Pasir Timbul – the Most Beautiful Beach I’ve ever seen

Pasir Timbul – the Most Beautiful Beach I’ve ever seen

In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the sea, there lies a little island that is hidden to many. For a few hours a day, when the tide is low, this little island emerges out of the ocean. This is Pasir Timbul in Raja Ampat, which literally translates into “emerging sands” beach.

Pair Timbal, Raja Ampat - the most beautiful beach I've seen

Pair Timbal, Raja Ampat – the most beautiful beach I’ve seen

I spent around one hour in Pasir Timbul and trust me when I say this – I went a little crazy here when I saw the beauty. It felt like the “travel Gods” rewarded me with this beach to help me with my search of the most beautiful beach in the world.

Where is Pasir Timbul

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat, Indonesia - my photo by Noah Stammbach (zeebachi)

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat, Indonesia – my photo by Noah Stammbach (zeebachi)

Pasir Timbul is in Raja Ampat and is a 20-minute boat ride from Arborek village, or 30 minutes from Wisai. Raja Ampat is in West Papua Island in Indonesia.

How to reach Pasir Timbul

The easiest way to reach here is by booking a boat from Arborek village or Wisai, capital of Raja Ampat. You can ask your resort / guesthouse to book it for you. Due to the water levels, the boats can’t reach the sand patches. The point where the boat stops, you need to swim or walk to the sand patches.

First View - Pasir Timbul from the boat

First View – Pasir Timbul from the boat. This is where we jumped into the water to head to the beach

Note: The little islands of Pasir Timbul are only visible for a few hours. Make sure you double check with your tour operator to find out if they are aware of the specific times to visit. You can book a tour now by sending an email here – marketing@pantaisariringgung.com

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat – the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat - the most beautiful beach

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat – the most beautiful beach

You can call it an island or a beach, but these are literally sand patches that emerge out of the ocean when the tide is low.

My friends Val, Hanni and Fikri on a sandbar on Pasir Timbul

My friends Val, Hanni and Fikri on a sandbar on Pasir Timbul

The sand here is sugary white and soft. The water is crystal clear and very blue. It is so clear that it is possible to see the bottom of the sea. You don’t even need to carry a snorkel here because the visibility is amazing. But I do recommend you carry one to see the underwater beauty. These sand banks don’t have any animals or vegetation that is visible.

Just look at that water! - Pasir Timbal, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Just look at that water! – Pasir Timbal, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

The time when I visited, there were 3 sand patches, two of which were connected via a sandbar. The biggest sand patch was kidney shaped and the smaller one was triangular. These islands (or sand patches) were perhaps only about 100-150 square meters big. The waves were visible on all the three sides. The shapes of these islands change regularly because they get covered by water and emerge out a little different than before.

Pasir Timbal, Raja Ampat

At this time I went a little crazy with joy – Pasir Timbal, Raja Ampat

Tips for Visiting Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat

01 | Carry a Waterproof Camera – In all likelihood, you will end up going through waist deep water to reach the sand patches. You should definitely not carry gadgets that aren’t waterproof. Get a GoPro or a waterproof case for your camera because you’re going to make a lot of photos here.

Me with my GoPro when the tide was high on Pasir Timbal beach - photo by Najii

Me with my GoPro when the tide was high on Pasir Timbal beach – photo by Najii

02 | Extra Sun Protection – There is no vegetation on Pasir Timbul beach and hence no shade. Extra sun protection by wearing a lot of sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasss will keep you comfortable.

03 | Clothes and Swimsuit – Don’t wear a lot of clothes because they will weigh you down and make you tired in case you need to swim back to the boat. Wear a comfortable swimsuit.

04 | Drinking Water – There are no cafes on this beach, so carry water and light snacks on your boat.

05 | Waterproof Bag – For those that don’t have waterproof cameras or GoPro cameras, buying a simple waterproof bag can solve all your problems.

Pasir Timbul - Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Najii, Naoko, Hikari and Gnta on Pasir Timbul beach, Raja Ampat
First view of Pasir Timbal, Raja Ampat
Pasir timbul beach, Raja Ampat, Indonesia - the most beautiful beach I've ever seen

Yes, Raja ampat’s Pasir Timbul is the most beautiful beach that I have ever seen. What about you?

Let me know in the comments.

A big thanks to the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia for inviting Drifter Planet to visit their beautiful country. 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Goa Travel Tips: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

Goa Travel Tips: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

Travel Tips to get the most out of your Goa visit

I’m sure by know you know that I absolutely LOVE Goa. I love it so much that I spent many hours a few days back in my attempt to create the most detailed guide on the internet to North Goa! Here are some essential Goa travel tips to help you get the most out of your visit to this glorious destination.

In the past few years, I have seen many Goa travel tips on different websites that say things like “carry a sunscreen” or “carry comfortable flat sandals or flip flops”. Yes, these tips are correct but don’t you think they are pretty darn obvious?  Of course if you’re visiting a beach destination, you’re going to have to carry sunscreen and flip flips. Anyway, I want to help the first time Goa visitors and have decided to share a little more insight about things you need to keep in mind before visiting Goa.

Here are Goa travel tips to help you get the most out of your visit to my favorites destination:

01 | When Not to Visit Goa

Goa doesn’t just have high and low seasons, but it also has a peak and moderate seasons. Here are some more details:

Mid January to February High Season Good to visit but rooms are expensive because of high demand
March to May Moderate Season Good time to visit. Shacks and beach bars begin shutting down for the season. Look out for season closing parties.
May to August Low Season Most of the shacks, beach bars are shut but it’s a good time to enjoy Goa’s rainy season
September to October Moderate Season Good time to visit. Shacks and beach bars begin opening up for the season. Look out for season opening parties.
November to Mid December High Season Good to visit but rooms are expensive because of high demand
Mid December to Mid January Peak Season Do not visit around this time. Room rates skyrocket. Lots of traffic jams and Goa loses its amazing vibe.

 

Low season is from May to mid-September, High is from November to the middle of December and the peak is from the middle of December to middle of January. Avoid visiting Goa during the peak season because you will waste a lot of time in traffic jams. If you must visit during this time, try to find the most secluded beaches. Chances are, even those beaches will not be secluded during the peak season.

02 | Where Not to Stay in Goa

I have mentioned this before and I want to mention this again – Goa offers way more than Calangute – Baga – Candolim or Anjuna beaches. Trust me, these above mentioned beaches are definitely some of the most crowded ones and no longer have a “Goa vibe”. For more details about where to stay, check out THIS post.

03 | You DON’T need to book a place to stay in advance, unless…

Unless you’re visiting very late at night and don’t have time to hunt for a bed, or you’re visiting at peak season, which is December 20 to January 5, I’d recommend you not to pre book your place. Most of the travel websites will brainwash you into booking a room, because they sell rooms on their websites or on a commission basis. If you book in advance, you miss out on places that don’t advertise on the internet but only through word of mouth.

04 | Save money from Goa Airport to your hostel / hotel

If you’re visiting Goa, most likely you’re going to arrive here by a flight. Unlike most of the India, tuk tuks are not so easily available in Goa. The cost of traveling in Goa is usually low except the taxis are expensive and unfortunately that’s the only mode of communication you will find at the airports. However, there is a way you can save money on your taxi fare. At the prepaid taxi counter queue just at the exit gate of the airport, just ask around and try to find fellow travelers that are heading to your direction. Most likely, you will easily find people to share a taxi with for your destination. This has always worked with me!

05 | Reaching Airport by bus

It is possible to get to the airport by bus. From North Goa (let’s say Morjim), take a tuk tuk (or taxi) to Silom or Mapusa bus stand and from there catch an express bus to Panjim (Panaji). From Panjim, you need to catch a bus to Vasco and it will drop you 2 KMs away from the airport. Make sure you let the bus driver know that you have to reach the airport because there’s no proper bus stop where they will drop you. Do this only if you’re ready to walk with your luggage. Keep in mind that the last bus from Panjim to Vasco departs at 7 and queue behind the ticket counter is usually massive, so take out extra 30 minutes or more for this. Similarly, if you’re in South Goa (let’s say Agonda), you need to take a tuk tuk to the nearest bus stand and then take a bus to Margao Bus Terminal. From Margao, board a bus (or Kadamba shuttle) to Vasco. Try finding a bus that goes from Maragao to Vasco via Majorda. Again, make sure you inform your driver that you need to get to the airport so that he can drop you to the nearest point.

Do this only if you have a lot of time before your flight. It took us 4 hours to travel from Vagator to the airport by bus.

