Ever since Conde Nast Traveler named Boracay the best island in the world for 2017, the Philippines has been the place to visit for travelers in constant search of sea, sun, and sand. Boracay is a speck of an island in the Western Philippines with powder-white sand and thriving nightlife. It also topped another island in the Philippines called Palawan, which was in the top spot in 2016, and is known to be the last frontier in the Philippines.
For locals, however, both Boracay and Palawan are already well-known areas that are more likely than not packed with tourists all throughout the year. But fret not because the Philippines has more than 7,000 other islands to choose from. And if you’re the type who wants a quieter, more reclusive vacation, escaping the long lines, and the overpriced souvenirs, then head to these other islands locals recommend for a more peaceful introspective vacation.
1. Sipalay, Negros Oriental
Chances are the more accessible beaches are oftentimes the most crowded as well. Therefore, the inaccessibility of Sipalay gives it its advantage. They say Sipalay is the Boracay of 30 years ago, as it is relaxed, untouched, and all-natural. Sipalay is around 200 kilometers from the nearest airport hubs, one in Bacolod and the other in Dumaguete, but these are not international airports. The closest international airport is on another island, Cebu. So, all in all, it will probably take you a day and a half to get to this small city, but its beach is absolutely worth it.
Once you get to the secluded cover called Sugar Beach though, take your sandals off and let your feet enjoy the powdery-white sand. Watch merchants and fishermen selling fish, or local kids playing at the shore. Listen to the lull of the waves, and at night, gaze at the stars as can only be seen in an unpolluted sky. Sugar Beach is not touristy or saturated; however, there are a couple of good-quality resorts that you can choose from including an eclectic eco-resort run by a German couple called Takatuka. There are quirky elements all around the resort made by scavenged materials such as old calculators, cellphones, vintage toys, and amber bottles. Rooms also have fun themes such as the Marco Polo Room, the Racer Room, the Nautilus Room, and Jungle Room.
Address: Barangay Nauhang, Langub Sugar Beach Sipalay City, 6113 Negros Occidental Philippines
Price: 30 USD to 40 USD per night
Contact: +63 9202309174 / +63 9206792349 / +63 9156283516
2. Islas de Gigantes, Iloilo
Quite near the island of Boracay is a different set of islands called Islas de Gigantes or the Island of Giants. Islas de Gigantes comprises a number of islands: Cabugao Dako, Cabugao Gamay, Antonia, Tangke, and many others. From Iloilo City’s airport, it takes around five hours or so to reach Estancia, the drop off point of Islas de Gigantes. From the drop off point, you’ll have to taken an open boat to the islands.
Now, this is where it gets tricky since there is only one boat leaving for the island every day. It leaves around noon, and will come back the day after. If you miss the commercial vessel, you will have to charter a private boat, which will be more expensive. However you choose to reach the islands, you can be sure that you’ll be greeted by turquoise waters perfect for swimming, majestic rock formations, and a bountiful supply of seafood, especially scallops, which the island is famous for.
You might also be interested to see the old wooden coffins that giants are said to be buried while visiting.
Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn
Address: Carles, Iloilo
Price: 10 USD to 20 USD per night
Contact: 0918 468 5006
3. Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga
If you’re brave enough to go off the beaten path, Zamboanga’s Santa Cruz Island in Mindanao will reward you with a rare gift — pink sand. The sand gets its hue from the crushed red coral known as pipe organ coral that mix with the island’s white sand. When hit by the sun, the whole coastline looks like it is blushing. Enjoy seafood such as kagang (crabs) and lobsters while you sit on the many picnic tables strewn around the island.
More than the natural novelty of its pink sand though, Santa Cruz has a lot of other attractions including burial sites of ancient royalty from the Sama Bangingi (or Banguingui) tribe who are a sea-faring people. On the other side of the island is a huge collection of mangroves that hold rare wildlife.
Santa Cruz is just a 15-minute ride from mainland Zamboanga, where you can fly into the airport. You can easily catch a boat ride from Paseo del Mar, a collection of shops and public spaces, to the island.
Address: N S Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Del Sur, N S Valderosa St, Zamboanga
Price: 30 USD to 40 USD per night
Contact: 0908 488 8033
4. Daku Island, Siargao
Daku (the vernacular word for ‘big’) is one of the three islands (including Naked Island and Guyam Island) found between General Luna and Bucas Grande. For many, it is just considered a side trip to the more touristy part of Siargao, Cloud 9, said to be the 9th best surf site in the world.
However, if you’re not really into surfing, and would rather go to a sleepy, relaxing island with cream sand, an extensive shoreline, respectful locals, and fresh seafood grilled to your liking, then make Daku your main destination. It’s one of the many great islands for a lazy Sunday every day. You can tan, eat, sleep, and repeat for your entire trip. There are open cottages for overnight stays, or else, you can just pitch a tent or tie a hammock between two coconut trees. What could be better than that?
Patrick's on the Beach
Address: General Luna, Surigao Del Norte.
Price: 50 USD to 60 USD per night
Contact: (+63) 9184816483 / (+63) 9204317361
Tourism is coming
While it might be inevitable for tourism to reach these islands in the years to come, it seems only fitting that development be closely regulated by not just the government and caretakers, but by the very tourists who visit these destinations. If you so happen to be in any of these islands, be sure to be respectful to the locals, and the many, varied Filipino customs and traditions. Because there are over 7,100 islands in the Philippines, visiting an island is like visiting a different country. Each one has a different set of culture, beliefs, and traditions. Be mindful of this and of the place, so that it doesn’t become another Boracay.
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