Roads less travelled: Five little-known beaches in the Philippines

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It used to be bad enough when it was only Lonely Planet spilling the beans on all the world’s “secret” places (and thus dooming them to be overrun within weeks) but these days, what with the interweb and all that, new hotspots are being revealed every day.

In my experience, these “discoveries” tend to be well out of date before they even see the light of day, and any trip to these “secret” places will be rewarded by crowds of gap-year students and beachside stalls selling fried bananas to an endless soundtrack of Bob Marley’s greatest hits.

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So, it’s with some trepidation that we’re putting forward five of our own “secret” beaches, even though we truly believe they will remain off the beaten track for the foreseeable future. In some cases, that’s simply because they’re so difficult to get to.

So here’s your chance to get exploring, and look forward to the day when you can say: “Yah, that beach was so untouched back in 2017, just like Palawan when I first went in 99…”

And even if you’re one of the pioneers (like the people whose Twitter pictures we are grateful to share here) and have already visited these beaches, then don’t despair — with more than 7,000 islands it’s going to be a long time before the Philippines runs out of untouched corners.

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Currimao, Ilocos Norte

I discovered this little gem of a place while travelling home to Angeles City after visiting Marcos in his mausoleum (this was shortly before he moved to his new resting place in Manila).

While the beach isn’t photogenic in the traditional sense (locals refer to it as a “black beach”), it is big. Very big. Although it gets fairly busy with locals at the weekend, it’s pretty much empty during the week, except for the occasional fisherman.

It’s also one of our more accessible picks, and fairly easy to reach from major cities such as Pagapud, Baguio or Angeles.

There are a couple of small cheap resorts along the coast as well as the more expensive Playa Tropical Resort Hotel, that has great food, premium beach huts and a gorgeous pool overlooking the sea.

Getting there: Currimao is on the bus route south from Pagapud, and Batac. Simply ask your driver to drop you there.

Dicotcotan Beach

While a nice beach is all well and good, one surrounded by breathtaking scenery is even better. Located on Palanan, the beach might be trek to get to, but offers 3km of pristine Pacific coastline — and if you get bored of beach life, the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, containing the country’s biggest rainforest, is all around you. If you can’t relax here, give up on life.

Getting there: Make your way to Dingalan (five hours from Manila) and then take the monster 7 hour ferry to Palanan – easy.

Nagtabon Beach

I’m sure we all know about Palawan by now – Honda Bay, check, El Nido, of course… but Puerta Princessa? That’s the place that only exists for transit, right? Well, right and wrong.

While the beaches of PP aren’t much to write home about, you don’t have to travel too far to find some gems. A short motorbike ride from the city will bring you to pristine beaches framed by a mountain range. And come the evening, you can drive back to PP to get your party hat on.

Getting there: Easy! Bus to Brgy Bacungan, where you can hire a tricycle or a motorbike, or rent a bike and go it alone.

Palaui Island, Cagayan

Beaches are great, but when they happen to be on secluded islands they’re even better. If nature is your thing, there’s an amazing amount of flora and fauna all around.

There’s an atmosphere here that makes it feel like a land that time forgot, even by Philippine standards. And if you don’t believe me, may I inform you that this place is so remote they even filmed Survivor here!

There’s no nightlife to speak of, but that’s not the reason to come here, is it?

Getting there: 16 hours on buses and boats from Manila

Tawi-Tawi, Mindanao

The bigger the effort, the bigger the prize, and this place takes a lot of effort to reach. To start with, you need to get yourself to the country’s southernmost province, and then find an island whose name means “distant” in Malay.

Tawi-Tawi is home to some amazing snorkelling and diving locations, perhaps the best in the country, as well as marine parks such as turtle island. This is real effort, but with the reward of what we feel to be one of the most amazing places in the Philippines.

Getting there: In terms of distance, tt would actually be easier to get here from Malaysia. Otherwise, get yourself to Mindanao and negotiate yourself a boat ride.

Fancy visiting one of these beaches? Check out our partners at GNTours who can take you there.

For more suggestions of beautiful beaches, watch this video:

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