Islands & Beaches Around El Nido

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Undoubtedly, the main lure why people flock to El Nido is the world class beaches and islands. Rightfully so, they definitely won't disappoint and might even exceed your expectation. The towering limestone karsts and monoliths added a special allure to these nature's spectacle and embed an experience in your life that won't be erased in the sands of time. El Nido is synonymous to these ravishing islands and beaches so that's why this post will feature each one of them and all information you need to know.

I will claim it that I'm lucky to live in one of the tropical paradise in the world such as the Philippines. Stunning beaches are everywhere. The 7,107 islands which made up the country is more than enough to keep me busy in uncovering the beauty hidden in all of those. I barely scratch the surface because I'm still struggling visiting even half of those islands. My recent trip in El Nido granted a good number to scratch off that list. 

Let me go over by details of every shores and islets that captivated our soul in our short stay in El Nido. Not all of them stun us the same way as others. Some takes awhile & a little more exploration before we have finally uncovered the hidden beauty which is so much more magnificent than what it appears to be. There are those special ones that's just downright elegant no matter the angle is.

  • TWIN BEACH : NACPAN BEACH & CALITANG BEACH
Location : Barangay Bucana, El Nido Philippines


We did this in our first day after we freshen up and found an accommodation for our second day we hired a van ( Php 2,500.00 for a day ) to take us anywhere we want to go in El Nido. If you are conflicted to choose between a van or a tricycle I would definitely suggest to go with a van if possible because the road going to this twin beach is quite dusty and bumpy. It's actually quite far from the town of El Nido so it takes so much energy and time for people who choose trek their way to this spot. I noticed some red clay in the path going into this beach and it can surely stain your footwear if you decide to walk your way here.



The moment we get off the van it was Nacpan Beach who welcomed us with her pristine beauty. The heat that troubled us whole morning dissipated to thin air and we mindlessly run into her crystal clear water. "Paradise!" that's the word that resonated in my head when I caught a full glimpse of her unsullied shoreline. The heat is probably 40°C around that time but the invigorating sea breeze helps dull our senses. 


Nacpan Beach
The next thing that troubles me is if we're in the right location because this is supposed to be a twin beach and I don't see any sign of that other beach anywhere. Should I go left or right to reach that famous viewing area. I trust my instinct to go left and abandon my friends who're still going crazy of the beauty in front of them with pictures & selfies. I noticed a group going the same way I did so that's a good sign for me.



The softness of the sand feels like marshmallow to my feet and length of the shore with the azure water made it even more exquisite. It's a no brainer why Nacpan Beach goes in and out of the worldwide list as being one of the best beaches in the world.

 The size of Nacpan beach cannot fully be justified when you're browsing some photos. It took me almost 15 minutes of trek to reach the other end of the shore where the hill is situated. I passed through a small fishing community and admired how spotless it is still in the area. They gain my respect for keeping their community as clean as possible.


Calitang Beach
After climbing the sand dune, I finally caught a glimpse of Calitang beach, which is far less stunning, in the other side. Then I go straight ahead to the small hill to see the full beauty of the twin beach and voila! it was an ethereal experience. I have never seen such a beautiful scene in my life. This beach impresses me for so many reasons and no picture can ever truly portray the entirety of her beauty. 



Nacpan Beach isn't literally a white sand beach but actually more creamy in color. This idea doesn't bother me at all for picking it as one of my favorite shores in the Philippines. The softness of the sand feels like marshmallow to my feet and length of the shore with the azure water made it even more exquisite. It's a no brainer why Nacpan Beach goes in and out of the worldwide list as being one of the best beaches in the world with the recent one in Tripadvisor 



  • LAS CABANAS COVE / BEACH
Location : Taytay - El Nido National Highway, El Nido Philippines


I have no knowledge about Las Cabanas until it was recommended by our driver saying it's a good sunset spot. Since Nagkalit-kalit Falls is completely dried up and Bulacacao Falls is too far for our limited time we decided to head over to this cove after Nacpan & Calitang. The convenient passage they made was just recently opened so there's no entrance fee yet. It is commonly known as plain Las Cabanas Beach but I prefer adding 'Cove' because it really is a cove. We were greeted with a party vibe coast after descending a steep concrete staircase. 

