Beaches of El Nido and Bacuit Bay - Palawan, Philippines

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    El Nido Town is Just the Beginning

    Girl enjoying El Nido island beach
    ••• Girl enjoying El Nido island beach. Emilio L. Maranon III/Getty Images

    The town of El Nido in Palawan is a stepping stone to the Bacuit Archipelago beyond, dotted with limestone islands with stretches of white sand beaches, hidden coves waiting to be discovered, dive sites swarming with coral and marine life, and lush forests that harbor birds and other interesting fauna.

    From El Nido, you'll have a wide choice of boats for hire, many of them offering different price ranges depending on the number of people going aboard, the number of islands you wish to hop onto, and even the option of a packed lunch!

    You can snorkel, swim, dive, and spelunk to your heart's content on many of the islands listed below.

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  • 02 of 11

    Miniloc Island: Two Lagoons, Bottomless Heaps of Fun

    Boat off Miniloc Island, El Nido
    ••• Boat off Miniloc Island, El Nido. tropicalpixsingapore/Getty Images

    Miniloc Island is a forty-minute pump boat ride away from the town of El Nido, and derives its fame from its towering limestone formation and its two lagoons.

    The big lagoon is a bay carved into the island, with dazzlingly clear water and corals below; pointed limestone cliffs tower above you as you drift into the lagoon. Water and coral conditions have conspired to make this lagoon relatively free of marine life, but kayakers will find this a magnificent backdrop to paddle through.

    The smaller lagoon offers better snorkeling conditions. Another cove can be entered from this lagoon, although with some difficulty; at low tide, a four-foot gap in the cliff lets avid snorkelers into a cliff-lined chamber that feels entirely like another world.

    Payong-Payong Beach is somewhere on the east side of the island, offering great snorkeling opportunities.

    For dive spots around Miniloc, try the Miniloc Island Dive Trail at the island's southeastern side. Ranging from about 40 to 80 feet in depth,...MORE the Dive Trail will overwhelm you with its schools of fish and coral life.

    At Miniloc's northwest end, Tres Marias is another popular dive site, up to 80 feet deep, right in the path of manta rays and marine turtles (pawikan in the native tongue).

    Miniloc is the location for one of El Nido Beach Resort's two high-end resorts in the area, the other being on the forested Lagen Island.

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  • 03 of 11

    Simizu Island: Lunch Al Fresco

    Shimizu Island from a distance
    ••• Shimizu Island from a distance. denAsuncioner/Creative Commons

    South of Miniloc Island, Simizu Island and its compact white-sand beach is a picnic favorite for both locals and tourists. The corals around Simizu are healthy for now, providing a nice home for a good variety of marine life. The beach is surrounded by limestone outcrops, and a limestone islet sits right across the shore.

    Forty minutes from the mainland, Simizu Island is a great place to stop for a picnic. Bring a boxed lunch from El Nido town and you're good to go.

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  • 04 of 11

    Matinloc Island: A Hidden, Secret Beach

    Waves hit a white sand beach on Matinloc Island
    ••• Waves hit a white sand beach on Matinloc Island. Craig Lovell/Getty Images

    Matinloc Island is a long, thin islet with a secret: a hidden beach that can't be reached by boat.

    To get to the Secret Beach, you must swim underwater through an opening in the limestone, till you break through the water and find a strip of white sand bordering a hidden cove. When the sun comes in during noon, the limestone comes alive with light reflected from the water - absolute magic.

    Kulasa Beach (pictured here), also on Matinloc, is a longer stretch of white sand beach within a cove. The deepening sea floor offers magnificent snorkeling and swimming.

    Matinloc's four dive sites are a great place to get acquainted with the local marine life; the deepest at the southern tip of the island is 124 feet deep.

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  • 05 of 11

    Entalula Island: Iconic Island Vision

    Entalula Island, El Nido
    ••• Entalula Island, El Nido. Emilio L. Maranon III/Getty Images

    The very picture of a tropical island, Entalula Island is fringed by a beach with white sand with a coconut tree canopy, offering excellent swimming waters for beginning snorkelers. The west and south sides of the island offer great diving opportunities, with rich coral and fish populations at forty to sixty feet.

    Visitors drop by Entalula for picnic lunches and beach sports; they may also venture upward on the lime cliff face for some beginner rock climbing.

