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If you’ve been seeing dreamy photos of Coron island over the years – Instagram just sneaking them right into your feed – then like me, this place has probably nestled itself in your mind. That’s why when I went back to the Philippines for a third time, I knew that I would be island hopping around Coron.

This was actually not my first time in the area. Back in 2014, I jumped on the liveaboard dive boat and went scuba diving all around the area. But weirdly enough, I have almost no memory of the islands, and I had to fix that!

I spent three days island hopping around Coron and got some juicy insider tips to help you have a more enjoyable experience with smaller crowds. Without further ado:

Where to island hop in Coron

The following itineraries are broken down into what is the most logical for each day of your trip. Depending on where you’re leaving from, some places are going to be quite far and therefore more expensive. I have some ways of helping with that too. Let’s start with what’s closest to Coron Town: Coron Island.

Twin Lagoon – 200 pesos Gorgeous

This is one of the most popular destinations for island hopping in Coron and every tour boat in the vicinity will go there. The entrance fee is 200 pesos and trust me when I say that it will be very popular. That said, if you can manage to arrive before 8 AM, you can more or less get it all to yourself. Just make sure that you organize the tickets the day before for both this one and the next one on the list.

Quite the view!

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the area since it’s large and there’s much swimming to do! You can read my full review of the Twin Lagoon here.

Kayangan Lake – 300 pesos Freedive heaven

The other most popular place on this list, this brackish lake is magical in the morning hours, but by 10 am it’s packed with people. I’ve seen it in both scenarios, scuba diving in it back in 2014 and this time after it became instafamous. 

Coron from the air near Kayangan Lake

These days, you’re required to wear a life jacket, just like in Twin Lagoon. However at the lake unlike at the lagoon, there will be someone to enforce it. Unless, that is, you get there right when it opens at 7:30am. Were I to do it over again, I would get there early but for some reason on this trip I just really valued sleeping in! What can a girl do?

Barracuda Lake – 200 pesos LOVED this one

I actually liked barracuda Lake more than Kayangan Lake because I had it to myself for a while by going in the afternoon after the tour boats had mostly moved on. It’s less popular, so to me it was more beautiful and pretty darn similar.

Pretty similar to the other one, no?

I enjoyed free diving at both of them, and loved the little needle fish that hug the top of the water!

Banul Beach – 150 pesos The beach from above (bottom right) – just makes me ache to explore these hidden lagoons!

I headed to Banul beach In the afternoon, after the tours that stop there for lunch had already left. It’s a small cove with white sand beaches and though grassy and not perfect for snorkeling, it is absolutely perfect for chilling.

Chill

Most tours will also go to Beach 91 instead, which I don’t feel is any better than Banul, but it certainly is more crowded!

Skeleton Wreck – 150 pesos about 12 meters down

This old WWII wreck is one of few in Coron that you can actually swim to rather than needing dive gear. As an avid diver who has done most of the wrecks in the area, it’s not nearly as impressive as what you can find if you dive, but as snorkeling goes, it’s aight. There are plenty of striped fish around the surface as well.

Realistically, if you can’t freedive you won’t be able to see much since the wreck is a good 10 to 12 meters down. However if you’re still interested, my pro tip is to go in the afternoon. I had it for a while all to myself!

Siete Pecados – 150

A favorite snorkeling spot, this is a good one to head up in the morning if you don’t want crowds around. I realize that everything on this list would be best to visit it in the morning, but if I were you I would put the Twin Lagoon first if you organize the boat for 7am, followed by Kayangan and then this one, you should get some solitude. 

Malcapuya Island – 150 pesos

This island and the next three on this list are all a bit further from Coron and therefore it takes quite a while to get there. You want to head out earlier in the day and instead of combining this with any Coron island spots, you’ll want to combine it with the next two.

This is a very popular place to visit nonetheless, so make it the first place that you stop. It’s a breathtaking white sand beach island with palm trees but to be honest, I’d seen a lot of those by the time I got to Coron so this is not an island I visited. 

Ditaytayan island – 150 pesos

This is one I wish I had seen because, as I’ve established previously, I am a big-time sandbar enthusiast. This is where the tours usually stop for lunch, so if you get there before or after, you have a better chance of some solitude.

Banana island – 150 pesos

Another beautiful white sand beach, banana island is all about chilling in the hammocks provided on the far side of the island. If they’re all taken when you arrive, people come and go so it won’t take long to get your turn!

Black island – 150 pesos Everyone else is missing out!

My biggest pro tip, and a spot that I haven’t seen on any of the other blogs about Coron, is Black Island. Perhaps that’s why it’s so under the radar, it’s far from town but you could easily spend an entire day just on this island, which I did!

To get there from town it’s a minimum of 7600 pesos, which is probably why so few people go. However for me to go from the treehouse I stayed in at the top of the island (more on that later), I only paid 3500 for my boat. 

A cave! My cave!

Black Island has it all: uncrowded snorkeling, a big white sand beach, and a few other inlets that you can swim to, and a cave that you can Swim in! I found this particularly exciting, because I got to go swimming in a beautiful blue lagoon in a cave and there was nobody else around. This was the perfect secluded Coron island hopping experience I’d been dreaming of. 

Oh yassss

This is why the islands I previously mentioned just before this one were not as appealing to me, because I already felt like I got a secluded and beautiful experience at Black Island. I’d highly recommend you split up your stay on Busuanga (the island Coron town is on) between the top side of the island where I was, and Coron town so that you get the best of both worlds.

Group vs Private Island Hopping Tours Lots of boats…

I did all of my island hopping in Coron, and El Nido too for that matter, on private boats. When possible, I would share them with others, which took the cost down significantly. 

The big benefit of taking your own boat is that you can come and go when you want to, customizing your itinerary as you please. You can also organize the boat to leave much earlier in the day so that you get to experience the popular places without the crowds. If you take a group tour, you’ve got a crowd built in with you and you’re more or less be going to the same places at the same time as everyone else. 

That said, the group tours are significantly cheaper, particularly if you’re a solo traveler. The group tours include all of the entrance fees to the islands and a pretty good food spread. The pricing for a private boats doesn’t include any of that. Still, if you can afford it, I always prefer the flexibility of a private boat. The costs are as follows:

  • Coron Island: 2700
  • Malcapuya island (et al): 4900
  • Black island: 7600 (which is why you should stay on the other side of the island and take a boat from there!)

Alternatively you can book the group tours on Klook, the cheapest option I know of both in El Nido and Coron:

I had the best experience out of all of my Palawan boat experiences by just going straight to the dock (tell the tricycle driver you want to go to Calamian dock and he’ll know what you mean), and getting a 2700 peso boat and asking him to take us anywhere where there weren’t tourists. This is how I enjoyed Barracuda Lake and snorkeled the wreck without other people around. I love the flexibility and it’s worth it to me to pay for that.

If you do book a private boat and you want to go early, you’ll need to organize it the day ahead of time. Make sure to do so before 5 PM so that you can secure tickets to Kayangan Lake! It may require some coaxing in the morning on your end to get things going, just stay patient and friendly and I’d even preemptively offer a tip to make it happen as early as possible. 

What You Will Need on Your Island Hopping Tour A heart!

Be sure to bring snacks and water along with you, unless you’re doing a group tour that involves lunch. Near the dock there are little shops that have cashews and dried mango and that was perfect for me! You’ll also find coconuts and snacks for sale on the islands but they’re meager and it’s best to bring along food from town with you.

You’ll also want to bring along snorkeling gear, which you can rent for 150 pesos for a mask and snorkel and 150 for a set of fins. I brought my own mask from home and would suggest you do the same. You can be more sure of the quality and won’t have to pay the equivalent of 3 US dollars every single day that you go island hopping. 

It can also be a good idea to bring along a dry bag (I use this one) if you want to be able to take photos, especially if kayaking in the lagoons. All of these photos were shot with a GoPro HERO7 Black, and my DJI Mavic 2 Pro. You can read more about my camera gear here.

Also be sure to bring along sunscreen, as you’ll have your back to the sun often on this trip. It’s also helpful to bring along your own beach towel. If you’re there in April or May, a rash guard is a great idea due to the small jellyfish. I got annihilated in the Twin Lagoon!

Where to Stay in Coron + Planning and Logistics Swimming in the mangroves at Sanctuaria (I’m pointing at the egrets that kept flying by in formation)

As mentioned previously in this article, it’s a great idea to split your stay between two places on different sides of the island. I stayed at the Sanctuaria treehouse for my first two days, organizing the boat to Black island from there, and then moved to town for my second two days, which brought me closer to Coron Island and the Twin Lagoon. 

At Sanctuaria you can also kayak through the mangroves or just enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s so nice and secluded, it was just what I needed after hectic El Nido.

Despite my cat allergy, I cannot resist. I never learn

From there, you can either take a jeepny or ask Sanctuaria to organize a van to bring you to town. It costs 2000 pesos but I was able to split it with three others going my way so it worked out well (and we split a boat later too!) 

