“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

Puerto Princesa: D.I.Y. Island Hopping in Honda Bay

Our last day in Puerto Princesa was dedicated entirely for an island hopping experience in Honda Bay. Again, we contacted Ricky Cayapas to provide transport services to bring us from the hotel to the Bay and back. On the way, we rented snorkels (PhP 150 each) and aqua shoes (PhP 150 per pair). Tip: Don’t bother renting aqua shoes — it was useless. Another tip: Rent from the ones along the highway to Honda Bay — these are sterilized and seemed to be of better quality than those in the Honda Bay port.

While I was a bit anxious about organizing a do-it-yourself tour in Honda Bay, I had little choice. We were only five in the group, and joining a group tour where we’d have to compromise time to spend in the islands wasn’t too appealing to me. So, I took my chances.

Upon arriving at the port, there’s an open-air terminal where you’d have to pay for the boat and other fees. You’d have to get a number at the entrance, then walk to the windows where the payments are processed. First, you pay for the boat: (PhP 1500), then for the environmental fee (PhP 40 per person), then the terminal fee (can’t remember exactly but it was less than PhP 50). Then, go to the wharf and wait for your boat. The dispatchers display the boat number using the boards, and you have to compare it with what’s on your paper. If you’re confused, it always easier to ask. 🙂 Off we were to a day of sun, sand and beaches!

Our first stop was Cowrie Island. Entrance was PhP 75 per person. If you head to the beach seeking for peace and quiet, this island will provide you all the tranquility that you need. There were just a few people around, perhaps because we arrived there before noon. It’s perfect for lazing around the sand the entire day. There’s not much to do, except to swim or snorkel, but there’s very little to see when you snorkel.

Cowrie Island, Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Welcome to Cowrie Island!

Cowrie Island, Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

My brother and I after snorkeling in Cowrie Island

We headed then to Pandan Island. Entrance was PhP 100 per head, plus the rental of a table with umbrella of PhP 300. You can opt for a nipa hut costing PhP 500.

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Seeing the bay set against the mountains while riding the boat

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Another view of Honda Bay

Managed by the Legend Hotel Puerto Princesa, this island is the most developed among all the others. It provides you with a wider array of activities, yet it also spelled that this island was crowded compared to the rest.

We planned to grab our lunch there, knowing that there were stalls selling seafood and having them cooked for you. But, having arrived a little late for lunch, there weren’t too many options left. I remember just eating grilled fish, mantis shrimp (not sure if the translation is right, but it was alupihang dagat), crabs, and some kind of shells which made my throat itch. All in all, it was a good meal, except that it took such a long time for the food to arrive.

The sea is perfect for snorkeling, since it has an abundant assortment of fish. In fact, you can even feed the fishes! But if you are like me who likes snorkeling better than fish feeding, you can always snorkel around the area where somebody feeds the fishes, and it will surely be a feast for your eyes! I departed from the cluster of people, and soon found my feet getting warm, suggesting that I was in a deeper part of the sea. The entire experience was amazing: seeing corals of different shapes and sizes, while some fishes crossing their paths with yours!

Our last stop was Pambato Reef. Entrance was PhP 50 per person. I thought that we’d just jump into the water from the boat, then swim our way around. I didn’t expect that they’d create a structure to serve as a staging area for the swimmers.

Pambato Reef, Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

The jump-off point for people who will snorkel in Pambato Reef

Anyway, snorkeling here was more restricted compared to the others. I seemed to me that they do not allow people to snorkel without a life vest. Surprisingly, we needed to be guided by one of our boatmen. He got a buoy for me and my brother to hold on to so that he can direct us around. While I was already impressed with what I saw in Pandan Island, it was nothing compared to what I saw in Pambato Reef. That was the most spectacular marine life I’ve ever seen! There weren’t a lot of fishes, but the corals were fantastic! It surely was the best way to end the island hopping experience.

