Affectionately referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines has so much to offer to those looking to find their own small slice of tropical escapism. This rich, biodiverse archipelago has 7,641 islands (depending on the tide) and is undoubtedly one of the most alluring destinations in South-East Asia.
Boracay Island, hailed as having the ‘Best Beach in the World’ across countless reader polls, is the Philippines’ most famous island. Clichéd though it may be, this island’s powder-white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and gloriously vivid sunsets have made it a favourite holiday destination for visitors the world over. The island has many hotels, ranging from rustic boltholes like Lazy Dog and Levantin, to grand resorts from the likes of Shangri-La and Discovery Shores. If you do find yourself in D’Mall, the island’s main tourist hub, don’t forget to stop for a meal at Lemoni Café, which is well-loved by both locals and tourists alike. Try the Tiger Prawn Risotto or choose from one of the freshly-baked pastries on offer, and you’ll soon discover why this zesty little café has remained an culinary institution in Boracay for over 16 years.
Siargao, Surigao del Norte
The once sleepy surf town of Siargao has grown in popularity over recent years and, in 2019, was voted by Condé Nast Traveller readers as the ‘Best Island in the World’. With giant barrel-shaped waves, Siargao is known as the Philippines’ surf capital – but offers plenty of activities for non-surfers too. This tear-shaped island boasts plenty of hidden lagoons, magical rock pools, gigantic national parks and protected dive sites.
Naked Island, Guyam Island and Daku Island are three of the immaculate islets you can visit in Siargao. Naked Island is a completely uninhabited sand bar that disappears with the tide, Guyam Island is a small tropical atoll covered by a handful of palm trees which you can cross in 50 steps, while Daku Island boasts a handful of delicious seafood restaurants run by locals. Siargao also has a reputation as one of the Philippines’ most notorious party islands, with wild, joyful raves a nightly occurrence in many of the surf town’s local haunts.
El Nido, Palawan
Comprising 45 islets, El Nido is one of the most biodiverse islands in the Philippines. Characterised by limestone formations and aquamarine lagoons, this is certainly what comes to mind when one conjures up postcards of the Philippines. El Nido Resorts, which has three outstanding luxury hotels in Miniloc, Lagen and Pangalusian Islands, is your best bet for a truly superb luxury stay. Guests can use the facilities of all three hotels and charter private ‘bangkas’, or wooden boats, to visit El Nido’s many natural sites such as the picturesque Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Seven Commandos Beach, and Snake Island.
For the ultimate El Nido experience, kayak through the small and big lagoons, drifting through the snaking curvatures of the limestone cliffs. Take a dive and snorkel through the lagoons, where you can get a first-hand look at the rich marine wildlife that really makes these islands special.