I had spent the last decade in search of the Philippines’ top tourist spots and extraordinary “hidden” places.

With over 7,500 islands, it is easy to find spectacular beaches and seascapes in the country. Nearly all coastal provinces are home to island destinations that are worth visiting. Some more than others, of course.

Sun worshipers across the globe have now set their eyes on The Philippines after Palawan, Cebu, and Boracay consistently topped lists of the best islands in the World by Travel + LeisureCondé Nast Traveler among other top international publications. Spoiler alert! All three are included in the list below.

To help you plan an epic trip, I’ve broken down places that cover large areas into separate destinations. For example, we Filipinos know that Palawan isn’t just one island. It’s the country’s biggest province composed of over 1,700 islands and islets, too big to fit all in one short trip. So, I included them separately as island groups, which should make it easier to fit into your itinerary. Beaches and islands found within a small area are grouped together as single destinations as well.

This list showcases the wide variety of island sights and experiences in the Philippines. Not all places mentioned below are hidden paradises that require very long bus and boat journeys. I’ve also included many spots that are easy to reach for the casual vacationer.

Whether you are looking for affordable beach resorts or someone who is willing to splurge on luxury, whether you are traveling with family, friends or a solo traveler seeking to meet like-minded people on the road, you will find inspiration on this list.

Here are the most beautiful beaches and islands in the Philippines:

1. Coron, Palawan

Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Photo by mattk1979. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Why go — Coron is the ultimate island destination in the Philippines. This is THE place to go if you have a really short trip in the Philippines and have to choose only one destination. After arriving at the airport, you can easily find a place to stay in the town center or one of many luxury island resorts nearby. Then, hop on a boat to see amazing white sand beaches, lagoons, and snorkeling/diving spots. Coron gets easy aces across the board for gorgeous island views and convenient travel, which is why it’s included first on this list.

How to go — Touchdown at Coron-Busuanga Airport (USU), which serves flights mainly from Manila, Cebu, and Clark. Book a flight with Cebu Pacific / Cebgo, Philippine Airlines / PAL Express, Skyjet or Air Juan. Travel time by plane is around 1 hour.

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2. El Nido, Palawan

Shimizu Island in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.

Why go — El Nido found on the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan can easily rival Coron when it comes to jaw-dropping “over water” scenery. Just off the coast of the town center, you can find stunning islands with towering karst mountains, hidden beaches, and lagoons. The sea views here are similar to Ko Phi Phi/Krabi in Thailand and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Even if you’ve been to those places, El Nido is still worth a trip if you want to enjoy pristine, vibrantly blue waters and not-too-crowded beaches.

How to go

Touchdown at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS). Flight time from Manila takes 1.5 hours. El Nido is 5 to 6 hours north of Puerto Princesa by land. If you want to skip the long land journey, fly directly to El Nido from Manila (1 hour), Cebu or Boracay-Caticlan. This is the fastest but more expensive way.

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El Nido island hopping tour A — Small Lagoon*, Big Lagoon*, Secret Lagoon*, Shimizu Island*, 7 Commando Beach.

El Nido island hopping tour C — Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine*, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Hidden Beach.

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3. Boracay Island, Aklan

White Beach in Boracay, Malay, Aklan, Philippines

Why go — Boracay is the top beach destination in the Philippines for vacationers. This is the place to go if you want to enjoy a tropical island experience and you’re not in love with the idea of taking very long road trips. This small island is probably the only tourist destination in the country where you can find lively nightlife, excellent dining, a wide variety of places to stay, shopping areas, and lots of fun activities, all in one sandy stretch. The beach alone is worth the trip. At 4 kilometers long, White Beach has clear blue waters and very fine white sand, compelling enough to earn Boracay a spot on the list of the World’s best beaches & islands by many globally recognized publications. If you want to get away from the crowds, there are still a couple of spots in Boracay where you can enjoy peaceful sun worshipping.

How to go

Touchdown at either Boracay-Caticlan Airport (MPH) or Kalibo International Airport (KLO). From Caticlan, the ferry to Boracay only takes less than 20 minutes. Most travelers transit via Kalibo because the airport serves more airlines/flights/destination and airfares are usually lower. Travel time from Kalibo to Caticlan takes 1 hour by land.

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Boracay travel tipsAklan

4. Panglao, Bohol

Doljo Beach in Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines

Why go — Panglao Island is home to many white sand beaches. It is the perfect base for day tours to Bohol’s best natural and cultural sights and the jump-off point to charming islets, snorkeling/diving sites and dolphin watching tours. Panglao is also very easy to get to and conveniently located near Cebu, the second international gateway of the Philippines.

