 2018, the Philippines government announced that Boracay would be shutting down for six months. The purpose of this hiatus was to clean up the area and help the local environment recover. Luckily the program worked and the island has re-opened.
When you’re not partying the nights away, Boracay also has plenty of amazing daytime activities to enjoy. The strong winds in the area make Boracay a popular destination for kiteboarders and windsurfers. You can also try your hand at parasailing, snorkeling, paddle boarding – and the classic Philippines activity – island hopping.
Siargao is most known as the Philippines surfing capital. It got its fame after videos circulated in surfing communities showcasing Siargao’s crystal blue waters and strong waves. Adventure travelers can try their hand surfing on Cloud 9 beach, where the average wave height is seven feet from October to March!
If surfing on enormous waves isn’t your idea of a good time, Siargao has plenty of other activities for you to do! You absolutely have to rent a motorbike and ride down the palm-tree-lined roads as you explore the island.
Siargao is also full of coconut trees. Grab yourself a fresh coconut and take it back to your room. Make a hole in your coconut, add some juice or alcohol, and you have yourself one of the best drinks for a hot day!
You can also spend your days exploring the nearby islands, such as Naked Island, Dako Island, and Guyam Island.
Siargao is the perfect blend of modern living and quiet beach town life. You can stay at fancy resorts that make you luxurious meals while also exploring nearby islands where you’re the only one around for miles.
Technically, Coron Bay is part of Palawan. Most travel guides about the Philippines simply bucket Coron under the Palawan category, but we believe this island deserves its own shout-out.
This group of islands is known for the Japanese shipwrecks found in the Coron Bay waters. In September 1944, an American airstrike sank a World War II Japanese supply fleet near the coast of the Philippines. Today, experienced divers can explore these waters and see the ships for themselves.
Along with the shipwrecks, this island has a whole itinerary of unique experiences exclusive to Coron. Start by paddle boarding or kayaking through Kayangan Lake. We promise we’re not exaggerating when we say Kayangan Lake has some of the clearest water in all of Asia. Travelers should also make time to hike to the top of Mount Tapyas for some astounding views. After your hike, you can relax those muscles by visiting the Maquinit Hot Springs. There’s no denying that Coron will keep you busy!
There’s so much to see in the Philippines you could probably take a trip there every year and still come back with new experiences every time. These five islands are a great place to start to capture an idea of all that the Philippines has to offer.