Why You’ll Love Island Hopping from Alona Beach

After our quick diversion in Cebu City we continued our adventures by traveling to Bohol and Panglao, quiet Visayan islands just southeast of Cebu.

We had a blast staying on Alona Beach on Panglao Island. There were great activities nearby, from scuba diving to a Tarsier monkey sanctuary, and the whole area had a relaxed island vibe that resonated well with us.

One of our first adventures from Alona Beach was an awesome island hopping tour to Balicasag and Virgin Islands.

Alona Beach Island Hopping | Trekking with Twins
Setting off on our island hopping adventure – our boatman’s mother sits in the front of the boat.

Panglao Island Hopping

“Island hopping today Sir?”

We heard this up and down White Beach while we were on Boracay. We held off on Boracay because we knew we were headed to Panglao and El Nido where, based on what we had read, we planned to do a lot of island hopping adventures.

When we arrived in Panglao we headed straight to the beach for some dinner and right away we came across a couple of boatmen singing the familiar “Island hopping Sir?”. We didn’t agree until later in the evening when we met a family on the beach with their young daughter.

The man was friendly and outgoing, interested in us and how we came to Alona. Only after having a substantial conversation about the twins and our travel did he mention island hopping.

He asked if we had been to Balicasag Island yet. We said we had not. “I have a boat, Sir”. Of course you do!

We learned the boatman’s name was Lo Long. Lo Long offered us the best price we had heard so far to hire the whole boat (1,200 pesos which is about $27) and we just clicked with him.

So we agreed to meet at the beach the following morning for a trip to look for dolphins and snorkel at the nearby Balicasag Island. Lo Long said to meet him at 6 a.m.

While we have twin 3 year olds who like to get up early, 6 a.m. is still very early for us to be actually functional, packed up, and out the door.

We tried asking Lo Long to skip the dolphin watching, which was the reason for the painfully early start, and just go straight to the islands a bit later. But the message got lost somewhere in translation. We came away from the conversation with the understanding that we should be at the beach at 6.

Looking for Dolphins

Bleary eyed and barely dressed we stumbled down to the beach bright and early. Lo Long was waiting with his boat, while his first mate had procured some snorkel equipment for us to rent (we didn’t actually need it as we had our own, but nice to know it’s an option in case you didn’t bring yours).

Not only that, but Lo Long’s mother was along for the ride to Balicasag and she had brought a bag full of some amazing breakfast treats. We don’t know what they were called but they were casava mixed with sugar and spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf. You ate it sort of like a burrito, peeling the leaf away as you went down. Yummy and filling.

We spent about an hour or a little longer motoring along, eyes glued to the water looking for those dolphins, but they just didn’t show. Apparently this is a rare occurance and we just happened to be unlucky that day, but we did not see one dolphin. So much for starting at the crack of dawn!

We did see a big school of flying fish jump into the air and we all enjoyed the morning on the water despite not finding Flipper and friends.

After giving up on the dolphins we headed to Balicasag Island.

Balicasag Island

Balicasag is a small round island about a half hour boat ride from Alona Beach. It’s ringed with white sand and clear blue water, and known as a scuba diving paradise.

Balicasag Island Beach | Trekking with Twins
The beach on Balicasag Island, one of our island hopping destinations.

Arriving at Balicasag we were introduced to one of Lo Long’s friends, who happened to operate a tour guide business from his small banca (the Philippines version of an outrigger canoe). It was clear that we were expected to employ this gentleman to bring us to the reef in his canoe.

Lo Long also just so happened to have family who ran a small restaurant on the island (notice a pattern?) and he guided us over to it to sit down and drop our bags.

After some negotiation with Lo Long’s friend (ok, a lot of negotiation, some walking away down the beach, and some help from Lo Long) we agreed on a price and set off in the canoe (400 pesos for the four of us, $9). This included seeing the marine sanctuary as well as a sea turtle feeding ground.

Giant Clam Shell - Balicasag Island | Trekking with Twins
Checking out a giant clam shell on the beach at Balicasag Island.

We weren’t trying to nickel and dime the guide, but we had been quoted the 400 peso number by Lo Long the day before, and understood that to be the going rate. We even left a 50% tip at the end of the day because it was a great value.

