To say that people were surprised is an understatement. When it was announced that Boracay would be closing for six months starting April 26 because of issues with environmental sustainability, at least 700,000 bookings from all over the world were cancelled, and Boracay-based businesses and employees had to adapt fast. Luckily for travelers, the Philippines has a ton of other islands and beaches that are as spectacular as Boracay but not as thrust into the limelight. Our comprehensive travel guide features several Boracay alternatives, with a mix of both famous tourist spots and hidden gems:
White Sand: El Nido, Palawan
Palawan landed at the top of Travel + Leisure’s list of World’s Best Islands in 2016 and 2017, and El Nido is one of its treasures, also declared as one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. El Nido is a tropical paradise, with everything that beach lovers can ask for: long stretches of fine white sand, clear water, magnificent underwater scene. But what really makes it stand out is the view. Striking marble cliffs, ancient caves, and limestone formations are carved into its landscape, offering an endless array of activities.
Nightlife: Puerto Galera, Mindoro
Puerto Galera is a popular destination for coral reef diving–said to contain around 60% of the world’s shore fish–but along with Boracay, its charms go beyond nature adventures: it also has a buzzing nightlife congregated around Sabang and White Beach. You’ll never run out of bar options, which run the gamut from classic (nightclubs) to fun (floating bars) to adult (girly bars). A specialty drink is Mindoro Sling, a fizzy cocktail with rum and fruit juice. Restaurants, massage parlors, and tattoo shops further spice up the evenings.
Diving: Malapascua Island, Cebu
Boracay is great for scuba-diving, but it’s hard to beat Malapascua Island in Cebu, which attracts divers from all over the world. Thresher sharks are the star of the show: rarely seen anywhere else, they appear every day in Malapascua. Divers are in for a treat because of the sheer breadth of the island’s marine life. It covers huge sea creatures such as whale sharks and giant manta rays, but also shrimps, mandarin fish, and seahorses. Monad Shoal is the most famous diving spot, and you can try cave diving at Gato, too.
Island-Hopping: Siargao, Surigao del Norte
In Siargao, surfers riding waves that reach several feet tall are a common sight. Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the country, but it has an underrated attraction: island-hopping. The standard tour, which takes slightly more than a half-day, takes you to Naked Island, Daku Island, and Guyam Island. Naked Island is more of a teaser, since it contains nothing but white sand. Daku Island is the biggest, ideal for lunch stopovers with its huts and coconut trees, while Guyam Island is quieter and characterized by craggy landscapes.
Cliff-Diving: Fortune Island, Batangas
Resurrected as a resort and then abandoned, Fortune Island retains an air of mystique, especially because you’re likely to notice a row of white pillars on top of a cliff as you approach. These are the remnants of its Greek-inspired architecture. More ruins can be found within the island, even a galleon model that you can take photos against. The island’s white-sand shore can occasionally conceal rocks, and its various cliffs over different jump-off points for diving. One can try falling from a low height first, then muster courage and dive from thirty feet up.
Fresh Seafood: Baybay Beach, Capiz
Complementing Boracay’s nightlife is its colorful food scene–and it’s a relief to know that there’s a nearby alternative that offers local food at budget-friendly rates. Enter Baybay Beach at Roxas City, Capiz–the seafood capital of the Philippines. Baybay Beach has grainy black sand instead of Boracay’s well-known white sand, but it still draws its fair share of swimmers. The center of activity here is its strip of food stalls and restaurants, which serve food straight from the sea. Don’t miss out on their buttered scallops, giant shrimps and crabs, and shellfish.