After that I stayed at Sophia’s garden in Coron town for 2 nights, which is a nice resort but I’m not sure it’s worth the money. If you’d like something more mid range, check out the Funny Lion. That’s where the girls I split the boat with stayed and it seemed they liked it.

I hope this post gives you the insider info you need to have an amazing Coron island hopping experience. The shape of the islands and that beautiful blue water were a sight I won’t forget anytime soon.

Want to know more about the Philippines? I’ve been all over! Click below to find more adventures:

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As I stared out from that wooden dock at the multi-hued turquoise water in front of me, I could understand why I’d heard so much about the Twin Lagoon in Coron, Palawan. It’s one of the most famous places in the Philippines and when you see it for yourself, you understand why.

“Three days it took me to get here,“ said a starry-eyed girl from Morocco as she surveyed the view before us, “It was worth it,” she sighed contentedly. I felt the same way. Despite the crowds and the jellyfish, which I’ll get into later, I was still pleased to play Ariel in this watery kingdom for a few hours. 

The Twin Lagoon is what it sounds like – a pair of dazzling blue lagoons set amongst a backdrop of vertical, black, jagged karst walls on Coron island. It’s one of the main things that people hope to see when they visit Coron and naturally, I wanted to see it too. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, so here’s the tea: 

Getting to the Twin Lagoon This, this was the view!

The only way to get to the Twin Lagoon is to take a boat. If you have a look at the menu of island hopping excursions posted all around Coron town, you’ll be able to pick an option that includes this stop. Most group tours run from 1200-1700 pesos depending on the stops. 

What I recommend and what I did was to take my own boat, shared with a few others from my guesthouse, which ultimately worked out cheaper and gave us more flexibility. I was able to spend as much time as I wanted swimming through the lagoon rather than being beholden to the tour schedule or holding a big group of other people up.

A little drone flight nearby

Most private tours can be organized through your accommodation for just the boat alone, and usually cost around 3000 pesos. If you want food or snorkeling gear that’s extra, as is every stop you make while on the boat. However I found that by going directly to the source at the Calamian dock, I was able to pay just 2700 pesos for the boat. This is the cheapest way to do it If you’re willing to put in just a little bit of extra effort. Typically a tricycle ride to get to the port will cost about 25 pesos per passenger, so although the savings isn’t huge, it’s still well worth your effort to go independently. The Twin Lagoon is an extra 200 pesos per person on top of that. 

When to Go Obligatory floating pic (there are so many jellies under me!)

When we talk about when to go, there are two things to consider: time of day and time of year. Let’s talk about time of day first.

The Twin Lagoon is one of the most popular stops in Coron, and it’s difficult to get it all to yourself. That said, you could try to be the first boat there in the morning by heading out earlier than everyone else. To do this, I would negotiate directly at the port the day before and secure your ticket ahead of time, as the Twin Lagoon and a couple of other stops, like Kayangan Lake, require tickets for entry, or you can ask your accommodation to help you set it all up. If you can get there by 7 AM, you should be able to get it more or less to yourself. When I went around two in the afternoon, it was absolutely full of people. I would have loved to see it without the crowds, however even if you can’t get there early and get it all to yourself, it’s beautiful and you can still enjoy it with others around.

Sharing the experience didn’t ruin it for me like it did at the Kayangan Lake, which is the other most popular stop in Coron and a much smaller area.

Next let’s talk about time of year. For the most part, anytime is good to go but keep in mind that in the months just before the rainy season, which are April and May, there are more jellyfish in the water than usual.

It’s ok I like you despite the jellies, Twin Lagoon

I, unfortunately, wasn’t aware of this when planning out my trip to Coron. The Twin lagoon was full of, seriously, thousands of tiny jellyfish. I don’t actually think that everybody reacts to them, because out of everyone in my group, I was the only one who came out full of blotches. Strangely, I never felt them sting me, either. But I was suffering from suddenly painful and itchy stings that night, almost like a rash. Add that to the giant jellyfish I accidentally got into a tangle with in Romblon and I was literally covered from neck to toes. What I do it again? Hell yeah! But I would probably bring a rash guard with the benefit of hindsight.

Things to Know About the Twin Lagoon So beautiful

One thing that I found a bit frustrating and unfortunate about the major tourist sites in Palawan is the life jacket requirement. Even though there are no waves in the Twin Lagoon and it’s easy to swim through, everyone is required to wear a life jacket, or at least have one in their possession.

I’m not used to this, so it inhibits my ability to swim. Truth be told, I swam in partway and then tossed my lifejacket onto a rock and then continued onward. I ran into a similar issue with the Big Lagoon in El Nido and observed the rule by bringing in the life jacket but sort of skirted the fine print by fastening it to a buoy and doing most of my swimming without it. Normally I think it’s important to follow the rules but this one has nothing to do with protecting the nature and is more about keeping people afloat who aren’t strong swimmers, which I am. Thankfully there’s nobody around the enforce the rule anyways. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that the area is more than the first body of water you come to. You will see a lifeguard station straight ahead which you can swim under to get to the second part of the lagoon. If you continue past the buoys, you can get to a dock which has some awesome photo opportunities and fewer people around as well. I think technically this isn’t the Twin Lagoon anymore, but I highly recommend checking it out.

This fancy guy, if I may anthropomorphize the dock

After we finished at the Twin Lagoon, I asked my guide if we could relocate to the dock pictured above, which he said was privately owned and would require another entrance fee. However it seems to me that you could just stop there instead of the normal Twin Lagoon entry area, and get a slightly more secluded experience. It might be worth a try, if you want to show your guide the photo above. 

Overall, I can see why Twin Lagoon is so popular. It’s lovely to swing through, probably especially when there aren’t jellyfish blooms, and it’s hard to imagine through anywhere in the world that looks quite like it. Though I wish I had seen it in the early morning hours without people, I’m still glad I saw it, crowds and all. If you’re island hopping in Coron, definitely stop by and give it at least an hour of your time. Be sure to bring your (waterproof) camera, the pictures are amazing.

Pin me! Read More: Each Island Hopping Tour in El Nido Explained The Perfect Philippines Itinerary
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Arizona is an outdoor-lover’s dream, with deep canyons, dramatic landscape and a whole host of adventures where the land formations are the star of the show.

With its red rocks and water-carved canyons, exploring Arizona is all about appreciating the wide-open spaces and the way the sky lights it up throughout the day.

Incorporating some of Arizona’s most incredible things to see, some of which are mega-famous and some of which are lesser known, this is my ideal Arizona itinerary:

Sedona


This itinerary begins in Sedona after leaving Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Sedona is an artist’s town surrounded by beautiful rock formations, with multiple hikes in the area worth checking out. Some of the more famous and beautiful ones include the Devil’s Bridge, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. They’re all pretty short, moderate hikes with a big payoff at the end.

Depending on how long you have to devote to your Arizona trip, it may make sense to base yourself here for a couple of days to chill out and enjoy the vibe while doing some of the nice, short hikes in the area.

Havasu Falls


Those famous baby blue falls truly are that color in real life! If you manage to score a permit for Havasu Falls, prepare to be amazed.

To be able to access the falls you’ll need to hike in for 10 miles, armed with all of the gear that you’ll need for your time there. Permits go on sale once per year in February, though there may be cancellations throughout the year, which would give you a chance to nab some last-minute permits. It takes a lot of work to get there, but it’s worth it! You can read more about all of the important things to know about Havasu Falls here.

Grand Canyon South Rim

I can’t
believe I’m saying this, but ‘Grand’ somehow seemed like an understatement while looking at the Grand Canyon. It truly is the biggest, most vast canyon I’ve ever laid eyes on, carved by the mighty Colorado River.

The South Rim will be the most geographically proximate for this itinerary, and it tends to be more breathtaking as well, with several stunning overlooks all along the Desert View Drive. I headed there in the afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to stop at most of the overlooks on my way to the Sunset at Yavapai Point. I highly recommend stopping at the less popular, lesser-known overlooks on your way; they are often even more spectacular than their more popular counterparts! My favorite was Lipan Point.

Flagstaff can be a good place to spend the night, though you will have to backtrack a bit. Alternatively, you can spend the night in Cameron. Though the hotels are not as abundant with only a few options such as the Cameron Trading post and their RV Park, it will save you some time if you’re on a tight schedule.

Horseshoe Bend


Heading north towards Page is where you can see some of Arizona’s most famous spots. Surely, you’ve seen photos of Horseshoe Bend with its pleasing symmetry. This is one of my favorite spots for sunset photos in the area.

This one is pretty easy to get to, with a parking lot right near the overlook. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the overlook itself. There are no railings, so be careful on the edges and get there early if you want a good spot for sunset photography.

Antelope Canyon


Arguably the most famous slot canyon in the world, the Antelope Canyon truly is mesmerizing. This one is located on Navajo land and in order to access these slot canyons, you’ll need to join a tour. During popular times of year (May through September), it’s imperative to book ahead of time if you want to be in there for prime-time light beams. For my fellow photographers, that’s usually at some point during midday, and you’ll probably notice that these tours are priced a bit higher.

