The ultimate guide of deserted island tour in the Philippines. Save and pin this on Pinterest so you can read and refer to it later!
We are sharing everything you need to know to prepare for your deserted island tour based on what we know from our experience. Deserted island tour is more than just island hopping and exploring different islands for the day. By going on a deserted island tour, you will have the opportunity to spend several nights on “deserted islands” while going from one big town to another (Coron to El Nido or El Nido to Coron).
Ben and I decided to go to the Philippines for our honeymoon in 2018. Since both of us love the ocean and enjoy to explore the underwater world, we focused on scuba diving and ocean-related activities when we did our research. One of the activities that we wanted to do was to go on deserted island tour between El Nido and Coron in the Palawan area of the Philippines. There are several different companies that offer this type of expedition and we went with Buhay Isla.
General Information about our deserted island tour ⇣
Why did we choose Buhay Isla?
We did not look at our options until last-minute and the expedition with Buhay Isla was the only one that still had availability. There are other providers that you can choose as well. One of the most famous ones is Tao expedition. Based on what we know, Tao has bigger boats, but that also means bigger groups. The expedition costs with Tao is about the same as Buhay Isla.
How much did it cost?
It costs 15500PHP/person for the 3 days 2 nights expedition which was the one that we chose. This includes meals, snacks, water, refreshments, deserted island accommodation, guides, crews, snorkel, and mask. The fee doesn’t include tips for the crew, transportation to and from the port, and accommodation before and after the expedition. The price for the 4 days and 3 nights expedition is 18500PHP/person, and it costs 22500PHP/person for 5 days and 4 nights. Buhay Isla also offers a private expedition that obviously costs more.
What payment method did they offer?
We sent the downpayment via PayPal and we received a receipt from them to confirm our spots on the expedition. One day before our departure day, we went to their office in Coron (since we did the Coron-El Nido expedition) by the port to pay the rest of the fee in cash. Please note that the port in Coron is a little bit away from the “downtown” near the marina by the dive shops. We learned the hard way and needed to catch a tricycle last minute to take us to the right port.
Length of trip
The shortest expedition from Coron to El Nido or El Nido to Coron was 3 days and 2 nights. They also have a 4D/3N option and even a 5D/4N if you are up for the adventure! We went for 3D/2N and it was the right length for us. If we didn’t need to move to a smaller boat and had better weather, we probably wouldn’t mind going for more days. If this is your first time and you’re not sure yet whether you’ll like to spend almost all day on a boat and sleep in a hut at night, we recommend for you to choose the 3D/2N.
Deserted island tour packing list
A complete packing list is available here!
How many people joined this deserted island tour?
Buhay Isla limits the number of clients up to 16 people and that is not including the boat crews.
What’s included in the deserted island tour?
3 meals/day, light snacks, filtered water, other beverages (coffee, tea, etc), snorkel, mask, accommodation on the island (hut w/ bed, pillow, and mosquito net), and kayak (though when we were there, none of us used the kayak without the crew.
When is the best time to visit?
Coron and El Nido are located in the Palawan area in the Philippines. It has two seasons: dry and wet season. The dry season starts in November through May. The wet season starts in June through October. We went in February and we mostly had good weather there. Visiting in the dry season would be what we recommend, but please note that it can also mean busy/high season for tourism. It can get crowded and prices for accommodation and flights might costs more than in the low season.
How was the deserted island tour?
Overall, it was a fun and interesting experience. We had some issues along the way, but the most important thing was that we made it to El Nido safely! Below you can see our itinerary during the trip.
Itinerary – Day 1
We met at the port in Coron at around 8:30 am. The crew helped us with the check-in process and took our bigger luggage to store it underneath the boat. There were 12 people including us + the crews on our expedition. Once we got on the boat, the trip leader introduced himself and gave us all of the important information that we needed to know about the expedition. The boat was a pretty decent size boat and had an indoor/covered section where I spent most of my time in the afternoon to keep myself out of the sun.
Around noon, the chef prepared and cooked our lunch on the boat. Once lunch was ready, they brought all the food to the upper deck area and explained the dish. We had fish, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. It was pretty good! You can always let them know before the trip if you have any diet restrictions. We used this time to chat with other people in the group and get to know them better. It’s always fun to meet new people especially since we were going to spend three nights together.
After lunch, we made our first stop at a beautiful sandbar.
We had the option to stay on the boat, snorkel, or hang out on the sand bar. That was our first sand bar experience, so we were pretty excited. We put on our mask, snorkel, and fins and jumped off the boat. We snorkel for a little bit and then swam towards the sand bar and hang out there for a little bit before swimming back to the boat.
They provided complimentary snorkel and mask to use during the expedition, but we brought our own masks, snorkels, and fins. We prefer to use our own gears because everything is already set to our preference and we know how to use it well. We spent a pretty good amount of time on the first stop before continuing the journey to deserted island #1 where we spent our first night.
Unfortunately, the boat was having some issues with its stirring wheel and that delayed our journey when we were en route to our first island that evening. Some of the crews needed to tie some ropes to maneuver the boat manually. It was getting late in the day and we really didn’t want to be stranded in the middle of the ocean in the dark, so the situation was pretty intense. They managed to get the situation under control at least to get us safely to our first island for the night. The amazing sunset really helped us to relax given the circumstances. Watching the sunset from the boat was truly a magical experience.
