This is a complete guide to the El Nido Island Hopping Tours with everything you’ll need to know before you go! El Nido in Palawan makes it to the top of the list as one of the most beautiful places in the world. A coveted spot which is well earned. With its numerous white sand beaches, small islands, crystal clear waters and towering limestone cliffs, it’s no wonder visitors come here from all over the world.
Planning your trip to El Nido can be a bit overwhelming. Starting with how to get there all the way to deciding which tours to take, your head might be spinning before you even arrive.
But don’t worry, I’ll break it all down for you so that you have an idea of the different tours before you even step foot in El Nido!
No matter which tour you decide to join, you’ll have an incredible time and see some of the most beautiful spots around Bacuit Bay. I recommend spending at least 2-3 days in El Nido so that you have time to enjoy sailing around to the best spots on an island hopping tour and also visit some of the best beaches on the island.
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How to Choose the Right El Nido Island Hopping Tour
In El Nido they have broken down the sights in Bacuit Bay into 4 different tours. While in the past you were able to mix and match on a private tour, it seems that the rules have changed. We asked around a dozen or more tour companies and only found one that would allow us to combine spots from two different tours.
This company is called Island Seeker Travel and Tours. Their contact no. is 09392002395 or 09076362283. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook contact is Jhay Ar Andaya.
The majority of the tours will start at 9:30AM and end at 4:30PM. This of course can vary depending on if they have to wait for people who are running late. Our private tour left around 9AM and our group tour left at 10AM.
Once you arrive in El Nido you will see that many of the tour operators will advertise that Tour A and Tour C are the two most popular tours. Tour B is the third most popular with Tour D being the least popular. Keep this in mind when booking as it’s a guarantee that the tours for A & C will most likely be completely full while B & D could potentially have less people.
To be honest we actually enjoyed some of the stops from Tour B the most! Luckily, we were able to customize our private tour and select stops from Tour B & Tour C. This is the best way to do it and allows you to see more if you have limited time in El Nido. If you only have one day available to do a tour in Bacuit Bay this is the way to go!
However, if a private tour isn’t in your Philippines budget I recommend you take at least 2 different group tours over a span of two to three days in El Nido.
The 4 Tours To Take in El Nido
There are four different tour routes that are offered on an El Nido island hopping tour which will cover all of the top spots around Bacuit Bay.
7 Commandos Beach
A Snorkeling Spot
The group tour price for Tour A is 1,200 PHP ($23.41 USD). Additionally you will have to pay a 200 PHP ($4) environmental fee and a 200 PHP ($4 USD) entrance fee to the Big Lagoon. The total price of this tour will cost around 1,600 PHP ($31.41 USD).
2019 UPDATE FOR TOUR A: As of 2019 the government has changed tour A to no longer include both the big and small lagoon. Therefore if you want to do the small lagoon you will have to do it on Tour D.
The group tour price for Tour B is 1,300 PHP ($25.36 USD). Additionally you will have to pay 200 PHP ($4 USD) for the environmental fee equalling a total price of around 1,500 PHP ($29.36 USD).
The group tour price for Tour C is 1,400 PHP ($27.31 USD) plus the 200 PHP ($4 USD) environmental fee. The total price is around 1,600 PHP ($31.41 USD).
The group tour price for Tour D is 1,200 PHP ($23.41 USD) plus the 200 PHP ($4 USD) environmental fee and a 200 PHP ($4 USD) entrance fee to the Big Lagoon. The total price is around 1,600 PHP ($31.41 USD).
Where to Book Your El Nido Island Hopping Tour
There are so many companies in El Nido town that offer the same tours at the same prices. It seems to be pretty regulated as you’ll see the same boards posted up at each tour company. However, pop in and start talking with them and most likely they will offer you a discount of a few 100 Philippine Pesos off. For Tour A and C they might waive the entrance fee of 200 PHP ($4 USD) to the Big or Small Lagoon.
The group tours take about 15-18 people on each boat and they will collect people from different tour companies to fill up a boat. So even if the company you book with only have 4 people signed up, expect that the boat will be full the day of the trip. We heard from some other that Art Cafe only fills their boats with people who sign up through their company so you may get a boat that isn’t packed. However, their group trips are more expensive than anywhere else and you can’t guarantee you won’t have a full boat anyways.
