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

Sebastien Chaneac
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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. We highly recommend El Nido Boutique & Artcafe to book your tours in El Nido, they have the best snorkelling and kayaking excursions.

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.

Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Palawan

We love the Philippines. It's one of our favourite places in Asia and definitely ranks as one of the most gay friendly countries on the continent. The Filipinos are warm, welcoming and extremely friendly. Palawan is one of the touristic hotspots of the country so locals are more accustomed to LGBTQ foreigners here than anywhere else in the country. As such you will have no problems booking a double bed here. For more, check out our gay guide to Palawan.

For more, watch our video about our adventures travelling in the Philippines as a gay couple:


Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

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

  5. 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

  6. Thanks Nick. We bought Seb’s speedos in one of the big shopping malls in Bangkok. The label is HOM Black Addict.

  7. 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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