Palawan, Philippines: El Nido and Coron
The Philippines are simply gorgeous. There are over 7000 islands that make up this country and we scooted, boated, swam, hiked, and snorkeled as many as possible. Each time we came upon a new spot, it was eye opening and surprisingly different than the last. Sabang, Port Barton, and Sibaltan were sleepy beach towns where we relaxed in hammocks and bamboo huts between exploring the bustling towns and surrounding archipelagos of El Nido and Coron.
Boat tours brought us (and sometimes an uncomfortable amount of other tourists = crowded!) close to spectacular sites: limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, secluded white beaches, 100's of different corals, fish, and clam. All the while we were surrounded by every color of blue water you could dream up, ranging from crystal clear turquoise to deep indigo. The most spectacular site we saw, and perhaps I have ever seen, was a lagoon from above on our hike to Kayangan Lake on the island of Coron. I could have sat there staring at it all day.
And the people - constant smiles on every face. They waived or chatted with us every chance they got. The kids would swarm us and giggle. They love Jesus (a huge shift from the temples, monks, and buddhas), basketball, and their country. It was a happy place indeed.