Voted as the best island in the world in 2014, Palawan is not only home to one of the new seven natural wonders of the world but also a haven for island hopping aficionados. When the Philippines was showered with beautiful islands, white sand beaches and spectacular sceneries, I think Palawan grabbed them the most – particularly in El Nido.
I have been to a bunch of island hopping trips already which offers pretty much the same. You go check out white sand beaches, snorkeling and swimming. But island hopping in El Nido will definitely give you an awesome experience that will surely take your adventure to the next level.
El Nido is situated in the nothernmost tip of mainland Palawan. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights so you need to fly to Puerto Princesa and take a 5-hour van ride to reach El Nido. I’d suggest you arrange your trip with a travel agent for a hassle-free tour. I’ll be breaking down our Palawan tour package by Hadefe Travel and Tourson a separate post soon.
There are 4 island hopping tours (A, B, C and D) to choose and the most recommended are A and C which we did . Check out this map below for a picture of the tours.
I’ll be sharing to you our experience for the Tour A last May (peak season). During the trip the boatman may change the order of the islands to visit to avoid congestion on an island. Here are the places we checked out:
It was a fine day for an awesome adventure. I’d like to warn you that the following photos are tempting, will make you want to jump in and fly to El Nido asap. Ready? Let’s roll! 😀
Our first stop, Simizu Island, was named after a Japanese diver who fell in love with its marine life but unfortunately died in an underwater tunnel in this island. That being said, you’ll know that this island is one of the beautiful snorkeling sites of the tour. Upon seeing the turquoise waters, every one was excited to jump in.
Immediately we grabbed our snorkeling gears and plunged into the crystal clear waters (an understatement and overused word to describe the islands in El Nido). 😀
From the mesmerizing limestone cliffs above to the diversity of the corals below, it was a perfect welcome for us. Most of us were still adjusting with their life jackets and snorkeling gears but I wasted no time to explore the beauty beneath.
Research say that watching fishes in an aquarium is a proven stress buster and I totally agree. This time I am swimming with them in this vast natural aquarium. If only I could hold my breath for a minute or five, it would be really awesome to meet these marine species up close.
Our next stop should have been the Secret Lagoon but the tide was high at that time. This lagoon can only be safely accessed, through a small hole fit for a person only, when the tide is low. Since we started a bit late in the morning already, we had to take our lunch on our second stop in Entalula Island.
What amazes me is that out of these big rocky islands sprouting all over Bacuit archipelago, you will find a spot with a white sand beach. This gives the boats more options where to dock and prepare for lunch. They started to grill some seafood and slice fresh fruits while you enjoy the island life.
While waiting for lunch, we took photos of the beautiful horizon as seen from the island. It was just picture perfect. Haaaay, how I wish this place is just around the corner.
And finally, the boatman called “lunch is ready!!” while I was swimming and the picture of the food preparation flashed into my mind. I ran to get my camera but I was too late as the hunger games has begun. I had to applaud their effort and the food presentation that will surely boost your appetite. Good job kuyas! 🙂
If you are a beach bum, you know that it’s always fun to eat by the beach as your metabolism seems to work hard as well. I personally loved the grilled fish as you can really taste how fresh they are and the fruits that complements the feast. It was the best lunch out by the beach ever! 🙂
Honestly I felt sleepy and just wanted to lay down after the delicious lunch that we had. Good thing our next destination doesn’t need much of an action. It was a slow and lovely cruise at the Big Lagoon that seems like a highway of white sand seabed bound by limestone walls. The result is a balance of glimmering waters and rugged stone backdrop perfect for a profile picture.
Upon reaching the lagoon inside, the boat will circle around and stay for 5-10 minutes. They say we could have stayed longer in the off-season where there are fewer tourists. I think the boatmen are well oriented and disciplined on keeping the spacing of their boats and that’s great.
It was a struggle and pressure to take selfies when you are 15 people on the boat with a limited time only. Well in fact this has been an iconic scene for El Nido island hopping so everyone dare not miss this opportunity. Everybody got their chance and took their turn in the front end of the boat and I believe 5 of my friends changed their profile pictures that day. 😀
This one is probably my favorite. An enchanting landscape paired with a playful activity equals an ultimate experience worth reminiscing. This time we need to immerse ourselves into the lagoon behind those walls.
The best way to enjoy and explore around the small lagoon is by a kayak that are available for rent at 300 Php. Even at the docking area, the water is so clear that we looked like floating in the air. 🙂
To get inside the small lagoon, we need to go through this small opening. You will have to watch your head and slightly bend your body while slowly navigating through it.
And voila! Inside was a big playground. The place was so cool even though it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon due to the high rocky walls and flora giving shade. There were several “kayakers” inside and the place at some point looks like a “bump-cars” arena, only with kayaks. 😀
It was the best way to burn our calories after that heavy lunch. You just sit down, slowly paddle and enjoy the relaxing feeling of drifting inside a canyon of limestone walls. It was breath-taking.
Honestly, it was my first time to use a kayak and it was undoubtedly a unique experience. This is worth a groufie! 😀
And for the last stop we were supposed to visit Seven Commando beach but there was no more room to dock. So we visited Papaya beach which is just beside Seven Commando only separated with a limestone wall. They say the place was filled with papaya trees in the past, thus the name.
This island is one of the many reasons why El Nido is hailed as the best beach and island destination in the Philippines. Here you will enjoy a stretch of really fine white sand beach, finer than the sands of Boracay I should say. There is a snorkeling site, beach volleyball area and several hammocks tied in between trees.
It was already past 3PM and most of us were already a bit weary but deeply satisfied. We opted to just sit back, lay on the sands and fell in love with this paradise in front of our eyes.
And before we wrap up this trip, a barkada getaway wouldn’t be complete without a jumpshot. One last hoorah! 😀
We called it a day, an extraordinary day. I personally believe that everything I witnessed was a notch or two higher than the island hopping experiences I’ve been. Crystal clear waters, diverse marine ecosystem, fascinating rock formations, profile-picture-worthy photos, bump-a-kayak, prime white sands and distinct island activities. And lastly, all these wouldn’t be more special without my crazy and fun-loving barkada. 😉
Island hopping in El Nido is truly an experience to the next level. I think I wouldn’t enjoy any other trips outside of Palawan, since Coron is still on my bucketlist. You know you had a great time when you end the day with a smile. And as a bonus, I managed to take this sunset shot in Bacuit bay – El Nido’s way of saying thank you and see you again tomorrow.
So are you convinced to experience island hopping in El Nido? Which island was your favorite? Let’s hear your thoughts and as always, spread good vibes! 😀
– Awesome El Nido: Island Hopping To The Next Level | Tour A
– Awesome El Nido: Exploring Secrets of Nature | Tour C
– Inside Puerto Princesa Underground River | New7Wonders of Nature