How to Island Hop in Fiji

Fiji invokes images of picture perfect white sandy beaches, azure blue water, and chilled Island vibes. If you get out of Nadi, this is definitely the case.

How to get to the Islands

There is really only one company you can use to physically get between the various Islands – Awesome Adventures. They run the only daily boat from the Port at Denanru through the Yasawa island group. You can buy a pass for this boat which covers all your transfers between the Islands for the duration of your stay.  There are other options if you want to stay at just a few Islands rather than hop between.  

They also offer a Combo pass which includes all your accommodation in either 1 or 2 coconut rated resorts. If you book a 1 coconut pass, your food is also included. In the 2 coconut resorts you often pay an additional meal plan of up to 130 FJD per person per night. On balance, the 1 coconut options are absolutely fine for backpackers on an budget.

Sounds Awesome Right?

In theory, you can book your next resort when you get on the boat. In practise, you should do it a few days in advance, no matter what they say on the boat or via email – especially in high season. We were there in low season and twice there was no availability on the island we wanted to go to.  In the end we starting asking the resorts to book, or phoning ourselves.

So, not actually that awesome.  Because Awesome charge quite a bit more than the resort would direct for accommodation. They also do, at least in our case very little for the extra they charge you.  It seems they also take quite a bit in commission from the properties.

So, our recommendation would be to book your accommodation options directly.  The properties see more of your money this way. Given that the 1 Coconut resorts are all Fijian owned and mainly ran by families this an only be a good thing. – this can usually be done via Facebook.

Things to note re 1 coconut properties: 

  • Electricity: Is not 24 x 7 and not always in your room. Where there is 24 x 7 electricity, it is often in a shared place. If you have electricity in your room or dorm it will be at set times of the day
  • Water: Despite the fact that Fiji has the tastiest water in the world, there is really a water shortage in the Islands. You should expect to buy water in the resorts and you should expect it to cost more than it does on the mainland, because of the freight costs to get it to the Islands. We paid 8FJD in one resort for a 1.5l bottle of water. If you are going for a few days, then it is feasible to buy water on the mainland and take it with you. If you are going for longer than 4 days I’m not sure it is worth the extra hassle. They do sell water on the boat for less than 5FJD though if you need to buy some and aren’t willing to pay the higher prices in the resorts.
  • Dry season: If you go in the middle of dry season you should expect there to be water restrictions for showers etc. But fear not, because there is always an enormous swimming pool next to the beach.
  • Bugs: I don’t mean ants, mosquitos, and flies. If you have an issue with them you really should just entirely avoid the tropics. But, I am terrified in an entirely irrational way of spiders. Even the tiny ones. Fiji has Huntsman and Tarantulas, and we encountered both in unacceptable sizes for someone has terrified of them as I am. They are not poisonous. They did not attack me in my sleep. Everything was fine

About the 1 Coconut resorts

We had a 21 day Combo pass which covers food, travel and accommodation in an double room for 20 nights. In hindsight, 2 weeks would have been more than enough so the first piece of advice we’d give anyone is don’t Island hop for more than 2 weeks.

We had the opportunity to use all of the 5 of the 6 resorts in that time.

Waya LaiLai Ecohaven

This is a property owned and run by the local village. The Bure are spacious, you get towels, a furnished balcony and a decent shower. The food is plentiful, and reasonably varied. The people are really friendly.

Plus, you can snorkel with white tip reef sharks from here for the princely sum of 60FJD

Nabua Lodge

This is the biggest 1 coconut resort in the Yasawas and holds up 80 guests. There is entertainment each evening, the bar is open until 10pm, or whenever you stop drinking. They run a large number of different activities each day and the food is really good.  The bures are comfortable and spacious.

White Sandy Beach Resort

The beach is nice, the Bures are reasonably well furnished, which a cute outside shower area in each. The people are really nice & make an effort to get people involved so it has more of a social atmosphere. But, the food was bland, and there wasn’t enough of it. One morning for breakfast they put out cereal, but no milk. One lunch was boiled rice and vegetable super noodles. If you are a foodie, this is not the place for you.

