Explore one of the best island destinations in the world found in the Philippines' Palawan province — El Nido. Find out why it's continuously in the top favorites of travelers from different parts of the world.
This quaint little beach town located in the northernmost part of mainland Palawan has developed to become a travel destination, with more convenient access to more flights and a wide array of El Nido resorts, hotels, and backpacker hostels that cater to everyone's budget, El Nido has opened its doors to wanderers from all walks of life.
Imagine deserted powdery white sand shores with clear and turquoise waters, breathtaking limestone cliffs, secret islands, and dramatic sunsets – truly El Nido should be on every traveler's bucket list because of its unspoiled beaches.
El Nido weather is almost always in summer mode, making it a great year-round destination. The main attraction of El Nido is several island-hopping destinations that you can easily travel to. The four main tours classified as Tour A, Tour B, Tour C, and Tour D. You can board the regular tourist boats or join yachting excursions. If you’re pressed for time, Tour A and Tour C are the most popular and must-do for first-timers in El Nido.
More than the many beautiful islands off its coast, the island also satisfies adventure-seekers and nature lovers by offering exciting tours in El Nido such as cliff climbing, kayaking, trekking to waterfalls, and lounging on pristine beaches in the main island.
Experiencing El Nido is like getting lost in a dream, one that you wouldn’t want to wake up from. Its grandeur and charm will surely let you have a taste of paradise and heaven on earth. Can’t wait to explore El Nido yet? Start preparing your trip with this list of all the things to do in El Nido that you should not miss when you explore this exquisitely gorgeous tropical destination.
Deserted golden sand, clear blue waters, and a surreal view of the ocean await you at Nacpan Beach. Just the thought of lounging under the sun in this paradise makes you wish for that dreamy escapade. It's why joining an inland trip in Nacpan Beach is worth the wait.
The 45 minutes to 1-hour drive from the El Nido town proper is well worth it once you set foot in this slice of heaven. Read a book, listen to music, or watch the waves kiss the shoreline as you take in the beauty that Nacpan Beach has to offer. Local and foreign tourists rave about the 4-km long Nacpan Beach in El Nido because of the laid-back vibe here.
Nacpan Beach is part of the Twin Beaches with the adjacent Calitang Beach. You can climb up to the highest point and see the view of the two beaches. If you're trying out Nacpan Beach tours, buy some drinks or snacks in the beach bar as you work on your tan. The sunset in Nacpan Beach is also a must-see, the cherry on top for a perfect tropical getaway in El Nido, Palawan.
This majestic lagoon in Miniloc Island is one of the highlights of El Nido island-hopping tour A, which is one of the most popular tours offered in El Nido. Miniloc Island in itself looks like a scene straight from a destination movie. It's like you're transported to a different dimension where you're surrounded by towering cliffs lined up to watch over you.
As you enter through the Big Lagoon, everything is a sight to behold – the crystal-clear blue water, the ray of light peeking through the top of the cliffs and the luscious limestone formation. The Big Lagoon of island-hopping tour A has become famous for being featured in several movies and postcards because of its beauty, as seen from drone shots to kayak views.
Due to the local government's efforts to keep the pristine condition of El Nido islands and avoid overcrowding, island-hopping boats are not allowed to go inside of the Big Lagoon anymore. The time spent and the number of tourists is also strictly controlled. Tourists, however, can board kayaks and paddle their way through the shallow entrance that will lead to a giant natural pool with turquoise waters surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.
Another Miniloc Island destination is the famous Small Lagoon included in El Nido island-hopping tour D. As the name implies, it is relatively smaller compared to the Big Lagoon, but can't be discounted when it comes to the beauty and charm it exudes. Unlike Big Lagoon where the opening can be easily entered, the Small Lagoon has a smaller entrance. You can swim or ride a kayak and go through a crack on a limestone wall to get inside.
Once you’re inside, you can take a dip or kayak around the peaceful waters of Small Lagoon and enjoy its calm surroundings with the sound of nature as your default soundtrack. Its serene turquoise waters that make up a natural pool in the middle of cliffs are the perfect spot for floating or kayak rides.
You can visit this El Nido attraction by booking the island-hopping Tour D. It used to be part of the Tour A with its popular big brother, Big Lagoon. But later, it was transferred to Tour D to address overcrowding. Similar to the policies implemented in Big Lagoon, the number of tourists and time spent in Small Lagoon has limitations as well to keep its enchanting vibe.
