So, you finally landed in the Philippines after a long exhausting series of flights or you’re currently living in Manila and are looking for a weekend escape. Regardless of your current situation, bottom line is you are in a desperate need of white sand beaches and palm trees. Well, the Honda Bay Island Hopping option is for you.
Where is Honda bay?
You will find Honda Bay in the island of Palawan. While the main attractions revolve around El Nido and Coron, Palawan still has a lot to offer. Unless you are heading directly to Coron, or El Nido, providing your budget allows it (direct flights from Manila to El Nido are quite expensive), you will most likely land in Puerto Princesa (Palawan’s capital and main port of entry).
Located 30 mins North of Puerto Princesa, Honda Bay hosts several islands where you can go around and enjoy all kind of activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming or tanning (yes it counts as an activity! 😉)
How to get to Puerto Princesa
- By air
Make sure to book at least one or two months prior to your travel dates as prices tend to increase fast. Flight costs start as low as PHP 2,000 (US $40) but can climb up beyond PHP 8,000 (US $160) when getting close to the travel dates.
Personally, we recommend Cebu Pacific over Philippines Airlines as they seem to be cheaper most of the time.
- By Sea
The cheapest way to reach Puerto Princesa is taking the ferry using 2GO travel. However, it will take you a little over 30 hours to reach Puerto Princesa, and they only have departures every 3 days.
When comparing the price of a ticket for the ferry vs. the price of an early flight ticket with Cebu Pacific, we think paying a little more for the flight is definitely worth it…unless you love cruises and have extra time to spare.
Since 2GO travel has no ferry connections between Cebu and Puerto Princesa, the only option is to fly via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines.
Getting to Honda Bay
There are two options available: you can book a tour (most hotels in Puerto Princesa offer their clients tour packages) or you can do it yourself.
Obviously, we decided to do it ourselves so we don’t depend on others for timings.
It is recommended to take the whole day to enjoy the Island-hopping tour, however we were able to squeeze it in one afternoon.
As mentioned above, the bay is 30 mins north of the city. You can rent a tricycle for the whole day for PHP 500 (US $10). It will take you to the port and will wait for your return. You can ask your driver to stop at one of the stalls to rent snorkeling gears prior to arriving to the port. Most likely he will suggest it to you.
Once we arrived at the port, you can rent a boat from PHP 1,000 – 1,500 (US $20-30) depending on you tour you are choosing. You will have to pay environmental fees. As of February 2017, the fees were raised from PHP 40 (US $0.70) to PHP 150 (US $3).
Also note that each island has an entrance fee that varies between PHP 50-75 (US $1-1.5) except for Pandan Island. You won’t pay the fees if you decide to skip the island.
Now that you are ready, let’s see which island are available.
The Islands in Honda Bay:
- Pandan Island: The best of all. Beautiful powdery white sand beach, nice cottages to relax, many activities available (kayaking, Snorkeling…), you should definitely stop at this one. The entrance fee is PHP 150 (US $3) and you can rent cottages for PHP 500 (US $10).
- Snake Island: Named after its shape, the island is good for a picnic and has several huts along the shoreline.
- Luli Island: A sandbar visible during low tide.
- Starfish Island: The name speaks for itself. You will encounter many starfish while snorkeling or by the shoreline.
- Cowrie Island: An island with a bar at the center. Perfect to enjoy the sunset with some cocktails.
- Pambato reef: A platform from where you can snorkel in the reefs.
- Dos Palmas Island: The most beautiful island in Honda Bay. However it is privately owned and you will have to book a whole day tour just for this island.
Our Honda Bay tour
After renting our snorkeling gear for PHP 150 (US $3), we headed to the port where we booked a tour for PHP 1,300 (US $25), excluding environmental fees.
Our tour was offering 5 island options but we were only allowed to set foot on 3 out of the 5 available.
- Island 1: Snake Island
It didn’t look really appealing from the boat so we decided to skip this island and head straight for Pambato Reef.
- Island 2: Pambato Reef
This island was a major disappointment. It is just a platform with limited zones to snorkel among dead coral with very little sea life. Needless to say, we regretted choosing that island and highly advise you skip it.
- Island 3: Pandan Island
The best island of the tour by far. The entrance fees are a little higher than the other islands but all worth it. We even got a cottage for free. The island has many activities and we spent most of the time relaxing and swimming there.
- Island 4: Cowrie Island
The island has nothing special except being a good spot for the sunset. This was our 3rd stop and we enjoyed cocktails while catching a beautiful sunset. The downside: the island was really crowded.
- Island 5: Starfish Island
Since we already reached our threshold of islands, we couldn’t stop at Starfish Island. Besides, it was getting dark so our boat had to head back to the port. You should know that the sun sets early in the Philippines (around 5:30pm) and we only started our tour in the beginning of the afternoon instead of the whole day.
Once we arrived at the port, our tricycle driver was there to pick us up.
Here is a recap of how much we spent on the Honda Bay Island Hopping tour:
|Tricycle for a day||Php 500 or US $10 (divided between the number of people)|
|Snorkeling gear rental||Php 150/Pax or US $3/Pax|
|Honda Bay tour||Php 1300 or US $25 (divided between the number of people)|
|Environmental fees (as of 2017)||Php 150/Pax or US $3/Pax|
|Entrance fee Pandan island||Php 150/Pax or US $3/Pax|
|Entrance fee Cowrie island||Php 50/Pax or US $1/Pax|
|Entrance fee Pambato Reef||Php 75/Pax or US $1.5/Pax|
|Drinks and food||Php 800/Pax or US $15/Pax|
|Total (based on 2 people)||Php 2,275/Pax or US $50/Pax|
If you’re on a tight budget, you can cut the costs by not ordering as many cocktails as we did. 😉
Honda Bay is perfect if you are spending a weekend in Puerto Princesa, or if you have extra time to spare while traveling around Palawan. Although we are beach lovers, we would recommend the Underground River tour, which is more unique, over Honda Bay if you can only choose one. We think there are better places to go island hopping around Palawan.
Have you tried one of the Honda Bay tours? Do you find this article useful? Do not hesitate to share your experiences and feedback with us! We’d love to hear from you! 😉