Get ready to cross one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, astonishing, inspiring places in the world off your bucket list. El Nido is ready for you. From budget to badass, you can find all sorts of accommodation here in the form of hostels, tree houses, glamping, and cozy resorts. El Nido is quite popular on the backpacker trail, which means that western food is readily available, parties are non-stop, and adventure tours are well-thought out. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that El Nido is overcrowded because it’s not.
You see, El Nido isn’t the easiest location to access, but those who push through are handsomely rewarded with some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet. The coast is a maze of limestone cliffs, caves, lagoons, and secret beaches that you could stay and explore for weeks on end. Inland is full of waterfalls, hiking trails, and Filipino villages offering of authentic food you must try. This, my friends, is the definition of paradise.
Let’s explore the best things to do in El Nido:
Grab your kayaks and get ready for the most breathtaking, jaw dropping, “I can’t believe this is real” day of your life. As you head out to Bacuit Bay, the most popular spot for kayaking, you’re going to want to hit 3 spots on your adventure: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and Miniloc Island.
There will be plenty of tour agencies to rent you the kayaks and give you a map along with some tips on how to get where you’re going. Alternatively, you can hire a kayak guide to follow and navigate for you.
2. Big Lagoon
You can opt to rent a kayak or hire a boat to take you to the Big Lagoon. When the current isn’t gliding you along, you’ll navigate around towering walls of jagged rock that look like they’re CGI imposed until you come into a little inlet with bright sea foam green water with a little beach ahead. The lagoon is magical.
The crystal water is almost glowing, bringing the entire backdrop to life. You can see Sea Urchins through the clear water, and little fish, too. All around you, the scenery is stunning with islands in the distance and winding rock towering over you.
3. Small Lagoon
The entrance to the Small Lagoon is just a narrow gap in-between two big rocks. It feels super secret, which is half the appeal! When you make it through via kayak or hired boat, throw on your snorkel and get in the water! There are delicate corals to be seen with tiny fish that blend in with the sand. Plus, the water is quite warm here!
The lagoon is so small that when you’re alone with just your crew, you could swear that you are the only ones that know about it.
4. Twin Beaches
Together, Nacpan Beach and Calitang Beach make up the ever-so-popular Twin Beaches which lie in the north of El Nido.
Nacpan Beach is a 4-kilometer stretch of golden sand and strong waves that create the most mesmerizing combination. The waves can get a little strong, so it’s recommended only to swim near the volleyball courts where the water is calmer. You can visit the resto-bars on this beach that sells snacks and beer for a chilled out day.
Calitang Beach is right next to Nacpan Beach but is much smaller. In between the two beaches there is a viewpoint that you can climb up gaze down on the entire layout.
To get there, hire a tricycle or a motorbike. Even better, if you can find an ATV, go with that option. The roads are a bit muddy especially after it rains. The journey will take you around 45 minutes from El Nido town.
5. Nagkalit-kalit Falls
In the mood for a little hike? It’s really more of a stroll. You’ll set off on foot through the jungle down a trodden path between sky-high palm trees and then a little bit of off-roading to reach a waterfall- but you get the picture.
The journey itself to Nagkalit-kalit Falls is a memorable experience, let alone the actual waterfall. The waterfall is made up of one big vertical steam that forms a shallow swimming pool and one smaller waterfall. Both are unspoiled examples of how naturally gorgeous this island is.
Pro Tip: Your feet are going to get wet on this hike. Some people do just fine in flip-flops.
6. Tour E- Inland Beaches and Waterfalls Tour
The most popular tour you’ll find being offered all around El Nido is the Tour E-Inland Beaches and Waterfalls Tour. This tour is typically for 2 people as the transport is via tricycle, but you could always get more tricycles!
The tour will take you to the Nagkalit-Kalit waterfalls and Nacpan Beach. The fee includes a tour guide for the whole day, transportation, and the Eco Development Fees. This tour offers the best of both worlds on land.
Bring shoes for hiking to the waterfall, and swim gear for the beach!
