Photoby EG Santos / CC BY

10 Unspoiled Beaches Around the Philippines

by Anj Santos

It was no surprise when Conde Nast Traveler named Palawan “The World’s Best Island” for the second straight year in 2015. Cebu and Boracay were also on the list at No. 19 and 15, respectively. Home to dozens of beaches with blinding-white sand, crystal clear waters, and healthy marine life, this trifecta is an island-hopper’s dream.

While they remain top-of-mind for the average traveler, there are other beaches in the Philippines’ 7,107 islands that have yet to be placed on the international scene. If you’re after smaller crowds and untouched nature, and ready for some roughing-it, try going to these unspoiled beaches:

1. MAHABANG BUHANGIN BEACH, Calaguas, Camarines Norte
As its name suggests, this beach is a long stretch of sand and clear waters located in Tinaga Island, a part of the Calaguas Group of Islands in Camarines Norte. Famous among experienced backpackers for its untouched locale, there remain no restaurants, resorts or even phone signal here, but tents and cottages are now available, starting at P300 per night.

MAHABANG BUHANGIN BEACH, Calaguas, Camarines Norte
Photo by EG Santos / CC BY

Pro-tip: Trek to the upper part of Calaguas for the best view of Mahabang Buhangin. The tour costs P120 inclusive of guide and entrance fee to the summit.

Best time to visit: January-March, July-August. These months are cooler compared to the extremely hot summer months of April-June, making the long boat ride from the port to the beach more tolerable. Should you want to go during the summer, the sea water remains cool despite the torching heat.

2. PALAUI ISLAND, Sta.Ana, Cagayan
If there’s any proof of the rawness of this island, it’s that it became the location for TV series Survivor in 2013. More tourists have gone to the island since then, but the local government has controlled their number by restricting commercial establishments in the island. There remains one overnight lodging in Palaui — Nature Village, which has only four cottages. Guests may also opt to pitch a tent or camp overnight.

PALAUI ISLAND, Sta.Ana, Cagayan
Photo by Semillastan / CC BY

Pro-tip: The island’s main attraction is Cape Engano, an 18th-century lighthouse on top of a hill overlooking the island. Visitors are required to arrange for a tour guide while trekking to the hill, and it costs about P300 for a group of four.

Best time to visit: April-May. Go during the summer when the skies are blue and the seas are calmer.

3. BLUE HORIZON BEACH, Palauig, Catanduanes
While offbeat destinations like Calaguas and Palaui are already in traveller’s radars, Palauig remains a vagabond’s secret. Perhaps it’s because of the scarcity of transportation available, or the fact that it is located in the easternmost part of Bicol, an area susceptible to tropical cyclones. To those in the know, however, it is a fine retreat, with pristine sand, calm waters and fertile vegetation. There are no buildings in sight, just contours of mountain ranges lining the sky.

Pro-tip: The easiest way to get to Palauig is through Virac, Catanduanes. Cebu Pacific Air flies from Manila to Virac only once a day every M-W-F and Sunday, so be sure not to miss your flight! You may also reach Catanduanes through a 10-hour land ride and 3-hour ferry ride.

Best time to visit: February-June, when the season is dry, and flights are sure to depart.

4. ONUK ISLAND, Balabac, Palawan
There have been many adjectives used by visitors to describe the island, but if it had to be just one word, it would be paradise. Clear, calm, turquoise-hued waters surround the seemingly endless stretch of sand so white, it’s almost like an apparition. There are no houses or establishments in sight, just the mountain ranges of nearby islands. The water is also said to be so clear, you can take photos of the coral reefs and endemic pawikans or sea turtles right from your boat.

Pro-tip: The island is privately-owned by the family of Balabac Mayor Shauib Astami, and prior arrangements have to be made. To book your visit, contact manager Lorna Gapilango at 0917.553.2845.

Best time to visit: March-October or before the start of Palawan’s rainy season.

5. CABUGAO GAMAY ISLAND, Gigantes, Iloilo
Made popular by its peculiar shape, Cabugao Gamay is indeed not-your-usual island. More than half of the frequently photographed island is composed of a rock hill covered by lush vegetation. A sandbar in the middle and another interesting rock formation on its northern tip complete its unmistakable shape. The emerald waters surrounding it make it perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

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Pro-tip: Freshly harvested scallops are the island’s specialty. Available sizzling, grilled, breaded or baked, you can get them for P160-170 a kilo.

