Everything You Need to Know About Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan


Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan is one of the easiest things to do. Good thing, too, since with over 40 islands to explore, a lack of organization could be abysmal.

Simply by taking a stroll through the town of El Nido, you’ll run across a bevy of small tour companies offering set “island hopping packages.”

These packages basically break down all the islands in the Bacuit Archipelago into smaller groups that you can visit.

island hopping el nido

The El Nido Island Hopping tours are broken down like this:


el-nido-island-hoppingTour A

Places you visit:

  • 2 lagoons on Miniloc Island
  • Simisu Island
  • 7 Commando beach

You get to snorkel and have lunch (not at the same time). The total price is around 700-800PHP, or about $20 per person.


Tour B

Places you visit:

Lunch is included. The total price is around 800-900PHP, or $22.50 per person.

Tour C

  • Snorkel around Matinloc Island
  • Snorkel around Tapiutan Island and visit the Secret Beach where you’ll have the chance to see sea turles.

Lunch is included. The total cost is around 900-1000PHP, or about $25 per person.

Combination Tours

You can also pick-and-choose the islands you want to go to (within reasonable distance) by combining two or more of the tours. These tours will cost you around 1000PHP, or $25 per person.

All the above tours include lunch, mask and snorkel in the price.

Tours A to C take a whole day and that typically starts at 9 AM and lasts ’til about 4 PM. There will be other people on the tour with you, so be sure not to be late.

The boatmen also double as chefs during lunch time and they’ll prepare a serve a lovely meal of fish, rice, salad, fruit and coffee on a beach:

Miniloc Island Lagoons


If you want more activity (say, kayaking), sign up for a kayaking tour.

The Cadlao Kayak and Snorkel Tour will take you from Bocal Island along the wall of Cadlao to Paradise Beach, into the Ubugon Lagoon and then to Helicopter Island. The total cost of the tour is 1,400PHP, or around $35.00.

The Miniloc Kayak Tour is really awesome since you get to kayak the Big and Small Lagoons. These lagoons are beautiful and serene – you can see clear through the calm, aquamarine waters, hear the sounds of the wild around you, and even catch the flight of an exotic bird or two. The cost of the tour is 1,400PHP, or around $35.00

You can also choose to do any of the above tours privately – which I recommend since it’ll give you a much more flexible schedule that allows you to linger in the places you like the most. You can also pick-and-choose the islands you want to visit (within reasonable distance to each other) and the activities you want to partake in (i.e. snorkeling, kayaking, or both).

The private tours cost around 3,000PHP, or $75 – the price is good for 2 people and also includes lunch.

Overall island hopping in El Nido is super easy, thanks to the organized packages and the ubiquitous tour stalls. Just walk around, pick out what you like, and talk to the tour companies. You’ll be on your way in no time!


El Nido Travel Tips

El Nido Travel Tips

Travel writers the world over have been proclaiming El Nido as heaven on earth and once you land, you’ll most likely agree. Still, there are few things you should know and prepare for to maximize your time spent wandering around this particular Eden.

1. Choose the Best Time

Unless your idea of tropical paradise contains a lot of rain, the best time to travel to El Nido is between December to May. El Nido has two distinct seasons: a dry season from December to May and a wet season from June to November.

2. Book in Advance

The downside of coming during the lovely dry season is that it’s also high season then. And as El Nido as increased in popularity, so have the flocks of tourists.

El Nido’s high season is between December to around April-ish so if you’re planning on coming then, make sure you get a room ahead of time. A lot of people drop in to enjoy the weather and beaches so snagging a place early on makes sure you don’t get stuck in a hovel or an overpriced hotel.

3. Be Prepared to Go Without

El Nido has 12 – 18 hours of electricity. The exact hours and time frames vary, but overall, electricity is inconsistent here. So, no working on your laptop until 3 in the morning. Inconvenient, but also encourages complete relaxation.

blackout palawan

When there is electricity, there is WiFi. Many hotels offer free WiFi and you can also access broadband at Internet Cafes.

4. Bring the Monies!!!

There are no banks or ATM machines so come with cash money. The nearest banks are in Puerto Princesa, about 5 – 8 hours away.  If you’re uncomfortable traveling with large amounts of money, it might be a good idea to spring for an all-inclusive resort. Or, pay for your accommodations as soon as you arrive so you can lighten your load.

El Nido has a few places (such as the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe) for currency exchange. In town proper, you can exchange USD, Euros, British Pounds, HK Dollars, Australian Dollars, Japanese Yen, and Singapore Dollars. A few places in town also accept credit cards, but it is rare.

5. Bring Plenty of Money

El Nido is not that cheap, so make sure you bring enough money to tide you over and then some. The increased demand for goods by the tourists in El Nido have raised prices considerably. You can still find cheaper places to eat, but meals will still be about 100 – 200 PHP, not including drinks.

6. Travel Insurance is a MUST

There is one health center and one private doctor in all of El Nido. The nearest hospital is one hour away in Taytay.

If – God forbid – anything happens, you want to make sure you’re covered. We highly recommend World Nomads. They cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities.

7. Don’t Start a Fire

There is no fire station for the town of El Nido so please refrain from doing stuff like, you know, falling asleep with a lit cigarette.

8. Avoid Mosquitoes

There have been a few cases of malaria and dengue fever in El Nido, but the malaria situation is not that bad. That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and better safe than sorry and all that, so stock up on mosquito repellant with DEET and malaria vaccines. It’s always a good idea to see a travel doctor before you travel.

9. Be Ready for a Water Shortage

There is no centralized water supply and some of the budget accommodations may have problems supplying water for showers and toilets. This is pretty rare.

10. Get a Skype account

There are no landlines in El Nido. You can buy a SIM card from Smart Telecom or Globe Telecom for mobile phone service. Simply recharge your credits at any local convenience store. For long-distance calls, you can head to the El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe.

11. Be Prepared to Wait for Your Food

There is no fast food in El Nido so expect everything to take as long as it does when food is made from scratch.

12. Bring Vinegar

During certain seasons, the jellyfish abound. Bring vinegar when you’re planning to go in the water.

13. Sunburn is NO Fun at All

This applies to all beach-side vacations: do not ever go without sunscreen.

14. the MOST important one is…

Relax and have fun!


The Must-See Islands of El Nido

el nido, palawan

It’d be lovely to see them all, but 45 islands is a lot of hopping. If you’re short on time and must choose, these are the must-see El Nido islands.

Vigan Island, El Nido (aka “Snake Island”)

Vigan Island might just be the fairest of them all. It’s been dubbed Snake Island due to the curving stretch of sand bar that perches perfectly between two parallel islands.

It’s best to visit Snake Island during low tide when you can see the winding sandpit clearly. The elegant slopes and perfect curve is startlingly gorgeous, so perfect as to seem not quite real. If you follow the path the entire way, you’ll wind up at a beautiful mangrove that leads into the other island.

Warning: Walking along the sandy snake path can produce conflicting feelings of wanting to look both right and left at the same time.

Miniloc Island, El Nido

Miniloc Island is home to both Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon. The Big Lagoon offers gorgeous above-water views, with limestone cliffs towering above you as you kayak through the lagoon.

Underwater, it’s not much for coral but its deep emerald waters are frequented by sea turtles.  Unfortunately, huge sea urchins like to congregate here too, so be careful where to place your feet.

Small Lagoon also offers a fun snorkeling opportunity: at low tide, snorkelers can swim through a four-foot crevice into a small, cliff-lined cove for a surreal experience.

Miniloc Island is also home to the famous Secret Lagoon (lots of lagoons on this island!) On top of all the lagoons, Miniloc is also an underwater paradise, largely due to the fringe of coral reefs that outline the island. In fact, the island, with its transparent, turquoise waters and colorful coral formations originally gained fame as a diving station for Japanese and European tourists.

Pangulasian Island, El Nido

You probably knew this one was coming. This beach is oft-mentioned, oft-photographed, and oft-revisited. Why? For starters, it has one of the widest stretches of pure powdery white beach in El Nido. The waters are calm and there are clusters of coral close to the shore, which makes this area ideal for viewing aquatic life at your own island-time pace.

There’s hiking to be done on the island as well and a trail that leads to the peak of the island for panoramic 360-degree views of the nearby islands. This island is perfect for sunset watching.

Note: Pangulasian Islands is going the way of the high-end resort and soon public docking will be no longer allowed. There are already the beginnings of luxury accommodations being constructed and it won’t be long ’til it’s complete. Visit this beautiful island now before it becomes another Hilton playground.

Matinloc Island, El Nido

Matinloc island is home to the famous secret beach. This beach is deemed secret since in order to get to it, you have to swim through through a hole formed in a cliff.

Once through the hole, it is spectacular. You have a calm, pristine beach of turquoise waters lapping at your toes while magnificently dark, jutting limestone encases the entire beach.

Secret Beach was allegedly the inspiration for the novel, The Beach. Quite the claim, but once you visit, you’ll see why.

Matinloc island also has a small slice of Greece. Not really, but the Matinloc Shrine is reminiscent of Greece and also offers a beautiful view.

Dilumacad Island (aka Helicopter Island)

From afar, this island looks exactly like a military helicopter. Upon closer inspection, it’s an island boasting a perfectly white sand beach that stretches nearly 300 meters.

The southern part of the island is bordered by a coral reef and the northern part has a deep underwater cave at about 30-50 feet that can be explored if you want to don the diving gear. As a favorite nesting site of marine turtles in El Nido, as well as the site of one of the most picturesque beaches, the island attracts its fair share of visitors.

The largest of the El Nido islands, Cadlao, can be seen from Helicopter island, giving Dilumacad one of the most stunning scenic landscapes of all the islands in El Nido.

Pinagbuyutan Island

Pinagbuyutan Island offers the most magnificent landscape. The juxtaposition of blindingly white sand and dark marble towers is incredible.

Underneath the jutting rock formations, there stretch tall, bendy coconut trees to provide natural shade for every beach bum who comes to Pinagbuyutan’s shores. This island also has quite a collection of seashells.


Things You Must Do in El Nido

things to do in el nido

The best thing about El Nido is not its stunning beauty, but the various ways you have of enjoying it. El Nido really has something for every interest, whether you’re looking to explore several feet underwater or hike hundreds of feet above ground.

From cliff climbing to cave exploration to diving and of course, island hopping, the choices are almost more overwhelming than the sheer loveliness of this place. Almost.

Must Do in El Nido #1. Island Hopping

You cannot leave El Nido without island hopping. Seriously, it’s a travel offense punishable by years of niggling regret. El Nido’s 45 islands and inlets are home to over 100 species of birds, 5 different species of marine mammals, over 800 species of fish, and five species of endangered sea turtles.

You can snorkel, swim, dive, play marine biologist, fish, or just lie around to your heart’s content on these islands. If you don’t have the time to visit them all, at least check out the must-visit islands in El Nido.

Click here to find out everything you need to know about island hopping in El Nido.

Must Do in El Nido #2. Kayak the Lagoons

Or more specifically, the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. There’s a reason these famous lagoons are photographed so often. You see, these beauties are examples of “sinkholes” – caves whose roofs eventually collapsed under their own weight.

Even if this geological fact doesn’t thrill you, you’ll be blown away by the serene wilderness you see while kayaking the lagoons. As shown in the picture, a boat is usually taken around the Big Lagoon and then the Small Lagoon is explored via kayak or snorkeling in through the narrow opening.

The Small Lagoon is easy to kayak so just let yourself be floated down the water as bird song and the monkey calls reverberate through the air. Kayaking the Big Lagoon requires much more effort and sweat, but it’s well worth it for the scenery and the chance to see wildlife. It’ll be much easier to approach, say, a black-tip reef shark with a quiet kayak than a motorized boat.

Kayaking is available as part of the Tour A itinerary, which is about 1400PHP per person. On the other hand, you can simply rent a kayak in town for less than 500PHP for a half-day rental.

Must Do in El Nido #3. Cliff Climb

The limestone cliffs jutting out of the crystal clear waters are phenomenal. Imagine being on top of them. Or better yet, actually do it.

You can book a cliff climbing trip in El Nido town. It’s highly recommended you hire a guide, since this can be a dangerous activity even for those in the best physical condition. And did we mention the closest hospital is an hour away? But don’t let that scare you. After a three-hour climb up the precarious slopes, you’ll be rewarded with a 360 panoramic view of all of El Nido and its beautiful islands. Trips cost about 200PHP per person.

Trek Cadlao Island

The largest island in El Nido, Cadlao Island also boasts the highest peak (640 meters above sea level). There are a few trails, with one leading to the tip of the peak where you can triumphantly gaze down at the beauty below.

Or you can take another trail to the Makaamo Lagoon, which is an easy 2-3 hour walk along the coast, up to the lagoon, mangroves, and a small cove for swimming and snorkeling. Come at sunrise or sunset to watch the birds feed.

Go Caving

Cudugnon Cave has inspired the imagination of many. Ever since archaeologist found bones and other artifacts inside the cave and brought them back to the National Museum in Manila, Cudugnon Cave has been rumored to have served as a hiding place during the Japanese occupation, a burial site, and a quarantine area for the malaria-stricken. Some of the items that were found (or later recovered) included neolithic items such as jewelry and pottery dating back to 1200 B.C.  While it’s unclear how the items got to the caves or which of these stories may be true, what’s certain is that there is a mysterious allure to the cave. Now empty of bones, it houses fruit bats.

Cathedral Cave is on tiny Pinasil Island. To get inside, you have to kayak through the narrow entrance. Enter the cave and you’ll find high ceilings with shafts of light streaming in through the top rock, casting a cathedral-like atmosphere (thus the name).

How to Get to El Nido

How to Get to El Nido

El Nido sounds like a mighty remote destination, doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually pretty simple to get to and you have plenty of options, depending on what your budget is.

Fly to El Nido

If money isn’t a problem, Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) flies directly from Manila to Lio Airport everyday, at 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM. You can’t beat ITI for convenience, but the downside is that all flights may only be booked five days in advance unless you’re staying at El Nido Resorts. A one-way ticket is a little less than 7,000PHP and there is a 10kg weight restriction.

SEAir offers direct flights from Manila to El Nido for more reasonable rates, but they only fly 3 times a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

Travel Overland to El Nido

If you have some time, you can fly into Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital, and make your way to El Nido overland. It’s not as complicated as it seems. Once you arrive at Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS), you can make your way to city center and then take a multi-cab (jeepney) to San Jose Terminal. If you don’t know where the San Jose Terminal is, which I assume you don’t, just ask the locals and the jeepney drivers. It’s about a 20 minute ride to the San Jose Terminal. If you’re trying to take the early morning bus to El Nido, take a tricycle from city center to San Jose Terminal instead for about 50 – 80 PHP, depending on your bargaining skills.

Once you arrive at the San Jose Terminal, ask for the buses headed for El Nido. You have three options of overland transport:

1. Public vans cost 500 – 600PHP and take about 6 hours traveling time. They depart at 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, and occasionally at 11 AM. There are only 10 seats so make sure you’re there at least a half hour before the departure so you can save a seat.

2. Public Buses costs 300PHP and take about 8 hours traveling time. They also depart at 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, and occasionally at 11 AM. These buses stopover for breakfast and a restroom stop and then again in Taytay to pick-up more passengers, so depending on these variables, the traveling time may lengthen.

Public Bus Companies:

  • Sweety Transport. Contact: +63 926 699 8700 (Puerto Princesa); +63 919 716 2210 (El Nido)
  • Eulen Joy Transport. Contact Details: +63 919 716 2210

If you’re traveling with a large group, you can rent a van for about 12,000PHP one-way and split it between everyone. The total trip time is around 5 – 6 hours, but the air-conditioned 4×4 vans are much more comfortable than the open-air buses.

Take a Ferry to El Nido

You can take a ferry straight to the El Nido port at Buena Suerte from Manila, Busuanga, Coron, and Sabang.

Atienza Shipping Lines has a route from Coron to El Nido once a week, at midnight every Thursday. It is 910PHP one-way and you should book at least a day in advance. Contact: +632-242 8845

There is also a boat from Sabang (where the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is) to El Nido that runs every Monday and Thursday for about 1,800PHP per person, one-way. It takes about 8 hours. Contact: +63-921-518-7947