With Boracay closed to tourists for most of 2018, we’re looking at the alternatives…
Boracay is one of the most popular and beautiful destinations in Asia, so popular that in 2017 over two million people visited the island. Unfortunately, this has caused major environmental damage to the region, so much so that the Philippine government has issued a complete closure of the island which began in April 2018 and is set to continue for six months concluding in October. During this time, the island will undergo environmental rehabilitation due to water deterioration, pollution, and sewage issues.
This closure is one of the most influential steps any government has taken to protect the natural environment from “overtourism”. Although this is a wonderful step for the territory, it may have left you in a bit of a holiday planning crisis if you had your heart set on Boracay. Not to worry – there are plenty of stunning destinations in the Philippines, read on to discover our alternative family destinations in the area!
El Nido is known for captivating sceneries, stunning blue waters, amazing caves, and secret locations with a number of activities for the entire family to check out. There are plenty of curated family-friendly tours on offer to explore the many islands around the area. You can find out more information on different tour options here.
We recommend heading to the Secret Lagoon and Beach (spoiler alert: they’re not that secret) for some relaxation among the stunning limestone formations. Also, be sure to check out Shimizu Island, Snake Island, and Helicopter Island – just don’t forget to pack the snorkelling gear! If you’re looking for a lazy day out on the beach head over to Las Cabanas Beach or Seven Commandos Beach.
Enjoy some of the many hiking spots El Nido has to offer with the family, such as Tarawa Peak (difficult- this is the tallest peak on the Island), Nagkalit Kalit Falls (easy, plus freshwater swimming), Makinit Hot Springs (easy and serene, no swimming), Ille Caves (historical discoveries), and Bultaco Falls (rice paddies and forest views).
How to get there: Catch an hour flight from Manila or a 90-minute flight from Cebu directly to Lio Airport. With the opening of the Puerto Princesa International Airport you can book a cheap flight directly to Puerto Princesa. You can also travel by bus from Puerto Princesa, the bus ride is about six hours. Once you arrive on the island you will need to take a tricycle to get to the city centre.
If you are flying into Puerto Princesa to explore the many islands of Palawan, we highly recommend taking some time to check out this awesome location while you’re there. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a must visit, it is known as the “Underground River”, you won’t be disappointed with the stunning caves and limestone karsts surrounding the area. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and has been named as one of the “New7Wonders of Nature” .
While in Puerto Princesa be sure to get in some island hopping around Honda Bay including Starfish, Luli, and Cowrie Island. If you are looking to stay on the mainland for some chill-out time and sunbathing, head over to Nagtabon and Talaudyong Beach, both great spots for family picnics and swimming.
While the island hopping is essential, the next activity on your list should be to stroll the city and visit some of the historical tourist sites like the World War II and Heritage Museums. You can also find city tours that will allow you to explore the PPC Cathedral, City Baywalk, Rizal Park, and Plaza Cuartel. Puerto Princesa is also home to Kamia Bay Resort the biggest inflatable water park in Asia, a sure win for the kids.
Get more information on this destination from the Islands tourism site here.
How to get there: With the opening of the Puerto Princesa International Airport you can book a cheap flight directly to Puerto Princesa from any major city in the Philippines.
Coron is rapidly becoming known as one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in the Philippines. This destination has excellent diving spots and is home to famous Japanese World War II shipwrecks such as the Lusong Gunboat Wreck. To see some beautiful coral reefs head to Calumbuyan Island about 30 minutes from Lusong Gunboat.
Coron is the perfect place to take plenty of day trips, so get ready to explore! While you are in Coron be sure to check out The Kayangan Lake, the clearest lake in Asia. If you’re looking for something a little less popular head over to Baracuda Lake which is very nearby to Kayagan. Also be sure to make time to swim in The Hidden Lagoon and soak in the 100°F spring waters of The Maquinit Springs. Looking for some much-needed rest and relaxation? Head to Malcapuya Beach for heavenly blue waters, white sand, and quite possibly – no one in sight. Perhaps you’re not one for taking it easy and want to fit a challenging climb into your trip? Mt. Tapyas is what you’re looking for. Be prepared for the 700 plus steps to the top but the incredible views of Coron Bay are well worth it.
