Island of Islands

An archipelago of over 7,100 islands, it’s unsurprising that island hopping is one of the top things travellers do while visiting the Philippines

For a country with thousands of idyllic islands and world-class surfing and diving options, the Philippines is a relatively undiscovered travel destination. Tourism is crucial to the country’s economy, accounting for about eight per cent of its GDP. From mysterious tranquil islands to dramatic pasture-lands, the Philippine archipelago has an endless array of bucket-list-worthy destinations that inspire awe and wonder. Wandering through these mysterious islands could easily be the ideal way to kick start the New Year.

Siargao Islands

Situated at the north-eastern tip of Mindanao, 800 km south of Manila, Siargao is a dream-come-true island. Composed of 48 islands and islets, Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines. The island contains the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao, long stretches of wetlands, and has its share of coral reefs and dive spots. Siargao Island is greatly influenced by the winds and currents coming uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean. Most island hopping tours start in Naked Island and end in Guyam Island, both in Siargao, where tourists can stay and watch the sunset.

Cebu Island

While Cebu is one of the most densely populated islands in the Philippines, it is also the one that tourists visit the most. The island’s prime attractions are its white sand beaches and spectacular diving, chiefly off the northern tip of Cebu at Malapascua and down on the southwest coast at Moalboal. Here you can get local by visiting family owned watersport companies that will take you out parasailing, jet skiing and banana boating. Whether you are a foodie, history buff or a fitness junkie, there is something sweet and special that awaits you in Cebu.

Luzon

The biggest island of the Philippines, North Luzon is a land of misty mountains, where pines replace palm trees. Head to Banaue and Batad to admire the 2,000-year-old rice terraces etched along plunging ravines. The 20,000 sq km UNESCO-listed terraces still provide a livelihood for the various tribal groups that continue to live in relative isolation in the mountains. Treks along the rice terraces to various villages and waterfalls can be organised through the Banaue Tourist Information Centre.

El Nido

A small, pretty town surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam and Krabi in Thailand, El Nido is quickly becoming a hotspot in the Philippines. There are a number of island-hopping trips you can do to explore the Bacuit Bay archipelago, which is amazing. One can choose to lead a lazy life at its powder-fine beaches paired with clear waters, or be the ultimate explorer and set sail via longboat. Off the coast seems to be a fulfilling a checklist of what makes an island holiday great again with its intensely hued reefs, waterfalls, coves and empty lagoons hidden behind soaring karst limestone formations waiting to be discovered.

Boracay

With endless beaches of powdery-white sand, long happy hours, abundance of restaurants and hotels to suit all budgets, and plenty of watersports, Boracay is the party island. It has 12 beaches, the most popular being White beach and Bulabog. The island is divided up into “boat stations”, which are used a reference points. Station One in the north is known for its high-end resorts and tranquillity; station two is the liveliest part, and station three is where all the budget accommodation can be found.

Words: Ron Stevan

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