I’ve been to many places in the world, but nothing will ever compare to the unique charm of El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. This small town is every beach bum’s ultimate destination, as it offers the best scuba diving spots in the world, a lot of pristine beaches, stunning rock formations, long white sandbars, and lagoons and caves in various shapes and sizes.
When you visit El Nido, make sure you pack a reliable dslr camera because plenty of picture-perfect paradise-like beaches await you there. Aside from capturing El Nido’s beauty in photographs, brace yourself for the other six must-try activities in El Nido, Philippines:
- Snorkeling and diving in Shimizu Island
Shimizu Island will make you fall in love with the mesmerizing beauty of the underwater world and tempt you to take great underwater photos. The crystal-clear water will give you a glimpse of what’s underneath the waters of the island, which will make you want to jump off the boat and start swimming. As you snorkel and dive deep, feast your eyes on different live coral reefs, schooling fishes, and other marine creatures.
I was fortunate enough to snorkel around the island despite the bad weather during my visit. With life vests on, several tourists and I braved the current. It’s quite challenging to swim, but every stroke was worth it because of the magical underwater view. I saw different species of schooling fishes just like the ones in “Finding Nemo”! My snorkeling experience in Shimizu Island is by far the best I’ve ever had.
- Exploring the Secret Beach
When the boatmen and tour guides announced that we had arrived at the Secret Beach, I had only one question in mind: “Where is it?” I giggled and thought to myself, “it’s not called the ‘Secret Beach’ for no reason.” Our tour guide then pointed a small opening just below the rock formations and asked us to swim through it.
I was hesitant at first because the opening looked small, but it would be a bummer if I didn’t try going in. Along with other tourists, we swam through it and I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was like a swimming pool contained by breathtaking rock formations. The clear water just left me breathless.
- Kayaking in Big and Small Lagoons
Kayaking is the best way to tour and enjoy the Big and Small Lagoons of El Nido. Boats are prohibited to go near the entrance of Small Lagoon because of the low-lying live coral reefs around the place. We were encouraged to rent kayaks so that we wouldn’t step on the live corals we’re going to pass through to enter the lagoon. Kayaks are available for rent for PHP300 (US$7).
As we paddled our way through the Small Lagoon, we discovered that it had shallow and deep portions, so renting a kayak was definitely a good idea. Limestones and rock formations contain the water inside them, making the scenery look like a natural swimming pool.
Big Lagoon has rich coral reefs, so our boat docked far from the entrance. We had to swim and snorkel to reach the shallow waters that led us to our destination. Since it was low tide, we had to walk about 7 minutes to reach the Big Lagoon. When we arrived, it was so big and looked really deep because I couldn’t see anything through my snorkeling gear! I was terrified at first but eventually calmed down because of the serene view of rock formations around the lagoon.
- Swinging on the hammock of 7 Commandos Beach
7 Commandos Beach got its name from the seven commanding officers that discovered and stayed in the island. It’s said that their names were engraved in different rocks around the island, but no one has ever found it.
The intriguing, white-sand beach has light and clear waters that splash onto the shore. With the beach being surrounded by coconut trees, I couldn’t resist lazing in the amazing island while sipping a cold fresh coconut juice sold by the locals.
A tree in front of the shore caught my attention because some people were lining up under it, only to find out there’s an improvised hammock that you could swing by! When it was my turn, I climbed up the tree and sat on one of its branches. And when I slipped onto the hammock, the tour guide kept pushing me higher and higher! 7 Commandos Beach is definitely a perfect hideout for beach bums like me.
- Hiking the island of El Nido’s twin beaches
Ranking 10th on TripAdvisor’s 25 best beaches in the world is Nacpan Beach, also known as the twin of Calitang Beach because they rest side by side with an island separating them from each other. The cheapest way to go to Nacpan Beach is a 45-minute tricycle ride that you can rent in town for PHP1,500 (US$33), which can load four persons. You can hire a private van (still no public transfers to Nacpan beach), but it will cost you five times more. The road to the beach is not yet developed, so expect a bumpy ride.
I was fortunate to have haggled the price down to PHP1,000 (US$22) and got to see how pristine and beautiful the beach was. I wonder why something so beautiful hasn’t received the attention it deserves. If you want to see the best view of the twin beaches, just take a little hike from the beach to the island in the middle.
- Capping the day off at Las Cabanas Beach
While visitors need to ride a boat or kayak to get to some of the beaches in El Nido, Las Cabanas can be reached through tricycle or even better, by foot. Even though it’s just around the area of El Nido’s town proper, tourists tend to forget to visit it and miss out seeing its tranquil and turquoise waters.
My new friends and I rented a tricycle for PHP300 (US$7), which was already good for four. When we arrived at the beach, I was surprised that we were alone and ended up having the whole place to ourselves. We sat on the shore, sipped our beers, and waited for the sunset that everyone in El Nido town was talking about. A friend of mine advised me to bring tissue because the sunset’s so beautiful, I’d get all emotional. As cheesy as it may sound, viewing the sunset in Las Cabanas island was indeed an emotional moment for me.
I’ve been to El Nido a couple of times, but the place still leaves me in awe every time I visit. It will always have a special place in my heart because a lot of my unforgettable and amazing experiences happened in this little piece of heaven in Palawan.