4 beautiful islands to visit in the Philippines | Adventure Trip | i Travel Blog

 

 


4 beautiful islands to visit in the Philippines

The Philippines have somewhat of a bad reputation with regard to the safety of tourists but the country has so much to offer visitors and the main tourist areas are very safe. We decided to spend 3 weeks exploring the popular destinations. The Philippines is a bit awkward to get around as it is made up of thousands of islands the main mode of transport between destinations are flights but they are relatively cheap so don't let that be a deterrent. We visited 4 islands during our time there; Cebu, Bohol, Boracay and Palawan. We flew to Manila but as I had not heard great things about the capital we booked a flight to Cebu the next day and stayed in the airport. 

 

Top 4 islands in the Philippines

Cebu Island

Upon arriving in Cebu we got a cheap taxi to our hotel and stayed nearby Fuente Osmena in the centre. We spent two nights here and I was not very impressed with the city in general although that could have had something to do with the torrential rain for the whole time we were there but it just seemed run down. Make sure you check the weather when travelling to the Philippines.

 

We booked a bus to the small town of Moalboal about 3 hours south of the city. The town itself is a small market tow overrun with tricycles, tuk tuks and motorbikes. Most tourists base themselves in the tiny village by Panagsama Beach, 15 minutes outside of Moalboal. This place was a little gem. Famous for snorkeling and diving, there is not too much else to do here. There is one small path that runs along the beach and a handful of restaurants, guesthouses and bars. It only takes about 10 minutes to walk from one side to the other, but it was a great place to relax. 

 

Another reason people come to this place is to spend a day canyoneering at nearby Kawasan Falls. This was one of the most exhilarating and exhausting activities I have ever done but absolutely worth it. The activity takes about 4 hours in total and entails trekking, swimming and climbing through canyons with a guide and cliff jumping into the bluest waters I have ever seen. You finish up the adventure by reaching the 3 levels of Kawasan Falls with the highest cliff jumps (35 – 40 feet). The last jump is from the top of the waterfall! 

 

Lunch is included after this adventure and most companies offer the package for about 25-30 euros. I highly recommend it.

Oslob is another very popular place on this Philippines island, Cebu. This town is renowned for one thing: swimming with whale sharks. Here you can get up close and personal with these tame creatures in the shallow waters by snorkeling. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this activity in recent times and for this reason we decided to give it a miss but you can do your research and decide for yourself. After our few days here, we returned to Cebu city and hopped straight on a short 2-hour ferry to the next island Bohol. 

 

Bohol Island

Tagbilaran City is the capital on this island in the Philippines and where the ferries arrive into from Cebu. We made the mistake of basing ourselves in this city – I would recommend against this and instead stay 30 minutes south on Panglao island, the main spot to stay is called Alona Beach and would be far nicer than staying in the town which was not very nice at all. 

 

There is a lot to explore on Bohol but there are two main things to seek out, one of which are the natural phenomenon of the Chocolate Hills – thousands of rounded uniformed hills in the centre of the island, the view stretches for miles. They get the name for the brown colour they take on in the dry season although we visited in the rainy season they were all a lovely bright green colour. 

The second visit is to see the endangered Tarsiers. These tiny little monkey-like creatures are nocturnal and are hard to spot so there is a sanctuary you can visit where there are guides to point them out to you. They have huge wide eyes which you would be lucky to spot one with their eyes open as they sleep during the day. The animals are so adorable, but the so-called 'sanctuary' felt like a tourist gimmick. It takes about 5 minutes to walk around this tiny forested area with a path. Every few metres there is a 'guide' who points out where on the tree the tarsier is. In total there were 6 tarsiers spotted, apparently there are 11 in this place altogether. At the end of the path there is a shop with lots of over-priced knick knacks and that's it. It cost about 4 euro and while it was special to see the animals, I felt a bit deflated by the whole set up. It felt like such a tourist trap and I wasn't sure how much of a sanctuary it was for these little creatures. 