06| Best way to Explore Goa

Goan Roads by Drifter Planet

The best way to explore Goa is by renting a scooter

If you like walking, you will only be able to explore your beach area and around. If you want to explore further, I’d recommend you rent a scooter. Exploring Goa on a rented scooter is the best and the most affordable option. These scooters are usually available for INR 200 – 300 per day. Please make sure you carry your driver’s license because there are many check points. It is possible to rent cars too but many spots can only be accessed by scooters or on foot.

07 | Where Not to Swim in Goa

In Goa, certain areas are marked by red flags which means it’s dangerous to swim there. The sea will appear to be calm but the undercurrents are powerful and dangerous. If you go inside, you will be transported to the open sea much faster than you can swim. These are the situations when people drown because they try to fight to current in their panic. Most likely, you will see a lot of people in the water already but please follow the rules and don’t be an idiot. Oh and on a side note, don’t swim in the stretch of ocean in front of Curlees and Shiva Valley of Anjuna because I have personally seen people puking in that water after Anjuna’s crazy parties.

08 | A tip about Goan Food

Goan Food - Crab Curry

Delicious Goan Food

You love Indian food? You’re going to LOVE Goan food. However, keep in mind that the Goan curries are spicier than most of the Indian curries. If you can’t handle spice, make sure you inform your restaurant staff to go easy on the chilies. I love spicy Goan food but San can’t handle the chili overdose.

09 | How not to get ripped off

Shopping in Goa is fun because of the variety of things that you can buy. Lamps, incense sticks, swim suits, clothes, jewelry, tea, spices, fruits – almost everything that you will possibly need will be available on the streets. While grocery stores have fixed prices, street shop vendors will hike the price up when they see that you’re not a local. To avoid getting ripped off, you need to learn how to haggle like a pro. As a rule of thumb, cut the quoted price in half and then negotiate your way to a middle figure. Do not forget to smile when you do this. If you find something unique at a high price, most likely its handmade and maybe it’s worth the price, so just buy it.

10 | Find the best parties

A PsyTrance party in Goa, psychedelic trance Goa

A PsyTrance party in Goa

Ok, so you have heard that Goa is the birthplace of psychedelic trance and you want to experience a typical old school Goa trance party. But how to find the best PsyTrance parties? Well, stay in Anjuna / Vagator area and just follow the music. There is usually a party every night. Ask around and you will find out. When you reach the party and if you every get hungry, you will definitely find affordable snacks right outside the parties. Outside every party are rows of Ammas (older mother-like women) with stoves selling cheese omelet buns, burgers, cigarette, water and tea. These Ammas usually know where is the next party so just ask them.

11 | Be Safe

While Goa is safer than most of India and perhaps many parts of the world, it doesn’t hurt to take typical safety precautions. Trust your instincts and don’t accept drinks from strangers. When in doubt, head to the nearest shop and contact a local to seek help.

12 | Respect the culture, nature and Goa way of life

Yes, Goa is perhaps the most open minded destination of India and the locals are liberal. But please don’t treat their home as your “nonstop party on the road” destination. I don’t know why I’m even typing this but I feel it’s my responsibility to inform you that you should cover yourself a little more than what you do at the beach if you end up visiting any of the churches. Please don’t leave your trash on the beach. If you find any, just pick it up and put it in the nearest dustbin. Oh and don’t forget that most of the shacks (beach bar and restaurants) are run by families and you should not expect a five-star service. Appreciate what you get and don’t forget to smile.

Enjoyed these Goa travel tips? Why not share with a friend! If you live in Goa or have visited it a few times, why don’t you add your own tip in the comments?

 

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Goa Travel Tips - things you need to know before visiting

Goa Travel Tips – things you need to know before visiting

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? Or both? If you’re thinking of heading to Palawan for a quick trip and are not sure where to go or what to miss, this post will help you make some decisions. Moreover, this post will also act as an excellent guide if you’re visiting both these destinations in Palawan and are looking for information about how to reach, places to stay, eating options, costs, beaches, attractions, party and more!

Where and what is Palawan all about?

Palawan in the Philippines has been declared as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler for many years in the row. It’s not a single island but is a group of many islands of different shapes and sizes.

If you follow us on Instagram, you must be knowing that San and I spent a few weeks in the Philippines and a majority of our time in Palawan. We visited both El Nido and Coron but spent only one day in Puerto Princesa. However, before we visited Palawan, we were trying to figure out if we should only visit one of these two destinations. Our dilemma was – El Nido or Coron? We didn’t find adequate comparison online on several factors, so here’s something I wrote to help you pick El Nido or Coron, depending on what you want out of your Palawan experience.

 

01 | Ease of Reaching

How to reach Coron

You can reach Coron by a direct flight to Busuanga airport which is only 30-45 minutes away from Coron town. Philippine Airlines runs daily flights from Manila and Cebu to Busuanga. Alternatively, you can also reach Coron from El Nido by a ferry that takes roughly 7 hours. This ferry that runs between Coron and El Nido is a little shaky and reminded me of Thailand’s Lomprayah. If you want to save money, you can also travel to Coron from Manila by 2Go Travel, a “mega ferry”. This boat is less like a ferry and more like a cruise vessel with sleeping berths in an air conditioned area, lobby, restaurant, bar and deck.

How to reach El Nido

There were no direct flights to El Nido until recently. As of 2016, AirSwift runs direct flights from Manila and Cebu to El Nido. However, these flights are expensive. Alternatively, you can also fly to Puerto Princesa, which is serviced by budget carriers such as Air Asia. From Puerto Princesa, El Nido is 5-6 hours away by a van and will cost you around 1000 – 700 pesos per person. We paid ₱ 700 because we were 7 people that met at the airport and decided to book a van together but we had heard of people that paid ₱ 1000 pesos per person too. You can also take a bus between Puerto Princesa and El Nido but these buses take more than 7 hours because they stop often.

Winner: Coron Both (Coron had this edge over El Nido till early 2016)

02 | Cost Comparison

02.1 | Places to stay

Places to stay in Coron

Upon reaching Coron, we found many places with affordable rooms starting from ‎₱ 500 pesos per night for a double room with fan and internet. We stayed at Coron Guapos which was just a three-month old property in Coron town at the time of our visit and was well managed. This place is right next to the more popular Marley’s guest house. We also booked our tour from our hotel and had the experience to remember.

Places to stay in El Nido

It was difficult finding budget rooms in El Nido, so we decided to book two hostel beds instead. The most affordable place was Our Melting Pot Hostel which cost us ‎₱ 450 pesos per bed and was full but we were lucky to get two bunk beds. We highly recommend this hostel and their tours. Even though this hostel is a typical party hostel, their dormitory area was always quiet and our sleep was never disturbed. Another hostel option in El Nido is Spin Designer Hostel, which is a boutique hostel(‎₱ 800 pesos per bed).

02.2 | Eating options

Eating in Coron vs El Nido

After spending a few days in Bohol’s Panglao island, we found the food in El Nido to be expensive, even the street food! We smiled with relief upon reaching Coron town because we found a variety of affordable eating options. The food in Coron was much cheaper as compared to that in El Nido, even the street food. We recommend Levine’s restaurant for their all day breakfast.

02.3 | Cost of Tours

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

The tours in Coron started from as low as ‎₱ 650 pesos per person but were for ‎₱ 1200 pesos per person in El Nido. While in El Nido, we did tour A and tour C where the cost to use a kayak during our tours was ‎₱ 100 pesos per person for 30 minutes. Coron also has a tour called “the ultimate Coron tour” with an unlimited use of Kayak. This is the most expensive tour in Coron and costs ‎₱ 1400 pesos per person. But we were able to negotiate a price of ₱ 1000 per person by making our own custom tour which was like “the ultimate Coron tour” but minus one attraction.

Overall costs

The cost of moving around on a tricycle was lower in Coron. Even scooter rental prices were lower in Coron than El Nido. This could be because the demand was higher in El Nido due to more visitors.

Winner: Coron

03 | Viewpoints

Viewpoints in Coron

Coron Viewpoint – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

Coron Viewpoint on the way to Kayangan lake – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

If you’re a sucker for viewpoints and don’t shy away from making an effort to climb for hours just for a bird’s eye view, you’re going to love Coron. Coron has three main viewpoints. The first is Mt. Tapyas in the main Coron town which you will see from a distance. The second is the spot as shown in the above picture on the way to Kayangan Lake as you climb on top of the rocks that surround the lake. The second one is the one that’s usually featured in every travel article and webpage about Coron. The third as shown in the below picture one can be seen on the road to Busuanga town from Coron town and there’s no need to climb anything to view it. I don’t have a picture of the first because we climbed Mt. Tapyas in the middle of the night after getting a kick of energy from Tanduay rum.

