Pambato Reef, Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

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.

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.

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Seeing the bay set against the mountains while riding the boat

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.

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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!