To all those who plan to have a vacation in El Nido, did you know that there are changes in their standard tours? Well, Tita S wrote this post to compare the tour packages before and after November 27, 2018.
First of all, what I like about El Nido1 is that the tour operators agreed to standardize the types of tours, destinations therein, and cost per person. Thus, the tourist need not haggle nor feel shortchanged wondering if s/he paid more than other tourists did. Our resort even gave us a 20% discount for booking two tours with them.
You can either join a group tour (and find new friends) or charter a private boat (and enjoy the tours with family/friends on your terms, as to what spots to visit and the length of stay therein, as well as what food to eat).
The Eco-Tourism Fee2 is PHP200 and is good for 10 days. No worries, when you book your first day tour, this will be included already. This is a one-time payment for most tourists (who only stay for 10 days or less in El Nido). See a related post. Short and Simple: EL NIDO’S ECO-TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FEE
I wish Coron Island, a beautiful destination located in northern Palawan, would be able to follow suit. We had to haggle during our trip there last month to get the best deal for our tours (a difference of PHP100-200 per person among competitive tour operators there). I was told that there are still Coron tour operators who do not want to cooperate on a standardized rate. Let’s hope someday soon they will.
Back to El Nido1: most boat trips last about 7 hours, usually starting at 9:00 am and ending between 4:00-5:00 pm.
A beach towel and mask/snorkel are included in the package tour, so you need not bring either, unless you are very particular about using your own towel/swimming gear.
Lunch is also included in every tour, usually consisting of grilled fish/seafood, pork/chicken, rice, vegetables and fruits (banana, pineapple, or watermelon). A designated boatman grills the meat/seafood/vegetables at the rear of the boat, so you will get these freshly cooked and artistically presented/decorated just in time for lunch. For sure, you will want to eat a lot after swimming and snorkeling all morning!
Single-use plastic water bottles are banned from all tours nowadays and the MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority)3 is strict in ensuring that boats do not carry them. Tour operators have insulated containers with ice to chill reusable plastic water bottles/jugs with potable water. Tumblers are provided for each member of the tour. In one of the day tours we took, the operator also offered chilled small (glass) bottles of Coke but we declined. Definitely, no single-use plastics during island hopping in El Nido!
I personally brought my own eco-friendly reusable water container and filled it up with mineral/distilled water for every day tour during my December 2018 El Nido vacation. Why don’t you too? This way, you will be sure about the quality and safety of the water you drink while island hopping.
Anyway, there were only 4 standardized tour packages in El Nido1 before November 27, 2018:
- Tour A – PHP1,200/person – This was the most popular tour package of El Nido, and it showcased some of the area’s beautiful lagoons. Destinations included: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island or Payong-payong Beach (for lunch), Entalula Island and 7 Commandos Beach. Snorkel/Swim all you want, subject to the schedule set by the tour guide and the conditions of the waters.
Take note, I used the past tense since this tour package was changed, effective November 2018. I will discuss that below.
This group tour was priced at PHP1,200 pesos; a private boat tour was PHP4,000-6,000, depending on the size of the group/boat. A kayak could be rented for PHP200 in the Big or Small Lagoon. If you notified your boatman when you arrived there, they would have arranged the kayak rental for you.
2. Tour B – PHP1,300/person – This nature-tripping package tour consists of the following stops: Cathedral Cave, Codugnon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island (a very good snorkeling spot), Snake Island (the long narrow sandbar connecting mainland Palawan to Vigan Island is the main attraction), and sometimes, Entalula Island or Pangalusian Island.
3. Tour C – PHP1,400/person – This is another popular tour package as it features some of the best beaches of El Nido, perfect for swimmers and snorkelers. This is a long tour since Matinloc Island is one of the farthest limestone islands from the town proper.
Please take note that Matinloc Island faces the West Philippine Sea (which is prone to big waves), so ask your tour operator if the weather will be ideal for your selected date.
Other destinations include: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine (you need to pay PHP100 entrance fee), Star Beach, Secret Beach, and Talisay Beach.
4. Tour D – PHP1,000-1,200/person – This package tour includes four beaches and a lagoon, mostly in mainland El Nido: Bukal Beach, Natnat Beach, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, and Cadlao Lagoon.
An inland tour is also offered in El Nido and is good for tourists who do not want to go island hopping. You can rent a motorcycle (PHP500 per day), tricycle (PHP1,500 for four persons), or a van (PHP3,000 for up to 12 persons). The main attractions are Calitang Twin Beach, Nacpan, and Nagkalit-kalit Falls. You can also go to Las Cabanas (for a memorable sunset) and/or Marimegmeg Beach. Do not forget to bring your own food/drinks.
Other tours could be arranged, like Overnight Camping, Combo Tour, Private Tour, or even an El Nido-Coron Adventure. It would be best to book ahead of time any of these tours, especially during peak season (December till March/April).
Take note that the tour guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are. The MARINA personnel need to approve all boat trips prior to sailing.
