Why Go Paddle Boarding In El Nido?
Quite simply, the Bacuit Archipelago is one of the most breathtaking places in the world. Most people experience this tropical wonderland by going on organized island hopping tours. I’ve been on those and they are pretty disappointing. The scenery is spectacular, but there’s just too many boats and people. Stand up paddle boarding El Nido is a great alternative to avoid the crowds, find remote beaches, and get a nice workout in too.
I spent a few days paddling around Cadlao Island and was shocked at how few people were around. I just watched boat after boat pass by as they were heading to more well-known spots (big lagoon, small lagoon, secret lagoon, etc.). Their loss, they didn’t know what they were missing. Check out the video below to get an idea of what you’ll see. The majority of the video was shot at Paradise Beach (up to the 1:36 mark) and Cadlao Lagoon (after the 1:36 mark).
Where To Rent a Paddle Board In El Nido
I rented my stand up paddle board from Art Café for ₱800 pesos ($16) per day. You can also rent kayaks, snorkel gear, and book island hopping tours there. The quality of the paddle boards is somewhat mediocre, but there’s few other options. The big downside is their stand up paddle boards don’t have stretchy mesh on the front or back to keep a dry bag or anything in else in place. That can be problematic if you want to paddle all day and need to bring food and water. I ended up attaching my dry bag to a life jacket so it would float when it fell off, which it did many times.
Waz SUP El Nido organizes stand up paddle boarding el nido island hopping tours for ₱2,200 per day ($44; everything included). A boat will take you to all the beautiful lagoons to paddle around in. You might also be able to rent a paddle board from them for the day.
SUP Tours Philippines does multi-day packages where lodging and stand up paddle board tours are included.
Popular El Nido SUP Destinations
Here are the one-way distances to some popular locations from El Nido’s main beach (basically leaving from Art Cafe):
- A. Nat Nat Beach – 2.4 km
- B. Paradise Beach – 2.9 km
- C. Ipil Ipil Beach – 2.92 km
- D. Bukal Island – 3.46 km
- E. Bukal Beach – 3.46 km
- F. Ipil Two Beach – 3.52 km
- G. Seven Commandos – 4.13 km
- H. Pasandigan Cove – 4.7 km
- I. Serenity Beach – 5.82 km
- J. Helicopter Island – 6.03 km
- K. Cadlao Lagoon – 6.78 km
- L. Cabanas Beach – 7.6 km
Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido Tips
- Get the proper paddle board. If anything, go bigger if you’re unsure. If the board is too small, it will be very unstable.
- Check the weather and water conditions before you head out. You don’t want to be out in the open water if the wind or swell is expected to pick up.
- Know your boundaries. If you’re a beginner, start easy and work your way up.
- If you’re caught in an unfavorable wind or the water gets too choppy, lay down on your belly and paddle like you would on a surf board (called paddling prone).
- Put the leash on, it could save your life. You don’t want to fall off and have your stand up paddle board get carried away with the wind or current.
- Ask a local for advice on currents, winds, and tidal ranges.
Paddle Boarding El Nido Routes
Seven Commandos Route – 7.8 km Round TripSeven Commandos Beach – Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido An easy route that doesn’t require any open water crossings. You can just hug the shallow shore the entire way to Seven Commandos Beach. There’s also two beaches you can stop at on the way, Ipil Ipil Beach and Ipil Two Beach.
Food and drinks are offered at Seven Commandos Beach, so its a great place to paddle to for lunch or an afternoon cocktail. Seven Commandos Beach is often the first stop for island hopping tours (Tour A), so its not a quiet place around 10 a.m., but clears out shortly after.
Bukal Island Route – 7 km Round TripOn my way to Bukal Island – Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido Paddling out to Bukal Island is a shorter distance compared to Seven Commandos Beach, but its a little tougher since you’ll be out in open, deep water that can get a little choppy.
There’s a great shallow area between Bukal Island and Bukal Beach that serves as a great spot for swimming and snorkeling.
If you’re feeling a little energetic, you can stop off at Paradise Beach and Nat Nat Beach on the way back (see next route for locations).
Pasandigan Cove Route – 10 km Round TripPasandigan Cove – Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido This is a great route to get a little more distance under your belt. The main highlights are Pasandigan Cove and Paradise Beach, but you’ll find a bunch of nice beaches in between. What I liked most was the snorkeling along almost the entire route, so make sure to bring your snorkel gear. Shallow water of 5 – 15 feet flanks the entire route, so you can pretty much stop anywhere that looks good.
Paradise Beach and Nat Nat Beach are popular trips for kayakers and fellow stand up paddle boarders. As soon as you get past paradise beach, you’ll likely be by yourself until you get to Pasandigan Cove.
Tour D also stops in Pasandigan Cove, but there is rarely more than one boat there. Pack yourself lunch, its a beautifal spot to sun bathe and snorkel for a few hours.
Iron Man Route – 16 km Round TripSerenity Beach – Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido This is an all day adventure, so prepare yourself. Don’t attempt this route unless you’re experienced on a stand up paddle board. I had no problems making it out to Cadlao Lagoon, but the wind & swell picked up in the afternoon and I struggled making it back. I don’t fall off my paddle board often and I probably fell 6 or 7 times.
Cadlao Lagoon is the reason this paddle is worth the effort (see pictures below). It’s a place that’s right out of a fantasy. I’ve been to a few other more famous lagoons (Big & Small Lagoons) in El Nido. Cadlao Lagoon is more beautiful in my opinion. This has a lot to do with the fact that few people make it out that far. Island Hopping Tour D stops there, but few people even go on that tour. A few kayakers make it out, but in general, its a quiet place. I spent a few wonderful hours paddling and snorkeling in the lagoon.
Make Your Own Route
The routes I’ve included are convenient if you’re staying near El Nido’s main beach (i.e. near Art Cafe). The truth is that routes around El Nido are endless. If you’re with a group, this will open up a lot of options since you can rent a boat for the day. This isn’t that expensive, the cost is generally ₱8,500 – ₱10,500 for a boat that can fit up to 5 people ($170 – $210). You will have to rent paddle boards too, so keep that in mind. There is some spectacular scenery that few people don’t ever get to see because the organized island hopping tours don’t go there, but its just as good. All you have to do is tell your boat captain where you want to go.
Another interesting area is Nacpan Beach, which is an hour scooter or tricycle ride north of El Nido. There was a person renting surf boards and stand up paddle boards right on the beach. There would be great beaches to explore north and south of Nacpan Beach, but there’s also an island 5 km offshore called Lalutaya Island.Nacpan Beach – Stand Up Paddle Boarding El Nido