In El Nido it is an absolute MUST to do tours! It depends on you whether you prefer to go on scuba diving trips or venturing the lagoons but you will see the most beautiful side of El Nido in the archipelago.
In El Nido they have a special system for the regular island tours. They only have four tours called A, B, C and D that everyone is selling. All the tour shops sell the tours the same price but there are differences between the tour organizers: some of them are more professional than others.
How to tell the difference between good tour organizers and bad ones? It’s hard but I will give you tips to help you out. I took two tours during my stay in El Nido: Tour A and Tour C.
Quick tip: The number of tourists is growing in El Nido and if you want to see these places without a crowd you can take a private tour. It’s not guaranteed privacy when visiting these places since of course there may be another group at the same time with your boat but there’s a better chance to avoid the crowds.
Things to know before taking the tour
One rule that applies on all the tours is that you are not allowed to take your own plastic water bottle with you on the tour. It’s because of the eco-tourism rules and they want to keep their seas clean. I absolutely loved this idea! The bad side though was that on one tour we were able to drink the first time at 1 pm when we had our lunch which is quite late. The sun on the sea is very tough so drink well on breakfast.
I highly recommend taking the reef shoes for every trip. They don’t sell them to you for fun since there are really sharp rocks that might cut your feet as well as sea urchins that can sting you. If you want you can buy the reef shoes already at home so that whatever beach you go to or whatever tour you take you’ll already have your shoes ready.
Tour A – beautiful lagoons
Tour A included Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Umbrella beach, Simizu Island and 7 Commandos Beach (on February 2019). This is also a tour that I highly recommend taking! The starting price for this tour is 1200 Philippine Pesos.
In addition to the 1200 PHP you need to pay:
+200 PHP for ETDF eco-tourism development fee (this is purchased only once and you can use it when taking other tours)
+200 PHP entrance fee to the Big Lagoon
+125 PHP for renting the kayak in the big lagoon
+100 PHP for the reef shoes
Total 1825 PHP
When I bought my tour I felt that I’m getting fooled with all these additional prices and I found out that I was right since they didn’t tell me anything about that renting the kayak in the Big Lagoon will cost extra on site. So make sure that your tour operator will tell you all about the additional fees that will be paid during the visit.
Tour A highlights
The absolute highlight of this trip is definitely the Big Lagoon and kayaking there. If you’re lucky there won’t be other boats at the same time and you get to enjoy the crystal clear waters alone. We were lucky at first but then after 10 minutes another boat came. But I got to admire the breathtaking views alone for some time! By the way you don’t really need your snorkeling gear while you are there, the kayak will be enough.
During the tour there’s also possibility to go snorkeling which I highly recommend because the underwater world is amazing! But if you cannot swim I can’t recommend it because there might not be anyone to keep an eye on you or help you out. There was one spot where we went snorkeling and the current was quite strong. (I was glad I had my own fins!)
After some time of snorkeling I heard someone shouting for help. Eventually I had to drag two customers back to the shore one by one because the current was drifting them out to the open sea and they didn’t know how to swim properly and were getting tired. At least everyone gets a life vest. The tour guides were hanging by the boat behind a corner so there wasn’t anyone looking after people in case of a situation like this.
Tour C – snorkeling tour
Tour C is the best tour for snorkeling out of the 4 tours! This tour I took from Hannah’s tour shop and I can highly recommend it. The owner of the shop Grace is amazing and the tour was well organized! The price of the Tour C is 1400 PHP + 100 PHP for the reef shoes (and +200 PHP if you don’t have the eco-tourism development fee paid earlier).
If you don’t have your own reef shoes you definitely need to rent them for this tour! On tour C you will go to Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Hidden Beach, Star Beach and Helicopter island. If your tour decides to go to Matinloc Shrine instead of snorkeling, you may need to pay a small entrance fee of 100 PHP.
I think the highlights of this trip was the Hidden Beach and the Secret beach! The Secret beach was a bit too crowded though. My group didn’t go to the Matinloc Shrine but we chose snorkeling which was an amazing experience! I saw for example a school of cuttlefish!
Shortly put: when buying a tour make sure you get to know the price with everything included beforehand, ask what time the tour starts and what size of a boat you’re going to have.
In conclusion I want to say that do the tours in El Nido! You can decide whether you take a regular island tour, scuba diving tour or a private tour. El Nido is all about the islands and amazing marine life and you’ll see the best of it on tours. I think El Nido is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen!