November 12, 2018

Island Hopping in the Philippines


It started with a flight deal from San Francisco to Hong Kong for $380… and turned into, “You want to go to the Philippines?” Just a few months later we were on our way and landed on the island of Coron in Palawan. With less than a week to explore since our flight deal meant we couldn’t choose our dates, we decided to stick to one island so we wouldn’t be rushing and could truly enjoy it. After a lot of research, we decided on Coron which is across the ocean from El Nido, one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippines. Coron is like a less-touristy version of El Nido but with just as amazing views, and the best part is you can fly directly there instead of having to take an 8 hour bus ride like in El Nido. I want to give my honest opinion of our time in the Philippines, because this trip was filled with both ups and downs that you should be aware of before your own visit here.

Firstly, I’ll talk about our stay at Hop Hostel. We chose this place based off the amazing reviews and there is no doubt this place is seriously beautiful. The outside almost looks like something you would see in Greece, with white concrete walls and blue doors. And our room, though still a mixed dorm, was one of the most luxurious hostel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. The beds are super comfy and they even have a King size bed option, though you can’t actually share this with another person, which made no sense to me! As for views, the place also had an incredible view over the whole town from their rooftop bar which we made use of every night at sunset. 

coron philippines

The reason I didn’t love this hostel is because well, it wasn’t really a hostel. It was more like a hotel with hostel prices, which is awesome if that’s what you’re looking for. But the reason I stay in hostels when I travel is not just to save money, but for the experience of making new friends from around the world that I can share my experiences with. And although the staff was totally polite and helpful, they made you feel like a hotel guest they were there to serve instead of someone they wanted to welcome and make feel at home in their country. This always makes me feel kind of weird, since I never want to be the “rich white person” who can afford travel like this but I truly care about knowing the locals and making friends with them and removing those barriers. But it did give me a new perspective on how privileged I truly am, and how these industries are often the only way these people can earn a good living. All that to be said, I would recommend this place if you just want a comfortable and affordable stay but not if you’re looking to meet other backpackers. 

So the reason you’re reading this blog… the islands! Wow, are they beautiful! It’s always hard to choose a favorite in any category, but I might just say these are the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Coron town itself doesn’t have much to do other than a few good restaurants and cafes, and the main attraction here involves renting a boat and exploring the islands. You can either go with a tour (the cheapest way) or rent your own private boat, which is what we did and what I definitely recommend if you are a photographer! It’s about $8 for the normal tour boats and $25 per person for a private boat, but the private boat means you don’t have a bunch of other strangers to wait around for and you can go wherever you like.

Despite our hostel being pretty dead, we thankfully made friends with a Swedish couple at our hostel and decided to rent a boat together for our first day. We made so much fun with them and it was cool getting to have a little bit of a double date! Here are the places we went on Day 1:

Kayangan Lake

This was our first stop on Day 1, and this was definitely the most crowded of the places we visited. Kayangan Lake is one of the most popular places to see in Coron, and with good reason! The island is surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water and a wooden footbridge with all the boats pulled up, which is even more beautiful in person. You walk up about 100 steps to get to the lake, where you can swim and take in the stillness that surrounds you. 

Although this area is incredibly beautiful, the downside is there are lots of tourists so you’d need to go very early to get good photos. You also are required to wear a life jacket here, which I hate doing since I’ve been swimming since birth and feel so restricted by them, haha. 

coron philippines

Twin Lagoon

This place is one of those “Instagram spots” that is actually this amazing in person. Photos of this spot are one of the reasons I chose to visit here, and it’s hard to believe your own eyes when you see it in person! Although as with everything on Instagram, getting this photo is not as easy as it seems… because you actually have to swim with your gear to get here. Thankfully I’m used to taking my gear into risky places and a friend we made let me borrow her dive bag! Not only that, but there is a tiny little ladder you climb to get this view and you have to wait about 10 minutes to have it to yourself since everyone else is also trying to cross between lagoons. Instagram vs reality, right? Despite this, I still thought it was totally worth it! 

Banol Beach

Guys. This beach is my literal heaven! This is the last spot we pulled up to on Day 1, and we finished our day of island hopping with a freshly cooked meal our guide had cooked us with the ingredients we bought at the market before we left. We ate the freshest shrimp I’ve ever had, rice, and more mango than my stomach could hold and it was amazing!

I loved everywhere we went this first day, but I also just loved being on our little Filipino boat with our new friends, taking it all in!

Smith Beach

On Day 2, Marco and I went out by ourselves and decided to just go to two spots and have more of a chill day. I chose Smith Beach for our first spot which is actually right next to Banol Beach, since I had loved it so much! And I’m so glad we did because we got there and had the whole place to ourselves. Actually, shortly after we got there a boat with the cutest Filipino boys pulled up and they started sweeping debris off the beach, which I found out was because they are the ones that help maintain it and keep it looking pristine. Even though they spoke zero English, I fell in love with these cuties and ended up playing with them and they let me take their picture!

Island Hopping in the Phillipines by

To be honest, I can’t remember the name of the last place we went so I’ll just share the photos! This place wasn’t as “picturesque” as the other places, but we had such a nice time here because we were welcomed by the cutest sandy pups and our guide climbed and got us a bunch of fresh coconuts to drink! These unplanned moments are some of my favorite 🙂 

Island Hopping in the Phillipines by

Another one of my favorite parts about Coron was just riding around town in the little tricycles, squished in with our new friends and smiling at the locals as we rode by 🙂

My experience in the Philippines was not what I thought it would be, but that’s the beauty of travel! Even though Coron is the “less touristy” island, it was still pretty touristy to me and you should be prepared for that. But if you go out of your way to make friends with other travelers and befriend the locals, you’ll have an amazing time!

Like this post? Don’t forget to pin your favorite photos to your Pinterest and share it!

meet the writer

I'm Donna Irene.


A photographer, writer, and educator with a passion for helping people quit the hustle and live filled with purpose. When I picked up
a camera over 10 years ago, I had no idea it would take me around the world getting to photograph for everything from fortune 500
companies, brands, and people like you.

And now that I've been to 40+ countries and counting, I want to
use my talents to inspire others to use their creativity to make the world better. Follow along for resources on authentic travel experiences, sustainability, and building a business with intention.



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