There are actually two Antelope Canyons: Upper and lower. Upper is more famous and also can be narrower, and lower is a bit wider, though there are stairs to access it. For a full comparison of upper versus lower plus links for booking you can read my blog post here.

The Wave


Like Havasu Falls, the Wave is incredible to see in person from what I hear, though I’ve never had the pleasure; the permitting process is so competitive. There are two ways to get permits for the Wave. You can show up in Kanab, Utah, the day before you wish to go, or you can try your luck with the online system four months before you wish to go. Permits are reserved half-and-half between the two. The only downside is you have to pay for the permit application online whether you get approved or not.

From what I hear, it’s totally worth the hype and I hope that one day I get to check it out. Since I was unable to get permits, I went to the next place on this list instead and was totally blown away.

White Pocket


White Pocket is totally different than the Wave, but it’s not too much further away and you might just get lucky and be the only one there. You’ll see wave-like rock formations and white rocks that look like turtle shells. Perhaps what’s more amazing is the way the sun moves throughout the day, completely changing the colors and the way the rocks look. The jury is out on how this was actually formed, with several different theories, but one thing is for sure: There’s nothing else quite like it in the world.

Part of the reason why this one is less popular is because you have to drive through deep sand get there, so it is best to take a tour with the local guide. Read my recommendations for visiting white pocket here.

Monument Valley


When you venture into Monument Valley, which shares a border with Southern Utah and is located near Mexican Hat, it’ll be obvious how the area got its name. The rock formations seem to appear out of nowhere and indeed, many are hat-shaped.

The Monument Valley is located on a Navajo reservation, as are many of the suggestions on this list. To get in, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee and take a tour, which you can join by showing up. Give this a few hours so that you can fully enjoy the Monument Valley’s formations.

Canyon de Chelly


A worthy detour from Monument Valley to Page, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced like ‘Shay’) receives far fewer visitors and was nearly devoid of other tourists when I visited in February. It’s a national monument that is also located on a reservation, and in order to hike into most of it you will need a local guide. However, the Spider Rock Overlook, which is the park’s most famous attribute, is accessible without a guide.

If you have the time and it’s not the middle of summer, which would be too hot, there are multi-day guided hikes throughout the canyon which must be quite a unique experience that not many people do. You can find out more here.

Painted Desert


Finally, on your way back to Phoenix, why not check out Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert for fossils, badlands, buttes, ancient petroglyphs, and at some points of year, wildflowers!

Much of this park can be seen from overlooks, although there are some back-country trails that at cooler times of year could be worth checking out. Check out the National Park Service for more information on planning your visit.

Though those are my personal highlights, Arizona is a huge state full of national forests and even more national monuments and deserts. There’s also Tucson, Flagstaff and the drive from Phoenix into California. The good news is it’s all amazing and you can’t really go wrong.

To repeat this route, fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. I recommend renting your car with Alamo Rent-a-Car, whom I partnered with to bring you this awesome itinerary. You can see more Arizona suggestions on the Scenic Route Guide I wrote for their blog as well!

All of the roads on this itinerary are well-maintained and the map below will help you navigate:

As you can see, there’s a lot of driving time involved, however it’s mostly on roads without much traffic and through stunning landscape where the clouds turn orange as they reflect the ground below. I’d give this at least a week – more if you plan to hike to Havasu Falls.

Enjoy exploring one of the most incredible American Southwest states!

Pin me! Read More: The Perfect American Southwest Road Trip Upper vs. Lower Antelope Canyon – Which is Better? 14 Things to Know about the Havasu Falls Hike

*This post was brought to you in partnership with Alamo Rent-a-Car, however all thoughts of Arizona’s best places are entirely my own. Your trust always comes first!

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Often referred to as the gem of the Philippines, El Nido’s reputation is thoroughly justified by its alluring scenery. From dramatic rock formations surrounded by sparkling turquoise water to hidden lagoons, incredible beaches, and a local market- El Nido is a summer chaser’s dream!

The list of things to do in El Nido is extensive and can even be a little intimidating, so hopefully this guide will help you determine where to focus your time as you explore this epic tropical paradise!

1. El Nido Island Hopping Tours Floating in the Big Lagoon

One of the most popular things to do in El Nido is island hopping- and for good reason! Because El Nido is comprised of 45 islands and islets, it’s no surprise that a great way to get the most out of your trip is jumping on a boat and exploring all that the sea and land has to offer. Most travelers agree that a trip to El Nido isn’t complete without at least one island hopping experience.

Due to the popularity of this activity, it’s become increasingly easier to find and book tours- and the options are very accessible and straightforward. The tours are named alphabetically as A, B, C, and D. Each and every tour will give you the opportunity to explore stunning lagoons, private beaches, vibrant sea life, and the magical essence of El Nido! For detailed information on the cost, destinations, and booking for each individual tour, check out my post all about El Nido Island Hopping.

2. Rent a Kayak 7 Commandos Beach

For an adventurous and independent way to visit stunning beaches and avoid crowds, rent a kayak! Since the beauty of El Nido is in the beaches, renting a kayak is a great opportunity to find some off the beaten path beaches that the tours don’t always visit – all while getting a good workout in. That said, you can hit up 7 Commandos Beach, a Tour A stop, in the evening to get an off-peak experience.

You can rent a kayak in El Nido town, but the paddle will be much longer than if you rent a kayak in Corong Corong Bay, about 10 minutes from the town of El Nido. Get there by flagging down a tricycle or hop on a scooter! There are options for regular kayaks priced at 500 PHP for a full day or 300 PHP for half the day- if you want to splurge, you can even rent a clear kayak to see the amazing water beneath you… and sea life if you’re lucky! You’ll find kayaks for rent all along the beach if you just take a walk. 

Check out this great guide for an extensive list of beaches that can be accessed independently and how to get to each of them.

3. Scuba Dive or Freedive

El Nido is home to 30 dive sites and you can count on frequent trips to at least 10 of them depending on tides and conditions. Bacuit Bay is a mecca for exquisite sea life and mind blowing natural structural formations. The bay is also protected from the ocean’s strong currents- so scuba diving in El Nido is accessible to divers of all experience levels.

If you’re interested in freediving, you can also learn how in El Nido. Check out Freediving Dimension and for a review of my experience learning how to do it in Indonesia, you can read more here

4. Visit El Nido’s Public Market

A fun and tasty way to get a glimpse into authentic local culture pretty much anywhere you visit is to walk through the town’s public market. With a daily market (starting at 4am), El Nido is no exception! Stop by the public market before starting the day’s adventure for some fresh fruit or veggies, or rehydrate after a long day at the beach with a fresh Filipino coconut. As always, remember that other countries probably have different sanitation standards than your own. To be extra safe, consider opting for fruits or vegetables that are uncut that you can peel or wash with sterilized water to reduce the risk of coming face to face with harmful bacteria. 

To be honest, though, I almost never follow this rule and after 6 years of traveling, even after eating raw veggies and street food the whole time, I’ve never had food poisoning. 

5. Las Cabanas Beach The View from The Nesting Table

Las Cabanas is one of El Nido’s most beautiful and popular beaches. No boat? No problem. Las Cabanas can be reached by a 100-150 peso tricycle from El Nido town, which is a major bonus for those who value the ability to do and see certain places independently. Being a bit more developed than El Nido’s other beaches, Las Cabanas makes for a perfect day trip where visitors can sun bathe, enjoy a swim, sip on a fresh coconut, or try local food and drinks at one of the many intimate beach bars. This is also one of the best places in El Nido to enjoy the sunset over the ocean due to the nearly perfect orientation of the beach. 

I recommend heading up to The Nesting Table at the Birdhouse (also a nice place to stay) for dinner, which is a hotel, yoga studio, and restaurant with the view pictured above. It’s perfect for sunset. Look for the stairs right after the zipline from the beach. Just a note on entry – when I was there the guard asked if I had reservations, which I didn’t. I asked if I could just go up to take a look and it turned out that most of the restaurant was empty and they were happy to have me. So in case you run into the same problem, try asking if you can go up just to check it out! 

6. Hike Taraw Peak

At 230 meters above sea level, Taraw Peak is the highest point of El Nido. The hike to the top is apparently super steep and sketchy at times, but it provides panoramic views of Bacuit Bay, amazing landscapes, and limestone paths. This strenuous 2 hour hike is best done at sunrise to avoid the intense heat that builds up the more times you hit snooze. Its highly recommended to hire a professional guide and wear proper shoes for this one, as it is a challenging and physically exhausting trek- making the one of a kind view from the top even more rewarding. 

As of 2019, tours are no longer available to hike to the top due to a couple of tourist deaths last year. That said, new reviews are still popping up on Google maps all the time, so I suspect that if you ask around town, you can still find a local who will take you up there, provided you’re clear on the dangers and want to take the risk. Alternatively, there’s a canopy walk that gives you a nice, though not as epic, view from the top with more ease and safety. It costs 400 pesos per person and a helmet is required. 

