The Must-See Islands of El Nido

It’d be lovely to see them all, but 45 islands is a lot of hopping. If you’re short on time and must choose, these are the must-see El Nido islands.

Vigan Island, El Nido (aka “Snake Island”)

Vigan Island might just be the fairest of them all. It’s been dubbed Snake Island due to the curving stretch of sand bar that perches perfectly between two parallel islands.

It’s best to visit Snake Island during low tide when you can see the winding sandpit clearly. The elegant slopes and perfect curve is startlingly gorgeous, so perfect as to seem not quite real. If you follow the path the entire way, you’ll wind up at a beautiful mangrove that leads into the other island.

Warning: Walking along the sandy snake path can produce conflicting feelings of wanting to look both right and left at the same time.

Miniloc Island, El Nido

Miniloc Island is home to both Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon. The Big Lagoon offers gorgeous above-water views, with limestone cliffs towering above you as you kayak through the lagoon.

Underwater, it’s not much for coral but its deep emerald waters are frequented by sea turtles.  Unfortunately, huge sea urchins like to congregate here too, so be careful where to place your feet.

Small Lagoon also offers a fun snorkeling opportunity: at low tide, snorkelers can swim through a four-foot crevice into a small, cliff-lined cove for a surreal experience.

Miniloc Island is also home to the famous Secret Lagoon (lots of lagoons on this island!) On top of all the lagoons, Miniloc is also an underwater paradise, largely due to the fringe of coral reefs that outline the island. In fact, the island, with its transparent, turquoise waters and colorful coral formations originally gained fame as a diving station for Japanese and European tourists.

Pangulasian Island, El Nido

You probably knew this one was coming. This beach is oft-mentioned, oft-photographed, and oft-revisited. Why? For starters, it has one of the widest stretches of pure powdery white beach in El Nido. The waters are calm and there are clusters of coral close to the shore, which makes this area ideal for viewing aquatic life at your own island-time pace.

There’s hiking to be done on the island as well and a trail that leads to the peak of the island for panoramic 360-degree views of the nearby islands. This island is perfect for sunset watching.

Note: Pangulasian Islands is going the way of the high-end resort and soon public docking will be no longer allowed. There are already the beginnings of luxury accommodations being constructed and it won’t be long ’til it’s complete. Visit this beautiful island now before it becomes another Hilton playground.

Matinloc Island, El Nido

Matinloc island is home to the famous secret beach. This beach is deemed secret since in order to get to it, you have to swim through through a hole formed in a cliff.

Once through the hole, it is spectacular. You have a calm, pristine beach of turquoise waters lapping at your toes while magnificently dark, jutting limestone encases the entire beach.

Secret Beach was allegedly the inspiration for the novel, The Beach. Quite the claim, but once you visit, you’ll see why.

Matinloc island also has a small slice of Greece. Not really, but the Matinloc Shrine is reminiscent of Greece and also offers a beautiful view.

Dilumacad Island (aka Helicopter Island)

From afar, this island looks exactly like a military helicopter. Upon closer inspection, it’s an island boasting a perfectly white sand beach that stretches nearly 300 meters.

The southern part of the island is bordered by a coral reef and the northern part has a deep underwater cave at about 30-50 feet that can be explored if you want to don the diving gear. As a favorite nesting site of marine turtles in El Nido, as well as the site of one of the most picturesque beaches, the island attracts its fair share of visitors.

The largest of the El Nido islands, Cadlao, can be seen from Helicopter island, giving Dilumacad one of the most stunning scenic landscapes of all the islands in El Nido.

Pinagbuyutan Island

Pinagbuyutan Island offers the most magnificent landscape. The juxtaposition of blindingly white sand and dark marble towers is incredible.

Underneath the jutting rock formations, there stretch tall, bendy coconut trees to provide natural shade for every beach bum who comes to Pinagbuyutan’s shores. This island also has quite a collection of seashells.


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