Under the Radar
Not everyone likes a crowded beach. Filled with vendors calling out to customers tor banana boat rentals or henna tattoos, the bustling shoreline can drown out the sound of waves. With people taking selfies and group photos, it can be a challenge to take an unobstructed photo of the sunset. While beach culture is celebrated in the Philippines, the more introverted traveler will desire a less commercial venue. Here, we highlight some of the country’s lesser-known spots to help you unwind far from the maddening crowd.
“Iloilo city is the home of soft-spoken ones, its people are known to be sweet. It’s a must for your travel list” – Chloe Marion Samontanes, Barista, Philippines
ILOILO, WESTERN VISAYAS REGION
Located on the southernmost side of Panay Island in the Visayas, Iloilo has a coastline of white and gray sand beaches, one beach even has sand that’s colored by tiny shell fragments. Its capital city, also called Iloilo, is a bit off-the-beaten track, but has a lot to offer. Camiña Balay nga Bato is one such experience-native chocolate, local delicacies, and a taste of llonggo cuisine. The Islas de Gigantes in Northern Iloilo is a popular destination for its white sandbars and picturesque islands. Looking for something more remote? Hop on a boat to Pulupandan lsland and discover lloilo’s
Enchanted Lagoon, or the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, which is comparable to the emerald green lagoons in Palawan. But if it’s a hidden paradise one is looking for, drive to Barotac Viejo and look for Balaring Beach. The scenic drive through the mountains is an adventure on its own. There are no landmarks aside from modest markers so drive slowly, lest you miss the beach access altogether.
GUIMARAS. WESTERN VISAYAS REGION
This island province in the Panay Gulf, situated between the islands of Panay and Negros, is home to the sweetest mangoes in the country. More than 8,000 hectares of the island is devoted to mango plantations, which gives the entire island a lush tropical atmosphere. To get here, take a 20-minute terry ride from downtown Iloilo.
Aside from being an agricultural wonder, Guimaras is known for its secluded beaches and islets. Although its main beach in Alubihod Bay can get pretty packed, quieter coves can be found around the area.
Guisi Beach is known for its 18th-century relic, a Spanish-colonial era lighthouse Head to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy one of the best panoramic Views Island. or adrenalin-inducing views, rappel or mountain bike down the rugged trails in Guimaras.
“Guimaras is simply beautiful. Chilling under the sun and enjoying the beach while eating freshly picked ripe mangoes, what more you can ask for?” – Chico Santos
Langgam in the Visayan region means “bird and not the common term for “ant” as known in the Luzon region. Kalanggaman Island, when seen from above, resembles a bird in flight with both its wings outstretched to its sides. These island wings are actually long sandbars that taper into clear, aquamarine waters, A walk on the Sandbars would show the amazing contrast of dishing waves on one side and completely still waters on the other. Kalanggaman lsland also got ame because it is a haven for migratory birds. Bird-watching Is a must while on the island.
This island is an hour away from the docks of Palompon, Leyte, and it is fast becoming one of Ost popular destinations in the Visayas. The white sand here would rival that of Boracay and Calaguas. Getting here, one must first book the trip at the local ecotourism office. Make sure to abide by the rules on waste management-lest you pay the penalties or the karmic price for soiling an immaculate island.
“Kalanggaman Island is a good place to relax and bring your family. It boasts clear blue waters with fine white sand and calm waves. If you’re lucky enough, you can watch dolphins swimming close to your boat on the way to the island” – Kenneth Malinao, Purchasing Coordinator, Philippines
THE SUBANGAN MUSEUM
If you want to take a break and stretch your legs on the way to the beaches of Mati in Davao Oriental, stop by this museum. One will come face to face with the skeletal remains of a sperm whale that was found in this province. From end to end, the sperm whale measures 53 feet and is estimated to weigh 20 tons (that’s 20,000 kilos or 44,000 pounds). It is the Philippines first sperm whale display and the seventh largest in the world. The museum has other interesting attractions. A section on the ground level is devoted to the rich culture of the indigenous Mandaya and Kalagan. There’s also a simulated forest walk along the famous Mount Hamiguitan so visitors can appreciate why its unique biodiversity made it the first Philippine Mountain to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum Is located at the tourism Complex in Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental.
