Imagine this. The most epic El Nido adventures abound at this prominent island-hopping proximity-friendly destination, providing vacationers access (a launch point) to the famed Bacuit Archipelago of Palawan in the Philippines that shares its 45 incredible islands to explore, discover and tame that wanderlust!
You do not need to be a thalassophile to enjoy the variety of tourism activities you will find at the northernmost tip of Palawan Island in El Nido. Consider an El Nido Palawan tour package (or 2 or 3) in order to maximize your discoveries in many El Nido destinations throughout the endless option of adventures within the Bacuit archipelago with fabulous island hopping.
So stick with me here, as I will provide our bucket list menu of outdoor activities in El Nido for your consideration.
Some El Nido day trips are in El Nido proper, while others are throughout the bay. Get ready for adventure in El Nido by 🚤 speed boat, Bangka, tricycle, 🏍 motorbikes, or 🛶 kayak rentals.
The Vast Bucket List Menu of Adventures In El Nido
Honestly, there is not a simple list of the top things to do in El Nido because the destination offers an extensive menu of beach, island, and lagoon playground options, far beyond a numbered list of things to do, unlike any other places you may plan travel for.
To make this easy for you, we have chosen a few things to do in El Nido for the adventurer in you, but there are so many more.
- ► Visit multiple tropical and sugar-white beaches of the El Nido islands in the Bacuit Archipelago
- ► Snorkel in El Nido and the thalassophile in you will come to life when you visit many beaches via hopping.
- ► Island Hop to as many of the 45 islands as you can access in the time you are touring El Nido
- ► Seek out the Caves of El Nido for a daring adventure (maybe?) or to see the Stalactite formations
- ►Scuba dive at different top-rated diving locations within El Nido Palawan (there are more than we listed )
- ► Discover the lagoons in Bacuit Bay with different water adventures above and below the water!
- ► Chasing sunsets utilizing a very opportunistic moment to feel oneness and savor the day’s journey.
Plan your time to fulfill your personal El Nido bucket list as much as possible for diving, island hopping, and beach seeking.
But first, let’s break these adventures throughout El Nido down even further.
1 ➱ El Nido Adventures Beach Hopping + Snorkeling Adventures
Want to know the best thing? There are so many beaches to choose from that narrowing down a simple beach option list in El Nido is difficult.
But the truth is, all beach adventures in El Nido allow you to find the type of beach you consider absolutely perfect no matter what you are looking for swaying coconut trees, sugar-white sand, crystal clear water, secluded, shaded, etc.
🤿 ➙ Odds are that while you are visiting many of the best beaches in El Nido throughout the bacuit archipelago, you’ll have the sudden urge to snorkel and, the cool thing is many of the brilliantly white sandy beaches throughout the islands have stunning snorkeling underwater grounds to snorkel in and your El Nido island hopping tour operator will share that information.
The point is this, no matter what you prefer, swimming, being a simple beach bum, snorkeling, etc., you’ll find it if you do a little bit of adventuring in El Nido around the bacuit archipelago! Here are a few we chose to share!
Beach hopping might be part of your chosen island-hopping adventures, but you might prefer to hire a private tour.
NacPan and Calitang – Twin Beaches
NacPan and Calitang are often referred to as the Twin Beaches, with NacPan being world-renowned and Calitang less known, but there for you anytime you want to hit the beach as part of your El Nido adventures.
NacPan Beach is lush green and tropical with golden-colored sand, pristine light aqua tranquil waters, and approximately a 2.5 miles stretch of beach, that is more isolated and often less populated than most beaches. The water is clear and great for swimming.
Where NacPan Beach ends, it joins with the lesser known Calitang, creating the beaches known as the Twin Beaches. Calitang beach is much smaller by comparison but a very useable beach-going area.
Access the Twin Beaches by renting a motorbike for the day. Stay for the sunset, you won’t be disappointed.
Seven Commandos Beach + Papaya Beach
These beaches are within 1 minute of each other and each should be on your water activities in El Nido Palawan to-visit list! Reach Seven Commandos by privately hired boat, renting a kayak, or by El Nido day tours only.
Seven Commandos beach provides beach-goers with powder-white sand, an area swaddled by coconut trees, and an excellent swimming area, but it is quite the hot spot as far as beaches in El Nido go, so prepare for it to be busy and if it is not, bask in that and the sun as a reward!
🤿 ➙ Papaya beach is less populated with beach-goers than its neighboring beach 7 Commandos, and you’ll find very tranquil turquoise water to snorkel in.
Then you’ll hit the sweet spot when you try a coconut drink spiked with rum, and follow that with time well spent in a hammock or swing so you can sink into full-out vacation bliss.
The Hidden Beach
While not a very large beach, the Hidden Beach is a must-see El Nido beach for its crystal clear water and incredible limestone wall formations in a very secluded area, and unless someone tells you it’s actually a beach, you may not even notice.
- The Hidden is accessible by day tours (or boats) that drop you off at a drop point, leaving you to swim the rest of the way.
- The drop point often proves challenging due to inclimate weather and can be a tiring swim.
