Finding great beaches in the Philippines is never a problem. With 7,641 amazing islands, we’ll never run out of sand to play with. Finding one near Manila is a whole other thing though. The nearest ones are at least 4 hours away – a bit of a journey, but worth it if you’re in for a great adventure. In this post, I’m giving you a rundown of the 10 best beaches “near” Manila that I have had the pleasure to visit. By “near,” I mean that you can reach them via land (and sometimes with a short sea) travel, ‘yung hindi mo na kailangan mag-abang ng seat sale para mapuntahan! Hoping this can help you find the best beach for you this summer!
Isla Verde, Batangas
White sand beach, clearest waters I have ever seen, and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met – Isla Verde to me is the best of the best beaches near the metro. Also called the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity, you’ll often come across divers from various countries here. If you’re in for a quiet weekend just lounging at the beach or floating in majestic waters, this is a perfect choice.
Travel Time: 4 hours
Budget: P2,000-ish (depending on your mode of transport and choice of food)
Magalawa Island, Zambales
Calm waves and fine beach in Zambales? It exists! Most people think the province is all lahar-covered shores and surfing spots, but Magalawa Island is an exception. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful, I had to run to the turquoise water after dropping my stuff at our tree house! Apart from the white beach, staying at Armada Resort means free access to the sandbar and more shallow spots for swimming and lounging by the shore. The water’s so clear it’s very easy to spot and stay away from the occasional jellyfish. Note though that there’s a current so don’t leave your children alone!
Travel time: 5 hours
Tip: There’s a really nice meat-all-you-can Korean grill in Subic that you MUST try if you’re a samgyeopsal-lover. Drop by before heading back to Manila for the best weekend finale evah!
Masasa Beach, Batangas
Looking for a complete package? In Tingloy Island, you can swim or waste away your day at the sea, go “cliff-diving” (just about 8 to 10-feet high but exciting enough) at the lagoon, or welcome the sunrise with a hike to Mt. Mag-Asawang Bato. Heck, you can do all in one weekend! At night, you can head back to the beach for stargazing. Bring your pal because the path is creepy as hell. But if you’re brave enough to take a dip in pitch-black waters, you’ll be rewarded with the glow of thousands of bioluminescent algae. Just play with the water a bit and you’ll see them! If you have extra time and money, island-hopping is an option too!
Travel time: 4 hours
Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte
Calaguas. One of the purest, most majestic beaches I have ever seen. It’s white sand beach for as far as your eyes can see. The sun burns so hot throughout the day, you’ll be blessed with a really nice tan after! In the morning when it’s a tiny bit colder, you can also take a hike on the hill on the left side of the island for amazing views. Giving this one less sun because, well, it’s too damn far!
Travel time: At least 14 hours one way
Budget: P2,500-P3,000 overnight
Tip: Make it a long weekend! With just an overnight trip, your travel time is more than your actual stay. More pagod than relaxed!
Dinadiawan Beach, Aurora
Dinadiawan Beach reached my radar only after glamping made Sand and Stars popular, or is it vice versa? Summer makes it impossible to find an open slot. Any time of the year really, so I advise you book a tent months before. BUT if there’s none available and you really want to go, there are a lot of alternatives! It is a very long stretch of golden-white sand. Please know though that glamping doesn’t make Dinadiawan a great spot. It is already beautiful on its own. So aim for the beach, not just the tents! It’s a long but beautiful drive though (about an hour and a half more from Baler) so I also suggest a long weekend here. I swear it’s worth it!!!
Travel time: 8 hours
Tip: A three-day weekend means extra time to make a side trip to Baler. Trek to Ditumabo Mother Falls, surf, or just go on a food trip. You’re passing by anyway, so why not stop for a while?
For many, Baler is not just a side trip but the main destination. Surfing? It is usually one of the top options. Newbie? No problem. They offer lessons for P500 or so for an hour. The beach is gray but fine. Water’s on the dark side but clean. It’s not the most appealing beach but for some reason, it is very inviting. Land tours are available to give you a deeper appreciation of the town. It has a very heart-warming history, and there’s so much more to it than just the waves.
Travel time: 6 hours
Tip: Skip the pricey restos and go for carenderias, only then will you get a true taste of Baler.
Maniwaya Island, Marinduque
I was brought to Maniwaya Island by a last-minute cancellation from a travel group supposedly going to Burias. What a blessing in disguise. It doesn’t have the finest sand or the clearest waters, but there’s a vibe to Maniwaya that makes you feel rejuvenated – like the air itself has a healing power. It’s a very quiet island with very few resorts. Camping is the most popular option although there are some cabins as well. Don’t miss the chance to go island-hopping, the varying landscapes are very interesting. When we went, low tide was in the early morning the next day. So we left the island at dusk (the colors were so beautiful!) and arrived at Palad Sandbar early morning. Our tour guide prepared our breakfast there and we ate it standing in knee-deep water. One of my most memorable!
Travel time: 6 hours
San Juan, La Union
Surfing and food trip galore! We went in December, when just going knee-deep into the sea can pull you down in a whirlpool. It was a very exciting nightmare – funny and scary, you shouldn’t attempt if you’re not good with the water. The plus side was that it was a good time to learn how to surf! We got tired fast though, being wiped out over and over and pulled under the water every time we tried to stand haha! Good thing there are plenty of options to fill us up. San Juan, La Union is more than a surfing spot, it is hip cafes and trendy restos. We tried a few and I must say there’s no cafe here that could disappoint – it’s all a matter of finding what suits your taste.
Travel time: 5 hours
Tip: Food here can be a bit expensive. There are of course cheaper options but the “pricey” ones are worth a try. They’re actually not that pricey, just not your usual budgetarian price. Just condition your minds and prepare more money for food, so you don’t get shocked like I did haha!
Cagbalete Island, Quezon
Golden. That’s how I always remember Cagbalete. It’s low tide here for the most part of the day so you have to walk at least a hundred meters from the golden shore just to soak a third of your body! But that’s okay, we got to swim when we rented a boat to go snorkeling. It was the same boat that brought us around the island – through mangroves and ruins. Beyond the shore is a small village. You can buy basic needs at sari-sari stores or make friends with the locals. Try to go early in the day though. We went at night and almost scared ourselves to death!
Travel time: 7 hours
Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
Puerto Galera’s white beach never gets old. It’s my go-to beach whenever it feels like the world’s crashing down on me and I’m too exhausted to even think about where to go. It’s very accessible from the metro, which also means that it could be overflowing with people at times. But even so, you can always find a “secluded” spot along the long stretch of fine golden sand. If you have extra money, you can get away from the crowd via island-hopping or snorkeling. If you’ve had enough of the white beach, Sabang Island has a number of “luxury” resorts at a cheaper price (relative to luxury resorts elsewhere); mainly because the resorts are inland and far from Sabang’s gray beach.
Travel time: 4 hours