What’s El Nido without island-hopping on the neighbouring islands? Taking on El Nido’s Tour A is definitely essential when you’re here.

There are a million tour companies (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point) offering tours around El Nido, but the main tours that are offered in El Nido are Tour A, B, C and D. There is also a Tour E, which brings you around the town’s island itself and you get to discover attractions that are on the El Nido island itself, such as waterfalls. They pretty much cover the same spots, except they are operated by different tour companies.

I chose to book ahead and go along with Tour A.

Tour A starts with one of the tour guides picking me promptly at 8:30am on a motorbike directly from my hotel to the main beach on El Nido Town Proper.

el nido town proper

After waiting for close to 20 minutes for the rest of the tour members to assemble, we were ready to set off!.

I sat in a boat of over 20 people, mostly Filipinos from Manila, and also the friendly tour guides who constantly engaged us and made small talks throughout the day to explain the history of El Nido to us. I did wish that the tour group was smaller in size.

el nido island tour hopping boat

Upon embarking, there were some rules that were set in place:

  1. Wearing life vest at all times, especially close to the pier at El Nido Town, as there are coastguards on patrol
  2. Waterproof footwear is strongly encouraged as there are plenty of sharp rocks and sea urchins on the seabed.

Not all tours provide snorkelling masks, but thankfully this Tour A package covers complimentary usage of snorkelling masks, so there was no need to bring my own.

To better equip yourself (and prevent any unnecessary exploitation by your tour operators, check with your them in advance when you book to see what equipment and services are included and excluded before beginning your tour. This includes things might include shuttle service to and from your hotel, and the extra 200 pesos/USD4 payment for the El Nido Eco Tourism Development Fee.

Read: Secret Islands of Indonesia that will Stun You; Labuan Bajo, Flores

With that, let’s begin our El Nido Tour A adventure!

Island hopping with El Nido, Palawan’s Tour A

1. Seven Commandos Beach

This sun-kissed beach had a bit of everything you could ask for. For the relaxed beach-goer, there is an area by the beach that is cordoned off for swimming, away from the boats. Tourists tanning on picnic mats and strolling on the white sands along the coast were common sights along the beach. Grab a beer or some snacks while you chill in one of the huts on the island next to the coconut trees.

el nido palawan girl swing beach sky seven commandos beach

What makes this beach different from others is the existence of the tree swing! If you’re a bit of a daredevil (like me), get your ass on the swing that’s hung on a tree bark, and hop off from the trunk into the horizon!

I had equally as much fun challenging myself on the gymnastic rings hanging from one of the tree barks to do pull ups and inverting myself.

There is also a little picturesque spot on the island where sand sculptures are set up for you to take pictures with. It belongs to a photography company, with their own photographers to take pictures for you. It costs about 100 pesos/USD 2 per person.

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2. Big Lagoon

el nido big lagoon entrance 2

Continuing our island-hopping escapade, we next headed to the famous Big Lagoon. The boat slowly inched its way towards the opening of the Big Lagoon, so unsuspectingly that I was caught in awe when we moved through the narrow entrance of the lagoon. You would not have guessed what this lagoon contained within the big rocks that enclose it!

The dark blue waters suddenly transforms into various hues of green, made even more vibrant from the sunny skies. The change in colour is due to the sudden drop in the depth of the ocean bed.

el nido big lagoon entrance

The lagoon is enclosed by beautiful ash-grey rock formations, and the boats take turns to tour the bay slowly, allowing guests to get a better glimpse of the surrounding waters, cliffs and rocks. Everyone was busy scampering to the front of the boat for their winning shots.

If you’re lucky enough, you can stop to kayak around the area too. There are some shallow parts of the water away from the boats’ paths that you can swim around leisurely.

Read: Useful Travel Accessories You Must Have

3. Hidden Lagoon

Located on the south of Miniloc Island and close to Shimizu Island lies the Hidden Lagoon. Hidden Lagoon provides tourists a sight of a lagoon completely concealed from the world.