The other islands that you can visit are Snake Island, which boasts of a long coast line, Starfish Island, where an abundance of starfishes can be found, and Luli Island, one of the few islands that gets submerged in water whenever it’s high tide.

All in all, we paid a little more than five thousand pesos for the day (excluding the snorkel and shoe rentals). Not only is it cheaper compared to joining a group tour for PhP 1300 per head, or PhP 6500 in our case, but it also provided us with a boat to utilize as we wished.

Item Price
Van Rental          1,200
Boat plus fees          1,750
Cowrie Island entrance (5 pax)             375
Pandan Island entrance (5 pax)             500
Pandan Island table rental             300
Lunch             880
Fresh coconut (5 pieces)             100
Pambato Reef entrance (2 pax)             100
TOTAL          5,205

I promised myself that I would end this post by making an appeal to all those who will go there. Please give something to your boatmen. There are usually two per boat, and each one gets only 10% of the boat rental: PhP 150, less than USD 4. It made me sick when I first learned this, knowing that I shelled out the same amount for my snorkel rental. Please be kind. If you are in anyway pleased with their services, give them something. Thank you in advance.

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Meet one of our boat men. He’s also the one who snorkeled with us in Pambato Reef.

Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Meet our other boatman, or more appropriately, the captain of the boat.

I’ll talk about the restaurants in Palawan on my next post.

Happy travels everyone!

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41 comments on “Puerto Princesa: D.I.Y. Island Hopping in Honda Bay

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  4. Kavita Joshi
    April 21, 2013

    wow..what a trip..thanks a lot for sharing

    • Karen
      April 21, 2013

      If you happen to go to the Philippines, visit Palawan! It’s one of the best provinces in the country 🙂 Thanks for dropping by too!

      • Kavita Joshi
        April 21, 2013

        wow..I would dear.never been there ,,its on my list..thanks a lot

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  6. Larissa
    May 3, 2013

    At what time did you start and end the island hopping? 🙂

    • Karen
      May 7, 2013

      We were there at around 8:30 am. Since we had to wait for the boat, we probably left the terminal at 9 am. We left the place at around 4 pm. The duration of the trip depends on you — which islands to go to and how much time you’d spend on each one. That’s the beauty of renting an entire boat!

      Hope you have a great time in Puerto Princesa! 🙂

  7. Maribel
    May 27, 2013

    Hi Karen, I am glad I saw your blog on Honda Bay! Checking out our options for our trip in Jan 2014… We are a party of 9 adults. What is the max capacity of the boats? Can we fit in? Are there entrance fees in all the Island? Why did you choose these 3 islands over Snake, Starfish and Luli? Thanks a lot!

    • Karen
      May 27, 2013

      Hi Maribel,

      I think that the regular boat can fit all of you. There were also bigger boats for bigger groups, but I’m not sure how much they cost. Just let the people at the terminal know how many you are, and they’ll assign an appropriately-sized boat for you.

      Yes, there are entrance fees in the islands. It varies from PhP 30 – 100 per person.

      I would recommend that you visit Pambato Reef. It’s really beautiful. We went to Pandan since we have no food with us, and they serve lunch, plus the island boasts of a lot of fish to see while snorkeling. One of the islands was closed — not sure if it was Snake or Starfish. We passed by Luli, but it didn’t look interesting so we didn’t dock anymore.

      Hope this helps. Happy travels! 🙂

      • Maribel
        May 28, 2013

        Thank you Karen! We will do a DIY of Honda bay too and see the Pambato Reef!

        • Karen
          May 28, 2013

          Enjoy! One more tip though, bring an underwater camera! I regret not being able to capture the beauty under the sea. Happy travels! 🙂

      • Jamaima Albeos
        August 11, 2013

        Hi karen, do you have contact numbers for your van and boat rental?? We’re going to palawan this october and still have no idea what other things to do aside from underground river tour and island hopping?? Any suggestion? Hehe thanks

        • Karen
          August 11, 2013

          Hi Jamaima,

          We didn’t have a contact for the boat. Just show up at the terminal and they will assign one for you.

