Located on the northernmost tip of Palawan in the Philippines is El Nido. Home to 45 small islands that boast the most magnificent limestone cliffs and coral reefs and relatively unknown to travellers, El Nido’s crystal blue waters, hidden jungles and stunning inlets make it one of the best tropical escapes around. Here’s our pick of the best you can see, do and experience in this spectacular beach destination.
FOR THE ADRENALINE JUNKIE A haven for thrill-seekers, El Nido is full of exciting activities. You can climb the limestone cliffs, explore caves and waterfalls, pick one of the abundant spots to snorkel, swim, dive and kayak at or simply rent a motor cycle and hit the dirt track to discover the area on your own. The El Nido Tour Guides Association organises guided activities and excursions on the islands. For the best water-related adventures, make sure you visit the islands at Bacuit Bay—their gorgeous natural limestone structures and deep coves are picture-postcard pretty.
FOR THE ISLAND HOPPER If you’re in El Nido, the one thing you simply mustn’t miss out on is island-hopping, the area’s unique selling point. The El Nido Tour Guides Association offers a variety of day and overnight packages. Be sure to visit the Big and Small Lagoons at Miniloc Island that are accessible through a small limestone archway. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to spot baby sharks and several marine species as you make your way into the deeper areas of the Big Lagoon.
The next island you should definitely have on your itinerary is Seven Commando. Home to a variety of marine species and glistening sand—from snorkelling to swimming in turquoise blue waters and chilling on the many available hammocks and benches dotted along the coast—there’s plenty to do here.
You can also make a quick pit stop at Helicopter Island. From gorgeous gradients of greens and blues to unbelievably clear waters, this island is a must-see for nature lovers. For nature enthusiasts, Pangulasian Island is blessed with a wide variety of flora and faunaand one of the widest white sand beach in El Nido.
FOR THE EXPERIMENTAL FOODIE One of the primary reasons why people love to travel the world is to sample various cuisines. Every country has a unique flavour, which is influenced by their culture and passed down through generations. What El Nido has is an abundant variety of fresh seafood. From restaurants that offer the freshest catch to tiny establishments dishing out local and international cuisine, there’s nothing you won’t find here.
Our top pick for the best in dining with a view is Art Café. This quaint restaurant specialises in seafood, steaks, pizzas, spaghetti, homemade bread, cakes, fruit shakes and fantastic coffee. The cafe also uses the freshest ingredients and organic, home grown local produce.
For those who love pizza and a nice glass of wine or chilled beer, head to Altrove. With its outdoor seating area and cosy tropical interiors, this restaurant is a favourite with honeymooners. Another popular option for couples is The Alternative Restaurant. Contrary to what the name suggests, it should ideally be your primary dining choice simply for its special designated areas like the ‘birds nest’ offering a view of Cadlao Island and Bacuit Bay. Apart from its stellar location, the restaurant serves delicious multi-cuisine food including delectable vegetarian fare.
Finally, if you’re looking for an unforgettable dining experience, make sure you check into the El Nido Resort on Miniloc Island. Here, you can enjoy a private dinner with your partner at the Clubhouse Restaurant or at a secluded area of the beach and even enjoy delicious cocktails on a raft inside an enchanting lagoon.
WHERE TO STAY El Nido Resorts Tucked away in a beautiful cove with a backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs, the El Nido Resort at Miniloc Island offers 50 luxury rooms with rustic influences and local design, a spectacular range of recreational facilities like a gaming area, a kids’ activity centre and a theatre-style conference room that can accommodate up to 40 people. The hotel also organises its own guided eco tours around the area. El Nido Resorts, Miniloc Island, Nothern Palawan, Philippines (+63 2 902 5985; www.elnidoresorts.com)
Cadlao Resort The resort is built entirely with wood, sand and gravel and each room comes with a large bay window offering spectacular views. Dining options include cuisines from Asian to international. Cadlao Resort, Caalan–Masagana, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines (+63 9 17 58 97 069; www.cadlaoresort.com)
HOW TO GET THERE Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com), Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com), Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com), Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) and Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com)all fly to Manila from Mumbai and New Delhi. After that, the fastest way to get to El Nido from Manila is by boarding the Island Transvoyager.
The 9-seater Dornier 228 aircraft takes 90 minutes to reach the island and is the official charter airline for El Nido Resorts. Island Transvoyager (+632 851 5664; www.islandtransvoyager.com)
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