Also, most of the tour agencies stay open until around 10 PM and you can book your trip for the next day even if it’s super last minute. We spoke to a few agencies and they said that you could even book the morning of if you arrived around 8 AM.
If you are want to skip the hassle of walking all over town looking for a deal then you can easily make arrangements prior to your arrival. You can book your tour online with a reputable company and just show your ticket the day of the tour!
What to Pack on Your Boat Tour in EL Nido
Swimsuit – This is a must! You’re absolutely going to want to jump into the warm, crystal clear waters of the Philippines so make sure to pack your swimming suit!
Towel – As most tour operators will not supply a towel you will need to bring your own. If you don’t have one with you then bring it from your hotel.
Water shoes or flip flops – There will be a few spots where you will have to walk from the boat to the beach due to the shallow water. At some of the beaches there can be some corals and it’s best to protect your feet by wearing either water shoes or flip flops.
Sunscreen – Just like your swimsuit, this is an absolute must! You will be out on the boat all day and although there is some shade you’ll want to make sure you slather on the sunscreen. Be sure that your sun lotion is oxybenzone free and reef safe. This way you can avoid getting burned and help save the ocean! Sunscreens with the main ingredient of zinc oxide is your best bet.
Hat – Another great way to protect your face from the harmful sun rays is by wearing a hat. If you didn’t bring one with you there are shops in town selling them!
Sunglasses – Make sure to bring sunglasses or some kind of eye protection!
Extra snacks – You will be provided lunch on the boat but if you get hungry and love to snack then I would recommend bringing something with you. There are some markets in town, fresh fruit stands and local bakeries that you can get some snacks from.
Tip: If you are going to the local bakery I recommend not buying any of the super sweet items. Ants are very common in the Philippines and they love all the sweets. The basic bread and rolls are typically a safe bet. I definitely bit into a sweet roll that was crawling with ants and didn’t even notice it right away. Don’t make my mistake!
Bring Cash– At a few of the stops you’ll see locals paddling around in their small canoes selling fresh coconuts, snacks, soft drinks and beer. If you want to purchase anything while out for the day you will need to pack some cash!
Electronics – One of the most important things to bring on your El Nido island hopping tour is something to take photos with! You’ll definitely want to be able to capture all the beauty of the islands so be sure to pack your camera!
Other Important Information to Know
- There is absolutely no smoking allowed on any of the boat trips or within Bacuit Bay. In fact, there are many places in town and all around the Philippines that ban smoking. This includes beaches, hikes and many public areas.
- There are no plastic bottles allowed on the boat tours. The tour company will provide a large jug of filtered water and reusable cups. This is not the same in Coron however. If you book a private tour in Coron you will be responsible for purchasing and bringing your own water and food so keep that in mind.
- In the Philippines you will find many filtered water jugs at restaurants and guesthouses. Here you can easily fill up your reusable water bottle as needed! This is a great thing to consider if you want to reduce your single use plastic usage.
- There is an environmental tax of 200 PHP ($4 USD) per person for any tour in Bacuit Bay. The tax fee is good for 10 days so you should only have to pay it once. This must be payed by any tourist entering Bacuit Bay whether by group or private tour and by kayak.
- You will be charged an additional entrance fee of 200 PHP ($4 USD) to both the Big and Small lagoon. You will have to pay this fee when you purchase your tour and some companies might waive this fee as a “discount.”
- Be sure to check if snorkeling gear or usage of a kayak is included or not. Most likely it will not be included or you will have to share one kayak between the entire boat.
When is the Best Time of Year to Go to El Nido?
El Nido and the island of Palawan has two main seasons. The dry season is from mid-November to May and the rainy season is from June to early November. However, during my time there in October I only experienced one day where it rained for about 2 hours. So ultimately you just never quite know what the weather will really be like.
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WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I USE?
- Main Camera: Sony A7III
- Wide angle lens: Sony G Master 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom lens: Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
- Secondary Camera: Canon 6D Mark II
- Canon wide angle lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L
- Underwater camera: Leica X-U
- Camera with gimbal: DJI Osmo Pocket & Underwater Housing
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro
- Camera Bag: Polar Pro Drone Trekker
- External Hard Drive: LaCie 1 TB rugged mini external hard drive