We picked this spot because of this wickedly cool sign.
The shoreline in Las Cabanas is far from the recluse beauty of the previous beach we visited. It was low tide when we got there so it doesn't look eye candy to us. Expect to see half naked people occupying the shores while sun bathing during peak season. Heck! My fingers lost track of the number of topless women sunbathing displaying their crowning glory to random bystanders. Las Cabanas is a perfect place to chill, enjoy the festive crowd & music and wait for the sun to set. We decided to pick a spot then ordered some beers and relish the moment. 


Las Cabanas is a perfect place to chill, enjoy the festive crowd & music and wait for the sun to set.

After almost an hour, my nomadic feet wouldn't sit still so I decided to explore the entirety of the cove and that's when I discovered my favorite spot in El Nido. As I was exploring further, I was accompanied by my couple friends ( who sadly broke up after the trip :'c ) and we passed through more nudity amidst the unforgiving heat of the sun. As the restobars get cooler and the crowd get wilder I wouldn't expect to find a solitary spot up ahead. The resorts are getting posh as I continue further. We spotted where people climb up to experience that crazy zipline passing through another island.

After nearly half an hour, we finally reach the last resort in the cove we were stun of what our eyes revealed to us. My companions are astonished and keep saying that spot doesn't feel like Philippines anymore. All I keep repeating in my head is that "this is El Nido!" and the best part is not a single soul here besides us. 

Yep! This photo I've been boasting everywhere is taken here. I wish I climbed that coconut tree.
Of course! I wouldn't leave the place without a photo taken with my sun kissed *err! burnt* skin
After a satisfying photo ops we decided to head back and join the others to wait for the sunset. Fair enough it is indeed a beautiful sunset spot and one of the most memorable sunset in the entire trip. Las Cabanas Cove can be reached by foot from the main town but hiring a tricycle will save you some precious time in getting here.

Sunset in Las Cabanas

  • BACUIT BAY
Location : Barangay Maligaya ( Zone I ), El Nido Philippines


The town center of El Nido has a famous beach on its own that sets the standard of what to expect when we arrived in the morning and they call it Bacuit Bay. We were astound with the stunning sunrise scene we witness here when we arrived in the first day while searching for a place to stay.


sunrise scene in Bacuit Bay.


The limestone karst decorating the beach made it unique and I can still see traces of the former beauty of the shore before settlement ruins it. I wouldn't advise anyone to swim in its water because it has a recurrent coliform bacteria problem due to improper sewage management. I hope the local government can find a solution to this dilemma before it gets worse. Bacuit Bay is a good spot for some sunset watch as well.






  • HELICOPTER ISLAND
Location : Dilumacad Island, El Nido Philippines


The second day is the island hopping day for all of us. We manage to convince the tour agency to merge the Tour A & C into one given the limited time we have and they gladly oblige. We started the tour in the earliest time possible at around 8 am. Normally, the island hopping tour will only visit four famous spots. Since we merged the two tours, we will be visiting eight spots instead and that means we need to allocate our time well to accommodate all of that in one day. 

Our first stop is Dilumacad Island but it is now commonly known as "helicopter island" by the tourist because the limestone cliffs resembles a helicopter from a distance. Majority of the island is now owned by Ayala  but a small patch of white sand beach in the southern end is open to the public. An underwater tunnel occupies the northern part of the island and a fringing reef on the southern end with a small strip of white sand beach where the island hoping tour happens. We were overwhelmed the moment we docked in the island.  


Can you make out the shape of the Helicopter?

