Island Hopping Tour in El Nido: Ultimate Guide

Discover the wonders of El Nido’s famous island hopping tours, a must for any traveler visiting this destination in the Philippines. If you’re wondering what is El Nido Tour C, how to get to Helicopter Island, or if a private Tour worth the money, you’ve come to the right place. This travel guide will show you the best El Nido island hopping tours.

El Nido’s Island Hopping Tours

As you explore the untouched waters of the archipelago, you will be treated to a breathtaking panorama of limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, and white sandy beaches. The island hopping tours in El Nido, run by various local operators, offer a range of options to suit different interests and schedules. In this island hopping guide we will introduce you to the different excursions and share our experience with the private tours. After reading you will know which El Nido tour to do.

Drone shot of Islands in front of El Nido

Which El Nido Island Hopping Tour is The Best?

There are various island-hopping tours in El Nido. The four most popular are Tour A, B, C, and D. In addition to the standard excursions, there are also individual ones that allow you to cover a mixture of destinations and combine the highlights from different tours. Let’s dive into what awaits you on these tours.

What is El Nido Tour A?

Four exciting stops await you here. The Big Lagoon is a classic and a definite must-see on your trip to the Philippines. You stop in front of the lagoon by boat and get a kayak on site to explore the lagoon.

The next stop is the Secret Lagoon. This is a small lagoon where you can float in the water and admire the breathtaking limestone formations around you. However, the lagoon is often quite crowded with people.

Shimizu Island impresses with small dreamlike stretches of beach. The island looks particularly impressive from the air.

The 7 Commando Beach invites you to relax and is ideal for rounding off a fantastic trip.

Big Lagoon Philippines El Nido from above Droneshot

What is El Nido Tour B?

You start with a stop on Snake Island. It is a sandbank that stretches between two islands. It is the perfect motif for an impressive beach picture. After a five-minute hike on a neighboring island, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the sandbank from above.

Pinagbuyutan Island is the island that you have probably already seen in some drone pictures. Unfortunately, the island was privatized a few years ago, which is why you are no longer allowed to visit the island. Nevertheless, many providers still advertise it on their tours.

The next stop is Entalula Beach. The small beach is an absolute eye-catcher with its huge freestanding rock in the bay.

Afterwards, visit Cudugnon Cave, where, depending on the time of day, you can admire the impressive light streaming through the rock faces.

Finally, you stop at a snorkeling spot where you can see lots of colorful fish and corals.

Entalula Beach Island from above Droneshot

What is El Nido Tour C?

You start with a stop on Helicopter Island. The island has an iconic shape and – as the name suggests – looks like a helicopter.

Another stop on the route is the Matinloc Shrine, where you can snorkel or just explore the island.

Then it’s off to Secret Beach. This is a small beach that you can only reach by swimming from the boat.

Next, you can sunbathe at Talisay Beach before finishing off at Hidden Beach. This is a real natural spectacle. Although you won’t have the beach to yourself, if you walk a little through the waist-deep water, you will find a smaller, more hidden section of beach in front of the main beach.

Hidden Beach Droneshot from above

What is El Nido Tour D?

The first stop is Ipil Ipil Beach. The water is incredibly clear and swimming here is a unique experience.

The next stop is Cadlao Lagoon. This is a beautiful, less frequented lagoon on Cadlao Island.

Afterwards, you will visit the jungle beaches of Paradise Beach and Pasandigan Beach one after the other. Both are located on Cadlao Island and are breathtaking due to the palm trees directly on the beach and the mighty rocky elevations directly behind them. Finally, it’s off to Natnat Beach and Bukal Beach on the eastern side of Cadlao. The entire tour revolves mainly around Cadlao Island.

As an alternative to the El Nido island hopping tour, you can also explore Cadlao Island by kayak.

Cadlao Island Beach Droneshot from above

Combination Tour

In addition to the standard tours, many operators also offer combined routes. These include the highlights from different tours, so that you can see your favorites on just one island hopping tour. This is a perfect option for those who have little time in El Nido but want to see as much as possible.