Once we arrived on the first island, we had the option to access our bigger bags if we want to before going to the shore. I chose to not ask for my bag because I had everything that I needed and I felt bad to ask the crews for it. They needed to open the storage door underneath the boat and open each plastic bag that they use to wrap each bag. That evening, the tide was pretty low, so the boat couldn’t get too close to the shore. We needed to take turns to get on to the kayak with the crew to get to the shore. There were some crews that were stationed on the island and were responsible to prepare our dinner and handle the sleeping arrangement. We were assigned to one of the huts on the island.
Inside the hut, we had a bed, pillows, and mosquito net. We had some time before dinner to take a shower after we dropped off our stuff in the hut. There was a shower area and bathroom on the island as well. So, we weren’t really staying on a “deserted island” which might be a good thing knowing what we know now. All of us had dinner together and that was a pretty nice way to end the night. When we got back to our hut and tried to get into our bed very quickly so we wouldn’t let any mosquitos in. That night we had a thunderstorm and I didn’t sleep very well. The rain sounded really loud from inside the hut and I felt like the hut was about to collapse (it was just in my head though!)
Itinerary – Day 2
The weather was pretty bad in the morning, so we had a late start. The crew leader wasn’t sure whether or not we could leave the island that day, so there was a possibility that we might need to stay another night on the same island. Since there was nothing we can do about it, all of us had breakfast and hang out together. The weather got better in the late morning/almost noon. Luckily, all of us already packed up our stuff, so we proceeded to go back to the boat.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to fix the boat that we used the day before. They sent a smaller replacement boat, so we were kind of cramped together on the boat. We definitely like the previous boat better, but we didn’t have any option. Instead of waiting for the crews and the kayak to get back to the boat, we decided to snorkel to the boat and send our stuff with the kayak to the boat. There were many small fish, so it was pretty fun to snorkel back to the boat.
After everybody got on board, we proceeded to the next island. I tend to get seasick on smaller boats, so I was really struggling the rest of the trip when we were on the boat (which was most of the time) haha what an experience! We stopped at a remote beach and we had the option to stay on the boat, snorkel, hang out at the beach, or explore the beach. Ben and I decided to snorkel and also hang out at the beach.
On this snorkeling session, I saw my first lionfish! They swam so graciously, yet they are pretty dangerous because they are venomous. We saw so many blue starfish and we even saw one that had more than five arms! After snorkeling around, we got to the shore and hang out at the beach. I enjoy finding beautiful seashells on the shore. I remember that it was a really hot day and sunscreen definitely came in handy.
Due to the current, the boat needed to move to a new location. So, we had the opportunity to explore the little beach to get to the other side of it before we swam back to the boat. Everything was great until we got in the water and realized there was a good amount of jellyfish. I got stung several times and it kind of hurt. So, I tried to swim back to the boat as fast as I could. Other than jellyfish, we also had the opportunity to see a needlefish. Due to their “needle shape” (just like their name), we always kept our distance from it.
We had lunch on the boat again and explored some more islands and lagoon on our way to deserted island #2. On the way to deserted island #2, we stopped on one small populated island and visited the village on the island. We stopped by a minimarket on the island and got some snacks there. We appreciated the opportunity to see how the locals live. They were friendly and welcoming.
We arrived on island #2 earlier than when we got to island #1. We had the option to access our bigger luggage again before taking the kayak to the island. Since I was one of the first people who got to the island, I had the opportunity to pick whichever hut I wanted. I picked the one with a window overlooking the ocean.
This island also had a couple of bathrooms and showers. We had dinner together and tried to have a bonfire too, but it was too windy for a good fire. At this point, the whole group already bonded together pretty well.
Itinerary – Day 3
We woke up a little bit earlier than the rest of our group, so we decided to explore some parts of the island and take some photos. I felt that this island had a better view than island #1. Mostly because this island has lots of big rocks that we could climb on.
After having breakfast and packing up, we all headed back to the boat and continued our journey towards Coron. We made a couple of stops for snorkeling and swimming. One of the stops was at Cadlao Island. We didn’t swim all the way to the beach, we mostly swam around and jumped off of the top of the boat.
Although we decided not to make another stop because most of the people on the boat were ready to hit the land for good, we did make a quick stop at Nacpan Beach.
The current was really strong there. Every time I tried to catch my breath when I tried to swim to shore, a big wave would hit me right on my face. After some time, I just could not keep up and tried to ask for help in the middle of the ocean. Eric, one of the expedition members from the Netherland jumped right in and tried to help me. Without his help, I’m not sure how I would be because the kayak could not get me in time. That incident made our trip leader felt pretty stressed out, therefore he cut our trip to Nacpan Beach short.
We finally made it to El Nido in the late afternoon/early evening. After the crews unloaded our big bags from the boat, we took one group photo together. We also exchanged contact information and we are still in touch with some of them from the expedition.
The port in El Nido was about 10 minutes by motorbike to downtown El Nido. Our hotel was the opposite direction of downtown (about 5 minutes from the port). One couple had a hard time finding a tricycle to their hotel because their hotel was out of town. This is an important thing to consider when booking an accommodation in El Nido (at least for the first night). The last thing you want is to be stranded and figure out a last-minute accommodation option. Overall, it was a special experience and we would recommend it to you. Please make sure to come prepared!