Warning: Don’t go to El Nido

You won’t want to leave, ever. It will ruin beaches for you. For me, El Nido is paradise brought to life.

Philippines was #1 on my list of ultimate dream destinations, particularly El Nido and Coron. I read numerous blog posts and articles, pinned tons of pictures, and searched for the “perfect” hotel on booking and tripadvisor.

I left the best for last, or so I thought. In our 2-month Asia dream trip, El Nido and then Puerto Princesa were the last stop. I planned this destination with most enthusiasm and of course, when you have such high expectations, things tend to go “wrong”.

I was so indecisive about hotels that I cancelled and booked until I cancelled a booking that I had already paid for and didn’t have refund. Then I received a cancellation from Agoda because the hotel no longer works with them. Finally I learned that there is no reason to go to Puerto Princesa, especially for 3 nights! You might save money traveling but you lose time on paradise and you begin with the best and end with the worst. If you do stay at Puerto Princesa, do it before El Nido.

Even though I had the highest expectations, El Nido surpassed them! No picture will ever be able to depict the mesmerizing beauty that you will find in El Nido. You have to go and see it for yourself. Every minute we spent there was magical. I was so sad to leave.

Even during our stay things didn’t go “perfectly” as I had them in my mind, because of course, nothing is perfect, especially when you travel to remote destinations where the weather and the lack of infrastructure will affect your plans. Be prepared to be patient and flexible. During my travels I have been on a constant learning curve and have loved every second of it.

So, how did we spend our days at El Nido?

Day 1 

We had 5 complete days in El Nido and we really took advantage of every day. The trip started with its first bump as we arrived 2 hours before our 9:40 flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa and after we had checked in, the flight was delayed for an hour. Thankfully, it was only 1 hour, the flight before us was delayed about 4 hours. Apparently, delayed flights are normal in the Philippines.

After the trip to El Nido (which I will tell you about in another post), we slept in El Nido town for 1 night and at 7 am were at El Nido airport to join the group that would go to our hotel on Miniloc island. We arrived between 9-10 am and after lunch we did our first tour. We went to the secret lagoon. It was very beautiful.

secret lagoon el nido

Entrance to the secret lagoon

Back at the hotel, a couple we met on the tour told us that the best snorkeling spot was literally in front of the hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring life under the sea. It was true. It was the best snorkeling we have done, ever. We saw a blue spotted sting ray, clown fish, huge schools of fish and jacks.

snorkel at miniloc islandsnorkel at miniloc island
We went to sleep so happy and relaxed that everything before the trip was forgotten.

Day 2

The next day we left the hotel at 6am to explore the small and big lagoons (these usually are part of island hopping tour A). A boat dropped us off at the small lagoon with our kayak and off we went. I cannot describe the beauty of what we saw in words or with pictures, but I will try.

The colors of the sunrise are simply out of this world. We had never seen anything like it. The sky was on fire.

After that, the small lagoon is simply mesmerizing and peaceful. I wanted to stay there longer, just staring at it. We had it all to ourselves because of course the big tours arrive later. The color of the water and the beautiful limestone cliffs are like nothing we had seen before, completely unique.

Small Lagoon - El Nido

Small Lagoon – El Nido

After that we kayaked to the big lagoon. It was just us again. Very beautiful spot. I liked the small lagoon better but both are amazing.

Big Lagoon - El Nido

Big Lagoon – El Nido

We were back at the hotel around 7:45am, had breakfast and rested for a bit. At 10:30 am we joined a small group that was going to the resort on Lagen island for a couple of hours and lunch. The resort is beautiful as well.

El Nido Resorts - Lagen

El Nido Resorts – Lagen

Later we went to Entalula beach. This beach is part of island hopping tour B but our hotel had a private beach so we had the beach all to ouselves. It was perfect.

Entalula Beach

Entalula Beach

We finished the day with another snorkeling session in front of the hotel.

The “perfect” day.

Day 3

We joined a group going to Shimizu island. The ocean was pretty choppy that day so our guide suggested we snorkel around the island in front. This area is usually reserved for divers but they made an exception and we snorkeled there. It was gorgeous.

Back at the hotel, we saw how they fed the Jacks. It was really fun to watch because this fish is normally silver, when it’s not in hunting mode. When it’s going to attack it turns black. We saw them change color it was very interesting.
We spent the rest of the day on the beach relaxing until we had to take the boat back to town and move into Cadlao Resort & Restaurant.

Day 4

We took the island hopping tour C which was supposed to be: Hidden beach, Star beach, Mantiloc Shrine and Secret beach. This was another issue that came up during the trip, El Nido is used to film movies/shows and at the moment they were shooting “Survivor: Israel” at Hidden beach, Snake beach, Helicopter beach and a couple of others so the tour was adapted. At the beginning we were a bit bummed out because those beaches are the most famous beaches and we had planned to go there…(flexibility?)

But, here’s a little secret, ALL of the beaches around El Nido are paradise. We were so happy after the tour we forgot all about the changes in the itinerary. We were able to go to Helicopter beach, Secret beach, Cagbantang beach and Paradise beach. Another “perfect” day.

Helicopter Island

Helicopter Island

Cagbantang Beach

Cagbantang Beach

Paradise beach

Paradise beach

All of them were amazing. Discovering the secret beach was really fun and then relaxing on the white sand of Cagbantang beach after a delicious barbecue lunch was priceless.

The barbecue is cooked on the boat and served on the beach. They cook it while you’re on the tour.

The nice thing about the tours with the agency that partners with Cadlao Resort is that they charge about $10 more than the agencies in town, but the group has a maximum of 8 people. So the tour is small and really enjoyable. The agencies in town book tours of an average of 30 people.

Day 5

On our last day, we hired a car to go to Nacpan beach with another couple we met. Here we had another of these issues that can hinder your trip if you’re not open minded. Nacpan beach is well-known because right behind it you can see Twin beach (two beaches joined by a sandbar). It’s supposed to be very beautiful and there’s a hill you can climb to get more of an aerial view. This beach was closed to the public because of a dispute between a hotel and landowners. So, we had rented a car and everything to see a beach that we could not see.

We still had a relaxing day on Nacpan beach and made 2 new friends. That is priceless.
Even though we had a few bumps in the road, neither of us wanted to leave. We had never been in a place so relaxing, beautiful and unique.

So, go to El Nido, but be warned, you will never want to leave 💜.

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