El Nido means much more than just a gathering of 45 islands, randomly chosen from the over 7000 of the Philippines. It is an idyllic place where breathtaking landscapes are the gift you received at the end of an exhausting, but beautiful day, full of activities meant to increase your adrenaline and adventurous spirit. I only had 5 days for El Nido, surely not enough to fully enjoy all that this wonderful place has to offer. However, in the 5 days, I have done so many things to have memories for a life and photos to load all my computer memory. So, I have built a list of 18 things you shouldn’t miss when in El Nido:
Visit Las Cabanas
Las Cabanas beach is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in El Nido, primarily due to the “postcard” panorama revealed by nature in front of your eyes. The view to the island of Depeldet, as well as the connection to it through a mini beach, only existing during the high tide, sends it directly to the category of special places. I recommend spending a whole day in Las Cabanas, or at least an afternoon, and taking advantage of the strategic orientation of the beach to the sunset. Take a seat right on the beach, enjoy a coconut or a fresh made of exotic fruits, and enjoy the calm of the waves and the colors of the sunset.
There will be a lot of people around you who will do the same thing, but unlike the other places assaulted by tourists, there is a tacit understanding of respecting the relaxing moments between the travelers coming to Las Cabanas. Therefore, you will not feel your space invaded, but you will rather feel like you are at an outdoor cinema, decorated with palm trees, shells and fine sand, in which the film that unfolds is the divine landscape of Bacuit Bay.
Zip lining to Depeldet Island
Though I have tried the zip line before, on Transfagarasan (Romania), this time I knew the experience would be much more different and more frightening. The zip line of El Nido crosses the Maremegmeg Beach and a few hundred meters of water. Obviously, the view deserves all the effort and all the fear, as you will have a bird’s eye view of the turquoise waters, the remote islands, and the palm trees. You can choose to go one way to Depeldet Island, or back and forth. We chose one way only, and then we went down to Las Cabanas beach where we continued the rest of our day.
I have to warn you from now on, you have to climb long enough until you reach the top of the hill, where it is the starting point of the zip line, so I hope you have an acceptable physical condition. We got up almost breathless, but we had enough time to be fine, and we also stood in the queue until our turn came. Don’t take any valuable items with you that could easily fall as you zip line. For your mobile phone, you could buy a strong plastic bag to wear on your neck. The zip line is one of the most beautiful experiences in El Nido. For this reason, you are not allowed to miss it! 🙂
Some essential information you need to know about the El Nido zip line:
- The price for one way is 500 Php
- The climbing time to the starting point is about 10 minutes
- You can choose between a sitting position or a Superman position, on your belly
- The distance to Depeldet Island is approximately 750 m;
- Crossing can be made, depending on speed, weight, and other physical factors, in more than or less than 1 minute
- The program is from 9 am to 5.30 pm
- You may not be able to get to the other platform yourself (yes, it happened to me), but do not worry; A member of the staff will be happy to help you
- Once you reach the Depeldet Island, you will have to descend bamboo stairs until you reach the ground
- Such a cool experience!!!
Ride the tricycle
As mentioned in my previous article, the complete guide to El Nido, the tricycle will be the most commonly used means of transport. Even if you like to walk, or if you rent a scooter for road trips, and for longer distances, you should also try the tricycle. It is part of the place, and if you do not try it, the experience of El Nido would not be complete. Do not forget, for almost any road inside the city, the price is revolving around 50Php ≈ $ 1, so don’t let you be fooled. For roads longer than 20 minutes, the price reaches 150 Php. Though they may seem small and unsafe, we didn’t have any incident or accident when we were a tricycle passenger. We even used them to carry our luggage. Tricycle for the win!
Taste traditional dishes
You are on a famous and beautiful island in the Philippines. So it would be a shame not to try their traditional food. It’s not the best kitchen, from my point of view (I’m a bit pretentious when it comes to what gets inside my stomach), but I think chicken, rice, and mango sauce should be to everyone’s liking. Although apparently all kinds of food seem the same, and you feel that in the menu there are only rice and various meats, the sauces, the way of preparation and the countless spices they use, make all the difference.
Go on an island hopping tour
Of all the things listed, the tour is a mandatory experience. There are 4 in number, marked with letters from A to D, the best rated being A and C. I chose A, and I don’t regret the decision at all. I visited Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7Commando Beach. I’m not going into the details because I’m going to be debating everything in a separate article, but if I were to nominate a single activity that you would not miss in El Nido, then surely it would be to go at least on a tour, either with an organized group, or with a private boat.
Generally, a tour will take half of a day’s schedule, and they all start in the morning, around 9 o’clock and ending 7 or 8 hours later. In the tour, you have the opportunity to discover the most beautiful natural attractions in Bacuit Bay, the turquoise waters, and so clear that you can easily see the fish and the coral reefs, the karst relief, the white sandy beaches, and the palm trees.
Swing on the beach
Road trip with the scooter
No matter how detached from the urbanized world you will feel at the footsteps of El Nido, the feeling of freedom will capture you, even more, when you ride the roads of the villages, hills, and forests on the north side of the island, on two wheels. I also put a mini map with the route of the itinerary we chose. Rent a scooter for a day, fill it up and start looking for the most beautiful panoramas in El Nido Bay and Base Bay. Don’t forget to take a bag of supplies from the downtown bakery, your bathing suit, comfortable clothes, and a lot of adventurous spirit.
