Island Hopping in the Philippines with Big Dream Boat Man

Nacpan Beach
This post may contain affiliate links to things like hotels or tours. This means I may earn a small commission without any cost to you. If it's not something I personally use myself, I won't recommend it to you.

Island hopping between Coron and El Nido with Big Dream Boat Man was one of the highlights of my backpacking trip to the Philippines. No phone connection, camping on a private beach, snorkelling in crystal clear waters, eating delicious homecooked food, and relaxing on endless white sand beaches. It was the definition of paradise.

Coron and El Nido are two of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. It’s possible to get a fast ferry between Coron and El Nido, but when there are so many remote islands to explore, what would be the fun in that?

Instead, I highly recommend joining a multi-day island hopping tour with Big Dream Boat Man. Spend your days snorkelling and exploring hidden beaches, and spend your nights camping on a private beach and stargazing. Several friends have asked me to help them plan their trips to the Philippines, and this is always the first thing I recommend for their itinerary.

In this guide, I’ve shared everything you need to know about island hopping with Big Dream Boat Man.

Disclaimer: I paid full price for this tour and don’t receive any commission or benefits for recommending them. I genuinely think they’re brilliant.

Island Hopping with Big Dream Boat Man
Beautiful white beaches in Palawan

About Big Dream Boat Man

Coron and El Nido sit in the Palawan area of the Philippines, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The water is crystal clear, the limestone cliffs are stunning, and the white sand beaches are some of the best beaches in the world.

As I said above, a fast ferry between Coron and El Nido is possible, but if you have the time, I highly recommend a multi-day island hopping tour.

Several operators offer this tour, but Big Dream Boat Man stands out above the rest. A friend recommended it to me, and I am so glad I chose to do the tour with them.

The company began back in 2017 with the goal of taking visitors to off-the-beaten-path places. It’s no secret that the Philippines is a victim of over-tourism, and Big Dream Boat Man aims to give visitors an escape from the crowds in a responsible way. The guides are all local, and more often than not, you’ll be the only boat on an island at any one time.

If you opt to go with Big Dream Boat Man, you’ll spend your days travelling between islands on a boat, and your nights are spent camping on private beaches.

Reasons to choose Big Dream Boat Man

Island hopping between Coron and El Nido was one of the activities I was most looking forward to in the Philippines. I spent hours researching all the various companies and, in the end, decided to go with BDBM.

Here are a few reasons why:

Smaller groups
The Big Dream Boat Man boats can hold a maximum of 18 guests. Some other companies, such as El Nido Paradise, have bigger boats with around 30 passengers.

Higher quality
Big Dream Boat Man offers an incredibly high quality of service. From the moment we met the crew, they were so welcoming and made sure we had everything we needed. They also spent their evenings entertaining us, drinking with us and even setting up a karaoke machine.

More inclusions
The tour with BDBM includes many activities, including kayaking, meals and snacks, and even alcohol. From my research, not many other companies include this much, especially alcohol (which might not be important to you).

BDBM are experts in what they do. They’re one of the original operators in the area and know exactly how to give you the best experience.

Focus on sustainability
BDBM has a strong focus on sustainability. Our guides told us about how we can protect the ocean, and we had a great conversation about managing overtourism in the Philippines. The company also invests money in local communities. We visited a local school on a remote island and played basketball with the children.

Big Dream Boat Man takes you off the beaten path
More beautiful remote beaches

About island hopping with BDBM

The itinerary and destinations

The tours between El Nido and Coron are four days and three nights. A three-night option is also available for those who want to start and end in Coron. Other companies offer both shorter and longer tours, but in all honesty, I think three nights is the perfect amount of time.

No itinerary is the same with Big Dream Boat Man and plans sometimes change due to weather. The guides also want to give you the true island life experience, so they do their best to avoid other tour groups. Our plans often changed at the last minute to avoid other groups.

We did the Coron to El Nido trip. The first day was spent exploring the Coron area, including its key spots, Twin Lagoon and Kayangan Lake. We left later than the tour boats, so when we arrived, everything was empty.

The next two days were spent island hopping and visiting beautiful beaches, snorkelling, searching for turtles and jumping off cliffs. We also visited a local village to learn about the real ‘island life’.

On our last day, we headed towards El Nido, visiting Nacpan Beach, one of the area’s most beautiful beaches, before arriving in the town.  

The guides do try and cover off one or two of the main attractions in El Nido and Coron, but if there is somewhere you really want to visit like Twin Lagoon, I’d recommend booking a separate tour.

The boat

The boat used for the expeditions is a classic-style Filipino boat with everything you need. There is a main deck with plenty of space for relaxing and eating, plus an upstairs area for sunbathing and chilling.

The lower deck also has two large nets at the side which are perfect for sunbathing. You can use these when the boat is stationary or moving (but you may get a bit wet).

The main kitchen is downstairs, and there is also a toilet and a freshwater shower.

Your bags are kept under the main deck.

The daytime

The days involve sailing between stunning islands with stops in various places to snorkel or explore the white sand beaches. It’s picturesque, to say the least.

Some of the snorkelling we did on this trip was by far the best we did in the Philippines – we saw turtles, thriving reefs and an array of fish species we hadn’t seen before. If you don’t feel like swimming or exploring the islands, you can kayak, paddleboard or simply relax on the boat. We also visited a local village and played basketball with the children there.

You arrive at your accommodation on a remote island at around 5 p.m. each day. You then have time to swim, watch the sunset, and relax before dinner (and usually karaoke).

The sleeping arrangements

Your nights will be spent camping on remote islands. This can include tents, but more often than not it’s small beach cabins and huts.