Viewpoint on Coron - Busuanga road

Viewpoint on Coron – Busuanga road

Viewpoints in El Nido

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

The only viewpoint we found in El Nido was on Matinloc Shrine island. The climb is of little effort but is on pointed rocks. The view is spectacular.

Winner: Coron

04 | Beaches

Beaches in Coron

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

When in Coron, the beaches can’t be accessed by just walking. The nearest beach is there is Cabo beach which is 30 minutes away from Coron town. Unlike other beaches of Coron, there’s no need to take a boat to reach Cabo beach. Other noteworthy beaches are Banol beach and the beaches on Banana island. We visited Banol beach just by chance while we were snorkeling around the skeleton wreck which is right next to it.

Beaches in El Nido

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

El Nido has more beaches than Coron. Just like Coron, the best beaches only be accessed by a boat or a long scooter ride. But El Nido wins points over Coron here because the main beach is just walking distance away from the main town area. This beach kind of reminded me of Railay’s beaches with limestone formations but was five times more crowded! Our recommendation – seven commandos beach, Talisay island beach, hidden beach and Matinloc Shrine beach. Oh and El Nido fans will hate me for saying this but I found Bohol‘s beaches to be much better than El Nido’s.

Winner: El Nido

05 | Underwater Life, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and Diving in Coron

Colorful Corals and Clams in Siete Pecados marine park, Coron, Palawan
Shipwreck Diving and Snorkeling - Skeleton Wreck in Coron, Palawan
Nemo - a clownfish family in Siete Pecados marine park in Coron, Palawan

Snorkeling in Coron was perhaps the best snorkeling experience of my life. I saw the most colorful corals in Coral Garden – it was like an underwater rainbow! I had tears of happiness in my eyes while snorkeling in Siete Pecados marine park because I had never seen such beauty. We saw some of the most colorful fishes or many sizes here and also a Clownfish (Nemo) family. Our friend who was snorkeling with us saw a sea turtle here. Moreover, Coron has eleven Japanese shipwrecks that you can explore if you love diving. We weren’t able to dive because we ran out of money, but we snorkeled around the skeleton ship wreck. The water around was clear and the visibility was unbelievable.

Snorkeling and Diving in El Nido

The underwater life in El Nido pales in comparison as compared to Coron. No doubt we saw a lot of marine life but it was definitely not as colorful as Coron, especially the corals. Plus, El Nido doesn’t have any shipwrecks around unlike Coron.

Winner: Coron

06 | Lakes and Waterfalls

Waterfalls and Lakes of Coron

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan - Asia's Cleanest Lake

They say it’s the cleanest Lake of Asia – Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

Coron boasts of 11 lakes out of which Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake are the most famous ones. They say Kayangan Lake is the cleanest lake in Asia but I don’t know if that’s true. However, I do know that I have never seen water as clear as this where I could see the bottom of the lake. The water in this lake is 70% fresh and 30% salty. Swimming in this lake is an experience I will not forget in my lifetime.

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

On one of the days in Coron, we rented a scooter and drove to Busuanga town and visited Concepcion Falls. We spent a relaxed day swimming and chilling in a natural pool around this waterfall. This pool also had a school of doctor fish, which is the same fish they use in a foot spa. But don’t be afraid, they don’t bite you anywhere except a little peck on the toes. Moreover, Coron also has Maquinit Hot Spring with a natural hot water pool but we didn’t go there because it was too hot.

Waterfalls and Lakes of El Nido

El Nido doesn’t have lakes but we got to hear of Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall, the only one waterfall here. It is on the way to Nacpan beach. Again, with 11 lakes in Coron, El Nido can’t win on this point.

Winner: Coron

07 | Lagoons

Lagoons of Coron

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

The twin lagoons in Coron are perhaps the most famous ones. The water here is 70% salty and 30% fresh and these two lagoons are separated by a rock. The best part? Swimming through a hole in the rock to reach the inner lagoon here. The water clarity in the outer lagoon was much better than any of the lagoons in El Nido. There are more lagoons such as the green lagoon, sunset lagoon, and hidden lagoon.

Lagoons of El Nido

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido boasts of many different lagoons out of which a few are open for public. We visited the small lagoon, the big lagoon, the hidden lagoon, the secret lagoon – all were beautiful. Some of the lagoons also had a little beach attached. Seriously, El Nido wins hands down if you compare the lagoons.

Winner: El Nido

08 | Town Area

Coron Town is technically on Busuanga island, not Coron island. Confusing, no? The town area is bigger and more spread out as compared to El Nido with more budget friendly eating and staying options in comparison. El Nido town is a smaller and cramped if you compare it to Coron town. There is now a new ATM as well here but it was not working while I was there.

Winner: Coron

09 | Which one is more crowded?

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

With an easier access due to a cheaper direct flight, you’d think that Coron would be more crowded? Wrong! El Nido was definitely more crowded as compared to Coron. It was sad to see El Nido’s main beach which must have been beautiful a few years back but was completely destroyed due to an unbelievable amount of people and boats. We met many people in El Nido who were not even considering heading to Coron but everyone we met in Coron had been to El Nido or was heading there next. Even all the main attractions were crowded due to too many tours.

Loser: El Nido

10 | Places to Drink and Party in Coron and El Nido

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Although our main motive to visit Palawan was not to party but we couldn’t help ourselves from enjoying a few nice evenings. After all, we had made a few friends on the road! For a low-key party evening, I recommend Coron’s offbeat Rasta bar – Obra Natural Art & Coffee. This place is next to Coron School of Fisheries. It’s not your “typical” party place with loud music but is a small café with a seating space for barely 15 people. We loved it so much that we ended up visiting it every evening. We couldn’t get enough of listening to live didgeridoo (didjeridu) and djembe music. If you end up going there, say our hello to the owner – Rodney. Alternatively, you can also check out No Name Bar which is in the main Coron town for a louder party. While in El Nido, you can visit many beach bars on the main beach for a fun evening. Our Melting Pot hostel in El Nido was a party hostel where we ended up playing beer pong for a few hours.

Winner: Tie between Coron and El Nido

11 | The atmosphere and vibes

Call us hippies but vibes are important for us. We found the atmosphere in Coron to be more relaxed and laid back as compared to El Nido. Maybe it was because El Nido was a little too crowded for our liking. Arriving in Coron from El Nido was a refreshing change because it felt that everyone was there to scam us in El Nido and charge extra for every small thing. Moreover, I had read warnings on the internet to be careful about food in El Nido because a lot of people reported suffering from food poisoning. Keeping this in mind, we were careful about what we ate but shockingly San suffered from an upset stomach. Strangely, every friend that we made in El Nido had a bad case of diarrhea and food poisoning and one of them even spent an entire night in the hospital. Upon reaching Coron, everyone in our hotel told us that they suffered from an upset stomach while they were in El Nido. Luckily I was the only one who did not. Maybe it’s because of my Indian stomach or the fact I wore a hat in the sun but I’ll never know the truth.

El Nido or Coron – Our choice?

We spent more time in El Nido than Coron, but we rate Coron much higher than El Nido.

Where should you go in Palawan? El Nido or Coron?

If you have enough time then we highly recommend you visit both. However if you’re heading to Palawan for a quick trip and can visit only one destination, I will try to make things easy for you. If you like having an easy access to the beaches and don’t mind crowds, then El Nido is where you should go. However, if you want to scuba dive or just snorkel around to see underwater beauty, then Coron is your place.

You may also like:

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50 Stunning Natural Pools from all around the world

50 Surreal Travel Destinations that should be on your bucket list

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Panglao island, Bohol, the Philippines

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Entering Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan
Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Panglao Island, Bohol – Our Favorite Place in the Philippines

Panglao Island, Bohol – Our Favorite Place in the Philippines

Panglao Island is a tiny island attached to the south-west tip of the main island of Bohol in the Philippines. It is very close to Cebu island as well.

We wanted white sand, blue water, beautiful nature and loads of peace. A little research suggested that the Philippines was the place for it all. Boracay or El Nido? These are the two main destinations we heard about when we booked our tickets to visit the Philippines. The more we read about Boracay, the more we did not want to visit. A deeper research suggested we pay Bohol a visit for its famous chocolate hills, tarsier sanctuary and Loboc river. But where to stay in Bohol? We were looking for a place that was not crowded and where it was possible to explore on a scooter. With a little luck, we found a place called Panglao Island.