MATI DAVAO ORIENTAL
It you already know how or want to learn skimboarding, head to Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental. The sand is white, the waters are teal blue, and the lineups are empty. Come during the amihan season between November to March and Score glassy waves that could go on for days.
Want trails? Go to Barangay Dawan in Badas and look for the Sleeping Dinosaur because it is configured like a plesiosaur-shaped dinosaur lying on its belly.
Other attractions include exploring a bonsai forest or taking a rejuvenating dip in the hot springs of Buso. Or, just grab a guitar and a bottle of beer as the locals do and sing anthems of youth as a pink and blue sunset dips into View.
“It has a long stretch of white sand beach and a shore break perfect for skimboarding. It’s home to all kinds of beautiful locals, the lovely and very hospitable people of Mat, the pawikans (sea turtles), dugongs, and dolphins.” – Man Adriano, Digital Nomad, Philippines
THE MOUNT HAMIGULTAN VISITOR CENTER
The ruggedly beautiful province of Davao Oriental offers more than beaches and waterfalls. Head to the town of San Isidro where Mount Hamiguitan is located. It is so special that UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site with “terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations.” It is also well known for its unique forest of pygmy trees. As a wildlife sanctuary, no trekking and camping are allowed.
But you really don’t have to go deep inside the forest to appreciate it. drop by their visitor center at the foothills of the mountain. There is a passageway where visitors can follow interactive screens explaining how the mountain is home to four types of forest, five river systems, 423 faunal species- g flying mammals, 142 butterflies-and many more fascinating facts.
Once done, just step outside and practice what the Japanese call shinrin (forest)-yoku (bath) or “forest bathing. Simply walk amidst the trees and feel the energy of the forest. Studies have shown that staying at least 20 minutes inside a forest reduces stress, b0osts the immune system, and increases one’s liveliness. And it’s not due to just new age or fanciful stuff. Studies reveal that trees and plants contain an essential oil called phytoncide that they emit to protect against germs and insects. By inhaling the forest air, one is also exposed to the phytoncide, which improves the body’s immune system and even aids in cancer prevention. National Geographic meanwhile, states that exposure to nature increases creativity by 50 percent. lime indeed, to go forest bathing.
ANTIQUE, WESTERN VISAYAS REGION
On the western side of Panay Island, facing the Sulu Sea, is the province of Antique. Known for its medicinal hot springs. cool waterfalls, and remote scuba diving spots, Antique has an o- the-beaten charm worth falling for.
Not only is it home to the world’s biggest lower, the Rafiesia, which can be found in Sibalom Natural Park, it also showcases lush rice terraces akin to the world wonder in the Ifugao province of Northern Luzon. After hiking the trails along Bugtong Bato Falls, one can relax and bathe in a kawa, or a giant hot pot. Or try the fish therapy spa in the town of Tibiao.
Yet Antique’s best-kept secret lies two and half hours away from the mainland, called Seco Island. On the boat ride going there, look out for schools of flying fish jumping out on the water. Seco Island is a marine protected zone with over one and a half kilometers of white sand and clear waters. As one walks along the Seco Island coastline, one will see piles of fish being dried under the sun. Apart from this, there are no stores, vendors, or other structures on the island dried
DID YOU KNOW? TRIVIA
Climbing into a giant kawa hot bath filled with aromatic herbs Cand flowers can soothe tired muscles and cure skin disorders.
“My fondest memory of Antique was the famous mountain Madja-as. It is where the sun rises over the mountains and sets in the sea. It is one of the sought- after hiking spots by mountaineers with a view of the three daughters of Madja-as: Mararison, Batbatan, and Maningning Islands.” – Hannah Pecson, Makeup Artist , Philippines
CALAGUAS, CAMARINES NORTE
Two hours away from mainland Bicol is this world-class beach known for glassy waters and white sand. Tourism in Calaguas has grown over the past decade. Its main beach is called Halabang Baybay, which translates to Long Beach.
