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. It’s one of those special parts of the world that you really need to see to believe.
From beautiful white sand beaches and secret clear water lagoons, to stunning cliff-backed islands and spectacular sunsets, it’s a truly magical place.
We decided to dedicate a week of our time in the Philippines to 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 and take some time out. So our advice? Don’t rush this place. Simply kick back, order a fresh coconut with rum (well it’s a local favourite so it would be rude not to!), and enjoy another spectacular sunset. You’ll think you’ve landed in paradise.
Whilst we could’ve easily sat around drinking fresh coconuts all day, we actually did go on some adventures during our time in El Nido, and we’ve been looking forward to sharing them!
Read on for our highlights including top tips on island hopping tours, how to get there, and where to stay!
El Nido Tours
After some basic research on El Nido, you’ll quickly learn that most of the island hopping tours on offer are to set destinations around the Bacuit Archipelago, and there are 4 main tours to choose from. Simply known as Tours A, B, C & D, each one offers a different experience to some 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 C – Secret beaches & shrines
- Secret Beach
- Hidden Beach
- Shrine Island
- Star Beach
- Colasa Beach
Tour B – Pristine beaches, caves & snorkelling
- Snake Island
- Cathedral Cave
- Lunch On Deserted Island
- Lagen Beach Elis Island
Tour D – Exploring Cadlao Island
- Helicopter Island
- Pasandigan Cave
- Ipil Beach
- Cadlao Lagoon
- Paradise Beach
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 looked into each one a little more and decided that we didn’t want to miss the famous lagoons and snorkelling from Tour A, and Snake Island looked incredible in the photos we’d seen, so Tour B was a must too. Luckily it turned out that these are the most popular tours too, so we secured the cheapest tour rate based on exceeding the minimum number of guests filling our boat – bonus!
As most companies and accommodations operating island hopping tours offer the same inclusions and type of boat, typically at similar standard prices (approximately 1,300 PHP/$28 USD per person as of December 2015), we didn’t feel the need to shop around for a change. For convenience, we simply booked through our accommodation in Corong Corong (Greenviews Resort) and the next day we were off on our first island hopping tour – we were so excited!
Tour B – Beaches, Caves & Snorkelling!
Following our long journey to El Nido, we decided to rest up for a day and book the next available day tour, which happened to be Tour B. So forget chronological order, we started with Tour B!
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, otherwise known as a ‘bangka’. It was cute but 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 pristine beach, accompanied by crystal clear water on either side…yup, this is real!
Wandering barefoot along Snake Island is an experience to treasure, and 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, we were excited when our guide told us we were heading to our lunch spot next…and what turned out to be our first experience of the Archipelago’s famously pristine and deserted beaches…
After a delicious lunch (freshly prepared by our tour guides!) and a wander along what felt like our own private beach, it was time to return to our bangka and cruise to our next destination – the aptly named Cathedral Cave.
After admiring Cathedral Cave, 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 Bay.
Safely back to our temporary home by Corong Corong bay, we took our positions to enjoy another amazing sunset while we reflected on a wonderful day, and got excited for the next…
Tour A – Lagoons & Snorkelling!
Having got a taste of the sheer beauty of the Bacuit Archipelago from Tour B (and a relaxing day to recover in between!), we couldn’t wait for the adventure that awaited us on Tour A….secret lagoons, snorkelling and more deserted beach hopping!
And with a few more fellow 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.
Unfortunately we don’t have an image of the small lagoon, as we had to swim through a small gap in the limestone to reach it, so you’ll just have to take our word for it that it’s beautiful! Completely surrounded by jagged limestone cliffs and deep crystal clear waters await you here.
It was enroute to our next stop that we got to admire some of the most beautiful limestone islets we’d seen so far…
The Big Lagoon
That night we witnessed some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen in our lives! The Philippines sure does spectacular sunsets!
And just when we thought they couldn’t get any better, the colours just kept changing…
Our Favourite Sunset…
So that was our El Nido Tours summary! If you haven’t been then hopefully we’ve inspired you to visit, and if you have, then hopefully this brings back special memories of an incredible place.
As usual, we’ve noted down some top tips to make your experience even more enjoyable!
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.
How To Get There
It’s a little bit of a trek to El Nido in the North of Palawan island, but it’s most definitely worth it, so 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, especially 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.
Where To Stay In El Nido
We decided to avoid El Nido town itself as we’d heard it’s nothing special, and chose instead to stay round the coast by the bay of Corong Corong. Why? Well mainly because of the sunsets! Unfortunately 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, most of which offer the standard island hopping tours. What more could you want?!
Greenviews Resort, Corong Corong
Get Your Trip Organised!
Book Your Flight/Train/Bus/Ferry Tickets Online!
We always recommend that you book your journey in advance, so you have peace of mind that your seats are booked! We recommend using 12go.asia as they offer flight, train, bus and ferry ticket booking online in advance! Check out your journey options and prices here and get your seat reserved!
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What Do You Think? Have you been to El Nido, Palawan? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!