7. Nacpan Beach Photo by jpl.me used under creative commons

Nacpan beach is known as one of the most stunning beaches that El Nido has to offer. The quintessential postcard image, Nacpan is not only a beach and sunset lover’s dream but a photographer’s dream, fisherman’s dream, I think you get the point… Nacpan beach is straight up dreamy! Close your eyes and picture paradise and this beach might just be what you see. There is even a small wave that is surfable some days! Nacpan is one half of the ‘Twin Beaches’ (Calitang being the other), so you can easily enjoy both glorious places in one trip.

If you’re comfortable on a scooter, this is easy to combine with the Nagkalit falls for a day trip. If not, you can get a tricycle from El Nido town for about 1500 roundtrip. Pricey, but when shared, it’s still cheaper than an island hopping trip. 

8. Road Trip on a Scooter

There’s really nothing that compares to the freedom you get by riding the roads of villages, hills, and forests on a motorbike. With all that El Nido has to offer, renting a scooter is really the best way to fit it all in without having to book tours and rides every step of the way. Scootering around is such an adventure in and of itself, plus, the costs of tricycles can add up pretty quickly while a motorbike will only cost you about 500 PHP per day. Just don’t forget your helmet!

9. Nagkalit Kalit Waterfalls

On the route from El Nido proper to Nacpan you’ll find a quick and beautiful half hour hike to two waterfalls, a big one and a small one. Stops like this are a great example of why El Nido is the perfect place to rent a motorbike- so that you can stop wherever you want to and experience as much as possible. This is also a great opportunity to get a little hiking in if Taraw Peak is a strict no while you’re there. Plus, there is a natural pool to swim in at the bottom of one of the falls!

The reviews of the falls are mixed, with some calling it unimpressive, and apparently you have to pay 250 pesos for a ‘guide’. If you’ve enjoyed the waterfalls of Siquijor it might not be worth the trek but if you’re dying for something different and out of the sun, it’s an option. 

10. Catch the Sunset from Corong Corong Beach Stunning every night

I stayed on the slightly quieter Corong Corong beach and loved that I could walk down to see the sunset each night. The way that the water receded to show sandbars in the evenings was perfect (though that entirely depends on the moon phases, of course!). I highly recommend staying at El Nido Overlooking and booking your island hopping tours through them while you’re there. It’s a 4-villa resort with beautiful decks, one with a private pool, and some quiet and solitude that you can’t get from most other places in El Nido. 

11. Serena Street in El Nido Town for Great Food

Flocks of travelers combined with loads of restaurants and the glittering sea gives El Nido town its charm. Some say it’s overwhelmingly busy but regardless of how you feel about it, El Nido is definitely full of life. Narrow dusty streets welcome dogs and cats alongside plenty of tricycles and scooters. The chaos that seems to take over even the smallest of Southeast Asian towns can be quite hectic and you may find yourself thinking “wasn’t I just here?” every time you turn down a new street. If you’re not sure which way to go and every street prior looked the exact same, Serena Street will feel like a little breath of fresh air. Lined with fine restaurants, high quality local shops, and even decent WiFi here and there, Serena Street is one you’ll finally be able to distinguish from the others. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, there are TONS of things to do and places to see in El Nido, each providing a different vantage point of the gorgeous horizon, dotted with candy shaped mounds of islands. While the town itself isn’t as idyllic as some of the smaller spots in the Philippines, El Nido makes up for it with its gorgeous beaches and variety. 

Pin me! Read Next: Island Hopping in El Nido, Everything You Need to Know about Private and Group Tours Tour A: How to Do it Right Tour B: Is it Worth it?
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If you landed here you must already know about El Nido’s gorgeous islands, forming a fringe of adventures around the town ripe for day trips.

El Nido’s island hopping excursions are organized through a series of tours that have fixed routes, named A through D. During my time in El Nido, I wanted to experience the more popular side of it, and to attempt to get away from the crowds, if and when possible. El Nido’s Tour B isn’t as popular as A or C, and that is precisely what makes it so great. 

Here’s what to expect if you do Tour B, both as a private or organized island hopping tour:

The Stops on Tour B Entalula Beach A moment of solitude on a private Tour B

Though parts of this beach have been privatized by a resort, you can still enjoy a small cove of white sand with a free-standing diamond shaped rock. There’s also great snorkeling here, particularly the farther out you go. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on your distance from the shore and current strength. 

Snake Island Wow!

Typically the lunch stop on this tour, Snake Island is named for the long sand bar that stretches from the island clear across to another. Though these shots are with a drone, you can hike up to the top of Snake Island and get a pretty good vantage point of the crystal clear water.

Snake Island from another view.

As a sandbar enthusiast, this stop is what made me want to do Tour B. I wasn’t disappointed! Even at high tide, this one is gorgeous. 

Cundugnon Cave Tour B’s unique feature

Tour B is known as the ‘cave’ tour since it includes this cave and the next one on the list. It’s not a tight, enclosed caving experience but rather an open, well-lit cave that isn’t particularly big. 

If you’ve been to Black Island in Coron this one doesn’t boast that awesome swimming hole, but it’s still cool to check out the inside of these limestone cliffs and get a different point of view of El Nido’s islands. There’s also a nice beach on this island worth spending some time enjoying. 

Cathedral Cave A quick stop

This is a short stop just to look up into the cavern-like cave formed in the cliffside of one of the islands. The only way to visit it is by boat, though most of the tour boats are too big to venture very far inside. We spent about 5 minutes here – just long enough for a few photos while our guides struggled to hold onto the ropes on the cave’s walls to keep the boat from hitting the rock. 

I’m unsure if they can anchor and let you swim inside, but it could be worth asking if you book a private tour what the options are. 

Pinagbuyutan Island Too cool!

I loved the unique shape of this island, and the fact that when we went in the morning, there wasn’t anybody else there. Most tours end here, but if you do a private tour and go in the reverse, it’s possible to head here first and get it all to yourself, as I did. The current was strong when I was there but it does have a reef you can snorkel if you have better conditions. 

It’s worth noting that overall, this is less of a snorkeling tour and more of a cave/sand bar tour than Tours A and C. 

Costs of Tour B An aerial view of the island with Cudugnon cave

These days all tour prices are fixed in El Nido for group tours, with Tour B priced at 1300 pesos per person. There’s also a 200 PHP environmental fee required for doing any island hopping tour in El Nido, which is good for 10 days. If you’ve already paid it for another tour, you’re good to go. 

I did Tour B as a private tour after a crowded Tour A the previous day in hopes of having a more secluded experience (more on that later). I paid 5000 PHP, without lunch, for the tour. You may read reviews online or on message boards discussing prices and the possibility of negotiating directly with boat owners. However after asking at about 15 places in town it’s clear to me that prices have doubled from just 2 years ago for private tours, and you won’t be finding them for the 3k or 4k range anymore. The best way to save money is to bring your own lunch, which cuts out 1500 pesos of the tour fee. That’s how I got the private boat for 5k. I booked at my accommodation, El Nido Overlooking, which had the cheapest price out of everywhere I looked. The rooms are great there too with an amazing view! 

Where to Book

Since everyone seems to make calls to agencies rather than owning their own boats (unless you’re staying at a hotel that has its own), it doesn’t really matter who you book with. I found that Klook actually has lower prices and great reviews, so if I had done a group tour, I would have gone that route. You can book Tour B here

Is a Group or Private Tour B Better?

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have the absolute best experience with guides in El Nido. Since you’re required to have one, it wasn’t as simple as rocking up to the shore and negotiating directly with a boat owner and going where we pleased, like I could do in Romblon

In my review of Tour A, you’ll notice the guide tried to cut out two stops, and despite my best efforts to connect and be friendly, he just didn’t seem like he wanted to be there. I get it, everyone is going through their own stuff, but it was my worst experience with boat guides and captains in the Philippines to date. That said, you never know what you’re going to get since who you book with probably doesn’t own the boats and by the time you’re face to face with the guide, you’re probably 2-3 people removed from who you originally booked with. This presented some issues like what was and wasn’t included, such as snorkeling gear and transport, but overall I would still do the private tour since it gave me much more solitude, and allowed me to have some time at the caves, beaches, and islands to myself. That’s just not possible on a group tour. 

For me, it boils down to what you can afford. Tour B is less crowded in general, so doing the itinerary in reverse from what the tour boats do could afford you some alone time in an otherwise very touristy El Nido. It just depends on how many people you’re splitting with and if the extra cost is worth it to you! You can also customize the stops a bit more, if you’d like to switch out some things for others from different tours. 

What to Bring

Most group tours will include lunch and water, though you may want to double check that they will have water for you to refill your bottles with. In theory El Nido is trying to cut down on single use plastic, but not every tour provides water.

You’ll also want to bring along snorkeling gear, which you can rent for 150 pesos for a mask and snorkel and 150 for a set of fins. I brought my own mask from home and would suggest you do the same. You can be more sure of the quality and won’t have to pay the equivalent of 3 US dollars every single day that you go island hopping. I didn’t use fins during my El Nido experience and didn’t really feel it they were necessary, but I would base your decision on that on how strong of a swimmer you are without them. There are plenty of places in town where you can rent, or most of the tour operators will have gear as well.

