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Island hopping in El Nido is pretty much the only reason people go to Palawan in the Philippines. In case you didn’t know, which I didn’t really before I got there, island hopping is the thing to do in El Nido. Like, maybe the only thing. Ok, not the only thing, but it’s what most people do if they aren’t going to Nacpan or Las Cabañas.
I figured I should do it, but then the tough part came, which tour to go on. Even though there are four options (A, B, C, or D) there are two that everyone recommends. Everyone says the best tour in El Nido is A or C. I know some people go on multiple tours if they are in the area for a while.
The island hopping tours are offered everywhere in town and they are all exactly the same. The only things that would be different is if the preservation fee is included, what lunch they have, and if the snorkels are included. After asking around a bit and talking to some less than enthusiastic people about the options, we decided on booking it through our hostel, Our Melting Pot. I think it was 1200 or 1500 PHP.
This was pretty average between places, but through OMP it included the 200 PHP nature preservation fee, lunch, and snorkel gear. Kayaks were available once we were out on the water for 300 PHP at a couple of the stops. The 300 PHP kayak fee could easily be split between two or three people.
We decided on tour A that had five stops: Secret Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Seven Commando Beach, and Shimizu Island. Like I said, these tours are offered by every place of accommodation in town and they all leave at the same time.
Each stop was pretty busy with boats all along the shoreline because everyone goes to the same places in the same order at the same time. At Secret Lagoon, we had to jump out and swim up to it. This is probably because it was shallow, but there were also a lot of boats as you can see about four pictures down. There was a line waiting to crawl through the hole into the lagoon. Sounds pretty serene, right?
That stop also felt a little rushed. We came out of the lagoon and were told to get back on the boat. But half the people were still in there, so we went to the beach instead to take pictures and try to enjoy it and still ended up on the boat way before everyone else. We were all a little bummed we just had to wait there and that it was such a fast stop, but we didn’t want to swim all the way back to shore through the jellyfish in the water.
I do have to say though, as busy as all of it was, it was totally worth it. I mean, have you looked at any pictures up until this point? Nice, right? I don’t know if I could pick a favorite place from the tour, but our last stop, Seven Commando Beach, was pretty awesome. I really liked the two stops that we were able to kayak at, as well. The picture above and the featured picture at the very top were those two places.
The sun was starting to sink and it was time to head back to El Nido. The wind was blowing in my hair as I resumed my spot at the front of the boat. No matter what boat I’m on, that’s my spot. The water was perfect, which it usually was in the Philippines. It might not sound like I enjoyed this, but I really did, even with all the people. Everyone in our group was super nice and really fun, too. Even if I had been alone, this would have been enjoyable.
- Bring a waterproof camera if you have one.
- Put your things in a dry bag, especially if your camera isn’t waterproof. Then, if you have it on a kayak with you, always make sure you shut it, just in case you get tipped over. Not that I’m speaking from experience here or anything (I am and thankfully mine was closed).
- Use sunscreen, you’re really close to the equator and you’ll be out in the sun all day. I got the worst sunburn ever only a few weeks before on Malapascua.
- Don’t stress too much about which tour you go on or where you take it. I would go with OMP again, even just for the food. Just follow your gut after talking to people about the tours. We talked to one lady that sounded awful and that was the reason we didn’t go with them, and I’m glad.
Have you been to El Nido? Did you do one of the island hopping tours? Which one? How was it? Do you want to go?