Get ready to travel from your bucket list to one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, astonishing, inspiring places in the world. El Nido is ready for you. From budget to badass, you’ll find all forms of accommodation here, including lodges, treehouses, glamping and cozy resorts. El Nido is popular on the backpacker trail, which means Western food is readily available, parties are non-stop, and adventures are well thought out. But don’t let you get the wrong idea that El Nido is overcrowded, because it’s not.
You see, El Nido isn’t the easiest place to get to, but those who make it through will be well-rewarded and get access to some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. The coast is a maze of limestone cliffs, caves, lagoons and secret beaches that you can linger and explore for weeks on end. The hinterland is full of waterfalls, hiking trails and Filipino villages that offer authentic food you must try. Friends, this is the definition of heaven.
Let’s explore the best things to do in El Nido:
Grab your kayak and get ready for the most amazing, jaw-dropping, “I can’t believe it’s real” day of your life. When you head to Baquet Bay, a favorite kayaking destination, you’ll want to check out 3 locations on your adventure: Big Lagoon, Little Lagoon, and Mineroko Island.
There will be plenty of tour operators who will rent kayaks for you and give you maps and some tips on how to get there. Alternatively, you can hire a kayak guide to follow and navigate for you.
2. The Great Lagoon
You can choose to rent a kayak or rent a boat to take you to the Great Lagoon. When the current isn’t flowing, you’ll navigate around towering walls of jagged rocks that look like CGI imposed until you enter a small inlet with bright sea foam green water and a small beach. The lagoon is magical.
The crystalline water is almost glowing, bringing the entire background to life. Sea urchins and small fish can be seen through the clear water. Around you, the scenery is breathtaking, with distant islands and winding rocks towering above you.
3. Small Lagoon
The entrance to the small lagoon is just a narrow gap between two large rocks. It feels super secret and it’s half the appeal! Put on your snorkel and get into the water as you pass by kayak or rented boat! Delicate corals and small fish that blend with the sand can be seen. Plus, the water here is warm!
The lagoon is so small that when you’re alone with your crew, you can swear you’re the only one who knows about it.
4. Twin Beaches
Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach together make up the popular Twin Beaches in northern El Nido.
Nacpan Beach is the most stunning combination of 4 kilometers of golden sand and strong waves. The waves can be a bit strong, so it is advisable to swim only near the volleyball court where the water is relatively calm. You can visit this restaurant bar on the beach, which sells snacks and beers to keep you cool during the day.
Calitang Beach is right next to Nacpan Beach, but much smaller. There is a viewpoint between the two beaches and you can climb up to gaze at the whole layout.
To get there, rent a tricycle or motorcycle. Even better, if you can find an ATV, choose that option. Especially after the rain, the road is a little muddy. The tour will take you about 45 minutes from El Nido town.
5. Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall
In the mood for a hike? It’s really more like a walk. You’ll hike through the jungle, follow a walkway between sky-high palm trees, and then cross a little to the waterfall – but you get the idea.
The trip to Nagkalit-kalit waterfall is an unforgettable experience in itself, not to mention the actual waterfall. The waterfall consists of a large vertical steam forming a shallow pool and a smaller waterfall. Both are unspoiled examples of the island’s natural beauty.
Pro tip: Your feet will get soaked on this hike. Some people do well with flip flops.
6. Tour E – Outback Beach and Waterfall Tour
The most popular tour around El Nido is the Tour E-Inland Beaches and Waterfalls Tour. This tour is usually for 2 people as the transport is a tricycle, but you can always get more tricycles!
This tour will take you to Nagkalit-Kalit Waterfall and Nacpan Beach. Fees include full-day guided tours, transportation and ecological development fees. This tour offers the best of both worlds on land.
Bring your hiking shoes to the waterfalls and your swimming gear to the beach!
7. Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas Beach offers everything you could want on a Philippine island beach: white sand, crystal clear waters and palm trees. However, Las Cabanas Beach has another standout feature: the zip line. From the beach, you will begin a 10-minute stair climb to the landing site. An expert will fasten your seatbelt and drop you off a 750-meter zipline to feel the wind blow through your hair. This zipline isn’t particularly scary, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in some of life’s most beautiful scenery.