Group Tour vs. Private Tour

On the island hopping tours in El Nido, you have the option of choosing between a private or a group tour. We will show you the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Group Tour

On a group tour, you will usually be picked up between 8.30 am and 9.00 am so that you can set sail between 9.00 am and 9.30 am. Most tour operators will pick you up directly from your hotel and take you to the starting point. Many tours start directly from El Nido Beach.

In a group of 20-30 people you will be on the water for about 7 hours and return around 4 pm. You will be accompanied by a small crew of local boatmen. This will include a tour guide who will provide you with exciting insights and accompany you during the stops on land. The guides in the Philippines generally speak good English.

In addition, almost all tours include a delicious hot lunch with local delicacies. This usually includes rice, fish, chicken and fresh fruit, which you can enjoy at one of the beautiful stops.

The price per person for a group tour is around PHP 1,200 to PHP 2,200, depending on the tour (21-38 USD).

Please note: On some islands and lagoons, an additional environmental fee of around 200 pesos must be paid.

Snake Island Droneshot from above

Private Tour

1. Avoiding Crowds

The private tour also starts with pick-up between 8.30 am and 9.00 am, but you have the option of arranging an earlier start time. This can give you a small time advantage over the group tours, which is why you are usually almost alone at your first stops.

However, as the tour operators are not allowed to leave the port before 8.00 am, you are not completely flexible when it comes to the start time. You should not try to persuade the captain to make an exception, as otherwise, the tour operator could face heavy penalties. Don’t worry, you’ll still be ahead of the group tours and can enjoy the day in a much more private atmosphere.

2. Flexibility

The best thing about the private tour is that you can decide the duration at the spots and the order. This makes the whole tour much more flexible and you can also avoid the tourist crowds in many places. Besides, your private tour guide accompanies you the whole time and tells you everything you want to know about the islands, bays and beaches. We enjoyed the interaction with the tour guide and the boat crew as you get a nice insight into the culture and life of the locals.

3. Lunch on your own

On the private tour, you will also travel alone in a large boat so that you have plenty of space on board. You will be served a delicious, freshly prepared lunch with rice, fish, meat and fruit – either on the beach or on the boat. Above all, the lovingly prepared meal is the icing on the cake of your unique El Nido island hopping adventure.

After about 7 hours, you’ll be back and will almost certainly have enjoyed a fantastic day on the islands in Bacuit Bay.
The price for a private tour is independent of the number of people and is around 10,000 to 15,000 PHP (174-262 USD).

Should I choose a private or a group tour?

Both the private tours and the group tours in El Nido have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on what your preferences and budget are, you can choose one option.

If you enjoy interacting with other travelers and don’t mind if a lot is going on at the stops, then the group tour is the right one for you. In addition, the group tours in El Nido are a lot (!) cheaper than the private tours. Nevertheless, you will get a warm, great buffet and a nice tour guide who will lead you through Bacuit Bay.

However, if you don’t mind the price difference so much or would like to be on your own, then the private tour is highly recommended. The fact that you can start earlier and can also determine the duration at the individual locations allows you to avoid crowds throughout the day. Above all, in many places you are completely alone and it feels like you are in a deserted paradise.

Please note: El Nido is very popular for tourists and therefore also very crowded. The highlights in El Nido, especially Tour A, are very crowded and you can hardly avoid the crowds even with a private tour.

Conclusion

All in all, we recommend that you choose a private tour depending on tour A, B, C or D. In El Nido, we only did private tours and didn’t regret it. We really enjoyed the flexibility and above all the atmosphere with the friendly Filipinos on board. Nevertheless, the private tours are more worthwhile on the “lesser known” tours. For example, for the popular Tour A a group tour is totally fine. In contrast, for the other tours, depending on your budget and preferences, we would recommend a private tour. In other places in the Philippines, such as Siargao, the price difference is not as high, which is why we would always recommend taking a private tour there.

Which El Nido island hopping tour should you do?

Of course, we can’t give a general answer to this question, and it depends very much on what you like to do. It’s best to take a look at the destinations of the individual tours and then make the best decision for you. If we had to recommend two tours, we would recommend Tour B and the combined Highlights Tour A. Nevertheless, you will definitely have two unforgettable days in El Nido. We did both tours privately and would do it again.

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