Surprisingly, this is actually the first white beach we encounter in Palawan so we go crazy with photos after photos and jump shots after jump photos. It's a bonus our guide can take a jump shot photo in just one click. Isn't he amazing!? We were lucky to be the first tourist in the island for that day, so that's why it is important to start the island hopping tour in the earliest time possible especially during peak season in summer.


The obligatory squad photo. Can you spot where am I in the photo? Please post it in the comment box below.

We spend most of our time here snorkeling because the beauty of the island is hidden underwater. It's a memorable time for the two snorkeling virgins pink short & bald dude ) of our group because they get to enjoy the activity for the first time. And I was encouraging one member who's afraid of the deep even with a life vest on ) to go deep with us to enjoy a much lush coral garden. He did not give in this time and prefers to stay in the shallow part of the shore. I've seen a variety of angel fish with different colors & patterns while snorkeling in the fringe reef and some black snapper. I found two beautiful coral stones that I brought home as a souvenir with me. We left when another group arrive in the island.

  • MATINLOC SHRINE
Location : Matinloc Island, El Nido Philippines



Our second stop is a part of the Matinloc island  the abandoned Matinloc Shrine. As we are nearing the island we gazed into the haunting structure from a distance with an eerie astonishment. The shrine really stand out in a back drop of natural beauty because it is the only man made structure that can be seen in the area. I'm not a fan of such building so I discreetly ask our guide what's to see here besides that shrine and his finger goes into the direction of the sharp limestone karst and says the view up there is priceless! And that got me excited.


A small strip of white sand welcomed our boat to the island and so far it is the most fine white sand in Palawan according my senses.

A small strip of white sand welcomed our boat to the island and so far it is the most fine white sand in Palawan acoording to my senses. Surprisingly, the shrine now demanded an entrance fee of Php 100.00 to guests for renovation purposes but luckily, we were so early that the person who guards the island is not there yet so it was exempted for us.


The entrance to the shrine is so scenic that we couldn't resist another photo ops and that took a chunk of time. Everyone pose for a photo even if the guide continually remind us to hurry so we will evade the entrance fee. A Grecian architecture with some religious figures and a big cross is the first to greet us and it is then that occurred to me that this is a Catholic shrine. 


The entrance to the shrine is so scenic that we couldn't resist another photo ops.




None of us paid much attention to the shrine because our priority is the view above the limestone karst. I am definitely gonna take a panorama photo up there of the seascape. Conveniently, someone carved some steps behind the karst so that made the ordeal in climbing the rock much easier. Once we reach the top, we were rewarded with a surreal view of the Matinloc island and the other islands surrounding it. 





The Obligatory Panorama Shot in Matinloc Shrine and the hardship I went through getting here is another story

There are many stories about why the island was abandoned but the most plausible one I can believe is about the separation of the couple who commissioned in building the shrine that's why it never reaches completion after almost a decade of work. The furniture were looted by the locals and only the huge ones that was left alone in the ruins. An initiative to restore the shrine was commenced by someone and since they are short of funds an entrance fee of Php 100.00 is now required for every visitor.

We left just before the person guarding the island arrive. 




  • TALISAY BEACH
Location : Tapiutan Island, El Nido Philippines



After a quick visit in the shrine we passed through the Tapiutan Strait towards the small shore of Talisay Beach in Tapiutan Island. Our guide says it was named after an indian almond tree ( talisay tree in the local dialect ) which grows in the small patch of white sand in the island but my research shows that this is actually the famous Simizu Island. 


And this is the indian almond tree now

The beach is divinely in the midday sun with the azure water tempting us for a swim it did not take long for all of us to jump into the sea once the boat reaches the shore. It's mostly water here with very little coast and the towering limestone karst decorating the beach made it hauntingly beautiful! I can hear bird residing in the limestone cliffs above us making weird sounds. There are numerous small caverns formed by the limestone karst for anyone seeking shade from the unforgiving sun. 

It's mostly water here with very little coast and the towering limestone karst decorating the beach made it hauntingly beautiful!