7. Las Cabanas Beach
Las Cabanas Beach offers everything you could want in a Philippine island beach: white sands, clear water, and palm trees lining the thing. However, Las Cabanas Beach has one extra feature that stands out: a zipline. From the beach, you’ll embark on a 10-minute climb up some stairs to reach the landing point. The experts will strap you in and send you down a 750-meter long zip line to feel the wind in your hair. This zip line isn’t particularly scary, but more so, an opportunity to soak some of the most gorgeous scenery you’ll ever see in your life.
When you get to the bottom, get a table on the beach where you can watch a truly memorable sunset.
8. El Nido Party Boat
Unlimited alcohol, carefree travelers, and world-class scenery all in one place- the El Nido Party Boat is a must-do. Climb on the 2-story vessel and set off on a booze-filled island hopping tour with likeminded travelers. You will cruise to 3 or 4 beaches in El Nido where you can jump off and play around. There will be a BBQ on board and snacks all day. Snorkel, dance, drink, swim, and make some new friends during the best boat trip ever.
Pick up is 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 holds a Full Moon Party. A Full Moon Party is more than just drinking, and dancing all night long. It’s a gathering of free-spirited people dressed in bright colors and glowing florescent face paint that are having happy times with strangers.
There is live music with reggae bands and DJs who know just what to play to keep the party going. You’ll see fire spinners along the shore and there will also be a bonfire that is so big you have to see it to believe it.
10. Cathedral Caves
So subtle, you wouldn’t even know that this cathedral within a cave was even here! It will take local guides to spot the narrow opening between jagged rocks and cliffs. You’ll go through the opening and into a cathedral-like cave with tall ceilings that were meant for Adele tunes.
Within the cave, you’ll come to a seemingly out-of-place Goonies-esque sand beach with a beam of sunlight shining through a small opening in the ceiling. There are lots of smooth ledges to climb and lots of photo opportunities to be taken.
11. Pukka Bar
During the day, post up at Pukka Bar where you can feast on some mighty fine Western food that you’ve surely been missing by now. Have some seafood pasta and garlic bread along with an ice-cold San Miguel beer while listening to some chill tunes and making some new friends.
When night rolls around, get ready to party. Pukka Bar becomes a backpackers dream with live music, fluorescent black lights, and social vibes that go til late.
The companies that organize the snorkel tours know just where you take you so that you see the most sea life possible. In fact, the snorkel tours are so popular that there are staple tours labeled A, B, C, and D.
Tour A takes you to the Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach.
Tour B goes to Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Cudugnon Cave, Entalula Beach and to a snorkeling site in the middle of the waters.
Tour C will venture to Helicopter Island, Star Beach, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, and Mantinloc Shrine.
Tour D visits Ipil Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Cadlao Beach, Paradise Beach, Bukal Beach, and Natnat Beach.
Every tour is awesome- it’s impossible not to have a good time. Every tour also includes the snorkel mast and lunch. Why not try them all?
13. Snake Island (Vigan Island)
Don’t worry; there aren’t any snakes out here. Rather, this island got its name from its long snake shape. This tiny sliver of sand, rock, and hill off the coast of El Nido is the perfect place to go exploring for an hour or so.
Dock on the white sand beach and set inland. Climb up the rocky hill and when you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view.
When you climb back down, visit one of the floating bars to get a coconut juice or a beer. Just be sure to properly discard your trash!
14. Happiness Beach Bar
It’s easy to get swept up in day drinking at Happiness Beach Bar. Maybe it’s the chair swings at the bar that peacefully rock you into a hypnotic state, the charming bartenders who know how to make the perfect margarita, or the cozy chairs facing the water that melt your problems away. Whatever it is, just give in.
Food here is pretty awesome and gives you a chance to remember what it was like to eat healthy. They have salad options, hummus plates, pita falafels and more yummy goodness that will leave you feeling satisfied.
15. Hidden Beach
Have you ever seen the movie “The Beach”? In the movie there is a secret cove that houses a hidden bean and small lagoon hidden in a rock formation. Well, El Nido has the same thing.
Hidden Beach is a prime example of what makes El Nido so special. Around every corner there is a new place to be discovered, but only if you are with a local who knows their way there.
Hire a boat to take you. The earlier the better so that you can beat the crowds and really feel like this is your own secret beach. Photographers will love this place!