Philippines - El Nido - Tour A: A Must in Island Hopping Tours
June 5, 2019
El Nido is a perfect haven for beach lovers. Imagine being able to walk and lounge in the pristine white and fine sand of a beach. The sea is clear that you can see your toes underneath the water that perfectly reflects the sky. If you swim in most spots, the marine life is abundant and colorful. The limestone rock formations are towering the surroundings serving not just as a sanctuary to unique species of birds but also as barriers to huge waves on windy days. Most of the locals will normally greet you with a ready smile. They are always ready to assist the tourists visiting their town. These are just the reasons why one must visit El Nido even once, when in the Philippines.
How to get to El Nido
The town of El Nido is about 246 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa Airport which can be found in Palawan. This is about 5 to 6 hours drive. There are several ways to get to the small town of El Nido. The most cost effective and efficient way to reach El Nido is through the shared private vans that can be found outside the airport. The van fare costs around $12 per person. Each van will have to wait for at least 10 passengers before it can leave the airport. It can be cramped at times due to limited leg space of the vans. You can opt to pay for more than one seat so that the estimated 6-hour ride will be comfortable.
If you are on a budget, there are buses that travel every hour from Puerto Princesa bus station to El Nido. The fare is around $7 to $9 depending on the bus company that you will pick from the station. Alternatively, you can always take a direct flight from Manila to El Nido but this will set you back at an estimated $200 for a round trip.
Must See in El Nido
Island hopping tours are grouped by letters A, B, C and D. Each of these island hopping tours is a full day activity. The average cost for each tour is about $30 per head including a buffet lunch. These tours are arranged by letter depending on their respective distances from the docking area of the boats from mainland El Nido.
If the time is limited, and you can only do one tour, it is recommended to join tour A. Once you see these spots, you can really say that you have seen the best of El Nido. Island hopping tour A will go to the spots such as Seven Commando Beach, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, Big Lagoon, and Small Lagoon.
Seven Commando Beach
Seven Commando Beach has a stretch of fine white sand shore. Coconut trees and various plant species surround the beach. There are also several huts where tourists can rest. The sand gradually slopes into the water so this spot is perfect for swimming. This is also a perfect spot to get some tan on your skin.
Shimizu Island was named after two Japanese divers who lost their lives because they run out of oxygen while exploring the caves underneath the island. Despite this incident, no one can deny that this is one of the highlights of this tour. There are abundant species of fishes swimming around the island. One just has to take a peak from their boat to see that fishes are just swimming fearlessly around the docked boats. This spot is best for snorkeling. This is also the spot where lunch is served by boatmen. This island offers a grand view while your group is having lunch.
Secret Lagoon requires a bit of swimming on a high tide, but do not be deterred by this because it is definitely worth it. For about 20 – 30 meters from where the boats will dock, everyone will need to swim and get up close with the corals along the way. The entrance to the lagoon is a small hole in the rock formation. The tourists’ guide will assist everyone to be able to pass safely into this entrance. Everyone who gets to see this spot will surely be amazed by the cathedral-like rock formations made from limestone. The rock formation will surround you once you have entered the secret lagoon. Take time to look up and appreciate nature at its best.
Big Lagoon will surely take your breath away as you pass by the rock formations standing tall on both sides of the entrance to this spot. Boats are only permitted to go inside the lagoon on high tide. It is recommended that you also have a kayak if you’re not a strong swimmer. This will enable you to explore the nooks and crannies of the lagoon. The water at this spot is clear and the levels vary. There are also different species of corals and fishes living in this spot. This is the best site for swimming and snorkeling.
Small Lagoon is the highlight of this tour in my opinion. A visit to this spot requires some serious swimming if you don’t have a rented kayak. You will be greeted with colorful fishes as you swim to the location of the small lagoon. The entrance to the lagoon is a small cavity on the rocks or through climbing a ladder to go over the wall-like rock formation. The perimeter of the lagoon is sky blue even on a gloomy day. It is recommended to bring a kayak with you so that you can explore the perimeter of the lagoon. The water is so clear that you can see fishes and rocks underneath the water. The most amazing thing that you can find in this spot is the cave with a cathedral-like ceiling. Entering the cave is allowed although one must always remember to respect the place. Once you are inside look up again and you’ll see that only one spot of the cave is illuminated through a hole from the ceiling. There are also shallow spots with bright blue water reflections that seem like a small swimming pool beside the cave.
What to Expect in El Nido
Since El Nido is a small fishing village, where locals have learned that tourism can boost their livelihood, the bays are surrounded by residential houses turned into accommodations for tourists. Over the years, there has been a huge development in this town. There were new mid-rise buildings built to cater to the demand of the number of tourists flocking the area every year. Depending on your budget, there are places where one can stay for as low as $40 – $200 per night.
The town has limited ATM machines so it is recommended to bring cash with you. There are also some establishments where one can wire money should there be a need for cash.
El Nido is visited by diverse people from around the world so there will surely be a restaurant that will cater to your taste. Most of the restaurants can be found along Bacuit Bay. Other alternatives are to find restaurants and cafes are in Corong Corong Beach and Maregmeg Beach.
Tourism officers in El Nido are preserving the environment so it is recommended to avoid bringing plastic bottles with you on your tours. Boat operators will warn you to leave your plastics on the mainland before hopping on the boat.
Make sure to rent a kayak if you are joining any island hopping tours. Masks and snorkels are a must to enjoy the sight underneath the waters. It is recommended that you wear beach shoes to protect the soles of your feet when navigating to areas of the sea with corals and rocks.
Do not worry if you can’t swim and would want to explore the tourist spots of El Nido. The tour guides will gladly help you navigate the waters and everyone will be asked to wear a life vest upon leaving Bacuit Bay.
The town of El Nido has a lot to offer especially for those who really love the beach. A three to four full-day itinerary is recommended to completely see the attractions of this place. Tour A will suit those who seek adventure and swim time. Try to join other group tours if you’re do not have a tight schedule. Just like tour A, any tourist will also enjoy them.