Yes! The cover photo of this post is from this heavenly island.

Surprisingly, just when we thought we have the island to ourselves we were ambushed by an annoying vendors who sells overpriced drinks as we explore the coast a little more. They just wouldn't leave us alone even if we say 'no' so the best thing to do in that situation is ignore their plea. We were told by our guide that this is a good snorkeling spot so we should swim around for a couple of minutes while they prepare our lunch.


Isn't it just beautiful?

We search for a spot and snorkel. There are so many varieties of fishes in the coral reef here and some are really huge. Those that standout most are the super cute clownfish defending their sea anemone homes from anyone who gets close. I just love watching them get too territorial against the other fish. The best part is they are so close to the shore which is just perfect for snorkeling. 



We ended the fun activity with a call for a sumptuous lunch. I'd say the best lunch in the entire trip and I'm not even fond of seafood. I guess the location really condition our appetite and eating with just our hands made the experience even more memorable. 


Our tropical island lunch. Anyone?

By noontime, the island is crowded with different boats and other tourists already and just the perfect time to leave.




  • SECRET BEACH
Location : Matinloc Island, El Nido Philippines




Our next destination is my priority because I have strange fascination in exploring secrets and hidden things. My mind is overflowing with beautiful images of how the secret beach works. All I know is we swim through a hole and reach a beautiful shoreline inside hidden from the outside world. Secret Beach made backpacking a worldwide trend with the travel novel The Beach, which was adapted to a film with Leonardo DiCaprio, was inspired here when the author, Alex Garland wandered to this hidden shore.





We arrived in a dull location with numerous boats parking in front of a huge limestone karst. I knew in my head that this is the location and my devilish grin started when I remember one friend who is too afraid in deeper waters even with a life vest on. I jump into the water filled with anticipation and then swim fast as I could to the narrow crevice in the rock wall. I forgot my friends again because I was too preoccupied of what to see inside. 


Secret Beach made backpacking a worldwide trend with the travel novel The Beach, which was adapted to a film with Leonardo DiCaprio, was inspired here when the author, Alex Garland wandered to this hidden shore.


The small crevice will fit one person but there are some ledges to hang unto and swim a couple of meters to reach a fringe reef where you can just walk to the shore. For non swimmers, the scary part is the swim from the boat to the hole in the wall and after that it is no challenge anymore. I actually go back to tease a friend who's clearly panicking even with the assistance of a life vest and the guide *insert evil laugh lol...*


Obligatory selfie with our cool guide 

The shore inside was disappointing and I did not expect it would be that cramped. It was somewhere around five meters in length and it's hard to appreciate it if it's crowded inside. The charming part happens during noon time, which was perfect in our case, when the sun's ray streams in through the opening allowing a stunning play of light and shadow against the limestone walls. 


The charming part happens during noon time when the sun's ray streams in through the opening allowing a stunning play of light and shadow against the limestone walls. 


Our guide go an extra mile to take that photo for us by climbing the limestone karst.

I remember making my territorial mark by taking a leak against an old tree in the back area of the beach where, surprisingly, there are zero people around. Everyone somehow just stayed along the shore. We did not stay long though after a few pictures we go back to our boat. On the way out, I stumbled into someone crying with his life vest almost choking him and I was reminded I used to be like that in my pre-traveling days. I've faced a lot of fears and learned a lot of tricks on my wayfaring days. 


Kulasa Lagoon Beach aka "Hidden Beach"
Kulasa Lagoon Beach is an interesting beach with a few meters strip of fine white sand hidden by limestone cliffs in Matinloc Island which we were not able to visit in our limited time.

Welcome to the not so secret 'Secret Beach' in El Nido
  • MINILOC ISLAND

Location : Miniloc Island, El Nido Philippines




We came here to visit the maze of beautiful spots in Miniloc Island. It carefully tuck the most beautiful lagoons in El Nido such as Secret Lagoon, Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. It's no wonder this is the first island in El Nido which was converted into a resort by the Ten Knots Development Co. partnered with Ayala Land  

  • SECRET LAGOON
Location : Miniloc Island, El Nido Philippines

Secret Lagoon was our first stop in Miniloc Island. My excitement around this part of the island hopping tour is on its peak after the new experience in Secret Beach. Unfortunately, it is around this time that most of the tourists are out on these islands and to our surprise the area is filled with island hopping boats. I must say it is harder to appreciate it now when the crowd dampen the exquisite beauty of the area.


The most accurate visual representation I could summon is to a train station in the big city. It is that crowded!

We have to swim our way to the entrance of the lagoon because the parking area approximate to the lagoon is quite full. The water is actually shallow so it possible to walk through the reef but I prefer swimming to avoid unnecessary pricking from the sea urchins and other pointy creatures living in the reef.


Entrance to the Secret Lagoon
The crowd swells near the entrance of the lagoon because everyone are taking turns to go in & out of the small hole which serves as a passage into the secret lagoon. It's an odd or rather funny scene for me because there are actually lines being made. The most accurate visual representation I could summon is to a train station in the big city. Yep! It is that crowded!


Well... at least the sky looked beautiful!

Once we were inside it was even harder to appreciate the lagoon because of the huge crowd in such a limited space. The shallow water turns murky and we were surrounded by limestone walls. The sun barely reaches the lagoon so it creates this gloomy shadow to the karst. I see people taking selfies despite the crowd which made me wonder if they're doing it for the sake of just having a photo inside the lagoon.

The shallow water turns murky and we were surrounded by limestone walls. The sun barely reaches the lagoon so it creates this gloomy shadow to the karst and I see people taking selfies.

Obligatory group photo inside Secret Lagoon
Our guide was pointing out the different rock formation inside ( Crocodile, The Last Supper etc. ) to my companions and I wasn't able to hear him blabber because I was preoccupied with observing how the people behave inside. It's only been a couple of minutes have passed inside and I already want to get out but couldn't because everyone must wait for their turn.


Everyone couldn't wait to get out lol...
Expectation does suck the fun out of everything. All of us are underwhelmed with what we experienced in Secret Lagoon. I bet it would have been way better if it isn't crowded. We left hoping the next one will brought us back to our ecstatic / excited state. 

  • BIG LAGOON
Location : Miniloc Island, El Nido Philippines

The Big Lagoon is my dream destination in El Nido and it has become its signature imagery in some of the photos I've seen in package tours, tourism sites and blogs. I bet if you input 'El Nido' in Google you will be bombarded with beautiful photos of this stunning lagoon. It is so lovely that a director decided to shot the ending scene of The Bourne Legacy  in here. So yes! This is the national destination in El Nido and rightfully deserving of such prestige.


My mind wander in between the island hopping tour we had and imagine if the infamous Big Lagoon will impress me in any way. This is the reason why I came over to El Nido in the first place and I just want a photo taken over those imposing limestone formations while I'm seated in the front edge of our boat with the crystal clear water of the lagoon below us. This is the ideal photo I want while our boat slowly navigating inside the lagoon but life is full of surprises and we don't always get what we want. On my case I got something better!

It is so lovely that a director decided to shot the ending scene of The Bourne Legacy in here.

We braved the ocean as our boatman navigated the vessel against the strong current to head over to the opposite side of the island. The waves caught us off guard because it has been smooth sailing all morning. I didn't brought any dry bag with me on this trip so my gadgets are the first of my worries as the boat is slowly taken over by salt water with the waves consistently pushing through us. I've learned to enjoy the strong ripples of the ocean when I've secured my belonging inside the dry bag of our guide. 

The first thing I noticed are the numerous boats parked outside the lagoon. I thought to myself so it's forbidden to go inside the lagoon now with a big vessel? 

It's 02:13 pm, we finally arrived in the Big Lagoon and the first thing I noticed are the numerous boats parked outside the lagoon. I thought to myself so it's forbidden to go inside the lagoon now with a big vessel? Why are they parked outside? It's when we got real close that my query was answered. I was like 'F*CK!'



