Many people are in awe of the natural beauty of El Nido, in the province of Palawan. Conde Nast has ranked it as number four of the world’s 20 best beach destinations, while the BBC One Travel Show has called it the best beach destination in the country. Discover the paradise that is El Nido with our 10 best things to do in this tropical destination.
1. Go island hopping, El Nido Style: Simizu Island
Don’t be fooled by this island’s small size. Named after a Japanese diver who died while diving in the island’s underwater cave, Simizu is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, clear enough to see how diverse the marine life is, in the area. Simizu Island is one of the islands included in one of the many island-hopping tours, from El Nido town. The island also features the most dramatic limestone rock mountains in the area, which makes this trip one of the most picturesque during your stay. Snorkeling is a favorite activity, as well as diving. Some even enjoy feeding the colorful tropical fish. The island is included in the El Nido Tour A, and it is usually where lunch for the group is prepared and enjoyed on the beach. Several local tour agencies in El Nido town organize group tours to Simizu and other islands.
Address: Bacuit Bay, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
2. Go island hopping: Dilumacad Island
Dilumacad Island is also known as Helicopter Island, because of its shape - most tourists say it looks like a helicopter without the propellers. Its main feature is a 300 meter (985 feet) white sand beach, which is also a perfect spot for a picnic lunch of freshly cooked seafood. Divers will love this island because of its underwater tunnel found on the northern side of the island. Snorkelers will also fancy the fringe of reef found on its southern side. To reach Dilumacad Island, choose El Nido Tour C. Contact a local tour agency to find out more about it.
Address: Helicopter Island, El Nido, Philippines
Pangulasian Island is one of the islands that is part of the upscale El Nido Resorts, in Palawan. Located in Bacuit Bay, the bay that faces El Nido town, the island is known for its 750 meter (2,460 feet) stretch of fine white sand. If you are a guest at the luxury resort, you can stay in any of the beachfront villas along the beach, and wake up to the sun and sea every morning. When you are on the island, you do not need to go far for some good snorkeling or diving - a magnificent coral reef system can be found, right off the beach. If you want to venture inland, there is a trail that takes you to the island’s peak. The trail is also good for bird watching.
Pangalusian Island - El Nido Resorts
Address: Pangalusian Island, Bacuit Bay, El Nido, Palawan
Access: From Manila, take a flight to Puerto Princesa City, and ride a bus or van. You will reach El Nido town after 4 hours. From El Nido, you can take a 30-45 minute boat ride to Pangalusian Island. There are also flights from Manila to El Nido.
El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island
Address: Bacuit Bay, Palawan
Outdoor pool Free WiFi Pool with view Daily housekeeping Restaurant Tour desk Contactless check-in/check-out Process in place to check health of guests
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4. Go island hopping: Vigan Island
Right next to Pangalusian Island, is Vigan Island. It also goes by the more popular name of Snake Island. But visitors should not fret because this does not mean that snakes make this island its natural habitat. It is named so because of a natural S-shaped sandbar or sandspit, that looks like a snake. This sandspit can only be seen during low tide, which gives the illusion of walking on water. Both sides of the sandbar are also good for a quick shallow dip. Snake Island is part of the El Nido Tour B package, which also takes you to four other places.
Address: Vigan Island, El Nido, Philippines
5. Go island hopping: Pinasil Island
Pinasil Island is known for its one of a kind feature - the Cathedral Cave. This impressive cave can only be accessed by swimming or kayaking under the massive limestone rock formations on one side of the island. Boatmen will, however, recommend that you kayak your way inside because the water here is home to venomous sea snakes. Shaped like a cathedral with high ceilings, there are times during the day when the sun’s rays shine into the cave and cast light on the many rock formations inside. Pinasil Island is part of El Nido Island Tour B, together with Snake Island.
