Surreal Houseboat Adventures in a Secret Tropical Lagoon

Philippines
February 24, 2023

Travelogue

Crafted by Kevin
Tucked away in a stunning lagoon, on the Island of Coron in the Philippines, is a cluster of houseboats like no other in the world.

Once upon a time, an intrepid man from Italy named Paolo bought a sailboat and sailed it around the world. After a number of years at sea, he ended up in the tropical waters of the Philippines, met his wife April-Lyn, and never looked back. That’s because their love of the water inspired a dream. A dream that would lead him and his wife to build something that everyone thought was not just impractical, but impossible — a hand made houseboat. This is the story of how they proved them wrong.

Building a Dream

When April-Lyn met Paolo, she fully embraced life on the water with him. As much as they loved living on the sea, they always dreamed of a place with more space and creature comforts than their tiny sailboat could provide. While anchored on April-Lyn’s island, Paolo took note of the boat building skills of the local fishermen. He was certain he could work with them to craft a home that not only was seaworthy, but was comfortable. A with some skillful negotiation and a lot of learning on the fly, a year and a half later, Paolo and April-Lyn had a houseboat. The naysayers were awestruck.

A Little Serendipity and a Lot of Charm

One day, while snorkeling through the colorful waters of Coron, Paolo and April-Lyn discovered a gorgeous lagoon, surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs, that sparked a new dream — could the houseboat call this magical place home? The whole island had been designated a national park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and was under the strict care of the local Tagbanua tribe. No outsiders could live here. But having befriended members of their tribe over many months, they managed to negotiate a deal with the chief.

A New Beginning

The tribe would welcome the houseboat with open arms, and Paolo would start running his houseboat as a special kind of boutique hotel. He loved the people and the surroundings so much, he made sure that his operation had minimal impact on the waters and maximal impact on the wellbeing of the locals.

Ethical at Its Core

Everything is off-grid and solar powered, fresh water is brought in from a spring, no waste is dumped to keep the lagoon pristene (it’s all shuttled away to a septic system on land), and the majority of the staff are Tagbanua people, who are paid three times the market rate for their roles. Paolo and April-Lyn want their project to have the lightest footprint and to give back more than it takes.

Love and Growth

It was no surprise that guests fell in love with the experience. Paolo put the profits right back into building more houseboats, even building out a full service restaurant on the main houseboat. With 6 houseboats today, guests move between the facilities by motorboat, kayak, standup paddle-board, or simply swimming. A stay in this fun little paradise is like no other.

My Experience

I spent 2 days and 1 night here, but I could’ve easily stayed much longer. Though simply constructed out of local materials, the houseboats are complete with creature comforts, including wi-fi! I stayed in the Nemo room, one of their smallest, but it was well outfitted. I did end up sleeping on the comfortable rooftop deck though, as I just couldn’t say no to a canopy of stars and a gentle sea breeze. And waking up to breakfast delivered to me on the roof was such a pleasure. But really, my favorite aspect of staying here was the simple joy of jumping into the crystal clear water at any given moment to check out the coral reefs directly below us.

The Service

Everything felt so personal here, with the warm and welcome staff. Paolo was a lovely host, from the moment I engaged him on WhatsApp to make the booking, to the easy pickup and private speedboat to bring me here. Upon arrival, he gave me a map of the lagoon and the surrounding area, showing the best spots to snorkel and kayak.

The Dining

For meals, the onboard restaurant, with April-Lyn at the helm, cooked up great Italo-Filipino options, even for such a remote location (they simply request that you pre-book some meals so that they can purchase appropriate quantities from the mainland). Don’t miss out on the coconut mango smoothies!

My Impressions

In just 24 hours, I experienced so much both above and below the water here. Paolo was also generous enough to let me check out late to maximize my time here. I will be back. If you’re looking for a unique, adventurous, and unforgettable way to explore the stunning beauty of Coron, I can’t recommend the Paolyn Houseboats enough. You won’t be disappointed!

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Crafted by Kevin

Kevin has combined his decades of creative experience with his lifelong passion for travel by launching Outré, an uncommon travel company. Having traveled to over 400 destinations, covering 35 countries so far, he’s dedicated to making your next journey extraordinary.

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