The Philippines may be better known for its large cities like Manila and Cebu, but it also a nation of great natural beauty with many sites for quiet, relaxing getaways in very pleasant rustic settings.
El Nido, Palawan
Some say El Nido is the best island and beach destination in the Philippines. It is located about 260 miles southwest of Manila and has a unique natural beauty with many scuba diving sites. Here there are tall cliffs, green forests, clear waters, and soft beaches. In fact, there are fifty beaches, three protected marine habitats, five types of forest, one hundred species of corals, four species of endangered turtles, and over 800 species of fish. It is one of the most biodiverse areas in the country. Below is a short list of the some of the many islands in El Nido.
Entalula Island is reputed to have the best white beach in the region, though there are so many, this point is very debatable.
Bacuit Bay has about 30 dive sites of varying depths. Here there are sea turtles, manta rays, dugongs, fish and other marine life. There are also sometimes whale sharks.
Lagan Island is known for its large wild bird population, so it is a favorite for bird watching. The resort here is also known as being one of the most luxurious in the area.
Cadloa Island is the largest island in El Nido. It has one peak well over 700 feet in height, white sand beaches, hidden lagoons and hiking trails. A saltwater lake surrounded by mangroves can be accessed by trails on foot.
Miniloc Island is where the first resort in El Nido was established. There is a cove here with limestone cliff walls and turquoise waters. There are many fish that can be observed while snorkeling, and a resort with accommodations for a minimum of fifty visitors. Two lagoons can be kayaked to and are worth visiting for their natural beauty.
Pangulsian Island is a good site for snorkeling and diving because of the coral reefs close by. It also has very expansive white beaches for relaxing and easy access to the water for swimming.
This brief summary of El Nido could not do it justice, because there are still more islands and many experiences to enjoy in this bounteous area.
This small, quaint town and region are about 230 miles from Manila on the coast. Approximately 47,000 people live here permanently and there are a number of tourists that come each year from November to June to see the wild whale sharks. These marine creatures are large, but completely harmless, and it is possible to see them up close.
Scuba diving with them is not allowed, but swimming in small groups is. Donsol is fairly simple in its accommodations and is probably a good choice for someone that does not need fancy restaurants or exciting nightlife. It is also a good starting point for scuba trips to places like Manta Bowl and San Miguel Island. Ticao Island is about 1.5 hours by boat and is a good place for a serene respite. There are clear waters, good scuba diving, white sand beaches, horse riding and beach front cabanas. Other available activities include kayaking, snorkeling, island hopping and motorcycle riding.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
This top diving site has over 1,000 marine species living amongst two atoll coral reefs. Fish, coral, dolphins, sharks, whales and birds are all in abundance at this nature preserve. It is located about 100 miles from Puerto Princesa city, which is about a 1.5-hour flight from Manila. To get to the marine reserve you must travel by boat and only between March and June if you intend to go diving. A diving trip costs on between $1300 and $1600.
Davao and Mt. Apo
Mount Apo is the Philippines’ tallest peak, with an elevation of more than 9,600 feet. Because of its mountainous terrain, the area is a draw for hikers and climbers. There is also white water rafting, zip lining, wakeboarding and pearl diving. Another popular activity is visiting the Philippine Eagle Center. Many people come to learn about the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, the largest bird of prey in the country. Davao City is where most of the hotels are located, but there is a much smaller and quieter town that also has a few places to stay - Sta. Cruz. Davao is about a two-hour flight from Manila.
About the Author:
Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel site dedicated to helping people master the art of money management, whether it’s planning a travel budget or finding the best interest rate credit cards.