When traveling to the Philippines there’s one thing you MUST do – ISLAND HOPPING! With over 7,000 islands the possibilities in the Philippines are endless and the best news is you can’t go wrong. Before traveling to the Philippines I asked some friends for travel advice (and did some #Philippines Instagram stalking) and everyone’s top recommendation was the same – go island hopping on an El Nido tour.
El Nido is located at the northern tip of Palawan on the westernmost region of the Philippines. The two main international airports in the Philippines are Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila and Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) right outside of Cebu City. From either of these airports the most common route to El Nido is flying to Puerto Princesa (PPS) and then taking a 4-5 hour shared van ride to El Nido. I found that across the many companies, vans and prices were pretty much the same. I ended up booking through the Lonely Planet recommended company El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe.
When exploring the islands off the coast on an El Nido tour (known as the Bacuit Archipelago) all companies have standard prices for the same 4 options – Tour A, B C and D. Here’s the breakdown:
Tour A – “Lagoons” – P1200 – Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Beach, 7 Commandos Beach
Tour B – “Caves” – P1300 – Entatula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave
Tour C – “Secret Beaches” – P1400 – Mantiloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Talisay Beach, Helicopter Island
Tour D – “Beaches” – P1200 – Bukal Beach, Ipil Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Island
In addition to the standard prices you’ll also have to pay a 1-time P200 Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) good for 10 days. You’ll also pay extra for kayaks and snorkel gear, but lunch is included.
When I asked friends and Instagrammers who had been to the Philippines which El Nido tour was the best everyone recommended Tour A and Tour C. The next step was picking a tour company. While tour options are limited, actual tour company options seem limitless! Everywhere you go in El Nido there are tour operators selling island hopping packages. Highly recommended by Lonely Planet, I used El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe and loved them. The boats were extremely clean, operated by awesome guides, had medium-size groups (around 10-14) and provided great food.
The best way to describe my experience and the beauty of island hopping in the Philippines is by showing rather than telling. Here’s a visual representation of my breathtaking journey on Tour A.
EL NIDO TOUR A
7 Commandos Beach
My friend Morgan and I stayed at Rico’s Beach Cottages during our 3-night stay in El Nido. We really enjoyed Rico’s. It’s a simple, mid-range option (about $15 USD each per night) and located on the beach in the northeastern part of town. It was clean, had a friendly staff and breakfast was included.
El Nido itself is a small beach town that has everything from low to high-end lodging, surrounded by a lot of construction and tourist-focused businesses. If you’re looking for something quieter and away from “the action,” I would suggest checking out the options near Corong Corong and Las Cabanas Beach.
Island hopping in the Philippines is one of the hidden gems of Southeast Asia! The Philippines may not have the “hype” of a country like Thailand, but if you’re looking to explore some of the most pristine, stunning and remote islands in the world – it delivers! A trip to the Philippines would be incomplete without island hopping in the Bacuit Archipelago (and check out my post on El Nido Tour C)
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