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Pandan Island – Unforgettable paradise island experience in the Philippines

by Hanna
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Pandan Island is a perfect destination for those who want to take their holidays easy and enjoy snorkeling or diving in the beautiful coral reefs. For me, Pandan Island was a perfect place! Its beautiful sandy beaches, amazingly turquoise water and turtles really made me fell in love with the island! What’s more, is that Pandan island is a peaceful island with a very laid back atmosphere that invites you to chill and enjoy your time without any rush.

In this article, my purpose is to create the absolute urge and need for you to travel to Pandan Island. Hope I’ll manage to show you how much I loved this place!

Pandan Island in the Philippines

The water was unbelievably turquoise and clear!

How to get to Pandan Island?

Pandan Island is located West of Mindoro island in the Philippines. Getting there is a bit tricky and that’s why it has remained secluded and away from the tourist masses.

If you come from Coron to Pandan Island, you have to first take a ferry to San Jose and then continue by van or by bus from there to Sablayan which is the port nearest to Pandan Island. The ferry from Coron to San Jose should take approximately 6 hours but prepare for a longer time and note that the ferry goes once every two days (during the time of this writing). Make sure you reserve a ticket for a bed spot!

If the sea is rough you may need to spend there up to 10 hours (For me it was one of the hardest ferry rides ever with a stomach flu and rough sea).  The van ride from San Jose to Sablayan takes approximately 2 hours. You will still need a short tricycle ride to “fish landing” – just mention Pandan Island Resort and they’ll know where to take you. Definitely contact the accommodation so they know what time to pick you up with their boat.

Ferry from Coron to San Jose

A rough 10-hour ferry ride from Coron to San Jose

If you come from Boracay to Pandan, you can take a ferry from Caticlan port to Bulalacao port. The ferry goes twice a day but check the schedules beforehand. From Bulalacao you need to take a van to San Jose and then from San Jose a bus or a van to Sablayan. And then lastly the short boat ride to Pandan Island.

If you come from Puerto Galera to Pandan, you just basically need to go around the whole island from the North to the East side, then South and to the West. The road is not connected to Puerto Galera on the West side of the island.

What is the easiest way to get to the island, then? There’s no easy way and it really depends on where you are coming from. Those are the most likely scenarios where you may be coming from but basically ferries and vans are your ways to get to Pandan Island.

There are some random flights to San Jose but the reviews weren’t too promising. I didn’t feel like taking those flights.

Pandan Island Resort, Philippines

My perfect place on Pandan Island

Snorkeling and diving on Pandan Island

You should know that Pandan Island is an absolute paradise! The island is surrounded by amazing coral reefs and it’s one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen in the Philippines. The island and its surroundings are also the home of sea turtles! Turtles are the most amazing site on the island to my mind and they alone are a reason to travel there. However, you should know that 2019 December the typhoon that went over the island destroyed some of the turtles’ nutrition so they are slightly more rare to see on the island nowadays.

Turtle on Pandan Island, Philippines

This big turtle was very chilled and swam with me for a while

Turtles on Pandan Island in the Philippines

This small turtle had a cool pattern on its back!

How to see the turtles on Pandan Island

Luck is always in the game when you try to see the sea creatures, remember that. How you can get your chances up to see the turtle is to go snorkeling on the tip of the island. The reef area is called Neptune’s Land. On the right-hand side of it, there’s a sandy seafloor and super bright water so if you want, you can go in from there and then head to the left towards the North Wall. The turtles can be seen over the reef there.

There are many different kinds of dive sites around the island and I cannot say much about them because I couldn’t dive while I was there. Unfortunately, I was sick and my ears didn’t function well. I had a huge pressure inside my head and diving one meter deep was painful. I hope you get to experience the diving there too because it must be amazing!

Pandan Island beach

On Pandan Island, even in high season you get the beach for yourself!

Pandan Island Resort

On Pandan Island, there is only one resort called Pandan Island Resort. The resort is owned by a Frenchman and there’s also a diving company on the premises called Mariposa Diving. The resort has 22 bungalows, one restaurant and one bar. There are 5 types of bungalows which are Budget Bungalows, Standard Bungalows, Standard Double Bungalows, Superior Bungalows and Family Bungalows.

Pandan Island Resort

The view to the yard from the bungalow porch.

Accommodation in Pandan Island

The bungalows are pretty basic in the sense that don’t expect anything luxurious when you book your holiday on Pandan Island. But I have nothing bad to say either!

