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So technically, I’ve already declared paradise found at least twice on this blog. First, way back in 2009 when I landed on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and felt certain that I had indeed discovered Heaven on Earth. Then, in 2011, I found myself on Koh Rong in Cambodia, and my Eden-Meter went wild again. Over the years I visited islands throughout Southeast Asia, The Caribbean, Central America and the Mediterranean, but never found another that truly competed with the raw beauty I had found on those two islands.

Finally, in 2013, I found Malapascua — and the trifecta was complete.

Malapascua
Malapascua

The Beach on Malapascua, PhilippinesPhoto by Heather Holt

Just one drop in the Philippine’s 7,000+ island chain, Malapascua came on to my radar based on the effusive recommendations of one of the most seasoned travelers I know. It didn’t even make the list of Lonely Planet’s top seven Visaya Region highlights — but something about the way Lindsay gushed inspired a serious case of wanderlust in me.

After another long, epic day of transportation hell that started before dawn and ended at sunset and defined travel in the Philippines, Heather and I landed on a dark, quiet beach. Along with a third traveler we befriended on the boat over, Megan, we settled for the first beachfront bungalow we could find and quickly succumbed to travel fatigue. And when we woke in the morning, this is what we found.

Malapascua
Malapascua
Malapascua
Malapascua

Photo on right by Heather Holt

Our little bungalow faced directly out to Poblacion Beach, a small C-shaped curve of sand stretching around a bay filled with bangkas providing transportation to and from Cebu island. Our little two story bungalow was quite pricey by Filipino standards at 500 pesos each, though I know that in many places $12 a night per person for an oceanfront room seems quite the bargain.

Giddy with excitement over finding the white sand and turquoise waters we had been hoping for, we set off to explore the southern stretch of the island, where the small hum that is tourism in Malapascua is centered.

Malapascua
Malapascua

The Beach in Malapascua, Philippines

Poblacion Beach is stunning, and could hold its own in a World’s Best Beaches competition — let me just establish that before I say what I say next.

Poblacion Beach is a dump compared to the sensory-numbing beauty that is Bounty Beach.

Malapascua
Malapascua

Photo on left by Heather Holt

Photo by Heather Holt

Malapascua
Malapascua
Malapascua
Malapascua

Bangkas in Malapascua, Philippines

Malapascua
Malapascua

Photos by Heather Holt

Bangkas in Malapascua, Philippines

Time on Malapascua melted away, and scheduled hours were replaced by casual moments in which we were laying out our sarongs for beachfront massages, taking endless photographs of colorful bangkas, eating lazy lunches with toes in the sand, or snuggling with members of the island’s resident adorable puppy pack.

Puppy in Malapascua, Philippines

Puppy in Malapascua, PhilippinesPhoto by Heather Holt

Oh, and sometimes we swam. And by swam, I really mean: moved slowly in a dreamlike state through the warm tourmaline waters, marveling at the way Malapascua had managed to make a real version of the HDR photography so favored for desktop computer screensavers.

Beachside in Malapascua, Philippines

Travel to Malapascua, Philippines

This kind of paradise isn’t really conducive to raucous nightlife — it brings about a contemplation in people for which Full Moon Party-style antics would only be a nuisance. Appropriately, the most happening place in Malapascua once the sun starts it’s inevitable descent is a quiet sunset bar floating a couple hundred feet from shore.

Luckily, there’s a free ride.

Floating Bar, Malapascua, Philippines

Floating Bar, Malapascua, Philippines

Floating Bar, Malapascua, Philippines

Floating Bar, Malapascua, PhilippinesPhoto by Heather Holt

Malapascua
Malapascua

Malapascua was exactly what I needed, and along with Batad would be one of my top two destinations in the Philippines. Together, these two places taught me a lesson. Paradise does exist — it’s just never easy to get to.

Stay tuned for our adventures around the island and under the waters of Malapascua! What’s the most beautiful island you’ve ever been to?

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124 Comments...
  • Olivia
    June 6 2013

    That WATER! Those PUPPES! that BAR!

    JEALOUS!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      I’m not sure what puppes are, but puppies are cute….

      (and just a not to other readers, this is my sister — so I’m allowed to respond obnoxiously to her!)