How to go

Touchdown at Tagbilaran Airport (TAG) located 1-hour south of Manila by plane. You may also take a fastcraft ferry from Cebu, which takes around 1.5 hours. A bridge connects Panglao to Tagbilaran in mainland Bohol. Travel time usually takes around 30 to 45 minutes from the airport to popular beaches in Panglao.

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Bohol travel tipsPanglao

5. Bantayan, Cebu

Aquamarine waters at Vigin Island in Bantayan, Cebu, Philippines

Why go — Looking for the most beautiful beach in Cebu? Head to Bantayan Island found off the northernmost tip of the mainland. Here, you can enjoy white sand beaches and calm aqua blue waters that are among the most picturesque not only in Cebu but in the Philippines. Because of the long journey from the nearest airport, Bantayan is without crowds most times of the year. So, it’s easy to find a peaceful spot along its long sandy shores. Cost of living is also not expensive on the island. You can expect many great-value resorts and cheap seafood.

How to go

Touchdown at Cebu-Mactan International Airport (CEB). From Cebu City, travel by land to Hagnaya Port. Travel time is around 3 hours. From Hagnaya Port, the ferry crossing to Sante Fe Pier in Bantayan Island takes around 1 hour.

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Bantayan travel tipsCebu

6. Mactan, Cebu

Shangri-la Mactan Resort in Lapu-Lapu, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines

Why go — Mactan Island’s beaches may not be as impressive as other places on this list but it is a very popular beach holiday destination especially among luxury vacationers. The urban comforts of Cebu City are just a bridge crossing away from Mactan. Meanwhile, many islands and diving sites are an easy boat ride away.

How to go

Touchdown at Cebu-Mactan International Airport (CEB), which is conveniently located on Mactan Island. From the airport, travel time to the beach resorts takes 30 minutes or less.

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Cebu island hopping tour — Caohagan, Nalusuan & San Vicente.

Cebu City half-day tour — Guided tour w/ buffet lunch or dinner.

Cebu rediscovery private tour.

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Mactan travel tipsCebu

7. Kalanggaman Island, Leyte

Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte, Philippines

Why go — Kalanggaman had become popular after drone videos of the island got viral online. On this tiny island, you can find a long sparkling white sandbar surrounded by vast blue waters. This piece of paradise is uninhabited and only a limited number of people are allowed to visit/camp on a given day to protect its natural beauty.

How to go

Touchdown at Tacloban Airport (TAC). The jump-off town to Kalanggaman Island is Palompon, Leyte. Travel time from Tacloban to Palompon takes around 3 hours by land. From Palompon, the ferry ride to Kalanggaman usually takes 1 hour. If you are coming from Cebu, you can also go on a ferry to Ormoc. Travel time from Ormoc to Palompon takes around 2 hours.

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8. Caluya & Antique Islands

Sunset at Sibolo Island, in Caluya, Antique, Philippines

Why go — On the open sea between Mindoro and Panay lies the remote islands and islets of Caluya, Antique. The islands and beaches here are among the most beautiful in the Philippines. This is a place to go if you want to get away from tourist crowds. The local ferry to Caluya Island takes 4 to 5 hours, which guarantees you’ll only be sharing the island with friendly islanders. If you are looking for beach spots more easily reached from Panay mainland, you can visit the islands in Tibiao and Culasi including Mararison Island, Seco Island and Maniguin/Maningning Island.

How to go

Touchdown at Boracay-Caticlan Airport (MPH) or Kalibo International Airport (KLO). Then, make your way to the town of Libertad in mainland Antique. Local ferries have scheduled trips to Caluya Island (the main island/poblacion) only on select days of the week. These ferries are actually bound for San Jose, Mindoro. The ferries make stopovers at Caluya Island and Semirara Island. So, you can go to Caluya via Mindoro as well. In addition, there are local ferries that depart from Culasi, Antique that also run weekly trips to Caluya.

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Caluya travel tipsAntique

9. Gigantes, Iloilo

Sunrise at Cabugao Gamay Island in Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo, Philippines

Why go — Before I started blogging about Gigantes on Explore Iloilo, even most locals in Iloilo did not know that this paradise existed within their province. Now, it has become a popular island hopping destination among travelers seeking new adventures in the Philippines. Famous tourist spots here include Tangke, a hidden salt-water lagoon, scenic island views overlooking white sand beaches, and very cheap seafood. Steamed scallops are sold PHP1 a piece!

How to go

Touchdown at either Roxas Airport (RXS) or Iloilo International Aiport (ILO). The best jump-off point to Gigantes Islands is in Carles, Iloilo. The land trip going there from Roxas takes 1.5 hours, while it may take 3 to 4 hours from Iloilo City. From Bancal Port in Carles, the ferry crossing to North Gigantes or South Gigantes takes approximately 1.5 hours.

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Iloilo travel tipsCapiz

10. Guimaras Island

Ave Maria Island in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, Philippines

Why go — A 15-minute boat ride from Iloilo City center takes you to Guimaras Island. This province is known for growing the sweetest mangoes in the World. There are also beautiful beach coves and islets to see here. The most popular destination in Guimaras is Alubihod Beach, which offers convenient and affordable island hopping tours. If you want to get away from the crowds, stay at one of many secluded beach and island resorts.

How to go

Touchdown at Iloilo International Airport (ILO). From Iloilo City Proper, go on the local ferries to Jordan, Guimaras. From there, most of the resorts are accessible by land. If you are staying in an island resort, you may consider chartering a boat for direct transfers.

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11. Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines

Why go — Apo Island in Negros Oriental is famous as a jump-off point to some of the Philippines’ best diving. This is one of the few places in the country where you can find and swim with turtles within an easy snorkeling distance away from the beach. Apo Island is easy to get to on a day trip from Dumaguete.

How to go

Touchdown at Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport (DGT). The main jump-off point to Apo Island can be found at Malapatay market in the town of Zamboanguita, which can be reached after a 30 to 45-minute land trip from Dumaguete City Center. From Malapatay market, the ferry crossing to Apo Island may take 30 minutes up to 1-hour depending on sea conditions.

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Dumaguete travel tipsNegros Oriental

12. Siquijor Island

Salagdoong Beach in Siquijor, Philippines

Why go — Mystical Siquijor is infamous in the Philippines as a home of witchcraft and the unknown. Decades ago, it wasn’t a destination Filipinos would willingly spend their vacation. Of course, the internet changed all that after people started to explore its stunning beach coves and experience the idyllic life on the island.

How to go

Touchdown at Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport (DGT). Travel time to Siquijor is 1 hour from Dumaguete Pier in the city center.

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13. Sipalay, Negros Occidental

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIOVT2LgrF1/

Why go — This under the radar destination in Southwest Negros has long been a favorite among foreign backpackers and expats. Laid-back Sipalay hides many white sand beach coves and cliff overs overlooking forest-clad hills and emerald-green sea views.

How to go

Touchdown at either Bacolod-Silay International Airport (BCD). Sipalay is around 4 to 5 hours south of Bacolod City by land. You can also get there from Dumaguete on land trips via Kabankalan or the coastal road through Bayawan/Hinoba-an.

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Nergos Occidental travel tipsBacolod

14. Balabac Islands, Palawan

https://www.facebook.com/detourista/videos/743996852426760/

Why go — Looking for the best white-sand beach in the Philippines? Balabac is one travel-worthy reason to go off-grid and venture to the often skipped southern half of Palawan. This remote town is composed of over 30 gorgeous islands with pristine, crystal clear waters and white sand beaches that can easily rival the best in the Philippines. If you’re looking for the most beautiful beaches & most vibrant waters in the Philippines, Balabac is worth a spot at the top of your bucketlist.

How to go

Touchdown at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS). To get to Balabac from Puerto Princesa, you will need to make a transit stop in Rio Tuba, Bataraza where you catch boats to the islands of Balabac. Rio Tuba is 4 to 5 hours south of Puerto Princesa by land. From Rio Tuba, you can go on a passenger boat to Balabac Island (mainland). Or, hire a boat for your island hopping tour. The sea journey from Rio Tuba to Balabac Island takes around 4 hours.

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15. Honda Bay Islands, Palawan

Snake Island in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

Why go — Yet another island destination in Palawan earns a place on this list. Palawan is consistently included in the list of World’s best island by numerous international publications including Travel + Leisure, which included it on the #1 spot for two years running. This archipelagic province, the biggest in the Philippines, is dotted with many extraordinary sights worth seeing. Visiting El Nido and Coron will ruin your standards of islands for life because you might find a trip to Honda Bay to be underwhelming in comparison. Still, island hopping in Honda Bay is very popular among tourists partly because of its location near Puerto Princesa and its airport. This convenience makes the Honda Bay islands an excellent place to visit for sun worshipers with limited time in Palawan.

How to go

Touchdown at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS). The airport is located right in the city center. Travel time to hotels and resorts in the city usually takes under 20 minutes. Most travelers stay in Puerto Princesa and go to Honda Bay during a whole day island hopping tour.

