Go find your own secret retreat far from the madding crowd. Here are the best places to visit in the Philippines to go remote that you need to know about.
Sometimes a digital detox is just what the doctor ordered. Unplug and get off the grid, and discover the best places to visit in the Philippines to chillax. With more than 7,000 tropical islands that’s a lot of sand to get horizontal on. The Philippines offers an unlimited allure of secret beaches, lush terrain or a cool hillside retreat.
The cell phone signal may be a little patchy and those luxury creature comforts may be thin on the ground, but for pure secluded bliss amid sparkling waters and lush scenery, the Philippines takes some beating. Feed the wanderlust and discover these lesser-known Philippines destinations that will get you reconnected with nature (and yourself) in no time.
Baler is one of those places that sneaks up on you. The simple, back to basics vibe will you reel you in, and you’ll find it difficult to tear yourself away from. Luzon’s Sierra Madre mountain range makes a majestic backdrop for just about anything you do in Baler. In Baler people come to ride the awesome waves.
It is noted as the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, thanks to that iconic surfing scene in ‘Apocalypse Now’ which was filmed here. Sabang beach is surf central yet for the most part remains a sleepy little fishing town with jaw-dropping scenery.
As a true hidden tourist spot in the Philippines, once you get into the Baler groove, the eat, work, sleep, repeat routine will become but a distant memory. For a change of scenery from the quietude of beach life, hike up to Ditumabo Falls, a stunning beauty spot you can virtually claim all for yourself during quiet midweek days. If you crave a little more buzz, include a weekend in Baler when it fills up with stressed city dwellers seeking a beach escape.
The Philippines may number more than 7,000 islands but it’s not all about beaches. The cool hill town of Tagaytay provides a blissful break amid lush scenery, dominated by the awesome Taal volcanic lake. The cool climate adds to the romantic, cosy setting, while a host of hot springs, heavenly spas and spiritual retreats ensure the ability to completely switch off. It makes for one of the top places to visit in Philippines for couples. Spend a day boating on the lake or expend a little more energy scaling Mt Taal, the smallest active volcano in the Philippines.
It is also a haven for nature lovers with hills dotted with strawberry farms, pineapple plantations and verdant hills to bike, hike or gallop along on horseback. Unsurprisingly there is a big organic dining scene here so you won’t go hungry for want of top notch farm-to-table flavours.
Pro Tip: If you’re traveling with a loved one, try to snag a room with a view, like the ones at Joaquin’s Bed & Breakfast.
A two-hour hop by ferry from the more cosmopolitan Cebu, Bohol is one of those Philippines destinations that has it all; home to pristine beaches, deliciously evocative rolling hills and quite possibly the cutest little primate known to man, the cuddly, bug-eyed Tarsier.
Away from the stunning beaches of increasingly popular Panglao, quietude reigns across the island. The much lauded Chocolate Hills look exactly that from a distant vantage point – a mysterious natural phenomenon that actually looks good enough to eat.
Venture inland and kick back on a cruise floating along the sparkling emerald green Loboc River for a taste of pastoral life in the rainforest interior. Mother Nature’s abundant gifts are the big draw but Bohol is also a land dotted with old Spanish colonial churches.
It is home to some of the oldest in Philippine history with many dating back 400 years. The whitewashed gothic style Calape Church and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon are just the place if in need of some spiritual soul searching.
Pro Tip: Get a taste of rural life along the river at Loboc River Resort, featured on the app.
Calaguas’ sugary white Mahabang Buhangin beach is one of the most stunning in the entire country and a real picturesque heaven on earth for any self-respecting beach bum. That is perhaps unsurprising given the time and patience needed to get there but the long journey makes it all the more worthwhile once you feast your eyes on the dazzling sands for the first time.
It is incredibly photogenic but you’ll have to save the Instagram uploading for another day. You’ll be lucky to get even a patchy cell phone signal let alone an Internet connection; unplug and get with the island vibe, which consists of camping out in simple huts and chowing down on ocean fresh seafood.
Calaguas rates as one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines and the description is hard to put into words for many a traveller totally bowled over by its charms. It’s all about the simple pleasures of beach life in Calaguas, where you can opt to sleep on the beach under canvas.
No need for air conditioning with cool sea breezes and starry night skies. You’ll also likely go gaga for the glorious sunsets. Note: Calaguas has sand so white, it’s won the Philippines’ ‘Battle of the Sands’ (yes really, it’s a thing.) Put it on your island hopping wish list, you won’t regret it.
Coron revels in its sleepy, laid back atmosphere and if your idea of bliss is to take the plunge scuba diving, you are in for a treat. Coron is the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, boasting nearly a dozen WWII shipwrecks. Most are still intact, ranging from small tugs to immense merchant ships.
The dramatic scenery above the water line is every bit as eye-catching too. There are serene lakes and lagoons studded with limestone cliffs which unlock hitherto unseen sand bars and coves. If you crave the beach hermit lifestyle you could conceivably island hop for weeks on end without exhausting all its natural treasures.