When you get to the bottom, find a table on the beach where you can catch a truly unforgettable sunset.
8. El Nido Party Boat
Unlimited alcohol, carefree travelers and world-class scenery all in one place – El Nido Party Boat is a must do. Climb aboard a 2-story boat for a boozy island hopping tour with like-minded travelers. You’ll cruise to 3 or 4 El Nido beaches where you can jump off and play. BBQs and snacks will be available throughout the day. Snorkel, dance, drink, swim and make some new friends on the best boat trip ever.
Pickup at 11am and the boat will return to shore around 6pm, just in time for sunset.
9. El Nido Full Moon Party
Every month, El Nido hosts a full moon party. Full moon parties are more than just drinking and dancing all night. It’s a free-spirited group of people who wear bright colors and glowing fluorescent finishes and spend happy moments with strangers.
There’s live music from reggae bands and DJs who know what to play to keep the party going. You’ll see flame spinners along the shore, and there’s a bonfire so big you have to see it to believe it.
10. Cathedral Cave
So subtle that you don’t even know that the cathedral in this cave is actually here! A local guide is required to discover the narrow openings between the jagged rocks and cliffs. You’ll walk through the opening into a cathedral-like cave with high ceilings dedicated to Adele’s tunes.
Inside the cave, you’ll come to a seemingly out of place Goonies-style sandy beach, with a beam of sunlight streaming in through a small opening in the ceiling. There are plenty of smooth ledges to climb, and plenty of photo opportunities.
11. Puka Bar
During the day, you can post at Pukka Bar, where you can enjoy some delicious Western food that you are sure to miss now. Make some new friends while listening to cool tunes and enjoy a cold glass of San Miguel over seafood pasta and garlic bread.
When night falls, get ready to party. Pukka Bar becomes a backpacker’s dream, with live music, fluorescent black lights and a social atmosphere that lasts well into the night.
The companies that organize snorkeling trips know where you take you so you can see the most sea life. In fact, snorkeling tours are so popular that there are major tours marked A, B, C and D.
Tour A takes you to Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach.
Excursion B to Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cudugnon Cave, Entalula Beach and snorkeling spots in the middle of the water.
Tour C will go to Helicopter Island, Star Beach, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach and Mandinglok Shrine.
Tour D visits Ipil Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Cadlao Beach, Paradise Beach, Bukal Beach and Natnat Beach.
Every trip was great – impossible not to have fun. Each tour also includes a snorkeling mast and lunch. Why not try them all?
13. Snake Island (Vigan Island)
Don’t worry; there are no snakes here. Instead, the island got its name from its long serpentine shape. This stretch of fine sand, rocks and hills off the coast of El Nido is the perfect place to explore for an hour or so.
Dock on white sand and set inland. Climb up the rocky hills and when you reach the top, you will get a beautiful panorama.
As you climb down, visit one of the floating bars for coconut water or a beer. Make sure to dispose of your trash correctly!
14. Happiness Beach Bar
Drinking at the Bliss Beach Bar during the day can easily be intoxicating. Maybe it’s the rocking chair in the bar that calms you into a hypnotic state, the charming bartender who knows how to make the perfect margarita, or the comfy water-facing chairs that take your worries away. Whatever it is, just give in.
The food here is amazing and gives you a chance to remember what it’s like to eat healthy. They have salad options, hummus plates, pita falafel and many more delicacies to keep you satisfied.
15. Hidden Beach
Have you seen the movie “The Beach”? There is a secret bay in the movie with a hidden bean and small lagoons hidden in rock formations. Well, El Nido has the same thing.
Hidden Beach is a prime example of what makes El Nido so special. Every corner has a new place to discover, but only if you’re with a local who is familiar there.
Charter a boat to carry you. The sooner the better so you can beat the crowds and really feel like this is your very own secret beach. Photographers will love this place!
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in El Nido, Philippines
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