Both my partner and I have been lucky enough to be able to travel quite a bit around the US, South East Asia, and Europe. Throughout our travels, we have met many amazing people from different cultures, seen many incredible things, and experienced many surreal moments.
We rode motorcycles across Vietnam, hitchhiked through the mountains in Greece, and backpacked around Thailand. Throughout all of this, I have realised one thing – There is no place like home.
The Philippines is home to some of the most amazing sights and sounds, not to mention the warmest and friendliest people that we have met in our travels. Tom, who is originally from the U.K., has undoubtedly fallen in love with our beaches, mountains, and more importantly, the people. Well, it’s pretty hard not to.
With our crystal clear waters, many pristine white sand beaches, amazing sunsets, stunning mountains and caves, the Philippines has it all. When planning a trip to the Philippines, most backpackers tend to stick to the usual places like Boracay, Cebu, Sagada, and Palawan. Although visiting these places mentioned above are still an awesome experience, perhaps try exploring these off the beaten path destinations in the Philippines to get a feel of what the country and its best kept secrets are truly like.
Gigantes Island, Iloilo
While slowly gaining in popularity, this amazing group of islands if the last frontier of untouched beauty where you can do absolutely nothing apart from lazing around a secluded beach as you feast on fresh seafood. Located off of Estancia, Iloilo, this pristine paradise is a haven compared to the more crowded and over developed tourist spot like Boracay.
What is there to do: Do an island hopping tour as you explore the many white sand beaches and sandbars, and visit awesome spots like the Cabugao, Gamay Island and the Tangke Salt Water Lagoon.
Insider Tip: If you feel like roughing it out, talk to the locals and arrange for an overnight camping in one of the islands. Imagine falling asleep under the stars and waking up to a stunning beach, which you have all to yourself. Local fishermen would come by to sell you their fresh catch of squid, scallops, and crabs, which they will happily help you grill. How much better can it get?
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Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte
Calaguas is a hidden gem that is slowly being discovered-which is why it is best to visit it now! Picture perfect is an understatement as all you can see is a long stretch of white sand beach and crystal clear turquoise waters. This place is accessible by an 8 hour bus ride plus a 2 hour boat trip from the main land. Flying to Naga, Camarines Sur is also an option.
What to do: Snorkelling, island hopping, relaxing and swimming. Currently, there are no accommodations or establishments on the island so make sure to bring a tent and food for your trip. There are also other activities in nearby islands like caving and exploring waterfalls.
Insider Tip: This spot is ideal for camping and is slowly gaining popularity. If you want the place to yourself, try your luck by going on a weekday.
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Hinatuan Enchanted River, Mindanao
The Enchanted River in Surigao Del Sur was given its name due to the fact that no one knows where the water from this river comes from. The water in the river is so clear that the riverbed is outlined in colours of turquoise and aquamarine. The middle portion of the river is very deep and is fabled to have spirits living beneath.
What to do: Enjoy the fresh water from the river as you go swim and cool off on a hot day. Every day at 12pm, a caretaker from the local village comes and asks everyone to get out of the water. When he rings a bell, dozens of large fish come up to the surface to feed.
Insider Tip: You can also go on a river cruise to the other islands. Talk to a local and ask them where you can get some fresh grilled seafood for lunch.
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Although this place is no secret, the beauty of Siargao still remains to be untouched. It is a surfer’s paradise with world famous waves, stunning islands nearby, and the friendliest locals you can imagine. If surfing isn’t your thing, how about going on a motorbike ride along the island to explore secret caves, rice fields, and empty beaches?
What to do: Try surfing in their beginner to intermediate breaks at different points around the island, go island hopping and visit Naked and Dau Island as well as the Sohoton Caves. The white sand and palm fringed shores of every island will surely make you want to stay forever.
Insider Tip: Go see (and swim) with the stingless jellyfish over at the Sohoton Caves which are in there from March – May.
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Originally called “Isla del Fuego” or Island of Fire because of the eerie and mysterious swarms of fireflies that would come out at night. This enchanting island is rumoured to have mystical healers and shamans. But no need to fret – the only mystery here is why not many travellers come for a visit.
What to do: Pay a visit to the ancient Balete tree, check out the Cambugahay and Lugnason Waterfalls, and go beach hopping in their many hidden coves of unspoilt white sand beaches. The haunted island of Siquijor is also home to many old churches like the St. Francis of Assisi Church and the San Isidro Labrador Convent, which are some of the oldest and largest churches in our country.
Insider Tip: For the more adventurous, get your adrenaline pumping and try cliff jumping at Salagdoong Beach.
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At the end of the day, with over 7107 islands to choose from, you won’t run out of choices as there is still so much of the Philippines to see and explore. However there are some reasons why not to visit the Philippines.
Have you been to any destinations that are off the beaten path in the Philippines? Let us know in the comments below!