One reason over 6.6 million people visit the Philippines each year is to enjoy the miles of white sand beaches. The nation's archipelago has more than 7,000 islands – only 1,000 of which are inhabited – and most have at least one idyllic stretch of sand. With so many beautiful coastal towns to choose from, it can be tricky to decide where to go. To help you get started, here are five of the best beach towns in the Philippines.

Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Luzon Island

Pagudpud is the northernmost settlement on Luzon Island, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. Often compared with Boracay, a famous Philippine luxury beach resort, Pagudpud has the same fine white-sand beaches and azure-blue waters, but without the crowds. The Blue Lagoon, or Maira-ira Beach if you’re a local, is a small cove of soft sand and deep-blue water considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the northern Philippines. The Blue Lagoon has recently gained traction as a tourist destination for international travelers, and a number of large resorts have established themselves in the area.

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido was ranked near the top in “20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World” from Condé Nast Traveler. This seaside paradise was also named the “Best Beach and Island Destination” by CNNgo. Home to about 50 of the whitest sand beaches in the world, El Nido has dramatic limestone formations, bright turquoise water, and spectacular sunsets. The coastal town of El Nido is the entryway to adventure in the Philippines, according to CNN Travel. In addition to its privacy and views, its beautiful beaches and sparkling water were also the site for the opening scenes from 2002’s The Bourne Identity. Its waters are also home to 50 species of coral that attract whales, sea cows, and endangered turtles, making them a diver's heaven.

Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley

Another award-winning location, Palaui is known for its unspoiled beaches and the Cape Engaño Lighthouse, a historic Spanish colonial lighthouse that sits atop a hill 300 feet above sea level. Palaui Island is a National Marine Reserve and is hard to get to, which is why travelers value its privacy. As for the marine park, which has 17,660 acres, it's a fantastic site for snorkeling and diving because it is so remote. There are no hotels, so if you want to stay, you’ll need to camp or find a homestay.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Bahurang Tubbataha) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the middle of the Sulu Sea and to the southeast of Palawan Island. This marine and bird sanctuary is technically not an island or a beach town, but two large atolls – the North Atoll and the South Atoll – home to more than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species and 100 bird species. It’s also recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on earth, and CNNgo ranked it one of the top eight dive sites in the world. Divers calls it a “true underwater jungle” and getting there is half the fun: The only way you can visit is via a live-aboard boat.

White Beach, Boracay

The pure sand and crystal-clear blue waters of Boracay draw beach worshippers from around the world. At just 4.5 miles long, Boracay is home to several picturesque beaches, including the award-winning White Beach. According to International Living, Boracay is also a diver's paradise. White Beach gets its name from its soft white sand, and is the place most frequently associated with Boracay, a 50-minute flight from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The best time to visit White Beach is during the dry season, which runs from October to June.

The Bottom Line

The Philippines is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, dramatic coastlines, and stunning scenery. With 7,000-plus islands and even more beaches, it’s impossible to narrow down the “best” beaches or towns to a short list, especially as it depends on what you’re looking for. For the best diving, for example, Tubbataha is hard to beat; for the most beautiful sunsets, you won’t want to miss White Beach. No matter where you travel in the Philippines, you’ll be close to a beach, and it will probably look like it belongs on a postcard.

Note: Because of continued violence, travelers are warned about avoiding certain areas in the Philippines. The U.S. Department of State updated a travel warning on April 13, 2018 regarding the Philippines, and in particular the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea area. Other areas in the Philippines are generally considered as safe as other places in Southeast Asia. U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines are encouraged to check current State Department travel alerts and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and your family in case of an emergency. (See How Safe Is Traveling in the Philippines? and The Basics Of Travel Insurance).