Deciphering The El Nido Tours: Which to Take and Which to Skip
If you search Google and Instagram for images and hashtags from El Nido’s picture perfect Bacuit Bay, there will be no shortage of National Geographic worthy images from unbelievable locations.
The problem is that there is not a whole lot of information in these places for tourists to find out about what a day on one of the famous island hopping tours is actually like. Or even more importantly, what type of activities are on each of the stops of each of these island-hopping tours. Will you have to wade in water to get off the boat? Will you have to swim or paddle a sea kayak in deep water to get to some locations? These are really important questions that most first time visitors to El Nido do not even know to ask, but they are relevant questions!
This article is here to provide you with all the important information so that visitors can prepare for as much enjoyment as possible. Its true, not every tour will be enjoyed by everyone, so lets take a look at the tour options.
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.
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 Nacpan "Twin" Beach & Las Cabanas "Marimegmeg Beach" on the inland tour separately. The famous twin beaches of Nacpan can certainly be a whole-day, or even multi-day trip, and will deliver a fantastic beach experience. Visitors spending a day or two in Nacpan wont regret it or feel shorted at all. In fact, this is some of the most beautiful stretch of white sand beach in the Philippines… but I am sure that you have heard that statement from someone about some other beach before.
Without the crowds and environment-poisoning runoff of Boracay, the sand here is soft and powdery underneath your feet. There are a number of stands near the parking area that sell food, and rent things such as beach loungers, hammocks, snorkels, and more.
Marimegmeg, or Las Cabanas Beach 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 island hopping 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. The main attraction here is the zip line, but most people seem to come here to drink while watching the sunset.
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 venturing to El Nido 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.
The Highlight: Paddling
Other Activities: Snorkeling
Tour A is among the most popular in El Nido; and for good reason: beautiful sun-kissed tropical islands and deep blue lagoons await tourists along each stop in Bacuit Bay. But El Nido’s island hopping tour A does come with some caveats that are not well published. What you will not often hear is that Tour A is full of opportunities to kayak/ paddle and in some cases such as Big and Small Lagoons, traversing via sea kayak is required.
The Highlight: Snake Island Sandbar
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 only accessible by taking a trek by foot, from a path that starts on the beach.
Snake Island is truly a beautiful place, and is quite enjoyable at both high tide and low tide, despite what people say on the Internet. There have been lots of reviews and complaints that Snake Island is a waste of time during high tide when the sandbar is barely visible, but this is not the case at all! This is a popular spot for lunch, and hiking to the observation deck, but the highlight of Snake Island is indeed its long winding sandbar. This is an enjoyable walk, even when it is high tide and the entire sandbar is a meter under water. There is not much current or movement in the water in this part of Bacuit bay so therefore not much coral growth, and not many snorkeling activities.
Tour B is better suited for those El Nido visitors that do not wish to spend too much time swimming or paddling. The older and less active tourists tend to enjoyed Tour B very much. These are people would have opted to stay on the boat and skip activities during tour A and C.
The Highlight: Snorkeling
Other Activities: Snorkeling
Tour C is by far the most sought after in all of El Nido, and this day-long adventure could easily be called the snorkeling tour. Nearly every stop on Tour C offers an opportunity to get up close with the amazing 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... if you are lucky. T
This tour is absolutely best suited for people interested in being IN THE WATER. The day is designed to keep people in the water as much as possible. There were a noticeable amount of tourists staying on the boat at stops like Secret Beach because of the required swim to get there. Mantiloc Shrine and Hidden beach will also require some swimming to get to.
Ask your tour guide ahead of time for some tips for the time of year. Sunblock helps ward off jellies, and an underwater capable camera like a GoPro is an absolute must to bring along.
Unfortunately, Tour D was not available during El Nido’s low season. It is the least popular of the tours and therefore does not run because of the demand for tours A and C. A reshuffle of the tour destinations would probably fix this problem and spread the tour boats out a bit.
Well, there is a quick rundown of each of the available island hopping tours of El Nido and what to expect from each. Hopefully, with this knowledge visitors can arm themselves with the best information possible and enjoy their time in El Nido.