Too Lazy to read this post? Watch this video!

If you’re lazy like us, we urge you to watch this video that we have made with a lot of love. This is our second travel video and you’re gonna LOVE the underwater footage that we made using our brand new GoPro Hero 4 (Black). Oh and if you’re wondering how come we didn’t lose our GoPro in the sea is because we have this awesome Go Pro outdoor kit which has a yellow float-able stick that prevents the camera from sinking, even if you’re clumsy like us!

SPOILER: this video has a cute little tarsier, a banded eel that’s pretending to be a snake (Belcher’s sea snake) and more!

 

Why we fell in love with Panglao Island

Panglao was our first destination when we visited the Philippines in February and March 2016 and towards the end of the trip we realized it was the best out of all. Here’s why:

01 | Affordable rooms, food, scooter – this of course tops our list because we’re budget travelers. When compared to the other destinations we visited, Panglao island was cheaper in every aspect. It’s easy to find many places to eat where only locals visit unlike many other places that we visited in the Philippines.

Simple Filipino Food in Panglao Island

Simple Filipino Food in Panglao Island – everything here costed us less than 200 pesos

02 | Not yet crowded (unlike Palawan / Boracay / Cebu, etc) – The only crowded place on this island is Alona beach and even that’s not as crowded as El Nido’s or Boracay’s main beaches.

03 | Stunning beaches and a few of them were empty! – Panglao Island’s beaches are exactly how you see them in travel magazines. They have white sand, blue water and are fringed with trees.

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

04 | Many places to explore on our own without taking tours – The Philippines is a beautiful country and every corner has many natural attractions that are worth a visit. While in Palawan, we had to opt for a few tours to see some attractions because it was extremely expensive to hire our own boat and explore ourselves. However, on Panglao island it was possible for us to visit pretty much whatever we wanted on our own and at our own pace on a rented scooter.

05 | Typical “Island Vibe” – Panglao island has a very laidback and typical “island vibe” that reflects in its slow life. This is exactly what we wanted from our vacation but unfortunately did not feel this way when we were in other destinations.

How to Reach Panglao Island

Fly to Tagbilaran airport and catch a tricycle to Panglao Island for around ₱ 200 – 300 pesos. The ride takes 20 minutes.

Fly to Cebu city, head to Pier 1 and board a ferry for Tagbilaran for ₱ 400 pesos. To save money, you can catch a bus from Cebu city airport to the closest point and then take a taxi to Pier 1. You will notice the bus sign as you exit the airport. Ask the staff at the counter for more details. The ferry will take around 2 hours. Once you reach Tagbilaran pier, you can catch a tricycle to Panglao Island for around ₱ 200 – 300 pesos.

Option 1 makes more sense but usually the airfare to Cebu city is much lower as compared to Tagbilaran, so pick option 2 if you don’t mind a longer journey to save money.

Where to stay on Panglao Island:

Alona Beach is the most famous and crowded part of this island because its where most of the people stay. To avoid the crowds, we found an affordable place which was 2.5 KMs ahead of Alona beach – Mabuhay Breeze Resort. This place was exactly what we wanted because it was on the empty part of the road with hardly anything around. We did find a karaoke bar near this place which was just a few steps away. Our first night in the Philippines was spent singing in this Karaoke bar with a few locals and drinking Tanduay rum.

This is Panglao Island, Bohol

This is Panglao Island, Bohol

We paid around USD 15$ for a charming hut for two (around ₱ 700 pesos). The reception area had a bar, a free water refilling station, charging points, free Wifi and a few adorable cats. There was a large swimming pool after the reception area with huts around it. Alternatively, you can also stay at Panglao Chocolate Hills Resort which is 5 KMs before Alona beach and very close to another beautiful beach of this island – White Beach. Other affordable places are Moon Fools Hostel, Bohol Coco Farm Hostel, and Dormitels PH Alona Beach.

Things to do in Panglao Island (and around)

01 | Beach bumming: Alona beach, White Beach (Libaong White Beach), Doljo Beach

Even though Alona beach is the most crowded of all, it’s definitely worth a visit because it’s pretty. The best part of this beach is towards the extreme left side as you enter.

Alona Beach of Panglao Island, Bohol

Alona Beach of Panglao Island, Bohol

If you want to avoid the crowd, I highly recommend you visit White Beach, which is 5 KMs before Alona beach. Many locals did not know about it (maybe they have a different name for it) but we found it on google maps. It has a few wooden cabins near the beach where you can keep your stuff and head for a swim. It was empty whenever we visited it.

White Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol

White Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol

We found another beautiful beach on this island just by accident when we lost our way – Doljo Beach. It’s a very large beach with shallow water that was full of pretty little starfishes.

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

Doljo Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol

There are other beaches such as Bikini beach, Momo beach but are not as nice as the main three.

02 | Hire a scooter and drive around aimlessly

Riding around in our scooter was perhaps the best thing we did while we were here. It was definitely one of our most beautiful drives because the roads were empty and the scenery that surrounded us was spectacular. We saw many villages, beautiful paddy fields, buffaloes chilling in the water, banana plantation, Loboc river, many dense trees that formed a tunnel over the road and a lot of cute Filipino children that were excited to see us and hi-fived us as we rode around them.

03 | Scuba diving and Snorkeling

Head to one of the beaches with your snorkel and you are guaranteed to see a lot of underwater beauty. Look at this banded eel which we saw on Alona beach! (Yes we thought for a while that it’s a Belcher’s sea snake).

Looks like Belcher's sea snake but its a Banded Eel on Alona Beach

Looks like Belcher’s sea snake but its a Banded Eel on Alona Beach

If you swim around Alona beach, the seabed looks like a garden with many sea urchins, starfishes and small fishes. If you want to see more, then do sign up for a dive at a PADI dive shop.

04 | Drive to Carmen to see the famous Chocolate Hills!

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines

The drive to the famous Chocolate hills from Alona beach area was around 3 hours but it was definitely worth it as you can read in point 2. As you reach Carmen, a town in Bohol that’s famous for these hills, the landscape changes drastically and these hills start popping up on both the sides. After paying a fee of ₱ 50 per person, you can climb on the highest of these chocolate hills for a stunning view. You will notice thousands of these cone shaped symmetrical hills around you that are covered with grass. During the dry season, the grass on these hills turns chocolate brown and these hills resemble Hershey’s kisses, hence the name – Chocolate Hills. As per scientific research, these grassy hills were once coral reefs that erupted from the sea over hundreds of thousands of years ago. Do remember to carry water in your backpack because it’s expensive on the main hill. Please drive around the hills too! The village is beautiful and it’s easy to get lost in the nature here.

05 | Visit Tarsier Sanctuary

When in the Philippines, a visit to a tarsier sanctuary is a must do. Tarsiers are super cute monkey like animals that are unfortunately endangered. These animals are just 8 – 16 cms big, which is usually the size of a grown up’s hand.

 

These cuties are shy and like to stay in dark areas because exposure to light can damage their big eyes.  They are nervous little things that get stressed out when they are touched or if there’s noise around them.

A cute little Tarsier in Bohol

A cute little Tarsier in Bohol

The fee to enter the tarsier sanctuary was ₱ 40 per person we could stay inside for as long as we wanted. This sanctuary is located in Loboc town of Bohol and it takes only 1-2 hours on a scooter from Alona beach. It is on the way to Carmen so it’s possible to visit the Tarsier sanctuary and chocolate hills on the same day.

06 | Dive with a whale shark

San with a whaleshark in Oslob, Cebu

San with a whaleshark in Oslob, Cebu

Diving or snorkeling with whale sharks is possible in Oslob (Cebu) but it’s easy to access this area from Panglao Island. We did not want to stay in Oslob because it appeared to be crowded but we rented a boat from Alona beach that took us to Oslob. We paid ₱ 700 per person for the round trip boat ride but we found this price after a lot of bargaining. Once in Oslob, we paid ₱ 1000 per person to snorkel for 40 minutes with the whale sharks.

A whale shark in Oslob, Cebu

A whale shark in Oslob, Cebu – Look at the size!

We had heard all sorts of horrible things about Oslob but we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is crowded and expensive but they don’t let a lot of people in the water at the same time. They also don’t let people wear sunscreen because it harms the whale sharks. We were asked to maintain a distance of a meter from the whale sharks but these overly friendly underwater giants did not want to leave us alone. It was a surreal experience swimming with them. Many people say that the whale shark diving should not be encouraged because they pull these animals out of their natural habitat by luring them with shrimp which causes imbalances in nature.