The guide services at Balicasag are certainly optional, though it doesn’t seem that way. There’s really nothing stopping you from simply walking down the beach, wading into the water, and swimming over to the reef – it’s not far.

But there’s definite value in the guide service and we decided it was worth the small expense.

It’s also a way to support the local economy. This is the way these guys make a living. It is a useful service and we were happy to pay (once everyone agreed to accept the going rate).

We actually had two guides, sort of a captain and first mate of our tiny canoe. With the two of them and the four of us the canoe was pretty well loaded down.

Seeing some 20-30 foot bancas later in our travels labeled as “Max. 8 Passengers” we certainly were overloading our little 8 ft. canoe! But we were in very shallow water close to shore and so didn’t worry about it. Something to think about if the sea was rough though.

Balicasag Island | Trekking with Twins
Our fully loaded banca over the reef off Balicasag Island.

Our guides were great. They brought us to nice spots and floated along in their boat next to us while we snorkeled, but the best part was they acted as babysitters too!

Aurora and Jasper loved hanging out in the boat, feeding the fish, and looking down as they swam by in schools below. The water around Balicasag was so clear and the reef so shallow that it was like floating over an aquarium.

Like floating over an aquarium.

Every once in a while the kids jumped in with us and swam for a while. When they got tired, they could just climb back into the canoe. It was perfect.

After some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever experienced the guides brought us to a new area to search for sea turtles.

We actually stopped briefly on the way for the guides to get breakfast. They dropped us on a beach while they ran into their house to eat. It was fine with us as we found some giant clam shells and other shells to look at while we waited.

The sea turtle search was fun and we saw 3 or 4 turtles pretty close up. There’s an area where there’s a lot of sea grass growing on the ocean floor and the turtles graze on the grass. We also saw a couple when we were snorkeling over the reef earlier in the day, but you can never see too many sea turtles.

Exhausted from over 2 hours of snorkeling (more than I think the guides expected of us) we headed back to where Lo Long’s boat was moored. At this point the guides’ services were complete so we gave them an extra 200 pesos for their “babysitting” efforts. Money well spent!

We had a fun lunch at Lo Long’s family restaurant. When we inquired about the type of fish available and the size they simply brought out the exact fish they proposed to serve us on a plate for us to inspect.

Balicasag Island | Trekking with Twins
Here is your fish.

All the food was wonderful. In addition, the family that ran the restaurant was friendly and the kids had a blast playing with a little boy who was about their age and the son of one of the proprietors. We felt like we were eating in someone’s home (actually I think we were).

Balicasag Island | Trekking with Twins
The twins found a friend on Balicasag Island.

We had read that prices at these Balicasag Island restaurants were high, but found the price for our lunch completely fair. We paid 1,000 pesos ($22) for a large grilled fish, a plate of vegetables, tons of rice, and several drinks for us and the kids. We were all very full afterwards.

Balicasag Island | Trekking with Twins
Our lunch restaurant steps from the beach.

Having finished our leisurely lunch after our leisurely snorkeling it was getting into early afternoon.

Typically the Alona beach island hopping tours return to Alona around 1:30 p.m. However, since we had hired the whole boat for the day we had a bit more control over the itinerary and the pace.

We still wanted to see “Virgin Island” so Lo Long obliged and set course in that direction. All of the island hopping tours include Virgin Beach, we were just able to have more time to snorkel and explore Balicasag before heading over to Virgin Island.

Virgin Island’s big draw is a long arching sand bar that extends into the ocean. The scene makes for great photo opportunities.

Virgin Island | Trekking with Twins
Having fun on the Virgin Island sandbar.

Besides some fun beach combing in the shallow water adjacent to the sand bar there’s not a lot else to do on Virgin Island. We spent about 45 minutes walking to the end of the sand bar and back and taking pictures.

As we climbed back onto Lo Long’s boat a boatman from a nearby vessel shouted “Sir, very nice sunset pictures here – you should stay for pictures!” followed by something in Tagalog to Lo Long and lots of laughter. We were pretty sure they were all joking about our slow pace of touring throughout the day. Welcome to travel with 3 year olds!

