el nido big lagoon

El Nido Island Hopping Tours A, B, C, D Packages

With around 20 islands to see out of the 45 islands in El Nido, island hopping is the main spectacle for tourists. There are four main tours to choose from (A – D) but you can also do a combination tour. If you have the extra budget, you can also opt to hire your own private boat or speedboat. If you want to reach the islands not included in the tours, this will definitely be the way to go.

Island Hopping with Sealand Venture

We were lucky that Ocean Vista Inn has its own local tour operator. Sealand Venture provides not just island tours, but inland tours and transportation arrangement as well. Tours start around 9 AM and are usually finished by 4 PM. Snorkeling equipment is included as well as a life vest. Aside from the boat captain, tour guide/s and boat crew will be with you onboard. In our experience, they were all professional and very helpful throughout our tours.

Read more: Where to stay in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido Tour D

Our day 2 in El Nido brought us an overcast day but no signs of rain in the morning so only Tour D was allowed for that day. This tour centered around Cadlao Island which was the nearest island from town proper. Since only Tour D was available for that day, it was expected that almost everyone will be in the same spots. Cadlao Lagoon became a parking lot of boats. Although we enjoyed it there, it would have been more enjoyable had there been fewer boats inside the lagoon.

cadlao lagoon el nido

some of the boats inside Cadlao Lagoon that day

Lunch at Paradise Island saw us chilling on the small strip of beach along with everyone waiting for their lunch to be cooked. It was surprising to see the number of plastic bottles under the tree near our spot. So I asked our tour guide if this was left by tourists. He said that these bottles were washed ashore and since the island is a private one, they have their own caretakers to clean up the trash. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing sight to see.

paradise beach el nido

Lunch in Paradise Beach

We failed to anchor in Pasandigan Beach because of the waves, cutting off snorkeling time. We ended our tour in Bucal Beach where the snorkeling fun was continued.

bucal beach el nido tour d

right side of Bucal beach

El Nido Tour C

All the tours were allowed again on Day 3. And we made use of that advantage to avail Tour C since we don’t know if it will be allowed again the next day. Our first stop was at Helicopter Island where we had the beach all to ourselves for the first thirty minutes. Then the other boats started coming in, and it turned into an episode of Survivor. Haha.

The PAMB, in a separate resolution, has identified Helicopter Island, Balinaud Beach, Turtle Island, and Pacanayan Island as “Strict Protection Zone” which are areas with “high biodiversity value” that “shall be closed to human activity except for scientific research and/or ceremonial use by indigenous communities.” – source: GMA Network News, Jan 2018

helicopter island el nido

Can you see why it’s called Helicopter Island?

Hidden Beach was my favorite from this tour. The water wasn’t high making me feel safer what with my almost non-existent swimming skills. It was fun snorkeling in knee deep to waist-high waters, surrounded by limestone cliffs.

Since we were only a small group, we had our lunch in Talisay Beach. A small beach surrounded by limestones, almost hidden from view. The place was just perfect for our group size.

hidden beach talisay beach el nido tour c

L: Hidden beach; R: the small lunch spot, Talisay beach

Last stop for the day was Matinloc Shrine where we had a bit of difficulty docking because of the strong waves. We had to pay Php 100 for entrance since this is privately-owned. If you are a fan of abandoned spots, then you’d enjoy the building and the shrine.

The only draw to this stop was the amazing panoramic view at the top of the limestone cliff. They already paved the stairs so people won’t have too much of a difficulty reaching the top. The strong wind, the sound of the waves, and the breathtaking view can make you feel how small you are in this world.

Since the waves were still too strong that day, Secret Beach remained a secret to us.

2018 update for SECRET BEACH
As per the new regulations of DENR & PAMB, only maximum of 2 boats can anchor at a time, 12 guests at one time, or maximum of 144 guests per day
matinloc shrine el nido tour a

Climb a set of concrete/limestone stairs to get to this view!


El Nido Tour A

This is one of the most popular tour options, aside from Tour C. It was again a big tour group for the day. And we started the day in Seven Commandos Beach. This beach was named after the seven commandos who lived on that island. It was said that their names were found inscribed in rocks, which are now nowhere to be found. Unlike the other beaches, we’ve been to so far this one is the most commercialized, with stores on the beachfront as well as a resort on one side. The swimming area is cordoned off, and a platform with cutout standees of seven soldiers can be found in the sand in front of it.

seven commandos shimizu island el nido

L: Shimizu Beach for lunch; R: Seven Commandos beach

We were awestruck with the wonder that is called the Big Lagoon. The pristine turquoise water surrounded by towering limestones was surely jaw-dropping. Like a scene straight out of a movie. The limestone cliffs may be ubiquitous by now, but somehow in Big Lagoon, it was like we saw everything for the first time again.

According to our guide, it was believed that this used to be an underwater cave millions of years ago. And the lagoon came about when the limestone roofs collapsed.

It was amazing to see the different shades of water as we reach the deeper part of the lagoon, from turquoise to cerulean and finally to dark blue. Kayaking is also permitted here, but our boat just passed through since swimming and snorkeling aren’t allowed.

2018 update for BIG LAGOON
As per the new regulations of DENR & ETMRPA, only maximum of 5 boats can anchor at a time, 30 kayaks in one time, 60 guests at one time, or maximum of 720 guests per day
inside big lagoon el nido

the deep waters inside Big Lagoon

Shimizu beach was our lunch stop, where we shared the beach with three other boats. Shimizu (Simizu) Island was named after the Japanese diver who was the only one recovered from a failed underwater cave exploration a long time ago. The beach is flanked by massive limestones on each side, making it all the more picturesque when you see it from afar. This is also a good snorkeling spot especially when you go to the deeper waters. Just make sure to keep an eye out for incoming boats!