          I recommend the services of Mr. Ricky Cayapas. His contact numbers can be found here:

          The underground river and Honda Bay are the highlights of my Puerto Princesa trip. The first time I visited the province, I did a city tour. There’s the Crocodile Park, the Mitra Ranch and Baker’s Hill to see.

          It actually depends on how long you are planning to stay in Palawan. If you have the time, why not visit El Nido? It’s five to six hours by land from Puerto Princesa, but the beaches are absolutely breath-taking!

          Just let me know if you need more details. Happy travels! 🙂

  8. Phoebs
    June 14, 2013

    Hi Karen,

    We will have 4 day vacation in Palawan. Agencies rate are quite high compared if we will just DIY. Can you recommend accommodation good for 18 pax? Thanks!

    • Karen
      June 14, 2013

      Hi Phoebs,

      For Puerto Princesa, I recommend both hotels I’ve stayed in.

      Balai Felicisima has reasonable rates — P1400 for a room for two plus P400 for an extra bed. It’s walking distance from the highway where you can get a tricycle to bring you almost anywhere in the city. http://www.balaifelicisima.com/rooms.html

      Palo Alto Bed and Breakfast is a bit more upscale. I love that it has a swimming pool. It has rooms good for around 8 pax, but I’m not sure of the rates. Contact them here for details: http://paloalto.ph/

      Services of both hotels are superb. Hope you have a great weekend in Palawan! 🙂

  9. fourth
    June 30, 2013

    this is a big help for us
    me and my fiance planning to visit honda bay on july 29
    our plane arrival is 9am
    can we go directly visit to honda bay with that time?.

    • Karen
      June 30, 2013

      Yes, I think so. The airport is very near the city center (about 5 minutes), and from the center to the wharf is about 15 minutes. Besides, you have until 4 or 5 pm to hop around the islands. 🙂

      Hope this helps. Thanks for dropping by, and happy travels!

  10. fourth
    July 1, 2013

    thank you so much 🙂

  11. Hana
    August 12, 2013

    Great blog Ms.Karen, nice!

    • Karen
      August 12, 2013

      Thank you, Hana, for the kind words! 🙂

  12. Barry
    August 18, 2013

    Hi Karen,

    Great blog; I enjoyed reading it! Keep up the good work!

    A few comments for those that want to go island hopping in Honda Bay:

    – To avoid disappointment to those that would like to visit Snake Island: this island is currently closed to visitors (and has been for a while now).

    – Depending on the number in your party; consider going to Honda Bay by jeepney/multicab – it cuts down the transportation cost! A multi-cab from Bayan (downtown) to the wharf is around 30 pesos p.p. one-way. Multicabs that go to the wharf are signed Sta. Lourdes and/or Honda Bay Port.

    Kind regards from PPC,


    • Karen
      August 18, 2013

      Thanks Barry for the additional info!

      Happy travels! 🙂

      • Barry
        August 18, 2013

        You are very welcome, Karen! Am going island hopping again this week (I’m fortunate enough that the islands are only a 10-minute jeepney ride away from my home hehehe). Next destination; El Nido in September… Am looking forward to it!

        Wishing you happy travels too, and thanks again for writing this excellent blog,

        (like yourself a travel enthusiast!)

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  14. Marjorie
    September 20, 2013

    Hi Karen,

    Your blog is very informative. Thank you for sharing your experience to us. I’m planning to head PP this coming October on a DIY trip with my family. I would probably hire an agency to see the underground river as most reviews mentioned that getting permits and passes will cause tourists tremendous delay. However, I would want to plan the island hopping myself. I kinda don’t understand how the boat rental works in PP. I remember my trip to Coron, Palawan last 2012. We hired a boat for i think 3000 for a day and we can go to whatever nearby island we want to go to. It’s a different rate for malcapuya island though, as that is a really far one.

    I wanna know if I could hire a boat good for 6 pax in PP. If so, how much you think it would cost me? thank you very much.

    • Karen
      September 21, 2013

      Hi Marjorie,

      The boat rental was around PhP1700, about a year ago. This is good for your entire group. You’d have to pay for the entrance fees to the island separately, though.

      Don’t miss the Pambato Reef! It simply is a must. Also, be kind to your boat men -they only get 20% of the rental.

      Lastly, bring your own snorkel or rent on the way. These are sterilized and have better quality.

      Happy travels! 🙂

  15. Mark Zammit
    November 14, 2013

    Hi Karen,

    Great blog, thanks for sharing.

    Planning to be in puerto princesa in January 2014 for 4 nights with my wife.

    Any idea if this kind of boat rental is also available for just 2 adults?



    • Karen
      November 15, 2013

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, I’ve seen just two people on the boat. You just have to rent out the entire boat, though.

      Hope you have a great trip! 🙂

  16. Stephani
    December 27, 2013

    Hi! Can I have to contact number of Ricky? It’s only van rental right? We need transport to Honda Bay when we visit next year and figured renting a van would be more economical than renting 2 tricycles for our group. Thanks!

    • Karen
      December 27, 2013

      Hi Stephani! You may contact him through 09158003818, 09178443818 or 09282661234. Enjoy your Palawan trip!

  17. Jen Sta. Ana-Lobitana
    January 29, 2014

    my husband and I are scheduled to go to Puerto Prinsesa this summer, do you think it would be wiser to do a DIY Honda bay tour even if just the two of us? I find the packages I saw online very steep, and we want to have freedom while on an island hopping trip, i fear (exaggerated) being with pasaway tourmates hehe…

    • Karen
      January 31, 2014

      Hi Jen,

      Sorry for the late reply. I think that the best way to explore Honda Bay is through a private boat, where you don’t have to consider your travel companions’ wants. Nothing beats having a boat at your command.

      If you want to save some money, you could just hire a a tricycle to bring you to Honda Bay, instead of hiring an entire van. It would be cheaper, but it might be less comfortable.

      Don’t miss out Pambato Reef. Enjoy your time in Palawan! 🙂

  18. leahlarkin
    February 24, 2014

    A wonderful destination. Thanks for liking my blog.

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  20. Regina
    March 21, 2014

    I am planning on going to Puerto Princesa in June. There will be 12 of us. We are scheduled to be there for 4 days and 3 nights. We were thinking of staying at Daluyon Beach Resort which is in Sabang. Do you recommend or have heard of this place? My only concern is, i really want to visit beautiful islands like the ones in El nido. do you recommend i stay in Sabang the entire time or split with El Nido? Or is Puerto Princesa hopping tours enough? We plan to go zip line & underground river in puerto princess.
    Love the info you shared on the boat rentals. I think we will rent the whole boat for our group. it sounds like the best option since we have 4 kids and 8 adults with us.

    • Karen
      March 21, 2014

      Hi Regina,

      I would advise against staying in Sabang. As far as I remember, the beach wasn’t open for swimming (or if it was, it was for a limited time during the day only). The resort you referred is also not beach-front. Sheridan is, but I didn’t see Daluyon on the coast.

      I would also advise against splitting your time between El Nido and Puerto Princesa, as these two places are very far from each other. If you could allot all of those four days to El Nido, it would be feasible to enjoy your time there. Otherwise, just stay in Puerto Princesa. I highly recommend Honda Bay (especially Pambato Reef). Try Cowrie Island for a more private island than Pandan.

      Hope you enjoy your time in Palawan! Happy travels! 🙂

  21. Erica Jeniece
    March 31, 2014

    appreciate your diy guide at honda bay for a budget of 5 adults do you know if its worth eat buffet or paluto

    • Karen
      April 1, 2014

      Paluto such as you ask the boatman bring food to the island or you buy them there? We just bought the food from Pandan island. It was good but not exactly the cheapest. 🙂

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2013 by in Palawan, Philippines, Travel and tagged , , , , , .
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