Snorkelling and kayaking in the crystal waters of El Nido, Palawan

Snorkelling and kayaking in the crystal waters of El Nido, Palawan

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

The surrounding limestone karsts with hidden lagoons and coves also makes kayaking around El Nido a fun activity. We love both snorkelling and kayaking, so we were in fitness heaven here.

The scenery is ideal for kayaking and snorkelling around El Nido

The beautiful scenery around El Nido which is ideal for island tours.


When you arrive in El Nido, you will quickly get accustomed to the 4 main tours offered by all agencies: A, B, C and D (D sometimes called the Cadlao Kayak tour):

The 4 main tours in El Nido

The map from Artcafe Boutique showing the 4 main tours offered in El Nido

  • Tour A:  involves mainly kayaking around El Nido, based around the Miniloc islands.
  • Tour B:  more of an island hopping tour around the beautiful Lagen island.
  • Tour C:  involves more snorkelling around El Nido by the Tapiutan and Matinloc islands.
  • Tour D / Cadlao Kayak: involves kayaking around the islands of Cadlao north from El Nido.
Seb preparing for island tour kayaking around El Nido

Sebastien getting ready for an island tour kayaking around El Nido

The tours are tightly monitored by the local government of Palawan, which has strict planning laws in place to preserve the environment and protect it from over development.

We chose Tour C (for snorkelling) and Tour A (for kayaking). These are the most popular and the ones you should definitely do if you are limited with time.

We highly recommend El Nido Boutique & Artcafe because they have excellent new equipment and their crew and team clearly enjoy their job, which made the tours highly enjoyable.

Kayaking around El Nido at The Big Lagoon

Kayaking around El Nido at the stunning and secluded Big Lagoon of Miniloc Island


Tour A with Artcafe is the best option for kayaking. Their kayaks are light and responsive, which makes steering them a lot of fun. Tour A also includes beach time and a bit of snorkelling. The first two stops are kayaking based around Miniloc Island.

#1 Kayaking in the Small Lagoon of Miniloc Island

Miniloc island is surrounded by stunning limestone karsts protruding up from the sea. It’s like something from a movie scene and incredible to kayak through.

Sebastien admiring the stunning limestone karsts scenery around The Small Lagoon

Sebastien admiring the stunning limestone karsts scenery around The Small Lagoon

The Small Lagoon is located on the cove of Miniloc island accessible 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

#2 Kayaking in the Big Lagoon of Miniloc Island

The Big Lagoon is impressive, stretching in from the sea through a narrow passageway, accessible only with a kayak. This was our favourite part of kayaking in El Nido because most people prefer to stay on their boat and skip it, so you have it all to yourself.

The Big Lagoon goes in quite deep and becomes quite narrow creating an Indiana Jones like environment.

Kayaking in El Nido at The Big Lagoon

Kayaking deep in the Big Lagoon where the boats can’t reach so you have it all to yourself.

#3 Shimizu Island: snorkelling and lunch

Shimizu is an island with limestone cliffs. It is surrounded by a healthy coral reef with a dramatic drop into the deep blue: perfect for some snorkelling and practising a few dance moves (!) underwater…

Snorkelling around El Nido by Shimizu Island

Stefan dancing underwater whilst snorkelling at Shimizu Island

Shimizu island is also a popular lunch stop where the Artcafe staff prepared a delicious barbecue. This BBQ fish 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

#4 Seventh Commando beach

The final stop was at the popular Seventh Commando beach on the main land of Palawan Island. It has a long white sandy beach lined with palm trees, making it a popular final stop for the island tours.

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

Two greedy boys with their halo halo

Two greedy boys about to fight over this halo halo on Seventh Commando beach near El Nido


Tour C is best for snorkelling in El Nido and goes to the islands of Matinloc and Tapiutan.

As diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, we always seek out snorkelling opportunities wherever possible and always carry our own masks during our travels just in case.

Preparing to go snorkelling in El Nido selfie

We love snorkelling so always carry our own masks in our travels ready for any opportunity to use them

#1 Snorkelling at Matinloc Island

The first snorkelling stop on Tour C is Matinloc Island with a 100m beach strip of white sand surrounded by healthy coral with a 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 snorkelling here is perfect for diving down, swimming with the marine life and of course for more funky dance moves:

Snorkelling around El Nido by Matinloc Island

Sebastien dancing with the fish whilst snorkelling at Matinloc Island

#2 Snorkelling at Tapiutan Island

Tapiutan Island is rich with healthy coral and marine life, making it ideal for snorkelling. It is the most remote island in the bay and as the final stop on this tour, most people just stayed on the boat or beach to relax, leaving the deep blue see all to us to enjoy.

We loved it!

Clown fish and their anemone in El Nido while snorkeling

The marine wildlife at Tapiutan is plentiful and we saw a variety of colourful coral, lots of blue starfish, Clownfish (Nemo), Bannerfish, sea urchins and many more.

See if you can spot Nemo and the Bannerfish in our short video clip from our snorkelling at Tapiutan island.

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


  1. We’re planning to travel there in September , could you help me about the kind of clothes I will need?

    • Clothes you’d wear in a tropical environment and of course your speedos 🙂

  2. what company did you use for the tours? I am planning to do get out there in Jan.
    nice work on the blog

    • We definitely recommmend the company mentioned in this article- El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe

  3. Hi, did you rent snorkeling gear or did you bring your own? (fins, goggles)

    • Hi Shane, the tour company we went with supplied everything.

  4. We are planning to go there in July but I am worrying about the weather. Any tips or commends?

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 🙂

  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!

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

      • Cheers! 🙂


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