We returned to Alona at about 2:30 p.m. and tipped an extra 300 pesos as we were really happy with the experience. Every other boatman we talked to wanted 1,500 pesos for a private boat right from the start. Lo Long only asked for 1,200 so even with the tip it was in line with what we budgeted.

Alona Beach Island Hopping | Trekking with Twins
We really liked island hopping from Alona Beach.

We loved the island hopping tour from Alona Beach and it was made all the more enjoyable by Lo Long’s friendly and helpful services. Definitely ask around for him if you find yourself in the area (we often found him around the west end of Alona Beach). He knows lots of people and can help with everything from island hopping to diving, and even arranging a car service to the port in Tagbilaran.

We made such a connection with Lo Long that we passed along some of our extra clothes that we weren’t using to his family. The twins were also very generous and happily included some of their toys for Lo Long’s daughter and the small boy we met on Balicasag Island.

Total cost for our island hopping adventure, including all boat fees, tips, guide charges, and lunch on Balicasag Island: 3,100 pesos ($70).

Not bad for a day’s entertainment for a family of four on a private boat, with fresh seafood lunch cooked to order on a secluded beachfront, not to mention world class snorkeling.

Heading to Alona? Contact Lo Long directly at +63 938 283 0339.

No spam, just family travel updates direct from us to your inbox!

76 thoughts on “Why You’ll Love Island Hopping from Alona Beach

  1. I just love reading about your wonderful adventures. Please keep sending them to me.

    Be safe and well.




    1. Thanks Ilana – it’s great to hear from you! We love writing about them 🙂 We’ll definitely keep it up. Hope all is well with you guys, keep in touch!


  2. Hello,

    Your photos are truly fascinating! Seeing them makes me want to visit the islands soon! But I better plan it ahead to manage my costs, which reminds me, do you have Lo Long’s number?

    Thank you!


    1. Hey Kristine, thanks so much! Glad to hear you’re planning a trip, you’ll love it! I’ll get in touch with Lo Long’s #.


      1. Hi I will be travelling with my family next week in Bohol and would love to contact Lo Long as well for a day trip. Hope you could share his number. Many thanks! Your trip looked amazing!


  3. Hello, so nice trips you got in there.. I am interested to get in touch with Lo long as we are planning to experience the whole day tour in balicasag and Virgin Island. Me my husband and two teenager kids would love to take this lovely moments this coming Jan 19 ,2016. Therefore kindly request to share the number of Lolong.

    Thank you❤️??


  4. Best article ive found about island hopping in Panglao! Thank you! We will be traveling with kids too so i really look forward hiring Lo Long. Can you please email me his contact number? Thank you!


  5. My I have Lo Longs number as well? Im traveling with seniors and babies, are there any other boat options outside of the canoes? like a catamaran? Cheers. thank you


  6. Hello. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Would you pleasesend me Lo Long’s contact information? Thank you and safe travels, Christine


  7. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blog. Would you please send me Lo Long’s contact information?

    Thank you and safe travels,


  8. Great post! Love the water 🙂 It’s nice to read about your experience there. We’re looking forward to our trip this weekend and your post is really informative. Can I have Lo Long’s contact number as well? Thank you!


  9. Hello Matt, we are a couple with a small kid and we are planning to spend some days in Panglao. We are thinking to stay in Dumaluan beach but we are not sure because perhaps from there is a little difficult to reach Alona beach for dinner and there are not many food option there. What is your opinion ?
    On the other side we don’t want to stay on a crowded beach like Alona beach. What do you think is a good choice or maybe is better to go to Boracay to have a better beach ?


    1. Hey Marco,

      You’re right on about the difficulty in getting back and forth. Going from Alona to Dumaluan is pretty easy because there are lots of trikes that can take you. But getting back can be a little more difficult. I’d recommend staying on Alona and making a day trip to Dumaluan. I wouldn’t necessarily call Alona crowded, but perhaps depends on what you’re used to. We found it a pretty lazy beach village (in a good way). We stayed just behind the beach and it was quite, but easy access to the beach and all the restaurants and shops.

      All that said, if you’re choosing only one beach and you want the best beach, I’d go to Boracay. All depends what you’re after for your vacation.


