Nicknamed the “Last Frontier” of the Philippines, El Nido is the ultimate paradise full of magical landscapes, amazing coral reefs, hidden beaches and pristine lagoons.
El Nido is dubbed the best place to visit in Palawan. The pristine islands and beaches of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay are Palawan ‘s star attractions.
El Nido – an eco-friendly paradise, is a first class municipality that is collectively situated in Bacuit Bay, covering a land area of 465.1 square kilometers and is located in the northernmost part of the mainland of Palawan. It was declared as the “Best Beach and Island Destination” in the Philippines for its “extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem” by the CNNGo years back.
El Nido is composed of 45 islands and islets – each having its own unique geological formations. El Nido is covered by the largest marine sanctuary act in the Philippines giving its marine life a safer ecosystem and to avoid the destruction of its natural beauty. El Nido also has a “Protected Area” status that covers a total of 903.21 square kilometers of which 40% are terrestrial and 60% marine.
Over the years, however, El Nido’s marine ecosystem has been the main attraction of the area which attracts and captivates many divers, snorkelers, and beach bums who are all “game” to hop around its islands.
Bacuit Bay is a huge body of water dotted with 45 islands and islets with most of it inhabited. Some of these islands are sole limestone islands towering up to three stories high while the larger islands have beautiful stretches of majestic white sands against the bay’s crystalline waters. There are also beaches partially hidden by limestone caves and secret ones as well that could be reached by tourists by swimming through small crevices.
This bay’s clear blue waters serve as shelter to various marine life such as dugongs, turtles manta rays, species of fishes, coral reefs, and the occasional white sharks. There are a total of 30 dive sites in Bacuit Bay ranging in depth from six to more than thirty meters.
Other islands located in Bacuit Bay have scenic lagoons and caves waiting to be explored. Having various islands to visit and to feast their eyes on, tourists who go to El Nido gets a hard time on choosing which island to visit first.
A paradise surrounded by towering gray karst cliffs exists in one of the islands in El Nido and is currently called the Secret Beach. Legend has it that the Secret Beach was the inspiration behind author Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach” which had a movie adaptation shot in Maya Bay in Thailand years back starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Secret Beach is a pocket of white beach found on one edge of the Matinloc Island. It is concealed by cliffs and is only accessible through a narrow crevice on a limestone wall.
To visit the beach, tourists will have to swim through the crevice to reach the beach that glimmers even under the shade of cliffs kissed by the sun.
Matinloc Island was dubbed as one of the most interesting islands in El Nido. This island was named after the Cuyunin word Matinlo which means beautiful. Matinloc Island is a heart-shaped island which has various stories to tell.
Aside from the abandoned mansion in the island, a “mini-museum” found in the area became an attraction to many travellers especially those who are interested in the island’s history. In the museum, photos and literary works about the history and various stories about the area could be found inside the so-called museum, along with interesting things regarding its wonders.
In 1993, a shrine was inaugurated in the island which started the celebration in Matinloc called the “Feast of Our Lady of Matinloc”. Until now, the shrine still stands on the island and tourists who are interested in architecture finds it as a great opportunity to get an up-close look at the shrine.
The most breath-taking views of the island may be seen by climbing a steep cliff of limestones with the use of a stair-like path. Tourists, however, are advised to take caution while taking the stairs since one wrong move will cause serious injury. Climbing up the steep cliff, however, is a risk worth taking.
NO, it’s not an island infested with snakes. Originally known as Vigan Island, Snake Island has become one of the main attractions of El Nido for its S-shaped sandbar that stretches across the waters connecting itself to the mainland of Palawan. The catch? People can only walk through it during low-tides, and people find it fascinating.
Snake Island is just behind the Bacuit Bay, the home of different marine species, and the white sand beaches of the Pangulasian Island. A boat ride from El Nido to the island would take up to 45 minutes. Tourists are advised to wear aqua shoes or flip-flops before walking on the sandbar to avoid stepping on stonefishes that are present in the area.
Tourists also have the chance to swim around the sandbars and they can even trek to the peak of some limestone formations in the area to see the entire “snake” and a better view of the sea.
Another island included in El Nido is Pangulasian island that is famous for its white sand beach and awesome natural resources.
Tourists may opt to go swimming or snorkeling in the sea and enjoy the rich marine life of the island or just lay in the sand and then, later on, leave with a sun-kissed skin.
Pangulasian Island is also known as the “Island of the Sun” for its wonderful views of the sunrise and the sunset.
The island also has groves of tropical forests and a pristine beach that would be very much appreciated by tourists especially photographers.
Miniloc Island was dubbed as the “perfect beach holiday destination” for those travelling to El Nido.
This island is right in the middle of Bacuit Bay El Nido and its jagged coastline is filled with pockets of white sand beaches and lagoons and caves that are both deep and shallow.
A paradise that many would have thought as something that only existed in movies!
The main attractions on this island are the Big and Small Lagoons that attract many tourists over the years.
The Big Lagoon is a huge body of water that is enveloped by towering limestone cliffs that line up on both sides of the lagoon like sentinels that gives off a feeling of sailing through another dimension as your boat ride goes deeper into it.
The Big Lagoon has crystal blue waters that reflect the light from the sun, peeking through the top of the cliffs. With the limestones surrounding it, many have called it the limestone labyrinth which added to Miniloc Island’s fame.
