The Philippines is a hot [ 22C-38C] and humid [85%] Asian country loaded with lovely relaxed people, tropical jungle and glorious beaches - some of which are now the preserve of luxury resorts.
The country costs little to travel in unless you stay at a fancy resort, and that's not necessary, there are plenty of downmarket hotels available.
Manila, the capital, is polluted, uninteresting and not short of crime, but you'll have to stop over briefly en route to your island paradise of choice. Unless you have a lot of time you'll fly there.
The dry season runs roughly from January - June, the rest is wet, though that could mean just a shower once a day or a full-on typhoon. December-February is cooler, while March-May is hotter. But there are considerable regional variations...
'Haze', caused by forest fires and slash/burn agricultural practices in both Malaysia and Indonesia has, in the past, obscured the sun and reduced air quality around Aug-Sept, but does not seem to be such a problem in this millennium.
Plus: friendly locals, travel/accommodation/beaches can be very cheap, sand is perhaps the best in the world - soft white coral sand that never heats up, and the live coral is also superb.
Minus: the humidity is a killer, Manila is a pain, the Philippines is not as safe as Malaysia, and bouncy boat rides may be necessary to reach your perfect beach.
White Beach, Boracay Island [picture above right]
A tranquil atmosphere - tho' quite busy - and friendly locals. The sand is exceptionally white, soft, never gets hot and stretches for 3 miles.
There is a huge variety of small hotels, restaurants and bars offering cosmopolitan cuisine just off the beach, relatively cheap and comfortable. Although rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world, recent tourism expansion has lead to some environmental concerns.
There is no coral off White Beach, though plenty of dive boats will take you to good dive sites. Windsurfing months are Nov-April, best Dec-Feb.
The best months are Jan-May, OK June- Sept [with some rain], but April and May are Philippine school holidays and the place gets noisy and crowded then. Don't consider Oct-Nov [windy, possibly grey and wet].
Fly from Manila to neighbouring Panay island, then 20 mins by banca [boat].
Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines
Despite its outstanding natural beauty, Palawan's 1,770 islands have been one of the least developed holiday destinations in Southeast Asia [apart from the famous El Nido Resorts].
So far the lack of commercialism has made Palawan very special, but it is becoming more popular particularly for international divers, as well as adventurers.
The ideal place for sun seekers and snorkellers is Honda Bay, which has several islets including Cannon Island, Bat Island and Starfish Island, with coral reefs breaking crystal clear water onto empty, fine white sand beaches. Arreceffi Island contains the luxury Dos Palmas Resort, while lesser accommodation can be found on other islands, or stay at Puerto Princesa and take a half hour boat trip to your favourite deserted beach.
Palawan also offers the Philippines' best dive spot at the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, a World Heritage Site. Dive boats operate from March to May and can be arranged at Puerto Princesa, Palawan's capital. The city also offers all sorts of jungle eco-hikes and an 8.2 km underground river trip. Best Dec-May. Possible heavy rains June- November, but not necessarily.
Malapascua Island, Cebu [picture above left]
This tiny island, situated at the northeast tip of Cebu Island, is relatively new to the international market, but already rates highly on the the list of world's best beaches - some say it is the new Boracay.
This has also become a major dive centre, famous for the crowds of thresher sharks using the marine highway between Cebu and Leyte islands. Driest Feb-May, but OK the rest of the year too with mostly short spells of rain. Worst Oct-Dec.
Bantayan Island, Cebu
Bantayan island, 15km from the northern tip of Cebu is well-known for its powder white sands and crystal clear water, especially along the southwest coast. It is a low-key, laid-back resort with friendly locals. The beaches are considered as some of the most inviting resorts, particularly around Santa Fe. If you looking for a virgin paradise, try nearby Puo Island. Driest Feb-May, but OK the rest of the year too with mostly short spells of rain. Worst Oct-Dec.
Muelle Bay, Puerto Galera, Mindoro Island
Puerto Galera is an ideal place to do island-hopping from Luzon or a place to laze on pristine white sands and clear, warm water. The most popular beaches for swimming are White beach and Tamaraw Beach, while beaches near Sabang have best facilities for coral-cruising. For more tranquility try Big and Small Laguna Beaches. Puerto Galera also offers excellent inland nature walks. Best Nov-June. OK July-Oct [an occasional typhoon will bring rain/wind/rough seas for 2 or 3 days].
Puraran Beach, Catanduanes Island
Catanduanes Island lies in the Pacific Ocean just off Luzon and is one of the Philippines' major surf venues. Puraran Beach's white sand is very appealing, but currents can be dangerous in the surfing season [October].
There are other white sandy beaches, for instance Pamangal Beach near San Andres town or Igang Beach. Note that this is one of the wettest provinces of the country. Best April-June. Worst Nov-January.
Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol
Bohol, just across from Cebu, is best-known for its curiously bumpy Chocolate Hills landscape. It is becoming more popular as the region's best beach destination, with superb white sand and some world class diving sites, tho' mostly on the adjacent little island of Panglao.
The 800m long, picturesque Alona Beach, with plenty of accommodation, restaurants and dive centres, is for action men [and women], though it has sea grass that conceals sea urchins, so sand shoes are useful.
The 2km of unspoiled Doljo Beach is a more secluded, less developed, shallow water option, while Cabilao Island on the west coast of Bohol has some splendid diving sites and exceptionally clear water.
And don't forget a trip to see the 1,000 30m high chocolate hills in Bohol's centre! The best time is indefinable; it may rain briefly every day, it may not... A typhoon may happen along...but March-May is likely to be driest if you must have a guesstimate.