Palawan’s most iconic destination, surrounded by towering cliffs, El Nido nestles at the heart of the Bacuit Archipelago. This cluster of 40-odd rocky outcrops with crystal lagoons, white-sand beaches, and limestone caves will be the focus of any visit, and one day in El Nido gives you enough time to get a taste of it. Here’s how.
Day: Desert-Island Bliss
With one day in El Nido, your No. 1 priority is island-hopping. Local travel agents have divided up the Bacuit Archipelago into four main itineraries, labeled with the letters A to D (plus an inland itinerary, Tour E), but many operators vary these outlines slightly or combine them. Tour A is the most popular and centers on Miniloc Island. Miniloc highlights include Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon, accessed through a tiny hole in the towering karst cliffs. Tour C is another favorite. The signature here is Matinloc Island, home to an eerie abandoned shrine and Secret Beach, a hidden cove that many believe inspired the film The Beach. Cavern fans will love Tour B, which includes Cathedral Cave, with striking rock formations illuminated by a single shaft of light, and Cudugnon Cave, an archaeological site. Tour D centers on Cadlao Island, the archipelago’s largest isle, with a lovely beach and lagoon. Beach lovers will adore Snake Island (a sandbar), Seven Commando Beach (on the mainland), and Helicopter Island. Almost all island-hopping tours include lunch, but be aware that many charge extra for snorkel gear, and most exclude El Nido’s ecotourism fee. You can also opt to paddle some of the way by kayak.
Night: Sunset, Dinner, and Beyond
With El Nido’s ideal position in the northwest corner of Palawan Island, sunset on one of its pretty beaches is a must. Consider La Plage, a French-led restaurant with tables spilling out onto the beach that many believe has the best food in town; opt for a simple beach bar on Corong Corong Beach; or head up into the hills to Republica Sunset Bar for elegant tapas with a view. Keen to discover Philippine food? Try Boodle Fight for a barbecue feast served on banana leaf. Wrap up the night at a buzzing beach bar, such as Happiness.