07 | Hinagdanan cave or Cambagat Cave

It costs ₱ 50 to enter Hinagdanan cave which has many stalactites and a lake at the bottom. It costs extra to swim in the lake. You can skip this attraction if you have seen other bigger caves.

08 | Visit Loboc River

Loboc River, Bohol

Loboc River, Bohol

Loboc river is a clear water river in Bohol. Many people opt for river cruises but I suggest you just drive around it and find a corner where you can sit next to it. We saw many cute little huts around this river. As we crossed the bridge over it, we could see the bottom of the river because the water was very clear. A few tour operators organize firefly watching tours along this river and there is a floating restaurant on it.

09 | Shell Museum

Nova Shell museum has a massive collection of shells of many different shapes, sizes and colors.  All these shells have been collected by Quirino Hora and they form one of the biggest collections in the world. It costs ₱ 50 to enter the museum and it’s open from 8 am to 5 pm. Arrive early because the collection is massive.

10 | Dolphin Watching

We did not do this but this is one of the many things you can do while you’re on Panglao island. These tours leave early morning from Alona beach. Why did we not do this? Because we are not fans of group tours and we have already seen dolphins in their natural habitat in Gokarna, India.

11 | Island Hopping – Virgin Island and Balicasag

You will find many boat operators on Alona beach who will try to sell you a tour to these islands. Virgin island is famous for its beautiful beach and Balicasag Island has its own marine sanctuary. You can skip this if you are planning on visiting Siete Pecados marine park in Coron.

Overall, we felt that our time on Panglao Island was the most fun that we had in the Philippines because of variety of possibilities of things to do in and around this place.

Have you visited Panglao Island and have a few tips of your own to add? Let me know in the comments section!

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Panglao Island, Bohol, the Philippines - Pin it!

Panglao Island, Bohol, the Philippines – Pin it!

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

Goa is perhaps India’s most popular destination. It is known for its massive beaches and a unique culture that’s a mix of Indian and Portuguese.  It is not a city but is a state (or a province) that’s divided in many zones.

I have lost count of the number of times I have visited this glorious state – but I do know that number is in double digits by now. Many ask me why I love Goa and keep revisiting it instead of exploring new places – well, here’s my answer:

 

01 | Spectacular Beaches

Sunset - Morjim Beach, Goa

Sunset – Morjim Beach, Goa

Goa has some of the most spectacular beaches in the world that are perfectly crescent shaped, fringed with palm trees and are dotted with beach huts. Most of these beaches have reddish sand, some have soft white sand, many have strange rocks formations, some have hills all around and a few of them have lagoons too! With 300 KMs of coastline, Goa offers something for everyone. If you’re visiting Goa, I would suggest you to stay away from the overly crowded Calangute – Baga – Candolim stretch.

02 | Secret Lagoons, Lakes, Waterfalls and Coves – Goa’s Hidden Spots

Secret Lake in Goa

Secret Lake in Goa

You think Goa is full? Well, maybe you’re visiting the wrong area! No matter how touristy Goa gets, there are always some hidden spots that can be found if you try hard enough. There are a few secret lakes, lagoons, waterfalls and secluded beaches that no one will tell you about. There’s ALWAYS something new to discover because Goa is massive. Here’s a travel guide to dudhsagar falls, goa – which you should definitely consider visiting. Wanna know more about the hidden spots? Subscribe!

03 | Goan Food… Nom Nom

Goan Food - Crab Curry

Goan Food – Crab Curry

Goa was once a Portuguese colony and the influences can be found in their food. With a mix of tamarind, coconut, curry leaves, mustard and magic, Goans definitely know how to ROCK their curries. Goa’s Xacuti, Balchao, Cafreal, Vindaloo are perhaps some of the best curries in India. You can not only find plenty of fresh seafood but also real beef steaks – which are rare in India. Moreover, Goa has some amazing places for European food. Seriously, I have never had a bad meal in Goa!

04 | The Shacks of Goa

A Shack in Goa - Arambol Beach

A Shack in Goa – Arambol Beach

Most of the beaches in Goa are dotted with sea facing shacks that are typically run by local Goan families. It’s easy to spend almost an entire day sitting on beach beds of these shacks gazing at the sea. Almost all of these shacks have a beach bar where you can order from a range of International drinks to Goa’s local brews. Many of these shacks offer affordable accommodation options. Some of the most famous shacks are Curlies in Anjuna, Pink Orange in Ashwem, Morning Star in Arambol, Om Shanti in Patnem and Blue Corner in Benaulim. In my opinion, Goa has some of the best beach bars and shacks in the world.

Shacks in Goa - Why I love Goa by Drifter Planet

Shacks in Goa – Why I love Goa by Drifter Planet

05 | King’s Beer – Goa’s Local Brew

 

King’s beer is Goa’s local brew – it is amazing and is only available here and in Mumbai.  For INR 35 (close to half a dollar) for a pint, it is also cheaper than the other beers.  Somehow, inflation has had hardly any effect on the price of this beer because the first time I had it in 2004, it was for INR 25. When I’m in Goa, I don’t ever look at any other beer except King’s.  It is packaged in a cute little dark bottle that’s short and fat.

06 | The Best Parties… Ever

Parties in Goa in Why I love Goa by DrifterPlanet.com

A Psytrance Party in Hilltop Goa – Why I love Goa

When it comes to parties, nothing can beat the old school psychedelic trance gatherings of Goa. Back in the 1960s, many hippies visited this place and it became their permanent residence. It led to the birth of “Goa Trance” genre which further ushered in a different style of parties with a strong presence of visual aspect that utilizes UV paint and decoration that now happen all over the world. In Goa, some of the best parties are underground and invitations are only by word of mouth for the “insiders”. If you’re lucky enough to find one, you will remember the experience for the rest of your life!  Alternatively, you can also visit Hilltop in Vagator for a kickass party or Palolem for a silent headphone party.

07 | Happy Locals and Beautiful People of Goa

A Local Goan Family back in 2004

A Local Goan Family back in 2004

Goans are very peaceful, easygoing and laidback. Usually smiling, they are extremely polite and trustworthy. Apart from the local Konkani people, many other people from all over the world call Goa their home. First the hippies and then the backpackers – many visited this glorious destination and did not leave. For many, the hippie trail ended here and it became their permanent residence. They have collectively formed a culture that is a blend of East and West.

09 | Safe and Peaceful

Goan Roads by Drifter Planet

Goa is safe for women!

While India is famous for its many scams, things are completely different in Goa. Apart from a few isolated incidents, communal violence and crimes against women have been nearly non-existent and Goa is regarded as one of the most peaceful states in India. Back in 2009 on my solo visit to Goa, I dropped my wallet on the road and I got it back within one hour without anything missing. Once I left my smart phone in a shop in Arambol and I got it back. Goa is one of those rare places in India where I feel safe walking alone on the street at night wearing shorts.

10 | Stunning Architecture – Old Churches, Abandoned Forts and Portuguese Houses

A Church in Old Goa

A Church in Old Goa

I love admiring architectural wonders and Goa is a treat for my eyes with its many Churches, Forts and old school Portuguese houses. Some of the most famous churches are the Basilica of Bom Jesus (1605), Se Cathedral (1619), Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (1541) or in fact, Old Goa is full of them where a lot of churches were built during Portuguese rule. Some of my favorite forts are Chapora Fort, Fort Aguada and Cabo de Rama – they all are fun to explore and overlook beaches.

11 | Goa is awesome for Shopping

Arambol's Shopping Street

Arambol’s Shopping Street

Here’s the thing – I don’t like to spend money. I usually avoid shopping because I travel on a low budget.  I have many things in my room that are more than a decade old and some of them are from Goa. It’s difficult to resist the urge to buy colorful clothes, lamps, tribal jewelry, UV bedsheets, elf dresses from Goa’s street shops. Some of the most famous places for shopping in Goa are Anjuna flea market, Arambol’s street shops and Arpora’s night bazaar.

Due to Portuguese rule which isolated it from the rest of India for 451 years, Goa is different from the rest of India. In my opinion, there is no place like Goa in the entire world. If you have visited Goa, then do leave a comment to let me know what you LOVE about this place.

Where to next?

Hampi in Karnataka can be easily reached from Goa by catching an overnight bus or an early morning train.

 

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

55 Best Islands in the world: REVEALED by Top Travel Writers

55 Best Islands in the world: REVEALED by Top Travel Writers

Don’t you just love islands?

