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2011 • 12 • 9

El Nido’s biggest crowd-drawers are its island tours, and there are four of them, conveniently named A-D. Some tour operators are offering combination tours at a higher cost, and you’ll even find some that can customize a tour for you. I’m not sure if these combination tours are allowed. I heard before that the local tourism authorities put a stop to it, but the last time I visited, they are still offered by tour companies.

If you’re  visiting El Nido for a few days, you’re probably wondering which tour is the best to take. If you ask most of my friends, it’s a toss between Tours A and C. Let’s say that for whatever reason, you have to pick only one. Here’s a break down of these two options so you could make a wiser decision.

Standard Tours: Rates and Inclusions

The local government of El Nido standardizes the tour operations in the town. Boatmen and travel agencies must abide by the rules and guidelines that they set in order to provide a smoother and more consistent service to tourists.


Rates. They have ceiling rates that they cannot exceed, although they have seen a steep increase this year.

Here are the cost of each tour as of October 2018:

  • Tour A – Big Lagoon on Miniloc Island, Simizu Island, Entulala Island, Payong Payong Beach, and 7 Commando Beach, P1200/person
  • Tour B – Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cathedral Cave, P1300/person
  • Tour C – Matinloc Shrine, Matinloc Island, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Tapuitan Island, Helicopter Island, P1400/person
  • Tour D – Nat Nat Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, Ubugon Cave, Bukal Island, Cadlao Lagoon, P1200/person

During my first visit, the standard rate for Tour A was P700.

The two most visited spots in El Nido are the Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon of Miniloc Island, both used to be part of Tour A. For the longest time, Tour A was the most popular island tour, attracting more tourists than all the other three by a mile. In effect, these sites are prone to overcrowding. To address the problem, in November 2018, the local government split the two apart and reassigned Small Lagoon to Tour D.

Time. All tours start at 9am and end between 4pm-5pm. I’m not sure how flexible this is if you reserve an entire boat, but this applies to group tours.

Lunch. The boatmen will prepare lunch on one of the stops during the tour. Lunch is composed of the following: grilled fish, grilled pork or chicken, rice, vegetables, and fruits (usually bananas, watermelons, or pineapples).

Tour A

Tour A takes you around the limestone paradise of Miniloc Island and its iconic lagoons. The sights at Miniloc are usually the ones perfectly captured in postcards. There are a couple of beach stops: one in Simizu Island and another at the 7 Commandos Beach in mainland El Nido.

Simizu Island is the usual lunch stop. But if it gets too crowded, the boatman picks an alternative, usually Payong-Payong Beach. But if you really want to see Simizu (or Payong Payong), just let the boatman know so he wouldn’t skip it.

Below are the places that await you should you take Tour A. Click on the pics for a more detailed description of the place.

Small Lagoon
Big Lagoon
Secret Lagoon
Payong-Payong Beach
Simizu Island
Simizu Island
7 Commandos Beach

Tour C

If you’re powder-chasing, sun-worshipping beach bum, Tour C might be a better bet. Its main attractions are its fine, white beaches that hug the jagged coastline of Matinloc Island and Helicopter Island.

The highlight of the trip is the Secret Beach, a hidden pocket of fine sand enclosed by towering karst cliffs. It is accessible only via a small opening that requires visitors to swim through it.

Note, however, that Matinloc Island is a bit farther, which is why it costs more. Also, it faces the violent West Philippine Sea, exposing the passengers to bigger waves. If your time allows you to take both Tours A and C, make sure to do Tour C first if the weather is pleasant. Boatmen are more likely to cancel Tour C during inclement weather, while Tour A remains calm most of the time.

Matinloc Shrine
Secret Beach
Talisay Beach (Lunch stop. It can be any other beach in Matinloc Island)
Helicopter Island

My favorite place in El Nido is not part of either tour. It is Nacpan-Calitang Beach, which until recently was considered an off-the-beaten-path destination. But if I only have one day in El Nido and have to choose between Tours A and C, I would probably pick Tour A.

Where to Book Tours

You can book when you’re already there in El Nido. You can also book in advance with Klook. Check out the links below.



For more information and tips about El Nido, read: EL NIDO TRAVEL GUIDE!

Top Hotels and Resorts in El Nido

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Ann D

I was there last week to celebrate my birthday alone and I had a blast. Your itinerary was the same like mine. SInce it was my birthday, I did not play poor hehehe but I had a blast. I can’t wait to blog this soon.


Can I ask when you guys went?
I’m thinking about going there with my friend (only the two of us) in March, 2012 after our classes end.
I ask because you said airfare went down in March for their anniversary. Do you think it’s possible to buy AND fly in March? Or was it a “buy in March, fly a few months later” thing? It’s ~P2,500 round trip right now.

PS, any input on the coron vs el nido debate? I’m a foreigner (haven’t been to any white beaches…ever and I really want to), but I don’t dive. Snorkeling and kayaking seems fun though.


Great blog you have here! Been to El Nido twice and I often find myself daydreaming about being there again.


