In 2023, around 5.45 million international tourists visited the Philippines, and numbers continue to rise. Given its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and stunning coral reefs, it’s no surprise that the Philippines has fast become a favourite with sun-seeking holidaymakers
Destinations such as Palawan, Boracay and Siargao attract a high number of beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts. Such places can remain crowded even outside of peak times while the capital Manilla has also seen record numbers of tourists and digital nomads, looking to soak up the vibrant culture and rich history of the bustling metropolis.
While this boom has played a huge part in the Philippines' growing and strengthening economy, it may also be the reason why so many holidaymakers are beginning to move away from these popular resorts and look for quieter, more peaceful alternatives.
Instead of hitting the capital and larger ‘go-to’ regions, many travelers are heading further afield where afternoons are full of locals popping out on a lunch break as opposed to hoards of selfie-taking tourists.
Bicol is one such beautiful, but far less frequented region, located in the southeastern part of Luzon. It is steeped in history and culture and home to numerous festivals throughout the year. The region is perhaps best known for its natural beauty and diverse landscapes including white sandy beaches. stunning mountains and Mayon volcano.
Bicol has previously been difficult for travelers to access, as no international flights are available at the region’s airport and due to hurricane and storm damage, rail services to Bicol have been put temporarily on hold. However, that is soon set to change as Bicol is set to join a number of other major railway infrastructure projects around the world.
Restoration and development of Philippine National Railways (PNR) is now underway. This means that after six years, Inquirer.net reports on trains to Bicol, explaining that they will soon be available, providing much-improved connectivity.
With increased transport links, the region will likely hit the perfect balance of being that little bit more accessible for holidaymakers while maintaining its peaceful tranquility.
The silence of suburbia
Located in the province of Surigao del Sur, suburban Tandag is steeped in authentic charm and is a perfect example of a place that has all the attractions without the crowds.
The beautiful coastline is often what draws holidaygoers to the Philippines and Surigao del Sur boasts fantastic bays with both pebble beaches and white sands. Tandag itself is home to a picturesque beach with a lantern-lit boulevard alongside, providing the perfect spot to watch some magical sunsets.
Manilla has been the go-to airport for most tourists heading to the Philippines. However, the increased availability of online operators has given travelers far more destinations, such as Tandag, to choose from.
The introduction of advanced booking tools has also made getting to suburban or less frequented places more straightforward. When booking flights to Tandag with Opodo, the built-in search engine makes it far easier to book an affordable trip and compare flight times with different airlines. This added choice and accessibility to places such as Tandag, allows travelers to still experience the beauty of the Philippines while avoiding the crowds of the larger cities.
Island hopping harmony
Masbate is composed of several islands offering both lush greenery and beautiful white sands. Masbate’s Ticao Island is known for its marine life, particularly its manta rays, and is a great diving spot, whilst Aroroy Island is renowned for its gold mines and offers a fascinating insight into the local mining industry.
Despite comprising over 7000 islands, the cruise tourism of the Philippines previously lagged behind its neighboring countries, partly because of tricky infrastructure and lack of investment. However, over the last few years, officials have been developing ports, and the country’s cruise tourism has really taken off. Cruises that stop off at Manila, Boracay and Palawn have become hugely popular.
In addition to larger tour operators there has also been an increase in smaller island hopping cruises. Those in the know are avoiding the larger cruises and relying on smaller tour operators to sail out to the more remote islands such as those in Masbate - all of the sea and scenery just fewer people on board!
A survey conducted by Original Travel found that 63% of holidaymakers are looking for a more peaceful vacation. However, it’s not a lack of amenities or a remote destination that they are in search of. Instead, a peaceful and quiet holiday is more about understanding the kind of tourism that interests you and the importance of being able to get away from the queues and crowds. If that's what you prioritize, you can achieve it, by looking for alternatives to the more populated go-to destinations.
However, with officials working hard to attract even more tourists and transport options to more far-flung places increasing every year, these hidden gems may not stay hidden for long!