11 of the best beaches in the Philippines: Where to go instead of Boracay

Photo via Palawan’s government website.

Need some vitamin sea?

Boracay has long been the top-of-mind destination for anyone wanting to experience the country’s beaches. But because of its recent rehabilitation and closure that is set to last for 6 months, many local and foreign tourists have had to rethink their vacation plans.

But that may not be such a bad thing. While Boracay will be missed, there are plenty of other beaches in the Philippines worth visiting that are just as good — if not better. Below, are just 11 of them.

San Juan, La Union

Photo from the government website of La Union.

San Juan, La Union has been popular among serious surfers for quite some time but in recent years, it has also become the go-to place for hip Manileños wanting to get away from the city. Think: Makati’s Poblacion but with sun, sand, and surf.

It’s pretty accessible (approx. a five-hour drive) and is filled with pretty little hostels and local restaurants that are hip but totally chill. 

Known as the “Surfing Capital of the North,” La Union is the perfect place to ride some waves or take a surfing class or two. 

Watch out for the jellies though! They sting with a vengeance. Surfers and swimmers alike are advised to take caution, especially during the rainy season. Luckily, there are some establishments near the surfing area that have grown aloe vera plants that are helpful for those who have been stung.

How to get there: Coming from Manila, ride a bus heading to San Fernando, La Union and ask to be dropped off at Urbiztondo, San Juan. The fare can cost around PHP430 (US$8.04) to PHP525 (US$9.8).

Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte

Photo via Surigao del Norte’s government website.

Siargao is one of the islands situated in Surigao Del Norte and is also a favorite destination among surfers. 

It’s got powdery white sand, palm trees, and clear blue waters that’ll give visitors a truly tropical vibe. 

Like San Juan, La Union, Siargao also has a number of hip establishments frequented by visitors and locals alike.

Travel blogs and vlogs have made Siargao increasingly more popular over the years, making it *the* place to be at during the summer. But unlike Boracay, which has been commercialized, Siargao remains low-key and true to its island vibe.

How to get there: The most convenient way is to book a direct flight from Manila but flights with layovers in Cebu or Davao are also available. 

Coron, Palawan

Photo via Palawan’s government website.

Palawan has been called the “last frontier of the Philippines” for its ecological balance, as it is still mostly undeveloped and untouched.

Those who visit will quickly notice the postcard-ready beaches (They’re literally on postcards) with clear waters and white sand but the place is also known for the various activities available for tourists which include kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, island hopping, and scuba diving. 

Tourists usually head to two specific places: Coron and El Nido.

Coron is in Northern Palawan and is for the more laid-back type of tourist who isn’t fond of partying all night long. Locals are friendly and there’s an ample amount of eateries to choose from.

It has Mount Tapyas, the second highest peak in Coron which can be accessed via a  staircase. Those who are up for the challenge can opt to climb Mount Darala in Busuanga Island.

Visitors can also watch dugongs (sea cows) when they go near the coast of Busuanga Island. 

How to get there: Travelers can take a direct flight to Busuanga which is less than an hour away from the town proper of  Coron, while others can opt to take a flight going to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. From the port of Puerto Princesa, you can take a ferry to Coron which would take a day.

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is on the northwestern tip of mainland Palawan and it’s mostly where the party scene is at.

The popular island has a number of bars to choose from like the New Zone Disco Bar, Rasta Bar, and Pukka Bar, among others.

Tourists can swim through the hole of the secret lagoon, scuba dive in Snake Island and Helicopter Island, hike to the Taraw Peak, visit the Matinloc Shrine (an abandoned Virgin Mary shrine), and check out the Nagkalit-Kalit waterfalls.

It also has its fair share of eateries that serve some good seafood.

How to get there: There are airlines that fly directly from Manila to El Nido, however the most common way to reach the place is by flying from Manila to Puerto Princesa (airtime is one hour and 15 minutes). From the airport, travelers can take a van transfer to El Nido that’ll take approximately 4 and a half to 6 hours. The fare is around PHP600 (US$11.20) to PHP700 (US$13.07).

Nasugbu, Batangas

Nasugbu, Batangas. Photo by: Kaka Corral.

Those who need a quick getaway from city life can head to Nasugbu, Batangas, which is only 3 – 4 hours away from Manila. 

Beach-goers can visit the Greece-like Fortune Island, an acropolis with a line of Grecian pillars that lead to the island’s limestone cliff. 

There’s also Tali Beach, ideal for outings with friends, family, or colleagues. The sand on Tali Beach is more khaki brown than white but the water has an inviting emerald green glow worth taking a dip in. 

For mountain enthusiasts, Mt. Batulao and Mt. Talamitam are also in the area, which are both good for experienced and first-time climbers. 

How to get there: Coming from Manila, take a bus heading for Nasugbu at the DLTBCo Bus Terminal in LRT Buendia near Gil Puyat Avenue and Taft Avenue or ride the BSC Bus Terminal in EDSA-Taft Pasay. The fare is around PHP160 (US$2.98). The trip takes 3 – 4 hours.

Zambales

Anawangin Cove. Photo via Zambales’ government website.

Zambales is another nearby beach destination that weekend warriors can go to for a quick trip.

Anawangin Cove is the most visited among Zambales’ neighboring coves as it is the most developed and the nearest one from Pundaquit, the town proper of San Antonio, Zambales. 

