El Nido is composed of 45 islands and islets, and is located on the North end part of Palawan, 238 kilometers northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital. And Palawan, which is about 420 kilometers southwest of Manila, has been ranked not only once, but also twice, in 2014 and 2015, as “The Best Island in the World” by Conde Nast Magazine’s readers.
El Nido is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the main reason I went to the Philippines. Everywhere you go you will find breathtaking beaches and island that is going to be hard to decide which one you like most. There are many things you should know before visiting El Nido, including that there are four Island Hopping (which take you to some otherworldly places), hikes, beaches closing by, a zip line, beach parties, etc. The best thing is it is not as crowded yet as Thailand for example.
I visited the Philippines in February of 2015, and even though I only visited 6 of the over 7000 islands which comprise the country, I’m utterly convinced that nothing beats the extraordinary scenic wonders that exist in El Nido.
Some of the attractions are:
- El Nido town: a fortunate little town situated on the North end part of Palawan, full of fishermen, hotels, spa massage, restaurants and travel agencies. The city is the starting point to explore the islands, the remotes beaches and the lagoons.
The infrastructure is very simple, electricity installed a few years ago is a luxury, the Wi-fi is very bad, and you rarely see cars only tuk-tuks and motorbikes. However, the Filipinos are very friendly and speak perfect English, which makes the communication and relationships very easy.
- Town Beach: the easiest and closest beach in El Nido. If you are lucky enough you can get a beach front hotel and sleep with windows open and waking up with a breathtaking view every morning. If not, you can just appreciate one more beautiful beach in El Nido, whether sunbathing, swimming, relaxing or enjoying the restaurants and parties. Everyone is there at night and doing tours during the day.
- Las Cabanas: the most popular beach in El Nido, and when people are not doing island hopping they are all there. It is around 30 min walk from El Nido town and you can just follow the road or take a tricycle (tuk-tuk). The beach is really nice, good bars and atmosphere, amazing sunsets and there is a zip-line.
- Secret Lagoon: a pocket white powdery sand beach with limestone cliffs and lush vegetation. To get into the lagoon you need to crawl through a whole on the rock walls. Make sure to take water shoes because there are some coral reefs where the boat stops and also spend more time on the beach than the lagoon itself though.
- Big Lagoon: one of the most beautiful places in El Nido!! I loved it so much, OMG. Make sure the boat will stop and you will spend some time there, because they can just make a lap and leave. You can also rent a kayak and snorkeling there.
- Small Lagoon: as extraordinary as the big one this lagoon is not that small despite of its name. You can also rent a kayak there and snorkeling.
- Shimizu Island: one of the best spot for snorkeling in the area with a great variety of fishes and clams.
- 7 Commandos Beach: yet another breathtaking beach with white sand, emerald water and swaying coconut tress. This beach is good for snorkeling, play volleyball, rest, or just grab some beers.
- Cadlao Lagoon: an awe-inspiring lagoon with emerald water, cliffs draped with colorful vegetation and a big rock raising up majestically from the water exactly on the middle of it. I was amazed by its beauty!
- Secret Beach: a pocket beach hide behind limestone cliffs walls. To get into this beach you need to swim in open ocean and pass trough a small hole. The beach is good but the adrenaline is much better. I just wondered how they found these beach though.
- Matinloc Island: a picture-perfect island with crystal-clear water and jagged limestone rocks. There’s an abandoned mansion and shrine on this island. It’s also one of the most beautiful places in El Nido.
- Helicopter Island: a very nice beach to relax with amazing background composed by giant limestone cliffs covered with exuberant vegetation.
- Taraw Cliff: great for watching the sunrise and get a bird-eye of Bacuit Bay. You really need a guide to this hike and also being in a very good physical condition. The hike starts early in the morning, with no sunlight at all, and you will climb rocks all the time. This is a really tough hike/rock climbing that I even felt my shoulders when I was swimming. But the view is quiet impressive and worth.
- Nacpan Beach: this beach is around 40 min drive from El Nido town and you need to rent a motorbike or take a tuk-tuk. The road is in very bad condition, there aren’t signs and you can pass the entrance easily. Go slow and ask around to no get lost. There are two waterfalls on the way, but I could only find one. This beach is very nice, beautiful and quite.
If you have more time you can also visit Coron, another stunning place in Palawan, and follow this Ultimate Palawan Itinerary.