Frothy coastline, sunlit palms, the joy of aimlessly digging your toes in the sand – it’s no wonder we return to island holidays again and again. In the Philippines, a country made up entirely of islands, the city of Cebu is your best gateway to spontaneous beach vacations. If you’ve got a few days to kill and are craving a taste of the island life, read on to discover five favorite escapes in easy reach of Cebu:

Bohol

Only two hours from Cebu by fast ferry, Bohol is one of the Philippines’ most-loved destinations. The island’s lush interior is home to the mystifying Chocolate Hills and the elusive tarsier, as well as picturesque rivers perfect for stand-up paddleboarding and firefly watching. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss The Plunge, one of the heart-stopping thrills at the EAT Danao Adventure Park. One of the best ways to appreciate Bohol’s natural beauty to hop on a motorcycle just putter around.

“Frothy coastline, sunlit palms, the joy of aimlessly digging your toes in the sand – it’s no wonder we return to island holidays again and again.”

Camotes

The kind of place you’ll never hear of unless you have a friend living in Cebu, Camotes is a group of three rocky islands a skip and hop from the city. Here you’ll find beautiful empty beaches, cliff-diving, waterfalls and more than a dozen fascinating caves – some with underground pools for swimming. What you won’t find are fancy hotels and pounding discos. Two-lane roads wind past humble houses and long stretches of undisturbed coastline. If you’re looking to get away from it all and see an authentic slice of local life, Camotes will give you just that.

Camotes Islands

Camotes Islands (pic by @rmcocoba)

Mactan

A playground of five-star resorts, luxurious spas and combed white-sand beaches, you won’t be roughing it in Mactan. Jetsetters are whisked from the airport, refreshed with chilled calamansi juices and installed in glorious villas overlooking the Strait of Mactan. If you can tear yourself away from your pool lounger, take advantage of Mactan’s proximity to Cebu and spend an day exploring the heritage sites in the city. You can always get back in time for cocktail hour.

Malapascua

Alright, we’ll admit it: You do have to take a three- to four-hour ride from Cebu and a short ferry to reach the blissful shores of Malapascua. Just know that many Cebu locals call Malapascua their favorite island of all, so you know your extra effort will be rewarded. The islands earns rave reviews for its unspoiled shores, easy-going vibe and fantastic diving. Secluded coves? Check. Gorgeous sunsets? Check. Swimming with thresher sharks in the wild? Check. Make it there and you can’t help but love Malapascua.

Malapascua Island

Malapascua Island (pic by @homericanpie)

Panglao

Though often grouped together with Bohol, Panglao is a separate island and a well-rounded destination in its own right. Panglao’s sparkling beaches draw a sun-seekers from all over. Most of the action takes place on Alona Beach, a sandy stretch dotted with restaurants and resorts. Venture away from Alona, and you have lovely quiet beaches, local markets, churches and schools. Just off Panglao, Balicasag Island tempts divers with four world-class dive sites. Spend a morning dolphin-watching and snorkeling with turtles, have a hearty lunch at the Bee Farm Restaurant, then laze away the afternoon on Alona Beach. If you can cap your day with a feast of grilled seafood and a bit of stargazing, you’re not doing too bad.


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