Here is a quick guide to the famous El Nido island hopping tours. While it is fairly easy to find pictures of all the amazing places in El Nido, there is not a whole lot of information about what an actual day on one of the tours is like, or what type of activities are on each of the stops of the tour. They are certainly not for everyone.
The Inland Tour
The Highlight: Staying land based
Other Activities: Hikes, beaching
While very tempting in itself, the inland tour should be saved for a rainy day. Literally. If you don’t want to be crossing a large body of water in choppy seas and high winds, then its best to keep the inland tour in your pocket so that you do not waste a day sitting in your hotel. Hikes are a great backup plan.
If you want to further expand this because there is lots of rain in the forecast during your El Nido trip, then you can even do the two beach attractions on the inland tour separately. Nacpan beach (the image below) can certainly be a whole-day, or even multi-day trip and you wont regret it or feel shorted at all. This is some of the most beautiful beach in the Philippines… but I am sure that you have heard that statement from someone about some other beach before.
Marimegmeg, or Las Cabanas Beach (the image directly above) as it is more popularly known, is just a 15-minute tricycle ride away from EL Nido Town. This small, but secluded beach is a great place to get away from the crowds. It is also a fantastic place to unwind with some drinks. Just make sure to stick around to catch the best sunset view in all of El Nido.
Also part of the inland tour is Nagkalit-Kalit Falls; which is a 45-minute to one hour walk (each way) off the dirt road that leads to Nacpan Beach. This path will take you past some rice fields and, after a short jungle trek, the two level falls. Nagkalit-Kalit forms a pool that you can soak in at the base of the larger falls, then it is drained by a smaller set of falls below.
While most people much rather be island hopping, water based activities and spending the entire day on a boat may not interest everyone. These are all great alternate activities to consider. These destinations are also great alternatives to keep you busy on days where the weather is not ideal for being on the water. Just ask a tricycle driver to take you to any of these locations.
The Highlight: Paddling
Other Activities: Snorkeling
Tour A is among the most popular in El Nido; and for good reason, beautiful islands such as Pangulasian (below) and the pictureesque Big and Small lagoons (above) await tourists. But what you don’t often hear is that its full of opportunities to kayak/ paddle and in some cases it is even required.
The Highlight: Snake Island Sandbar (above)
Other activities: Walking
Tour B is not as popular as A and C because it is far less water centric. The stop at Cathedral Cave is literally just a photo op at the opening, which smells terrible from all the guano (bat droppings). The second cave is a fun little trek by foot. Snake Island is enjoyable at both high tide and low tide, despite what people say on the Internet. The sunken sandbar is a fun walk, even when it is a meter under water.
This is a tour better suited for those that don’t wish to do too much swimming or paddling. There were a few older tourists (Nay and Tay) on the boat with us and they enjoyed Tour B very much. This is notable because I noticed that many older, or less active tourists opted to stay on the boat and skip activities during tour A and C. Thats not to say that this tour is boring, not at all! It still has some of the most beautiful locations in all of El Nido.
The Highlight: Snorkeling
Other Activities: Snorkeling
This could easily be called the snorkeling tour. Nearly every stop on tour c offer an opportunity to get up close with the coral reefs in the shallow waters surrounding each island. Depending on the time of year that you go, there may be some tiny jellyfish, or the occasional sea turtle that makes an appearance.
This tour is best suited for people interested in being IN THE WATER. I noticed lots of older tourists staying on the boat at stops like Secret Beach because of the required swim to get there.
If you do not like to swim, then Tour C is not for you. Try Tour B or the Inland Tour instead.
Unfortunately, Tour D was not available while I was in El Nido. It is the least popular of the tours and therefore does not run during the low season. I will gladly amend this article if I have the opportunity to go back and take tour D, and the independently run, Mellow Yellow Tour Z.
I wrote to the Tour Z operators and they told me the next available date, which was already after I was to leave El Nido. Next time!