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3 of 'world's best islands' are in this country

Wide availability of flights between the Gulf and the Philippines helps drive tourism numbers

  • A resort in Cebu, central PhilippinesImage Credit: File
  • A resort in Boracay, central Philippines.Image Credit: Supplied

Boracay, Cebu and Palawan were named the world’s best islands in the 2017 Readers' Choice Awards of Condé Nast Traveller

That's culled by the international lifestyle travel magazine from the votes of 300,000 travellers worldwide.

Located in the Philippines, these trio of islands are top draws for visitors from near and far for a good reason — and it's not just about the deserted white-sand beaches lined with tilting coconut trees.

The Asian country has a wide array of tourist attractions, and has also seen a spike in tourist arrivals from the Middle East. The archipelagic nation has so much more to offer: it is actually comprised of more than 7,100 islands.

In the first half of 2017, 60,000 visitors from the region flew to the Philippines, according to Manila's Department of Tourism.

The number is expected to rise during the holidays. 

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One reason for the rising tourist arrivals from the Gulf is the rise in the number of direct flights between the region and the Philippines. 

Air bridges

Emirates operates 16 weekly flights between Dubai and Manila. In March 2016, it also started flying to Cebu's Mactan International and Clark International in a "circular" route — from Dubai it stops over in Cebu then flies to Clark in Luzon before returning to Dubai.

While the Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies daily between Manila and Dubai, Cebu Pacific operates 14 weekly flights on the Manila-Dubai route. From October 31, PAL was also set to resume thrice-weekly flights between Manila and Abu Dhabi.


Charo Logarta Lagamon, Director for Corporate Communications of Cebu Pacific Air, said: “We’ve seen surge of visitors to the Philippines and growing interest to visit the country from UAE. There’s something for everyone in the Philippines to suit a wide variety of preferences and lifestyles."

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In the island-destinations, there's a wide choice of accomodations — from backpackers' rooms to high-end resorts with luxurious amenities.

But every visit offers access to fine-white sand beaches, the country's rich cultural heritage sites, great shopping and adventure, too.

Palawan is home to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the newly crowned seven natural wonders of the world. 

"The Philippines is a great vacation destination with something to suit even discriminating luxury travellers," said Lagamon. "But what makes the Philippine experience complete is the warm hospitality of the people.”

Among domestic flight operators, Cebu Pacific, PAL, SkyJet Airlines (which also offers charter flights) and Air Asia Philippines connect dozens of destinations within the Philippines. 

From the capital Manila, there's easy access to these three islands: 

1. Boracay

Located around 315 kilometres south of Manila, the capital of Philippines, Boracay’s popularity among tourists as the world’s most popular islands is credited to its four-kilometer stretch of the finest white sand beach in the world; tranquil, gentle coastline; and a thriving nightlife scene.

Boracay island is famous for having bright white sand and crystal clear waters.  

The popular tourist destination has over 350 resorts — ranging from super luxurious to very affordable budget inns.

Because of how tourist friendly it is, it’s one of the most versatile islands for activities, including snorkelling, diving and water sports. - File 

The centre of attraction is White Beach, with powdery white sand and shallow azure water ideal for swimming and sunbathing.

A short, relaxing walk to other beaches takes visitors to some great snorkelling through colourful coral reefs teeming with fish. 

Shangri-la resort in Boracay, in central Philippines.

How to reach Bora?

From Manila, catch direct flights to Caticlan, the gateway to Boracay Island. Upon reaching Caticlan, domestic operators like Cebu Pacific offers cebtransfers, a complementary transfer service that takes travellers straight from the airport to Boracay Island. This allows fast, easy and seamless transfer to the island-desination.

2. Cebu

The long and narrow island in the Visayas region of the Philippines, Cebu is the most densely populated island in the country and attracts tourists for its beaches on the mainland as well as across many of its surrounding islands. 

Conde Nast described Cebu and its outlying islands as “more personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping experiences”.

It's not just nature trip — there are some surprises we've found in Cebu, too.

The 1730 Jesuit House in Cebu City, Philippines. - Gulf News / Ashfaq Ahmed.

One of the oldest Spanish settlements in the Philippines, Cebu also boasts of historical and cultural sites that give visitors a glimpse of its colonial past.  

The islands off the mainland of Cebu lure visitors for their crystal clear blue waters. 

Camotes, Bantayan, Malapascua, Mactan, Moalboal, Badian and Oslob are amongst the islands off the mainland of Cebu, luring visitors for their crystal clear blue waters, white beaches and natural forests, with numerous activities including swimming, scuba diving, and great food experiences to offer. 

A resort in Cebu, in central Philippines. - Gulf News File  

From Manila, you can catch direct flights to and from Cebu — available from sunrise until the midnight, giving visitors a wider array of options to make the most of their vacation.

Puerto Princesa Underground River offers thrills, bats and slippery rock formations. - Corbis

3. Palawan

The largest island in the Palawan province has been ranked third in the list of the world’s best islands. It is known as “The Last Frontier” because nature still rules in almost all its 780 islands and islets that are sparsely populated.

Palawan is an eco-tourist's dream come true..

Home to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the newly crowned seven natural wonders of the world, Palawan also boasts of beautiful diving points, striking lakes and islands and fine, white sand beaches. 

Landscape of Coron Busuanga Island, Palawan.

Most domestic airline operators fly straight from Manila to Puerto Princesa — the capital of Palawan.

Transfer connections are available from the airport straight to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, making it easier to reach the world's longest navigable 'Underground River'. 

A dusk scene on the beach in El Nido, Palawan.



Flight duration from UAE: 9 hours 6 minutes
Non-stop flights offered by: Emirates, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Etihad
Other flights offered by: Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and many others
Lowest flight cost to Manila, Philippines: from Dh713
Time difference: 4 hours ahead of UAE time 
Best time to visit is between December and May