Latin America

Travel guide: Touring El Nido’s enchanting lagoons and beaches

Joshua Berida
Travel guide: Touring El Nido’s enchanting lagoons and beaches
Planning a trip to see the beautiful lagoons and beaches in El Nido, Palawan? Here's a guide for your visit – complete with itinerary and budget

When we hear about El Nido, the first few things that come to mind are paradise, white sand beaches, and glasslike, azure waters.

Indeed, we found all of these to be true once we got to experience one of the island hopping tours or the rides to different towns on a motorcycle. 

Paradise Beach (Tour D)

INVITING. The waters were so clear that they invite visitors to take a dip and laze around. Photo by Josh Berida

True to its name, this little island with a short stretch of bone-white sand, turquoise waters and dancing coconut trees is paradise. Depending on when you go, there is a chance that you might have this beach to yourself. Relax on the sand, lie on a hammock – with book in hand – or swim in the crystal clear waters. 

DANCING. The coconut trees sway to the music of the wind on Paradise Beach Photo by Josh Berida


Cadlao Lagoon (Tour D)

PARKING. Once docked explore the lagoon and be amazed with the lime stone formations surrounding it. Photo by Josh Berida

El Nido has many lagoons, you can’t miss with any of them, but Cadlao is on top of the list of must-see ones. 

The towering lime stone formations hug the lagoon, which has an opening to the sea. This creates a visual spectacle as the waters turn from emerald to blue within just a few meters. 

Climb one of the rocks and jump into the deep part of the waters or just swim around. There are snorkeling areas to see corals and different marine life.

Secret Beach (Tour C)

HIDDEN. True to its moniker this little beach lies hidden inside lime stones waiting for visitors. Photo by Josh Berida

The long trip to get to this secluded paradise is worth it; there is a chance you might have the island to yourself. The blindingly white sand and the cerulean waters are just two of the things visitors will like about the beach.

GLISTENING. The calm, mirror-like waters will entice you to dive in. Photo by Josh Berida


Snake Island (Tour B)

SNAKING. Visitors won't see the "snake" upon docking, but after climbing a hill, they get to see where the island got its name. Photo by Josh Berida

Upon disembarking from the boat, you’d only see a typical white sand beach, but once you climb a hill, you can see a snake-like sandbar connecting 2 small islands surrounded by sky blue waters. Walk on the sandbar, laze on the beach, or swim in the inviting waters. 

SANDBAR. The stretch of white sand is soft to the toes with blue waters flanking it on both sides. Photo by Josh Berida


Pinagbuyutan Island (Tour B)

CHILL. The island is a good place to relax and unwind after exploring its coral garden. Photo by Josh Berida

The beach may not be as nice as the other places on this list, but visitors come here to see what lies below its surface.

Just along the shore are coral gardens with hues of yellow, blue, and green, as well as shapes like trees, brains and others. You’d gladly spend minutes with your head underwater just to see colorful fish swimming about and vibrant corals.

Boats can’t dock on a certain part of the beach because of the corals, so visitors might have to swim around the island to get to the beach. However, there is a shorter route, but will not take you to see most of the coral garden. 


Nacpan Beach (land trip)

ALL WHITE. Nacpan Beach has a long stretch of fine white sand as far as the eyes could see. Photo by Josh Berida

The dirt and bumpy road to Nacpan Beach is worth the hassle because of the white sand that gently squeezes between your toes, but most of all: the breathtaking view from the hill.

The famous twin beach has 2 faces, cerulean on one side and a darker tinge on the other. Simply laze on the beach and get a tan, or dip into the waters for a refreshing swim.

TWINS. After climbing the hill, visitors will see the twin beaches. Photo by Josh Berida


A trip here is a perfect day or overnight camping trip for those tired of island hopping. This beach is accessible by private vehicle, tricycle or rented motorbike.  


Big Lagoon (Tour A)

TOWERING. Big Lagoon's trademark are its towering lime stone formations along with its emerald waters. Phot by Josh Berida

If you search ‘El Nido’ on Google, chances are photos of big lagoon will come up.

Entering Big Lagoon will tease you, and the towering karst formations will remind you why this part of Palawan is also called a last frontier, as the clear, emerald waters will entice you to dive into it.