When you expect basic and when you get clean basic accommodation, it’s alright. However, you should know that there is no running fresh water on the island. When you use your shower or wash your hands it’s always seawater. The staff will bring some fresh water to your bungalow separately.

The cheapest bungalow which is Budget Bungalow is 2100 PHP which is roughly 38 euros a night. It’s not cheap, I’ll give you that and especially for a very basic accommodation with a fan. What is good is that the price includes a dinner that is rich in variety and tastes great – and there is always free drinking water available during your stay. It’s not an ideal place for a budget traveler but I still say that this is a place worth paying for!

Bungalow at Pandan Island Resort, Philippines

My cute bungalow on Pandan Island

Mariposa Diving

Mariposa Diving company has had very inconsistent ratings online. I also have to say that I wasn’t happy with them and I cannot recommend them, unfortunately. It’s a bit hard when there’s only one company on the island that can play on their own rules.  However, I didn’t dive with them so maybe it depends on the instructor or divemaster whether your dives will be good or not. I can only judge them by the snorkeling trip I did to Apo Reef which I will tell you a bit more later on.

The beach on Pandan Island

The beach on Pandan Island is amazing!

Daytrip to Apo Reef

Apo Reef is the second biggest reef in the world! The Great Barrier Reef in Australia being the biggest. Apo is the most beautiful reef I’ve ever seen! But I must say that if you dive you’ll get so much more out of the trip than only by snorkeling.

Apo Reef is located 2 hours from Pandan Island by a 2-story live boat. You can also get there from Sablayan harbor or from Coron. If you choose to go there from Coron, you’ll need to sleep on the boat too.

Apo Reef by snorkeling

Snorkeling at Apo Reef, it’s more colorful than what this photo shows

Snorkeling at Apo Reef was amazing and I have no regrets other than I wish I could have dived.  As I mentioned earlier on this post I was sick during my stay here so I couldn’t dive but I still didn’t want to miss the Apo Reef. By diving, you can see sharks and stingrays. For snorkeling highlights, expect to see hungry barracudas, huge pufferfish and magnificently colorful corals.

The trip to Apo Reef is expensive. Like really expensive! The snorkeling trip was 3600 PHP and diving is 9400 PHP.  Part of the price goes for the environmental fee which is higher for a diver than for a non-diver. It’s not cheap but especially for a diver, it is worth paying for.

Red Horse beer, Philippines

Red Horse if my favorite beer in the Philippines, yum yum!

Pros and cons of my trip to Apo Reef

Let’s start with the positives. It was the most beautiful reef I’ve seen so far! Amazing amount of colors and species of fish! The first snorkel of the day was a mesmerizing sight. On my second snorkel, I saw a huge barracuda and big pufferfish which was cool too. Overall a very beautiful reef!

Cons were the unprofessionalism of the Mariposa diving company. I guess the divers had fun but me and my travel partner didn’t get any briefings of what to see underwater even though we asked for it. The only thing we were told was that we will drop you off here and collect you back from that point.

The last snorkel of the day left a bad taste of the trip. The reef wasn’t good for snorkeling, it was full of dead coral and it was too deep. There was a strong current that pushed us far away from the boat. Then we hit a school of plankton and got stung pretty bad – luckily we missed some of the jellyfish floating towards us.

The boat didn’t move from the place where we had gone into the water so we had to swim against the current. I consider myself a good swimmer with the fins but I really struggled to swim all the way to the boat while I got stung by plankton. When we finally reached the boat nobody even bothered to ask how was our snorkel.

Apo Reef is amazing and you can read the full story of my day there from here. Just don’t use Mariposa diving company for a snorkeling trip to Apo Reef!

Check out my full blog post about Apo Reef!

Beautiful sunset on Pandan Island, Philippines

Beautiful sunset on Pandan Island

Pandan Island experience

Pandan Island experience was really good all in all! I loved the resort and being able to walk barefoot everywhere. It was a really unwinding and relaxing time! I spent there two nights and I wish I could have stayed for longer.

I enjoyed my time in the hammock and snorkeling so much that I wish I had stayed for at least two more nights. Of course, the trip to Apo Reef also required a day which meant less time to enjoy the island.

I highly recommend visiting Pandan Island! It is a bit of trouble to get there but for me, it was totally worth it! If you like marine life and snorkeling or diving, Pandan Island is the destination for you.

Check out also my travel guide to Coron!

Pandan Island, Philippines

My perfect place – Pandan Island

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