After this experience, I actually did some research on this and found out that there is an official not-for-profit sanctuary elsewhere on Bohol run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation and is a 134-hectare size forest where the tarsiers are free to roam around in their natural habitat, it is in a town called Corella. The one I went to was in Loboc - Please avoid this one during your visit as the tarsiers are kept in poor conditions. I hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and he automatically took me to the Loboc attraction as this is on the way to the Chocolate Hills. The Corella sanctuary will allow for a much better experience and you can contribute to the conservation of these beautiful little animals by visiting here.

 

There are many other things to explore on Bohol and Panglao island or simply take time to chill on one of the beaches here but we wanted to go elsewhere in the Philippines for our relaxing and took a ferry back to Cebu city after a few days and caught a flight to the famous Boracay Island.

 

Boracay Island

This is the place that you think of when someone mentions the Philippines. The crystal, clear water and the powdery white sand, it was so beautiful and I would travel back there in a heartbeat. There is no airport on the island itself, so you can fly to Caticlan airport or Kalibo airport. Caticlan airport is also known as Boracay airport and once you land, you are 15 minutes from the port. From the port you take a 10-minute ferry to Boracay Island and from the port on Boracay you are transported to your hotel.

 

There are many agencies and hotels that offer a seamless transport service from Caticlan Airport to your hotel on Boracay and includes transfers, boat ticket and all the terminal and environmental fees that have to be paid separately at the ferry terminal. After doing it all ourselves and queuing for ages in 3 different queues I would recommend pre-purchasing a transfer service to save the hassle and it is only a few euro more. The same applies if you arrive to Kalibo airport except you have a 3-hour journey before you arrive to the ferry port.

There are 3 main areas on Boracay Island, Station 1,2,3 all along the massive stretch of beautiful White Beach. The island itself is not that large and is very different from what we had seen previously in the Philippines as it is very commercial, busy and touristy - We even spotted a McDonalds here.

Station 2 is the busiest hub of the island, the traffic is chaotic here and most of the nightlife, restaurants and beach bars are concentrated here.

Station 1 is more upmarket with more high-end resorts and Station 3 is known to be a quieter base away from the hustle and bustle of the other two. There are certainly other areas on the island to stay but this is where the main tourist hub is. 

 

As for activities you can fill your day very easily here with boat trips, parasailing, jet skiing, diving, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach or visiting many of the other beaches around the island. 

The sunsets here are incredible and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Boracay to a couple, family or group of friends looking for a magnificent sun holiday in the Philippines.

 

Palawan Island

Last stop in the Philippines was the paradise of Palawan. We hopped on a short flight to the airport in the north of El Nido. This place has gained unprecedented attention with backpackers over the last few years and it is easy to see why. El Nido itself is a small town surrounding by an archipelago of 43 islands. The scenery is breathtaking and the main thing to do here are boat tours. 

 

There are 4 boat tours to choose from; Tour A, B, C and D and anyone we spoke to recommended A or C. We chose Tour A and did not regret it.

There were 5 stops on this tour that took up a full day 9-5. We visited 3 lagoons and around a large island called Miniloc and 2 beaches. All were stunning. The Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon allowed for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking.

One of the beach stops was a lunch stop for which the boat crew prepared BBQ on board. The final stop was 7 Commands beach and we could relax here for an hour, swimming, grabbing a bite to eat or drink or play volleyball.

 

It was a great day and if I had longer I would have done another one of the tours. We spent three days here and there were many beaches around the town to explore and watch sunsets from. The town itself give you a chance to see a bit of local life in the Philippines but the evidence of large scale tourism is becoming apparent here and it is becoming very busy. 

There are many other destinations on Palawan to visit such as Port barton, a sleepy seaside town on the west coast or Puerto Princesa where there are some well-known attractions such as the underground river.

 

Coron Island

Coron is another breath-taking island north of El Nido (about 3-4 hours by boat) that would be worth a visit also. Unfortunately, we did not have time on this trip but is a great excuse to go back to the Philippines! 



 

Ellen

Travel Consultant at J Barter Travel

Currently travelling around Asia, with stops in SingaporeMalaysia, Thailand, Laos, VietnamCambodiaPhilippinesIndonesia and Hong Kong, and also Australia and New Zealand.




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