Island in the Philippines

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Travel Hacks: Island Hopping in the Philippines

11th September 2019

It’s official, we’ve figured out what your next holiday should be. Better yet, it’s less than 12 hours from New Zealand, is super affordable, will provide some seriously FOMO-inducing snaps for your insta profile and allows you to work on your tan.

Case in point. 

The Philippines is becoming increasingly more popular for tourists, and Palawan is the magnet of this attraction. Boasting crystal clear water bluer than the eyes of your first crush, incredible snorkellingh more Nemos than you can poke a stick at (please don’t poke a stick at the fish… unless it’s a selfie stick) and some of the friendliest locals you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, it’s no wonder Palawan is drawing travellers from far and wide.

Two of the most popular places are El Nido and Coron, however the true magic can be found in the journey between the two. Many tourists catch a glimpse of this beauty on the 3-hour boat journey between the two cities, or on day trips out from the respective cities. However, some get to immerse themselves in paradise, making the journey the destination, through a 2 or 3 night island hopping tour.

I was lucky enough to be one of those travellers, and I can tell you it was one of the best parts of my trip.  I chose to do a 4 day/ 3 night expedition from Coron to El Nido with Buhay Isla Eco tours.

Waiting to board the paraw (traditional Filipino boat) that would be our home for the next four days.

Now, I have to admit, I was slightly cautious about booking the tour originally. My main cause of concern was the price. Coming in at 18500 pesos per person, our about $560 Kiwi Dollars, it didn’t really fit with backpackers budget I had been sticking to in Asia. However, after doing the trip I can safely say it was worth every penny (or peso), and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

When breaking down the costs, you’re spending about $187 per night. This includes accommodation on a private island in some of the cutest huts you will ever see, 3 meals per day + snacks (I’ll get to the food later, but I’m telling you it was the best I had in the Philippines), local guides taking you to picturesque islands off the tourist track, filtered water and drinks as well as a snorkel and goggles. When broken down, it’s safe to say I got my monies worth.

You need to pay a 50% deposit upon booking, before paying your remaining balance the day before you leave at the tour briefing. Like most of the Philippines, you need to pay in cash which can often be hard to come by on the islands.  With this in mind, it’s worth stocking up on pesos before you leave New Zealand at Travel Money NZ. We’ve got plenty of information on budgeting and travelling in the Philippines, otherwise, feel free to visit any of our 130+ stores across Australia and New Zealand for more travel tips.


Now, when it comes to the tour itself, I feel pretty safe telling to you set some high expectations. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so instead of me struggling to put the wanderlust into words, I figured it’s easier for me to just show you how epic it is.


Fresh seafood, local vegetable and noodle dishes, delicious curries, fluffy pancakes, sweet banana treats, juicy fruit, succulent meat and rice (or Filipino Power as the crew like to call it) will satisfy your hungry stomach after hours of swimming. Don’t worry about missing out, there was always more than enough food to go round.

My favourite was the afternoon banana snacks and unlimited mango served with each meal. Delish.


Each afternoon between 4 and 5pm you will anchor at a secluded island dotted with tiny huts. Kitted with comfier mattresses than I expected, mosquito nets, toilets, bucket showers perfect for washing the salt off your skin, and picturesque views, these huts are an island luxury.

Once arriving at the islands you have a few hours of free time before enjoying dinner with a rhum and coke (or two… you’re on holiday, treat yourself) as you watch the sky light up with a fairy floss sunset.


The scenery

Your days will be filled with world-class snorkelling and refreshing swims, broken up by boat rides between island stops. To say it is relaxing is an understatement. Most of us were lulled to sleep on the boat rides between snorkel stops, embracing the warmth of the sun on our salty skin. I recommend bringing a good book or two to enjoy in between naps, feasts, swims and adventures.

Each stop will be different with beaches, lagoons and cliff jumping all on the list.

Why are you still reading this? You should be looking at flights and booking your trip to the Philippines ASAP! You can secure seriously cheap flights direct to Manilla from a lot of New Zealand capitals, after which you can catch a boat or fly to Coron or El Nido.

If you’re ready for 4 days of paradise, be sure to email the team at Buhay Isla Eco tour and grab your pesos from Travel Money NZ before you leave.


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