Snorkeling and kayaking in El Nido: discover the crystal clear waters of Palawan

Palawan island in the Philippines has some of the most stunning marine wildlife we’ve seen on our trip in Asia, which made snorkeling in El Nido a particular highlight.

The surrounding limestone karsts with hidden lagoons and coves also makes snorkeling around El Nido an activity you will never forget. Snorkeling in El Nido is best done on a tour as you need a boat to go to the snorkeling sites.

What snorkeling tours to choose?

When you arrive in El Nido, you will quickly get accustomed to the 4 snorkeling tours offered by all agencies in town: A, B, C and D (D sometimes called the Cadlao Kayak tour) with A and C being the most popular ones. You can book the snorkeling tours online to secure your spot, especially during high season:

  • Tour A:  involves mainly kayaking around El Nido, based around the Miniloc islands.
  • Tour B:  Island hopping tour around the beautiful Lagen island.
  • Tour Cthe best tour which involves snorkeling around El Nido by the Tapiutan and Matinloc islands.
  • Tour D / Cadlao Kayak: involves kayaking around the islands of Cadlao north from El Nido.
El nido in Palawan has 4 snorkeling tous
The map from Artcafe Boutique showing the 4 main tours offered in El Nido

All tours include pickup from the hotel which is very convenient. If you are limited with time, you can combine Tour A and C together which also includes a picnic for lunch.

If you prefer to book your snorkeling tours in town, we highly recommend El Nido Boutique & Artcafe, their staff is very helpful and they offer competitive prices for the snorkeling tours.

Tour C: best snorkeling tour in Palawan

Tour C is by far the best tour for snorkeling in El Nido as it takes you around the most beautiful islands and snorkeling sites in Palawan.

One of the highlights of the tour is snorkeling at Matinloc Island where a 100m beach strip of white powdery sand awaits surrounded by healthy coral and busy fish scene going on. The sea floor surrounding the beach slopes down gradually and the water deepens only after about 10 metres in. The snorkeling here is perfect for diving down, swimming with the marine life and of course for more funky dance moves:

Snorkelling around El Nido by Shimizu Island
Stefan dancing underwater whilst snorkelling at Shimizu Island

The last stop, Tapiutan Island is rich with healthy coral and marine life, making it ideal for snorkeling. We saw a variety of colourful coral, lots of blue starfish, Clownfish (Nemo), Bannerfish, sea urchins and many more:

Clown fish and their anemone in El Nido while snorkeling
Meet Nemo in the crystal clear waters of El Nido, Palawan

Tour A: combining kayaking and snorkeling

Tour A combines kayaking and snorkeling together. It is a great option as you can enjoy the beautiful scenery on a kayak and still discover the underwater world when snorkeling.

Tour A takes places mainly around Miniloc island, where you're surrounded by limestone karsts protruding up from the sea. It’s like something from a movie scene and incredible to kayak through. You will discover The Small Lagoon which is located on the cove of Miniloc island  and can be accessed through a small entrance with 2 giant limestone rocks which you can swim or kayak through.

The area inside is fun for swimming or kayaking and although gets quite crowded, the tranquil turquoise-green waters surrounded by limestone karsts make it memorable.

Kayaking in El Nido at the Small Lagoon
Kayaking in the Small Lagoon where you get close up to the stunning limestone karsts

What about Lunch?

All tours usually include lunch. For example during our snorkeling tour C, we had lunch on Shimizu island, surrounded by a healthy coral reef with a dramatic drop into the deep blue. We had BBQ fish which was meant to be shared by everyone in our group, but greedy Sebastien was just too quick for everyone…

Lunch time on Shimuzu Island
Sebastien's lunch (yup that's all for him) on Shimizu Island

It also makes a nice spot for a Halo Halo, one of our favourite Filipino traditional foods.

To watch more, check out our full Philippines travel video as we swam our way through Boracay and Palawan in our Philippines travel video.



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15 thoughts on “Snorkeling and kayaking in El Nido: discover the crystal clear waters of Palawan”

    • Yeah it’s a gamble. We went in shoulder season in May/June and we were ok. Friends of ours went in July/Aug and were caught by bad weather so they didn’t enjoy it as much sadly.

  1. Hi Boys 🙂 Amazing trip! Do you know, if one could go on a kayaking trip by yourself (without a tour)? Is it possible to just rent a kayak in town and go? What length of stay would you recommend in el Nido? 3 days or 7? Thanks! Cheers 🙂

    • You should be able to – check out Artcafe for more info – they’re very good and responsive. But we definitely recommend booking a tour as it makes it all much easier if you’re pressed for time. Time wise, the longer the better. El Nido itself is not very nice – very touristy etc, but the real beauty are the islands around it.

  2. Hi guys, next friday I´m leaving germany with my brother to visit the beautiful philippines. But we still have no vacation for palawan. PLEASE, give advice!!!
    by the way – nice blog!
    😉 Lena

    • Thanks Lena. Definitely head to the underground river near Puerto Princesa and the snorkelling and kayaking tour with Art Cafe recommended in this article 🙂

  3. Love Sebastien’s swimsuit in these photos (and your site!)- would love one like it for my upcoming Malta trip. Could you share the brand?

    Thanks friends!

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