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16. Calaguas, Camarines Norte

Mahabang Buhang Beach on Calaguas Island, in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, Philippines

Why go — Mahabang Buhangin Beach in Calaguas Island is perhaps the only beach in Luzon that can rival the likes of Boracay and the best beaches in Palawan when it comes to powdery fine white sand. Despite its remote location in Camarines Norte, it has risen as one of the top places to visit among beach campers and adventure-seeking tourists. The beachfront is shy of one kilometer in length and has a sprawling view of unbelievably turquoise blue and crystal clear waters.

How to go

The main jump-off points to Calaguas Island are in Paracale and Vinzons in Camarines Norte. The nearest airport with commercial flights is Naga-Pili Airport (WNP). However, if you are coming from Manila, you might want to go on a land trip instead to get to Camarines Norte. The ferry crossing to Calaguas Island usually takes 2 hours.

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Calaguas travel tipsCamarines Norte

17. Caramoan, Camarines Sur

Marcos at Matukad Island in Caramoan, Camarines Sur, Bicol, Philippines

Why go — Caramoan rose to fame when the islands became the location of TV reality show “Survivor.” It had been featured multiple times not only by Survivor US but also various international editions of the franchise. After you’ve seen Caramoan, it’s not hard to see why. The islands are blessed with towering limestone cliffs that serve as the perfect backdrop of hidden lagoons and crowdless white sand beaches.

How to go

Touchdown at Naga-Pili Airport (WNP). The jump-off point to Caramoan can be found in Sabang Port in the town San Jose, which is 1 hour away from Naga City Center. From Sabang Port, ride a local ferry to Guijalo Port in Caramoan. Travel time is around 1 hour and 45 minutes. From Guijalo, the land trip to Caramoan town proper takes around 30 minutes. From Caramoan town proper, the islands are accessible on whole day island hopping tours.

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Caramoan travel tipsCamarines SurNaga

18. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Maira-ira Beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Luzon, Philippines

Why go — There are two sides to Pagudpud, the east side is home to Maira-ira Beach, a white sand beach blessed with blue lagoon waters and surf-worthy waves, while the west side is fringed by long picturesque beaches facing the sunset. If you find yourself in North Luzon, this beach town is a must visit.

How to go

Touchdown at Laoag International Airport (LAO). Pagudpud is around 1.5 hours north of Laoag City center by land.

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Pagudpud travel tipsIlocosLaoag

19. Batanes

Batan Island in Batanes, Philippines. Photo by Glendale Lapastora. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Why go — Venture farther to the country’s extreme north for spectacular island views unlike any other place in the Philippines. What you’ll find in Batanes is not the typical image of a tropical island paradise. Travelers who’ve stumbled upon its shores give high praises to its remote and timeless beauty. If it’s nature you’re after, this is a place where nature reigns supreme. On Batanes, you can find rolling hills bow down to mighty Pacific winds and mesmerizing sea waves crash into cliffed coastlines and secluded beaches.

How to go

Touchdown at Basco Airport in Batan Island, the main island/town proper in Batanes. Flight duration from Manila is around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Airlines that operate in Basco Airport include Philippine Airlines, Sky Pasada, SkyJet, and Northsky Air.

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20. Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga City

Pink Beach at Great Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga City, Philippines

Why go — Down south, Great Santa Cruz Island located off the coast of Zamboanga City offers a rare treat to visitors. It’s one of the few islands in the Philippines with a rare pink beach! It only takes less than 20 minutes to reach by boat from the city center.

How to go

Touchdown at Zamboanga International Airport (ZAM). You can hire a boat to get to Great Santa Cruz Island from Paseo del Mar in Zamboanga City center.

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21. Sarangani Islands, Davao Occidental

Pink sand beach at Olanivan Island, in Sarangani Islands, Davao Occidental

Why go — Want to see more pink sand beaches? You can also visit one in Olanivan Island, a tiny island that’s part of remote Sarangani Islands, Davao Occidental. Continue your island hopping to nearby Balut Island, where you can visit a hot sulfur spring and go trekking to the top of forest-topped Balut Volcano.

How to go

Touchdown at General Santos International Airport (GES). The main jump-off point to Sarangani Islands is General Santos. Local ferries run scheduled once daily trips (except Sundays) from Lions Beach or Puting Bato Wharf in General Santos to Balut Island, the main island/poblacion area. Travel time may take 6 to 9 hours depending sea conditions. From Balut Island, you can charter a boat to get to the nearby islands. The Sarangani Islands are part of Davao Occidental Province. Similarly named, Sarangani Province is located just across the strait in the mainland part of Mindanao.

