El Nido is the gem of the Philippines, with mind-blowing scenery matched with a small island town atmosphere it is beyond me why this location isn’t more popular. That’s a good thing! El Nido island hopping is the number one attraction here and with good reason, it is freaking amazing.
As you walk down the street in El Nido Proper, passing by smoothie and barbecue vendors you will be eyed down by tour operators trying to invite you on to Tour A,B,C or D. Throughout your time on El Nido you will become fluent in what each letter represents.
I was lucky enough to experience Tour A and C, but I am sure B and D would be awesome as well. In fact even the day I paddled out on a kayak was amazing so don’t stress about which letter will be the best.
I photographed the entire Tour A experience and will know spend the next few paragraphs convincing you why your life needs an El Nido island hopping experience.
El Nido Tour A is the most popular tour as it combines lagoons, snorkeling and secret beaches. First stop was Seven Commando Beach.
SEVEN COMMANDO BEACH
Coconut trees lined the beach and we of course sipped a few on after a quick snorkel. The rocks in El Nido are incredibly sharp almost all over the region, so wear shoes if you are planning on exploring in caves and on rocks like us.
BIG LAGOON EL NIDO
Cruising up the lagoon was our first real look at how dramatic the cliffs and landscape was in El Nido. The lagoon has a narrow and the boats manage to navigate alongside each other as everyone on board arches their necks checking out the intense cliffs. The boat glides across the glassy water, almost crystal as the narrow entrance finally opens up into a giant lagoon. The boat did a slow circle in the lagoon letting us take in the sights before heading back out the narrow stretch.
LUNCH AT SHIMIZU ISLAND EL NIDO
Our guides had been cooking on the grill all morning as we cruised around from island to island. It was time to see what they had produced. It was an absolute feast. I’ll be honest I’ve been on some tours where you get a cruddy sandwich and a bag of chips. This blew it out of the water. Grilled pork and chicken, fresh grilled fish and fruits and of course an abundance of rice. There was plenty for everyone as we sat around on the logs watching monitor lizards amongst the trees. A bit of exploration post-lunch never hurts and we found a very shallow spot for a couple of jumps.
SECRET LAGOON EL NIDO
This spot was amazing but probably my least favorite as there were more than fifty tourists crammed into a tiny lagoon at once. We had to swim to a small hole and clamber through. One through sun shone down into a tennis court-sized lagoon, totally enclosed by sharp cliffs. It was a great spot but a little bit of an anti-climax. However, the beach around the corner once back out of the lagoon was really cool. The landscape here was by far my favorite spot of the day and I camped on my favorite spot at the front of the tour boat as we left snapping a few shots to capture the entire scene. I have never seen anything like it before in my life.
SMALL LAGOON EL NIDO
Our last stop of the day would be the small lagoon. By now I had become a bit desensitized to the majestic beauty all around me. But the small lagoon hit another chord. We were offered kayaks as we arrived but also given the option to swim. Being the cheap guys Jorden and I were of course we swam. It wasn’t too far just a few hundred yards both ways. Swimming through this lagoon was beautiful, calming and a great way to end the day. We went as far in as we could and just spend a while floating on our backs taking in everything around us.
Throughout the day our guides let us snorkel at a few extra spots and were more than happy for us to jump off the boat whenever we felt like it. During our whole time in the Philippines all of our guides were always accommodating and wanted us to have a good time. It sounds common but too often guides are a little restrictive if you do something about adventurous. Not in the Philippines.
When you find yourself lucky enough to be in El Nido, Palawan make sure you do at least one island hopping tour and even rent a kayak and do your own tour like we did. It is an amazing place to explore and the locals of El Nido are proud to show you their backyard.