A land of charcoal and verdurous sprinkled cliffs surrounded by azure waters teeming with colorful fish and beaches so perfect, you’ll be hardpressed to find another as stunning… Welcome to Palawan, Philippines.
Palawan is home to the ever-popular El Nido and the description above is no exaggeration. El Nido, located in the north of Palawan is nothing short of stunning and the best part is, its beauty only intensifies when you set off on an island hopping tour from El Nido.
A visit to Palawan, and El Nido specifically, is not complete without a jaunt to the nearby specs of paradise that are off the coast. Here are all of the island tours on offer and what they entail so you can book the best El Nido island tours for you.
El Nido Island Hopping Tours
1. El Nido Island Hopping Tour A
Big lagoons, small lagoons, and secret lagoons.
Magical pools of water make up the tucked-away little retreat that makes up part of an archipelago: Miniloc Island. Arrive first thing in the morning, gaze up in wonder at giant rock formations, and paddle around huge reefs surging up from under the water.
Then chill. Take a break from your explorations to sink your toes into the soft sands at Shimizu Beach. Get a tan in the sumptuous South Pacific sun.
Finally, make your way over to Seven Commando Beach: snorkel and look out for sea turtles. Of all my El Nido tours, this one was one of my faves. I’m convinced it’ll be one of yours too.
2. El Nido Island Hopping Tour B
It’s called Snake Island for a reason. It is home to a sandbar that juts out into the sea like a giant grainy serpent, connecting one island to another.
For this tour on Snake Island, you can hike up a stairway set into a small mountain to get a 360-degree view of your surroundings from the top. Blue ocean and green mountainous islands all around.
Next, explore enormous ancient limestone mountains and rock formations on Pinagbuyatan Beach. Later in the day, you’ll splash in the crystal-clear blue waters on Papaya Beach.
Finish your day off with some deep dark explorations of Cudognon and Cathedral Caves; watch out for barn swallows and insectivorous bats!
3. El Nido Island Hopping Tour C
Named for its limestone cliffs that bear a striking resemblance to an actual helicopter just chillin’ there in the sea, Helicopter Island is a must-see as part of an El Nido tour.
Next up: Bourne. Jason Bourne. Of all the action-adventure franchises, the Bourne franchise is easily one of the most famous for its island scenes. And Tour C takes you on the same paths Jason walked (and fought).
The Bourne Legacy was filmed on two separate islands here, and you can see both.
Visit Dilumacad, an island known for its 40-meter-long underwater tunnel (for advanced divers only!) and Matinloc, one of the most luxurious white sand beaches you’ll find on earth. Matinloc is filled with a sense of secrecy and privacy. Hidden coves and undiscovered beaches abound.
4. El Nido Island Hopping Tour D
Cadlao Island often gets overlooked by tourists and locals alike because it is so close to the mainland. But often we miss the beauty right in front of our faces.
Cadlao is home to gorgeous beaches and limestone cliffs that will lead you to a turquoise lagoon filled to the brim with sea life. And because the waters in the lagoon are so shallow, the underwater world is a snap to explore with a simple snorkel.
This tour is all about enjoying all the water has to offer: Pasandigan Beach is another opportunity to explore sea life with some snorkeling.
Nat Nat Beach and Paradise are your chance to splash in the calm waves that lap up to the pristine sands. This El Nido island hopping tour may not seem like much at face value, but it’s (forgive the pun) a lesson in living in “paradise.”
5. Nacpan and Duli
Nacpan and Duli are two of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the area, you’ll be heading north for this El Nido tour to up your beach bum status. And this is the best kind of beach bummin’ you’ll find.
Nacpan is home to a 4-mile long shoreline with gentle waves but much stronger surf afar of the shore. It’s an interesting combo of serenity and wild nature. Grab a cocktail and lounge in a chaise.
Duli is quite literally a surfing safari. If you’re a surfer, or you’ve always wanted to try, now’s your chance. Duli is surf central in Palawan.