It can also be a good idea to bring along a dry bag (I use this one) if you want to be able to take photos, especially if kayaking in the lagoons. All of these photos were shot with a GoPro Hero 7 Black, and my DJI Mavic Pro 2. You can read more about my camera gear here.

Also be sure to bring along sunscreen, as you’ll have your back to the sun often on this trip. It’s also helpful to bring along your own beach towel.

Overall, Tour B was a less crowded, more secluded experience than Tour A was, with beaches and islands that were just as amazing, if not moreso. That said, I’d still spend another day in El Nido on either Tour A or C, or both, for a chance to do more snorkeling and to see the Big Lagoon. 

Pin me! To read more about the other tours in El Nido, click here
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El Nido’s cluster of gum drop-shaped islands, famous for their dramatic limestone cliffs and white sand beaches, truly is as incredible in person as it appears in photos.

The best way to enjoy El Nido is to hop around these islands, armed with a mask and snorkel, and sunscreen, of course!

Tours in El Nido are organized with set stops and labeled A through D. Tour A is the most popular in El Nido, thanks to the Big and Small lagoons. Given this, there are some things you should know before diving in (pun intended!). Written in 2019, this is the most up-to-date resource on the Internet for El Nido island hopping tour A:

The Stops The Big and Small Lagoons floating in the Big Lagoon

It used to be that Tour A stopped at both the Big and Small lagoons. However recent legislation, in an effort to curb the amount of people who visit each day, dictates that visitors may now only visit one or the other in the span of a day.

You’ll want to make sure that your tour operator has one of these permits available for you before booking. I got to experience the Big lagoon and thought it was perfect. I’ve been told that both are amazing, so I suggest going for whichever is available.

It’s difficult to get the lagoons to yourself, but the big lagoon is big enough that it doesn’t feel crowded, particularly the farther in you go.

Closer to the entrance in the shallower water, hence this beautiful water color!

Everyone I saw at the Big lagoon rented a kayak for 250 pesos. But I love to swim, so I opted to swim through the Big lagoon instead and it was the highlight of my whole El Nido experience! If you love to swim as much as I do, bring along a mask and snorkel and go for it. Just be extra careful to avoid stone fish and sea urchins. I advise never standing up past the sandy entrance so only do this if you won’t need regular rests.

Keep in mind that you must wear a life jacket when in the Big lagoon, whether you’re swimming or kayaking. However there is no current and zero waves, so I clipped the lifejacket to a buoy and had most of my Big lagoon experience without one. To me it’s a silly rule and I completely detest life jackets, but do keep in mind that the lagoon truly is big and if you think you’ll get tired, you can bring it along as a sort of kickboard.

Hidden Lagoon All to myself

The Hidden Lagoon isn’t so hidden anymore, but this circular, almost completely sealed off lake is accessible through a tiny hole in the side of the lime stone and it’s so cool!

Cool rock formations nearby

I got lucky and had a full few minutes in the lagoon all to myself. There are often queues to get in, but you can always hang out on the beach nearby or near the rock formations a few yards out until it clears up.

Snorkeling Spot Crystal clear water

There’s a lot of snorkeling involved on Tour A, including a spot devoted just to snorkeling. The corals are lovely, and a highlight for me was the school of tiny glittering blue fish swimming around.

The benefit of snorkeling in El Nido is the super clear water. Chances are good that your tour will do the snorkeling portion earlier in the day before there’s much wind and current, so it makes for an easy, enjoyable experience.

Shimizu Island Shimizu from the air

An impressive lime tone island with a small white sand beach, this is usually the lunch spot for organized Tour A groups.

There is also some snorkeling around here, but be careful not to get swept down the channel between Shimizu and its neighboring island. It’s not a crazy strong current, at least not when I was there, but things can change with the seasons.

Seven Commandos Beach Not a bad looking beach!

Unlike Shimizu island, this beach has a bigger, longer stretch of white sand along with palm trees, a little basketball court in the sand, and beach huts.

This is where most the tours finish up as it’s the closest to El Nido town. You can also access this beach with a kayak later on if you love it enough to come back!

The Food

Organized tours provide more or less the same spread of rice, grilled fish and chicken, fresh fruit, and salad. It’s a pretty good offering but tends to cost 1500 pieces extra if you’re doing the tour on your own as a private tour. In this case, I’d recommend bringing your own food.

The Costs Another angle of 7 Commandos

The costs for all group tours are fixed now in El Nido with Tour A priced at 1200 pesos per person. I read online previously that the prices would differ depending on quality but this is no longer true. The only place I found the price a bit cheaper was through booking on Klook. The ratings are pretty good, so if I had done a group tour I would probably have done that. Tour A also has a 200 pesos environmental fee per person, which is good for any other tour for 10 days, and an additional 200 for either the Big or Small lagoons. You’ll also want to bring some extra cash in case you want to buy a coconut or rent a kayak.

As for the private tours, you can expect quite a big range. Pretty much everyone in town can sell you one, from tour operators to hotels to even the tricycle drivers. I asked about 15 different places about their pricing and the cheapest ended up being at my hotel, El Nido Overlooking. Their tour is priced at 6000 pesos, which is 1000 lower than anywhere else I checked. Again, since almost everyone just goes through the same agencies and books random boats, I don’t know that quality control varies if you pay more.

It’s also possible that the boats will quote a higher price. That happened to me with Tour A but not with Tour B. So I ended up needing to pay 6000, but without food. If you cut out food from the trip, you can save 1500 pesos. It’s highly unlikely that you would spend more than that if you get food on your own, so I’d suggest doing what I did and getting extra food the night before and storing it in your room fridge (El Nido overlooking has them in their rooms) I brought along the Mexican beans and rice bowl from Taste El Nido and it was perfect.

Is a Private or Group Tour A Better? Loving taking my time in the Big Lagoon

Is it better to do Tour A with a group in order to cut down on costs, or is it better to do a private tour? Year over year, the cost of a private tour in El Nido has been compounding. Even just two years ago, it was about half the price that it is these days. I found a few companies online that had too-low-to-be-true prices, and when I contacted them to verify they told me that they had actually doubled. So if you’re doing a private tour in El Nido you can expect to be quoted anywhere from 7000 pesos on the low-end to 9000 on the higher end – almost $175 USD!

Is it worth it to do a private tour? This totally depends on how much flexibility and freedom you want to change up certain items in the itinerary or even try to leave earlier or do some of it in the reverse, AND how many people you’re sharing the boat with. On one hand I liked doing the tours as private tours because it meant no waiting around in the morning, which sometimes takes a couple of hours for the group tours, and being able to enjoy each place for as long as I wanted. I was sometimes able to get things to myself this way, like the Hidden lagoon.

The downside is whoever you book this with, whether it is a hotel or agency, chances are good the right hand isn’t really talking to the left. I was pretty disappointed that the guide on my boat tried to cut out two of the stops on my Tour A, rationalizing it by saying that Shimizu island was the “lunch stop” but since we had brought our own lunch, he tried to cut that stop off. I also did a private tour B, which I was able to customize a bit more, but overall my experience with both guides in El Nido was not that positive, especially when compared to Coron and Romblon. Maybe it’s because the guys make a good commission off of the included lunch and were mad we’d gone the cheaper route, or they just figured we didn’t know which stops should be included, but this was a bit frustrating and disappointing, particularly since this is the most expensive island hopping in El Nido that I’m aware of. I only mention this because if you’re on a private tour, it’s a bit easier for a stop to get cut off or missed and you’re probably not getting the best crew and boats, so just make sure that you’re getting what you paid for and asked for.

I’m not aware of a possibility of just showing up at the boat docks like one can do in Coron. It seems in El Nido finding a boat that isn’t hired out by someone is harder to do these days, but just because I didn’t manage to do it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you do manage to do this, please let me know in the comments below!

Overall, I’d still opt to do private tours because that’s just my preference, even when it costs more. However if it’s not in your budget, the group tours take you to all the same places and on a tour as popular as Tour A, you’ll be sharing it with others no matter what anyway. 

What to Bring

Most group tours will include lunch and water, though you may want to double check that they will have water for you to refill your bottles with. In theory El Nido is trying to cut down on single use plastic, but not every tour provides water.

You’ll also want to bring along snorkeling gear, which you can rent for 150 pesos for a mask and snorkel and 150 for a set of fins. I brought my own mask from home and would suggest you do the same. You can be more sure of the quality and won’t have to pay the equivalent of 3 US dollars every single day that you go island hopping. I didn’t use fins during my El Nido experience and didn’t really feel it they were necessary, but I would base your decision on that on how strong of a swimmer you are without them. There are plenty of places in town where you can rent, or most of the tour operators will have gear as well.

It can also be a good idea to bring along a dry bag (I use this one) if you want to be able to take photos, especially if kayaking in the lagoons. All of these photos were shot with a GoPro Hero 7 Black, and my DJI Mavic Pro 2. You can read more about my camera gear here.