Although there are cottages one can rent for a low price, nothing beats pitching a tent and experiencing the day turning to night amid rolling hills and a view of the calm sea. The waters here are clear enough to film your own underwater movie. Calaguas can also bring out your inner romantic, which is why many marriage proposals are made here.
“We stayed in Waling- waling village where electricity is on during the day time only. When the sun sets, the best thing to do is appreciate the waves, and feel the ocean breeze.” – Stephanie Cabelin, Marketing Associate, Philippines
SIQUIJOR. CENTRAL VISAYAS
The third smallest province in the Philippines has a lot to otter beyond its size. Once known as the Isla del fuego, or the island of fire, this small island province south of Cebu is sought after by those seeking spiritual healing amidst nature.
Take a walk around Siquijor town and relish the beauty of the heritage churches made of coral stones. You can rent a motorbike and see the entire island in less than a day. For something more thrilling, check out the 800-meter spelunking trail in Cantabon.
Siquijor is also home to Paliton Beach, the butterfly sanctuary in Bolos, the Cambugahay Falls, along with some of the country’s best dive spots in San Juan. Whether one is looking for a quiet spot on the beach for some reading or to experience the outdoor adventure of a lifetime, Siquijor will leave you spellbound.
CAMIGUIN, NORTHERN MINDANAO
Camiguin will make one come again, as the locals will say in jest. But there is truth to this expression because the second smallest province of the country has so much to offer Known as the “island born of tire because it is thanked by seven different volcanoes, the island has the greatest number of volcanoes per square kilometer in the world. No need to worry though because among to seven volcanoes, only one remains active today.
While some places are known for their beaches and others for inland bodies of water Camiquin has both. Interested in history Visit the Old Church Ruins and the Sunken Cemetery.
As you observe the verdant, volcanic landscapes of this fiery island, you can munch on local delicacies like the surot (chicken soup made from coconut milk) or the pastel (custard-filled bun), or have unlimited pickings o the sweetest lanzones in the country.
Once called “ltaytay” by the locals, Port Barton was renamed after Colonel Barton, an English military commander who surveyed the area in the 1940s.
“Camiguin’s White Island is this floating swish of sand set in the middle of the pristine crystal sea, framed by the incredible backdrop of the volcanic island. It is without a doubt my favorite landscape I’ve seen while traveling.” – Alice Daviews, Medical Student, Wales
PORT BARTON, PALAWAN
As tourists head to the more prominent El Nido and Coron, the more inquisitive traveler will discover Port Barton. This area in the municipality of San Vicente, Palawan, is just as beautiful as its neighboring beach towns. However, it caught the tourism bug a little too late-and that’s a good thing. While everybody else gathers in the more popular tourist spots in Palawan, Port Barton remains an undisturbed paradise.
Electricity is limited in Port Barton so be ready to part with gadgets for a real vacation. This secluded region in Palawan’s western coast has its own archipelago of islets that are perfect for snorkeling and island hopping. Join a mangrove river tour to see fishermen’s houses on top or Stuns’ ne two waterfalls in the area, Papuwyan and Bigaho, offer a scenic trail, natural swimming pools, and blissful privacy
“The small village of Port Barton keeps the authenticity of Palawan. Before it gets too crowded, it is time to explore, snorkel, chill and meet locals to embrace this beautiful spot.”
SAN VICENTE. PALAWAN
San Vicente has a beachfront that is 14.2 kilometers long, making it the longest white sand beach in the Philippines. Imagine seeing the shore line stretch endlessly before you, broken only by small cliffs that curl into tiny coves. San Vicente s Long Beach is thrice as long as Boracay’s White Beach and it is quieter and more conducive for those looking tor “me” time.
Like other faraway fishing villages, water and electricity supply can be limited here. Pack a personal medicine stash and first aid kit because the nearest doctor will be nearly two hours away. While San Vicente may not be the place Tor the spoiled and pampered, its pristine coral reefs and expansive coastline more than make up for it.