Exotic and mysterious spots surrounded by blue as far as the eye can see. Stunning landscapes that you just can’t find anywhere else. The perfect vacation spot far away from the “real world”! Most islands have miles and MILES of beaches. Some have mountains, waterfalls, forests, lakes or even snow.

Which island should you visit next? 

To help you answer that question, we asked 55 of the world’s top travel bloggers about what their favorite island destination are.

Here are the 55 Best Islands in the world: REVEALED by Top Travel Writers –

1) El Nido (Philippines) – Sabrina Iovino of Just One Way Ticket

El Nido (Philippines),

El Nido (Philippines)

I completely fell in love with the archipelago of El Nido in the Philippines, so many islands, lagoons and beaches. The place is spectacular and surely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

2) Skellig Michael (Ireland) – Janet Newenham of Journalist On The Run

Skellig Michael, Ireland

Skellig Michael, Ireland

Skellig Michael is the most incredible island I have ever been to. The island is very remote, located 11km off the West coast of Ireland, and is one of the oldest settlements in Ireland, dating back to the 6th century when a Christian Monastery was built there. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to thousands of Atlantic Puffins which you can photograph up close.

3) Cozumel (Mexico) – Lance and Laura of Travel Addicts

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

Off the coast of Mexico is the island of Cozumel, probably the most beautiful Island we’ve ever visited.  A large island with a storied Mayan past, the real beauty of Cozumel comes under the water – it is part of world’s second longest barrier reef system and is the place for world-class scuba diving and snorkeling.  The island features the best drift diving anywhere in the world!

4) Zanzibar (Tanzania) – Alana and Matt of Great Big Globe

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, also known as Spice Island, is located off the coast of Tanzania. It’s home to the whitest sand and bluest water we have ever seen. There are plenty of opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling and dolphin watching. Plus, Zanzibar is one of the few places in the world where saffron is produced!

5) Mallorca (Spain) – Sam Wood of Infinite Adventure

Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca, Spain

While Europe might not immediately spring to mind when thinking of beautiful islands around the world, there are certainly some gems to be found here. One of them is most definitely Mallorca, part of the Balearic island group in the Mediterranean. Despite being a very popular, and in lots of ways typically touristy island to visit, there are absolutely some more secluded parts of the island to discover. In particular, the stretch of coast along the northwest of the island is home to some of the most beautifully rugged landscape on Mallorca, where sheer cliffs covered in pine trees drop dramatically into the deep blue water surrounding it.

6) Easter Island (Chile) – Eva Abal of Una idea, un viaje

Easter Island (Chile)

Easter Island (Chile)

Being the most isolated island of the planet, this island is all about mystery. It is famous for its enormous 887 surviving statues called Moai. There’s a mystery about the Moai because no one knows how they got here.  Additionally, the natives of Easter Island are called Rapa Nui people, who have their own language, rules and beliefs that will absolutely amaze you.

Easter Island has only 18 Km from side to side but it will magically try to keep you there and discover its secrets, such as beautiful craters of former volcanos, paradisiac beaches, lovely viewpoints.

7) Maui in Hawaii (USA) – Nat and Tim of A Cook Not Mad

Maui, USA

Maui, USA

Maui is one of the prettiest of the Hawaiian Islands with sections that remain as they were decades ago. The people are warm and welcoming and although it is technically part of the US, it’s like being in a different country.

8) Gozo (Malta) – Suzanne Wolko of Phila Travel Girl

Gozo, Malta

Gozo, Malta

Gozo surprised me with the most amazing views. My mom had no idea where I was only saying “I googled it and you are near Sicily? Are you still in Italy?”  I didn’t like the island when we first arrived but quickly fell for its charms and didn’t want to leave.

9) Vanuatu (Republic of Vanuatu Island Country) – Paula and Gordon of ContentedTraveller

Vanuatu (Island Country),

Vanuatu (Island Country),

Vanuatu is your archetypal paradisiacal tropical island that is not too overrun by tourists. We found the friendliest people here, and lots of different thing to see and to do. The sheer beauty of the islands of Vanuatu hits it out of the ballpark.

10) Saona Island (Dominican Republic) – Federica Xotti of travelliAMO

Saona Island (Dominican Republic)

Saona Island (Dominican Republic)

Saona Island, a tropical island which is located a short distance from the mainland on the south-east tip of the Dominican Republic. It is a nature reserve, protected by the government, and it’s a part of the East National Park.  The Island was baptized “Saona” by Christopher Columbus, who discovered it in May 1494, in Honor of the Italian city “Savona”. It is the stereotypical desert island, with white sand, blue water and thousands of tall palms. It is a popular destination for tourists from all over the Dominican Republic, who arrive in fleets of catamarans and small motorboats on organized excursions every day.

11) Boa Vista (Cape Verde) – Claire hales of Lily Travella

Boa Vista, Cape Verde

Boa Vista, Cape Verde

The Island is famous for the natural beauty and because it has been used on many occasions by film-makers and advertisers setting for their film or product, such as the Bounty chocolate bars.  Very close to this Island is easy to find very big starfishes and there are also lots of varieties of fishes and birds.

12) Socotra (Yemen) – Nicole Smoot of Adventures of Lil Nicki

Socotra (Yemen)

Socotra (Yemen)

Socotra is an otherworldly island located in the Arabian Sea squished between a rock and a hard place: Yemen and Somalia (technically Socotra is a territory of Yemen).  Socotra is home to many endemic species including the strange dragon blood trees and the desert rose as well as many pristine and to me (who I consider a beach snob aficionado) the most beautiful beaches in the entire world.

13) Koh Lanta (Thailand) – Tarah and Tip Vongbouthdy of Fit two travel

Koh Lanta, Thailand

Koh Lanta, Thailand

Koh Lanta is a tiny piece of heaven with very little disruption. White, sandy beaches, rolling hills, snorkeling, and gorgeous multi-colored sunsets, what more could you want? There’s something so beautiful about walking along the beach while watching the sun set over the Andaman Sea, with a cocktail in hand. If you’re looking for a beautiful, quiet island to relax while in Thailand, Koh Lanta is the place for you.

14) Big Island in Hawaii (USA) – Jess Smith of Cascadian Rythm

Big Island in Hawaii (USA)

Big Island in Hawaii (USA)

With both beaches and volcanoes, Hawai’i is fantastically diverse. Surprisingly untouristy, you might find yourself alone with a turtle on one of Hawai’i’s green sand or black sand beaches. My favorite experience was trekking up Mauna Kea for once-in-a-lifetime views of Mauna Loa and Maui at nearly 14,000 elevation.

15) Batanes Islands (Philippines) – Aileen Adalid of iAmAileen

Batanes Islands, Philippines

Batanes Islands, Philippines

Called as the ‘Home of the Winds’, this northern group of islands in the Philippines is an unknown hidden paradise that can instantly capture your heart. With is dramatic coastline, white sandy beaches, lush forests, and picturesque hills, there’s something for everyone here in Batanes!

16) Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia) – Erin Morris of Dream Seek Wander

Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia)

Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia)

Nusa Lembongan is a hidden gem off the east coast of Bali. A small, peaceful, picturesque island paradise infrequently visited by the masses. The friendly locals, cheap prices and beauty will leave you relaxed within the day and wishing you could stay forever.

17) Ischia (Italy) – Simone Lye of The Aussie Flashpacker

Ischia, Italy

Ischia, Italy

Ischia with its stunning beaches, beautiful blue waters, natural hot springs, dramatic cliffs, world class hiking, luxury hotels, colorful villages and a slow paced, relaxed lifestyle is Mediterranean heaven! It was at the end of our two week holiday in Italy that we spent several nights on Ischia Island. Lesser known then the famous Capri, we didn’t really know what to expect, but from the second we caught a glimpse of the charming, stunning island of Ischia – we knew we’d chosen the perfect destination to spend our last few days relaxing in the late summer sunshine. We stayed in stunning Mezzatore Resort & Spa, which is housed in a 16th century fortress and is by far one of my favorite hotels in the world.

18) Corvo Island, Azores (Portugal) – Sandra of Tripper

Corvo Island, Azores (Portugal)

Corvo Island, Azores (Portugal)

This volcanic island, 2800 miles off the coast of Portugal, is the home of approximately 400 people. Small, secluded, but not as isolated anymore as it was 20 years ago (thanks to the Internet). It’s the island I used to travel to every Summer as a kid and definitely the place responsible for my fondest memories. Corvo is UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2007, it’s the smallest island in the country and has the charm of inaccessibility (although flights are a lot more frequent these days).

