Most of the best things to do in El Nido are directly related to the warm tropical waters of the South China Sea that border this first-class municipality. Found at the northern tip of Palawan Island, in the Mimaropa Region of the Philippines, El Nido offers excellent opportunities to enjoy island-hopping, snorkelling and scuba diving.
El Nido has become a popular holiday destination in the Philippines for its combination of crystal-clear waters and remarkable rock formations, with beautiful white-sand beaches in between. The eroded limestone karsts that compose most of the islands in the area make El Nido rather unique.
El Nido Small Lagoon
Located at the northern end of Miniloc Island, a 20-minute boat ride west of El Nido Town, the Small Lagoon is a beautiful, shallow cove. It’s about 150 metres long and only 35 metres, meaning that the waters in the lagoon are very well sheltered from the waves of the sea. It’s surrounded by limestone cliffs, partially covered with lush vegetation.
The Small Lagoon can only be accessed through a small gap in the rock, which you can swim or take a small sea kayak through. Depending on the time of the day you visit El Nido Small Lagoon, the crystal-clear waters it contains can show reflections that range from turquoise to emerald green. The simplest way to get there is by joining the Tour A that departs daily from El Nido Town.
Nacpan and Calitang – El Nido’s Twin Beaches
Known as El Nido’s Twin Beaches, Nacpan and Calitang are acclaimed as the most beautiful beaches in the area. Located 20 km north of El Nido Town, these 2 strips of sand are separated by a tiny cape that features a viewpoint overlooking the beaches and the Bolog Islands, which are a few hundred metres from the coast.
Nacpan is 3 km long, while Calitang is only 500 metres long. Beach resorts and a few bars and restaurants can be found here, offering all you need for a pleasant day on the beach.
El Nido Big Lagoon
Located just south of the Small Lagoon, on the north coast of Miniloc Island, El Nido Big Lagoon offers the same type of landscape, but on a larger scale. Measuring almost 800 metres in length by 100 metres wide, the most pleasant way to visit it is by sea kayak, which allows you to explore all the nooks and crannies of this beautiful pristine place. Snorkelling and even scuba diving is possible in the lagoon.
Exploring El Nido Big Lagoon gives you the opportunity to spot examples of local fauna and flora, both above and under water. The simplest way to get there is by joining the Tour A that departs daily from El Nido Town.
Snake Island (Vigan Island)
Vigan Island is in Bacuit Bay, some 12 km southwest of El Nido Town. Despite being known as Snake Island, there are no snakes living there. The name comes from the curving sandbar that links it to Palawan Island. This almost-500-metre sandbar can clearly be seen at low tide, and you even can get to Palawan Island on foot.
Besides the sandbar, the white powdery sand and crystal-clear waters that surround the island, there’s a viewing deck at the top of a small mountain that offers a 360° panorama of Palawan and some of the other islands of the bay. The simplest way to get there is by joining the Tour B that departs daily from El Nido Town.
El Nido Secret Lagoon and Beach
Miniloc could be nicknamed Lagoon Island as, in addition to the famous Small and Big Lagoons, it also has the Secret Lagoon. Located toward the southern end of the island, this one is obviously not secret anymore, which is why it’s also called the Hidden Lagoon. The simplest way to get there is by joining the Tour A that departs daily from El Nido Town.
Situated in a picturesque bay and featuring a nice beach shaded by coconut trees, it’s accessible through a small opening in the limestone cliff. Your guides help you to pass through the short stone corridor safely, but wear shoes as the ground is rocky and sharp. The lagoon is not that large, but is a splendid natural sight. You’ll notice that the water is colder inside the lagoon than it is in the sea right next to it.
Taraw Cliff is the massive limestone karst that overlooks El Nido Town. From the summit, you have an outstanding view of the town itself, but also the turquoise waters of Bacuit Bay. The challenging part is getting to the top, especially if you’re scared of the heights. Fortunately, guides are available to help you get up there, for a fee.
The climbing requires you to be in a good physical condition and, even though the guides climb in flip-flops, it’s best to wear hiking shoes to avoid injuries. Going very early in the morning is also a smart move, as it’s the best way to avoid the heat.