The Philippine archipelago consists of more than 7,600 islands washed by the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean’s tropical seas. Less than a third of them are inhabited, and about five thousand of uninhabited pieces of land still require to be named.
Philippines islands attract about six million tourists from around the world annually, but it’s not a problem to find a secluded beach in the Philippines, the total length of the coastline is 36,289 kilometers.
Here is the full list of best islands in the Philippines to visit for first timers, while planning trip to this country.
The Most Popular Islands in the Philippines to Visit
The archipelago is conventionally divided into three large island groups – Luzon (which includes the largest island of the Philippines with the same name), Visaya and Mindanao.
1. Boracay island for luxurious experience
Every fourth tourist, thinking of the best island to visit in the Philippines, gives preference to the tiny Boracay island. There, you can find accommodation options for any budget: luxurious hotels and affordable budget places.
Boracay beaches deserve special attention as all of them are worth exploring. on the beaches you can do any kind of water sports. Nightlife in the island is also has something to offer, there are plenty of nightclubs and restaurants options to choose from. There are many things to do in Boracay island, to learn more about some of them you can from our guide on best tourist attractions.
Click here if you want to join Boracay Beach Hopping Boat Tour.
2. Bohol: Chocolate Hills and Eco-Tourism
Bohol island, crowned with the laurels of a world-class resort, lies in the center of the Philippine archipelago. The mountainous Bohol island is famous for its magnificent scenery, rich tropical flora and fauna, spectacular waterfalls falling over rocks in hidden gorges. It is rightly included in the list of the most beautiful islands of the Philippines to visit.
Island coast is covered with coral sand – white, shiny, impeccably soft, as if specially sifted. They say it is even exported abroad as a luxury beach cover.
Click here to make your reservation and join Bohol Full Day Tour.
Among the natural attractions of Bohol are the Mag-Aso falls and amazing Bohol Chocolate Hills, ranging in height from 50 to 100 meters. These cones, reminiscent of man-made steppe mounds of Central Asia, are created by ancient deposits of coral, which on a whim of nature have taken such a perfect geometric shape.
During the dry season in the Philippines, the grass on the hills dries out, turning a light brown color. A popular souvenir from this place is a box of chocolates, repeating the shape of the famous hills.
The capital city of Bohol is Tagbilaran, located on the southwest coast. From here there is a road bridge across the narrow strait to the neighboring island of Panglao.
3. Panglao: Best Diving Experience
The resort island of Panglao is known for its luxurious hotels, gorgeous beaches and some of the best diving locations in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. Going for marine adventures in the Philippines, divers are sure to include Panglao in their list of islands to visit. Picturesque underwater landscapes of coral reefs attract tourists from all over the world.
4. Cebu Island: Ancient Architecture and Beaches
To the northwest of Panglao lies Cebu island. In 1521, Fernand Magellan ships, who discovered the archipelago for Europeans and created the first map of the Philippines with its many islands, reached Cebu island’s shores.
Sailors were amazed by the nature of the island, beautiful Cebu beaches and called it La Reina del Sur – “Queen of the South”. There are many reminders of that period: old seaside fortresses, palaces, and grand Catholic cathedrals. Today, Cebu island is home to luxury resorts, amusement parks, nature reserves.
The capital of the island is Cebu city, the oldest in the country. Go ahead to the central part of the city, where you’ll find many historical architectural sites and museums.
Click here to join a day tour from Cebu to Oslob, enjoy whale shark swimming and visit Kawasan Falls.
5. Sumilon Island
Sumilon Island is located just not far from Cebu and can be reached by boat. In 1974 it became the first biosphere reserve in the Philippines. Its area is only 24 hectares, but despite its diminutive size, Sumilon is one of the most popular islands in the Philippines to visit.
There are a couple of bungalow hotels on the island. The pristine beaches of wondrous beauty can be reached by boat rented in Cebu.
Day tour prices vary, starting from $125. On the island there is a lagoon with mangrove trees growing straight out of the sea, in the thicket hides several caves. Coastal coral reefs are home to octopuses and crabs, thousands of varieties of fish and shellfish.
This is one of the most popular diving locations in the archipelago. Local travel agencies offer divers to join unique and extreme experience – feeding the huge whale sharks. Make sure to check our guide on ethical swimming with whale sharks in Philippines for great experience.
As of October 2019, the Coast Guard has banned boating here after 5 p.m.
If you want to visit Sumilon Sand Bar, swim with Whale Shark and enjoy snorkeling, click here to make your tour reservation.
6. Negros: Volcanoes, Rocks, and Pure Water
To the west of Cebu there is Negros Island, one of the largest islands in the Philippines. Here is Kanlaon volcano, which rises to 2,460 meters. The capital is the port city of Bacolod, known for its annual grand festivals. In 2019, it was chosen as the most comfortable city in the country, and tourists nicknamed it the friendly and welcoming Bacolod City of Smiles.
Click here if you want to join Manjuyod Sandbar Private Tour and enjoy Dolphin Watching.
7. Siquijor: the most mystical island
Siquijor island is located 19 kilometers south of Negros. Siquijor has long had a reputation as a mystical place. Even today you can find there hereditary sorcerers and magicians, famous folk healers, who know how to prepare healing potions.
The island has wonderful beaches and many nature attractions, like caves, waterfalls, eco-park Bandila-an, butterfly reserve. The coral reefs surrounding the island are popular with divers.
8. Small Island Coron
The triangular Coron island, like a compass needle, points exactly to the south. The island is famous for its stunning diving locations, ranking among the top ten most famous in the world. Many Japanese warships sunk by U.S. aircraft in the battles of World War II lie off the coast at a depth accessible to divers.
One of the most popular is 115-meter aircraft carrier Akitsushima. Divers recently discovered a huge karst cave here that is called Cathedral and can be accessed only through an underwater passage. At noon, sunlight enters the bowels through a hole in the vault, filling the cave with a ghostly glow.
A local natural attraction is the picturesque lakes that lie among the green hills. Three of them are connected to the sea by underground tunnels. Kayangan Lake is recognized as the cleanest body of water in Asia.
9. Palawan Island
The elongated island of Palawan, which stretches 425 kilometers, serves as the border of the Philippine archipelago with the South China Sea. The island is mountainous, with peaks as high as 2,000 meters. The slopes are covered with jungle, while mangrove forests are along the shores. There are enough areas with sandy beaches for great beach vacation.
The capital of the island is Puerto Princesa city. The national park of the same name is a World Heritage Site. Its main attraction is the underground Puerto Princesa River flowing in the caves. Exploration of the dungeons is still ongoing and brings new discoveries. In 2010, speleologists discovered a 300-meter-high cave and underground waterfalls here.
The region of El Nido, located 240 kilometers from the capital on the northeastern tip of Palawan, is the fourth in the list of “20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World” according to the authoritative magazine Conde Nast Traveler. There are more than hundred beaches located on the coast and in the lagoons of the coastal islets.
10. Hundred Islands National Park, Pangasinan Province
Pangasinan is located in the west of Luzon and is worth visiting because of its picturesque islands, clean beaches, high waterfalls and green hills.
One of the main attractions of the place is Hundred Islands National Park. This protected area was the first national park in the Philippines. Take a trip around the park and see some of the 124 islands around Pangasinan.
Take food with you for a snack, as there are no snack bars or restaurants on these islands. Most importantly, take all the trash and leftovers with you.
You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, kayaking while exploring the islands. Experience the thrill of cliff diving and rock climbing, ziplining – rappelling down a steel rope from the top of a mountain, parasailing.
Also in Pangasinan province you can go on a pilgrimage tour of ancient churches and visit local restaurants to enjoy Philippines national food.
11. Siargao Island
Siargao is located in the northeast of Mindanao and is popular surfing spot in the Philippines.
Siargao island is location where you will find white sand beaches, natural lagoon pools and a magnificent mangrove reserve. It’s also the place of barrel-shaped waves that are perfect for skiing, according to the professionals.
This surf location is called Cloud 9. Nowadays, it has become a place where surfers can test their character, improve skills, or battle with the sport’s true pros.
Surfing is not the only activity on Siargao. Be sure to take a tour of the nearby islands: Daku, Guyam, and Naked Island.
This island gets its name from the fact that there are no structures or vegetation on it. It’s just a patch of fine white sand in the middle of the sea. You can come to this shoal for a good swim and sunbathing.
Daku is the largest of the three islands. Unlike Naked Island, there is infrastructure and huts that can be rented for the night. There’s a long, fine, white-sand beach with sprawling palm trees, creating the perfect backdrop for your tropical Instagram photos.
It is a perfect place to visit if you’re traveling with kids, as it is surrounded by a shoal.