Business is booming in this area as I noticed some floating cottages leased their canoes and paddles for Php 300.00 each. The boat weren't able to enter because it is already low tide and only through swimming, kayaking or SUPing can anyone approach the lagoon. I even saw people navigating the lagoon with their feet but I wouldn't advise it because the seabed are roughened up by the sharp corals. So we rented one canoe instead and spend most of our time taking turns in kayaking.


Is expectation better than reality? Yes!!!
The passageway to the Big Lagoon spans for a hundred meters and surrounded by imposing limestone cliffs with vegetation growing all over it. Can you imagine that long walk you have to take after a rustic gate to reach an elegant mansion? It's something like that! Only the pavement is replaced with crystal clear water and instead of walking, you swim or paddle your way inside to the dreamy lagoon.


As the water changes from a pale emerald to a dark sapphire, I know in my inner thoughts I've entered the inner sanctum of The Big Lagoon. My heart starts to beat faster and the deafening silence slowly engulfed my senses.

Mountainous karst covered the inner area of the lagoon. As the water changes from a pale emerald to a dark sapphire, I know in my inner thoughts I've entered the inner sanctum of The Big Lagoon. My heart starts to beat faster and the deafening silence slowly engulfed my senses. Beauty and madness is what I keep repeating to myself and why I strayed around that part of the lagoon. It wouldn't help that I have a companion with a creative mind which keep spewing non sense talk about the movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon  

The towering limestone walls provide a solitary sanctuary inside the lagoon while I was kayaking in the sapphire stained water. The ravishing imagery in front of me is such a delightful treat to my eyes. The echoing call of a seafaring avian soothes my ears. The sudden splash in the water and followed by a mysterious silence made the hair on the back of my neck stand. It's the mixing of these different emotions that rewards my senses in ecstatic ways. That relaxing sensation coupled with a feeling of dread that some creature will come out of the water and drag me to its depth got me hooked like a junkie.

The ravishing imagery in front of me is such a delightful treat to my eyes. The echoing call of a seafaring avian soothes my ears. The sudden splash in the water and followed by a mysterious silence made the hair on the back of my neck stand.

We took our time here knowing our wonderful day is about to end after a few hours. Our senses were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Big Lagoon and left with a full & satisfied heart hoping for another surprise as good as this. Only two more destinations left with one promises to be real crowded as our guide says.


An aerial shot of the 'Big Lagoon' in the center & 'Small Lagoon' in the middle right

  • SMALL LAGOON
Location : Miniloc Island, El Nido Philippines

Small Lagoon is the seventh destination for the day and I was exhausted. The moment I see the crowd here doubled from those in the previous lagoon I lost all interest of seeing this small one. The number of boats are so overwhelming that ours couldn't go near the entrance. It's visible from a distance and I see the crowd barely have space in there. It almost feels like there's a kayaking race inside and the arena is overwhelmed with spectators.


It is actually a good snorkeling site and I spotted a school of young fish rummaging below us. 

Two of my friends are still enthusiastic to see the lagoon up close despite the crowd and swim their way inside. After a few minutes I made attempt to follow them and actually jump into the water but ends up just snorkeling outside the lagoon. It is actually a good snorkeling site and I spotted a school of young fish rummaging below us. There's also a healthy coral garden teeming with life but the water is murky that's probably cause by the horde of boats all over the area.
  • LAST FRONTIER PARADISE
Location : Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido Philippines

Christian Vincent Literatus

Travel Blogger

Chris just loves to travel, and for a long time now has been drifting from place to place around the Philippines. With his combined passion for travel and photography, he’s managed to find himself in the middle of some magical moments and mind blowing scenery. The Bisdak Explorer is Chris’s way of sharing his experiences with you, and showcasing not just his travel photography, but the moments and stories behind those photos.

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