If islands are what you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place. With over 7,000 islands (no, that’s not a typo), the best islands in the Philippines will under-promise and overdeliver every time.
Although the country has a brutal history of colonization and war, its islands have remained a steadfast source of beauty and wonder. Thank God, humans don’t ruin everything, am I right?!
I don’t even know if anyone has seen all 7,000+ islands, but there are definitely a handful that rank as some of the best islands in the world.
Everywhere you look, there is out-of-this-world nature, hundreds of thousands of palm trees, rice paddies, and an insane number of smiles. I mean, people in the Philippines must do some serious cheek exercises because they are *constantly* smiling.
Whether you’re into diving, surfing, or just lounging on the beach with a cocktail in hand (me!), these 8 AWESOME islands in the Philippines need to be added to your Southeast Asia tour.
Best Islands in the Philippines
The Gatorade blue waters and the bright green palm leaves are the main reasons why the Philippines’ islands rank as some of the best in the world. It’s not because I say so; it’s just a fact.
One that is backed up by every traveler who has ever ventured to these tropical paradises, and you’ll be backing it up too—soon enough.
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1. Palawan Island
For anyone backpacking in the Philippines, Palawan Island is a must-visit. The island is the epitome of a tropical paradise, with crystal-clear blue waters, towering limestone cliffs, and lush green forests. It’s no wonder that Palawan has been named the “Best Island in the World” by various travel magazines.
- Why visit: One of the best places for island hopping and unique experiences like Puerto Princesa.
- When to visit: November to May
- How to get there: Fly direct to either Puerto Princesa or El Nido from Manila.
Pro tip: Puerto Princes might be the best destination in the Philippines for budget backpackers since it’s usually cheap!
Palawan is home to some of the most iconic island-hopping destinations in the Philippines, including El Nido and Coron. These two places alone are worth the trip to Palawan. You can island hop through crystal-clear lagoons, go kayaking through caves, or just take your towel and head down to the soft white sands.
I have to recommend Frendz Hostel El Nido if you’re staying here too. Although hostels don’t suit everyone, they have amazing private rooms too! They offer read good bang for your buck.
If you’re a nature lover, the unique wildlife found in Palawan is such a unique experience. It’s a haven for Mother Earth. The little furry Palawan bearcat might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
The island is also home to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You can take a boat tour through an underground river—it’s epic!
2. Cebu Island
Cebu Island easily takes the top spot on my list of favorite islands in the Philippines. Every day was an absolute blast, and I didn’t even scratch the surface of all it has to offer. If you’re a busybody like me, then staying in Cebu will give you more than enough things to do and discover.
- Why visit: Incredible snorkeling in the bluest waters with some of the healthiest coral. You can also quite literally chase thousands of waterfalls.
- When to visit: December-May
- How to get there: Catch a fast ferry from Manila.
Whatever your Cebu itinerary consists of, you will be have an amazing time here. Do you know those who choose their own adventure books? That’s exactly what Cebu is like. Every morning offers something new, and you can decide what it is.
In the jungles of Cebu, you can find over 1,000 waterfalls to play in and splash in. If you want to swim with the fish, you’ll find some of the best snorkeling around the island.
You can swim with turtles and whale sharks and even watch a sardine run (it’s like a fish tornado!). And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, try canyoneering through Kawasan Falls.
3. Coron Island
If you are a fan of history and diving, I have the perfect Philippine island for you. Coron Island needs to be moved to the top of your bucket list of adventures! Here, you’ll find multiple Japanese WWII shipwrecks that have become popular dive sites.
The sunken warships are now home to some of the most thriving, colorful coral reefs and diverse marine life.
- Why visit: Shipwreck dives!
- When to visit: April-May
- How to get there: Coron is accessible either by ferry or direct flight from Manila or El Nido.
Coron Island also has some really cool lakes and lagoons, including Kayangan Lake, which is said to have the clearest water in Asia.
And you have to check out the Twin Lagoons. It’s two lagoons that look alike (hence the name, lol) and are connected by a narrow passage. You can snorkel from one to the other, or get a lightweight kayak if you prefer to stay on top of the water.
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4. Apo Island
Apo Island is one of the smallest islands on this list, and it’s definitely the most peaceful. The island has been a part of one of the longest-lasting community-based marine protected areas in the Philippines.
This has resulted in an abundance of stunning coral and diverse marine life, making it a great option for divers and snorkelers.
- Why visit: Snorkeling and diving paradise for those who like to get off the beaten path.
- When to visit: November-June
- How to get there: Take a 45-minute ride from Dumaguete to Malatapay and wait for a boat to take you over. Be prepared to wait, though. There isn’t too much of a schedule, and sometimes it requires hitchhiking on a local’s boat. But I have faith in you!
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path and want an experience that few other travelers have, then you have to make your way to Apo.
The volcanic island is only 7km long, and there’s some serious island life here. No fancy resorts or big hotels, just the local community and a few basic places to stay.
Swimming with the sea turtles on Apo Island is a major core memory for me. You can just take your own snorkel off the coast, and BAM, you’re face-to-face with one of these giant, gentle creatures. It was one of the best days of all of my Philippine travels.
5. Siquijor Island
Siquijor may be known for its mystic and supernatural tales, but don’t let that scare you away. This island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines.
