Boracay was once considered the most idyllic island in the world. However, due to an overabundance of tourists and mounting sewage problems, the most famous of the Philippines islands was closed in April 2018 for a six-month period of repair and restoration. Boracay is scheduled to officially reopen to domestic and international tourists on 26 October, but many say it is still recovering and needs more time before travellers return.
As a well-travelled Filipina who loves her country, I can assure you that the Philippines has so much more to offer. With more than 7000 Philippines islands, you’ll need at least a year to explore every bit of this amazing archipelago. While Boracay is still recovering, consider these 4 places, which are less overrun, more cost-effective – and just as beautiful as Boracay!
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Tell me why I should visit the Philippines?
When friends ask me why they should visit the Philippines, I always say because of the people. The country has more than 7000 islands that contain amazing beaches, mountains, waterfalls and springs, but one thing is constant: the Filipino hospitality. We’re a lively and happy bunch who always smile and welcome anyone who visits. You’ll have to experience the Philippines to know what I’m talking about.
With Boracay out of action, which other Philippines islands should travellers consider?
My 4 top recommendations are Palawan, Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin.
Palawan has incredible karst mountains, subterranean caves and pristine beaches. Plus, with a coastline spanning 2,000km, it has everything that a nature- or beach-lover could ever need
I love Cebu; it’s different from the other Philippines islands in that it offers a fusion of island life, historical sites and a metropolis.
Bohol is close to my heart since it is my hometown and it is just two-hours from Cebu. It is also where you can find the world-famous Chocolate Hills!
And volcanic Camiguin might have been born of fire, but it’s a dreamily peaceful destination – perfect for a relaxing holiday.
What are your must-do experiences on these islands?
Don’t miss the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. This is one of the longest navigable underground rivers in the world; it goes underneath a mountain range and out into the sea.
You must also go island hopping in El Nido or Coron, and visit the beaches around Port Barton. Make sure to see at least one of Palawan’s amazing sunsets!
Explore Cebu’s more than 80 waterfalls, as well as the churches and monuments that show how the country’s religious history was shaped on this island. Next, head to the beaches in Bantayan Island or Moalboal for crystal-clear water and white-sand beaches. Adventurous travellers should go diving in Malapascua Island (It’s one of the best places to see thresher sharks) and Pescador Island for hammerheads and white-tip sharks.
And be sure to taste the famous lechon (roasted pork), chicharon (deep-fried pork rinds) and other local delicacies, as well as experience the island’s excellent nightlife.
Explore the unique and picturesque landscape of the Chocolate Hills; hop on a floating restaurant and cruise along the river; go dolphin and whale watching at Balicasag Island; and finally relax on Panglao Island after a delicious meal at the organic Bohol Bee Farm.
The best thing about Camiguin is how affordable, beautiful, and peaceful it is. The tiny volcanic island has lush forests, a number of waterfalls, cold and hot springs and even a stretch of white beach (it’s actually an island) with no trees! If you can time your visit, their amazing Lanzones Festival (every third week of October) is one of the island’s highlights.
What would an ideal itinerary look like?
I’d suggest at least 3 to 4 days in Palawan, 3 days in Cebu, 2 in Bohol and another 2 in Camiguin.
Either fly to Cebu then go by boat to Bohol and Camiguin, which are just around 2-3 hours from each other. From Cebu, you can fly to Palawan and get around there by bus. See the route map and prices here.
The second option is to fly from Manila to Palawan, then fly to Cebu and island hop to Bohol and Camiguin. See the route map and prices here.
What can travellers do to avoid a repeat of Boracay?
Firstly, please choose homestays and environmentally-friendly hotels. For Palawan, I suggest Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort. In Bohol, check out Amorita Resort as it has been awarded the ASEAN Green Hotel multiple times. Cebu has unlimited options, and Camiguin has many homestays to choose from.
Be sure to only use with accredited tours and agencies. In El Nido, Palawan, for example, the local government has imposed a daily limit on visits for island hopping, so beware if someone says they can get you in without a permit.
If you’re island hopping, be sure to bring back everything on your trip, especially your rubbish. Visit and review restaurants and cafes that offer bamboo and paper straws.
In Cebu, there is a popular attraction which lets you swim with whale sharks. While the local government has given permission to help the local fishermen with this and a conservation program has been undertaken, I wouldn’t suggest doing this activity. You can swim with whale sharks in Donsol where the sharks are wild and free.
In Bohol, visit the Tarsier Foundation, which looks after these precious primates in the wild, not the ones captured for tourists to hold and take photos with.
What else should travellers be aware of when travelling around the Philippines islands?
One of the most common reasons for transport delays is the weather. The Philippines is located in the typhoon belt in the Pacific, which means it gets battered by an average of 20 typhoons every year, of which at least 5 are destructive. It is also vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
This may sound dangerous, but there are constant updates during typhoon season (June to November) to help you time your trip. I recommend travelling during the summer season (from November to April) to get the best from the places you visit.
Angie is a Filipina teacher and traveller currently based in Thailand. She enjoys photography and is slowly travelling the world one country at a time. She chronicles her adventures on travelmoments.net