19) Bigeum-do or Bigeum island (South Korea) – Chris Backe of One Weird Globe

Bigeum-do or Bigeum island (South Korea)

Bigeum-do or Bigeum island (South Korea)

Bigeum-do (Bigeum island) won’t win any awards for the best-known, but in 7 1/2 years of living abroad, it’s one of the most serene. Located about 54 kilometers off the southwestern coast of South Korea, A couple of long, unspoilt beaches are on this virtually uninhabited island, while Seongchisanseong Fortress and Seosansa (Seosan temple) are also here.

20) Flower Island (Philippines) – Stefan and Sebastien of Nomadic Boys

Flower Island, Philippines

Flower Island, Philippines

Flower Island is one of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines. It’s small with only a handful of people at any one time and an hour speedboat ride away from the nearest transport hub: Palawan island. We stayed here in June 2015 and it was our romantic, tropical and paradise like getaway for lots of beach fun, snorkelling, general chilling and some stunning sunsets.

21) Koh Lipe (Thailand) – Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped

Koh Lipe, Thailand

Koh Lipe, Thailand

Koh Lipe is heaven on earth, it’s also known as “the Maldives of Thailand.” No other island in the world compares to Koh Lipe, it has amazing beaches and the best Thai food in Thailand served while your toes are in the sand. Koh Lipe is small island only accessible by boat with no cars on the island, you can walk everywhere.

22) Mont St. Michel, Normandy (France) – Rhoni Speed of Living Our Life

Mont St. Michel, Normandy (France)

Mont St. Michel, Normandy (France)

This island is as Benedictine Abbey dedicated to the archangel St. Michel.  It also includes the village that grew around the abbey within its walls.  It was built between the 11th and 16th centuries. It and the bay are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

23) Siqujor (Philippines) – Karla Ramos of Karla Around The World

Siqujor (Philippines)

Siqujor (Philippines)

It’s a quiet place that’s less known to people, turning this almost untouched beauty into a paradise. It’s the perfect place to go for a vacation when all you want to do is relax by  a long stretch of white sand beach, you can add a twist of adventure by riding motorcycles, jumping off cliffs or impersonating Jane from Tarzan.

24) Koh Samui (Thailand) – Lyndsay Cabildo of Discount Travel Blogger

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand

There are a lot of beautiful islands and beaches in Thailand but I particularly like Koh Samui because you can have the best of both worlds. I mean, island living and western civilization. Like, you can find any International cuisine in the island or just simply enjoy the street food anytime. You can enjoy your peaceful humble beachfront bamboo bungalow lifestyle or in a high end beach view condo with all the amenities.

25) Borneo (Shared by Malaysia, Indonesia & Brunei) – Anne Slater-Brooks of TravelTheGlobe4Less

Borneo (Malaysia)

Borneo (Malaysia)

Borneo has it all – amazing sunsets, a volcano, incredible dive reefs, rainforest (pictured) and of course wildlife. Staying in a log cabin in the rainforest with torrents of rain clattering onto the roof lulling me to sleep is a treasured memory!

26) Folegandros (Greece) – Melissa Giroux of A Broken Backpack

Folegandros (Greece)

Folegandros (Greece)

You need to know that Folegandros (in the Southern Cyclades) is not a touristic island.  It’s a quiet place where you can enjoy the beach to yourself, the “Chora” (main picturesque town) and the views. I had the chance to enjoy a rich experience as a free camper on this island, sleeping under the stars, far away from the land.

27) Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina, Patagonia) – Kimberly Davies from Walkaboot

Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina, Patagonia)

Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina, Patagonia)

Tierra del Fuego is the Island at the end of the world, or ‘El fin del mundo”. Shared between Chile and Argentina, this island is one part desert flat and one part harsh mountain. With glaciers, waterfalls, flora, fauna and everything in between, this diverse island is one of the most beautiful on the planet. The southernmost city in the world resides here, Ushuaia, a stunning town sitting on Darwin’s Beagle Channel and surrounded by mountains.

28) Whitsunday Island (Australia) – Sarah Alexandra George

Whitsunday Island, Australia

Whitsunday Island, Australia

Among turquoise waters lies the beautiful Whitsunday Island, the biggest of the group of islands in the Great Barrier Reef that Captain Cook himself once stumbled upon. Even today you will feel like an adventurer arriving at the deserted shores of pure white sand – the sand on Whitehaven Beach is so pure in fact (98% silica) that it’s protected! Only NASA is allowed to take it away – to make telescope lenses. Imagine that – the sand from this far flung paradise is used to gaze at stars.

29) Bali (Indonesia) – Laura of Travelers Universe

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

The Island of Gods as Bali has been nicknamed is the most breathtaking, exotic and Zen place I’ve ever visited. Everything about it is fascinating. I’ll never forget the beats of nature as the incredibly loud insects woke me up every morning and the fragrant plumeria trees that wrapped me in their hypnotic scent wherever I went. Or the incredible temples, lush rice paddies and fascinating Ubud. Yes, if you ever make it to Bali, make sure you check out Ubud. Bring an extra luggage and get in shopping mood.

30) Turks and Caicos Islands (Island Country) – Alexa Albanese of She Tells Travel Tales

Turks and Caicos Islands (Island Country)

Turks and Caicos Islands (Island Country)

Turks and Caicos Islands are a beautiful spot for a relaxing getaway vacation and to just hang out on the beach. The chain of islands is super laid back, with absolutely gorgeous views over the Caribbean Sea and guaranteed perfect weather. There’s not much night life so it’s a perfect place to just bring a book and soak up the sun.

31) Gili Trawangan (Indonesia) – Jenny Lowthrop of She Gets Around

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, one of three Gili islands just off Lombok in Indonesia. There is no motorized transport and the islands are filled with fun loving backpackers and locals chilling out while sipping coconuts and listening to the waves lapping by your feet. I spent a week here relaxing, snorkeling and making new friends.

32) Rottnest Island, Western Australia – Amanda Kendle of Not A Ballerina

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is less than an hour by ferry from Perth but it’s a complete break from the city. There are no cars on the island and you can circumnavigate it by bicycle in a couple of hours – or a whole day, if you stop for swims at some of the gorgeous beaches.

33) Matacawalevu Island (Fiji) – Nikki Godwin of Where Is Noodles

Matacawalevu Island (Fiji)

Matacawalevu Island (Fiji)

Matacawalevu Island is the epitome of paradise and the perfect place to unwind. A hilly, volcanic island, it has one of the longest white sand beaches in the Yasawas and is surrounded by a beautiful blue lagoon. I think it’s fair to say I had to endure a “terrible” case of a hammock-coma by the time I left.

34) The Perhentian Islands (Malaysia) – Bethaney Davies of Flashpacker Family

The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentians are two islands 10 miles of the East coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea. Perhentian Besar is more upscale and family-oriented while Perhentian Kecil is home to the local village and more backpacker friendly. Popular with divers and snorkellers, these islands have the most crystal clear water I’ve ever seen and lots of marine life right off the beach on coral reefs. Going at the right time of year is vital when visiting the Perhentian Islands. The weather is only good here from May until September. If you plan on visiting in these months, book ahead as accommodation sells out months in advance.

35) Jekyll Island, Georgia (USA) – Natalie Vereen-Davis of Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia

I love Jekyll Island because it combines a gorgeous beach and some incredible American history. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel was once the private hunting lodge of America’s elite around the turn of the 20th century; the Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and Carnegies would vacation there during the winter months. You can stay in the restored lodge right on the riverfront side of the island, then bike along the miles of trail to see Driftwood Beach or sunbathe on the Atlantic side of the island.

36) Tinaga Island (Philippines) – Jayce of Chasing Jayce

Tinaga Island, Calaguas Group of Islands, Philippines

Tinaga Island, Calaguas Group of Islands, Philippines

An hour of boat ride away from the mainland, the Tinaga Island is a true sight for seasick eyes with its unspoiled beauty. Fast becoming a camping hotspot in the Philippines, this island paradise boasts of sparkling beach waters lapping gently over miles of powdery white sand.

37) Bora Bora (French Polynesia) – Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

This is the Intercontinental Thalasso Resort & Spa in Bora Bora’s motu, the outer reef that protects the Bora Bora Lagoon. Not sure the beach has a name but it is stunning when captured from the air. See the open sea on the right of the motu and the clear shallow waters inside.