We would never have known about this lagoon if not for the local guides. This lagoon is not accessible to boats. You will need to swim or walk through the low tides about 200m away from the shore to get to the entrance of the Hidden Lagoon, which is no more than a hole on a rock face. We then had to crouch through the hole to get to the other side. I definitely did not expect such an entrance!

The lagoon itself was nothing like I expected. It is as if you are in a private round pool, surrounded by sky-high rock faces, away from the eyes of everyone else.

Perhaps because the clouds took over the skies, the waters inside the lagoon seemed murky green and unclear, dulling the beauty of the lagoon.

If you’re feeling a tad bit adventurous, you can try climbing up a little way up the cliff to get a photo from a vantage point. I mean, as a climber, how could I pass off climbing natural rock? 😛 I climb almost everything, including at Batu Bolong in Labuan Bajo, where I fell and cut my feet on the sharp rock when the loose rocks chipped. Oops! :/

If you decide to climb though, be careful as the rocks are sharp and do not attempt to jump into the waters as the waters are rather shallow.

el nido lunch island picnic hidden lagoon

The Hidden Lagoon is also where we had our lunch stop, at the beach. While we were out exploring the lagoon, the crew kept themselves busy preparing food for us.

Cooked and grilled by the tour guides on the boat, we were served rice, grilled squids, chicken thighs, prawns, fish, pork and an assortment of fruits such as pineapples and bananas. They cooked such a generous serving that you cannot stop at a single serving. All of us were especially famished after a morning of swimming in the sea and exploring the lagoons.

el nido lunch tour

I didn’t think the food was especially hygienic though, what with houseflies hovering around our buffet spread and the local tourists picking food with their bare hands from the communal plates. Call me paranoid, but ever since my bout of diarrhoea caused by the poor handling of food in my previous island-hopping tour in Coron, I have my reservations about foods being cooked on board.

While we were busy refuelling, we weren’t alone. There are plenty of dogs on the island scavenging for food – your food! They would look at you with puppy eyes – yes, puppy eyes – that you cannot help but offer some of your leftover food from your plate to these little guys!

One thing I liked about the island was the distribution of the coconut trees across the island, providing shade for us as we had our meal while we sat on wooden logs on the floor, overlooking the waters. Also, there are plenty of really nice backdrops of the sharp, grey rock cliffs that you can take photos against!

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4. Shimizu Island

The island-hopping never ends on this Tour A (I wish). Snorkelling was the main highlight that Shimizu Island has to offer. As soon as the boat drove closer to the island, we could see the marine life underneath in its full glory. Eager to dive right in, I donned my mask and plunged in with my underwater action camera in hand. Determined to film everything the other world has to offer, I immersed myself in the world that is just me, the bubbles and the marine life.

While I couldn’t name most of the fishes that resided underwater, surely I can identify a Nemo when I see one. I couldn’t help but film a clownfish (a.k.a. the “nemo fish”) dancing along with the sea anemones when I saw one. 😉 Seeing colourful starfishes lying on the seabed was the cherry on top of my snorkelling experience.

Despite the passing rain and tiding waves, it was a leisurely snorkelling session being able to witness the multitude of aquatic life. If you’re not comfortable swimming in the open waters, you can get a life vest and latch on to the tour guide’s life buoy – he’ll pull you (slowly but steadily) along so you won’t miss out on the snorkelling fun.

5. Small Lagoon

el nido kayak smal lagoon

Finally, the last stop of Tour A’s island-hopping saw us at Small Lagoon. Personally, this was my favourite spot of all, because we get to go off the tour boat and get in the heart of the action ourselves – by rowing on our own kayak through the lagoon.

el nido kayak smal lagoon rent kayak

Hustling for kayak rentals.

Renting the kayak was an additional 400 pesos/USD7.90, an extra expense that I never prepared myself for.

el nido palawan island hopping

Flanked by cliffs and rock formations, the Small Lagoon is not at all small. Because it was made up of irregularly-shaped rocks, you never know what to expect at every turn. One moment I could be discovering a dark concave under a cliff, and the next, a little entrance that uncovered a whole new lagoon. It’s a continuous cycle of discovery and amazement of how the dazzling shallow turquoise waters complements the shapes of the cliffs.