The Small Lagoon, on the other hand, is a lagoon only accessible through a gap between two giant limestone rocks that appear to be about to kiss each other. Through space, a person could swim or kayak into the lagoon. The cliffs surrounding the lagoon, together with the rocks ad the corals in the shallow part of the area tempers the waves from the sea, protecting the water in the lagoon from all the possible violent events that may occur in the open sea.
Helicopter Island, officially called Dilumacad Island, is home to towering cliffs sandwiching thick dark green rainforests rich with various species of floras and faunas.
On one side of the island, there is a noticeable massive mountain with cliffs that have edges that looks rounded from afar. This landscape made the island look more nurturing the others that have sharp and strong -looking cliffs. Most parts of the mountain are “naked” revealing its contours carved by time.
On the other end of the island appears another cliff that looks like the helicopter’s tail from afar, rising from a wide beautiful white sand. During late afternoons, the cliff blocks off the sun which allows tourists to stay longer in the area’s cool shade.
The waves in the island are also a little more violent than that of the other islands in El Nido which makes it a good spot for daredevil swimmers.
The Seven Commandos Beach is quite a historic spot. According to some locals, there was once a huge fishing vessel that was stranded in the waters of El Nido. After three days, the passengers of the boat decided to find a place that could become their temporary home and they ended up inhabiting the island for three months until their vessel was repaired.
Later on, the locals discovered the beach and explored it and found a carving on one of the huge stones that read “Seven Commandos”. It was believed that the words that the locals found were the name of the fishing vessel that got stranded in El Nido.
Others, however, believe that the name of the beach was inspired by the story of seven soldiers who once lived in there whose names are still carved in the rocks in the Seven Commandos Beach.
Seven Commandos Beach has a pristine beach and coconut trees stood proud like soldiers ready for battle along it, with their leaves waving like mothers eagerly waiting for the return of their child. Hospitable, don’t you think? Seven Commandos Beach has a vast sandy shore perfect for sunbathing or playing sports or simply lazing.
Shimizu Island has long been considered as one of the nicest snorkeling sites in El Nido because of the various marine life in the area. The island has a white sand beach ideal for picnics not only for tourists but for locals as well.
The picturesque view of Shimizu Island offers a good background for picture taking, considering the relaxing ambiance of the place and the awesome limestone cliffs.
Shimizu Island was named after a Japanese diver who died in an underwater cave exploration in an underwater tunnel in the island.
Considered as the foremost feature of Pinasil Island is the Cathedral Cave that, for many, does not look impressive from afar. But up close, however, this impression drastically changes as its features become clearer to the visitors. The cave has an opening higher albeit narrow than that of the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Surrounded by high rocky cliffs that feature unusual stalactites, Cathedral Cave can definitely be considered one of El Nido’s most promising wonders.
The cave has a dark interior and is so high and large that its ceiling cannot even be seen by visitors. It has lovely greenish blue water that is, unfortunately, too risky for swimming since the cave is home to extremely aggressive, territorial, and venomous sea snakes. On each side of the Cathedral Cave are beautiful overhanging cliffs perfect for deepwater soloing if not only for the danger brought about by those nasty snakes slithering under the water.
Lagen Island is an ideal destination for those seeking a relaxing holiday in a private and tranquil island; nestled between a lush of four – hectares of forest and a calm, shallow lagoon.
This island has breathtaking limestone cliffs that serve as natural attractions in the area and a sanctuary for a diverse variety of birds and mammals.
Tourists will be given the chance to observe animals flourishing in their natural habitat.
Nacpan Beach is undeniably one of the most stunning beaches in the Philippines.
Located in the north of El Nido town proper, this coconut tree-lined, a powdery sand pristine beach is perfect for swimming in the crystal clear sea or relaxing in the sun. It’s a fabulous place to visit when you are in El Nido.
On the southwest tip, Nacpan meets with the smaller twin-Calitang Beach. The best spot where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the two beaches is on top of the small hill which marks the spot where the beaches meet.
While island hopping is the “thing” in El Nido, Palawan, it does not mean that it’s the only thing you can do in the municipality. Corong Corong Beach is a great place to enjoy the last few hours of the day, walking along a “golden sand” that is being illuminated by the setting sun. Day-trippers opt to go to Corong Corong Beach to enjoy a good view of the sunset relaxing in the sand or laying on hammocks.
The reefs of El Nido offers some of the greatest marine biodiversity in the Philippines having 850 species of fishes, 120 species of corals, 5 species of sea turtles, some nudibranchs and many other creatures.
On any given dive, divers are likely to see the abundance of El Nido’s fish reefs, having various schools of parrotfish, damselfish, butterfly fish, angelfish, pipefish, clownfish, sweetlips, and many others. Huge schools of mackerel, batfish, and barracuda are also likely to be seen during divings along with grouper, snapper, and trevallies.
Divers are also likely to encounter hawksbill or green sea turtle, and families of scorpion fish and moray eel. There are also occasional sightings of eagle ray, manta ray, blacktip reef shark, bumphead, napoleon and for lucky ones, the whale shark.
Lobsters, cuttlefish, and seahorse are also regularly seen in the area. Aside from those mentioned, the waters of El Nido also has a very interesting macro life beneath it, creatures such as shrimps, crabs, jawfish, gobies, nudibranchs, and worms serve as another set of eye candies for divers who visit the place.
Night dives are also advised when in El Nido because it’s the time of the day when all the crustaceans are in the open, together with octopus, squid, and even bioluminescence. Dugong, a medium-sized marine mammal that feeds on seagrass may also be seen occasionally in El Nido.