What is El Nido without the classic El Nido Island Hopping? El Nido is the place to be when you are visiting Palawan. It is where you have the secret lagoon, multiple islands, sunsets and white pristine beaches. In El Nido, you will definitely want to visit the islands, snorkel in the clear waters and visit the quiet secret beaches. The problem is: it is always so crowded and you cannot enjoy some peace with privacy!
Island Hopping in El Nido
If you are in El Nido, EVERYONE on the beach will try to sell you their island hopping tour. Basically you have 4 tour options, and everyone is selling the same price. The problem is that you are visiting the islands with a bunch of random people. There is also a strict schedule to adhere to: meet at 9am, visit this island, snorkel here, eat now, visit that beach, return at 4pm. It feels like you are being taken for a ride (literally and figuratively). There is no privacy and freedom. I do not like that. You need time to appreciate and enjoy the beauty that El Nido offers.
Better Option for Island-Hopping in El Nido
So what is the better option? This is what I did instead. Do note that it is more for the adventurous crowd. My arms are still sore right now and Elliott is sleeping from exhaustion. It allows for maximum flexibility, a perfect workout and you get to spend all your favourite time on the beach with no one around!
Another option from the usual touristic island-hopping in El Nido is to kayak. You should follow this route: Cadlao Island (paradise beach) – Dilumacad Island (helicopter beach or beaches around) – Ubugon Island (ubugon cove) – Cadlao Island (pasandigan beach)
Read below for more details!
Facts and Myths of El Nido Island Hopping
- There are many beaches around the islands in El Nido to explore. TRUE.
- There are secret bays with no people. TRUE.
- There are gorgeous white pristine beaches with extreme clear waters to snorkel. TRUE.
- You must visit small lagoon and secret lagoon when in El Nido. FALSE.
- 7 Commando Beach is the must-go beach in El Nido. FALSE.
- The only way to do island hopping is through the tour groups. FALSE.
These are some facts that I’d like to bring across. Without spending lots of money, following the crowd and losing your own privacy, I’d suggest you try this out: island hopping with a kayak. 4 steps below to share the details!
4 Steps to Island Hopping in El Nido (Save 45 USD)
Step 1: Rent A Kayak
In El Nido, there are many kayak rentals by the beach. You can rent them at 500-700php for a day (11am-5pm) or 400php for half a day (1pm-5pm). This price is for 2-seater kayak. I would recommend doing this with someone as it can get really exhausting. A full day rental is better.
Step 2: Choose Your Kayak
Rent your kayak at 11am or earlier. This is to prevent all the good kayaks from being rented away! We made our mistake to rent at 2pm, and we were left with terrible kayaks. (We changed this day to chilling on the beach instead.)
How to choose the best kayak? Choose one that is
- light (literally carry it) as a light kayak requires less energy to sail
- has a storage compartment in the kayak (usually comes with a black cover in the middle of the kayak or in front of the seat)
Cast away and off you go!
Step 3: Where To Go
Now, where are you going? That is a good question. Depending on your strength, you can go to many places. I would highly recommend this route:
Cadlao Island (paradise beach) – Dilumacad Island (helicopter beach or beaches around) – Ubugon Island (ubugon cove) – Cadlao Island (pasandigan beach)
The entire time took us about 6 hours with some chilling on the beach, snorkeling and tanning.
Once you are on your kayak, if you look straight ahead, you will see this giant island in front. There is a waterway between that island (Cadlao island) and the main El Nido island on the left. Head towards there. Basically: left turn when you can.
1st Beach: Paradise Beach
Paradise beach is the first beach you see. There is another beach around the next bay if you are interested. They are basically quiet beaches that no tours go to. The water is so clear and perfect for snorkeling! The afternoon sun also shines on the beach so you get to tan too!
2nd Stop: Dilumacad Island (Helicopter Island)
Next, head towards Dilumacad Island. With your back facing Paradise beach, Dilumacad island is at 2pm (on your right). It is basically the closest island on your right. Some may think it is too far. Then head along the coast of Cadlao island for your beach hopping. For those with energy, continue on to Dilumacad island. This island is a stop for one of the tourist tours and diving tours. This is a great place to snorkel. The other tourists will head towards the left of the island (known as Helicopter beach), but head to the right. It is the same coast, but a lot quieter. The corals and fishes there are amazing.
3rd Beach: Pasandigan Beach
Third, when you are on the right of Dilumacad island (helicopter island), there is a beach just opposite of you. It is pasandigan beach. There were many people then, so we went left towards Ubugon cove. This requires some effort as it is against the current. There is no one on the beach and the cove has the most emerald water I have ever seen. It is not great for snorkeling but great for pictures.
Lastly, you can visit pasandigan beach if you are interested. There are 4 beaches along the coast line of Ubugon cove and paradise beach. Feel free to visit any! There is also Ipil Ipil beach on the El Nido main island. You could also visit that.
Step 4: Head Back
If you are not exhausted after this entire thing, congratulations to you, fit one. Elliott and I are beyond exhausted. We were lucky to witness a nice rainbow after the showers. It did make the return trip sweeter.
So, that’s it! Island hopping trip for 500php for 2 person with full freedom and privacy. The kayaks do provide life jackets if needed. As for snorkels, I have my own, so I used them. I recommend you to get your own snorkels too, for hygiene purpose.
Yo Trevellers, that’s not for me. So….. What Island Hopping Tour To Get?
If you want to get the island hopping tours, I recommend Tour A.
There are 4 tours in total.
Tour A includes: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach. The 3 lagoons are very gorgeous and it is what El Nido shows when you google “El Nido” on google images.
Tour B: Tour B is a couple of islands, snorkeling sites and a cave. Honestly not worth the price you pay, in my opinion. They snorkeling sites are very crowded and full of tourists going on the same time. Since El Nido is known for the beaches, beaches are where you should go.
Tour C: Tour C is mainly focused on beaches. Going to the beach is fun, but if you are on a schedule and only allowed on the beach for a specific time period, I doubt you truly enjoy the sun and sea on the beach.
Tour D: Tour D is kind of silly as they only bring you to the beaches near El Nido main island. The view is similar. I would recommend this tour for people who get seasick easily and are not able to be on the ferry for too long.
In general, I highly recommend Tour A. Tour A is 1200php with 200php fee to be on the island. I do not know how true this is because when we kayak, we did not have to pay a single cent to be on any island. For Tour A, you can negotiate and get 400php off. We spent 1000php per person including the environmental fee of 200php.
Do share this secret island-hopping plan with your friends and comment if you have done it!
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.