The El Nido island hopping tour brings you to the most beautiful islands and lagoons of Bacuit Bay. It is THE thing to do when you’re in El Nido—a must-see and do.
There are so many tour operators to choose from. They are stationed all along El Nido bay, so it is easy to book for your own tour when you arrive. No need to book in advance. Besides some inland tours, all of them offer four different island hopping tours simply called: Tour A, B, C, and D.
The best tour to choose for “beginners/first timers” is probably Tour A, which is the most popular among all of them. It gives you a very wide picture and overview of the archipelago that surrounds El Nido.
Tour A Stopovers
Big Lagoon. Beautifully surrounded by steep limestone cliffs; with snorkelling at the coral reef just at the “entrance” to the lagoon; also the setting for The Bourne Legacy movie; all of the three lagoons are at the Miniloc Island.
Small Lagoon. My personal favourite. It is surrounded by even more steep cliffs and secret caves only accessible by diving; with a stunning coral reef (watch out though, the fish there are very territorial and sometimes attack the swimmers by biting them like what happened to Arthur—who was bitten by one of them, leaving him with a tiny 1cm beak mark).
Secret Lagoon. A not so secret lagoon—after all—due to the many tour boats having a stopover here; but nevertheless, it’s stunningly beautiful. It’s only reachable by climbing through a rock formation and then it opens up into a picturesque lagoon with coconut trees and rocky cliffs. The attached beach outside the secret lagoon is also beautiful and gives a nice view to the archipelago.
Simizu. Located right next to the famous 5-star El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island. The beach is divided into a bigger and a smaller part; most tours serve their lunch on this island.
Seven Commandos Beach. Another stunning beach, perfect for swimming and snorkelling above the coral reef; rich in colourful fish; and due to the deep water, the water temperature was refreshingly cool.
We were absolutely blown away by the beauty of El Nido’s nature. The islands are formed into high, rocky mountain cliffs (limestones) that jut out of the deep water so steeply; surrounded by white powdery sand beaches, corals, and clear turquoise water. On the islands you can see the tropical wildlife. There are jungles growing on these small and steep rocks.
Having travelled to the Norwegian Lofoten archipelago in 2011, these islands with their rocky peaks reminded us so much of them. Though they have some similar formations, the climate couldn’t be any more different.
A Full Day Trip
Our tour started at 9:00am and ended at around 3:30pm. It was a whole day tour. We were so exposed to the sun, especially on and in the water, that we were so knackered when we returned to El Nido. The sun drained all our power, burned our skin and probably dehydrated us. But without a doubt, it was all worth it. We loved every moment of the tour.
We stopped at each of the islands/lagoons for 30-60 minutes to swim, snorkel, and take photos. Sometimes I wished we could have stayed a little longer at these stopovers. There was just so much to take in, I couldn’t process it all right away (both the experience and the photos). But on the other hand, having that many stopovers would have just stretched the day tour too long. So I guess, the stopover times were just about right.
Swimming and Snorkelling
I don’t know why I am so fascinated with turquoise waters, but for Westerners, this water color is a synonym for tropical paradise—a symbol for dream destinations.
But as it turns out, not only does the turquoise color and water clarity beautiful, but it also serves a practical purpose. As we waded ashore many times, there were many sharp rocks and corals to watch out for. So being able to see where you’re stepping and what you’re stepping into becomes really important. The clear waters serve an important purpose in these situations.
Prices, Tour Groups and Peak Season
But of course, it being such a beautiful place, does naturally attract many tourists, especially Westerners; even though it’s a bit difficult to reach there (one hour flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa and then 7 hours bus ride to El Nido).
I didn’t expect that many tourists in this remote area, where electricity is only available for a few hours at night and internet connection is very sketchy. But still, the beauty of the archipelago, the jungles and the beaches—those are the reasons people from all over the world come to El Nido. And besides, it was peak season after all.
There were 11 of us on our boat. It would have been nice to travel in a smaller group, of course, but when I asked for the price for a private boat, price started at ₱6,000 (approx. 100€)—definitely beyond our price range.
At some point in the island hopping tour, it got a little crowded. For example, when we were entering the Big Lagoon, all the pump boats were stuck like in a “traffic jam”. But that’s just how it is. This is not some secret destination after all. El Nido is a very popular tourist spot; and very well worth the visit.
Our tour package which cost ₱1,200 + ₱200 environmental fee (covering 10 days) includes:
- whole day island hopping tour,
- drinking water,
- snorkel gear, and
- a delicious and filling lunch
The boat crew prepared the meat and seafood fresh for us on the boat.
When lunchtime came, we ate on a small secluded beach, just big enough for our group. Sitting in the shade at noon, enjoying the food, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this is where I just wanna be, wanderlusting around the Philippines, a country that I have gotten to love and has already found a big place in my heart”.
El Nido, we will definitely be back!