Exploring El Nido, was one of the reccomandations we got when deciding our destinations here in the Philippines.
El Nido is located at the northern tip of Palawan Island. It includes 45 islands in the Bacuit Bay.
In the last years it has gained lots of attention and tourism has become one of the main sources of revenue. This is why we were a bit concerned about booking some time here. We were afraid it was going to be very busy and pricy. I won’t lie also prices can get pretty steep compared to other parts of the Philippines. However we were able to find a great place away from all the touristy craziness, but still get to enjoy what the environment here has to offer.
Where did we stay
For our time here we managed to find a resort that was a bit off the grid. So we were a way from the touristy area, but still gave us a chance to explore the beautiful environment: Dolarog Beach Resort . If you want to learn more about it you can also read our blog post about it: Dolarog beach resort, Corong Corong, Philippines
Dolarog Beach Resort includes 4 island hopping tours in its package rate. The tours allowed us to explore the natural beauties of the Bacuit Bay. We were able to explore many beaches, islands, lagoons and snorkeling spots in the area. During these daily adventures we had a chance to admire the natural beauty of the area. We also got a chance to know better our fellow travel mates, sharing a great time together.
Since we were out for so long, lunch was included in our day trips. They would start cooking on the boat in the morning. Then they would stop on a beach, set the table up with meat, fish, rice, veggies and fruit, so we could enjoy the meal and swim too! Most of the beaches had also vendors on canoes selling coconuts and drinks!
Check out our video about our tours around El Nido!
Island Hopping Tours
Our hotel already included these tours in our stay. However anyone that goes to El Nido can book the same Island Hopping tours to see the Bacuit Bay. The boats carry between 8 to 15 people. Daily they will stop to 4 or 5 locations. There are set routes named A through D, but they can vary depending on tides and weather. For example, when we were there we had to skip our stop at El Nido town because on that day the current was getting really strong. A few days before arrival no tours went out due to the typhoon.
Boats normally cost around 1200-P1400 pesos per person depending in the route and travel agency. The trips are from 9am to 4pm and include lunch. El Nido municipality also charges P200 as an Environmental fee which is valid 10 days. Here are the different tours offered:
|LAGOON TOUR: Small Lagoon,
Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Payong-Payong Beach, Secret Lagoon, Entalula Island
|SNAKE ISLAND TOUR:
Snake Island, Codognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Sandbar, Pinagbuyutan
Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Beach, Talisay Beach
|CADLAO TOUR: Helicopter Island, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach,
El Nido Town, Seven Commando/ Papaya beach
The Lagoon and Matinloc Tour are the most popular that everyone will do, specially if they have just a few days. However the other two are just as amazing and luckily not as busy!
Let me tell a bit more about our tour days!
Our first tour here in El Nido was extremely adventurous! One thing we learned the hard way: you need water shoes! The bottom is full of coral in most places. If you don’t want to cut yourself, make sure to bring them with you. On our first day we weren’t told how important they were and I cut my knee right away! In fact they stopped the boat further away from the beach due to the strong current and the lower tide, so we had to swim and walk to shore. The waves made me loose my balance (plus I was wearing flip flops) and I hit a big rock! I also got stuck in that same current and banged my side as well!
This tour brought us to the Secret Lagoon. We like to joke that “it isn’t so secret anymore since there are lots of tourists”! You get through a tiny opening and find a basin of water surrounded by rock. Time there is limited due to the large amount of people that come and out all the time! However it is worth visiting!
On our first day we also realized that the crew starts cooking lunch, on the boat right away. They have a little grill right behind the captain and they start preparing the meal. Around lunchtime they stop on a beach, set a table up with meat, fish, rice, veggies and fruit, so can enjoy the meal and swim too! Most of the beaches had also vendors on canoes selling coconuts and drinks!
Our second highlight of the day was kayaking in the Big Lagoon. You can rent a kayak directly from the boat, then you follow a narrow and shallow channel that at one point brings you to a giant lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs. Initially only Cosimo, Emma and Daddy explored decided to go. Shortly after though, Luca decided that he wanted to kayak too so we joined them around the lagoon. Our guide also took us through a tight cave but the perfect size for a kayak! It was absolutely stunning!
Snake Island Tour
One of my favorite stops was at Snake Island, here there is a sandbar that connects the mainland to an island at low tide. You can also hike up to the top of the island and enjoy a beautiful view of the surroundings!
This tour also brought us to explore a beautiful beach right in front of our resort on Pinagbuyutan Island. It was a very peaceful area and the sand was white.
Our kids favorite part of the day was going into the Codognon Cave. We had to climb through a pretty tight opening. Once we got in we were surprised with a very high “rock ceiling”! We then climbed up another bit and found a taller opening. Our kids climbed as much as they could to find hidden corners. A great adventure for them!
We went on this tour on a very rough day in the bay, so we had to deal with a strong current at every stop! First stop of this tour was to the Secret Beach. Getting in was extremely complicated due to the current, so only Mass made it through (luckily he made a video, so we all got to see it!). If you didn’t go in when the wave pushed towards the opening and you didn’t center yourself perfectly you could get really hurt against the rocks!
All of us experienced some of this strong current later on in the day when we swam to the Hidden beach. Check out the video at the top, to see the waves!
On this tour you get to do also a bit of sightseeing, in fact we stopped at Matinloc Shrine. This is a site on the western coast of Matinloc Island. Also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc, it was built in 1982. The place looks very neglected, but it is a stop of the tour and there is an extra charge to get down. Also here you can go up to the top of a mountain peek and enjoy an amazing view!
On this day we were surprised with a boat problem! It broke down just as we got back from exploring the Cadlao Lagoon and were getting ready to leave for the next stop. So we sat under the sun waiting and hoping that it would start again. Our crew has assistance from other boat crews as well through this ordeal. 50 minutes later the boat started again, and the captain never turned it off again till the end of the trip.
Cadlao Lagoon was amazing! We rented a big kayak. They were way more expensive than in the Big Lagoon (700 pesos) but we could all get on it together. It was a smaller lagoon and in one part you could just jump down and walk, however the color of water was just so beautiful! This was without any doubt the highlight of our day!
Thoughts about the tours
We loved having a chance to explore the stunning environment here in El Nido. Unfortunately at times and with 2 tours in particular we found lots and lots of tourists. We realized that also if there are two little beaches close to each other, the boats will all go at the same one. However we asked and it isn’t because they are forbidden to go to the other one. They simply all prefer doing the same thing!
On our last day Mass did insist to go to a little beach next to the more “popular” one, we did and we were the only ones there! Sometimes you just have to speak up!
Anyway our days were full, adventurous, surrounded by natural beauty and lots of fun, but most of all exhausting in a great way!
If you want to see more of our posts about our Philippines travels, click here.