  10. Hi Matt! im planning my itinerary for my cebu-bohol trip this april. i also would like to know Lo Long’s contact number for our island hopping. Hope i could here from you the soonest. Your blog is really helpfun anyway. Keep it up!


    1. Hi Lei, thanks for your comment! Hope we can add some new content soon to keep things interesting… so many stories still to tell! Anyway, emailed you with Lolong’s number.


  11. Hi, thank you for sharing this wonderful information. Our family of 4 will be travelling 1st week of March to Bohol and island hopping is on the list. Will appreciate if you could please share the contact number of Lo Long. Many thanks in advance and God bless you and your family on the many travels ahead.


    1. Thanks for your kind words Jana! All the best to your family as well and have a wonderful trip! Just emailed you Lolong’s number 🙂


  12. Hello.thanks for blogging your trip.i would like to ask lolongs contact number since we have a trip next week on march 15-18.thank you.we would appreciate your help.thanks,


    1. Hi! We were able to get Lo Long’s permission to publish the number so please see above at the end of the post. Enjoy and say hello for us!


  13. Hi,

    Love your blog!! We are planning a trip 1st week of April and would really like to have Lolong as our guide. Can you please forward his tel number? Also, if you have a guide for Bohol tour, that would be great too! Thanks in advance! x


    1. Hi Marina. So sorry to have be late with the info, but Lo Long’s number is now published in the post above. Hope you had an amazing trip!


  14. Hi Matt!
    Your blog is so nice, thanks for the information about Balicasag Island. I have a scheduled trip this year at Bohol, May i know the contact number of Lolong? Thank you! 🙂


    1. Thanks Carla! I just added it to the post above (we got back in touch with Lo Long and got his permission to post publicly). Enjoy your trip!


  15. hi,

    We are planning to have Dolphin watching and island hopping at Panglao, Bohol on April 30. If you have Lolong’s phone number , can you please email it to me?

    Thank you so much!


  16. Hi..I had been reading alot of blogs about Panglao’s trip and your blog just stated what I have been looking for. Great stories though about your trip and how you brought along your family to enjoy with. Would love to have lo long’s number too if its alright 🙂 he must be very grateful of meeting you. Through your blog, you have helped him in his source of living. Anyway, be reading more of your blogs. Hope to hear from you anytime soon. God bless! 🙂


    1. Hi Goldie, thanks for writing and so glad you are enjoying our blog! We got back in touch with Lo Long and he gave us permission to post the number and it’s now included in the post above. We had a blast on Lo Long’s boat so we certainly hope his business does well. More posts coming soon – we’re traveling in Europe now and are looking forward to writing some posts!


  17. hello! enjoyed reading your blog.will be going to bohol this july.And yes based on your advice will stay for 2 nights in Alona with a day trip in Dumaluan 🙂 just want to say your blog is informative 🙂


    1. Thanks Nika. We always love traveling with the kids, and they love having the extra time with us. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.


  18. Hello!

    We found your blog when we were trying to book an island hopping tour through our hotel. While we expected a bit of a hike in price, we weren’t expecting to pay 3x what seemed to be the going rate, and on top of that, in order to get to Baclayon, we were told that we would have to pay for a third person (at the inflated rate) because they didn’t do trips for less than 3 people.

    Since we weren’t staying on Alona Beach, we couldn’t just walk down and find a boat, and we didn’t want to leave it up to chance the next morning. Thankfully, I found this informative blog post, called Lo Long, arranged for pickup, and he came the next morning and picked us up directly from our hotel. Awesome!

    A few updates as of April 2017:
    Cost for Virgin Island and Balicasag: 1500 pesos, not including the fee for the independent boats to take you to the reef on Balicasag
    Cost for Virgin Island, Balicasag and Baclayon: 2200 pesos

    Also, Lo Long said he was about to have his boat undergo some repairs, so he might be out of commission for a while.

    PS: Lo Long asked about the twins. 🙂


    1. Wow what an awesome comment, thank you for taking the time to share this updated info! It’s also so great to hear that you got in touch with Lo Long. Twins are amazing and they now have a baby sister to dote on 🙂 Hopefully some Trekking with Twins +1 posts coming soon!


      1. Tommy I’m not sure that he has access to email. His phone # is in the post above and that seems to have worked for people to get in touch with him.


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