- Hidden Beach is a must-see beach, but do expect crowds while you visit, as it is a well-known beach, albeit referred to as a hidden beach
- 🤿➙ Yes, you can snorkel here, and the famed clown fish may make an appearance!
Pro travel tip when visiting Hidden Beach: wear water shoes.
Star Beach – A Twin Beach + the Most Remote
Star Beach is located on Tapiutan Island and is known as the ‘best of beaches in El Nido and therefore should be part of your beach finds.
- 🤿➙ visit Star beach to snorkel in clear water, where coral thrives right from the shoreline of the beach, and for those who are lucky, you might see turtles, pufferfish, and starfish. It is a bit reminiscent in our mind, of our Bonaire snorkeling trip, where the reef drops deep, quick, and dark blue!
- At Star beach, you will also experience the (another twin beach not to be confused with NacPan and Calitang) TWIN part of the beach offerings brilliantly white sand for hanging in the sun. One portion of the beach is coral, whereas the other side is sand, thus Twin.
Payong-Payong – The Umbrella Beach
Payong-Payong beach on Miniloc Island is where limestone cliffs tower above and how the beach earned its nickname of the Umbrella Beach because if you use your imagination, you might see that the towering cliffs form an umbrella.
- The beach shore of Payong-Payong is smaller but very clean
- 🤿➙ Umbrella beach is a premiere snorkeling destination.
- Be certain that your Palawan island hopping tour operator provides the snorkeling equipment too!
- The corals are right by the shore and the water is very clear
- Lunching here is common for day tours
Pasandigan beach shares inviting turquoise waters, a lush rainforest background drop to the beach perimeter, and swaying coconut trees.
🤿 ➙ Come for the beach, stay for the snorkeling and if you are a diver, this was named one of the best beaches for diving!
2➱ What Islands To Hop To + Visit For Diverse El Nido Adventures?
Choosing which islands to hop to in bacuit bay is about as easy as looking at a 30-page menu in a restaurant with all of your favorites and then trying to whittle down the choices, but thankfully things to do in El Nido Palawan are easy to access because of the dynamic access you’ll have to the Bacuit Bay, and it’s 45 islands! Here are just a few islands to consider
- 🛶 Miniloc Island is for those that want to visit the Big and Small Lagoon, swim, and cliff dive!
- 🤿 Entalula Island – from exotic bird sightings to swimming topped off with refreshing coconut drinks and of course and two prime diving areas for all diving skill levels, you’ll have to challenge yourself to leave as it is that gratifying
- 🏝️ Matinloc Island is quite remote, with vivid snorkeling, gorgeous white sand beaches for swimming, and a historical shrine to visit.
- 🏝️ Shimizu Island with great options for snorkeling and coral gardens. As a bonus tip for the island, you will want to find the lady who sells coconut drinks so you can enjoy one or two! YOLO! You are welcome!
- 🏝️Snake Island is your island to visit in order to marvel at the snake-shaped sandbar and gain bragging rights that you walked through the sea!
- 🚁 Helicopter Island (Dilumacad Island) – Helicopter Island (Dilumacad Island) – to enjoy snorkeling around this island, you will be dropped off and have to incur a small swim, and while you are here, you will want to ogle at the limestone cliffs. Love to scuba? Helicopter Island in Bacuit Bay shares two epic dive spots. In fact, one of the dive spots includes an underground water tunnel, but I am getting ahead of myself, keep reading for more details.
3 ➱ 🦇➛ What Cave Adventures In El Nido To Consider
You are not spelunking. The caves in El Nido are at water locations, so you will either pass by or go inside by swimming or kayaking.
Cathedral Cave and Cudugon Cave are two very different caves!
🦇➛ Cathedral Cave
I should headline the adventure at the El Nido Catheredal Cave with “which will you choose to do, stay in the boat or get out of the boat and swim and explore the Cathedral Cave?”
Inside Cathedral Cave you will find a natural chandelier and gleaming stalactites. It is suggested that you do not swim into the Cathedral Cave and instead stay in your boat or kayak.
You’ll be able to read Google reviews and other travel reviews that share that groups visit Cathedral Cave for diving experiences and snorkeling, albeit dark and creepy and possibly loaded with venomous snakes!
Then you’ll read the other reviews that share that the tour boats stopped and visited from the outside and not in, or that the smaller boats entered the cave (per low tide) and so do kayaks, but you are not supposed to get out of the smaller boat or kayak.
🦇 ➛ Whatever you choose to do, stay in the boat, kayak inside the Cathedral Cave, or take a photo from the outside, it surely will be an El Nido adventure that you will remember.
🦇➛ Cudugnon Cave Is Another Adventurous El Nido Option
The suggested best time to visit the Cudugnon Cave for a fun adventure is low tide, but high tide is manageable as well.
Do note that to enter this cave, you will need to squeeze through a very tight hole, but you are looking for adventures in El Nido and this is one of those adventures challenging you to channel your inner Indiana Jones, so suck it up and get in there, you can do this.