38) Kosrae (Micronesia) – Ashley Tippins of Standby Sojourners

Kosrae (Micronesia)

Kosrae (Micronesia)

Kosrae is one of the four island states of the Federated States of Micronesia, an island chain stretching 2,700 km across the western Pacific Ocean just north of the equator. Kosrae is small and relatively unknown, making it a perfect off the beaten path excursion for the adventurous traveler. Besides world class diving, the island is home to ancient ruins, WWII relics and endemic species found nowhere else on earth. More importantly, the Kosraen people are some of the nicest on earth and go out of their way to make visitors feel like they are right at home on this tiny, exotic map dot.

39) Coron (Philippines) – Liz Villasenor of Lizzie Meets World

Coron, Palawan, Philippines

Coron, Palawan, Philippines

Coron Island is a stunning white-sand beach in northern Palawan, Philippines.  With its crystal clear waters and rare wildlife, it is the perfect island for snorkeling, wreck diving, and trekking.  It’s still not as popular as the other party beaches in the Philippines, which makes it perfect for slow travelers who just want to sunbathe lazily and sip fresh coconut juice.

40) Manono (Samoa) – Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity

Manono, Samoa

Manono, Samoa

Manono is the third largest island in Samoa, yet it only takes about a hour to walk around following the main “highway” (there’s only a footpath, no roads, and electricity was only introduced in 1995).  Laid-back and peaceful, the island is perfect for relaxing, swimming and snorkelling on the surrounding coral reef (arrange a boat trip with your accommodation).

41) Tenerife, in the Canary Islands (Spain) – Ana Kondenko of Caffeine Berry

Tenerife, in the Canary Islands (Spain)

Tenerife, in the Canary Islands (Spain)

It is home to an active Volcano called Teide. The island has beautiful black sanded beaches, amazing restaurants and quaint villages.

42) Kauai in Hawaii (USA) – Carole Terwilliger Meyers OF Travels with Carole

Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.

Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.

Known as the “garden island,” Kauai is poshly green and is indeed filled with fabulous gardens—many of which you can visit or tour.  I also love the wild chickens and the completely casual ambiance.  I’ve visited the island around five times, and can’t wait to go again.

43) Mykonos (Greece) – Phileas Fogg of Phileas Fogg adventures

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos or the “Island of the Winds” is a Greek island in the Aegean sea with stunning crystal waters. My favorite beach is Psarou with its clear blue waters and the luxurious environment. A must-visit club is Semeli. Except from the amazing music and the cocktails, I witnessed the most breathtaking sunrise of my life.

44) Burano (Italy) – Hadas Aharon of The Fashion Matters

Burano (Italy)

Burano (Italy)

Island is well known for its lacemaking craft and colorful houses. The Island itself is very small and therefore a day-trip from Venice is advised. The charming island will leave you speechless as you will feel like you’re in a Disney fairytale. Besides the picturesque houses and boats, the main attraction of the island is the Lace Museum which is definitely worth a visit.

45) Lefkada (Greece) – Anna Giannarou of Aspects of Style

Lefkada, Greece

Lefkada, Greece

Lefkada easily gets the top spot of the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen mainly for its beaches. Porto Katsiki (pictured) is the most popular one, but I also like Egremni(literally meaning cliffs)! The beauty of the island doesn’t stop at the beaches though, as there is more to explore (hidden waterfalls anyone?) and to taste (the local cuisine is amazing)!

46) Nacula Island (Fiji) – Katrina Houston of The Two Week Traveler

Nacula Island (Fiji)

Nacula Island (Fiji)

Nacula Island, at the very end of the Yasawa Island chain in Fiji, is literally the definition of a tropical paradise: crystal clear turquoise water, white sugar sand beaches, warm island breeze, and the feeling that you have the whole beach to yourself. Since it’s so far from Nadi, the Fijian capital, very few people make it out to Nacula. The island is populated by only an eco-resort and a small native village.

47) Crete (Greece) – Monica Sharma of Travel Sight

Crete, Greece

Crete, Greece

What I love most about Crete are its people. The inhabitants of this large, yet tiny island have an unquestionable passion and love for the island, its past, and their way of life. This multi dimensional island combines gorgeous scenery, kind people, and delicious food. Balos Lagoon and Elafonisi (pink sand beach) were two of my favorite beaches in Greece. I developed a mild obsession for dakos, a traditional Cretan dish of barley crisps topped with the ripest diced tomatoes, olive oil, white cheese, and capers. Dakos and a frappe makes for a fantastic snack while you’re watching a Cretan sunset.

48) Iceland (Island Country) – Maria Alexandra Laborde of Latina Abroad

Iceland

Iceland

I fell deeply in love with Iceland’s eerie geography. I never imagined I would encounter such landscapes. Everywhere I looked, I saw what I imagined to be snapshots from a different planet. What’s crazy is I was not even meant to visit! I just “got lucky” with a free 6-day stopover, included on the cheapest ticket I could find from Morocco to Puerto Rico.

49) Okinawa (Japan) – Piritta of Bizarre Globe Hopper

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa has beautiful beaches and intriguing history. There are many Unesco World Heritage SItes, for example Nakijin-jo, a castle from the Ryukyuan era of feodal Japan. Okinawa has great barbeque and fish food and many of the residents speak English. Don’t miss the markets in Naha, and a taste of Habushu, a traditional sake which has a venomous Habushu snake in it.

50) Kefalonia (Greece) – Melissa Jones of Footsteps On The Globe

Kefalonia (Greece)

Kefalonia (Greece)

As the largest of the Ionian Islands off the coast of Greece, Kefalonia offers travellers the most beautiful array of beaches set against the bluest seas in Europe. Dramatic mountain landscapes and pine forests serve as a backdrop to fishing villages with traditional taverns and candy-coloured Venetian buildings. It is heaven on earth for true paradise seekers.

51) Schiermonnikoog Island (Netherlands) – Kate Hrynevych of Viajamos Juntos

Schiermonnikoog Island, Netherlands

Schiermonnikoog Island, Netherlands

The Monk’s Island is a very special one thanks to three special features. First, the cars are not allowed there, only bicycles and horses, which makes it an eco-friendly island. Second, the inhabitants are really happy to live there, and sicerely don´t understand why people immigrate; I spent an hour explaining a girl how come that a Ukrainian lives in Spain… And finally, you may practice Wadlopen, a kind of hiking… on mud-flats… discovering hundreds of creatures living in those tidal flats. Isn´t Schiermonnikoog Island worth being among your favorites?

52) Santorini (Greece) – Tryphena Wade of We Don’t Sit On Couches

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

The island is made from volcanic activity and includes a cluster of islands around it. There are beautiful beaches, amazing views, and wonderful activities!

53) Nevis (Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis) – Charli & Ben of Wanderlusters 

Nevis (Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis)

Nevis (Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis)

Nevis is somewhat of an anomaly among the Caribbean’s chain of paradisaical islands. While much of the region plays host to over-crowded beaches and luxury marinas, Nevis has retained it’s roots and escaped tourism driven over-development. Here you’ll find island traditions such as net fishing and farming are still an integral part of daily life, and you’re more likely to get caught in a traffic jam of wild donkeys and goats that vehicles. The landscapes are verdant and volcanic and the beaches are deserted. It really is paradise!

54) Puerto Princesa (Philippines) – Sarah Zonio of Xam Julliarde

Puerto Princesa (Philippines)

Puerto Princesa (Philippines)

The sound of crashing waves making its way onshore, the smell of saltiness in the air and the cool wind breezing through every part of your body; that’s my definition of happiness, serenity and utter perfection. For me, that’s Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

55) Havelock Island (India) – Sonal and Sandro of Drifter Planet (Yes, that’s us)

Beach #5 THIS spot! Perfect for chilling on the hammock

Havelock Island, India

Havelock island is a part of Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, which is one of the most remote parts of the planet. This Island has EVERYTHING it takes to be the ultimate backpacker’s destination Island. The best part? Well, it has some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia which are right out of a tropical paradise movie or a travel magazine cover. This island will charm you with its powder soft white sand, clear blue water, lush forest, exotic tropic birds and colorful marine life. Oh and it’s affordable for even the most tightfisted backpackers.

Do you like our collection of 55 Best Islands in the world as REVEALED by Top Travel Writers?

How many of these stunning islands have you visited already? Which one will you visit next? Let us know in the comments.

If you like it, then please share with your friends and family. It will help them plan their next trip.

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55 Best Islands in the world: REVEALED by Top Travel Writers

55 Best Islands in the world: REVEALED by Top Travel Writers

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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