Unwind in the Philippines

by Richard.Macauley

With great diving and beautiful beaches, the islands of the Philippines are stiff competition for Thailand!

Tourists and backpackers alike visiting south east Asia will often miss the Philippines on their trail through the loop - but if you're looking for an island holiday then you need look no further. Whether you're hoping to head out for some action in the form of diving, motorbiking and snorkelling, or simply looking for a beach where you will genuinely not see another soul for days, the extra flight to the Philippines is worth booking.
Arriving in Manila can be a handful, but the smog, heat and humidity can be offset by staying in some of the most beautiful hotels in Asia. If you're not planning on shooting off down south to the islands the minute you arrive, treat yourself to a night at the Peninsula Manila. A staggeringly beautiful hotel, it's home to plenty of history in the capital and could offer most people the most luxurious stay they'll ever experience, whether in Asia or the West.
To make the most of the country's action-packed - but not overloaded - islands, a boat ride to Mindoro is advised. Staying on White Beach, Puerto Galera, you can find hotels and apartments right on the beach, with restaurants, markets and the chance to take snorkelling or diving trips never too far away.

Accommodation can be as cheap as £10 a night for a double room in a hotel on the beach - but for those who would like to take advantage of the activities of the area without too much stress, a stay in the Marco Vincent Resort will do much to take any hassle out of the fun. Guests here can book scuba diving tours through the hotel, and the resort promises year-round trip availability.
A trip into the town of Puerto Galera itself will lead you to numerous motorbike hire companies, where, for a fee and deposit that total around £10, you can hire scooters or motorbikes for a day. With so few roads in the area, a trip up to the rice paddies and mountainous villages is as easy as falling off a bike, and the views will be well worth the saddle-ache.
But where the Philippines really comes into its own is on its deserted beaches. Many tour operators will describe a resort as deserted but for the real thing, head to the island of Palawan. This was the inspiration behind Alex Garland's book The Beach, and even Filipinos describe the island as the country's last frontier. A stay anywhere here will ensure that you see as few people as you like, and there is no hint of cliché meant when I say you can go days without seeing another soul. For absolute peace, head to the west of the island, as a trip out there will not fail to leave you rested.
Heading to the north of Palawan, and onto Popototan, will take you to the resort of Coral Bay, from where you can enjoy the sunshine, the silence and the warm natural bay water. If the urge to dive still permeates your mind after all that relaxation (and in the Philippines, it will), you can opt in to some of the most stunning scuba diving in the world, swimming down to lost ships wrecked during WWII.
Finishing a trip can be as simple or as exciting as you would like. Heading back to Manila from either Puerto Galera or Palawan will be the simplest way home but the more adventurous may decide to head further down south on the main island strip, to Cebu, in order to take in more stunning scenery and a few hair-raising motorbike rides before they leave.