Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan
When you’re in a country that has over 7,000 islands in its arsenal, it is almost overwhelming trying to figure out where to even begin. You can narrow it down by heading to the hidden gem of Palawan, far off the eastern coast of the Philippines and only boasting a measly 1,780 islands. Makes it a lot less overwhelming, right?
El Nido, a small village in the northern part of Palawan, serves as an excellent home base for discovering some of those stunning and untouched Philippine islands. Although it is pretty well known to travelers, its remote location and difficulty to get to keeps it from being as touristy as the islands you will find in Thailand, Indonesia, and elsewhere in South East Asia.
It was a tedious journey just to get to Puerto Princesa, the largest city on the island of Palawan. A long day of travel and a restless night in a cheap hostel the day before a nearly six-hour (they’ll say it takes only three) van ride to El Nido nearly drained us of all our energy and excitement. The weather was about as cloudy as our moods were but once we started getting glimpses of those incredible limestone karsts jutting from the coastline, our spirits were immediately lifted. The journey becomes completely worth it.
While El Nido has some stunning views from the mainland, the real magic lies on the ocean. Hopping on a boat and bouncing from island to island is the best way to discover the untouched corners of the Philippines. There are so many islands that figuring out where to begin might be the hardest part. A lot of island hopping tours will offer four possible packages, creatively named Tours A, B, C, and D.
They are all incredible and each one takes you to completely different destinations. From hidden coves that can only be accessible by swimming to stunning viewpoints towering over the ocean, each island has something unique to offer. You start and end on the main beach of El Nido, where a small boat will pick you up and drop you off. Depending on the tour you choose and time of year that you go, you might have hardly anyone else on your boat with you as you sail the high seas and explore paradise in solitude.
Each tour offers some sort of activities so that you aren’t just sitting on the boat for half of the day. Some will let you kayak through the islands yourself. Others will have you spelunking through the otherworldly caves. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just relaxing on the secret beaches that feel truly undiscovered. Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful things I saw had to go un-photographed because they were impossible to get to with a camera.
Unfortunately, you can only knock out one tour per day as each one takes up the entire day. You will be completely exhausted at day’s end but the adventure is more than worth it. If you are looking to relax in between tours, Nacpan Beach is the best beach accessible from the mainland. It’s hard to think up a better way to spend a week than alternating island hopping with beach bumming.
El Nido is a place where you can spend weeks exploring and not even see half of what the area has to offer. It truly feels like an untouched paradise where the tourism infrastructure and wi-fi are weak but the wanderlust is strong.
Post by Eli Solidum