This unique natural pool in El Nido's Miniloc Island is also known as the Hidden Lagoon. This popular tourist spot included in El Nido island-hopping tour A has a sweet surprise that awaits you once you enter a small opening on the majestic limestone cliffs. When getting here, your boat will make its way to a small white sand beach in the southern part of Miniloc Island. You'll pass through a hollow rocky cave-like opening so be extra careful and dock your head. You can easily wade into the opening if it's low tide. Once inside, you'll be greeted by a small natural pool surrounded by remarkably high limestone cliffs – this is the Secret Lagoon.
You can dip in the natural cold pool and bury your toes in its beautiful white sand. Unlike the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, the water here is cooler because of the cliffs that cover it from the sunlight. However, a Hidden Lagoon excursion is done during low tide, the water is only knee-high deep and activities are limited to quick dips or picture taking. But the mysteriousness of the Secret Lagoon is what makes it a worthy destination. The Secret Lagoon is part of El Nido island-hopping tour A.
Similar to the Big Lagoon, you will need to board a kayak or swim from your boat to get to this Hidden Beach. The pristine small stretch of white sand beach called the Hidden Beach is part of El Nido island-hopping Tour C, another popular island-hopping tour.
Boats cannot fit in the entrance to go to the Hidden Beach. Since the distance from where the boats dock and the beach itself is quite far; the best way to get inside is by riding a kayak from your boat where you'll pass through towering karst cliffs. You can choose to swim going to the beach, but I'm telling you, it will take time. At the end of your kayak ride (or long swim), you will see a pristine beach with a stunning view of another opening going to the open sea, framed by two walls of pointy limestone cliffs. Truly a breathtaking view.
The crystal clear water here is more shallow than the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon and is excellent for a relaxing swim. The white sand of Hidden Beach lined with lush greenery is also the right spot for sunbathing or building sandcastles if you have kids with you.
El Nido isn't done yet with hidden and secret places! A highlight and must-see during your El Nido island-hopping tour C are the Secret Beach. This hidden enchanting beach in El Nido is said to have been the inspiration behind the novel "The Beach," by Alex Garland. It was then adapted into a film starring Leonardo di Caprio.
Once your boat arrives, you'll see nothing but a big wall of limestone cliffs with no beach in sight. To see the Secret Beach, you'll need to swim through the hole under the towering cliffs. A sweet surprise in the form of a hidden unspoiled beach awaits you behind the wall that surrounds it with the island-hopping tour C.
Be careful when swimming through the hole, especially if the waves are strong. Kayaks cannot go in through the hole, so your only option is to swim. Your tour guide will provide you with life vests and assist you as you make your way inside. But the struggle will be all worth it when you see the immaculate Secret Beach.
A stopover for lunch in El Nido island-hopping Tour A is also an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling. Shimizu Island (also spelled as Simizu Island) is the perfect stop for you to relax in its cool white-sand beach. Or whip out your snorkeling gears to explore its colorful marine life. In fact, it's one of the best beaches in El Nido.
You can spot here different species of fish in various shapes, colors, and sizes. By the time you’re done exploring the beauty of Shimizu Island underwater or just lounging by its white sand beach, your boatmen will call you to eat a festive Filipino-style lunch.
The island-hopping tour usually includes a lavish lunch offering of fish, shrimps, crabs, chicken, and pork. Plus, an impressive display of tropical fruits for dessert. You can swim some more or take a nap under the shade of the limestone cliffs as your boatmen and guide clean up and prepare to leave for your next stop.
Usually the last stop in El Nido island-hopping tour A is the 320-meter long Seven Commandos Beach. It is said to have been named after seven soldiers who were stranded here during World War II. Seven Commandos Beach is a postcard-worthy white sand beach lined with coconut trees and a massive wall of limestone cliffs in the background. It's the perfect last stop for tourists to lounge by the sand with a freshly opened coconut in hand.
The Seven Commandos Beach has a shore wide enough for tourists to play beach volleyball or work on their tan. The beach is also known for its gentle waves; you can relax by the crystal-clear waters after a tiring day of kayaking in the lagoons of island-hopping tour A.
It's also the right spot for snorkeling because of the calm waters and precious marine life. But you can always opt to have a lazy afternoon on its shores and enjoy the tropical island life.
Unlike the beaches and lagoons of El Nido whose main highlights are their pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. This island-hopping stop in El Nido island-hopping tour C is a unique one. The Matinloc Shrine, specifically the Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc, is an abandoned spiritual oasis that sits on top of Matinloc Island and offers one of the best views of El Nido.
There's also a mini-museum on the island where you can learn about the shrine's history. The story says that a Matinloc devotee had a vision of a dome with 12 pillars and inside was the image of the Virgin Mary. The shrine was built based on this vision, and once it was complete, they were blessed with a bountiful harvest of fish, thus becoming a holy place for Matinloc devotees.