Coron Town’s rustic appeal is undeniable with ramshackle stilted houses over the water and colourful local markets, and is a good bet as a carefree base to explore throughout the Calamian Islands. Paired with a stay on the nearby Palawan mainland, Coron is right up there with the most adventurous places to visit in Philippines for the family.
Pro Tip: Make the most of your Coron holiday by booking a resort on a private island, like Club Paradise Resort, or stay a little outside Coron town surrounded by greenery at family-owned La Natura.
There is an undeniable mystique about Siquijor island. It is known within the Philippines for its mystic healers, while colourful stories have been passed down through the ages of witchcraft and sorcery. That aside, it has an enigmatic beauty all its own with miles of sun-dappled white sandy beaches to get horizontal on, mountain trails, cascading waterfalls and submerged caves where you can gawp at dozing reef sharks.
For wannabe beach hermits, Kagusuan Beach is a secret hideaway right off the grid, only accessible after trekking through a dense forest.
There are energetic options such as hiking, caving and even cliff diving, but Siquijor has fine-tuned the art of doing nothing effortlessly. Slink into a beachside daybed and spend your days in a sun-kissed blur. Accommodation options consist of rustic eco resorts and cosy A-frame cottages, all exuding a chill island ambience where life crawls along at a refreshingly slow pace. Perhaps there really is a touch of the supernatural about Siquijor, especially after witnessing the spellbinding sunsets and the famous glowing fireflies.
Mindoro has two sides. One is a raw untamed tropical paradise while the other is an easy-going diving town. Most people head to the dive resorts and hang out in the cheesy bars around Puerto Galera, one of the top 10 tourist spots in the Philippines, but the island’s mountainous hinterland and isolated south coast offer up untold options for hiking, island hopping and dropping off the grid.
The rugged mountain range which dissects the island forms an awesome backdrop wherever you may wander and is dotted with the villages of the indigenous Mangyan tribes.
The arcing white sands of little known Sablayan is the refuge of beach bums in the know seeking tropical bliss, and also serves as the jumping-off point for the pristine whale shark infested waters of Apo Reef. Sablayan is just the place for those never-ending siestas swinging in a hammock, and you may end up lingering here much longer than planned.
Pro Tip: Check out Utopia Resort on the HotelQuickly app for a little affordable luxury.
Nothing says ‘switch off’ like having only four hours of electricity a day. Welcome to Port Barton, a haven for world-weary city dwellers and a poster-child for the tropical backwater way of life. Cut off from civilisation by unpaved roads and ringed by jungle-clad hills, Port Barton is fiercely guarded as a secret retreat by travellers, keen to keep its existence all to themselves.
It undoubtedly has the potential to become a top 20 tourist destination in the Philippines but for now remains blissfully low key. There are several nearby islands worth hopping to with fine sandy beaches and superb snorkelling. When not swinging languidly in a hammock or sunset chasing, there are two fine waterfalls to beat a retreat to.
Guimaras’ rough, volcanic exterior shelters a collection of attractive coves and long empty beaches. There’s not much on the island in the way of development, but there are countless small resorts where you can claim a room on a cliff above the water. You’ll have little problem finding your own private stretch of beach without as much as a footprint in the sand.
Aside from the chilled out beach life, Guimaras is known for its mangoes – the specialty mango pizza is a sweet, yet surreal taste experience. It is also home to the only Trappist monastery in the Philippines. Guimaras is only 15 minutes boat ride from Panay, but some parts of the island exude an utterly remote feel, without so much as a phone signal to disturb the peace.
The surf’s always up in this magical island on the edge of the Pacific. Siargao is known for its waves but the island is brimming with completely untouched, hidden corners that will leave you wishing you had weeks rather than days to experience it all.
Discover serene lagoons, mangrove swamps and refreshingly ice cold waterfalls amid the dense forest interior. When the waves die down and most of the surfers have packed up and gone home, virtually the only sound in Siargao is the gentle ebb and flow of the sea.
The beach bum life revolves around hopping from one gorgeous beach to another in the General Luna Islands, while you can unlock the lush interior simply by hopping on a motorbike and take to the open road. When choosing tourist spots in the Philippines by region, this corner of northern Mindanao is well off the mainstream traveller trail, so it’s all the more appealing.
Conclusion: Explore the Philippines’ chilled out secret hideaways
There really is no better feeling than happening upon a windswept deserted beach or secret mountain retreat to call your own. That sense of adventure comes from knowing instinctively exactly where to divert from the well-trodden tourist trail. Beaches off the beaten track don’t come any more exotic than in the Philippines.
Switch off the smartphone, take time to unwind and watch that stress simply melt away. Despite the advent of Google Earth and the incessant information overload, captivating crowd-free destinations in the Philippines still exist in abundance. Go remote and seek them out before the cruise ships start calling.
Alexander Grootmeester is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.
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