Whilst the islands in the Philippines may offer 5* resorts, I chose to explore its rugged beauty in a more unique (and affordable) way by camping on Seven Commandos Beach in El Nido. This is the most popular camping spot in El Nido, with its neighbor, Papaya Beach, also being a favorite.
Beach camping is on my list of favorite things to do in the Philippines and whilst I was relieved to eventually get a warm shower, it was a unique experience.
Where is Seven Commandos Beach?
Seven Commandos Beach was supposedly named after seven soldiers who were stranded on the beach after WWII. However, this story is yet to be confirmed and is questioned by the Filipino locals.
Whilst most people think that Seven Commandos Beach is a remote beach on a private island, it’s not. It’s actually part of the mainland of El Nido but is only accessible by boat. It’s one of the island hopping stops on Tour A and so crowds fill the shores during the day.
However, shortly before sunset, the boats begin to leave, taking the hundreds of tourists with them. In contrast to how it was when I arrived, Seven Commandos Beach was empty and deserted.
The good side to El Nido camping
The idea of sleeping under palm trees and waking up with beachfront views attracts people to camp in El Nido. For some, it’s a “Survivor” like experience, for others it’s the rum! Whatever your reason, camping in El Nido is an adventure!
On our camping trip, I spent my evening watching the sunset whilst lying in the sand with not a soul in sight, only beautiful islands in the far distance. There’s no wi-fi nor internet to distract you. It’s refreshing being away from the materialistic elements that we are so heavily dependant on. The next morning I woke up slightly early and took a stroll along the quiet beach. It was so peaceful and the water soothing and calm.
The truth about El Nido camping
Camping in El Nido is rough! You start your day off island hopping around Tour A’s sites and are dropped off at Seven Commandos Beach around 5 pm. Salty, tired and burnt there are no showers to rinse yourself off. But of course, you know this, so don’t complain! There’s sand everywhere and you sleep in small tents, on thin mats.
Thanks to the heat and the mosquitos, you won’t get a good night’s rest unless you indulge in the rum. This is what I did and so I had no problems! The next day starts at 10 am when you are fetched from the beach and taken to explore Tour B’s sites. You’ll most likely have a hangover at this point and will be questioning whether the alcohol-induced rest you got the night before was worth the hangover.
Why you should choose to camp on Seven Commandos Beach
Seven Commandos Beach has a fully stocked bar (and there’s ice!) This bar closes just after sunset, but there is also a coconut stall on the beach that’s open a bit later. Right in front of the bar is a swing hanging from a huge tree. It’s actually a bit scary so I gave it a skip but it’s a hit for photos! Seven Commandos Beach is also kitted out with a basketball hoop as well as a volleyball court right by the camping area.
If you’re traveling alone and you’re looking to meet people, this camping trip is definitely the way to go! You’re guaranteed to have a full team of excited travelers join as it’s the most popular El Nido camping spot. There were 16 people on our camping trip, all from different walks of life but all sharing a common interest in adventures and nature.
Swim to Papaya Beach El Nido
As I got to shore, I ventured out to Papaya Beach in an effort to escape the numerous beach bums who welcomed me to Seven Commandos Beach. Papaya Beach lies a quick swim around the huge limestone rock to the east of Seven Commandos Beach. Papaya Beach is much smaller than its neighbor and has more of that remote feel.
You can also camp on Papaya Beach. But these camping trips seemed to be more exclusive and geared toward couples, small groups and families, rather than youngsters looking to indulge in rum and have bonfires till early hours of the morning.
Tips for camping at Seven Commandos Beach or Papaya Beach in El Nido
- Whilst I enjoyed camping on Seven Commandos Beach, I would have preferred to camp on a beach that wasn’t as popular. When I arrived there were scores of boats and tourists, not my idea of a remote camping trip! Yes, it was nice to have a bar and a few huts to sit under. But I was actually looking for a completely isolated, and less touristy experience.
- If you’re looking for a budget El Nido camping trip, you will pay around $70. This includes two island hopping tours, camping equipment, all meals, and alcohol. If you want to camp on a remote island which isn’t part of the mainland, or the island hopping tours, it is possible. However, these tours may be slightly more expensive.
- Buy a wet bag to keep all your goodies in. You’ll be going on two island hopping tours, and you need to take your overnight bag with you on these tours. Leave your main luggage at your accommodation in El Nido and only bring a small backpack, preferably a wet bag, with one change of clothes, and your toothbrush.
- Most camping trips include unlimited beer and rum, but be sure to confirm this with your tour operator. They say the beer will be cold, but if you’re going on a budget trip, it most likely won’t be.
- Take water, snacks, and money along with you.
- Day 1 includes Tour A and day 2 is Tour B. However, Tour C is a more popular option. If you want to change your itinerary, be sure to ask and confirm before you depart.
- You can also customize your itinerary. I had already been on Tour B and C so I requested to scuba dive instead of revisiting Tour B on the second day. I booked my camping trip through Lagum Adventure and although they don’t manage the actual tours themselves, they were able to arrange the logistics for me. The next morning I was fetched from Seven Commandos Beach by a private dive boat and taken to the dive spots I’d requested. The diving was an additional cost but totally worth it!
El Nido to Coron island hopping camping tour
If time is on your side and you’re wanting to go from El Nido to Coron, why not take an island hopping camping trip to Coron. Here, you are guaranteed to camp on untouched islands, with no other tourists. The trip from El Nido to Coron takes 4 days and so you camp for 3 nights. Most of your time will be spent snorkeling or swimming in the clearest waters in the Philippines.