Still, if there's one place that fits the aforementioned phrase to a T, it's El Nido. Located at the northernmost tip of the island of Palawan, El Nido continues to be one of the Philippines' best-kept secrets. Aside from these basic tips when travelling Palawan, make sure to add these activities to your To-Do list while you're staying in El Nido.
Uncover the Local Caves' Secrets
If you think caves only look interesting from the inside, you haven't been to Cathedral Cave. Even though tourists aren't allowed to enter because the cave's stalactites have stopped growing, Cathedral Cave can still draw you in with its chalky white exteriors that beautifully complement El Nido's sky blue waters. Once you get to the cave via a small boat, you can head straight for Snake Island.
For a cave you can actually enter, there's Cudugnon Cave. You need to crawl through a small hole to get in, but once you're inside, the stalactites and stalagmites are sure to take your breath away. Be sure to bring a first-aid kit for elbow and knee scrapes, plus a camera to capture the stunning sights of Cudugnon Cave.
Another cave you should thoroughly explore is Ille Cave. It's a bit difficult to get there, since you need to rent a 45-minute motorbike ride and take a short walk to reach the entrance. The trip's worth it if you're an archaeology buff though, as Ille is filled with pottery, animal bones, and other signs that the cave used to be a human dwelling thousands of years ago.
Discover Hidden Beaches
Okay, maybe El Nido's beaches aren't "hidden" in the strictest sense of the word. But if you want to bask in the sun on a place other than Boracay, El Nido has plenty to offer.
For example, five minutes away from Corong Corong is Marimegmeg Beach. This underrated, not-so-crowded spot is dotted with bars and restaurants where you can chill out and have a great time without blowing your travel budget. You can also try their zip-line and view the beautiful sunset from any spot along the shoreline.
Likewise, the "Twin Beaches" of Nacpan and Calitang will make you wish you can be in two places at once. Situated 45 minutes away from El Nido's town proper (Poblacion), the Twin Beaches each have their unique set of charms. Whereas Nacpan Beach unveils a long stretch of pure white sand, Calitang Beach is lined with coconut trees that give the area a cool, tropical feel.
Other El Nido beaches you should see are Las Cabanas, Seven Commando, Secret Lagoon, Duli, Star, Payong-Payong, Tapiutan, and Ipil. Every one of these has wonderful secrets in store, so ask your travel agent if they're included in the tour package.
When you're in an archipelago like the Philippines, island-hopping is always a good way to spend your vacation. And few destinations are better for island-hoppers than El Nido.
At Pangulasian Island, for example, lush tropical forests push towards the white shoreline, creating a gorgeous place to stay for nature lovers and beach goers alike. The island has a luxury hotel nearby, where you can experience the best of El Nido and Filipino service in general. Go for a scuba dive among colorful marine life, have a relaxing spa treatment, or explore the nature trails around the island.
There's also the Snake (Vigan) Island, Matinloc Island, Entalula Island, Pinabuyutan Island, and Dilumacad Island. Can't decide between any of these? Choose between four island tours (Tour A, B, C, and D), and see at least two of these islands and other spots along the way.
Enjoy the Local Waters
Obviously, a visit to El Nido's beaches won't be complete without swimming or snorkeling in the surrounding seas. But saltwater isn't the only kind of water you can indulge in.
You also have the Makinit Hot Springs, which is about 40 minutes away from El Nido's town proper. Although its waters are too hot to go skinny-dipping into, they're just right for boiling eggs. (No, really. Ask the locals.) Plus, the trek to the springs is both challenging and exhilarating.
If you're heading for Nacpan Beach, don't forget to stop by the Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls. About 20 to 45 minutes from the main road towards Nacpan, Nagkalit-kalit is made up of two falls — one larger than the other. The bigger waterfall pours into a natural pool, where you can take a dip and feel the negative vibes wash away from your body.
El Nido isn't just for beach and water lovers. If you're not a fan of diving, snorkeling, or hopping islands and caves, there are other ways to make the most of your time in this Palawan paradise.
Take a nature and wildlife tour like Nativ' Exploration Palawan and Tarawis ElNido Island Tour. Pay your respects at an old shrine in Matinloc dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Try local delicacies like the bird's nest soup and banana flower curry. End your day with a bang by listening to mellow, acoustic music at one of the local bars.
Have you visited, or are planning to visit, El Nido? Let's hear about it in the comments!