Do not book for a 3-day, 2-night stay in El Nido! I tell you, it’ll leave you hanging. Unless you are really good at scheduling trips and you won’t be going from Puerto Princesa (because it takes 6 hours to get from there).
There are lots of travel agencies in Palawan that can help you book accommodation and tours in El Nido. Tricycle drivers in Puerto Princesa also offer tour packages since they have connections and they provide cheaper price, although I think most tour packages are the same and start at the same port.
Basically the El Nido tours are divided into Tours A (Lagoons and Beaches), B (Caves and Coves), C (Hidden Beaches and Shrine), D (Island Beaches), and E (Inland Beaches and Waterfall). Most tourists pick Tours A and C, and since we only had a one full day available we only had Tour A. Each tour mostly runs from 9 AM – 4 PM.
Prices per tour (most tours playing around this prices):
Tour A = Php 1,200
Tour B= 1,300
Tour C = 1,400
Tour D = 1,200
Tour E = 1,100
Each tour includes boat transfers (van transfer for Tour E), guide, lunch, and life jackets. Snorkels, flippers, aqua shoes , and underwater camera can also be rented before the tour.
The Big Lagoon along with the Small Lagoon are the usual images in an El Nido postcard and is really popular because of its turquoise-green waters. Swimming and snorkeling is not allowed in the area because of the steep passageway, there are many boats on tour, and they cannot stay longer in the area or they might get stuck.
This is probably the best of the tour even though we only get to just take photos. Along the ride inside the lagoon, you’ll see a rock formation of the Virgin Mary and is said to be the one protecting the area.
I didn’t really have a photo taken here because I don’t have an underwater camera so make sure to bring one and make sure to have your aqua shoes ready! I was so unprepared I thought it would be fine if I didn’t rent one and I ended up swimming like I’m in a triathlon. I couldn’t put my foot down because our guide said that there are territorial fish, stone fish and other sea creatures in the area that might bite your feet or something.
If you are prepared then you’d enjoy swimming inside the lagoon because it’s long and is surrounded by limestone walls. It’s nice to float and just go steady. You can also do kayaking inside which I would prefer if there’s any available.
Guides prepare lunch in this island. According to locals, Shimizu Island was named after a Japanese scuba diver who died near the island due to lack of oxygen in his tank. It is mostly composed of limestone karst cliffs and white sand. Snorkeling and swimming can be done here while waiting for the food.
Lunch includes grilled fish, shrimp, meat, and fruits (not grilled. haha!).
Didn’t take photos here as well. Water is shallow and there’s lots of rocks and corals so you’d have to watch your step. There is a small opening going inside the lagoon, and once you’re in you will see that it just covers a small area. Swimming is possible and you can take off your footwear because it has sand beneath though the water is not clear. I just spent a short amount of time in this area because, yeah, it is small and I was mostly standing inside. We did find a jellyfish beside our boat though. haha!
Seven Commandos Beach
Seven Commandos is named after the 7 remaining Japanese commandos who live in the island after World War II. Not much to tell aside from it is somewhat white and it’s near the port. It’s already part of the town but it’s the only beach (with full sand) in the tour. I didn’t get to swim though because I spent my time drinking my Coconut shake (costs Php 200). Yes, there is a beach bar situated in the area that offers alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Maybe they could make your fruit shake alcoholic. They have this somewhat-reggae music going and I was just staring at each boat that comes.
At the end of this tour, I could say that:
- Underwater camera is a MUST
- Aqua shoes is a MUST if you can’t swim so damn long
- It’s all made up of limestone
- Have the time to talk with foreigners and locals
- Try the other tours as well
- 3 days and 2 nights is not enough
- I’m definitely coming back!