It’s smaller than other popular islands like Boracay and Palawan, allowing for an intimate Filipino backpacking experience for a few days (or weeks in my case… oops!)
- Why visit: Perfect for those who want to escape the crowds but still want the infrastructure and amenities of a more developed island.
- When to visit: November-May
- How to get there: Access it by ferry from the nearby Filipino islands of Cebu, Bohol, and Negros Oriental.
Siquijor Island is often referred to by its Spanish name, “Isla del Fuego,” or Island of Fire. It may sound intimidating, but it’s actually one of the most peaceful islands in the Philippines. Legends say it was given that name because of the abundance of fireflies lighting up the beaches every single night.
But the island shines its brightest during the day with its amazing natural wonders. Swing off the ropes at Cambugahay Falls, cliff jump at Salagdoong Beach, or visit the centuries-old Balete Tree.
Siquijor has a huge variety of places to stay for every budget – from broke backpacker goodies to flash packer funsies. My favorite place to stay on the island is Nakabalo Guesthouse for the amazing sunsets from the infinity pool.
To get the full Siquijor experience, you have to close out the day with a sunset hang while watching the little fireflies light up the beach.
6. Bohol Island
Okay, all the Philippines is a nature lover’s playground, but it really doesn’t get much better than Bohol Island.
The island will leave your jaw on the ground with its dreamy Chocolate Hills, national parks, and the ever so creepy but cute tarsier. I mean, I’ve always been told I have big eyes, but this little guy has got some peepers on him!
- Why visit: to see unique landscapes and visit the Tarsier monkey sanctuary.
- When to visit: December to May
- How to get there: Take a flight from Manila or Cebu City to the Bohol Airport.
Bohol is one of the most diverse islands in the Philippines. Every day is filled with different landscapes, animals, and adventures.
Most people head here for the unique Chocolate Hills. Sadly, Willy Wonka does not live in the Philippines, and these are not hills made out of chocolate.
There are approximately 1,300 hills within a 20-mile patch of land that turn brown during the dry season, giving them their very misleading name but nonetheless a breathtaking sight.
Boracay is undoubtedly the most famous and developed island in the Philippines and is perfect for those who are craving nightlife. The small island is full of delicious restaurants, comfortable places to stay, and some hard-core beach clubs to let loose at.
Outside of the nightlife, the island is most known for its White Beach. It has powdered sugar-like sand and the clearest blue sea.
It’s a little slice of heaven, and while popular islands aren’t always my jam, Boracay is perfect for an EPIC sun-soaked break!
- Why visit: A resort island for days in the sun and nights out on the town.
- When to visit: November-April
- How to get there: To reach Boracay from Manila, you can choose between Kalibo Airport or Caticlan. Caticlan is the more convenient option, just 30 minutes away from Boracay. While flights to Kalibo are usually cheaper, it takes about 2 hours to reach Boracay.
Boracay is often included in the conversation of islands that are overrated, but I surprisingly disagree! It is definitely a resort island, and loads of tourists make their way here, but you can still find some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world.
Plus, with the number of island-hopping tours available within 30 minutes of the island, there’s no excuse not to explore beyond White Beach.
8. Siargao Island
Get totally pitted on Siargao Island. This island is home to Cloud Nine, one of the world’s best surfing spots. The waves are some of the best in all of Southeast Asia, and over the past few years, all the surf bros have caught on. It’s one of the most gnarly islands in the Philippines.
- Why visit: The epic Cloud Nine surf break, dude!
- When to visit: March – October
- How to get there: To get to Siargao Island, there are two options. You can either take a flight to Siargao airport or opt for a ferry ride from the neighboring Philippine Islands.
As most surf spots are, it’s super chill and a great place to hang out for a few days and make great friends. You can island hop, discover some massive waterfalls, and even adventure into some cave pools. Most of the island is still untouched, making it perfect for the explorer who wants to find more than what they’ve read online.
Siargao has always been a hub for surfers. But if you prefer to stay on the shore, the island is still a fantastic option. I couldn’t leave without recommending staying at Tropical Temple Siargao Resort, either – this is boogie without costing the Earth!
Don’t Forget Insurance for the Islands!
Do you need travel insurance? ABSOLUTELY! Before you head off on the trip of a lifetime, make sure one mistake can’t ruin it all. Get that travel insurance and enjoy the trip.
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
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Final Thoughts on the Best Islands in the Philippines
For a really long time, I left the Philippines off of my travel bucket list because I felt like the part of me that loves to discover cultures would be disappointed. But after visiting these glorious islands, my opinion has changed completely! I was blown away by the sheer beauty and diversity of each island I visited.
If you consider yourself a nature enthusiast and love to explore unique landscapes, then you’re going to absolutely thrive in the islands of the Philippines.
From the stunning limestone cliffs and turquoise lagoons in Palawan to the lively white sand beaches in Boracay, each island offers a unique experience that will leave you wanting more.
But for that one island that’s going to alter your brain chemistry, you have to travel to Cebu Island. It’s an island to get lost on and fall in love with the people, culture, and scenery.
The vibes are primo, the nature is indescribable, and the days fly by. Before you know it, you’ve been there a month, and your friends are calling, wondering when you’re coming home.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!