Dubbed the Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines offers an unparalleled experience for travellers thanks to its plethora of islands – each unique in their own way. From the snorkelling paradise of Cebu to the chocolate-hued hills of Bohol, the options to explore are endless.
For those who want to discover all that the Philippines has to offer, Cebu Pacific offers frequent, affordable flights from Hong Kong to the capital city of Manila and from there, you can easily connect to many an island paradise. Piqued your interest? We thought it might! To help you start planning your perfect island getaway, here are five stunning destinations that offer an enticing array of must-see and must-do experiences. Have fun exploring! By Amanda Sheppard
Cebu is best known for its diving and snorkelling, as well as its rich heritage and stunning colonial architecture. Discover historical landmarks, such as the 16th century Magellan’s Cross and the Fort of San Pedro, or head further inland to the Kawasan Falls – a private slice of paradise that offers clear, turquoise waters and the chance to recreate your own blue lagoon moment.
Nature lovers can enjoy Cebu's rich and vibrant marine life. The Moalboal Sardine Run, in particular, is a truly unmissable experience, where you can swim surrounded by a school of more than one million fish in the midst of one of the world’s greatest migrations. Think Finding Nemo – only in real life!
Elsewhere in the province, Malapascua Island, and the Monad Shoal dive site in particular, is a popular choice among serious scuba divers. You're pretty much guaranteed to spot a thresher shark here in these pristine blue waters. Keep your adventure lens on because these depths are also home to manta rays, hammerhead sharks and the incredible blue-ringed octopus.
Finally, after a day of exploring this attraction-filled island, be sure to tuck into its most famous culinary offering – Cebu lechon. This delicious, crispy roasted pig is not only admired by locals, but is also loved by visitors, including the late chef Anthony Bourdain.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific operates daily flights from Hong Kong to Mactan—Cebu International Airport.
Palawan's islands are firm fixtures on the world’s most beautiful landscapes lists, and it's not hard to see why. From the coastal city of Puerto Princesa, venture deep into the Subterranean River National Park – an incredible underground river and cave network with unique stalagmite formations adorning the walls. Meanwhile, on the island of Coron in northern Palawan, Kayangan Lake boasts some of the clearest waters on the continent and is just a short boat ride from the main town. If you love diving, be sure to check out the azure depths of Coral Garden, where you can spot majestic sea turtles, as well as numerous WWII shipwrecks that lie just off the coast.
Another must-visit site, the Tabon caves in Quezon – known as the Philippines' cradle of civilization – is a history buff's dream. The limestone formations are famed for its eponymous Tabon Man, or stone age fossilised remains that are some of the oldest known in the country. The fossils have been placed in the custody of the National Museum of the Philippines but the cave complex still remains a fascinating destination that offers a glimpse of what the world was like more than 25 million years ago.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific operates three daily flights to Manila. From there you can select any of five daily connecting flights to Palawan (Puerto Princesa).
One of the Philippines’ most popular resort destinations, Boracay recently reopened its doors to tourists following a six-month closure to allow the island to rejuvenate. The new and improved Boracay places a strong emphasis on eco-conscious travelling. In other words, it's the perfect destination for those seeking a more relaxed and mindful island retreat.
Bask in the beauty of your surroundings as the island returns to the idyllic days of the early 1990s when it was best known for its pristine White Beach and Puka Beach. Take a stand-up paddle board or traditional Paraw sailboat and go for a leisurely sunset cruise around the island for one of the best vistas around. And don't hesitate to jump into the crystal blue waters because Boracay is home to more than 20 surrounding dive sites, while the outskirts offer a whole host of snorkelling opportunities.
Be sure to try the local specialties while you're here. With a renewed focus on sustainability, local produce takes pride of place on many of the menus in Boracay; whether it's a refreshing calamansi juice or freshly caught seafood and shellfish, it's a delicious way to fuel up for further island exploration!
How to get there: Cebu Pacific operates daily flights to Manila, with same-day and next-day connections available to Caticlan. From here, Boracay is accessible via a short ferry ride. Add CEB Transfers to your booking and hop on the ferry in a breeze.
Located in the central Visayas region, Bohol comprises more than 75 islands, with the namesake one being the largest. Chocolate Hills – a formation of picturesque mountains that is said to get its name from the deep-brown hues it adopts in the dry months of the year – is one of the most famous and Instagrammable attractions here. The nearby Chocolate Hills Adventure Park is also a must for adrenaline junkies. This eco-conscious park offers unconventional experiences, including zip-line bike riding, surf zip-lining and other exciting activities.
Meanwhile, animal lovers should make a beeline to the Tarsier Sanctuary located in Corella, a small municipality just east of Bohol’s main airport, Tagbilaran . The fun and educational sanctuary is one of the rare places to see the famously small tarsier primates – some no larger than a human hand – and learn about the conservation efforts that go into protecting these threatened species.
If you're looking to explore the northern reaches of the Bohol region, Panglao Island is known for dolphin watching excursions and snorkelling opportunities along Alona Beach. Inland, on the eastern edge of the mainland, the Tigdao Spring offers a cenote experience to rival their famed Mexican counterparts.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific operates three daily flights to Manila and up to three daily flights from Manila to Tagbilaran.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the Metro, and transport yourself to the picturesque, teardrop-shaped island that is Siargao. This hidden gem has become a well-established surfer's paradise in recent years, thanks to its clear waters and incredible waves. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or looking to hang ten for the first time, there are breaks for beginners, novices and professionals alike. If you're looking for the best spots to surf, Cloud 9 is a popular choice among the more adventurous, while Jackson Horse is a tried and tested favourite for first-timers.
Aside from surfing, the island also boasts plenty of other seaside adventures. Just 45-minutes’ drive from the main town, the Magpupungko Rock Pools offer crystal clear turquoise waters and a number of cliff-jumping spots, perfect for those looking for an adrenaline rush. Meanwhile, Bucas Grande Norte Island is famed for its stingless jellyfish sanctuary, where you can marvel at the translucent sea creatures up close while swimming in the glimmering, turquoise waters. Sohoton Cove is another must-visit while you're on this island. Time your visit with the tides and enter the Hagukan Cave, where you can swim in its otherworldly, luminescent water. Trust us – it's an experience like no other.
How to get there: Cebu Pacific operates three daily flights to Manila and three daily flights from Manila to Siargao.
If you're planning your perfect island getaway, be sure to book through Cebu Pacific, which is the largest airline in the Philippines and one with the best inter-island connectivity. It offers year-round low fares to Manila, starting at HK$268, from where you can fly to more fun to the many different islands!
What’s more, ensuring your safe and sound travels, Cebu Pacific has achieved full compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), joining a roster of 429 airlines worldwide that have strictly complied with the most stringent of international standards governing aviation safety. You’ll also be well taken care of when you fly, thanks to a host of travel add-ons, including Halal CEB Meals that can be pre-ordered at least 24-hours prior to departure, prepaid baggage, as well as allowances for sports equipment and surfboards you may want to bring with you on your trip. On top of this, Cebu Pacific is committed to providing excellent customer service, so you can watch out for fun games on your flight!
Finally, to make sure that you and future generations can enjoy these island paradises, Cebu Pacific launched Juan Effect – a sustainable tourism programme focused on promoting responsible and eco-conscious travel, and is supported by the Philippine Department of Tourism. Across all its flights, single-use plastic cutlery and utensils have been replaced with biodegradable and compostable alternatives for meals and refreshments.