If you want to know the secret to island hopping the Philippines without running into major crowds, I have two words for you: Tao Philippines. If you’re visiting the Philippines in search of the best beaches, colorful coral and torquoise water, you’ll probably be heading to El Nido or Coron in Palawan. Both are considered the best bases for island hopping in the region. There are set routes and tours leaving from each place, taking you to visit beautiful spots around the islands. The problem, though, is that you’ll be sharing these places with swarms of other tourists. So much for the deserted island vibes!
How to Island Hop in the Philippines Without Crowds
When it comes to island hopping crowds in highly touristic Palawan in the Philippines, you don’t have an abundance of choices. You can try to take your own boat to explore deserted islands, but you would need to be a maritime expert and probably fluent in Tagalog. Plus, without a local guide, you may accidentally intrude on rural communities that do not wish to be bothered by random tourists drifting ashore. Thus, the best option to arrange an island hopping expedition with a local tour operator. There are a few options that cover the route from El Nido to Coron, but not all have outstanding safety records and some are even illegal.
The Secret to Island Hopping Without Crowds: Tao Philippines
That’s why I highly recommend traveling with Tao on one of their boating expeditions. This isn’t a sponsored post – I’m just a happy customer! You can choose an island stay, a 3 day boating trip, or a 5 day boating trip. The route connects El Nido and Coron and runs both directions. We did the 5 day trip from El Nido and we never saw another group at any of our stops!
- Cost: Around $550/person
- Includes: Everything but the alcohol and soft drinks!
- Getting to El Nido: Fly to Puerto Princesa and then take a bus or van to El Nido. Expect to pay 550 pesos for the 6 hour van ride.
- Getting to Coron: Fly to Busuanga (airport code USU) and then take a shared van (about a half hour) to Coron. Expect to pay about 50 pesos per person.
- Book: Tao Philippines.
What to Expect on the Tao Philippines Expedition
The night before your departure you’ll meet with your leader and the others on your boat for a briefing. They’ll give you last minute details about your trip as well as a go/no-go for your date. Trips can and do get postponed due to weather. Make sure you give yourself a few days on either end of your trip to account for delays.
The day you depart, you’ll meet at the pier in the town and hop on your boat. From there the itinerary is unwritten! Your leader will pick stops based on weather, crowds and other factors to ensure you have the best trip. You can take part in as much or as little as you wish. It’s truly your trip to make. Some people hopped in the water at each stop, some read books on the beach, some snorkeled, and some stayed on the boat to just admire the scenery.
Each day you’ll visit snorkeling spots, remote islands, and beautiful beaches. Snorkeling masks are included, but not fins. Note that this is not a diving trip.
Tao Philippines Boat
Each paraw (traditional boat) has a maximum of 24 passengers accompanied by a crew of about 10. The boat is spacious, with places to sit in the shade or sun. Drinking water is available at all times.
Meals on Tao Philippines Expedition
They will feed you three meals and one or two snacks per day. The food is phenomenol, but be advised it’s a lot of seafood. We also picked up a freshly-slaughtered pig from a local village. It’s a confronting image to see the dead animal you’ll later eat, and it forces you to be mindful about where our food comes from (a good thing, in my opinion). According to their website, they can accommodate allergies, but will not change their recipes on preferences. There are plenty of veggie options, however. Be flexible and enjoy the locally-sourced dishes! I never disliked anything our team prepared.
Accomodations on Remote Islands
Each night you’ll stay in campsites on various islands. Some will be deserted islands, some will be among local villages, some will have electricity, and none will have internet. You’re living the true island life! It’s so special to get to know your other passengers without the distractions of our phones. No one is Snapchatting or Instagraming. Everyone is present. You get to know people very well!
Each camp had some kind of showering option (bucket showers or gravity-fed), but don’t expect hot water. You’ve been outside in the sun all day anyway so you’ll be fine with cooler water!
What to Pack for Tao Philippines Expedition
The packing list Tao sends you is spot on. You will definitely need a dry bag, and I recommend sunscreen, sea sickness meds, bug spray and itch cream as well. They’ll provide a mattress, pillow, sheets and mosquito net at each camp. We saw a few jellyfish so bring a rash guard if you have one for protection (recommended but not required).
Overall this was the highlight of our time in the Philippines. It’s a true adventure with the right mix of comfort and camping. It’s affordable and your money is going to a company that invests back into the local communities. You’ll learn all about their non-profit work during your trip, so you can feel good about supporting locals while swimming in the bluest water on earth! And of course, seeing the Philippines by island hopping without throngs of tourist crowds is an experience you’ll never forget!
Read my article published by World Nomads about village life in the Philippines.
Check out World Nomads Podcast Episode 16 – Philippines to hear me and others share our experiences and advice for traveling in the Philippines.
Don’t forget to check out my complete guide to the Mount Pinatubo Hike from Manila!
And read my complete three week Philippines itinerary for even more great information for planning your adventure!
Have you traveled with Tao or gone on sailing trips elsewhere in the world? Which trip did you do and what did you think? I definitely want to do something like this again so I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or contact me!