El Nido in Palawan is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Philippines. It is known for it’s white sand beaches, beautiful lagoons, coral reefs and limestone cliffs. One of the most famous activity here is island hopping. There are four island hopping tours in El Nido. Tour A is lagoons and beaches tour, Tour B is caves and coves tour, Tour C is hidden beaches and shrines tour and Tour D is island beaches tour. Among the four, El Nido Tour A is the most popular.
When I was choosing what tour to book for my first day in El Nido, I was hesitant to do Tour A even if it was highly recommended by the receptionist at Spin Hostel because I don’t know how to swim. My younger brother and sister have tried the tour before and they told me that you need to swim to be able to get to some of the spots. This wouldn’t be an issue for me if I have a companion who knows how to swim. However, I went to El Nido alone. I told my apprehension to the receptionist and she told me I could rent a kayak to explore the lagoons and I could ask one of the guides to paddle the kayak for me. And so I booked.
Tour Cost and Where to Book
I booked my tour at the hostel and the tour operator is Tarawis El Nido Island Tours. The tour costs Php 1200.00 (~ USD 24) and costs the same for almost all the tour operators in El Nido town proper. In case you are not staying at Spin, there are plenty of booking offices in the town proper where you can book your tour. You can also book online at Klook and they offer the tour for Php 900.00 (~ USD 18) only.
The tour is a join in tour with an English speaking guide. The fee is inclusive of buffet lunch, drinking water, hotel pick-up and drop-off, snorkeling gear and towel. Aside from the tour fee, you are required to pay Php 200.00 (~USD 4) El Nido Eco-Tourism Development fee. You only need to pay this once so keep the receipt so as not to be charged again in case you are doing another tour in the succeeding days. The fee is good for 10 days.
Tour A has five stops: the Seven Commandos Beach, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon.
Seven Commandos Beach
For our tour, our first stop was the Seven Commandos Beach. It is 20 minutes away by boat from the town and the beach is part of the El Nido mainland. It is a white sand beach and is lined with coconut trees. We were given 40 minutes to explore, go swimming, snorkeling or just chill. There are people selling refreshments on the beach, in case you need one. The water was so inviting that I dipped immediately and spent most of my time in the water. I enjoyed so much but forgot I need nice photos for this blog. Here are some of the photos that I managed to take:
Our second stop was the Small Lagoon located on the cove of Miniloc Island. To get to the lagoon, you can either use a kayak or swim through a hole. Kayak rental costs Php 300 (~USD 6) and is good for two persons. The bigger one costs Php 500 (USD 10) and can fit three people. Since I was alone, I asked one of the guides to paddle the kayak for me. The guide who assisted me is Kuya Norly. He is one of the best guides I met throughout my solo traveling life. I will tell you why in my post about Nacpan Beach.
Anyways, going back to Small Lagoon, since I had Kuya Norly to paddle the kayak, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the lagoon. The lagoon is picturesque, with turquoise green water and surrounded by towering cliffs. The kayak ride was very relaxing. After going around the lagoon, we still had few minutes left before going back to the boat so I decided to enjoy the water and did a little floating.
Payong-Payong Beach is a white sand beach on Miniloc Island. The third stop of the tour was supposed to be Shimizu Island but if it gets too crowded, Payong-Payong Beach is a nice alternative to enjoy lunch. We had our buffet lunch on this beach. For lunch, we had grilled pork, chicken and fish, shrimps, cucumber salad, rice and fresh fruits. Our guides prepared our lunch on the boat while we were cruising around.
After lunch, we headed to the Big Lagoon. The entrance to the lagoon has shallow water but the other areas are very deep. Normally visitors don’t get off the boat as the boat can navigate through the lagoon. However during low tide, it is not easy to access the lagoon so to be able to explore the lagoon, you have to kayak around. It was low tide when we reached Big Lagoon so I again rented a kayak and Kuya Norly paddled the kayak for me again. The rental fee for the kayak in Small Lagoon is the same as that in the Big Lagoon.
Just like the Small Lagoon, the Big Lagoon is dotted with limestone cliffs. The lagoon is way bigger than the Small Lagoon so you’ll enjoy your time kayaking here. There is also a small cave you can explore with the kayak. While going around the lagoon, I saw a monkey on a tree.
Our last stop was the Secret Lagoon. The water is a bit shallow near the entrance of the lagoon so our boat can’t get near it. To get to the lagoon entrance, one must swim a little because the part where our boat stopped is a little deep. There is no kayak and since I don’t know how to swim, Kuya Norly had to drag me to the shallow part. Be very careful when walking to the lagoon entrance because some of the corals are sharp and some slippery. I slipped a few times and even got scratches on my legs. Wearing aqua shoes is highly recommended.
The lagoon was my least favorite of all the places we went too. It is small so it gets crowded. The beach outside the lagoon however is really beautiful. White sand beach lined with coconut trees and surrounded with beautiful limestone cliffs. You should check it out.
Tips When Doing Tour A
- It is highly recommended to have a dry bag when exploring the islands to keep your gadgets dry.
- Bringing of single use plastics such as plastic bottles are banned when going on island hopping tour. Free drinking water is provided on the tour. If you plan on bringing your own water, use water tumbler.
- Bring sunblock to protect you from the harmful rays of the sun.
- Wear life jacket especially if you’re not a good swimmer.
- Wearing aqua shoes is highly recommended.
I had a very wonderful experience doing the Tour A in El Nido. El Nido is paradise. The beaches and lagoons are very beautiful and clean. Be sure to include El Nido Tour A in your itinerary when you visit El Nido.
How to go to El Nido?
Option 1: Book a direct flight from Manila to El Nido. Air Swift has direct flights to El Nido.
Option 2: Book a direct flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. From the airport, there are vans that offer direct service going to El Nido. Travel time is about 5-6 hours. You can also ride a tricycle going to bus station and ride a bus but the travel time is longer. The van is faster but it is not too comfortable especially if you get the seat at the back.
Option 3: If coming from Coron, Palawan, you can take a ferry to El Nido. The trip takes around 8 hours.
Booking a direct flight from Manila to El Nido is the fastest and most comfortable option but it is the most expensive.
Where to stay in El Nido?
I stayed at Spin Designer Hostel, a really nice hostel in El Nido that is perfect for solo backpackers. The rooms are really big and their staff are very helpful and friendly. It has free buffet breakfast and has a great location. You can check out Agoda or Booking.com for other accommodation options in El Nido.
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