Situated on the northern edge of Palawan — a remote island in the western Philippines — El Nido has become synonymous with alluring white beaches and crystal-clear water. Most of the action revolves around Bacuit Bay, on the west coast, where more than 20 limestone islands pepper the area. For easy island hopping, most travelers explore the archipelago’s hidden beaches and lagoons aboard El Nido’s iconic double-outrigger “banca” boats.
Worth a stop is an empty 2,460-foot stretch on Dilumacad Island, nicknamed Helicopter Island for its shape. At Secret Beach on Matinloc Island, travelers can swim through a narrow crevice in the rocks to reach a sandy enclave surrounded by sky-high karst walls. Not too far away, Vigan Island is home to a snaking sand spit that spills out into the ocean, providing a memorable dip in the deep blue.
Tropical El Nido is teeming with flora and fauna, including rare birds, manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins, mangroves and turtles, not to mention more than 100 species of coral and 800 types of fish. Snorkeling, scuba diving, trekking, kayaking — there’s no shortage of ways to explore the unspoiled coves and coral reefs.