      • Olivia
        June 7 2013

        Not sure what a not is, but notes are informative…

  • Ashley
    June 6 2013

    perfection. pure perfection. I cant even handle how amazing this is….and just the pictures. I can’t imagine it in person. wow
    Ashley recently posted..Iโ€™m On Top Of The World: The CN Towerโ€™s EdgeWalk

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Just wait for the next two posts ๐Ÿ™‚ It only seems to get better!

  • Frank
    June 6 2013

    That…looks……AH-mazing! Such great photos and it really does look like a paradise, so cool.
    Frank recently posted..Face your fears or face a life less lived

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Frank! I’m definitely missing this beautiful island from where I sit today in cold, dreary New York!

  • Sujin
    June 6 2013

    Oh my god! This place indeed looks like “the heaven on earth”. And the colour of the sea is like a painting. It doesn’t seem real. So amazing! ๐Ÿ˜€ I have no doubt you had your best time there! Envy!!
    Sujin recently posted..The blue sky makes me sooo happy!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Sujin! This place definitely inspired me to break out a paintbrush…. if only I could travel with my art supplies!

  • egwg
    June 6 2013

    That water looks awesome. I hear the diving in that area is good too. Is there much to do for non-divers?

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Well, in terms of organized activities — no. Maybe some snorkeling? But for those looking to bum around on the beach and relax, it’s wonderful! We also did a walk all the way around the island one day — stay tuned for that post!

  • Sam
    June 6 2013

    Your photos are incredible! I’ve never really considered the Philippines as a travel destination but you’ve shown me the error of my ways!
    Sam recently posted..Letโ€™s Start At The Very Beginning

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Sam! I definitely don’t think the Philippines are getting the attention they deserve in the blogging world. They are amazing!

  • Caty
    June 6 2013

    Why did you leave this place??? This place is stunning and I’ve added to my must visit list (which keeps getting longer and longer thanks to you)

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Believe me… I didn’t want to go ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I could have spent a week just diving and doing nothing on these beautiful beaches!

  • Dayla
    June 6 2013

    Gorgeous! What a place!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Dayla! It was amazing.

  • Dammit Alex!! My DMTs are meeting here in August and keep trying to get me to go, and I was all “who cares about Mala-whatever, I’ve never even heard of it”…don’t think I can get away with it now! Looks INCREDIBLE! Did you dive here??
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..[GUEST POST]: 3 Spectacular Days in Singapore

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      I did indeed! Just wait till you see the photos. I’ll give you a hint though — THRESHER SHARKS!

  • Breanna
    June 7 2013

    I have been suffering some wanderlust lately and have tried and failed to avoid your blog because it does not help! However this post just made it worse. It looks like a truly beautiful place and the laid back part you described is so me. This place is now on my list!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Haha, oh no! I never thought of people avoiding me for that reason ๐Ÿ™‚ I say don’t fight the wanderlust… you’ll have to scratch the itch at some point!

  • Kathryn
    June 7 2013

    TAKE ME THERE!!!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Hmmm…. how about YOU take ME there instead, for our next family vacation?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Melanie Fontaine
    June 7 2013

    Oh wow, this place really looks like paradise on earth! I’m still not sure if I’ll head to the Philippines or a different country in conjuction with my planned Thailand trip next year, but this post really shows me that I need to give it more consideration: It’s gorgeous!
    xx
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..Details from Schloss Wolfsgarten

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Manila is a super cheap and easy flight from Bangkok, Melanie! Check out Tiger Airways — they have great deals!

  • Skรบli
    June 7 2013

    WOW! This looks like a place that’s hard to leave. Can’t wait to read more!
    Skรบli recently posted..Cycling in Thailand’s countryside [With video]

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Skuli! Lots more to come!

  • Shaun
    June 7 2013

    Stunning!

    I Love how time slows down in places like this. Soak it all in!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Thanks Shaun! I really never wanted to leave. Destinations like this are getting more and more rare…

  • Valerie
    June 7 2013

    Gorgeous!! My favorite island is Zanzibar!! I went a few months ago and was absolutely stunned by how beautiful it was!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Oooo… I don’t know much about Zanzibar! Heading to the Google machine now…

  • Sigh. Another place you managed to make it to in the Philippines that I didn’t despite my spending nearly 2 months there! Malapascua was already on my list of places to hit the next time we go back, but this post has pretty much pushed it all the way to the very top of our list.