Address: El Nido, Palawan Island, Philippines
Matinloc Island is the slimmest and longest island among those in Bacuit Bay. Aside from Kulasa Beach, which features 100 meters (328 feet) of white sand, the island is also home to what locals call a secret beach. This beach is said to be the inspiration behind the novel “The Beach”, written by Alex Garland. One can reach the hidden beach by swimming through a narrow opening under the rocks and it is recommended you do this during low tide. The island also has several dive sites, one of which is as deep at 39 meters (128 feet). If you prefer climbing, you can also go to the Matinloc Viewpoint, which is located on top of the limestone rocks. You will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the island. This island is part of El Nido Tour C, called the Hidden Beaches and Shrines tour.
Matinloc’s Kulasa Beach is home to another El Nido luxury resort called Matinloc Resort.
This island can be found in the middle of Bacuit Bay and can be reached by a short boat ride from El Nido town. This is part of El Nido Island Tour A, which takes you to the lagoons and beaches around El Nido. There are two lagoons on the island: Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. As your boat navigates through the entrance of Big Lagoon, you will see how these limestone mountains contrast against the crystal clear seas, below them. Once your boatman finds a place to set anchor, you can choose to swim around the lagoon, snorkel, or kayak and paddle board. From Big Lagoon, you can only kayak or swim your way to the inner Small Lagoon. Because this lagoon has calmer water, you can take your time here, swimming or even floating around. If you have the means to splurge, you can also stay on the island, at the Miniloc Island Resort.
El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island
Address: Miniloc Island, Palawan
Private beach area Hand sanitizer in guest accommodation and key areas Face masks for guests available First aid kit available Pool/beach towels Guests have the option to cancel any cleaning services for their accommodation during their stay Access to health care professionals Meeting/banquet facilities
8. Go diving in Bacuit Bay
El Nido, being a marine protected area, is home to very rich and diverse marine life. In 1984, the Philippine government declared the area as a turtle sanctuary, and as a marine reserve park, in 1991. The area became a managed resource protected area, in 1998, recognizing the need to regulate tourism and fishery activities, in order to protect the resources found in its waters. Diving is one of the best activities you can do in El Nido. You can choose from the many dive sites where you can discover El Nido’s underwater treasures. There are several dive shops where you can arrange dive trips, such as Palawan Divers, Submariner Diving Center and El Nido Adventure Scuba.
Address: Calle Hama, Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Website: Palawan Divers
9. Time for a lesson in history: Cudugnon Cave
Cudugnon Cave is part of El Nido Island Tour B. This cave has historical significance because this was where archaeological artefacts were found, dating back to the Sung dynasty, between 960 to 1279 A.D. The pottery and jewelry found here was said to have been brought here by people from Borneo. They reached the island through a land bridge that connected Borneo with Palawan during ancient times according to anthropologists. Although the artefacts have been removed, the cave itself is a sight to behold, with its rock formations.
Address: El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
10. Time for a lesson in history: Ille Cave
Unlike other destinations in El Nido, you need to go inland to reach Ille Cave. This cave is located in New Ibajay, which is about 45 minutes by car from El Nido’s town center. Considered a burial cave where ancient Palawenos cremated and buried their dead, it prooved that the island was inhabited by humans as early as 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists discovered both human and animal skeletons in the cave, as well as pottery that dates back to ancient times. To reach the cave, it is best you arrange a guide while in El Nido town. Exploring the cave can be tricky if you are without a guide.
Address: New Ibajay, El Nido, Palawan Island, Philippines
How to get to El Nido and other tips
To help you plan your trip, it is best you choose where you will stay - there are several options for accommodations in El Nido town itself or in one of the many resorts around Bacuit Bay. To reach El Nido, the cheapest route is to fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa City, then take a van or bus to El Nido town. El Nido is around 4 to 5 hours from Puerto Princesa City. A more direct flight from Manila to El Nido’s Lio airport is available but is pricey.
Once you are in town, there are many options to take in terms of packaged tours and itineraries. It is best you check the reviews of tour packages, online before you decide on one. Some tours can also be booked online. However you want to spend your vacation in El Nido, make sure you are ready for some adventure.
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