After resting, we went back again at the Big Lagoon and snorkeled on the left side near its entrance. This was my favorite snorkeling spot! Unlike the others, the corals here are more vibrant and not whitewashed. The diversity of marine life was also amazing. Too bad I didn’t see a turtle. But I did see a lobster, a giant clam, and clown fish among other things.

Since Secret Lagoon will have to remain secret to us until we come back to El Nido, we headed to another famous spot – the Small Lagoon.

outside small lagoon

kayaking outside Small Lagoon. Can you see how clear the water is?

Our boat along with the rest of the other boats docked outside of the Small Lagoon. Unlike the Big Lagoon, this one can only be accessed through a hole between two limestone formations. You either have to kayak, or swim to pass through it. And since we were quite tired, we opted to rent a kayak. It can seat up to three people, for Php 300.

The turquoise waters were so clear you can see the fishes below the surface. How I wished our kayak was see-through! For a first timer, it was fun trying to navigate the kayak. You must be coordinated with the other rower, lest you guys fall off into the cold waters.

It was like a different world inside the Small Lagoon. The tall limestones shielding the afternoon sky, casting an eerie glow inside the lagoon.

We tried our best to reach every nook and cranny, making the most out of our kayak and time remaining in Miniloc Island.

2018 update for SMALL LAGOON
As per the new regulations of DENR & ETMRPA, only maximum of 15 kayaks in one time, 30 guests at one time, or maximum of 360 guests per day
2018 additional updates for BIG LAGOON, SMALL LAGOON & SECRET BEACH
As per the new regulations of DENR & ETMRPA, the following activities are no longer allowed: fishing, cliff jumping, grilling of food, and playing of loud music

As of November 2018:

  • Small Lagoon will now be on Tour D and cannot be visited on the same day with Big Lagoon (Tour A)
  • Advance booking for Premium stop is required (Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Beach)
  • entry of tourists, boats, and kayaks on the lagoons will be limited
  • Additional environmental fee for Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon: Php 200 each lagoon
  • Allowed time inside the lagoon: 90 mins at Big Lagoon; 60 mins at Small Lagoon
  • Other guidelines inside the lagoons:
    • wearing of life jacket is a must
    • no loud sound/music is allowed
    • no cliff jumping
    • no stepping on corals
    • no alcoholic drinks
    • no smoking
  • only operators/resorts with valid permits and accreditation will be allowed to book
  • swimming in Buena Suerte Beach is not allowed
  • no plastic bottled water in tours. Bring your own tumbler


Here are the new island hopping tour packages;

Tour A

  • Big Lagoon
  • Simizu Island
  • 7 Commando Beach
  • Secret Lagoon
  • Payong Payong Island

Tour B

  • Cudugnon Cave
  • Snake Island
  • Entalula Island
  • Cathedral Cave
  • Pinagbuyatan Island

Tour C

  • Matinloc Shrine
  • Helicopter Island
  • Hidden Beach
  • Secret Beach
  • Tapiutan Island

Tour D

  • Small Lagoon
  • Nay Nay Beach
  • Cadlao Lagoon
  • Pasandigan Beach
  • Paradise Beach
  • Ipil Beach

As always, make sure not to step or touch any corals and marine life. Do make sure that you also practice the Leave No Trace principle. Let’s all be responsible travelers!


Address: Serena St. Bgy. Buena Suerte Zone 2, El Nido Palawan, Philippines 5313

Reservation Line: 09175616080

Check website for updated rates and tour details

Have you been to El Nido? What’s your favorite tour? 

Darlene is currently on the road again and traveling full-time after being an expat/overseas Filipino worker in Qatar. She's rediscovering what it means to travel solo and in her 30s while working on her blogs.


  • Allyssa

    My friends and I are planning to go in September! Did you go around this time? I know it’s wet season so we’re kind of not sure if we should still do it because of the possibility of rain.

    • Yeah, we did go in El Nido in August so there were more typhoon that time. We were lucky though that even though the weather forecast wasn’t good, on our second day the sun came out. Frankly it’s a hit and miss to travel during rainy season. Just be prepared to be let down due to unexpected weather changes.

  • I’ve never been to El Nido although I have been to Palawan. Your photos look great! 🙂

  • Wow! We’ll definitely put this on our next travel list. The blog is very informative. Thank you!

  • El Nido is known as one of the best islands in the world. Reading your post, I can’t help but envy you! hahaha Last year, I and Swedish ex boyfriend planned to go there, unfortunately, we didn’t pursue for unknown reasons. well, this may be time for me. What’s your best of the best recommendation? I also heard from a travel blogger friend that there’s a spot where only couples go and not for a solo traveler like me. I wondered if you’ve also been there and the like? Anyway, I love El Nido, I think every Filipino does. Thanks much loves!

  • Christina

    Really enjoying your Palawan posts! Will be going back home next year and I can’t wait to see Palawan. Trying to figure out which tour to join and I will be going back to your post a lot to help in our planning. Thanks for sharing.

  • I can’t believe that the options you gave are more affordable that what I see on the internet these days! I’ve always wanted to go to Palawan to experience that sanctuary!

  • You have given so many options, all with a good break up too. Caves excite me, may be I will look into that. Definitely helpful stuff!
    I like such organized presentation, learning to do it myself.

  • Deidre or @dbduca

    Excellent article, Darlene! My husband sometimes talks of having a food truck! ? I cannot find your link to fill out to win a trip to Indonesia- and that’s my dream trip! When is the best, driest, coolest time to visit?

Comments are closed.