Activities & Adventure

What To See and Do in El Nido

Written by Patrick

From island-hopping adventures to hidden beaches and lagoons, discover what you can see and do in El Nido!

Palawan is a haven for nature enthusiasts.  Its beauty and charm attract travelers not only from other parts of the Philippines but from many countries in the world too.  It is even referred to as the last frontier of the Philippines because of its natural resources including its rich flora and fauna.

The town of El Nido, along with Puerto Princesa City and the town of Coron is one of the most popular areas in Palawan.  Aside from pristine beaches with sands ranging from white to cream-colored, El Nido is also known for its iconic and towering cliffs, hidden lagoons, and of course, diverse marine life perfect for diving and snorkeling.

Located about 270 km. from Puerto Princesa City, reaching El Nido may take around five to six hours of bus or van ride from the province’s capital.  Nevertheless, it definitely is worth the effort as you will be rewarded with the most stunning views and experience you will surely remember for the rest of your life.

Here are the top attractions and activities to see and do in El Nido.

1 | Explore Big Lagoon by Kayak

Big Lagoon, El Nido

Caption: Big Lagoon, El Nido

Don’t leave El Nido without exploring the iconic Big Lagoon.  Nestled within Bacuit Bay, the impressive Big Lagoon is encircled by towering limestone cliffs covered with lush vegetation.  Its calm, crystal-clear waters make the lagoon even more inviting and stunning.  Accessible by kayak, visitors can navigate through the narrow entrance, leading into the expansive lagoon where limestone formations of varying sizes can be seen.

Big Lagoon is part of El Nido tour package A along with Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach.  The tour costs P1,200 per person which includes lunch and drinks.  The additional P200 for the environmental fee and another P200 for the entrance fee to Big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon should be paid by the tourist.  Kayak rental is at P300 to P350 per kayak.

2 | Be Enchanted by Secret Lagoon

Secret Lagoon Aerial View

Caption: Secret Lagoon Aerial View

Near the Big Lagoon is the Secret Lagoon, a secluded oasis that is accessible only through a small crevice in the cliffs.  Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a picturesque lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.  This lagoon is way smaller than Big Lagoon and has tranquil ambiance and enchanting vibe.

3 | Sunbath at Nacpan Beach

Nacpan Beach

Caption: Nacpan Beach

Voted as the world’s 10th best beach by TripAdvisor users in 2016, Nacpan Beach attracts tourists with its four-kilometer stretch of cream-colored sand, pristine waters, and rugged setting.  The shore is lined with coconut trees and has a few restaurants and overnight accommodations.  Majority of the tourists here are foreigners enjoying the tropical sun.

Just a short walk away lies Calitang Beach, offering a more secluded and peaceful setting with equally breathtaking scenery.

READ MORE: Nacpan Beach

4 | Discover the Secret Beach

Secret Beach Aerial View

Caption: Secret Beach Aerial View

El Nido is a place of many secrets!  Another secret place you must visit while in El Nido, particularly in Matinloc Island, is the Secret Beach.  Enclosed in limestone cliffs, getting to the shore of the beach entails swimming through a small hole in one of the cliffs.  Even the best swimmers need to be very careful not to hit the rocks while swimming through.  Aside from the pristine sand and clear water, you can also feast your eyes on colorful fishes, corals, and other marine life in Secret Beach.

Secret Beach is part of tour package C along with Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Hidden Beach, and Talisay.  The tour package costs P1,400 which includes lunch and drinks.  The additional P200 for the entrance fee to Matinloc Shrine should be paid by the tourist.

5 | Enjoy the views at Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

Caption: Hidden Beach

We’re not done with secrets and hidden yet.  On the other side of Matinloc Island is Hidden Beach.  While its shore is short, the pristine waters, soft white sand, and stunning views of the limestone walls framing the beach made up for it.  The entrance to the beach is long and narrow hence the need to kayak to get there is the best option.

READ MORE: Hidden Beach

6 | Matinloc Shrine

Matinloc Shrine

Caption: Matinloc Shrine

The highlight of tour package C, Matinloc Shrine features a deserted white-domed shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built in 1982.  The abandoned shrine with its crumbling beauty sits picturesquely between a beach and dramatic cliffs.  The main draw for visitors is the stunning view.  A short climb up a limestone hill leads to a natural viewpoint offering breathtaking panoramic vistas of the turquoise waters surrounded by towering limestone islets.