Roadtrippers can camp out underneath Agoho trees that resemble Baguio’s pine tree landscape and take a stroll through the cove’s shore that comes blanketed with volcanic ash from nearby Mt. Pinatubo. Emerald green waters can also be found in Anawangin. 

Those who like water sports can try their hand at surfing in Anawangin or at Crystal Beach Resort in San Narciso, Zambales.

Another Zambles getaway to consider is Potipot Island. It has everything one looks for in a beach (white sand, blue water) but it’s small enough that visitors can check out the entire island in about 30 minutes. 

Potipot Island. Photo via Zambales’ government website

How to get there: Go to a Victory Liner Station in Cubao, Caloocan, Pasay, or Sampaloc and board the bus heading to Iba, Zambales. The fare is around PHP280 (US$5.22).

Bataan

Mariveles. Photo via Bataan’s government website.

Bataan is known for landmarks such as Corregidor Island, Mariveles, Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, and Mt. Samat.

Apart from history buffs, though, the place is also a go-to for casual vacationers because of its beaches. One beach worth going to is Morong Beach which has a calm vibe fit for a family vacay but still has water activities like jet skiing. 

Those traveling with animal lovers and kids can also visit the Conservation Center to see some pawikan (sea turtles).

Another beach to consider is Playa La Caleta, which is quieter than most resorts in the area. It has clear blue waters and a spot near the island where the whole gang can cliff dive. It also has a wide range of activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and sand-skiing.

How to get there: From Manila, get onboard a bus (PHP200/US$3.73) heading to Balanga City at the Bataan Transit or Genesis terminals. Once at the Balanga terminal, catch a mini-bus (PHP35/US$.65) heading to the Bagac town proper of Bataan. Travel time would be around 3 hours.

Panglao, Bohol

Panglao. Photo via Bohol’s government website.

Panglao is located in the Southwestern part of Bohol. Like other beaches on this list, it’s got white sand and turquoise water but it’s special because of the various kinds of accommodations available. 

There are a bunch of affordable accommodations as well as more posh resorts in the vicinity so it won’t be too hard to book a stay somewhere near the beach, no matter the budget. 

Its beaches, Alona and Dumaluan, are both Instagram-worthy. Bohol is also home to national landmarks the Chocolate Hills and the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.

Tarsiers, for those who aren’t familiar, are small primates native to the area with huge eyes that will stare into your soul–but in a good way. 

Photo from Bohol’s government website.

How to get there: Panglao is in Bohol, which is easier to get to by a plane ride (1 hour and 25 minutes) rather than a 25-hour boat ride. You can take a domestic flight headed for the city of Tagbilaran. From the port of Tagbilaran, there are taxis or tricycles that take tourists to Panglao. Travel time is around 30 to 40 minutes from there with an estimated rate of PHP250 (US$4.66) to PHP500 (US$9.33).

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Pagudpud. Photo via Ilocos Norte’s government website.

Pagudpud is located near the northern tip of Luzon. The wind there comes from both the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, which is why it’s an ideal place for windsurfers and kiteboarders alike.

Near the beach are enormous Bangui windmills tourists love taking photos with, and souvenir shops with trinkets visitors can bring home. Those who want to up their Instagram game can even ride a horse on the shore with the windmills in the background, romance-novel style. 

How to get there: There are some domestic flights going to Pagudpud but most people usually go there old-school via bus for 10 to 12 hours. There are bus terminals in Pasay, Cubao, Taft, and Edsa, with fare costing up to PHP700 (US$13.08) for a one-way trip. 

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Bantayan Island. Photo via Shutterstock.

Bantayan Island is a tropical paradise very similar to Boracay. However, it doesn’t really bank on much water activities and parties which is why it’s more fit for laid-back travelers. 

Take a nap, take lots of photos, or tour the nearby Virgin Island and Hilantagan Island — enjoy it however you like. 

For the truly adventurous, though, skydiving is available at Bantayan Island’s Santa Fe.

How to get there: There are domestic flights that fly to Cebu, and for cheap too if you book early. Upon touch down, head for a bus in Cebu North Terminal heading to Hagnaya Port in the town proper of San Remigio. It takes three hours to get there with a fare price of PHP160 (US$2.99). Once at the port, board a public ferry heading to Santa Fe.

Caramoan, Camarines Sur

Caramoan. Photo from the Caramoan Islands website.

Caramoan is an island located in the lower eastern part of Camarines Sur in Bicol. Apart from an abundance of flora and fauna, it also has a 4,000-hectare limestone forest. 

There are a number of islands to head to, each with diverse marine life, as well as a bunch of lakes and caves. 

Tourists usually go to Matukad Island, Lahos Island, Cagbalinad Island, and Minalahos Island. 

Fans of the show Survivor will like this place in particular because the show’s seasons 25 and 26 were shot here (that’s right, back to back) — but they probably know that already. 

How to get there: There are flights from Manila to Naga, a city in Camarines Sur. However, there’s also the option of heading there by bus. There are bus terminals in Cubao, Pasay, and Alabang that have daily trips to Naga. Fares can cost from PHP500 (US$9.34) to PHP700 (US$13.08). Travel time by bus usually takes 8 hours. 

From the bus terminal in Naga, get a jeep or a van heading to Sabang Port in Naga Central Terminal, where the fare is approximately PHP100 (US$1.87) at most with a 2-hour travel time. Once you’re at the port, get on a boat en route to Guijalo Port for around PHP120 (US$2.24).

 More:

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