How to get there: From Manila, fly into Coron airport (Busuanga), once landed take a taxi to Coron town. We do not recommend taking the Ferry to Coron as the travel time is far too long, 15 hours to be exact, but if you are willing to make the journey, there are ferries departing from Manila and Puerto Princesa to Coron town.
Malapascua, Cebu is definitely an alternative worth checking out, it’s not as crowded as Boracay but just as beautiful and well known for its fantastic diving and snorkelling. There are plenty of things to do on the island with the fam, including plenty of space for relaxing and kicking back, island hopping, and swimming in pristine blue waters. Check out the main beaches on the island; Bounty, Guimbitayan, and Langob Beach – all perfect for switching off into full relaxation mode. For a snorkelling adventure check out Light House beach, where you can witness awesome reefs and even get the chance to explore a famous shipwreck, too. If you have the time, we recommend taking a day trip out to Kalanggaman or Lapus Lapus Island for some truly epic cliff views. Find out more about this destination here.
How to get there: If you are already in the Philippines take a direct domestic flight to Cebu. You can also take a flight directly into Cebu from Hong Kong. From Cebu, you can get a car or a public or private boat ride to the island from the Maya Port which takes about 30-minutes. There are other international flights that fly to Manila and you can easily get a direct flight from Manila to Cebu.
Bantayan Island, Cebu is known for its pristine blue waters and white sands. You can enjoy a handful of amazing beaches in the area including Alice Beach, Kota Beach, Maricaban Beach, and Paradise Beach, don’t forget the snorkelling gear as these crystal clear waters have excellent visibility for exploring the depths. Island hopping will not disappoint either, be sure to take a boat ride to Virgin Island, Silion Island, and Hilantagaan/Cabulauan Island. Take advantage of the great biking trails around the islands; a great activity for the kids while enjoying the stunning scenery. If you’re looking for some historic sites, check out the Kota Ruins or the famous St. Peter and Paul Church.
How to get there: If you are already in the Philippines take a direct domestic flight to Cebu. You can also take a flight directly into Cebu from Hong Kong. From Cebu, you can get a taxi or if you can brave it with kids, take a 3-hour bus ride to Hagnaya Port (be sure to take the North Bus Terminal). From the port, you can take a ferry or a private boat to Santa Fe Port on Bantayan Island.
Calaguas Group of Islands, Camarines Norte is known for dazzling turquoise waters and has some wonderful family-friendly activities to enjoy: camping, snorkelling, surfing, paddle boarding, hiking, cove trekking, cliff jumping and of course island hopping. Check out Daet’s Bagasbas Beach for some surfing, and check out the many islands around the area for some sun-soaked fun; we recommend Halabang Baybay/Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach), Tinaga Island, and Maculabo to get you started (this list goes on…).
Sassy Mama Tip: Be sure to check out neighbouring island, Caramoan Group of Islands, Camarines Sur, for additional island hopping, snorkelling, camping, and amazing swimming spots, too.
How to get there: You can book a flight to Naga Airport from Manila. From there you can arrange a ride to Naga city, then take a 2-hour drive to Daet. From Daet, there are two ports going to Calaguas Group of Islands; Vinzons and Paracale Ports.
Read more: Top Scuba Diving Destinations In Asia
Featured image courtesy of R.M. Nunes via Shutterstock, image #1 is courtesy of Cris Tagupa via Unsplash, image #2 is courtesy of Cris Tagupa via Unsplash , image #3 is courtesy of Colton Duke via Unsplash, image #4 is courtesy of Shifaaz shamoon via Unsplash, image #5 is courtesy of Sébastien Jermer via Unsplash, image #6 is courtesy of via Cris Tagupa via Unsplash.