Foreign tourists, domestic tourists and balikbayans alike flock to the famous beaches of Boracay, Puerto Galera, Batangas and a few other familiar locations when vacationing in the Philippines. And why not? These are some of the best beaches in the world. But being a tropical country made up of over 7,000 islands, the country is blessed with countless beach destinations from the expensive, such as Amanpulo, to the affordable, like Subic.
So why go to the places where everyone has been? Instead, try these places that are unspoilt, semi-undiscovered and mostly untouched by commercialization (and pollution).
Banana Island, Coron, Palawan
Beachfront nipa huts and pretty much nothing else exist on this little slice of paradise in between the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and the Sulu Sea. Coron has been getting quite commercial these past few years and high-end resorts are popping up all over the islands. Banana Island, on the other hand, retains its rustic peacefulness away from it all.
If you’re lucky enough to not share the beach with other tourists – that can happen, depending on the season and if you’re actually that lucky – take Banana Island for all it’s worth, as if it’s your very own private island: the pinkish white sand beach, the schools of fish swimming very close to the shore, where even the most neophyte swimmer can snorkel to their heart’s delight, dozing off and waking up to the sound of waves crashing, and your hosts’ good old home-cooked meals. Big fat danggit for breakfast, anyone?
Getting there: From Coron town, charter a boat to take you to the island. Coron is less than hour away from Busuanga Airport by van. Laswitan Lagoon
Cortes, Surigao Del Sur
Ever heard of seawater waterfalls? That’s exactly what you’re gonna get at Laswitan Lagoon hidden away in the town of Cortes in Surigao Del Sur. The “falls” are not a true waterfall. Bummer? Not quite. They are intense Pacific Ocean waves so high that, when they crash onto the rock formations, they spill over to the opposite side, creating an effect similar to how waterfalls, well, fall. The water is collected in a basin that people can swim in protected from the harsh waves. And that is more awesome than real waterfalls.
However, this wonder of nature can only be experienced when the amihan is strong enough, particularly between the months of October and March.
Getting there: From Cortes town, take a habal-habal to Barangay Madrelino, where the lagoon is. Cortes is four hours away from Surigao City by bus.
Palaui Island (Punta Verde) Santa Ana, Cagayan
A sliver of white is what the beach looks like from afar, separating the clear waters from the green hilly landscape. It’s raw and, Tinaga Island is home to Mahabang
Buhangin, a beach escape with a dedicated cult following of backpackers. Palaui Island until recently, it was a secret. That was before the world got acquainted with its pristine isolation via the American TV show Survivor. It was the perfect location for the challenging reality competition because conditions there can be harsh. In fact, simply getting there is a feat on its own – you need a trusted guide to get you through the mangrove forest that conceals the cove.
But it’s an adventure well worth it. Make sure you have your camping gear in tow. There are no resorts on the beach and you’ll want to spend the night after the long trek. And bring a friend or two – there’s no one there at all most of the time.
Getting there: Charter a boat and a guide at the San Vicente port in Santa Ana town to take you to Punta Verde. Santa Ana is a three-hour van ride from Tuguegarao, which you can reach by bus or plane.
Tinaga Island (Mahabang Buhangin) Calaguas, Vinzons, Camarines Norte
Camarines Norte is not getting as much attention as Camarines Sur (or CamSur, as their local government markets the province). This is why Caramoan in CamSur comes to mind when talking about Camarines instead of the Calaguas group of islands. This is why the latter is less commercialized and more serene, which makes it more beautiful.
The biggest island in the Calaguas archipelago, Tinaga, is home to Mahabang Buhangin, a beach escape with a dedicated cult following of backpackers. Tents are mandatory here because of the lack of accommodation options. It is recommended to visit the place as soon as possible because it is now touted as an emerging tourist destination and, before long, resorts may start lining the incredible strip of white sand beach.
Getting there: Charter a boat to take you to the island from the fish port of Vinzons town. Be prepared, though, because the journey will take more than two hours. Vinzons is a short jeep ride from Daet, which is eight hours away from Manila by bus.
Diniwid Beach, Boracay Island, Aklan
If the other options in this list are too obscure for your taste, there’s Diniwid Beach found on the island of Boracay. Unlike the beach party capital of the Philippines, White Beach, this is the alternative side of Boracay that not many people go to. Most of us go to the island to party, after all. But just like on White Beach, Diniwid sand is white (albeit not as fine) and the water is crystal clear and calm. The only thing that’s missing? The noisy rowd.
The best thing about this beach is that it’s only a few minutes away from the main beach, where you would probably be staying if you’re on the island. So there’s always the opportunity to experience both the serenity and privacy of this tiny hideaway and the comforts and the social scene that Boracay is known for. Without needing to sleep in a tent and braving tedious treks.
Getting there: Take a tricycle from anywhere in Boracay to go to Diniwid Beach. Boracay is a 15-minute boat ride from Caticlan Airport
Ed Biado is a Manila-based writer who dabbles in all things mass and social media. He writes a lifestyle column for the Manila Standard Today, edits ALTMNL.com and has been employed by one of the top advertising agencies in the world while freelancing here and there. Follow him on Twitter @EdBiado to read his snarky comments on current events and pop culture.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the December issue of The Filipino Expat Magazine. Full magazine can be read here.