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7 | Have a Relaxing Lunch at Shimizu Island

Shimizu Island

Caption: Shimizu Island

Shimizu Island (also spelled Simizu) is a popular stop on island hopping tours, where visitors can relax on the pristine shores, swim in the inviting waters, and snorkel to discover colorful marine life thriving amidst the coral reefs.

8 | Beachbum in Seven Commando Beach

Seven Commando Beach

Caption: Seven Commando Beach

This stunning beach earns its name from a legend about seven Japanese soldiers who supposedly got stranded on the island after World War II. With its powdery white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees, Seven Commandos Beach epitomizes the postcard-perfect image of a tropical getaway. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing on the soft sands, swimming in the warm waters, or simply strolling along the shoreline while admiring the breathtaking scenery.  There are no restaurants or resorts in the area, just a small store se

Seven Commandos Beach is usually the last stop of tour A package.

9 | Walk from Palawan Mainland Through Snake Island

Snake Island Sandbar

Caption: Snake Island Sandbar

Once known as Vigan Island, it became popular as Snake Island because of its unique shape –  a long, winding figure that stretches out like a snake, especially notable during low tide.  It’s actually a sandbar, instead of an island.  The sandbar connects the mainland of Palawan to the small island itself.  It appears only during low tide and is about two feet under water during high tide.  Aside from its unique shape, the Snake Island boasts of beautiful white sand with clear waters, attracting tourists to swim.  It is also a great destination for those seeking a more secluded beach experience as it is not as crowded as the more popular attractions in El Nido.

Snake Island is part of El Nido tour package B along with Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Island, and Cudugnon Cave.  The rate per person is P1,300 with lunch and drinks.

10 | Snorkel in the Waters Surrounding Helicopter Island

Helicopter Island

Caption: Helicopter Island

The island has a distinctive shape that resembles a helicopter when viewed from above, hence the name.  Like most beaches and islands in El Nido, Helicopter Island features white sand and clear water perfect for a relaxing swim and sunbathe.  The underwater world surrounding Helicopter Island is teeming with marine life. Divers and snorkelers can expect to see vibrant coral reefs, a variety of fish, and various species of anemonefish.  During summer months, the underwater scene becomes even more exciting due to the possibility of seeing sea turtles.

For experienced divers, there’s the Dilumacad Underwater Tunnel, a 40-meter passage with natural light filtering through ceiling holes, offering an exciting underwater adventure.

11 | Try the Suspension Bridge at El Nido Canopy Walk

View at El Nido Canopy Walk

Caption: View at El Nido Canopy Walk

The peak of Taraw Cliff may have been closed due to safety concerns but a new option has been opened – the El Nido Canopy Walk.  El Nido Canopy Walk offers a scenic viewpoint at a lower elevation hence a safer alternative to the riskier Taraw Cliff.  The walk features metal walkways, suspension bridges, and secured climbing sections with all the necessary safety gear provided.  The walk is not overly strenuous therefore accessible to people of most fitness levels and various ages.

The walk, which takes around an hour to complete, offers panoramic views of El Nido, Bacuit Bay, and the surrounding islands.

12 | Wait for the Sunset at Marimegmeg Beach

Marimegmeg Beach

Caption: Marimegmeg Beach

Marimegmeg Beach, also known as Las Cabanas because of the resort with the same name, is a great place to catch the beautiful sunset.  Its shore is lined with restaurants and bars where you can order foods and drinks.  The beach is easily accessible from town proper and aside from the beautiful sunset, visitors can also try kayaking or paddleboarding, swim in its calm waters, or simply lounge by the shore.

13 | Spelunking at Cudugnon Cave

Inside Cudugnon Cave

Caption: Inside Cudugnon Cave

El Nido isn’t just about beaches and lagoons.  If you want a more challenging adventure, schedule a trip to Cudugnon Cave.  The cave’s entrance is a narrow opening between rocks and is best explored during low tide.  The cave is believed to be an ancient cemetery due to all the human bones, pottery, and jewelry that date back to the Neolithic era.  It has been used as a Japanese hideout during World War II also.

Inside the cave are towering rock formations, interesting cave wall features, and light filtering through the open roof which makes for an ideal photo spot.  Outside the cave is a nice beach with waters ideal for snorkeling due to the presence of corrals.

Aside from the beaches and islands mentioned above, there are also lesser known ones including Entalula Beach, Pinagbuyutan Island, Ipil Beach, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach, and Bukal Beach.  For lagoons, there’s Cadlao Lagoon with features similar to Big Lagoon except for the size.

READ MORE: El Nido Visitors Guide

Any El Nido Attraction that should be in the list?

About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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