    Based on what I heard when we were traveling through the Philippines, everyone said that the real slices of paradise left in the country are the ones that are hell to get to. The ones that are accessible just so quickly become overrun, so in order to find these gardens of Eden, you’ve got to be willing to suffer a bit!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Chewing the Fat with Sparrow in Space!

    • Alex
      June 7 2013

      Yup, Malapascua is a real challenge to get to! First you have to get to Cebu, which is a flight or long boat ride to get to in the first place. Then you have to get a bus to Maya, which is a long, crowded, hot and sunny ride away. And you better hustle, because the last boat to Malapascua leaves at 4pm — and you’ll have to deal with the boat mafia trying to charge you 5x the posted price anyway. And then, they claim not to be able to bring you all the way to the beach — so another tiny boat has to come get you (and charge you even more, of course). At least once we got there it was more than worth it!

  • Sky
    June 7 2013

    All I can say is wow. The photos are so, so gorgeous! I only wish I could spend a few days laying on the beach there!
    Sky recently posted..Sky is (still) a Big Scaredy Cat

    • Alex
      June 10 2013

      At the moment I’m sitting in New York and it’s raining once again… so I wish the same! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kristen Noelle
    June 7 2013

    *Emoji-style heart-eyed* yet AGAIN! I feel awed just by viewing these photos (over & over again), this is just. pure. beauty.
    I’d go through all that hassle and more to spend time in this beautiful little corner in the world.

  • Kristen Noelle
    June 7 2013

    And seriously that floating bar is dangerous because I’d probably spend just about all my time there, consuming too much sun and too many drinks, like why would I ever leave?? Lol!

    • Alex
      June 10 2013

      Thanks Kristen! It’s a joy to photograph such a beautiful place. And I hear ya on the floating bar… thankfully we weren’t the ones having to captain the boat back!

  • Sally
    June 7 2013

    Amazingly beautiful! Reminds me of Tonga and why I don’t particularly want to be going back to Leeds next month!
    Sally recently posted..Thailand: Part Four

    • Alex
      June 10 2013

      Oh wow, Tonga! You’ve made me think about lots of new destinations today…

  • Edward
    June 8 2013

    This looks amazing and I am getting more and more jealous with your experience in the Philippines. I will be there next month for the very first time and I don’t know where to start with the Philippines more than 7,000 islands. I do agree from lots of comments here that Philippines seems to be the most understated and least visited country in Southeast Asia but got so many potentials and unrivaled tourist spots. I don’t see a lot in the blogs so thank you very much for your very informative page. Whilst reading your blog, I feel like I am with you in the travel and who will question you with those amazing pictures. I will stay in Manila for 3 nights, what is your best recommendation to explore next? I heard about El Nido and other islands of Palawan but it looks like I am tempted to go straight to Malapascua…7000 + islands seems to be a year holiday for me. I only have 2 weeks because I need to go back to work:)

    • Alex
      June 10 2013

      Thanks for the kudos, Edward! I definitely recommend Malapascua as a good starting place, though just warning you…. you might get stuck! It’s a nice spot to start because from there you can travel overland and by boat to many destinations in the Visayas. Good luck!

  • Sara @ Restless Feet
    June 10 2013

    If there was a definition of heaven on Earth, THIS would be it. After reading your posts, I’m getting excited for my trip to Croatia in two weeks!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Sara @ Restless Feet recently posted..Tips for Traveling

    • Alex
      June 10 2013

      Croatia is definitely having a moment — I hear SO many people talking about trips there! Enjoy your travels!

  • Emma
    June 10 2013

    This looks incredible! In fact, your posts have made me re-plan my trip in December to include Donsol & Malapascua! I only wish I had time to make it to Batad & Banaue also.

    • Alex
      June 11 2013

      Emma I’m so happy to hear that! You’re going to love them both ๐Ÿ™‚ Make sure to check out my Malapascua post from today as well… you’ve got to take time to walk all the way around the island!

      • Emma
        June 11 2013

        Oh wow! Just seen all of your beautiful pictures in the latest post. I only wish I hadn’t already booked up my 4 month trip so I could include a full 3 weeks in the Philippines. Nevermind, there will be a next time!