Philippines / Luzon / Palawan
Lets face it, people go to El Nido for the Island hopping.
When you do a Google image search for ‘Philippines’, vacation photos from El Nido are the most abundant result; the majority of those photos were taken on board one of these famous El Nido island-hopping tours.
Here is a post on how best to prepare for these all day adventures in the islands, so that you wont be left high and dry.
What to bring
An underwater capable camera.
I cant believe that I still don’t own an action camera. I have been so happy with my iPhone 6s+, then my iPhone 7 that I assumed they would be good enough.
In many situations, the best phone cameras on the market are enough; but the image quality and unnderwater capabilities that the latest generation of GoPro camera provides are worth the extra few ounces of weight and bagspace. The GoPro even matches the highly advanced image stabilization of the iphone 7.
This should go without saying. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the sun is strong in the tropics and you will be spending lots of time in the direct sunlight on a tour day. I will spare you the lecture about reapplying often.
Remember to ask your tour provider if they will at least will provide you with a mask & snorkel.
Some tours include these for free, some tours make you rent them. The bottom line is that I like to be prepared and bring my own. These rental pieces have been used by HUNDREDS of people before me; on their face and in their mouth, no thank you.
Yes you can buy these localy in El Nido, but you will pay a premium for very low qulity gear. That is all that is available there. Best to bring it along with you!
A good pair of comfortably fitting fins are really great for being able to move around quickly in the water between locations while snorkeling. With an average "free time" of only 45 minutes at each location, fins are an absolute necesity for making the most of your time.
This is a luxury item because you want to pack light. I chose to simply air dry all day as it was hot in the early part of June. One group had a single beach towel that they hung in the center of the boat and was shared by 4 people. I admit that it looked like it came in handy at some points.
If you want to bring a towel along, make sure its a lightweight, fast drying microfiber towel. They are worth the purchase for travel.
This should also go without saying. Yes there is water on the boat, but it can go fast. Bring along a liter per person and don’t even bother with the provided cups on the boat.
Yes tours typically provide lunch on island hopping tours, but there’s nothing like a quick boost of energy from a piece of chocolate or a small bag of chips to settle the munchies in the late afternoon. Keep in mind that you will be spending lots of energy on these tours, so its best to be prepared with a small light snack!
Some tour guides and boatmen are kind enough to carry a large dry bag and offer to stash/ portage your electronics to the shore for you, but you certainly cannot count on this. You can pick up a 5l dry bag just about anywhere in El Nido town for about 250 pesos or less (5 USD) if you are a good negotiator. Having a dry bag larger than 5l is most likely not necessary and I was able to fit a shirt, my cell phone, and a mirrorless camera (Sony A7s) inside of it comfortably.
A quality ultralight dry sack is a MUST HAVE travel item in my opinion. It is so versatile that is worth spending extra money on a high quality ultralight version. Sure the dry bags that they sell in El Nido Town are inexpensive, but these are too bulky and heavy for real travel applications. They are basically throw away items. Picking up a quality dry bag is a good idea because it can also serve as a laundry bag, cooler, water bucket, packing organizer, and much more!
For the most part, those are the necessities for island hopping in El Nido. Enjoy your adventure!