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Island Hopping in El Nido
Island hopping in El Nido should be on the top of any travelers list when visiting the Philippines a must-do on any El Nido itinerary. Island hopping in El Nido is so much fun, but of course there are many island hopping tour options to choose from! If you only have time for one tour then I recommend Tour C! When I visited I was hoping to combine tours A and C, however unfortunately I found that companies no longer offer this option.
There are tons of great tour companies to choose from, but it is important to make sure that they include all of the necessities for a great trip. A good island hopping tour should include a drinking water (plastic bottles are banned in the Philippines), snorkelling gear, and lunch. A typical island hopping lunch usually includes fish or chicken, rice/noodles, veggies and fruit. Be sure to let the operator know in advanced if you are a vegetarian!
The island hopping tours in El Nido are separated into 4 different itineraries, Tours A, B, C, and D, of the most popular destinations. The tours are typically categorized as follows: Tour A is for those seeking lagoons and beaches, Tour B is for caves and secluded islands, Tour C is for those looking to snorkel, and Tour D is a mix of islands and beaches.
El Nido Tour A
Tours A and C are definitely the most popular boat tours in El Nido. Tour A focuses on lagoons and beaches. It covers the Small Lagoon, the Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach. In the past Tour A visited both the Big Lagoon and the Small Lagoon, but now you are required to choose one or the other. Tour A gained its popularity do to the inclusion of the Big Lagoon, which is one of the most iconic spots in the Philippines. Unfortunately only a limited number of people are able to visit each day, so I wasn’t able to visit during my trip. Luckily, El Nido is full a beautiful spots to visit, so this didn’t affect my experience!
El Nido Tour B
Known for its caves and secluded islands, Tour B is probably the least popular tour on the list of top tours. However, this means that there are usually a lot less people. While it isn’t my top recommendation, if you have the extra days then I’d say it is definitely worth booking. The tour visits Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave, and a snorkeling site.
El Nido Tour C
Tour C typically cover Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, and and Star Beach. In my opinion, this is the best tour to do if you can only choose one. Each destination on the tour is super unique, including a beach that you need to swim underwater to get to.
El Nido Tour D
Tour D stops at Cadlao Lagoon, Ipil Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Paradise Beach, Natnat Beach, and Bukal Beach. While this tour doesn’t cover as many of the top spots, the destinations are definitely less trafficked. If you are looking to get away from the crowds on a budget, this might be a good option for you.
Island Hopping in El Nido with a Private Boat
El Nido has received a ton of attention over the past few years, which has resulted in a spike in tourism. While this has had many benefits on the area’s economy, it also means that many of the islands have become quite saturated with tourists!
Good news for you!
Luckily, there is still a way to appreciate the islands of El Nido without all of the tourists. While I’m usually a big advocate for budget travel, I definitely recommend renting a PRIVATE BOAT in El Nido!
Renting a private boat for your island hopping in El Nido experience is definitely the way to go! All of the group island hopping tours depart from the beach between 9 and 9:30am. Renting a private boat gives you the option of departing as early as 7am which means that you are TWO HOURS AHEAD of the other tours. This is a MAJOR perk as it means that you will beat the tourist rush at each stop. In fact, we had almost every island/beach completely to ourselves for the entire day! After having the entire beach on the incredible Helicopter Island for ourselves (and an adorable dog) it was quite shocking to drive past the island the following day and see it packed with almost one hundred neon life vest wearing tourists dotting the island.
Since we had a private boat we also had the option of switching around the island stops a bit. We were able to add in Cadlao Lagoon, which is typically included in Tour D, and it was an absolute dream destination!
Island Hopping in El Nido: The Best Tour Company
We booked our private tour with El Bacuit and couldn’t have been happier. The office is located right on the beach. I have included a map below with a pin dropped on the map.
Our boat rental cost 6,500 PHP (approximately $120 USD). This price included a full day island hopping tour from 7am to 3pm with a full boat crew and guide. This also included a boat large enough to accommodate up to 26 people, but at least it meant that we had plenty of space to spread out! We opted out of lunch to cut the costs a bit, however the deal was still fantastic! Most companies we spoke to were charging upwards of 10,000 PHP.
Private Island Hopping in El Nido Itinerary
The best part of booking a private island hopping tour in El Nido is that you get to customize your route. As I mentioned earlier, once it was determined that we wouldn’t be able to visit the Big Lagoon, I decided that Tour C was the option for us. However, we wanted to visit Cadlao Lagoon as well, which is only included on Tour D. Since Tour D is significantly less popular than some of the others, which means that you could end up with the entire place to yourself. This was a serious highlight of our private boat trip in El Nido.
- Helicopter Island
- Secret Beach
- Hidden Beach
- Snorkeling Spot off of Tapuitan Island
- Cadlao Lagoon
Diving Island Hopping Tour
Diving is one of the most popular things to do in El Nido. It is also a great way to explore the islands around El Nido. My boyfriend booked a series of dives with Sea Sphere Dive Center and we couldn’t recommend it more! I personally wasn’t interested in diving, however I was still able to join. The company offers the choice of a snorkel-only tour for non-divers at a very discounted price of approximately $20 USD. This includes a full day on the boat, plus a large, delicious lunch.
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