El Nido zipline. Public Domain.
Gifted with natural splendor, the collection of islands known as El Nido sits -- quite rightfully -- at the top of many best-of lists of beach destinations in the Philippines. Travelers flock to it to see the Bacuit archipelago, a patchwork of islands limned by white sand beaches and towering limestone formations.
El Nido's islands are accessible on a slew of tours and vacation packages. One need only approach the front desk, get down to the dock, or ask at virtually any establishment at the Poblacion, or town proper, for a boat to take you around.
The tours have four itineraries to choose from, most of which have snorkeling and a beach-side picnic lunch thrown in. Tour A, touted as "The Lagoon Tour" and the most popular of the quartet, will take travelers to a number of lagoons and beaches to swim and snorkel at, while Tour B’s highlights include the coves and caves scattered about in the archipelago. Tour C is a string of "hidden" beaches and coves, and Tour D is a short boat ride to neighboring Cadlao Island and its attractions. The cost of the tours may vary, but the average is at PHP1,200-1,400 (US$25-30) per head. (Read about costs in El Nido.)
On dry land, there’s a bunch to busy yourself with, too. The town itself is teeming with bars, restaurants, and cafes. Meanwhile, tour guides will be happy to offer the beached-out traveler a trek to a nearby hot spring and a waterfall for a change of scenery. There’s also Taraw Peak to hike to, where you can look down on the charming town and the boat-dotted beach.
Beach in El Nido, Palawan. Image courtesy of the Philippines Department of Tourism.
Lagoons in Palawan. Image courtesy of the Philippines Department of Tourism.
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Southeast Asia's beaches count among the best in the world – to complete your sand-and-sea circuit, visit Langkawi in Malaysia; Phuket in Thailand; and cruise from Bali to Flores in Indonesia. For similarly amazing karst (limestone) landscapes, visit Ha Long Bay in Viet Nam and Gunung Mulu in Malaysia.
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