The way going to the viewing deck is through the limestone cliff staircase, so make sure to wear your slippers or aqua shoes. Once you reach the top, you can climb further to the jagged cliffs to see a 360° view of the neighboring islands and the blue waters of El Nido.
El Nido island-hopping tour B may not be as famous as Tour A and Tour C, but its lineup isn't to be missed if you have the extra time in El Nido. One of the highlights of Tour B is Snake Island, aptly named because of its s-shape white powdery sandbar that connects a small island to the mainland of El Nido. The sandbar only appears during low tide and is truly a sight to behold.
Snake Island excursions feature gorgeous sandbar strip, hidden in Bacuit Bay, which is the perfect spot for a romantic stroll as you take in the breathtaking view. Dip your feet in the sand or lounge by its shores as the waves meet from both sides gently crash into you.
Not to worry though, there are no snakes in Snake Island. Its other name is Vigan Island. The beauty of Snake Island and its serene vibe make Tour B a must-try when in El Nido.
Las Cabanas Beach located 10-minutes away from El Nido town proper, is a must-visit for its romantic sunsets. Las Cabanas is a nickname based on the resort found here, but its other name is Marimegmeg Beach.
The beach is lined with several bars and restaurants. You can buy drinks and snacks while waiting for the sunset or chill and enjoy the laid-back vibe of this El Nido tourist spot.
Some of these bars and restaurants also have bean bags or chairs by the beach where you can grab the perfect spot for sunset-watching. Our tip is to find a seat by the far left to get the best view of the sunset.
If you want a different way to enjoy this beach in El Nido, you can also try the Las Cabanas zipline where you can be treated to an incredible view. At night, you can also enjoy romantic dinners or chill drinking sessions by the beach here.
The Taraw Cliff of El Nido is a prominent sight in the town proper. During the dry season, you can climb it and see a panoramic view of El Nido town and Bacuit Bay. Taraw is a local word for “mountains” since reaching the top will have you hiking over jagged cliffs and rocks.
There are two ways to climb the Taraw Cliffs: the regular hike or by a Canopy Walk. But both will require you to face your fear of heights. The regular hike up the Taraw Cliffs will have you ascending its steep and sharp limestone rocks. Doing this hike will require a guide and proper hiking shoes, so you have a better grip.
An alternative and much safer way to see the view from the Taraw Cliffs is by doing the Canopy Walk. Compared to the regular hike, the Canopy Walk tours provide you with safety equipment like helmets and harnesses. There are built-in walkways in the cliffs that you can explore to get the best views. This option is an excellent activity for inexperienced hikers.
Aside from the islands, beaches, and lagoons of El Nido, you can also dip into the natural pool of Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls. The hike to the waterfalls is an adventure itself, but the cool temperature of the water compensates for the effort of trekking to the place.
"Nagkalit-kalit" translates to "Nagsaglit" in Tagalog which means "taking a moment." You will surely forget the time as you adore the beauty of the waterfalls and the joy it offers to tourists who stumble upon it.
Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls is located in between El Nido town proper and Nacpan Beach. It’s usually a stop in El Nido inland tours. From the main road, you will have to trek for about 20-45 minutes in the jungle and rivers to reach the waterfalls. Once you arrive at Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfalls, you can choose from the big or the small falls and plunge into the natural pool for a refreshing swim.
While Palawan’s Coron is regarded as a top diving spot, El Nido also offers several underwater adventures for diving enthusiasts. There are over 40 diving spots that you can choose from in El Nido. From coral gardens, tunnels, steep vertical walls, sandy flats, to deep dives, El Nido has them all for you.
Most of the diving spots in the island are around its islands and beaches that are included in El Nido island-hopping packages. The most popular diving site in El Nido is South Miniloc, where you can find vibrant coral gardens. You might even get the rare chance to spot sea turtles.
Other diving sites in El Nido include North Rock, known for its pelagic sight, Dilumacad Island for cave diving, Entalula Island for its colorful coral gardens, and Nat-Nat Beach for macro diving photography.
Take it from us; El Nido will leave a mark on you. If you think that falling in love at first sight, isn't real, think again because El Nido will cast a spell on you. Its effortless natural beauty, charming tropical island vibe, and breathtaking sceneries along with the warmth of its people will surely find a way to your restless heart. We're sure that El Nido will be on the top of your favorite travel destinations once you explore it for yourself.
Start planning your island getaway to El Nido and tick it off your travel bucket list. To make your itinerary planning more relaxed and your adventure more convenient, make sure to research El Nido tours and activities from island-hopping to inland activities.