Also be sure to bring along sunscreen, as you’ll have your back to the sun often on this trip. It’s also helpful to bring along your own beach towel.

Overall, El Nido Tour A gives you a glimpse into some truly beautiful and unique beaches, snorkeling spots, and rock formations that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. It is popular, so plan on sharing it with others. However despite that, the Big lagoon was still the highlight of my time in El Nido. So bring some extra patience, definitely bring your camera, and enjoy the ride!

Pin me! To read more about the other tours in El Nido, click here How to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido The Perfect Philippines Itinerary
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If exploring secret lagoons, relaxing on pristine beaches, and swimming with diverse populations of neon colored tropical fish sounds like your perfect day, then island hopping in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines fits the bill! The natural beauty of this place is nothing short of a fairytale, and it’s honestly mind boggling to imagine that places like El Nido exist in the “real world.” 

Island hopping in El Nido is also massively popular, so plan on sharing it with lots of other people. That said, there are ways that you can get more of it to yourself, and ways to make the tour more enjoyable.

This part of the world is ever-changing, and most of what’s on the internet is already outdated. This 2019 guide has everything you need to know about island hipping in El Nido today: 

The Island Hopping Tours Snake island from tour B

The island hopping tours in El Nido are organized into 4 different itineraries (creatively named, A, B, C, & D). Generally, Tour A is known for lagoons and beaches, B for caves and islands, C for great snorkeling and a shrine, and D is somewhere in between featuring island beaches. Each individual tour is unique and will take you on a journey to explore a different area of El Nido’s surrounding islands. This is your go-to guide for picking the one (or two…maybe three?) that best fits your adventure interests! At the end of the day, don’t stress about which letter tour is going to be the best- They’re all awesome, though some are more popular than others!

Prices for tours are fixed nowadays (though sometimes they’re discounted through the Klook links below), and just about every hotel and tour operator in El Nido offers one. Usually they call an agency who will book you onto a boat with 20 or so others, unless you book a private boat. 

All tours have a compulsory 200 peso environmental fee which is good for 10 days and applicable to all tours, so hold onto your voucher! All tours also will charge 150 pesos for a mask and snorkel rental, so it’s best to bring your own if you can. Group tours also include a lunch of grilled fish, rice, and fruit. Here’s what’s on offer: 

Tour A:

Tour A is one of the most popular of the four itineraries, essentially because it is the tour that visits the Big Lagoon. It also has a great combination of lagoons, beaches, and snorkeling which many tourists appreciate. In previous years, Tour A actually explored both the Big and Small Lagoons, but due to new municipal rules, this is no longer allowed. Because of this, there are two versions of Tour A available- one that goes to the Big Lagoon and another which goes to the Small Lagoon.

floating in the Big Lagoon
    • Miniloc Island (Big or Small Lagoon and Secret Lagoon)
      • The Big Lagoon is one of the main attractions of El Nido- characterized by stunningly deep blue water and massive, lush limestone cliff walls. These days it’s only possible to do either Big OR Small lagoon, and each has a 200 peso entry fee with the possibility to rent a kayak for 250. I personally swam in because I LOVE swimming and even though nobody else did I was very happy with my choice. It was my highlight of El Nido. 
    • Shimizu Island
Shimizu from the air
    • Another great opportunity for snorkeling and seeing exquisite corals and marine life. Or just kicking back and relaxing on the white sand beach. Also, this island is a pure representative of El Nido’s geological beauty that boasts limestone cliffs covered with vegetation.
  • Secret Lagoon
    • Secret Lagoon might not be much of a secret anymore, but it’s a pretty interesting, almost entirely sealed off lagoon save for a small opening near a gorgeous, white sand beach. 
  • Seven Commando Beach
    • This long white sand beach features a small beach bar that offers refreshing drinks and sunset cocktails. Keep your snorkeling gear handy, sea turtles love to hang out here! 

Cost: 1200 PHP for the group tour

Tour B:

Tour B doesn’t get as much love as tours A and C but for me, it ticked all of the boxes with sand bars, caves, and uniquely-shaped islands. Best of all, there weren’t as many people on tour B, which was a nice contrast to the more popular tour A. 

Snake Island
    • Vigan Island
      • This is more commonly known as “Snake island” because of a long and unique sandbar that slithers through this section of the Bacuit archipelago. This strip of sand gives you the feeling of walking in the middle of the sea. How many people can say they’ve experienced that? 
    • Pinagbuyutan Island
Too cool!
      • Also known as Ellis island, this place might look familiar if you’ve ever searched El Nido on Google Images. It’s one of the many famous limestone structures that makes El Nido, El Nido. It also happens to have a gorgeous beach (surprised?) where you can relax in the sun, or splash around in the refreshing crystal clear water.
    • Cathedral Cave
      • This is a short stop by a cave carved into the side of a limestone cliff, and part of what makes tour B the ‘cave tour’.
    • Entalula Beach
      • North of El Nido town lies this treasure! A long, clean, white sand beach lined with tropical flora, you just might feel like you’re sitting in a laptop screensaver. 
    • Cundugnon Cave
Tour B’s unique feature
    • Quick history lesson: this stop of Tour B is an important archeological site where potteries and other artifacts from the Sung Dynasty (960-2179) have been uncovered. This is also a location where locals hid from Japanese invaders during World War II. But now, its a place for you to put on your mask and snorkel and admire fish and corals, and if you’re lucky, swim alongside sea turtles. 

Cost: 1300 PHP for the group tour

Tour C:

Tour C provides the greatest opportunity of coming face to face with sea turtles and is known for having the best snorkeling. Like tour A, tour C is the other very popular option in El Nido. 

  • Helicopter Island
    • The first stop of the tour is one of the most famous islands of the Bacuit archipelago. The traditional name is Dilumacad island, but it took on the name Helicopter island due to its shape- although some think it more closely resembles a camel or a dolphin… You’ll just have to decide for yourself!
  • Matinloc Shrine
    • Once a place used to host a convent and a school, the Mantiloc Shrine is now a place to walk around and explore the eerie yet charming land that legends say is haunted with a ghost. 
  • Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach
    • Beach lovers will be delighted by this tour, which provides landings at 3 gorgeous beaches that all have snorkeling opportunities. Be prepared to be amazed by the remote and serene beauty that encompasses each one- their names certainly weren’t chosen randomly.

Cost: 1400 PHP

Tour D:

Tour D is perfect for the beach lovers who wish to avoid the majority of the crowds that flock to Miniloc Island, or perhaps have already visited and seen the “must-sees”. 

Crystal clear water
  • Natnat (Ipil) Beach
    • Close to El Nido town, Natnat beach is the first stop where you can relax, swim, and charge up beneath the shade of some beautiful palm trees for the adventures that the rest of the day holds!
  • Cadlao Lagoon
    • Cadlao is the largest island of the Bacuit archipelago and home to one of the best lagoons. The dramatic entrance is filled with corals and an abundance of fish. This is also known to be the least crowded compared to lagoons visited by other tours.
  • Paradise Beach, Pasandian Beach, and Bukal Beach
    • Tour D utilizes the second half of the day to visit three different beaches. All of which are idyllic and pristine for those who wish to relax in the sun or snorkel around. 

Cost: 1200 PHP

Are Private or Group Tours Best? A moment of solitude on a private Tour B

Is it worth booking a private tour? I did for both tours A and B and my feelings are mixed. In some ways, you can avoid the crowds by doing this, but it’s a much more expensive option unless you manage to find 6-10 others to join you. 

Pros of doing a private tour:

  • You can do the itineraries in reverse. Most tours go to the same places at the same time, so this allows you the possibility of getting some places to yourself, particularly on tours B and D. This will probably not happen on tour A.
  • You can combine locations, and essentially create your own perfectly personalized tour. 
  • You choose how long to spend at each place, and you won’t have a permanent group of 19 others with you. 

Cons of doing a private tour:

  • Obviously, all of the Island Hopping tours in El Nido are vastly popular, so taking a private tour does not guarantee getting anything to yourself. 
  • They are very expensive. Most of the prices I saw online were out of date once I contacted the actual company, and at each place I asked in El Nido, the price ranged from 7k-9k pesos (and I asked about 15 places). You can cut down on the price by bringing your own food, though. I paid 7k for tour A and 5k for tour B at my hotel, El Nido Overlooking, which happened to be the cheapest, by doing this. 

El Nido island hopping is not going to be without crowds, so if you can make peace with this regardless of which option you choose, you’re going to have a great time!

Where to Book:

Now that I’ve gotten you excited about your island hopping adventure, you’re probably wondering where and how to book a tour. There are many companies prepared to take you on the adventure, and they more or less offer the same things. 

There is the option to book at travel agencies in the town of El Nido, or at your accommodation. However I’ve found the cheapest pricing for group tours is actually on Klook, which you can book below: 

Tour A, Tour B, Tour C.

Klook doesn’t appear to offer tour D at this time, but as the prices are all fixed in town, you can book in person when you arrive. 

