Five secret travel gems of the Philippines

Home to the peculiar Chocolate Hills on the Batayan Island and to stunning stretches of white sand on Siargao Island, Philippines is a beautiful and riveting place…

It’s also responsible for five of our 100 Secret Gems You Need to Know About list!


1. Calaguas Islands

Where on earth is it?

A small group of islands in the province of Camarines Norte.

Why you need to know about it

The Philippines is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any peaceful tropical retreats left to discover.

The Calaguas group of islands are largely untouched and the native people want to keep it that way, with government controls on tour operators to maintain its slow-paced way of life.

With a number of campsites and beach huts to stay in on the white sand beaches, such as Mahabang Buhangin Beach on Tinaga, it’s still a relatively undiscovered gem. Get there soon!


2. Siargao Island

Where on Earth is it?

In the Philippine Sea, 800 kilometres south-east of Manila.

Why you need to know about it

Siargao (pronounced Shar-gow) is almost blissfully untouched by the hand of man, and what ‘development’ there is is completely laid-back.

The tear-shaped island has long been a drawcard for surfers – it is known as the surf capital of the Philippines – but there’s lots to entice non-boarders, not least the achingly clear waters and white sandy beaches that look as soft as icing sugar.

Island life centres around the town of General Luna, with its bicycle traffic and restaurants, or you can retreat from the world at Dedon Island, a boutique resort that is as breathtaking as its surroundings.

Siargao Island Philippines travel gems

Siargao Island is renowned for it’s crystal clear waters (photo: Melanie Huehnlein).

3. Bohol

Where on Earth is it?

A must-visit island off the east coast of Cebu.

Why you need to know about it

A ferry-hop from Cebu, Bohol is home to the iconic Chocolate Hills, more than a thousand grass-covered, cone-shaped hillocks. The grass turns brown in the dry season, hence the name, and it is surely one of the most alien-like landscapes on the planet.

The island is also home to the bizarre-looking tarsier primates, with their enormous protruding eyes, which you can ogle at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary visitor centre in the town of Corella. If that isn’t enough of a reason to come here, the adjoining island of Panglao is one of the world’s great diving destinations.


4. Bantayan Island

Where on Earth is it?

An island paradise in the Visayan Sea, north-west of Cebu.

Why you need to know about it

The Philippines is part of the coral triangle, an area with more species of fish and coral than any other marine environment on earth.

Bantayan Island is a great place to base yourself to explore the reefs found in its marine reserves and the stunning beaches around its circumference. it’s big enough to support some lively towns with great hotels, yet manages to retain a chilled-out feel.

Ivatan stone houses, Batanes, Philippines

Traditional Ivatan stone houses with thatched roofs in Batanes, Philippines.

5. Batanes

Where on Earth is it?

The northernmost archipelago of the Philippines.

Why you need to know about it

The Philippines is a world unto itself – more than 7000 islands of cities and national parks, beaches and coral reefs. The Batanes sit in the far north of the country, straddling the gap between the Philippines and Taiwan.

Home to the native Ivatans and their traditional stone houses with thatched roofs, it has the lowest population of any of the islands, most of it given over to rolling hills of lush cattle pastures; hire a car or a bike and explore this pastoral dream for yourself.


More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia

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This article appeared in issue 25


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