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22. Gumasa Beach, Sarangani

Gumasa Beach in Glan, Sarangani, Philippines

Why go — Gumasa Beach in Glan, Sarangani Province is among the most beautiful white sand beaches in mainland Mindanao. This beach is easily reached after a 1-hour land trip from General Santos. During Sarbay Fest, its long powdery fine sandy stretch beach is filled with party crowds. At most times of the year, peaceful moments can easily be enjoyed here.

How to go

Touchdown at General Santos International Airport (GES). If you are going by public transport, you can ride a shuttle from the terminal at KCC Mall in GenSan to Glan. Then, ride a tricycle or habal-habal to Gumasa Beach.

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Sarangani travel tipsSouth CotabatoGeneral Santos

23. Samal Island, Davao del Norte

Isla Reta beachfront in Talucud Island, Samal, Davao del Norte, Philippines

Why go — Samal Island is one of the most popular destinations in Mindanao. Its fine white sand beaches and snorkeling spots are easily reached from Davao City. The ferry ride only takes as fast as 15 minutes to get to many beach resorts on Samal Island and up to 1 hour to the peaceful beaches of smaller Talikud Island. If you have the budget to splurge, the most luxurious place to stay on the island is Pearl Farm Beach Resort, a luxury resort famous for its waterfront stilt cottages.

How to go

Touchdown at Davao International Airport (DVO). If you are going to Talicud Island or Kaputian in the southern part of Samal, you can ride a public ferry from Sta. Ana wharf in Davao City center. Another way is to ride the public ferry from Sasa Wharf, which arrives at Babak Wharf on the northern coast of Samal.

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Samal travel tipsDavaoDavao City

24. Camiguin

White Island in Camiguin, Philippines

Why go — Found midway between Cagayan de Oro and Butuan, Camiguin is an island province located 10 kilometers off the coast of Northern Mindanao. This island is known for White Island, a scenic sandbar that gets swallowed by the sea during high tide, a peculiar sunken cemetery, and a thriving giant clam sanctuary. Mantigue Beach on tiny Magsaysay Island also offers fine sandy shores and beautiful snorkeling/diving sites.

How to go

Touchdown at Camiguin Airport (CGM), Cagayan de Oro-Laguindingan International Airport (CGY) or Butuan Airport (BXU). Camiguin Airport only serves direct flights from Cebu that are operated by Cebu Pacific. If you are coming from Manila or other parts of the country, you can reach Camiguin via Cagayan de Oro City or Butuan City. The main jump-off point is Balingo-an Port in Misamis Occidental Province. Travel time to Balingo-an Port from Cagayan de Oro city center takes 2.5 to 3 hours, while it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours from Butuan City Center. The ferry crossing from Balingo-an Port to Camiguin takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.

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25. Siargao, Surigao del Norte

Cloud 9 beach in General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Philippines

Why go — Siargao island is where you can find many of the best surfing spots in the Philippines. It’s also blessed with many sights worth seeing beyond the surf including stunning off-shore islets, sandbars, tidal pools and rock formations.

How to go

Touchdown at Siargao-Sayak Airport (IAO) or Surigao Airport (SUG). Siargao Airport mainly serves direct flights from Cebu by Cebu Pacific. If you are coming from other parts of the country, you can find more flights at Surigao Airport. From Surigao City, the ferry crossing to Dapa Port in Siargao may take 2 to 3 hours on fast boats and around 3.5 hours depending on slow RORO ferries. Cloud 9 and General Luna is 30 minutes away from Dapa Port by land.

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Siargao travel tipsSurigaoSurigao City

26. Bucas Grande, Surigao del Norte

Sohoton Lagoons in Bucas Grande Island, Surigao del Norte, Philippines

Why go — Bucas Grande Island found near Siargao is one of my favorite places to visit in the Philippines. This island doesn’t have long stretches of white sand beaches but it has a natural wonder that is equally interesting — pristine coastal lagoons. It’s also one of the few lakes in the World where you can find non-sting jellyfish.

How to go

Touchdown at Siargao-Sayak Airport (IAO) or Surigao Airport (SUG). If you are coming from Siargao, you can go on island hopping tours that can take you directly to Sohoton Lagoons in Bucas Grande. You can also go on a public boat from Dapa Port to Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island and get a boat for your island hopping tour from there. Travel time from Dapa Port to Socorro should take 1 hour. If you are coming from Surigao City, you can either go by ferry directly from Surigao City, which takes around 3 hours, or from Hayanggabon, which takes 1 hour. Travel time from Surigao City to Hayanggabon is also 1 hour.

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Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

Got places in mind that should be on this list? Share your photos and videos and tag #detourista on Facebook and Instagram.

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