It’s easy to understand why people fall in love with El Nido, Palawan. Or rather, the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it known as The Bacuit Archipelago. Our El Nido Palawan beach experiences were some of the best of our travels!
It’s one of those special parts of the world that you really need to see to believe.
From beautiful white sand beaches and clear water lagoons, to stunning cliff-backed islands, it’s a truly magical place. The lagoons reminded us of our time in Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam, fond memories of another wonderful adventure!
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The four main tours available to experience the Palawan beaches of El Nido
- Our opinion on the best two El Nido tours to take if you are short for time, or on a budget
- Island hopping tips to make the most of your experience
- Where to stay in El Nido
- How to get there
We spent a week of our precious time in the Philippines in El Nido, and we could have easily lingered a little longer. Not only are there plenty of amazing boat tours to occupy you, it’s a beautiful place just to relax.
We stayed in the Corong Corong area of El Nido, which was the best place to sit and watch some incredible El Nido sunsets!
Before we go into the details, our advice is not to rush this place. Simply kick back, order a fresh coconut, and enjoy another spectacular sunset. You’ll think you’ve landed in paradise.
Read on for our highlights including top tips on island hopping tours, how to get there, and where to stay!
1. Palawan Beaches Of El Nido Tour Options
You’ll quickly learn that most of the island hopping tours are to set destinations around the Bacuit Archipelago. There are 4 main tours to choose from, simply known as Tours A, B, C & D. Each offers a different experience of the 45 beautiful islands and islets of the Archipelago.
To give you an idea, here’s a summary of each tour:
Tour A – Lagoons & snorkelling
- Small Lagoon
- Big Lagoon
- Shimizu Island
- Secret Lagoon
- Seven Commando Beach
Tour B – Pristine beaches, caves & snorkelling
- Snake Island
- Cathedral Cave
- Lunch On Deserted Island
- Lagen Beach Elis Island
Tour C – Secret beaches & shrines
- Secret Beach
- Hidden Beach
- Shrine Island
- Star Beach
- Colasa Beach
Tour D – Exploring Cadlao Island
- Helicopter Island
- Pasandigan Cave
- Ipil Beach
- Cadlao Lagoon
- Paradise Beach
2. The Best Two El Nido Tours If You’re Short On Time (Or Budget)
If like us, you don’t have enough time (or budget!) to do all four tours, choosing which tour to take can be tricky. We chose tour A because we didn’t want to miss secret lagoon of El Nido Palawan and snorkelling. We chose tour B because Snake Island looked incredible.
Most companies and accommodations offering island hopping tours have the same itineraries, so typically there is a standard price for each of them. For convenience, we simply booked through our accommodation in Corong Corong.
The next day we were off on our first island hopping tour – we were so excited!
El Nido Tour B – Beaches, Caves & Snorkelling!
Packed and raring to go, we greeted our fellow travellers before wading our way out to our boat. As with most sailing and fishing boats in the Philippines, it was a beautiful traditional style outrigger boat. Known as a ‘bangka’., it was much smaller than we expected, so we prepared for a bumpy ride!
All aboard and greeted by our local tour guides for the day, we set sail for our first destination, Snake Island. Of all the places we were set to visit around the Archipelago, we were really excited about Snake Island!
Imagine two islands, beautifully connected by one long and winding El Nido Palawan beach. Crystal clear water on either side…yup, this is real!
Wandering barefoot along Snake Island is an experience to treasure! If you feel like it, you can also take a short climb up to a beautiful outlook point. Just make sure you bring some decent walking sandals, it’s well worth it!
Having worked up an appetite from our small hike and time wandering Snake Island, it was time for lunch! It was to be our first experience of the Archipelago’s famously pristine and deserted beaches.
After a delicious lunch, we took a walk along what felt like a private beach just for us. It was so serene to take in the incredible scenery all around us.
We returned to our bangka and cruised to our next destination – the aptly named Cathedral Cave. Carved out from the rock around it, its an interesting formation to look at but we didn’t linger there long.
It was time for some snorkelling in the nearby waters! Unfortunately we didn’t spot any turtles as hoped, but there was plenty of other marine life to admire. It’s the crystal clear waters around the islands that make it extra special.
We’re not sure if it’s normally part of Tour B, but our lovely guides stopped by another beautiful island on our way back. It was the perfect end to our first tour of the El Nido Palawan beaches.
Safely back to our accommodation by Corong Corong bay, we took our positions to enjoy another amazing sunset while we reflected on a wonderful day.
El Nido Tour A – Lagoons & Snorkelling!
After the beauty of the Bacuit Archipelago from Tour B, we took a day to recover. The following day, it was time for El Nido Tour A!
The secret lagoon of El Nido Palawan, snorkelling and more deserted beach hopping awaited us!
With a few more travellers joining us this time, we were treated to a cruise on a slightly larger bangka! Arriving to our first destination was no less than spectacular. It was genuinely one of the most magnificent sights we have witnessed in all our travels.
Arriving to a spectacular headland, we sailed past towards a small beach nestled between the soaring rock formations of El Nido.
This was like something out of a movie, just an incredible place to visit. From this small El Nido Palawan beach, we swam through a small gap in the limestone to reach the secret lagoon of El Nido Palawan.
After our time here, we sailed through some incredible limestone islets, a magical place! Our guide safely navigating the narrowing channel onwards to the big lagoon of El Nido Palawan.
Arriving at the big lagoon, we left our camera behind in order to swim to the lagoon as there were many boats floating nearby. To be honest this was our least favourite part of the tour, it was very busy and not as serene as the rest of the tour!
Arriving back to our accommodation in Corong Corong, we we witnessed some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen in our lives! The Philippines sure does spectacular sunsets!
So that was our El Nido Tours summary! As usual, we’ve noted down some top tips to make your experience even more enjoyable!
3. El Nido Island Hopping Tips
- Bring some dry bags to store cameras, smart phones and any other valuables. It can get pretty wet on the simple bangka style boats, especially if it’s a choppy day at sea!
- Bring some rubber shoes to cover your feet to avoid cuts from the coral, though try to avoid stepping on any in the first place!
- Bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat, especially for sailing between islands when you’re most exposed.
4. How To Get To El Nido
It’s a little bit of a trek to El Nido in the North of Palawan island, but it’s most definitely worth it. Try not to let the distance put you off going! Unless of course you don’t have enough time to allocate a few days to it once you arrive.
One of the cheapest and most common ways to get there is by shuttle bus from Puerto Princesa, which depending on stops, takes approximately 5-6 hours.
Puerto Princesa is the main town on the island and has a local airport hosting many budget airlines including Cebu Pacific, Air Asia etc which all operate regular flights from Manila and Cebu.
When it comes to arranging your shuttle bus transport from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, we highly recommend booking this well in advance. This is especially important during peak season (public holidays and typically March to early June). We used the service Daytripper for our journey and would highly recommend them. Alternatively, book an online transfer with www.elnidoparadise.com.
5. Where To Stay In El Nido
We decided to avoid El Nido town itself, and chose instead to stay round the coast by the bay of Corong Corong. Why? Well mainly because of the sunsets!
El Nido town’s sunsets are obstructed by tall Cadlao Island. So if it’s sunsets you’re after, then we’d highly recommend staying in the Corong Corong area instead. It’s also very peaceful and has a good selection of restaurants and accommodation options. For us, it was one of the best El Nido Palawan beach experiences. What more could you want?!