It is also important to protect yourself, so you shouldn’t refuse to wear your helmet. There are many unpaved roads full of deep pits, formed by heavy precipitation. Therefore, it is not appropriate to put at risk various parts of your body, just because you feel lucky. If the gas finishes, you can stop at the shops in the villages you will cross. Most likely they will have bottles stuffed with gasoline, easily spottable. You won’t have signal, so you only have to rely on the road signs and indications … of the locals, of course! 🙂
Relax in the hammock
If it’s not a swing, then it’s a hammock. And as you feel exhausted after many climbs, miles on foot, tours and adventures of all kinds, the hammock will become your best friend at the end of the day. Relax under the shade of palm leaves, and charge your batteries for the next day. Your feet will be grateful!
* You will find the Hammocks in the photos on the coolest beach of El Nido. Have I told you about Las Cabanas? : D
Walk on Serena Street in downtown
The city of El Nido has no impressive dimensions, but it is so full of life that it gives you the feeling that you are in a crowded intersection of a metropolis. Many locals, tourists, tricycles, and scooters shuffle the narrow and dusty streets into total chaos. That’s when we do not count the dogs and cats, enough of them too. Though small, the city is sprinkled with restaurants, shops, and local travel agencies.
If you are not sure which way to go, and it seems to you that every new street is a true copy of the previous one, I recommend you go to Serena Street, which is distinguished by many fine restaurants, good food, high-quality shops, and decent wifi, here and there. The coolest and most interesting restaurants seem to be Happiness and Art Cafe.
Visit Nacpan Beach
I admit, the main purpose of the road trip with the scooter was the two twin beaches, Nacpan and Calitang, but especially the unmistakable panorama I had seen in so many pictures. Unfortunately, when I visited, the passage to the hill was blocked by a fence and a guard placed there to make sure no one would break the law. As far as I could see from the displayed pancake, the hill is privately owned, and for a few weeks, the public access was strictly forbidden.
I don’t know if something changed in the meantime, but the disappointment at that time was quite high. However, I visited both beaches and concluded that Calitang is almost deserted, and Nacpan resembles Long Beach in San Vicente. The major difference is the number of tourists and restaurants on the beach, where Nacpan is the winner. The road from El Nido to Nacpan Beach takes about an hour.
Participate in a beach party
The hottest parties take place on the beach. Even in El Nido, things are not different, so if you want to have fun with other tourists, under the clear moon, you should go to Sun Bar, Maremegmeg Beach, the restaurants on Corong Corong Beach, or the bars in El Nido Beach.
Paddle a kayak on Bacuit Bay
Kayaking may be a great option when you want to explore the islands nearby the archipelago. For example, the 7 Commando, Lapus, or Ipil beaches are a few minutes away. You can rent the kayak from the shore, or when you’re on the tour. In fact, in many of the places you will go, a kayak is necessary to go to the beach, or to explore the lagoon.
Take a photo on a mini beach in the middle of the water
To the evening, the waters of Bacuit Bay break off some portions of the sea and form mini islands or mini beaches with extremely fine sand. It’s the perfect opportunity to crawl some frames that seem like photoshopped or to enjoy another perspective of the bay. But wait till you see how beautiful the colors of the sunset reflected on the water that surrounds these mini islands!
Admire the most beautiful sunsets
I will not even try to describe them because they left me speechless. Therefore, I challenge you to go and see them with your eyes!
Enjoy the most spectacular scenery right on the beach
The fact that the landscapes of El Nido are breathtaking does not seem to be a secret anymore, but what seems to very cool is that you can enjoy them, as you relax at the beach. And wherever you choose to tan, it’s too little possible for an eye-catching picture to be found right there. Stones that rise in the middle of the bay, covered by the green of the shrubs and scalded by the most crystalline waters I’ve ever seen, make you feel like in paradise, and not just on a regular beach.
Lose yourself among the vast rice fields
Even though the reputation for rice fields is more likely to be attributed to Indonesia’s Bali Island, the Philippines is not bad at all. If I did not have time to visit Banaue when I spent 2 days in Manila, I took my revenge in El Nido, where I found with great enthusiasm how large the stretches of green are, and how important it is to the Filipinos.
Adventure into a snorkeling session
The depths of El Nido enjoy an abundant marine life. Over 800 species of fish, 120 corals and 1,700 crustaceans are hiding in the turbulent waves of Bacuit Bay, and are waiting for you to come in contact with them during snorkeling sessions. In Tour A, the two best stops for snorkeling were the Small Lagoon and the Shimizu Island. If you are not ready for an underwater adventure, do not worry. Snorkeling equipment can be rented for one day at a price of 300Php. The same thing is the case for slippers meant to protect you from sharp stones and hedgehogs. I think the words are superfluous and it’s enough to look at the pictures below to understand more.
Lunch on the boat
The price of a tour, in which you have the opportunity to see all the beauties of El Nido, seems too small for what it would offer. But what if I tell you that with less than $29 you also have a meal included? In El Nido, I first tasted yellow melon (ironically, right?), but also algae salad. The menu on the boat also includes rice, peanuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled fish, onion rings and many, many seasoned sauces. Doesn’t it seem to create a very beautiful contrast between the turquoise water and the goodies on the table?