If you are going to El Nido, you will definitely be doing an El Nido island hopping tour. I’ve read some blogs where people do all 5 of them but unfortunately we weren’t blessed with western $$ or much time. We opted to do 2 tours, tour A and C which are the most popular of the tours.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour C: Hidden Beaches and Shrines
We did both our tours with Taiyo, where we were staying. On both tours we were only four people which was great. On the morning of Tour C it was overcast and cool. The water was pretty calm so we had no worries about sea-sickness.
The cost of Tour C is P1400 (R450) per person and included snorkels, flippers and lunch. The tours are standardised and so are the prices – so you will be getting a similar tour no matter who you book with on the island. There is no need to pre-book tours before your arrival. Tour C includes stops at
- Secret Beach,
- Hidden Beach,
- Matinloc Shrine,
- Tapiutan Island, and
- Helicopter Island.
The great thing about our tour was that our guides were flexible and had great timing at each stop so that when we went to each location, they were relatively empty.
The Secret Beach is stunning. You enter it from the choppy sea and once your reach it the water it is still and serene. Unfortunately our GoPro skills were somewhat lacking at the time so our pictures didn’t do justice to the beauty of the beach (don’t worry, our skills did improve).
Next we went to Hidden Beach. I know, the names are a bit too literal. You have to swim through a little hole in the rock in very choppy seawater which is not within my swimming capabilities. Our tour guides put me on a kayak and pushed me through. You think I would be embarrassed but you get over it pretty quickly. The sea water outside the hole is pretty cold but once you are within the calm lagoon-like water, its warm and teeming with sea-life.
Matinloc Shrine was our next stop. Unfortunately when we got there it was quite packed. The views were awe-inspiring though. Make sure you get a few snaps from the top of the rock. There is construction taking place on the island.
By midday the weather cleared up and was beautiful. We had a great seafood lunch prepared by our crew which was the first real meal we had since our arrival (traveler’s belly was not kind). We then snorkeled for a while. The sea was full of life and evil looking sea-urchins (swim-shoes is a must). We swam with tons of fish and we didn’t encounter any jellyfish on this tour.
Our last stop for the day was Helicopter Island. We stopped on a quiet part of the island and were literally the only people there. It is spectacular!
El Nido Tour A: Lagoons and Beaches
Tour A is the most popular tour in El Nido. It is no surprise, it takes you to some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen. It includes stops at
- Small Lagoon,
- Big Lagoon,
- Secret Lagoon,
- Shimizu Island and
- 7 Commando Beach.
We first stopped at Secret Lagoon where I got my first intro to jellyfish (or something that stung). They seemed to be attracted to me! I suspect it must have been my ungraceful floundering. It’s best to wear a long-sleeve rashvest on this tour.
Secret Lagoon was cool but it’s small and gets pretty packed. Shimizu Island was so great for snorkeling. The coral was alive and and we got so many amazing shots on the GoPro. However, I was enjoying myself so much I inadvertently allowed the current to take me far from the boat and exhausted myself trying to get back. Luckily our amazing guide, Mark, was there to save my butt and drag me back (Eish-again).
We then headed to the Big Lagoon. Chances are you have probably seen pictures of the Big Lagoon if you have read anything about the Philippines. Pictures pale in comparison to actually seeing it with your own eyes. It is breathtakingly beautiful. You cannot enter the lagoon with a big boat so you can either hire a kayak for P200 or swim. I definitely wouldn’t advise swimming as there is an astonishing number (and variety) of jellyfish in the water. The great thing about the Big Lagoon is that you feel like you are lone adventurers at times. Even though there are other people, its big enough to feel like you are in your own little world.
The Small Lagoon is beautiful and nice and cool in the midday sun but it lacks the majesty of the Big Lagoon so if you can only afford to kayak at one of these then I’d definitely recommend the Big Lagoon. There are also less jellyfish in the Small Lagoon so many people choose to swim instead.
Our tour guide, Mark, really made the tour special with his sense of humour and his photography skills. If you’re headed to El Nido, definitely look for him at Taiyo.
- Read reviews on Tripadvisor before booking a tour.
- You need to pay a compulsory P200 per person for environmental fees per visit. Not per tour.
- Wear a rashvest and swim shoes
- If you prone to sea-sickness, take meds
- Wear super sunblock and take after sun. I was super sore after the first tour.
- Keep hydrated. A lot of people suffer from heat exhaustion.
- Watch what you eat! The heat makes food go off quickly.
Check out our other posts on the Philippines: