For the past 10 years or so, Boracay has been the number 1 tourist attraction in the country. The island has earned world recognition as being one of the best tropical destinations in the world, mainly thanks to its fantastic beach and laidback atmosphere.
Sadly, the hordes of tourists flocking the place have changed its character significantly – from a small peaceful island into a busy commercial monster.
While the rehabilitation process might be a bit too extreme, it’s Undoubtedly overdue. Not only will it give Boracay a much-needed chance to fix the many environmental and infrastructural issues it has, it’ll also help other islands catch up in terms of development. With the void left by Boracay, now is the chance for smaller islands to shine and become the next big thing. We can only hope they manage to do it right this time, without over-extending the island’s resources.
Another thing which made Boracay so popular was the fact that due to intense
development, the island catered to virtually every type of tourist there is. From local to foreigner, budget to luxury and solo travelers to family vacations, everybody could find a way to stay there and have a great time.
Sadly, there’s really no other place in the Philippines who can provide the same kind of value to visitors at the moment. So instead, here’s a list of alternative choices, each aiming to cover a specific target audience so that everyone can find the most suitable vacation spot based on his specific circumstances.
Bohol – the next best thing
If there’s any destination which is already prepared to take over Boracay’s seat at the throne, it must be Bohol. Not only does the island really resemble everything Boracay has to offer, it is already quite a big tourist magnet in its own right. The most popular area is Panglao, most specifically Alona beach- where you have hundreds of hotels at varying levels, restaurants and bars.
What’s going to happen now is probably that the beach areas near Alona will start to blossom as well.
As bookings increase, tourists will struggle to find accommodation in the center of the action and will be forced to stay elsewhere on the island. That is
actually a good thing, since those beaches are stunning and the hotels which are already there are perfect for couples and families who prefer their privacy kept.
In terms of tours, Bohol is mainly a diving destination with some of the best dives and snorkeling spots in the country. The main highlight being the smaller islands nearby such as Balicasag and Pamilican where rich coral reefs are found, as well as a chance of seeing dolphins and sea turtles in the wild.
Bohol isn’t short on mainland attractions
either, with the famous Chocolate hills being a particular highlight. Any nature lover will enjoy his stay on the island, and it’s especially recommended for families with small kids who value their comfort.
Siargao – backpacker paradise
For a few years Siargao island was the best kept secret in the Philippines. Getting there was pretty hard since the airport was old and small, and so it became solely a surfer haven and a destination for hardcore backpackers.
Recently, the airport has been
expanded and can accommodate much more flights and the movie ‘Siargao’ came out, a perfect storm which culminated in an astounding boom of incoming visitors to this peaceful island.
While the island is still an untouched paradise, things are changing rapidly. All travel experts agree Siargao is the most likely candidate to become the next Boracay, and it might be sooner than anyone expects. This high season have marked an all-time record in incoming tourists, and there’s no sign of the trend declining any time soon. Since the island is fairly undeveloped, there are not too many hotel choices and it’s quite common to see people stuck and sleeping in tents rented by the locals. For that reason, if you want to visit there soon then booking a complete tour package to Siargao might be a good idea.
Siargao offers visitors a wide array of fantastic attractions. Beautiful empty beaches can be found anywhere, all you have to do is rent a bike and go roaming the island. Sugba lagoon and the island hopping tour are also great ways to pass a day while there. That said, the best attraction is actually off the main island in Bucas Grande. It’ll take you between 2 and 2.5 hours by boat, but it’s worth it to see one of the best unspoiled locations in the country.
Camiguin – nature incarnate
With Siargao quickly developing into a mainstream tourist spot, Camiguin is taking its place as one of the best backpacker friendly islands in the Philippines. There’s only 1 flight a day (6AM from Cebu) so the island is still relatively off the radar. Recently, a fast ferry line from Bohol has been introduced (3-3.5 hours) – so you can expect much more visitors to arrive there soon.
Camiguin if first and foremost a stunning nature destination. The small island is full of volcanoes, creating unique landmarks such as the black sand beach, black forest coral reef and the sunken cemetery. It’s a great place for anyone adventurous who doesn’t mind sacrificing a bit in living conditions, in order to enjoy amazing hiking trails and
Accommodation in Camiguin is fairly basic, and the island suffers from a lack of adequate infrastructure. Power outings, unstable WiFi and even no running water are all common occurrences. For those reasons this place is much better suited for backpackers and people who don’t mind going off the beaten path. Here’s a guide about backpacking in Camiguin, which can give you a rough idea what to expect when you arrive there.
Bicol – undiscovered paradise
This last entry is more of a wishful thinking than anything else. For years the department of tourism has been trying to promote Bicol and encourage both local and foreign tourists to go there. And it’s no wonder they did, since the area has so much potential and offers some of the best attractions in the Philippines.
The main issue stopping Bicol from really exploding as a tourist magnet is how hard it is to reach the popular spots there. The area is extremely large and distances are huge, and to make matters worse the flights from Manila to Legazpi or Naga are irregular and often delayed or canceled. This leads to Bicol staying relatively off the radar, which also means if you go there you can’t expect to find fancy hotels or too many restaurants and things to do at night.
However, all of that is insignificant compared to the value you get in return. Mt.Mayon is a stunning volcano and offers one of the best hiking trails you can find. The view from the top is simply breathtaking. Donsol is where you go to watch whale sharks in the wild
– a much more rewarding experience than the fake tourist show in Oslob. If that isn’t enough, then consider the fact that the tour in Oslob is so harmful to the sharks and nature as a whole, that most prominent travel agency no longer promote it.
Lastly, there’s the crown jewel of Bicol which is Caramoan. This place is only for the bravehearted, so only go there if you want to enjoy some of the best beaches in the world, but don’t mind roughing it up in order to do so. When people imagine an unspoiled tropical paradise, Caramoan is exactly what they think of. It’s no wonder it has the location for numerous “survivor” shows from all over the world.