By Rocio and Julian
To start off with, El Nido is a small municipality located in the northern part of the province and island of Palawan, roughly 400 kilometers away from the capital city of Manila in the Philippines. It is a protected conservation area due to its recognized ecological, natural and cultural values. It is also one of the nicest and most beautiful beach destinations throughout the Philippines (which are known for having a lot of incredible and stunning beaches!). It is officially nicknamed “Heaven on Earth”, which I realized after writing the title of this post (honestly!). It absolutely deserves this name and I am about to tell you why.
Experiencing Paradise While Island Hopping in El Nido
Getting to El Nido can be a bit of a journey. We took a flight from Manila with Cebu Pacific to Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital of Palawan and the main gateway for flights to the island. From there you have to take a bus or mini-van to El Nido, which is another 5-6 hour ride away. The actual town, or población, of El Nido is nestled in a sheltered bay surrounded by huge limestone cliffs and hills, hence its name (El Nido = Spanish for the nest).
The town itself is nothing special but rather serves as a starting point for island hopping tours around the Bacuit Archipelago, probably one of the most beautiful natural treasures of Asia. These tours can either be booked directly through a hotel or guesthouse or from a tour operator. They usually take the whole day, leaving at around 9 in the morning until 4-5 in the afternoon. There are options of going with a group or hiring a private boat.
No matter with whom you end up going and no matter which tour you end up taking, you will be left speechless by the abundance of natural beauty! Pristine and spotless white beaches surrounded by crystal clear waters are something you will encounter for sure.
We were a rather small group and managed to leave on time to make our way to our first island stop. The weather was perfect and our bangka, a traditional Filipino motorized boat with large bamboo outriggers, easily navigated its way out of the bay. We were amazed by the limestone rock formations and hills which are very typical for this region.
After 15 minutes the boat reached the white shores of the first beach, the clear, blue waters blinding our eyes as we finally felt the powdery sand between our toes. The beach was not very crowded as we arrived earlier than the other tour boats. We spent some great time relaxing and were excited about finally being here and experiencing this slice of heaven.
While island hopping in El Nido on a tour, you can spend usually around 30 to 60 minutes on each beach, depending on the place and if people want to stay longer or not. The tour guides are very friendly and give you explanations about the different areas that will be visited. They also truly respect the environment and really help in keeping this place a pristine tourist destination. Being part of a natural conservation area also helps the beaches remain very clean – something that unfortunately is not always the case. We were impressed by how unpolluted these beaches, in general, were.
After enjoying some nice time in the sun and taking a refreshing dip in the water we continued to our next stop. We left the main island of Palawan behind us and headed out to the smaller groups of islands which were lying a bit further away. The great thing about island hopping is that you can really see a great variety of different beaches, from large to small, and also find those secret little gems in between. One of those gems that we were to explore was in fact behind a small range of karst rocks.
Apart from the beaches there are a few incredibly beautiful lagoons in El Nido. As we approached another smaller beach the boat stopped and the tour guide pointed us towards a small opening in the rocks. We stepped out of the boat and slowly waded through the shallow waters and carefully climbed into a small hole. This was the entrance to a small, hidden lagoon on the other side. A total surprise, we were fascinated by this place as it was something very unique and not comparable to anything else we had seen so far.
With still half a day ahead of us, we approached another beach spot where we had a nice lunch. Even before we got there, the tour guides had already started to barbecue on the back of the boat and prepared some nice fish, meat, vegetables and fruits for us on the beach. It was absolutely delicious and really added up to making the island hopping tour a great success.
More and more giant rock formations popped out of the waters as we continued our trip, opening up like spread-out arms, inviting us to their beautiful beaches. We stopped by a few more and also managed to do a great deal of snorkeling. Compared to some other diving and snorkeling spots throughout South-East Asia we found that there were a lot of active and intact coral reefs here. We were amazed by the sheer variety of different fishes and corals – truly a must-see place if you are interested in discovering the underwater world.
We made it back to El Nido town in the afternoon and were still amazed by the beautiful places we experienced during the trip. We were so amazed that we decided to join another tour the next day as we really wanted to see more!
El Nido has absolutely blown our minds! It is an incomparable natural paradise with breathtaking views, pristine white and endless beaches, amazing underwater life, spectacular limestone rock formations, crystal clear waters and beautiful lagoons. It is, for sure, one of the most unique seascape areas in the world and has truly impressed us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
To read more about Palawan & other beautiful spots around the world, head over to apenoni.com, a blog about travel stories, food, itineraries & photos by Rocio and Julian. They are a wanderlust Mexican-German couple passionate about traveling & exploring the world & want to convince you to do the same! Join them on Twitter & Facebook as well!
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