4➱ Go Diving in El Nido For An Underwater Adventure in El Nido
🤿 Diving in El Nido Palawan is a coveted and much sought-after experience.
- ➙ First, for those spending several days in El Nido, Palawan, you can learn how to scuba dive, which is a terrific adventure on its own, and might be something for those seeking new activities to conquer while in El Nido. Learn and then head to the dive sites to test your newly learned skills!
- ➙ Next, you should not dive 18 hours (about 1 day before you travel ) before you have to fly or if you have a cold (in other words, plan your dive times ahead of arrival)
Now that we have established the reasons you can go diving in El Nido, we’ll share a shortlist of known diving spots in El Nido (the bay) where coral gardens thrive, incredible fish species swim, and bountiful marine life shares a glimpse of itself when you visit and you might even have a chance to encounter a whale shark or a turtle!
- 🚁 Helicopter Island Tunnel (Helicopter Island looks like a helicopter) 115 Footlong tunnel will fill your photo treasure box with once-in-a-lifetime photo ops along the way, but it is definitely for the more established divers.
- 🚁 Helicopter Island – Helicopter Island – yes, there are two diving spots on Helicopter Island: while the tunnel is for the more experienced diver, this area is for those with less experience and who want to see sea turtles, snake-eel, and more.
- 🏝️ Entalula Island has two diving wall options, both of which offer coral gardens and incredible schools of fish for any diver level.
- 🏝️ Located between Miniloc Island and Shimizu Island, South Miniloc’s waters are known for offering big schools of fish, sponges, and corals, and it is the most popular dive site for anyone wanting to experience a diving adventure while in El Nido!
- 🏝️Cadlao Island NatNat – offers a lot of variety in sea life and is a shallow dive area, making it the perfect diving spot for all divers from new to advanced. At NatNat, you can scuba or free dive.
These are just a few diving in El Nido Palawan options to give you an overview, but you can seek out plenty more El Nido Palawan scuba diving options.
Diving comprises a specific tourism attractor. In fact, it is one of the biggest El Nido underwater adventures you’ll want to experience as underwater is the largest area, right?
5➱ Lagoons You’ll Want To Include In Your El Nido Adventures
Here are the lagoons you don’t want to miss, and this is not an expansive list, just a jumping point for you to begin researching for your El Nido adventure trip!
- Big Lagoon – here you’ll use a kayak once your day tour delivers you to the jump-off point, and you will ogle at the bluish green water, glide through narrow passages as you maneuver your kayak, and discover the Secret Cave
- Small Lagoon – is located in close proximity to the Big Lagoon, but to access it you will need to get through a tiny opening, and then you can kayak inside and swim. Some feel the Small Lagoon at Miniloc island is a bit overrated. Does that matter to you? It is part of the adventure, and that is what you are in El Nido for, so take the experience head-on!
- Secret Lagoon Beach at Miniloc island is not a secret and is quite well known to tourists seeking El Nido lagoon adventures. You’ll possibly stand in a line to enter through a hole carved out by the water, to find more ‘milky-like’ water, then you can say, that you were there and saw it. Garner a pair of aquatic shoes.
- Cadlao Lagoon – prime kayaking experiences atop pristine water with both shallow and deep water are at the Cadlao Lagoon.
Pro Travel Tip For Kayaking and Lagoons You Need To Know
To get the most out of any travel throughout the lagoons of El Nido, you will want to use a kayak. Make sure that your day tour operator includes the rental cost in your tour or that you bring money to rent a kayak, as you will want to be able to move throughout all the coves and areas inside the lagoons for the epic El Nido lagoon experience.
6➱ Seeking Sunset Adventures in El Nido
Sunsets are gorgeous throughout El Nido. Use the list to match it to your island hopping day journies in case you are already headed to a particular beach or island and can linger for sunset.
Try to seek out a different sunset each night especially when you are on the island-hopping adventures in El Nido.
To see the sunset you will need to know the sunset time in El Nido and as a bonus tip, consider sunrises too but that’s another article!
- Must-see sunset at 7 Commandos Beach (El Nido, Palawan)
- Corong Corong shares its majestic sunsets without limestone cliffs impeding your view (El Nido, Palawan)
- No trip would be complete without a sunset capture from NacPan beach.
- Dolarog is well-known for its fabulous sunsets coupled with the lush greenery and hands-down the single best choice for sunset views of the Bacuit Archipelago limestone islands being sun-kissed, as the sun tucks away for the day,
Plan That Bacuit Bay Adventure And Hop Till You Drop in El Nido!
With diverse offerings for tour packages in El Nido Palawan, you will find combinations of adventures you will love while in El Nido.
El Nido Palawan beaches await your arrival, and each beach refreshes itself for you with each swash!
My best wishes for your most successful adventure finds in El Nido as you revel in it and satisfy your wanderlust!
"Here's to seeing life outside of the Google lens and instead behind your sunglasses lenses, enjoying a beach refreshing itself rather than your laptop, getting burned (by the sun) rather than by people, and paddling through tight spaces with incredible return as you glide through a spirited adventurous vacation in El Nido, Palawan!" ~ Dana