This is just a short list of the islands, beaches and attractions of El Nido. There are plenty more that you can explore.
Small Lagoon. The Small Lagoon is accessible through a small opening in the towering limestone of Miniloc Island. Access into the lagoon is depending on the tide, as the opening can be closed off if the tide goes up. When we went there, the tide was low, and we have to walk some ways to get to the opening. There are plenty of rocks and corals along the way, so you might want to wear aqua socks/shoes (or swim, tide permitting). The water gets deeper the closer you get to the opening. As you enter, there’s a ledge on the right side where you can rest (or camwhore). The water inside the lagoon has a depth of 15 meters at the deepest point, but there are a couple of shallow areas. There’s really not much to see inside the Small Lagoon, but there is a cave at the end of the lagoon that you might want to check out.
Big Lagoon. Also in Miniloc Island, the entrance to the lagoon is likewise shallow, but it rapidly gets deeper as you go further in. Our guide says there are baby sharks and barracuda in the lagoon, but we didn’t go down to find out. The lagoon’s main attractions must be the treasures underwater, but on the surface, there’s really not much to see. Since Miniloc is a private island, boats aren’t allowed to dock. There is a floating platform inside, where El Nido Resort’s guests can lounge and relax in private (sort of, since a number of boats go in to make the rounds inside the lagoon).
Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon is accessible through the beach aptly called the Secret Lagoon Beach. From the beach, you can just walk to this opening in the limestone, and squeeze through a small hole to get to the beach inside. Inside is a really small lagoon with an equally small beach. It’s perfect for two people who want to hide from the rest of the world. Since the lagoon is an enclosed space and the water only comes in when the tide rises, the water inside can be… well, stagnant. So think twice before you pee.
Secret Lagoon Beach. This is where we and a couple of other tour groups had our barbecue lunch. Like every other beachs in El Nido, the water is clear and the sand if fine. There’s a number of trees to give you plenty of shade under the hot sun. This is a great place to unwind and relax in between island hops.
Shimizu. Shimizu has a fairly small beach (and I hear is home to a huge bayawak). Shimizu’s main attraction though, are the beautiful marine life just a couple of meters from the shore. Clams and colorful fishes are just some of what you can see in the waters off Shimizu. Watch out of the jellyfish though!
Seven Commando. It’s a long stretch of beach, and I hear there’s also snorkeling just off the shore. However, we were more interested in the small sari-sari store on the island that sells snacks and fresh buko (coconut) juice for twice the price in the mainland. Still, this is a great place to chill and rest. There are a number of hammock and seats scattered around so you can take a quick nap.
Secret Beach. Secret Beach is accessible only through an opening in the limestone. However, unlike the other lagoons, you would have to get off the boat in the middle of the sea, and is that water deep. If you have a kayak with you on the boat, you can ask your guide to bring you inside onboard the kayak. Otherwise, you’re stuck in the boat, turning green with envy as you watch your friends swim into that hole (and silently curse them for taking their sweet time inside just to annoy you).
Matinloc Shrine. In the midst of deserted beaches, you turn a bend and see the glittering dome of the Matinloc Shrine. It’s mainly a pilgrimage site, but the view from the limestone tower is simply breathtaking. It’s an easy enough climb, but you have to be careful since one wrong move could send you (or your camera) tumbling down into the jagged points of limestone all around.
Hidden Beach. Tucked inside two limestone face that acts like a gate, the Hidden Beach is not-so-hidden (as every tour group passes there). But if you’re lucky, the other groups would just take a quick look or snorkel before going away. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. While our guide and boatman prepare our lunch, we found Nemo just 30 meters from the shore, on 3-feet deep water. Amazing snorkeling in this place, and since there’s the limestone gate, the tide isn’t likely to push you back to the shore. Again, watch out for jellyfish.
Helicopter Island. There is no other word to describe this place except gorgeous. There’s a long and wide stretch of fine white sand and a gorgeous gradient of greens and blues as the water go from shallow to deep. If you’re thinking of availing of the drop and pick up service, make Helicopter your choice.
Ipil 2 Beach. This wasn’t included in the Tour C itinerary, but we settled on Ipil 2 since Snake Island is just too far and there was a wedding being held at Ipil beach. This is a great place to watch the sunset, and for this one couple, the perfect place to camp overnight.
Cellphone Signal is available in: Secret Lagoon Beach, Shimizu, Seven Commando, Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island and Ipil Beach.
Best beach for just hanging out: Secret Lagoon Beach, Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island and Ipil 2 Beach