Bottomline, if you only had 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, taking Tours A and C is suggested. But that was prior to November 27, 2018.
What happened on November 2018?
El Nido1 was rehabilitated but was not closed off, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). There were many establishments that abided by government requirements and the local government took initiatives to address the town’s problems, so total closure was not necessary. Hurray to those who booked a vacation to El Nido starting November!
El Nido Municipal Administrator Dela Calzada said authorities would limit the number of tourists visiting key island destinations to preserve the area. The local government has set the tourist limit at the island’s Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour; and, for the Small Lagoon, at only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips per hour.4 Oh no! Tour A, one of my favorite day tours, was affected!
The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido as a whole, but funds for the study are already on standby, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.4
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the government will make sure that thousands of tourist boats will not spill wastewater nor oil into the bay.
Tour packages will also be redesigned to regulate the number of tourists. El Nido used to offer 4 standard tour packages, with 5 to 6 attractions per package; soon, there will be 7 tour packages with fewer destinations per package.4
In early 2018, single-use plastics, particularly water bottles, were banned from tour packages. Coast guard personnel shall inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.4
Personally, I noticed that some (hard-headed?) tourists still bring single-use plastic water bottles. I think the tour guide should announce/remind beforehand that this is banned and reassure everyone that the operator’s chilled water is safe. To the tour operators, just be sure that your containers/tumblers are clean/sanitized and your source of water is safe. We don’t want any upset stomachs, do we?
So, what are the November 2018 package tours in El Nido?
There is a slight change in the tours but the stated price still includes lunch, mask/snorkel, and beach towel. We got the information below from our resort staff during our December 7-11, 2018 stay:
The Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon were separated in Tour A since a cap was made on the number of persons and kayaks that can enter per hour. Thus, there are now two Tour As:
TOUR A – Big– PHP1400/person – Big Lagoon, Simizu Island (lunch), Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Island, and Papaya Island. (inclusive of the P200/person entrance)
TOUR A – Small– PHP1400/person – Small Lagoon, Payong-Payong, Entalula Island, Papaya Island, 7 Commandos Island – inclusive of the P200/person entrance in the Small Lagoon and the PHP200 eco fee good for 10 days – see a related link: (I will place the link here)
Tours B, C and D remain the same:
TOUR B – P1300/person – Snake Island, Codugnon Cave (lunch), Cathedral Cave, Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Beach
Tour C – P1400/person – Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach (lunch), Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island
Tour D – P1200/person – Pasandigan Beach, Bucal Beach, Natnat Beach (lunch), Cadlao Lagoon
Again, please take note that the guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are.
During my December revisit I availed of only 3 tours, since I had first-time El Nido tourists with me. I will write a separate post about this visit.
Bottomline, if you only have 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, take Tour A-Big and Tour C. If you arrive in the early afternoon and still have some energy left after the 6-hour ride from Puerto Princesa, take the inland tour, to at least enjoy Nacpan, and savor the sunset (and even zipline) at Las Cabanas.
To the authorities who will finalize the tours, please make sure that the destinations are different for each package.
I will write another post should there be an official announcement regarding the 2019 tours of El Nido.
Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Have you experienced El Nido package tours before and/or after November 2018? Do you have immediate plans to revisit El Nido? Do share your comments about the tours you took. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.
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These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who want more information about the terms below:
1El Nido is a first class municipality5 in the province6 of Palawan7, in the Mimaropa Region8, in the Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and awesome landscapes.9 It is considered the country’s last frontier, with the nickname “Heaven on Earth”. It was founded in 1916, has 45 islands10 and 18 barangays11, according to the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.12
2El Nido’s Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF), or simply eco fee/tax, is PHP200 and is required to be paid when you go on an island hopping tour, valid for 10 days. It was established in 2008 and is used to finance the Eco-Tourism Development Fund geared towards environmental and tourism-related projects.13
3The Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Transportation. It was created on June 1, 1974, and is responsible for integrating the development, promotion and regulation of the maritime industry in the Philippines. See www.marina.gov.ph
5A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines that has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province6, subdivided into barangays11, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.
There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income; second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income; third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income; fourth class municipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income; fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income; and, sixth class municipality (at most 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.14
6A province in the Philippines is divided into cities and municipalities5 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays11, formerly called barrios, according to the Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines”.15
7Palawan is a province6 located in the Mimaropa Region8 of the Philippines, founded in 1818. It is called the Philippines’ Last Frontier and its capital is Puerto Princesa, according to the Wikipedia page “Palawan”.16. It was chosen as the “World’s Best Island of 2017”17and of 201618 as well as of 2013 by Travel + Leisure travel magazine19. As early as 2007, National Geographic Traveler’s magazine chose Palawan as one of the best travel destinations in the world.20
8The Mimaropa Region is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces6: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan7. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mimaropa”.21
11A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.22
12“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.
14“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.
15“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines.
16 “Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.
21“Mimaropa,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.
22“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.