El Nido island tour packages have 4 main tours named as Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D. All set for one day trip for each tour. Lately, they have added a combination tour named as Combo A and C, which means that it will be taken both tours in one day.
During my island hopping with Tour D, the experience was different as it was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. If you don’t know yet, Tour A and Tour C are the famous ones, which are highly recommended by operators and locals too. Though my Tour D experience was in a bad weather, our tour for A and C was sunny and clear skies.
Why do locals recommend Tour A and C?
You will find out at the end of this article which Tour I like the most. Yet, one of the reasons that most local would say is it has an extravagant sea color and breathtaking views of the lagoons. I obviously nodded to do these tours, for, I was sold. I didn’t choose the combo tour as I want to see all places on a slow pace. Just a note, though, that Tour C is the farthest location among the four and the area usually has strong waves, so, there’s a possibility of unexpected last-minute cancellation of the trip.
Let’s talk about Tour A first. The places included on this tour are Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach.
Northern Hope Tours arranged really well our tour. We were 6 on the boat, all are women. I took the group tour as it is the cheapest. This means that I will be with other tourists at the same time other tour boats departed, thus, the majority of the boat leaves at 9 am. During our orientation, the main tour guide informed us that there might be a possibility that the secret lagoon will not be pushed through, they will know when we will be in the area if it’s passable or not. Secret Lagoon is at the open sea already, so, our safety was their main concern.
We were supposed to stop first in Small Lagoon, unfortunately, when we arrived, it was full and there’s no place to dock in. I think the majority of the tours do the same sequence, that’s why our tour guide decided quickly to visit directly to Big Lagoon to avoid the crowd.
Fortunately, when we arrived in the big lagoon, there were only a few boats and lesser people. Since we were only 6 of us, we have plenty of time taking our individual photos in the area. We had 1 tour guide, the captain of the boat and 2 assistants. We were lucky to be treated really well. They volunteer to give us a good photoshoot and we were like models taking our time to have the shot we all wanted.
Right after our tour inside the big lagoon, on the way out, we noticed the massive boats coming in, hence, our boat had difficulty getting out that it took us a little bit of time to wait.
Since it was already lunch time on our way out from big lagoon, we moved to Simizu island. Sadly, the beach was already crowded, that we opted for another beach site. By chance, Payong-Payong beach was widely open, so we settled in.
Here’s a quick video in Payong Payong Beach during lunch time.
It is on this beach that we waited for the team preparing our lunch. While waiting, we took our time to snorkel the sanctuary which by the way is beautiful and stroll to the other side of the beach. Later on, more boats were coming to the place and set their lunch too. Then, it became a bit crowded but still ok as we all had a space of our own at the beach. We also saw water monitor lizard and 2 monkeys during our lunch.
After which, we went to the small lagoon. An amazing lagoon, by the way, we kayaked to the lagoon. There was available kayak in a small lagoon with a rental fee of Php 300.00 for 2 people. We kayaked instead of swimming, as the water was really clear and led us fast as we entered inside the lagoon. Me and one of the other guest choose to be in the same kayak.
Lito, our tour guide was kind enough, he came with us to the lagoon and checked our safety and made sure we had our photos taken, he brought his own kayak.
We then headed to our last stop, the 7 commandos, about 20-30 minutes from the small lagoon. The beach is long, with party music too. It took us a while waiting for some boats to leave from the beach, thus, the team decided to go to the Papaya beach, which is beside 7 commandos. Although smaller beach, but, relaxing for me. There was nothing we do at that site unless if we would like to play volleyball and basketball available nearby. There are few stores selling coconut juice and some chips. For me, this beach is relaxing and not crowded, just enough to rest from the long day.
I could say my photos don’t justify the real beauty of Tour A. You’d be the judge. Yay!
Now, are you ready for Tour C? Here’s what I experienced.
Roughly 45 minutes from the mainland, my experience for Tour C was crazily beautiful. We surpassed the big waves the whole time. It was bumpy, shaky in the sense that the boat was fighting the waves moving left and right. Good thing we have a very reliable boat and the captain whom we named as “Jack Sparrow” was really skilled and smart. But, when we enter Matinloc view, it was amazing! I got stoked, I even asked myself “Am I in the Philippines?”. The so-called entrance as you enter Tour C is for me one of the best scenes I’ve encountered in El Nido, I loved it! Too bad I didn’t take a photo at that time for I was mesmerized of what I saw, that moment was stored in my memory bank. (sorry guys, I don’t have photos. Grrrr)
Places to check in Tour C are Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Hidden Beach and Helicopter Beach.
The secret beach was actually an inspired beach from the movie “The Beach” of Leonardo Di Caprio, they said it was hard for them to do the movie there, hence, Maya beach in Thailand was chosen. What’s the secret beach? Is it really secret? Yes! I bet it is. To get inside the secret beach, there’s a need to swim through a small hole. For me, it’s not that safe during monsoon season especially if the waves are strong, to swim inside needs some skills, for you will encounter sharp stones on the hole as you enter. We were able to swim with the help of the guides and the locals guarding the hole. There are two ropes tied from the secret beach to the boats, that’s why there were people guiding near the hole. The secret beach is so unique and natural inside, smaller in size, the water was situated at the center or a sinkhole that is, encompassed with limestone karsts that made it really fantastic. Regardless of the experience coming inside, it was more than worth it to see the true beauty when in the secret beach. Again, I took no photo for I didn’t have GoPro with me.
After being stunned from the secret beach, our next destination was Matinloc shrine. This place is situated in the center of Tapiutan Strait, facing Star beach. This is known as the mysterious shrine, there was a dome inside to commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary. Aside from the dome, it has a museum where old newspaper posted, citing the history of the island. Apart from these all, there was an abandoned mansion, which our tour guide mentioned that it was owned by a German with a Filipino wife, it was abandoned for two reasons that he said they have no idea which really one is true, 1) the couple separated and all shares were given to the wife 2) the government and other tax permits were not processed, thus, the government decided to kick them out. Whatever the reason is, I felt sad hearing it, for it was on a perfect site.
Later on, our very kind guide suggested for us to climb to the peak, please be mindful when you do this, as the stones were really sharp and the route was really steep. Nevertheless, I highly advice to do this as the view from the top is without a doubt, Marvelous! It gives me an awe watching the breathtaking view.
So far, the two sites we visited had given me the impression, that indeed, Tour A and C are the must-tour to do.
We went to Star beach, had our lunch there and snorkel the area, the Star beach is just near Matinloc shrine. We snorkel a bit, and saw massive of fish, we were told that this strait is also the best diving spot in El Nido. We had good lunch as usual.
This tour has many beaches to see, after Star Beach, we headed to Hidden beach. It is where Survivor Sweden took their film there. It was really nice place to rest and just do nothing. The view was stunning. The sea is so calm and you can just take a walk within the water as it never gets high on that surface.
To end our tour we stopped quickly in helicopter beach, where you will see a lot of pandan tree and I think it was the bigger beach we had on that day. It was called helicopter beach, as the island’s shaped like a helicopter.
Disclosure: My trip for El Nido was made possible by Northern Hope Tours and Joonie’s Venture.
Author: Ferna Mae
Ferna is from the Philippines who travel spontaneously. Thrives to be more independent in her own skin. She first traveled The Philippines first before she embarked to other countries. She believes that by traveling, her undying crave for learning excites her in a more profound way. Her flexibility had proven her that time is genuine. As a former tour guide in the Philippines, she hopes that her travel experiences will give value to the aspiring travelers. Connect with her at email@example.com,