GRAND ENTRANCE. Big Lagoon's entrance will tease you with its last frontier-like rock formations and clear waters. Photo by Josh Berida


Las Cabanas (land trip)

ROMANTIC. Las Cabanas has one of the most romantic sunsets in El Nido. Watch it with your loved while sipping on a drink on the beach. Photo by Josh Berida

This long stretch of beach may not have the fine white sand and crystalline waters of the others, but its main draw is the mesmerizing golden sunset.

As the clock ticks and trickles into the end of the day, beachgoers will get a front row seat to the best sunset on the island. Sit back and relax with a drink in hand while the sky turns from blue to fiery red as the day ends.

Travel to Las Cabanas by tricycle for P150 (one-way trip).

DAY'S END. After a tiring day of island hopping watch the skies turn from a blue to a fiery red. Photo by Josh Berida

Small Lagoon (Tour A)

JUST KEEP SWIMMING. Small Lagoon's size makes it easy to come and go, swim to the end to enter a cave. Photo by Josh Berida

This attraction may be small, but it is a noteworthy destination because of the surrounding lime stones that hide the lagoon. Swim into the small lagoon or just wade in the waters in or outside the towering rock formations. 

Taraw Cliff Viewpoint (land trip)

BIRD'S EYE VIEW. Take on the challenge of climbing Taraw Cliff to get an overlooking view of the town and the cerulean waters. Photo by Fidel Pacia, Jr.

If climbing is your thing, doing a short climb up Taraw Cliff must be on your list.

This deceivingly small hill provides quite a challenge because of the jagged and sometimes slippery lime stones. The reward after breaking a sweat is a captivating overlooking view of the town and waters below. 

BIRD'S EYE VIEW. Take on the challenge of climbing Taraw Cliff to get an overlooking view of the town and the cerulean waters. Photo by Kacelyn Malunda (Instagram/@exploringkuting)

These are only some of the attractions you will see when you visit El Nido.

These places are on different tours (A, B, C and D or land). The price range of the tours are between P1,000 to P1,400 for the whole day, including boat transfers and lunch, but may exclude the environmental fee and the snorkeling equipment. Ask about these before paying. 

Suggested itinerary for El Nido:


  • For first time visitors,tours A and C are recommended because they include beaches and lagoons.
  • Visitors can combine different tours (A and C on the same day) depending on the size of the group and demand. You might have to rent the entire boat if you want to do tour D, which includes Bukal, Paradise and Natnat Beach along with Cadlao Lagoon.
  • If you don’t want to go on a tour, rent a kayak to get to Cadlao instead. If you’re staying for more than 2 nights, you can do all the tours from A to D.
  • Las Cabanas beach is a good day trip as a break between doing island hopping tours or right after one, just to see the sunset or laze around the beach.
  • Nacpan Beach is also a day trip from the town; you can also opt to spend the night, if you have time.


Expenses for your trip:

  • Around P5,000 to P7,000 is enough for a budget trip to El Nido for two nights. 
  • Rent a tricycle for P150 one-way to take you to Las Cabanas.
  • A tricycle for a day trip to Nacpan Beach could cost you around P800 to P1,000 return trip.
  • Tours in El Nido cost between P1,000 to P1,400 per day. Alternatively, rent a boat for around P4,000 to P6,000 or more per day, depending on the size of the group and the boat.
  • Food costs P100 to more than P200 per meal depending on where you eat. The town has plenty of options from local carinderias to French cuisine.
  • Budget accommodations range from around P500 a night for private fan room or dorm bed – to more than P2,000 a night in a hotel or bed and breakfast.
  • There are now ATMs and 24-hour electricity in town, which were not available as early as 3 years ago during my first trip.

El Nido is fast becoming a hotspot as many establishments are sprouting just outside and inside of town. Both local and foreign tourists flock to this paradise in northern Palawan, so the best time to visit might just be now, before the town completely transforms from idyllic to a bustling tourist haven. –

Joshua Berida is a full time writer, part-time wanderer with insatiable wanderlust. He plans his next trip during a current one. He plans on exploring the Philippines and beyond. Read about his adventures on

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