Thanks for this post! We’ve been to Puerto Princesa but would love to see El Nido too. I’m bookmarking this for future trip. :)

M Baylon Jr

Thanks for the post & a lot of useable info.
I though El Nido is expensive… it has been more than a decade since our last trip to Palawan.
Hoping to get to El Nido up north on our future trip!


hi there!

were you here in month of december?
how are the waves.
i’m planning to have my honeymoon here this december.

thanks! cheers! :)


nice blog. Im planning to celebrate my bday next month alone.


hi! im planning a trip to palawan on march. i was wondering, is it still mandatory to have prophylaxis shots for malaria before i go there? i havent been there. hope ul help me, thanks..


[…] el nido 4d 3n itinerary, el nido itinerary0 CommentThis travel itinerary was created and used by The Poor Traveler, a travel blogger who went on a 4D/3N trip to El Nido via Puerto Princesa. Because of the Puerto […]


[…] nido palawan itinerary, el nido sample itinerary0 CommentThis itinerary is an extended version of The Poor Traveler‘s 4D/3N travel plan. Like the original version, this one uses Puerto Princesa International […]


We have just recently booked tickets to Puerto Princesa for January 2013. Your blog is very helpful. I have a problem, though, so i hope u can help. The tickets we bought to Puerto Princesa is scheduled for arrival at 5:15pm! :( I know, i should’ve researched before booking a flight. Knowing this, where do you think can we stay in Puerto Princesa since there are no trips to El Nido in the afternoon?

The Poor Traveler

Hi Aika! Thanks for dropping by my blog!

Hmm There are many cheap hotels in Puerto Princesa — Marian Home Inn, Casa Linda, Pads. You can also maximize your stay in Puerto Princesa by taking the FIREFLY WATCHING Tour in Iwahig River in the evening! :)


Good day,
We are going to Puerto Princesa via Cebu on June 24-28 with El Nido and the undergoroud river in mind as must. We get to PPS at noontime and leave also noontime on June 28. We get suggestion that we g directly to El Nido that day, One friend said we go on our way as travel packages seem expensive. Can u advise? thanks a lot.

Grace Perez

Hi poor traveller. We will be going to El Nido via P. Princesa this August (4d/3n). Your blog is very helpful.

My question is among the tour packages, why did you come up of choosing Package Tours A & C? Because I don’t know which tours to choose :(

Please help. Thanks!

The Poor Traveler

Hi Grace, we based it on online reviews. :) Most testimonials said that Tours C and A were the best so that’s what we went for! :)


how much tour for 4days and 3 night all packages?thanks

The Poor Traveler

Hey. Unfortunately, I’m not a travel agent. Just a travel blogger. :)

Ed Nibungco

My wife and I are from NYC and will spend a vacation in the Philippines starting Feb. 23 to April 2, 2013. One the places we want to tour is Coron and El Nido in Palawan. You mentioned in your write up about El Nido that you opted to fly to Puerto Princesa instead of Coron. Why?
Also, I noted you said there is a flight direct to El Nido from Manila. How much is the plane fare if it is direct? What is your advice for us? Two sisters of my wife are joining us so we will be a group of 4.
In addition to Palawan, we plan to go to Batanes, Banaue rice terraces and Bicol (Legazpi and CamSur). Can you also advise us on how to book tours in these places?

The Poor Traveler

Hi Ed! There are several ways to reach El Nido and here are three of them.

Direct Flights. El Nido has its own airport but its short runway prevents most airlines using relatively big planes to land here. There are direct flights to El Nido but tickets are expensive (compared to other destinations in the country) most of the time. There are also other companies offering chartered flights but the rate might be a little too much for many travelers

Via Coron. You may also consider flying to Coron. From there, big outrigger boats that travel to El Nido. The catch is that travel time is around 8 hours. And it also proves more expensive as you will have to fly to Coron first and then shell out a couple of thousand pesos to boat to El Nido.

Via Puerto Princesa. For me, the wisest choice have to be the Puerto Princesa route. From Manila, there are several cheap flights to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital. From there, there are buses and vans that can take you on a road trip to El Nido. Travel time is five to six hours.


Hi! Do you happen to still have the contact details of your boatman/tour guide? We will be in Palawan for a five-day trip next month (group of six) and the offer is Php600 and Php800 for Tour A and C, respectively. That’s already a Php1200 savings already, but would be great to bring it down to Php650 for the Tour C =) Thanks!

The Poor Traveler

Hi Ava! No, I lost it. But we booked via El Nido Corner, at the far corner of the beach. Haha. I’m sure you’ll find others that are as cheap!


I’d personally give everything up for Tour B because of Snake Island. That sandbarrrrrrrr

Min Young

Hi,are tours advisable for couples on a trip?Since it’s the first holiday of my beau and I myself,he wants everything free-flowing?How much approximately do u think it will cost to rent our own boat and not be tag along on a tour group?

bahaa NIMER

can i book and go to am island hopping at the same day,,,or do i have to book a tour before being there?,
im arriving El Nido at early morning 7:00 am
do i have a time for island hopping ?


HI there,

Please advise the best tour package that suits from 10yrs old above. we are considering Tour C but your suggestion is much appreciated.

WAiting for your kind reply.

Many thanks