Keep in mind, given the limited boats allowed for Tour A, you may want to book this one a few days ahead of time, particularly around Christmas and Holy week! 

While El Nido isn’t a secluded paradise it might have once been, it’s still a gorgeous adventure and one that I’m glad I experienced. 

Happy island hopping!! 

*Some links in this post are affiliate links to companies I use and trust that support this site at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting!

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El Nido is a popular destination in the north of Palawan, approximately 230 kilometers from Puerto Princesa. Known for white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and stunning limestone formations, you’ve probably seen photos showcasing the jaw-dropping beauty of this Filipino treasure.

There are multiple ways to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido including a shuttle van, bus, and even direct flights.

The goal of this post is to give you all the resources you need in order to make the best decision for your trip and be on your way!

Van: The Most Popular

Time: 5-6 hours
Price: 500-600 PHP

Time prediction is a bit misleading as Google Maps does not account for road conditions.

Many travelers opt for the shuttle van service between Puerto Princesa and El Nido because of the convenience factor and the shortened travel time compared to the unpredictable bus.

When you step out of the airport in Puerto Princesa, you’re likely to be approached by van drivers who are looking to fill their vans and depart for El Nido. Opting for this means you don’t have to search for a van, but keep in mind that many drivers will keep you waiting until their van is full, which can take an undetermined amount of time- potentially even until the next flight lands.

The two main providers for the van trip between Puerto Princesa and El Nido are Lexxus and Eulen Joy. If you are not departing directly from the airport, both of these providers offer a hotel pick-up option.

The Lexxus service can be booked here for 550 PHP. They have vans running throughout the day, but it’s best to book your ticket in advance to ensure a spot. They also have a booking option through their Facebook page.

The Eulen Joy service is available to book online here, costs 600 PHP, and gives the option to select either airport or hotel pick up.

If you prefer not to book online or in advance, you can show up at the San Jose bus terminal where both buses and vans are available. There are more van services than the two I’ve listed above, but those are the most popular and reliable. The less prominent operators are viable and will get you where you need to go- it just takes showing up at the bus terminal to have direct communication with them.

Disclaimer: Although the van is the faster option for ground transportation, van drivers do their best to fill vehicles to their maximum capacity, which some travelers (especially taller folks) may find uncomfortable. If this is a concern, the bus may be your preferred option for space. However, most vans are air conditioned and general comfort, of course, depends on the age and model- if you’re picky about this kind of stuff, you can ask to see the vehicle before booking.

Bus: The Longest Honday Bay in Palawan

Time: 6 to 9 hours
Price: 380-480 PHP (non-air con vs air con)

It is a common assumption that the local bus is always the cheapest way to travel, but after accounting for the transportation cost to get to the bus station, in this case the prices of bus vs. van become nearly identical. The fact is the bus will take longer- factoring in the time of day and frequency of stops, the bus can take up to 9 hours from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. The drivers will pick up any and all locals along the route, which adds to the time discrepancy- you may get lucky and arrive in 6 hours, or you may be on the bus longer. But hey, the journey is the destination!

Buses do offer wider legroom and bigger breathing space overall compared to the vans, so if this is important to you, the bus is a great option.

There are two companies to choose from when it comes to taking the bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido: RoRo Bus and Cherry Bus, both of which operate from the San Jose bus terminal located 7 kilometers from the airport. They both arrive to Corong-Corong bus terminal. From there you’ll be able to take a tricycle to El Nido town proper or directly to your accommodation.

The following are the timetables for each bus service:

The Flight: The Fastest You’ll get to El Nido in no time!

Time: 50 minutes
Price: Approximately 2,000 PHP

If time is of the essence and money is less of a factor, the flight between Puerto Princesa and El Nido may be the best option for you. Or, if you just want to skip the chaos of buses and vans and get straight to the beauty and adventure that awaits in El Nido, I certainly don’t blame you!

El Nido has its own airport, Lio Airport, but the short runway prevents most airlines from landing here with relatively big planes. Airswift offers direct flights from Puerto Princesa to El Nido but fares and schedules fluctuate, so it is important to plan accordingly.

This is the option that I picked since I had spent the previous week on Jeepneys and ferries in Romblon island and the surroundings and just wanted to have a quicker and easier journey to El Nido. In hindsight I might have even skipped Puerto Princesa and gone straight from Manila to El Nido, which you can do on the same airline. If you’re dying to see the underground river or want to island hop in Honda Bay, which you can read more about here, then it could be worth the stop in PP, but if I had it to do over again I’d probably skip it for reasons I note in the linked post. 

Either way, when traveling in the Philippines always remember that delays are part of it, and keeping calm and enjoying the journey are the best things you can do. Happy travels! It’s always an adventure. 

READ MORE How to DIY Honda Bay Island Hopping The Ultimate Philippines Itinerary What to Pack for Backpacking in Southeast Asia
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Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Philippines is for many, the gateway to El Nido and Coron, two of the Philippines’ most beautiful and popular destinations.

If you’re looking for remote, untouched paradise, this isn’t necessarily it. However if you’re just visiting on your way elsewhere and want to do some Honda Bay island hopping, especially without a tour, you’ve come to the right place.

To be honest I ended up in Puerto Princesa on accident. I’d booked a flight to Palawan thinking PP was close to El Nido only to realize there’s a flight from Manila directly to El Nido that I could have taken instead. Oops. Since I made that error, I figured there had to be something worth seeing in the area and gave it one full day. It turns out there are two somethings to see: The underground river and Honda Bay’s islands and sand bars.

Honday Bay in Palawan

The Underground River is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for being the world’s largest underground river. I opted to do Honda Bay instead with my one day in the area, since the river is pretty far from Puerto Princesa and it sounded like there’s a lot of waiting and crowds involved.

This guide has everything you need to know about island hopping in Honda Bay, with information on how to do it yourself for less money and with more flexibility:

How to Do It Yourself

Most Honda Bay tours depart at 8am and come back at 4pm and include 3 islands: Starfish, Cowrie, and Luli. The price is usually 1500 pesos (about $30 USD) though my hotel wanted 1650.

Unless you’d rather not bother doing it independently, which is pretty easy, or are on your own and prefer a tour, it’s much better to do it on your own. Here’s how:

Step 1: Take a tricycle or jeepney from your accommodation to the Lourdes Wharf

I read on several blogs that the usual tricycle price (for a tourist) is 700 round trip and your driver will wait for you to bring you back when you’re done. It’s a lot for a tricycle, and the whole ride over the driver will probably try to sell you on other tours, but it’s also the most flexible option. The ride takes about 30 minutes each way from most hotels in Puerto Princesa. 

You can also take a jeepney from PP to the wharf for about 50 pesos each way. Where you catch it depends on where you’re staying, so ask at your accommodation where the jeepney will be passing by and wave it down when you see it. It will have ‘Lourdes pier’ written on the side. Based on the amount of vehicles I saw during my ride it appears to me that they go pretty often. In hindsight I would probably have done this. Jeepneys are always an adventure! 

Step 2: Register and pay at the wharf

I’ve never seen a setup like this in the Philippines before, but you can’t just go negotiate directly with a boat, you MUST register at the wharf and pay entrance fees for each island plus a 155 pesos environmental fee.

Boats cost 1300 for a small boat and 1500 for a ‘big boat,’ which can hold up to 20 people. I was told they only had big boats left that day but honestly every boat I saw all day was the exact same size, emblazoned with neon flags. I’m guessing the 1500 is more of a tourist price. 

I asked a couple of guys who showed up when I did if they wanted to split with my friend and me, which they were happy to do, so our private tour for four was only 375 pesos per person. Score!

This allowed us to customize our tour and didn’t include all of the waiting time, picking people up and dropping them off, that I’m sure is involved in the organized tours.

Step 3- Pay the fees and rent snorkeling gear

Snorkeling gear is available for 150 each per mask and 150 per set of fins. You’ll also need to pay the 155 pesos environmental fee.

Step 4 – pick your islands

You’ll have to pick which islands you want to visit before you go, with a maximum of three. I asked if I could decide as I go and they looked at me like I was crazy, so, no you can’t.

The options are listed below with their respective prices:

Starfish – 50


Starfish island is known for its rock starfish and a lovely sand bar. I enjoyed the drone flight over it and the starfish are cool too, I suppose.


What I find weird about the islands is how built up all of them are. They’d be so beautiful if they were just left natural but they’re pretty gimmicky with signs at each one and even life-size mannequins you can, um, pose next to?

Cowrie – 100

Cowrie island is known for cowrie shells and its ‘amenities’ of cabanas and spa huts. They also have a buffet lunch for 300 pesos and like all of the islands, offer snorkeling.

The island is larger than the others mentioned and has white sand water sport options as well.

Luli – 70


Luli island has a beautiful sand bar that almost forms a perfect circle at low tide. It would be one of the most beautiful sand bars in the Philippines if only it wasn’t covered in little huts selling 1500 peso schuck-it-yourself pearls and 60-peso coconuts.

