This Beautiful Philippines Island Is An Idyllic Escape For Travelers Trying To Ditch Crowds

Known for its vibrant culture, pristine beaches, and breathtaking landscapes, the Philippines has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers. It's one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia. In 2023 alone, the country welcomed a whopping 5 million international travelers — a significant increase from the previous year's 2 million visitors, per Statista.

However, despite its tourism growth, the Philippines is still a relatively unexplored destination. Considering it's made up of more than 7,000 islands, it's no surprise that there are still plenty of gems to explore. But away from the towering limestone cliffs of El Nido, the white sand beaches of Siargao, the incredible nightlife of Boracay, and the underwater landscapes of Puerto Princesa is a lesser-known destination. Though it might not have the same level of fame as its brochure-heavy counterparts, it still offers plenty of excitement and fun under the sun.

Located in the northeastern province of Quezon, Polillo isn't necessarily easy to get to — but that's exactly what makes the trip there worth it. Still untouched, the cluster of islands is brimming with natural beauty and unique biodiversity. This, combined with an unmatched sense of tranquility, makes Polillo the perfect destination for travelers who want to venture off the beaten path into something more adventurous and serene.

Polillo, an unspoiled gem

Before setting out on your adventure, it's important to note that Polillo comprises roughly 27 islands and islets, the largest one being Polillo. One of the best ways to experience everything it offers is to sign up for an island hopping tour that'll take you to all the must-see destinations along the neighboring Burdeos Bay. This activity will set you back roughly $9 on a shared boat with nine other passengers. Travel Ventours offers an all-inclusive island tour comprising two nights of accommodation, meals, a specialized tour guide, and all transfer costs for anywhere between $67 and $107, depending on your group size.

In terms of what you'll see, most island-hopping itineraries for Polillo are the same. During your day out, you'll likely hit up Luli Sandbar, perfect for lounging, and Anilon Island, home to the famous May Butas Cave. There's also Isla Puting Bato, which boasts several rock formations similar to those in El Nido and Anawan Island.

Other can't-miss spots on the island include the Minasawa Bird Sanctuary, which is currently home to several endemic and migratory species — including the philippine cockatoo, blue-naped parrot, crested goshawk, greater flameback, and white-browed shama. Another attractive gem is a beautiful stretch of beach perfect for sunbathing, enjoying a picnic, or swimming.

More tips for visiting Polillo

Traveling to Polillo takes a little extra work than heading to some of the Philippines' most popular island destinations. If you're leaving from Manila, head to Ungos Port, Real, to hop on the ferry. This first leg of the trip should take roughly three to four hours by public bus and cost about $4.50 per person. Keep in mind that buses typically operate at 11:30 p.m., 1 a.m., and 4 a.m. Once you hop off the bus at Ungos Port, you'll find plenty of 24-hour eateries to grab breakfast before your journey and ATMs to stock up on cash.

From there, you'll need to buy a ferry ticket — which will cost about $5.50 — for a two- to three-hour boat ride (depending on which type of boat you choose) into Anawan Port in Polillo. Once you dock in Anawan, you can hire a tricycle to take you to your accommodation or climb aboard one of the shared jeeps to travel to Burdeos, about 45 minutes away, for less than $3.

As for finding the perfect accommodation on the island, Polillo has plenty of options — including campsites, homestays, and hotels. A few of the most popular lodging options include The Seahorse Hotel, Bucao Floating House, Sonny's Beach Resort, and Casa Escarlata.