Best time to visit: Summer months of mid-March to May, when scallop catch is bountiful.

6. DAHICAN BEACH, Mati, Davao Oriental
Dahican Beach is known as the skimboarding capital of the Philippines. With foot-high waves that break against its white sand beach, it is conducive to the sport and has even produced the country’s first world skimboarding champion. If you’re not into watersports, the 7-kilometer beach facing the Pacific Ocean is good for sunbathing, too. Don’t forget to stop by the Sleeping Dinosaur on your way to Mati, the popular view of the nearby Pujada Bay that looks like a dinosaur resting on its side.

DAHICAN BEACH, Mati, Davao Oriental
Photo by Jonathan Vincent Tan / CC BY

Pro-tip: Seek out the Amihan Boys, a group of 20 or so skimboarders based in Mati. They not only teach and advocate skimboarding, they also protect the village’s sea turtles through various efforts.

Best time to visit: All-year round! The Davao province hardly experiences rain, as it is shielded by the largest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo.

7. KALANGGAMAN ISLAND, Palompon, Leyte
This uninhabited island almost looks like it came straight out of a painting. Its long, white sandbar is punctuated by deep green vegetation, and on both sides lay waters that range from cerulean to deep blue. On a sunny day, the azure skies serve as a perfect backdrop. Still without any electricity, it remains unpopulated and there can be days when you have it all to yourself.

Photo by Gen Cartalla / CC BY

Pro-tip: Kalanggaman is best reached through Palompon, Leyte, but if you happen to be diving in Malapascua, Cebu, there are boats that can take you for a pitstop here. The boat ride takes 2 hours.

Best time to visit: Leyte is often hit by typhoons, and it rains for almost half of the year, so best extend your trip to experience a sunny day. Avoid the rainiest seasons of November to January.

8. BONBON BEACH, Romblon, Romblon Province
Romblon is the country’s marble capital, which owes its roots to Italians who visited in the 1950’s. It is also home to beaches with marble-white sand, such as Bonbon. It’s known for its gradually sloping ocean floor, free of sea grass and sharp stones. During low-tide though, the water can go as low as knee-level, so wait for the waters to rise before jumping in.

BONBON BEACH, Romblon, Romblon Province
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Pro-tip: During low-tide, a submerged sandbar appears and can be used to walk to the next beach, Bangug Island.

Best time to visit: February-May or during summer when weather is mostly dry. There are still possible thunderstorms, but usually in the night time.

9. DAKU ISLAND, Siargao
Since most tourists go to Siargao for the surfing, it’s not difficult to find a lonely beach all to yourself. The biggest of them is Daku Island, a long stretch of powdery white sand hugged by aquamarine waters and surrounded by coconut trees – typically tropical, yes, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s a great site for snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking and during Amihan (southwesterly wind) season, even surfing.

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Pro-tip: There are cottages that are lined up at the western part of the beach that can be rented from P700 per night. There is no electricity at night though, so make sure your gadgets are charged.

Best time to visit: February-May or during summer when weather is mostly dry. There are still possible thunderstorms, but usually in the night time.

10. PANAMPANGAN ISLAND, Sapa-sapa, Tawi-Tawi
Marred by news reports of conflicts in its neighboring provinces, Tawi-tawi is rarely visited by tourists, so its best beach, Panampangan, remains almost untouched. Locals and the lucky few who’ve seen it say it has the finest white sand they’ve seen in the Philippines, comparable to powdered milk in texture.

PANAMPANGAN ISLAND, Sapa-sapa, Tawi-Tawi
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Pro-tip: The fastest way to the island is through a speedboat from Bongao, Tawi-tawi. Ate Cdang of Tawi-tawi Provincial Tourism Staff is the best tour guide according to previous visitors, and can be reached at 0947 6395011.

Best time to visit: February-May or during summer when weather is mostly dry. There are still possible thunderstorms, but usually in the night time.

Main Photo by EG Santos / CC BY

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