For the first of our three nights, we stayed in a building with a bed and our own private bathroom (and a fan!), which we weren’t expecting at all. The next two nights were spent in basic beach huts with a mattress, mosquito net, and shared bathrooms.

The accommodation was more than sufficient and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and waking up on the beach was something I won’t forget.

The food

The food on our trip was by far the best I have experienced in the Philippines. It was always freshly cooked, and there was a selection of local dishes.

We were served three meals a day plus an afternoon snack, and it’s safe to say we never went hungry. There was always a fish, meat and vegetarian option as well as plenty of rice, fruit, salads and vegetables (plus desserts).

Delicious food was always cooked by the local guides
Home cooked food

Other FAQ

Do I have to book in advance?

Definitely. Big Dream Boat Man tours sell out weeks, sometimes months, in advance. I booked my tour two months ahead. You might get lucky and be able to book closer to the time, but to guarantee a spot, you need to plan ahead. This is the case for most of the companies that operate this tour, although some of the bigger operators, like El Nido Paradise, can be a bit more last-minute.

Is there electricity?

The islands we stayed on all had electricity at certain times. It was usually switched off by the time we went to bed. This is often not very reliable, though, so I’d highly suggest packing a portable charger to keep anything you want charged.

Is there phone reception?

We didn’t have much phone reception during our four days. There was the occasional glimpse of connectivity, but we enjoyed being cut off from the world and relaxing. It’s a great amount of time to switch off from the internet.

Is it okay for vegetarians and vegans?

If you’re vegetarian, you should be okay with the meals. Eggs are served with breakfast and lunch, and dinners always include vegetarian options, sometimes even beans and tofu. For vegans, you can speak to Big Dream Boat Man beforehand so they can try to cater to you, but I’d recommend bringing extra snacks to make sure you don’t go hungry.

Is alcohol included?

Alcohol is included with Big Dream Boat Man. We were surprised to find unlimited beer, gin, and rum on the boat, as well as lots of soft drinks. Each night, the drinks and filtered water were transported to the island, so you never went thirsty.  

Do I have to swim on the trip?

Yes, there was lots of swimming on the tour. If you’re not the biggest fan of swimming in the ocean or can’t swim, you can stay and sunbathe on the boat, but most activities did involve swimming. There is also a kayak and paddleboard you could use instead of swimming.

However, there were a few occasions when we had to swim to islands including our accommodation. The kayaks will take your belongings with you and if you really don’t want to swim, you could use this too.

My Big Dream Boat Man crew
My Big Dream Boat Man crew

Was it busy?

There were only 18 people on our tour, and we spent most of the four days not seeing any other people. In fact, there was only one other beach we went to where we saw another group. Our guides even changed the itinerary one day to avoid visiting a spot when it was busy.

Where does your luggage go?

You’ll need to pack a small backpack with anything you need over the four days. Honestly, you won’t need much more than swimwear and coverups.

Your big backpack will go beneath the main deck. It can be accessed in an emergency, but it’s better to have anything you need to hand.

Do you still need to spend time in Coron or El Nido?

This is a tough one to answer. We started the tour in Coron, and it was unclear whether we’d visit the Coron highlights with Big Dream Boat Man. As I was keen to see a few spots such as Twin Lagoon, I opted to join a day tour in Coron.

In the end, we ended up covering the same spots with BDBM, so it wasn’t worth the trip. Granted, that’s never guaranteed, so if you really want to see something, I’d arrange a separate tour to be safe.

There’s not much else to do in Coron other than island hopping (unless you want to dive). So, if you are starting your BDBM tour in Coron, you don’t need to spend much time there beforehand.

There’s a bit more going on in El Nido, so I’d definitely plan to spend at least a day or two there before or after the tour.

However, if you’re on a tight timeframe, the BDBM four-day tour shows you the best the area has to offer away from the crowds, so you don’t need to spend lots of time in El Nido or Coron.

What is the toilet and shower situation?

The boat itself has a toilet as well as a shower to rinse off that pesky salt water.

On the islands, there were always shared toilets and showers. These were very basic and often bucket showers, but they were more than sufficient for four days of island life.

What should you pack for the expedition?

You can take your main backpack or suitcase onto the boat, but it will be stored underneath. You’ll only have access to it at night upon request.

This can be a pain so I’d suggest packing a separate bag with all the things you think you’ll need. I used my day bag and kept it with me on the boat, as well as a dry bag with anything valuable in it.

Here is what I’d recommend packing for this trip:


  • At least two swimsuits
  • A cover-up for the daytime on the boat or when exploring islands
  • At least one outfit for the evening (this can be casual and isn’t essential by any means, but it’s nice to change out of your wet swimwear!)
  • Underwear
  • Something you’re happy to sleep in
  • Something warm (the evenings can get a bit chilly in the wind, so bring a thin layer you can wear)


  • Towel (I did get one from BDBM, but it’s a good idea to have two, especially if you want to shower)
  • Bug spray
  • Sun cream (bring lots, you’ll be applying it loads, and there’s nowhere to buy any once you start the trip)
  • Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries

Summary: Is Big Dream Boat Man worth it?

Yes, yes, and yes again. My island-hopping tour between Coron and El Nido is one of my favourite memories from the Philippines. The area is absolutely stunning, and there is something special about being away from the crowds and camping on remote islands.

Our crew were absolutely fantastic and went above and beyond to make sure we had the absolute best possible time.

If there’s one thing you do in the Philippines, make it this!

BDBM Pinterest
Share this guide
This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.