by Julia Escaño
With 7,107 islands locked by dozens of seas and one vast ocean, it’s no surprise we have a bounty of destinations for every kind of water activity. Our love for all things water even led to man-made sites just to provide space for our favorite recreations. Despite this abundance, there are still areas in the Philippines that are considered the best destinations for water sports. And we’re not talking about the famous ones where hordes of people flock to at every opportunity. These travel spots may be less popular and less crowded, but they offer conditions that are just as good – if not better – than their more famous counterparts.
Check out these Philippine hidden water sports spots if you think it’s something you want to get into. You may just find your next weekend destination.
Kingfisher Beach, Pagudpud
Kingfisher Beach is exclusively manned by the Kingfisher Resort, located in the remote barangay of Caparispisan, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Getting here is serious business since it’s far-removed from the town center, which takes about 14-16 hours from Manila by land. But for those willing to take on the journey, great rewards await. Kingfisher Kite and Wind Surf Center are equipped with first-class rental gear from Cabrinha and Neil Pryde, and a renowned roster of international instructors to ensure the best learning. More experienced guests, meanwhile, will appreciate the rescue jet skis keeping an eye on everyone’s safety in the water. There is a strong sense in the resort that they know what they are doing, and they take their operation seriously, which gives a feeling of added security.
Seco Island, Antique
The strong winds and rough seas surrounding Seco Island make it a challenging destination for ordinary tourists. This is also what makes it a growing favorite for passionate kite-surfers and intrepid travelers alike. Getting to Seco Island takes over 2 hours by boat from the nearest coastal town of Tibiao, and over 4 hours from the tropical haven of Boracay. Because the waters can be turbulent, trips to the island start very early in the morning, usually well before 4am, when the sea is still calm.
The island itself is nothing but a stretch of fine, white sand. It has no residents, no structures, or any facilities to speak of. Seco Island, in its location, is the perfect getaway for kite-surfing, sunbathing, and beach bumming. If you want a fancier trip, Isla Kite Surfing offers multi-day kitesurfing trips inclusive of on-board accommodations and full meals.
Dimancal Island, Palawan
Dimancal Island is located in the municipality of Linapacan, Palawan, halfway between Coron and El Nido. It’s right smack in the middle of the open ocean, which is what makes the winds here ideal for kitesurfing. Among a scattering of fishing families, there is only one resort on the island. Patoyo Kitesurfing Eco Resort is more a small community of nature-lovers and outdoor-enthusiasts than an actual lodge. It currently offers tents for accommodations while Eco-friendly huts are under construction. Most of its basic facilities are communal and outdoors, perfect for immersing in the beauty of Palawan. The rental equipment is still limited for its remote location, but the resort owner “buys back” personal equipment from guests. This means that for those with their own gear, they can essentially kitesurf here for free!
Bangui Bay, Ilocos Norte
As if kite-surfing on its own isn’t cool enough, you can also do it with a backdrop of the iconic Bangui Windmills in Pagudpud. The scenic views on top of waves have local and international pro-riders flocking to this spot to enjoy the action. The turbines also contribute to the air stream, keeping a steady flow when they are not running while blowing a gust when they are turned on. There are no resorts in Bangui Bay itself, but Kingfisher Resort can organize trips to the area. Thanks to its strategic location, picturesque shores, and ideal conditions, Bangui Bay is now not only a must-see for land-dwellers but one of the best spots for watersports in the Philippines, as well.
Calicoan Beach in Guiuan, Eastern Samar has long been a hotspot for surfers from all over the country. Its local and foreign residents boast of good swells year-round, with waves reaching 3 feet in the flat season and waves taller than people during the southwest monsoon. While the area is not touristy, there are a variety of lodging options on the secluded beach. Calicoan Villas are quainter, with fully-furnished beach-side huts, while The Surf Camp is a full-service resort with a commanding spot on the island. Check out its details and reviews here. Those up to get down and dirty, meanwhile, can bunk with the locals in their kubo or go camping. Instructors and rentals are available at a starting rate of Php200.
Puraran Beach, Catanduanes
With swells coming from the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that this isolated cove located in the town of Baras, Catanduanes plays host to a throng of pros year in and year out. Its waves were coined “the Majestics” by Hawaiian photographer Warren Bolster in 1988, and since then the name has stuck. With world-renowned barrels and epic, taller-than-man surfs it is one of the country’s best spots for watersports. It is the perfect spot for pros, pro-wannabes, and die-hard amateurs to get some serious stoke. The area also has areas where beginners can learn, especially during the months of February to June. Since local resorts like the Majestic Puraran Beach Resort are careful about conservation and protecting the environment, Puraran is also well-maintained, quiet, and restful.
Calamian Islands, Palawan
Take your kayaking to the next level in this one-of-a-kind adventure around the Calamian Islands. With over 200 islands and islets, a trip around the Calamianes is a throwback to a dying way of life. Hardcore explorers can arrange tours from Coron, like the one by Tribal Adventures, and take a multi-day ocean-kayaking and camping trip around the islands. Expeditions like this come with a support boat and camping gear, for more comfortable nights on the deserted islands. A kayaking expedition is a great chance to experience nature at its most raw and at your own pace. It’s also private, making it that much more personal and memorable.
Port Barton, Palawan
Port Barton once considered El Nido’s sister is removed seaside town on the northwest coast of Palawan. The commercial tourism trade hasn’t widely developed and touched Port Barton, unlike famous spots such as El Nido, Coron, and Puerto Princesa. Many regard it as a “purer” version of the Palawan experience, before hordes of people and establishments overtook the province. The virgin forests cover hundreds of secluded islands, as well as DENR and WWF-Philippines endorsed marine sanctuary just off the coast. Because of their proximity to each other, the best way to explore these islands is by kayak so that you get to see them up close and at your own pace. Secret Paradise Resort has an exclusive 77-hectare nature reserve, where guests can explore both of its land and marine wonders.
Chico River, Kalinga
“The Mighty Chico River” or the Rio Chico de Cagayan is a river system encompassing the provinces of Cagayan Valley and Cordillera. The Spaniards named it, “Rio Chico” to differentiate it from the Rio Grande de Cagayan: the country’s longest and largest river, spanning the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino. Rafting the Chico River usually begins in the town of Pasil, Kalinga and has two major routes. The Ullalim run has Class III rapids, covering the Chico River tributary from Pasil to Tabuk.
The Mataguan run, meanwhile, goes from Tinglayan to Pasil and boasts of Class III and IV rapids. The season can get Class V rapids for experienced rafters and fearless adventures during typhoon season, as well. Chico River Quest is currently one of the leading white water rafting tours in the area, having pioneered the routes before they were open to the public. This, on top of first class equipment and high safety standards, participants are guaranteed extra security and extra fun.