Summer is almost here and everyone is yearning for the day when they can once again safely travel to the beach to enjoy the sun, sand and sea. And since quieter and lesser-known beaches in the Philippines that allow you to keep a safe distance from other people is now more appealing than ever, we asked someone who has been to almost all of the country’s 81 provinces for tips.
“When you visit coastal provinces almost always there will be hidden gems that only locals know about,” says photographer and yoga teacher Ferdinand Decena, the man behind the successful blog Ironwulf En Route. “These beaches are almost always in pristine condition, have very little or no commercial development at all, and very few tourists.”
Decena’s top 10 picks may not be as easily accessible as Boracay or Coron, but they are not necessarily off the beaten path either. “Some take effort to reach, while some are just a short ride away from the town center,” he says. Either way, they are all worth the travel hours.
1. Bonbon Beach (Romblon)
Why you should go: This 1km stretch of fine white sand is located in a private beach but open to visitors. A spectacular sandbar leads to an islet and features powder-soft sand that is almost untouched because there is hardly any development in the area.
Getting there: From Manila fly to Tablas then head to San Agustin port. Hop on a 40-minute ferry ride to Romblon town proper, where you hire a motorbike for a 5km-ride to Bonbon.
Plan ahead: For accommodations, head to the town where there are a number of guesthouses to choose from.
2. Cresta de Gallo (Romblon)
Why you should go: Nestled on the tip of Sibuyan Island, Cresta de Gallo (which literally means “cockscomb”) is a raw beauty. The 4.5-hectare area features fine to grainy sandbar flanked by mangroves on each end. Getting here involves many transfers and long rides but it’s well worth it
Getting there:. From the airport in Tablas, Tugdan take a 1.5 hour ride to the San Agustin port via jeep or tricycle.
From the port take a 40-minute ferry ride to the Romblon Town Proper where you can ride the Starhorse Ferry that services the Cajidiocan-Sibuyan Island route. The travel time is 2 hours. The ferry will stop at the town of Azarga, San Fernando where you can hire a boat to take you to Cresta de Gallo and which will take less than an hour.
Plan ahead: The island is ideal for camping but there are a number of cottages and clean toilets for overnight stays.
3. Quinale Beach (Bohol)
Why you should go: Quinale is host to white sand beaches located just beside the charming town of Anda. The beach is just a few steps away from the town plaza. “What I love about this place is its convenience. It is not often that you find a well-kept and clean beach stretch this close to a community,” Decena says. The place is also a jump-off point for mini adventures such as a visit to Cenote and Mystical islands nearby.
Getting there: From Tagbilaran proper take a van or bus heading to Anda. Travel time is 2 to 3 hours.
Plan ahead: Being just beside the town of Anda, there are already a number of resorts in the area with places to eat and stores where you can buy basic items for your stay.
4. Pangabangan Beach and Tidal Pool (Surigao)
Why you should go: This strip of white sand beach is set among dramatic limestone karst. It has an adjoining beach with a circular tidal pool which the locals fondly call “blue lagoon”. It’s just one of the many attractions on Dinagat Islands but this one is something that should not be missed when in the area.
Getting there: The point of entry to Dinagat Island is Surigao City. From the airport, head to the boulevard or Surigao Port. From there, a ferry service can take you to Dinagat Islands until late afternoon. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours. From Dinagat Islands, avail of tours to visit Pangabangan Beach.
Plan ahead: There are open cottages with toilets in the area.
5. Mantigue Island (Camiguin)
Why you should go: This small island is blanketed in white sand and its clear waters are teeming with marine life underneath. “The water quality and the fact that it is a marine sanctuary is for me the best feature of this island,” Decena says, adding that it is one of the best places to enjoy underwater life and, if you’re lucky, an encounter with turtles.
Getting there: From Camiguin airport take a van or bus to Balingoan Port. From there, board a ferry that will take you to Benoni port, where a short ride takes you to Mantigue.
Plan ahead: There are open cottages and overnight stay cottages on the island.
6. Antonia’s Beach (Iloilo)
Why you should go: This scenic beach in the municipality of Carles boasts excellent white sand and clear waters punctuated by a crocodile rock formation.
Getting there: Fly to Iloilo and head to Tagbak Terminal in Jaro and ride a public van or bus to Carles, which takes 2.5 hours. From Carles, head to Bancal Port where boats can tour you Isla Gigantes with a stopover at Antonia’s Beach.
Plan ahead: There are open cottages with toilets but if you want something more private, there are inns available for overnight stays.
7. Kalanggaman Island (Leyte)
Why you should go: This island in the municipality of Palompon has a breathtaking 365-meter-long sandbar that is covered in white sand and surrounded by the clearest waters.
Getting there: One can go here via Tacloban or Ormoc. From Tacloban, take a van from the Tacloban City bus terminal that goes straight to Palompon. It will be a 2.5 to 3 hours ride. If going via Ormoc, take a van from the Ormoc terminal that will bring you straight to Palompon in 1.5 hours. Walk to the Palompon Tourism Office beside the Municipal Town Hall, pay the entrance fee and hire a boat that will bring you to Kalanggaman.
Plan ahead: There is a pavillion for events, open cottages and toilets located at key locations on the island. Overnight camping is allowed.
8. Panampangan Island (Tawi-Tawi)
Why you should go: Panampangan Island is the longest sandbar island in the country and offers fine, white sands with excellent water visibility.
Getting there: You can fly to Bongao Tawi-Tawi via Zamboanga. From Bongao, coordinate with the tourism office first before hiring a motorboat that will take you to Panampangan Island. Travel time is 45 minutes.
Plan ahead: The island, being undeveloped, has only a few cottages and a makeshift toilet.
9. Santa Fe Beach (Cebu)
Why you should go: Sante Fe beach on Bantayan Island features fine white sand and wide shores. The water visibility is excellent with plenty of marine life just a few steps from the shore. You’ll find yourself swimming with mostly locals living in nearby communities. It is also a good jump-off point to nearby Virgin island.
Getting there: Take a bus, Grab, or taxi from from Mactan Airport to get to the North Bus Terminal. From there, take a bus heading for Hagnaya Port in the municipality of San Remegio. The trip will be around 4 hours. From Hagnaya Port, take a ferry going to Bantayan Island.
Plan ahead: Resorts abound in Bantayan Island, providing visitors here not only many overnight stay options but dining choices as well.
10. Mararison Island (Antique)
Why you should go: There are many beaches on Mararison Island, but the main beach features a sandbar that’s practically made for Instagram It boasts beautiful fine white sand and clear waters where you can glimpse patches of grassy seabed. The island offers plenty of adventure, from hilly hikes to secluded beaches to snorkeling at the marine sanctuary.
Getting there: Fly to Caticlan or Kalibo, catch a bus heading to Culasi, Antique. Travel time is 2 hours. From the Culasi port, hire a boat that will take you to Mararison Island.
Plan ahead: The island offers basic inns for overnight stays and open cottages for day trippers.