Come to El Nido to enjoy the Philippines’ coveted white-sand beaches and glassy topaz waters. In the jagged limestone cliffs that shadow this island hub, tiny industrious swiftlets flutter, building the nests this town was named after. For decades, climbers have scaled these precarious cliffs to collect their treasures for Chinese bird’s nest soup, a practice that is now tightly controlled by the area’s marine reserve. This protection extends to the sea, where exotic fish dart among rainbow-hued coral and marine turtles glide through the water alongside reef sharks, dugongs and eagle rays, passing the corpses of Japanese shipwrecks from WWII.
These rich waters are dotted with 60-million-year-old karsts, home to hidden caves and underground rivers. Board one of the local bancas boats to explore the remote Bacuit archipelago, where you’ll moor on Snake Island’s s-shaped sandbar and dive into secret lagoons. On Lagen Island, you can wander dense tropical forest which serves as a sanctuary for birdlife, from gold-chested stork-billed kingfishers to Palawan hornbills with their prehistoric-looking white beaks. El Nido itself is still inhabited by the Cuyonon people, one of the country’s oldest ethnic groups, who migrated across the Sulu Sea in wooden boats to settle here, their traditional stilt houses preserved at Sibaltan Archaeological Village.
Discover El Nido’s pristine beaches and island-hopping trips with help from our Philippines team, who can arrange ethical tours of this protected marine paradise.