There were many people kayaking here too, brought by their respective tour boats. Once you’re inside this secret lagoon, you can do a number of fun and crazy activities, such as cliff jumping. We even found a little cave that you can paddle your kayak into. It really is like a little hole from under the rocks, so it can get really dark once you’re inside!

There is a mobile food and snack “shop” paddling around in a kayak, offering you everything from fresh young coconut, soft drinks, to beers and even ice cream. These are exactly what you need on on a good, sunny day after exhausting your energy paddling around the lagoon. Just remember to bring along some small change in your dry bag as you kayak!

Read: Krabi On A Budget; USD121 for a 5D4N Holiday!

The Tour A transfers from one stop to another would have been perfect if there was some music to enliven the atmosphere as we cruised along the islands.

Island hopping with El Nido, Palawan’s Tour C

Many other people I met along the way say El Nido’s Tour C is another tour not to be missed. The tour covers another set of beautiful island stops, namely:

el nido palawan helicopter island

Helicopter Island

1. Helicopter Island

2. Matinloc Shrine

3. Secret Beach

4. Star Beach

5. Hidden Beach

With a fulfilling day out in the sea, El Nido Town slowly came into view. I lifted my satisfied but spent body from the boat on to the familiar sand once again.

el nido town proper

Despite my reservation confirmation informing me that pick up and drop off at my hotel was part of the tour package, I was told that return transfer was not included back to the hotel. Left on my own to hail for a tricycle to get me back to my hotel, I would have otherwise ended my tour on a complete note.

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El Nido Tour A

Special thanks to KKday for making this tour possible! All opinions remain my own.

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11 Aug 2017, Fri

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.


  • Mai Pham says:

    It’ wonderful. Nature beauties are so tempting. Waves crashing onto the cliffs, the soft sigh of the breeze, clean white sands and turquoise waters, it all makes for a stunning landscape. This place is perfect for a family vacation. Thanks for your suggestion.

    • Chandi says:

      Hi, strangely no place is coming up for me to leave a comment so I had to click on ‘reply’ to this one. What a gorgeous place! The photo of the girl on the swing is amazing. It looks like she’s naked!

  • Palawan has been making all the right news off late. After reading your blog, I know why.I would love to go island hopping here. The water is just so clean. The kayak rate is quite reasonable also. So why not?

  • you had me at island hopping! my friends are traveling here shortly, I will make sure to pass this along to them! great post!!

  • Four years ago, I travelled extensively in Northern Philippines and as I was leaving the country I realised what I missed. Since then, I dream of drenching my feet in one of the pristine beaches in the country. El Nido, Palawan has always topped my list of places to visit in the magical country and your post has just made me feel like packing my bags and head to the friendliest country. The Big Lagoon looks absolutely stunning. I am going to let KKday’s Tour organise my trip once I am there.

  • Neha Verma says:

    El Nido is definitely something I won’t want to miss on my south east asia trip. Such a beautiful island. And so serene and peaceful. Stunning lagoons and beautiful beaches!

  • Island hopping looks like experiencing heaven in Palawan. The landscapes are breathtaking and out of the world. The big lagoon reminds me of the Blue Lagoon which was part of a Hollywood movie many years ago. The swing looks really exciting and it would be a pleasure to experience it.

  • Ami Bhat says:

    Snorkeling, Kayaking and those stunning beaches. This place is definitely my kind of place. Perfect for that little indulgence which can be pretty relaxing too. Loved your pics here.

  • AllGudThings says:

    I have been reading a lot about Palawan and El Nido tours these days. The beaches look so pristine. Crossing the lagoon, snorkeling, Kayaking and swinging on that swing is what we would love to do. A great post for reference. Thanks for sharing it.

  • the islands are so tempting. The beaches look so beautiful and clean. I would definitely love to go on a snorkelling trip in the lagoons.

  • Great photos and videos! You did a great job capturing the beauty of this area! Keep up the great blogging!

  • I am not sure about the gymnastic rings but I know I would have loved the tree swing! The hidden lagoon sounds like such a gem, I would have loved to swim upto there. The food served to you sounds delicious to say the least!

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