2008 was a busy year for me at work, but that didn't hinder me from side tripping to several beach and island destinations. Below are the best escapes I've had for the year.
1. Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
A rediscovery after my first real beach backpacking experience. Bantayan in Cebu undergoes a lot of development, but the natural beauty of the place still remains vivid in sight. A must visit island experience when in Cebu.
2. Anawangin Cove, Zambales
One of the star destinations of 2008, since bloggers and adventurers raved about the secret beach of volcanic ash and stone. Indeed, Anawangin is one of the best discoveries of the year, with a surreal and unique landscape, making you feel miles and miles away from the Philippines, when you are in fact just 3 hours away from Manila.
3. Isla Reta Beach, Talicud Island, Island Garden City of Samal
After a visit to Babusanta Beach last year in Talicud, I knew the tiny island off the main island of Samal has much more to offer. This time, we explored more of the side of Isla Reta Resort, which had pristine and unspoilt beaches nearby if you just walk further. Chill out beach of the year.
4. Caramoan Peninsula, Camarines Sur
We visited Caramoan in January this year, so we were there before French Survivor. No one was there, except for a lone traveller from Holland. The weather wasn't good, so we were only able to visit 4 islands, the ones in front of Gota Beach. That's just 1/5 of the entire place, so there's much more to explore. I have to find time to go back, on a better season. But nevertheless, Caramoan took my breath away. Castaway destination of the year.
5. Coron, Palawan
My first time and through a Photography Tour. One of my most memorable experiences, since I was with a group. The island of Coron is brimming with so much adventure and appeal. Definitely one of the best places to explore in the country. Next stop, El Nido.
6. Agutayan Sand Bar, Jasaan, Misamis Occidental
Just an hour away from Cagayan de Oro City, the sand bar/island of Agutayan seems to jut out in the middle of the nowhere. From the mainland, you won't be able to view the island, since there are no trees. Similar to the White Island in Camiguin, it's a nice sandbar to have a great picnic with friends and spend a day on its lonely sands.
7. Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga City
After not being able to visit it in 2007, I found myself going back to Zamboanga again and land on the shores of Sta. Cruz Island, more popularly known as Pink Island (though the pinkness is visible from afar or close-up only). As it is near Basilan, it is considered a "dangerous place", where you would need the escort services of tourist police to be able to pay the island a visit. Calm and clear waters on a wide pink sand beach make it another great island for a day tour.
8. The Islands of Calagua, Camarines Norte
Finally, the best beach of the year, and for me, the best island destination in the country to date. Imagine paradise. Clear blue calm waters amidst a blue sky and green rolling hills and gorgeous rock formations. What more can I say? The Calaguas gifted me with my best beach experience.
So that's it. The best among the several beaches and islands of the Philippines I've been to this year. Of course, I've been letdown by a handful of beaches, but the worst had to be Canibad in Samal. So bad, I wasn't able to take pictures of the supposedly secret paradise in one of my favorite islands, Samal. For those who have been there, I don't know what happened, but it looked like Galera with videoke.
Anyway, I plan to visit Batanes, Tawi Tawi, Siquijor, Samar/Leyte and more of Surigao this year. I love our country and our islands. So go out there and explore. Happy 2009!