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The top 10 best islands in the Philippines

Here’s our pick of the best islands the Philippines has to offer. We’ve included some jungles, beaches, diver’s paradise and the best places to sit back and relax.

1. Boracay

Boracay island is a beach paradise with almost endless stretches of coastline. There’s a great selection of hotels to suit every budget, including some super luxurious options like the super-stylish Astoria Boracay. There’s 12 beaches in total and the island is split into so-called “boat stations” to make it easier for people to distinguish the various parts. Station 2 is lively while Station 1 is quieter with more of the luxury resorts.

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Boracay Beach

2. Palawan

Palawan is also home to some of the best beaches in the Philippines, with El Nido being a serious contender for the crown. It’s a jungle beach town which many people use as a base to explore the beautiful Bacuit Archipelago, a collection of limestone islands that jut out of the water. The name El Nido means nest in Spanish and refers to the swiftlets that build their nests out of saliva on the limestone cliffs surrounding the town. From El Nido you can take boat trips to some of the most beautiful scenery the Philippines has to offer including Nacpan Beach and Corong Corong.

Palawan

3. Siargao

If you’re looking for a Philippine island that’s good for surfing, head to Siargao, just north of Mindanao. It’s home to the famous Cloud 9 reef break, which creates one of the most famous waves in the world! This particular wave is not for beginners though, and there are lots of easier surf spots close by, but attracts competent surfers from across the world. There’s various surf trainers along the beach, or you can book to stay at a dedicated surf hotel. Check out all your options here.

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Image by Carlo Spada

4. Batanes

The landscapes of the Batanes Islands to the very north of the Philippines aren’t like most of the other Philippine islands. The rolling hills are in stark contrast to the white sandy beaches and jungle hills that occupy lots of the other islands in the country. Locals often visit here when the hot and humid weather gets too much elsewhere, and tourists come to learn about the indigenous communities who have their own languages and traditions. The three most popular islands in the group are Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat, the only three inhabited islands. Jeepneys operate on Batan from 5am to 5pm, or you can take a private tour around the island or hop on a faluwa boat to visit Sabtang and Itbayat. See more information about them here.

**Read more: Top 10 ultimate things to do in the Philippines

Batanes Lighthouse

5. Cebu

The island of Cebu is very popular with scuba divers. One of the most popular dive sites is off the east of the island around Mactan where visibility can be up to 100 meters in places. On a good day you might see turtles, tuna, lionfish, barracuda and more. Off the west of Cebu island is Pescador Island which offers deep dives but has shorter visibility (usually around 50 meters). For many, the pièce de résistance of Cebu diving is around a 45 minute boat ride off the north of the island, at Malapascua. Here you’ll see manta and devil rays, bobtail squid, blue ring octopus and black-tip sharks. As always, do your research on any dive company you book with and make sure your travel insurance is adequate.

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Malapascua

6. Bohol

Bohol is the principle island in the Bohol Province, which is made up of a whopping 75 smaller islands. Its biggest claim to fame is the unusually shaped hills known as the Chocolate Hills. They’re so-called because of the color of the vegetation growing on the mounds. The 1,500 mounds are one of the most popular places to visit in the Philippines. Locals believe the hills were formed by the tears of a giant who was heartbroken, but geologists say it’s more to do with rain and erosion of the limestone. The island is also home to the tarsier, the world’s smallest monkey. The best place to see them is at the Philippines Tarsier Foundation, and not in the small metal cages by the river where they’re kept in poor conditions solely for tourism.

Best Philippine islands: Bohol and The Chocolate Hills

7. Mindoro

Mindoro is another diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise. It’s the jumping off point for the Apo Reef, a 34 square kilometer coral reef system with almost 200 species of coral and 300 species of fish. The reef is off the west side of the island, the area known as Mindoro Occidental which is slightly less well-heeled than Mindoro Oriental on the east. You can reach the Apo Reef by boat in around 2 hours from Sablayan municipality. Book a private tour or contact the Sabalyan Ecotourism Office which organizes its own tours. The south cost of Mindoro is great for island-hopping and there’s lots of incredible small coves and beaches to explore. You can also head to the middle of the island to hike and visit indigenous villages.

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Image by Kris-Anne Viray

8. North Luzon

This is the biggest island in the Philippines and has it all – sandy beaches, calm seas, jungle, interesting architecture and its famous rice terraces. The rice terraces in Banaue and Batad are more than 2,000 years old and are now a Unesco World Heritage Site. They cover more than 20,000km and really are a sight to behold. The Banaue Tourist Information Center organizes trekking along the ridges which take in villages, waterfalls and various terraces. If you want to do something more active, North Luzon is a popular place for spelunking and mountain biking. Check out Banaue hotels and guest houses here.

Rice terraces in Banaue and Batad

9. Siquijor

In contrast to North Luzon, Siquijor is one of the smaller island provinces in the Philippines. It’s well known in the Philippines for being an island of the magic and mystic. There are still traditional ‘healers’ who use insects, shrubs and plants to brew potions to heal all kinds of ailments. Traditional medicine aside, it’s an excellent island for snorkeling and beach dwelling, and there’s lots of cheap guest houses where you can enjoy both. Inland is also a popular place for hiking through the forest, swimming in waterfall lagoons (including the Cambugahay Falls) and spelunking. Fly to Dumaguete and catch a ferry from Dumaguete Port.

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Siquijor Water

10. Coron

Tourism on Coron Island is quite well regulated to protect its natural sites and environment but you can book tours through the Calamian Tourist Boat Association. The must-visits on this beautiful island include Barracuda Lake, which is popular with divers, Kayangan Lake in the mountain, Banol Beach and the stunning Twin Lagoon which involves a swim through a narrow passageway to reach one of the twins!

Image by Awesome Photographers

*Content published June 2018. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.

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