The sand bar has flags all along it which, to me, totally ruins it. There’s a little snorkeling area that’s not bad, and a diving board and some hammocks as well. I love a more natural island vibe than this so it wasn’t that impressive to me but it must appeal to someone’s taste out there?

If you’re doing this tour on your own and forgot to bring food along, you can purchase a buffet lunch here for 300 pesos. It looked alright, with rice and noodles and chicken.

Pandan – 1250

Initially I’d wanted to do this island but the price made me change my mind! It looks like a recent change since it was taped onto the laminated paper with the price written in.

This is a private island that the typical tours don’t visit and it’s supposed to be more natural, with white sand and good snorkeling. Since it costs almost as much as the entire boat I gave it a pass, though.

Snorkeling at Pambato reef – 100

This floating platform is supposed to have the best snorkeling of the stops on the standard tour, though all of the islands have snorkeling options.

In general the current can be strong and the water visibility is low snorkeling in Honda Bay. If you’ve snorkeled in other parts of the Philippines and are used to those amazing reefs, and especially if you’ll be visiting El Nido, you may be underwhelmed. I also thought it was unfortunate that the natural beauty of the islands was marred by all of the gimmicky statues, signs, and unnecessary buildings. 

Michael Jordan number…32?

Overall, you can probably tell that I was unimpressed by my Honda Bay experience, and frankly by Puerto Princesa in general. It’s pretty touristy, and I didn’t do myself any favors by heading here immediately after an incredible week in Romblon.

That said, if you have a day to spend in Puerto Princesa, this isn’t a terrible way to spend it. I started my day at about 11am and it was the perfect amount of time for two islands, Starfish and Luli, and for a total of 1000 per person once I’d split the boat 4 ways and the tricycle two ways, it wasn’t bad. I would have been quite disappointed to spend the 1650 per person that the hotel wanted, though! 

It was also perfect to go a bit later in the day, since by the time we got to Starfish and Luli, the crowds were much smaller and most of the boats had already moved on. I could tell it gets pretty busy when the tour boats are there. 

I’m excited to see what El Nido and Coron have to offer. Perhaps if nothing else, island hopping in Honda Bay will only make those better by comparison.

Pin me! READ NEXT The Perfect Philippines Itinerary 5 Days on Siargao, the Perfect Itinerary What to do on Siquijor 
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The first time I thought about self-love was about six years ago after a particularly painful break up.

I was broken, crying to a friend about my sad state of affairs, and she advised that the solution to my heartbreak would be learning how to love myself, so that in moments like this, I could trust that it would be okay. That I deserved happiness. That I could survive on my own love alone.

I knew what she meant but at the same time I didn’t. I could understand self-love as a concept, but what did it look like? I knew that it wasn’t narcissism, I knew that it wasn’t looking to other people to help me figure out my definition of myself, which I spent my 20s doing. So while I knew what it wasn’t, I still didn’t know what it was.

Last week, like a lightbulb going off In my brain, I realized self love is everything I’ve done over the past 7 years to heal and feel more happiness and peace. It started when I got into meditation and personal development, and I am still working towards it every day. Though I don’t feel like I’m there yet, I know I’m on my way.

I’ve learned that self love looks like trusting our own choices.

Self love looks like eating healthy food, and not getting bent out of shape when we ‘cheat’ and eat sugar occasionally.

Self love looks like unfollowing people on Instagram who make us feel worse, who only brag or don’t add value to our lives somehow.

Self love looks like someone who looks in the mirror and doesn’t only see the extra fat, wrinkles, and not-white-enough teeth.

Self love looks like my own approval.

 
 
 
 
 
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At first I was disappointed when I went back through my photos and saw this. It’s a beautiful sunset but all I could see was the ‘extra’ fat I didn’t want visible in the photo. It wasn’t there a year ago, but lately my health has been taking a back seat to everything else in life. I’m sure many out there can relate. I struggle with figuring out the right diet and exercise routine when I’m working like crazy, and I can love myself and feel beautiful when I’m five pounds thinner but can I love myself however I am today? That’s why I’m not editing out that roll, and not deleting this photo. I’m posting it because self love is what I’m working on the most right now, and this is facing a fear of mine, that I’m not lovable if I’m not skinnier. Or younger-looking, or any of the other things growing up with Barbie, fashion magazines, and Ariel made me aspire to – things we can’t naturally achieve. But I can achieve self-acceptance. That’s my effort today.

A post shared by Kristin Addis (@bemytravelmuse) on Apr 18, 2019 at 7:52am PDT

Through the years I’ve struggled with playing comparison games, being needy, feeling upset over loneliness, feeling antsy all the time and like I have to constantly be doing something productive, being afraid to meet new people, taking rude comments online personally, and feeling incomplete without a significant other. It was only very recently that I realized that these things all stem from the same fear – that my greatest fear is losing love. 

Would I fear it less if I really loved myself, though?

Whose voice is the harshest anyway?

It’s my own.

The loss of love I’m really scared of, and also fully in control of, is the love that I give to myself. It’s taken me 33 years to realize that the times when everything seem to come easily to me, when I feel love in the world, when I trust that people are good, and it turns out to be true, that these are the times when I have my own self approval. These are my pink cloud moments. 

Yet there are times when I’m not very nice to me. That voice in my head goes crazy. She wonders why that person hasn’t replied to that message and OMG is it something I said? She only sees the ways in which she doesn’t measure up, doesn’t look beautiful, and isn’t desirable. If my mind were a person, with her constant repetitive worries and impatience, I’d throw her out the damn window. Wouldn’t you?

It’s the exact same mind that feels confident some days, so I know that it’s possible to always feel that way. But for a girl who grew up in a world of Barbie, Ariel’s perfect curves, airbrushed fashion magazines (all of which I loved), and the glass ceiling, a strong sense of self worth for who I am naturally doesn’t come easily. I wish it were different, but the waif look was in when I was a preteen. 

This is what is finally crystal clear to me on my 33rd birthday – that all of the meditation retreats, the attempts at a solid routine for heath and happiness, the decision to get sober, and all the growth work over the years, has been in an effort to be nicer to myself.

People who are nice to themselves are nicer to the world. How can you show up in the world with ease and joy if the voice in your head, which you can never get away from, is constantly cruel and angry?

And little by little, it is working. I get to be braver, calmer, more at peace in stressful situations, less likely to take things personally, and better off in general. 

But for me, and I think for a lot of us, it doesn’t always come easily, and there are things I need to do every day to make it more possible. Those things are self care (exercise, eating healthy, using natural products on my skin, doing things I enjoy) and most importantly, making time for myself each and every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

 
 
 
 
 
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I went into this year’s experience at burning man, my seventh time at the festival, with a deep desire to connect. The first day in, it became abundantly clear to me that the connection I really wanted was the one with myself. Do you feel that too? Sometimes I feel self love but other times I feel down on myself, comparing my life to others, even though what we see on social media is so rarely the truth. So what is self love really? This week it meant that I took care of my needs in every moment, nourished myself with healthy food, drank water all day long, attended workshops that helped me look into my soul, bathed myself in gentleness and kindness, talked to good and interesting people, and pursued art like this photo for nothing but the gift itself. I hope to hold onto this feeling, because the most supreme and effective way to show up as a successful human in this world is to love yourself first. I don’t mean selfishly putting your needs before others, but rather giving yourself permission to feel how you feel, being gentle with yourself, unfollowing people on this platform who just make you feel worse, ending the comparison games, and ending seduction games for that matter too. Love yourself so fiercely that every time you lose the momentum, you just repeat to yourself how wonderful you are, and how unique and gorgeous. Even when it doesn’t feel like there’s much to be grateful for, remember that you can see, you can feel, you can eat and taste, and you’re alive. In these moments, when I feel this connected and full of love, everything around me seems psychedelic it’s so vibrant and beautiful. Life gets more intense in the best of ways, and that’s how I know I’m doing it right. Because when you love yourself, you create the capacity for all of the other forms of love and abundance to come to you, and you deserve that.

A post shared by Kristin Addis (@bemytravelmuse) on Sep 8, 2018 at 8:26am PDT

It’s also about talking openly about things like this, and finding common ground with people who feel the same way, which I honestly think is everyone. We all suffer from the Human Condition, the constant focus on the future or the past, don’t we?

So on my birthday this year, I want to invite you to join me on a self care routine that’s easy to do, and has amplified benefits when there’s group energy. It’s a 5-day meditation ritual with 10 or 15 minute guided meditations in the morning and evening that I picked out. There are no gimmicks or upsells, it’s just me wanting to connect with you guys more with a healthy practice. 

We’ll just do 5 days, because anyone can do 10 minutes for just 5 days, because I need to get back into this healthy routine and maybe you do, too? Each day I’ll send out an email with the free meditation and we’ll do it together, starting on May 6, which is a Monday. You can join here

I’m thankful for another year of life. Thankful that you’re here, and grateful to have been able to do this job for the past 7 years. The greatest gift today is being alive – truly alive. 

Previous Birthday Posts A Letter to my 21 Year Old Self on My 31st Birthday 20 Questions from my 20s on my 32nd Birthday
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