Gold Coast Inn

Set on a really windy beach, which is perfect when the sun is beating down. It is a really pretty resort. Small and very homely. There is no electricity in the rooms but there is 24 x 7 electricity in the main lounge. The bures are set above the beach so you have great views. The family who run this place are amazing. The food was the best we had. You can also walk across to the other side of the island and snorkel the famous blue lagoon for free. The owner even gave Steve a haircut whilst we were there. 

Long Beach Resort

Another family run resort – The people are really friendly. The food is really favourful. The bures are enormous. The kids are super cute. The reef around the back of the island is huge, and has great snorkelling which costs $15 each. It’s a very relaxed and chilled atmosphere but if the right group of people are staying it can be lively in the evenings as well.

Whichever of these Islands you go to, you can be assured of a warm Fijian welcome and the best hospitality you can imagine. Enjoy!

How to Island Hop in Palawan, The Philippines

 

Island Hopping is big business in the Philippines. Every town in Palawan will offer you a range of day tours ranging from Lagoons to wreck snorkelling. Instead of giving you a whole low down on the different ones available (you can google that!) we thought an overview of key things to note and how to make the best choice would be more useful.

Some basics

Can you swim? I know, it sounds like a stupid question. We went on a Lagoon tour in El Nido – this is essentially get on boat, go to 4 lagoons, go to a beach. It’s not an activity that you should do if you can’t swim. Three girls joined who not only could not swim, but were absolutely petrified of water. They freaked out when in a foot of water. They even kept their life jackets on when we stopped at a beach for an entire hour. I have no clue why they put themselves through the stress

Big Lagoon - El Nido

Sea Sickness

The boats get pretty rocky if the water isn’t calm. If you get motion sickness, get some tablets. The pharmacies in the Philippines are often out of these, so take some with you just in case. Incidentally, the ones you can by in the Philippines tend to be for vertigo as well as seasickness & they work really really well so if you can get some, buy some!

The dreaded tourist fee/Environment tax

The Philippines are big fans of tourist fees. You will pay fees ranging for 50 to 200 pesos in each town – in Palawan alone we paid 5 environment taxes (El Nido, Sibaltan, Nacpan, Coron, Port Barton). Bear these in mind when it comes to budgeting.

Don't Book in Advance

There are many tour operators to choose from in each town. Do not book before you go – they are all much cheaper to book when you get there. In El Nido and Coron there are multiple Island hopping itineraries. Its often cheaper to book more than one island hoping tour through the same operator as they keep a record of you tourist fee payment & deduct this from the 2nd trip cost. Otherwise you can end up paying the fee twice. If you choose to book a second trip with a different company, make sure you get proof of your tourist fee payment.

Don’t pay over the odds

Viewpoint at Coron

Even the budget tours generally include pick up & a really decent lunch (if you like fish). Drop off is often not included, but transport is easy to arrange & often not necessary. Basically there is very little reason to pay a whole lot extra for the standard Island Hopping tours. They are all very similar. The more expensive ones often include Snorkel gear but you can rent this easily from your hostel for less. Alternatively if you plan to do a lot of snorkelling whilst in the Philippines buying your own before you arrive will doubtless save you money. Be aware that in Coron they often won’t let you out on the boat unless you have water shoes, so its definitely worth having your own.

Get off the beaten track & go private

If you stay in some of the smaller towns in Palawan they often do very reasonable private island hopping tours. These generally take you to islands which are not on the commercial itineraries. We took one in Sibaltan which was about 400 pesos (£7) more than a tour from El Nido town for 2 of us. We got to spend all day going to completely deserted islands. In Port Barton, we were on a tour with one other couple, and again, there was no one around on any of the Islands we visited. The trade off? Off the beaten track in the Philippines is REALLY off the beaten track. Power for a few hours at night, limited or no internet, and generally a hot, bumpy, dusty journey to get there. Always worth it though.

Tours we'd recommend

Sibaltan: We stayed at Bayog Beach Campsite & their private Island Hopping tour was such good value for money.

Port Barton: Harmony Haven Hostel do a fixed price Island Hopping tour which takes you to some of the lesser known islands.

El Nido  – Tour A – which covers most of the Lagoons is amazing

Coron – Reefs and Wrecks, if the weather is good.  You need decent visibility to see the wrecks in particular.

Check out more of our 30 Photos from the Philippines here

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