Not a surfer? No worries! You can relax on the beach with the jungle at your back and the surfers crashing in the waves at your front. This is the good life for sure.
Both of these beaches are long, expansive white sands with gentle waves washing on the shore kind of beaches, where you imagine yourself softly swaying in a hammock in the island breeze.
This is the tour to take if you are not a fan of boats and snorkeling as well. This is just north of the island, and you can reach this area by car, so not technically island hopping but you are hopping around the main island of Palawan. I loved the area, so I included it here for you.
6. Island Hopping Around El Nido & Coron
I have yet to visit Coron, but I heard all about it while traveling El Nido. It’s just a few islands away from El Nido, the main jumping-off point to get to Coron. If you’re getting enticed by all the island hopping in El Nido, Coron will be next level.
This part of The Philippines isn’t a stranger to tourism, but the number of people is far less than around El Nido.
When I visit again (which I fully intend to do), I think I’ll have to up my island-hopping game and take on a five-night boat tour! The tours above are incredible but they will leave you wanting more…
Plus, this tour includes two days exploring Coron and includes Puerta Princessa, as well. You’ll be spending your days lounging in hammocks, snorkeling, eating the freshest food, drinking a few beers with your mates at night, and getting up to do it all over again the next day!
More island hopping tours around Coron:
- Coron: Barracuda Lake, Skeleton Wreck, Twin Lagoon Boat Tour
- Coron: Off-Bay Islands, Lagoons and Lakes Hopping Tour
- Coron Ultimate Tour (Shared Tour)
BONUS: Zip Line Island Hopping
Yes, you can island hop by ZIP LINING! There’s not much more to say. Get strapped in, zip across the crazy blue water, blink and you’re on your own island.
Just show up, pay, and go for it. There’s no booking this ahead of time.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour: Know Before You Go
When to Go: For ideal weather and the best opportunity to really explore the beaches and islands, the best time to go El Nido island hopping is from November to May, with the hottest and driest months being March, April, and May.
If you’re anything like me and you try to avoid the height of tourist crowds, you’ll also want to avoid those super hot dry months.
When Not to Go: If you don’t like monsoon weather and the unpredictability of rains and rocky waves canceling your tours, avoid booking El Nido tours from June to October.
TIP: Get cash! Most of these small island areas are going to want to deal in cash and are not going to have a lot of options for getting the cash you need. So hit up an ATM in Puerto Princesa and make sure to prebook the tours above so you can carry less cash on you.
Things to Bring Island Hopping in El Nido
- a snorkel. You’ll be provided with one but if you have one, it’s sometimes worth bringing as the rentals are sometimes kind of cheap.
- water shoes. This is your choice. Many like wearing them, I hate them. I rented them in Puerto Princesa for a tour that had a nasty fish that hung out in the sand… You make the call. Worse comes to worse, you can rent them.
- plenty of water. Even if water is provided, bring extra water.
- sunscreen. Duh, it’s hot and sunny! Protect that skin!
- rash guard. Another optional item. Locals love them since they often are modest and they use them to keep cool and covered.
- a GoPro. You have no other way of capturing these memories!
- a rain jacket. Look at the weather! If it’s going to rain, bring a jacket so you’re staying dry while on the boat. I was FROZEN on my tour while on the boat because I only had a swimsuit and it rained!
- a sarong. I’m team sarong, but you can bring your towel if you want. I find them bulky, smelly, and not as quick-drying as advertised.
Can’t get enough of Palawan? Head to Coron next! It’s a small fishing village just north across the water that has become an adventure diver’s paradise. Book your boat over in El Nido.
Heading back toward Puerto Princesa? Don’t skip over it again, there’s more island hopping and plenty more things to do in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
TIP: 12go.asia is the best way to book ferries, buses, and trains ahead of time in the Philippines!
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So which of these El Nido island tours are you dipping your feet into? Let us know in the comments!
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!