If you and your main squeeze think a breathtaking beach is the definition of honeymoon happiness, then you already know you have a lot of choices. The world is huge and literally covered in oceans and sand. So how do you narrow things down? Cost, accessibility, travel time, and risk (think health issues like Zika) should all come into play. You may take "wow factor" into consideration, too.
And when it comes to wow factor, there is no place quite like the Philippines. While still considered to be off the beaten path by some, the Philippines is a collection of thousands of dreamy islands that just scream romantic getaway. If you don't know anyone who has traveled there, the idea of going there may feel overwhelming. But it can also add to the excitement. You can be adventurers—albeit adventurers who stay in a private villa at a top-notch resort with exceptional food, some of the most insanely colored scenery outside your door, and world-class natural wonders calling your names.
Below, we break down our favorite places in the Philippines—first Manila, where you'll likely fly into, then a few quick trips in the surrounding area.
Yes, the Philippines are far, but Philippine Airlines has nonstop flights from West Coast cities to Manila, its capital, which happens to be a perfect place to kick off the fun. The super-luxe Peninsula Manila will put you into chill mode instantly and help eradicate jet lag (its East-meets-West treatments are truly heavenly). Relax by the pool, sip a fruity cocktail at the sexy Salon de Ning, and dine at a handful of evocative restaurants while you adjust to the time change. Make sure to book a pro-led tour of Intramuros—ideally traveling in Peninsula's souped-up Jeepney—for some culture and understanding of the Spanish (and other countries') influence and rule on the Philippines. Manila also has a reputation for being a shopping mecca (hello, Greenhills Shopping Centre!). There are also fascinating museums, tastebud-stimulating restaurants, secret bars, galleries (check out the shoppable and artistic Aphro), and other draws that can keep you busy for days. The massive city serves as a perfect jumping-off point to a number of domestic island destinations.
One option for beaches, coral reefs, and the one-of-a-kind geological formation known as the Chocolate Hills (a series of 1,200 symmetrical mounds that turn brown in the dry season and green when it's rainy) is Bohol, an easy flight from Manila. There, the Tarsier Botanika is a forested, intimate resort and experiential retreat that was formerly a tarsier sanctuary. But if you're looking for beautiful sands and turquoise waters, you'll find them surrounding Cebu and Boracay, which also have vibrant nightlife scenes.
Palawan & Coron
Another increasingly popular destination is Palawan, a province that comprises Palawan island as well as others like Coron (still a bit rustic and worth exploring). If you've heard the name it's probably because it was named the most beautiful island in the world a few years ago. But regardless of how well a picture depicts the scene, standing on a powdered sugar-white beach and looking out at the turquoise sea in real life is so much more powerful. The palm-fringed beaches may just take your breath away (almost like when you first saw that ring).
The draw of Coron and its surroundings is the spectacular sea, which includes lagoons, coral gardens, snowy beaches, and lakes. The best way to take it all in is via boat, which the staff at Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa (or its "mainland" Coron Town hotel, Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel) can arrange with a friendly English-speaking guide. The beauty of this area can't be overstated. You may have never seen anything in nature with the same intense color of the water surrounding the island, which also features the resort's stunning pool, water-centric villas, a restaurant serving Filipino specialties (including lobster, crocodile, and shaved ice) and a gym perched upon a hill that provides amazing views while jogging. A couple's massage is a must as is a whirl in the transparent kayak built for two, which provides an eye-popping way to see beneath the ocean's surface. If you're divers, there should be no question about your honeymoon destination: Coron has about a dozen World War II shipwrecks as well as rare fish and giant clams, plus varieties of sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles. As you'll quickly realize, this entire region—which also includes El Nido, in the north part of Palawan, and Puerto Princesa, which is more of a city but home to the tourists' favorite UNESCO-protected underground river—is truly spectacular.
There's nowhere more epic to wrap up your dream honeymoon than at Amanpulo, the pride of all Filipinos and the Aman brand. The private-island resort is more than worth the splurge, and the pampering and attention to detail begin even before you touch down. Picture this every night: electric-blue crystal-clear water that turns the color of a robin's egg before the sun blazes orange in the sky and sets beneath the silky surface, with palm trees silhouetted against a sky of pink. The casitas are incredibly private (and come with your own golf cart and mountain bikes for navigating the island along with straw hats and totes), each with its own path to the pristine beach. But even when in "public" at one of the vibrant restaurants, pool, spa, or gym, there's a feeling of having more than enough space to stay in your just-married bubble of bliss. There's even a floating bar you can book all for yourself. Snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, and sailing are optional ways to see the sights while those who are particularly romantic might book a helicopter trip and tour of a South Sea pearl farm nearby. Of course, buying a little something for your S.O. should be part of this grand gesture, because why not? It's one more way to bring a slice of paradise back home.