Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan (2 of 2)

Our second island-hopping tour in El Nido fell on the day of our sixth wedding anniversary. It’s just a little bit extra (about Php200-400 more per person) for a private tour, so we decided to make it just the two of us on our special day.

This time, we opted for Tour A, which covers the Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon on Miniloc Island, lunch at Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, and a final stop at Seven Commandos beach. For me, these places, particularly the lagoons on Miniloc, are simply postcard El Nido. If you only have time for one island-hopping tour (what a shame!), I highly suggest you pick this one.

There’s a sense of discovery about island-hopping in El Nido that I love. Some of the loveliest places pose a challenge to the traveler and aren’t easily accessible. (Smart choice leaving the baby at home, I must say.) Hidden away from view and behind dramatic limestone peaks, what a wonder it must have been for the explorers who discovered these places for the first time. To follow your curiosity through a peekaboo cutout in the rocks…

El Nido Palawan island hopping Small Lagoon Entrance

and to swim through to emerge in a jewel-colored lagoon, bounded by walls made of jungle and rock.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Small Lagoon

These days, kayaking is the easier option for would-be explorers, but I loved swimming through the Small Lagoon and exploring its little nooks and coves—even if I did slice my hand on some pretty sharp rocks.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Small Lagoon swimming

With the Big Lagoon, scale adds an element of drama. Everything suddenly goes quiet as a stream of bancas float down a corridor of towering limestone, like a procession into some kind of royal hall. It feels both majestic and serene.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Big Lagoon

Our tour guide sat at the prow of the banca, which I thought looked like fun. I asked to take his place and sat there, dangling my feet into the water as our boat did one long, slow circuit around the bowl of the Big Lagoon.

El Nido Palawan island hopping tour guide

I had to jerk my feet out of the water when I saw these, though! I’ve been stung by a sea urchin before and the scars took six years to fade. Not going that route again, thanks.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Big Lagoon sea urchins

What else did we do? Hmmm… we squeezed through this tiny passage to find a small sinkhole called the Secret Lagoon…

El Nido Palawan island hopping Secret Lagoon entrance

and dropped anchor at a spot somewhere off Miniloc, whose name I can’t remember (baby brain strikes again, argh!) for some great snorkeling. El Nido is not spectacular for snorkeling (God is fair), but this spot was really good.

El Nido Palawan island hopping snorkeling spot

To end the day we spent an hour or so at the pristine Seven Commandos beach, which was a welcome break to just doze in the sun after all that swimming.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Seven Commandos Beach

The tours dock at Seven Commandos at around 4 in the afternoon, perfect timing for a little merienda of fresh coconut juice from a tiny, barely held-together shack on the beach…

El Nido Palawan island hopping Seven Commandos

or, my absolute favorite, a mango shake from the small beach bar on the island. Drinks on Seven Commandos are sold at tourist prices, but there’s practically nothing on this island; the locals have to recoup the costs of periodically bringing everything over by boat, plus make a living.

El Nido Palawan island hopping Seven Commandos mango shake

Sweet Philippine mangoes on a gorgeous Philippine beach—if you ask me, that’s a combination that’s pretty hard to beat!

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    • Deepa says

      I have to say not all Indian mangoes are created equal! Alphonso mangoes in season… man those are goooooood. They are probably the only other mangoes I’d rate at par with ours 😀

  1. says

    You know when I went to Pakistan, we had a friendly argument with our clients there on the world’s best tasting mangoes. They were claiming Paksitani mangoes were the best. We told them to be careful with what they’re saying because Philippine mangoes are the best!

  2. glyn says

    Hello! I’m planning to go to El Nido next week so thanks for your inputs. By the way, how much did you spend for the Tour Package A per head? Thanks!

    • Deepa says

      It was either Php 1,300 or 1,400 per head. It’s slightly more expensive (+ Php200-400) if you book a private tour.
      El Nido is amazing, have fun!

  3. Yenie says

    Wonderful blog! May I ask which tour operator was it? I am going in Aug which is low season but there’s one tour operator that gave me 4,300pesos for private tour A. I thought that was a bit pricey. Many thanks!

    • says

      Hi Yenie, the rate depends on how many people are participating. We were just two, so I think our rate was something like 3.5k, can’t remember exactly. We booked the tour through our hotel (El Nido Beach Hotel) so I don’t know the name of the tour operator.

  4. Lenny says

    Hi Deepa. I love your blog. I would love to visit El Nido next year with my husband and 1 year old son, I noticed your comment about leaving your baby at home. Do you know if there is any way a 1 year old would be able to do any of the tours with us? Also what camera do you use? Your pics are amazing.

    • says

      Hi Lenny! Personally I strongly advise against bringing a 1 year-old. There’s no way you’ll be able to swim into the Small Lagoon, Hidden Lagoon and Hidden Beach with a one year-old. If you read my post about Hidden Beach, the conditions that day made it extremely difficult, and I’m a strong swimmer. There are also lots of sharp rocks going into the nicer places, so safety is an issue.

      If you really want to go on a tour, I think your best bet is to book a private tour that only goes to places like Seven Commandos Beach so that you are more relaxed, can do the tour at your own pace and don’t have to worry about safety. You and your hubby will have to take turns snorkeling, swimming, going into the lagoons, etc while the other stays in the boat with your son. But then you’d have to worry about your son getting restless with all that time confined on a boat. Again, I wouldn’t recommend it.

      When I’m not traveling with Tala I use a Canon 550D. Otherwise the Sony RX100 Mark II.

  5. Autumn says

    What company did you use for this private tour that was only 200-300php more than the group tour?

    • says

      Hi Autumn! We booked through the hotel so I didn’t get the name of the company. But tour rates in El Nido are standard across all companies, so any tour company will offer a private version of their regular tours. Hope this helps!

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