Enjoy the ride along palm-fringed Siargao roads. You can do this by renting the transport you like to most, scooter or vehicle. Make sure to visit Magpopongko Rock Pools and Flats, Sugba Lagoon, Sohoton Bay, or take a dip in Maasin River.
12. Malapascua Island
It is one of the least explored islands in the Philippines. There is no vibrant nightlife and huge hotel complexes. But there are diving locations that are ideal for beginners.
The main feature of Malapascua diving is an opportunity to meet with a hammerhead shark. These sharks are not dangerous to people, but they still look scary. This adds a touch of extreme to diving.
The island itself is practically a piece of untouched tropical nature. There are really few places like this left on the planet.
Even though Moalboal is not an island, but a peninsula, we’ve decided to include it in this list. It’s worth visiting if you’re looking how to spend an active day. You can join guided tour and visit Badian Canyon, a winding canyon with waterfalls, rock formations, and water of incredible blue color. Have a lot of fun from jumping off cliffs, kayaking in narrow crevasses, visiting waterfalls and swimming in the clearest lagoons.
14. Cambari Island
If you’re looking for the greatest sunsets to view, go ahead to Cambari island which is located pretty far from Palawan island. There are several caves on the island that can be explored even without special training and equipment.
Some caves have natural pools of water, so you can enjoy snorkeling and swimming. The water here is so clear that the inhabitants of the depths can be seen even from the surface. These caves are home to lobsters, stingrays, and many fish species.
This is the most important island of the Philippine archipelago, where its capital city Manila is located. Few tourists stay there, even though there are so many things to do in Manila.
Take a minibus to Pico de Loro to climb the mountain of the same name. There are several hiking trails for hikers of any fitness level.
If you’re a beginner in hiking, you can explore Mount Batulao. Its height is 811 meters, and the mountain is only an hour’s drive from the capital. Don’t forget to enjoy mesmerizing panoramic views along the way to the summit, and at the top you can see a stunning sunset.
16. Guimaras Island
If you’re looking for the beautiful beaches, go ahead to some of the small islands, located close to Guimaras, for example, Nagarao, Inampulugan. They are almost never reached by tourists, so take the advantage of it.
Time spent on Guimaras island will not be boring at all, as there are mango plantations, marine reserves, lighthouses, Catholic churches, caves, a sea turtle conservation center, restaurants, waterfalls and many other locations worth exploring.
As this island is not so popular among tourists, hurry up to be one of the first foreign visitors!
17. The Province of Camarines Norte
Not far from this province there are some truly paradisiacal islands with unspoiled nature. The main beach of the province is Long Beach. It is a long spit of white sand with volcanic rocks at both ends. Have a picnic or go snorkeling here.
There are no big hotels here, but there are places for camping! For a small fee you can rent and put up a tent. Just imagine what it would be like to fall asleep under the stars and wake up to the sound of the ocean.
18. Bucas Grande
Swimming with jellyfish, exploring underground caves and tunnels, exciting boat rides on mountain rivers and fishing with the locals – all this awaits you on the island.
If swimming with jellyfish scared you, don’t worry! They don’t sting. But it is really interesting to watch them: you’ll have a chance to see these marine creatures of different sizes and colors.
Mararison island, known by tourists as Malalison, is a small island that worth a trip if you want to explore the Filipino culture. Join guided tour and explore beautiful mountains, local plants and animals, learn more about national customs.
A hiking trail leads to a small cave on the other side of the island, where you can swing on bamboo swings and buy snacks at the local store.
There is also a small nature reserve, where you can go snorkeling. After the hike, relax on the shallow beach, where tourists are picked up by boats.
Want to delve into the past of the Philippines? Go to Corregidor island! What was once a battlefield between American, Japanese and Filipino forces during World War II is now part of history. There is also a very small fortress on the island, which was used to shelter wars.
See relics of the war firsthand on a guided tour, visiting the light clock, barracks, and some small monuments. You can also birdwatch and go boating on Corregidor.
21. Tawi Tawi
This island is closer to Malaysia than to the Philippines, so tourists almost never visit it.
Because of its location, this island is unique in terms of culture and traditions. The food is a mix of Malay and Filipino and people has a unique accent.
On the island you can climb the mount Bongao, which, according to the locals, can heal, and also walk and explore small beautiful mosques. You can also visit the village of Sama Dilaut, with the old houses on stilts, standing directly from the water. Well, and, of course, swim in the clearest water and sunbathing on snow-white beaches.