The best thing about El Nido is not its stunning beauty, but the various ways you have of enjoying it. El Nido really has something for every interest, whether you’re looking to explore several feet underwater or hike hundreds of feet above ground.
From cliff climbing to cave exploration to diving and of course, island hopping, the choices are almost more overwhelming than the sheer loveliness of this place. Almost.
Must Do in El Nido #1. Island Hopping
You cannot leave El Nido without island hopping. Seriously, it’s a travel offense punishable by years of niggling regret. El Nido’s 45 islands and inlets are home to over 100 species of birds, 5 different species of marine mammals, over 800 species of fish, and five species of endangered sea turtles.
You can snorkel, swim, dive, play marine biologist, fish, or just lie around to your heart’s content on these islands. If you don’t have the time to visit them all, at least check out the must-visit islands in El Nido.
Must Do in El Nido #2. Kayak the Lagoons
Or more specifically, the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon. There’s a reason these famous lagoons are photographed so often. You see, these beauties are examples of “sinkholes” – caves whose roofs eventually collapsed under their own weight.
Even if this geological fact doesn’t thrill you, you’ll be blown away by the serene wilderness you see while kayaking the lagoons. As shown in the picture, a boat is usually taken around the Big Lagoon and then the Small Lagoon is explored via kayak or snorkeling in through the narrow opening.
The Small Lagoon is easy to kayak so just let yourself be floated down the water as bird song and the monkey calls reverberate through the air. Kayaking the Big Lagoon requires much more effort and sweat, but it’s well worth it for the scenery and the chance to see wildlife. It’ll be much easier to approach, say, a black-tip reef shark with a quiet kayak than a motorized boat.
Kayaking is available as part of the Tour A itinerary, which is about 1400PHP per person. On the other hand, you can simply rent a kayak in town for less than 500PHP for a half-day rental.
Must Do in El Nido #3. Cliff Climb
The limestone cliffs jutting out of the crystal clear waters are phenomenal. Imagine being on top of them. Or better yet, actually do it.
You can book a cliff climbing trip in El Nido town. It’s highly recommended you hire a guide, since this can be a dangerous activity even for those in the best physical condition. And did we mention the closest hospital is an hour away? But don’t let that scare you. After a three-hour climb up the precarious slopes, you’ll be rewarded with a 360 panoramic view of all of El Nido and its beautiful islands. Trips cost about 200PHP per person.
Trek Cadlao Island
The largest island in El Nido, Cadlao Island also boasts the highest peak (640 meters above sea level). There are a few trails, with one leading to the tip of the peak where you can triumphantly gaze down at the beauty below.
Or you can take another trail to the Makaamo Lagoon, which is an easy 2-3 hour walk along the coast, up to the lagoon, mangroves, and a small cove for swimming and snorkeling. Come at sunrise or sunset to watch the birds feed.
Cudugnon Cave has inspired the imagination of many. Ever since archaeologist found bones and other artifacts inside the cave and brought them back to the National Museum in Manila, Cudugnon Cave has been rumored to have served as a hiding place during the Japanese occupation, a burial site, and a quarantine area for the malaria-stricken. Some of the items that were found (or later recovered) included neolithic items such as jewelry and pottery dating back to 1200 B.C. While it’s unclear how the items got to the caves or which of these stories may be true, what’s certain is that there is a mysterious allure to the cave. Now empty of bones, it houses fruit bats.
Cathedral Cave is on tiny Pinasil Island. To get inside, you have to kayak through the narrow entrance. Enter the cave and you’ll find high ceilings with shafts of light streaming in through the top rock, casting a cathedral-like atmosphere (thus the name).