El Nido – Turning 30 in Paradise

El Nido is far and away the most paradisaical location I’ve ever had the pleasure of vacationing in.  This Filipino Island is consistently ranked as the top beach in the world.  After traveling to blissful places like Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi and Philippines’s Boracay’s white beach before El Nido, I wholeheartedly defend El Nido’s superiority.  It was these very rankings coupled with dozens of reviews from friends and fellow bloggers that helped me pick El Nido as the destination for my dirty 30 birthday bash.  My parents & brother joined Ronda and me on Palawan for a stay in Paradise Cove before heading the rest of the way north to El Nido!

Best Beach in the Philippines

The road to El Nido is rough to say the least.  Massive ditches are regularly carved into mud roads by the torrential rains.  On any given day the road might be closed and land transport from Puerto Princessa to Palawan could prove impossible.  Lucky for us that 6 hour ride was available so we piled into a shared van at San Jose, Puerto Princessa’s bus terminal and off we went.

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Corong Corong Beach

Ronda and I had stayed at Green Views on Corong Corong beach while my family found a hotel a bit closer to town.  Upon arrival we instantly fell in love with the rolling waves and beautiful backdrop.  For as far as the eye could see tropical islets speckled the bay with over a thousand meters of beach behind us.  The entirety of this white crescent was full of traditional banca boats.  Simply put, the beach was pristine.

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What to do in El Nido

In dire need of a drink after the crazy trip from Port Barton we dropped our bags off and sat beach-side at a French restaurant.  Sipping and chatting away we enjoyed the sun and decided to book a private speedboat for the 5 of us.  Going with a group gives you some serious buying power.  For just a few dollars more than the individual tours we managed to combine tours A, B & C!

Traveling solo around Palawan?  Check out my friend Katherine’s Guide to Coron just north of El Nido!

After reserving the tour we took a tuktuk over to Las Cabanas beach for a famous sunset.  None of us were brave enough to zipline over a sandbar to the island on the right.  So instead, at Las Cabanas we enjoyed a few drinks on the beach as local boys carried in the days freshly caught fish.

Sunset at Las Cabanas Beach

Sunset at Las Cabanas Beach

Excited for our day of island hopping we woke up early and strolled right into the surf.  Our boatman was waiting and quickly guided through the bay as the sun shone beautifully above.  It was a perfect day to be on the water and we quickly arrived at Snake Island (named so because of its shape rather than the local wildlife.)

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Relaxing on Snake Island

Relaxing on Snake Island

Splashing in the waves we stopped at what must have been a dozen different islands all with beautiful beaches.  Some stops were great for snorkeling while others offered a short hike to a cave or magnificent viewpoint.  One stunning scene after another took us to Private Beach and Secret Beach.  

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Getting to Secret Beach was a blast!  We had to snorkel through a beautiful rocky  passage filled with fish.  There were a few small jellyfish but they were easily avoided and no one in our group got stung.

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Amazing Beaches in The Philippines

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We jumped back in the boat and stopped at a lagoon littered with jellyfish and monkeys crawling over the rocks opting not to get out but still loving it! Now you may know that I love monkeys.  Or maybe you’ve just seen my favorite photo from 2015.  So you can imagine my excitement when we spotted these critters climbing up the black, rock walls.

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Flying over the waves you could see fish jumping in and out of the surf.  Occasionally someone in our boat would shout with excitement and we’d all stare at a school of what we can only assume were flying fish skittering over each wave!  The boatman ignored the fish and pointed out Helicopter Island and a few others who’s names were lost in the wind.

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Before we knew it the afternoon sun was on us and we rented kayaks at Small Lagoon to venture into the pristine waters.  A small arch prevented anything bigger than these 2 person vessels from entering.  The limestone walls created a beautiful blue channel with completely calm waters.  It took us about an hour to explore the whole lagoon before returning our boat.

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Next up was Big Lagoon.  A massive causeway allows for full-size boats to enter this significantly larger bayou.  Truth be told I didn’t find Big Lagoon to be as magnificent as the other stops but perhaps that was because we’d already seen a dozen brilliant islands  and spent the day surrounded by shades of greens and blues that I only thought possible in Photoshop.  We opted not to stay long and were quickly enjoying the wind in our faces one more time.  The magical scenery all around as the sun sank lower signaling what was promising to be a superb sunset.

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Our last stop was 7 Commandos, known for its sunsets and conveniently close to our home beach.  Relax with a drink or splash in the waves like Ronda and I did, it doesn’t matter what you do because you’ll love island hopping in El Nido.  Its clear that whichever tour you pick it will be fantastic.  Each and every stop on the speedboat was spectacular and possibly made even more amazing by the fact that we just met a dude on the beach.

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El Nido Boat

In case you weren’t convinced to visit check out my friend Tom’s article with great reasons to visit Palawan!

Traveling with your parents?  Check out Emily from SeeHerTravel.com’s article about traveling with her parents.

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!