    Entalula is about 40 minutes' sailing from El Nido Town.

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  • 06 of 11

    Pangulasian Beach: Carefully Managed Natural Beauty

    Isolated beach on Pangulasian Island, El Nido
    ••• Isolated beach on Pangulasian Island, El Nido. John Borthwick/Getty Images

    If you're after a long, wide stretch of finely-powdered white-sand beach, go to Pangulasian to get your fix.

    Pangulasian is managed by El Nido Resorts; visitors must get permission from the resort at Miniloc. Once you're there, you'll find that the island's long beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, beach sports, and viewing the sunset. The coral clusters along the beach attract loads of marine life, giving snorkelers an eyeful.

    A walking trail snakes through the island's midsection, providing an unparalleled opportunity for birdwatching just after sunrise and immediately before sunset. At the end of the trail, you'll have reached the island's highest point - a great spot to view Bacuit Bay in 360 degrees.

    Divers will want to visit the south and west of Pangulasian. The southern shores of Pangulasian are teeming with coral and fish between forty to sixty feet. West of Pangulasian, Jip Rocks retains its undersea beauty, despite some blast damage from dynamite fishing.

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  • 07 of 11

    Dilumacad Island: "Helicopter Island"

    Dilumacad Island, El Nido
    ••• Dilumacad Island, El Nido. Charizsa Timkang/released to public domain

    Dilumacad Island is a 20-minute ride from El Nido town. It's also known as "Helicopter Island" due to its helicopter-like shape when viewed from afar. The island is home to a long, dazzling white sand beach that beckons to picnickers and snorkelers. The seafloor's abrupt drop makes this beach slightly dangerous for children and novice swimmers.

    Divers, take note: the island's southern side has a fringing reef, and the northern side has an underwater cave at 50-80 feet, both great places to explore with a diving buddy.

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  • 08 of 11

    Vigan Island: A Sea "Snake"

    Vigan, or "Snake" Island
    ••• Vigan, or "Snake" Island. John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images

    The curving sandbar that extends off of Vigan Island gives it its nickname, "Snake Island". There's great swimming to be had off of both sides of the sandbar, but you'll only see this at low tide. The island is a 45-minute boat ride from El Nido town.

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  • 09 of 11

    Cadlao Island - El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

    Cadlao Island
    ••• Cadlao Island. Christian Kober/Getty Images

    With an area of 2,400 acres and a peak that rises almost 2,000 feet above sea level, Cadlao is the biggest island in Bacuit Bay. The island also possesses many other superlatives, like its curving white sand beaches, lush forest cover, and many other surprises.

    Cadlao's gradually sloping sea floor makes the island's beaches relatively safer compared to the other beaches in the bay. Swimmers and waders will appreciate the beaches of Bocal Point, Sabang Beach, Paradise Beach, and Natnat on Cadlao Island. Cadlao Lagoon's limestone formations and lush corals provide a magnificent setting for snorkelers.

    The jungle cover is riddled with nature trails, one of which ends at a saltwater lagoon called Makaamo, which is ringed by mangroves that attract a proliferation of birds. Makaamo is a great spot to visit at sunrise or sunset, when the birds begin to feed.

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  • 10 of 11

    Lagen Island: Forests and a Five-Star Resort

    Resort on Lagen Island, El Nido
    ••• Resort on Lagen Island, El Nido. Jack Versloot/Creative Commons

    Lagen Island is a thickly forested island with a proliferation of wildlife; you can see Lagen's flora and fauna up close when you go down a walking trail through the island's forest cover. At the end of the trail, you'll reach a cove where you can kayak over to the Lagen Island Resort, Bacuit Bay's fanciest tourist destination.

    The island's Leta-Leta Cave harbored a collection of Neolithic artifacts - pottery, axes, adzes, and shell jewelry - that offered a look back into Philippine prehistory.

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  • 11 of 11

    Beaches on the Palawan Mainland

    7 Commandos Beach in El Nido
    ••• 7 Commandos Beach in El Nido. Jason Langley/Getty Images

    The mainland has its own beachside attractions. 7 Commandos' Beach sits right on the mainland - it's a deserted stretch of beach with a gently sloping sea floor a magnificent view of the sunset. Part of the beach is cordoned off during turtle nesting season from January to May.

    Mangrove forests on the eastern side of Bacuit Bay are home to egrets and their young.