When my cousin and I visited Palawan in March/April 2018, our first stop was El Nido. Our first day there was dedicated to island hopping. Chia and I walked no more than two minutes to get to the beach, where we boarded a kayak that took us to our tour boat. The boat was parked at a distance where the water would have reached my torso if I walked to it.
We were greeted by a bubbly and goofy group of local tour guides who instructed us in Visayan-sounding accents to secure our life vests.
We departed somewhere between 9:30 and 10 a.m.
The first stop of the day was Seven Commando Beach, where we spent 40 minutes.
My first order of business there was to buy some fresh buko juice. A trip to the islands isn’t complete without indulging in fresh coconut juice from a real coconut! 🙂
On the way to our second stop, they insisted on taking photos of me sitting at the bow? I was slightly terrified at the thought of walking up to the front while the boat was jumping up and down as it cut through the waves.
But I did it, and in the process gained a new appreciation for the core strength all the boatmen have probably developed from walking across moving boats. (You really have to be able to balance yourself while strolling across a boat!) A bunch of other tourists went after me as well, and I think the photos turned out pretty cool.
Our second stop was at Small Lagoon. The boat parked out somewhere in the middle of the ocean, and we had to pay P450 ($9-ish) to rent out a two-person kayak. I’ve gone kayaking before, though it was several years ago, so I was excited to have a go at it again.
It took a little while to get a rhythm going, but as soon as we began kayaking through the lagoon, I fell hard for this turquoise paradise. I couldn’t believe it was real and I wouldn’t have minded staying there all day if there was time to do that.
Lunch at Shimizu Island
A lunch break came next and I have to say that I was impressed with the quantity and quality of the food included in this tour! Of course there was rice – a staple of the Filipino diet – and a whole bunch of other dishes: tortang talong (eggplant omelet), fruits, mussels, pork, and others. We were completely stuffed by the end of the meal.
Lunch also afforded us some time to relax and mingle with some of the other tourists. In particular, we got to chat a bit with a family from Singapore, which was really nice.
Secret Lagoon was the third stop of this tour. Tourists got 30 minutes to spend here. Apparently it’s called Secret Lagoon because you have to swim to it. I wasn’t feeling well at the time so I stayed on the boat while Chia was escorted by one of the guides to the place.
I got to chat with a man who I assumed was the lead tour guide (at least on that day because he did most of the talking) while I stayed behind. He said he was a native of Palawan and expressed appreciation about how nice my cousin and I were because he said some tourists were matigas ulo or stubborn. I was a bit shocked to hear that because they seemed so friendly.
Chia took some photos of the lagoon, but her phone unfortunately did not survive the sea bath it took, so proof of her time there is gone. All I’ve got is that first photo and this one of where the boats were parked:
Did you know that El Nido has a Small Lagoon and a Big Lagoon? I didn’t, until we arrived at our last stop of the island hopping tour. (Come to think of it – three of our five stops that day were lagoons, so… was this really an island hopping tour or a lagoon hopping tour? Lol.) Anyhow, Chia and I pended another P450 kayak to go into the big lagoon. It was afternoon then so the color of the water wasn’t as vibrant as the Small Lagoon earlier in the day, but it was still therapeutic to kayak through such clean and calm waters surrounded by limestone cliffs.
We got to chat with another one of the tour guides as well, who offered to take photos and a video of us kayaking. He took five minutes of footage and chimed in with a lot of hilarious commentary 😛
At 3:18 he echoes the sentiment that the lead tour guide told me – that we were mabait, or nice. I think that’s why he offered to document our trip.
Back to El Nido
We began heading back to the town at around 5 p.m. Everyone was pretty quiet on the way back probably because it had been a long day. The main tour guide even took a nap at the bow of the boat.
I tipped the tour guides once we got back. I don’t think I noticed any other tourists do it, and it’s not required, but they were such a fun group. And given the affordability of exploring Palawan and considering that tipping would have been expected in that situation in the United States, I felt it was a fair thing to do. They seemed to really appreciate it, and the day wrapped up on a good note with a $16 seafood dinner at Jarace Grill.
If you’re ever in Palawan and want to take El Nido Island Hopping Tour A, do yourself a favor and request for the Jhannas boat. My cousin and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience in their company. You could tell they wanted to make the experience lively and enjoyable for their passengers. If, however, you prefer tour guides who aren’t peppy or silly, then you’ll want to request for other guides.
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We did a very similar route, not identical, but fairly close.